Is XBLA pricing creeping out of control?

1200MP for Choplifter HD? Mike calls foul

I'm no economist, but my basic understanding of inflation is that it involves things getting more expensive and old people grumbling about how, because of broken Britain, penny sweets now cost two pence. I don't like moaning, but I get the sneaking suspicion that inflation is making itself felt in the prices of XBLA games.

In the beginning it was much simpler. The rules went thus - if your arcade game was a remake of an ancient pixellated 16-bit affair, you charged 400MP. If it was something a bit more, perhaps even an original title designed specifically for a download audience, you were allowed to make it 800MP. I say rules - it's not like Daddy Microsoft mandated that, it was just a sort of silent agreement.

Not very ninja.

But as time has passed, cheeky retro games have tried their luck. Look at X-Men - it's hardly more sophisticated than the Ninja Turtles arcade game (a straight emulation job that debuted at 400MP) and yet it cost twice as much.

Not that the Mutant Turtles have a spotless record. For the release of their second arcade outing, Ubisoft decided to rebuild the game in 3D, essentially creating something that neither looked nor played like the original. Then it slapped a 1200MP price on it.

After much guffawing from all and sundry, including us specifically describing 1200MP as "whopping" for an hour or so's entertainment in our review, Ubisoft made a hasty climb down and pegged it at 800MP instead. Which, in retrospect, is probably still too much. It's defensible, though, because to all intents and purposes it was a remake rather than a re-release. Balance was restored.

Fast forward a couple of years and, hurrah, there's a remake of classic helicopter rescue-em-up Choplifter on the way. Choplifter HD features the same straightforward concept but dolled up with 3D visuals. Dead cert 800MP, surely? Even the gloriously polished Daytona remake clocked in at under a grand.

Not so, apparently. Choplifter HD arrives next week for 1200MP. That's more than a tenner for a game whose mechanics could be explained solely in mime. I'm excited about its return and in no way going to condemn it before I've played it, but with a hefty price tag like that it's going to have to be something pretty spectacular.

It feels like there needs to be an outbreak of sanity on the subject of pricing on XBLA. As a general trend, downloadable games aren't getting more expensive, they're getting cheaper. It's one of the reasons why the iTunes Store is now rammed with high quality, affordable distractions. The fundamentals of a Choplifter game aren't much more complex than your average iPhone title, yet you can pick up quality mobile games for under a quid.

Bombs away! No, not that kind of bomb.

You might argue that iPhone and XBLA games aren't competing. That they each scratch a different itch. The problem is it's not a dramatic shift in what people are prepared to pay, it's a creeping, gradual one. The value people are ascribing to 'gaming entertainment per hour' is dropping, so XBLA pricing certainly can't afford to head in the opposite direction.

Besides, it's not like they're remaking prehistoric helicopter taxi game Ugh! Now that I'd pay 1200MP for...

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