Inflation in the Video Game Industry

Money Rules All by Dust Cartridge

Video game prices rise with every new console generation. The used game market is at its greatest peak new innovative ways to save, spend and even credit gamers with more incentive to buy more video games. I have bought my fair share of old, rare video games and paid a pretty penny. I have sold video games that I sometimes regret, and even rebuy those games I have sold. I love budgeting for video games. After completing my research about the monetary value of video games from the past to present with inflation pricing, gamers are spending less than ever before.

Note: All of the inflation prices were done with an Inflation Calculator provided by the United States Department of Labor. Also, I was able to find an IGN article that stated the original prices for each video game console.

The 1980s

Mario is Made of Money via blueprint

The year was 1985. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console was released for a staggering $199.99 in the United States. During the late 1980s, this amount of money was hard to come by for most families. Sure, owning a home was much cheaper back then, gasoline prices were barely higher than $1.00 and the economy was doing much better, but video games were still trying to find its stride. The NES helped push gaming to the next level using its 8-bit technology and Super Mario Bros.

The Super Mario Bros. video game was included with the NES console, which was an excellent deal since the prices for many new NES video games was between $29.99 and $49.99. These prices may not look too alarming compared to today, but with inflation, the price of video games in the 1980s was high. The NES console would cost $442.99 in 2014. That nearly lines up with the Xbox One and Playstation 4 (PS4). The NES video game prices are surprising though; a $29.99 video game in 1985 would cost $66.43 in 2014, while the $49.99 price tag would be $110.73 today. The $49.99 video game price is comparable to the ultra-super-rare-pre-order edition video game seen today (i.e. see Destiny Ghost Edition and its ridiculous prices on eBay).

The 1990s

Pick Your Poison via GAME

This decade had some of my best experiences when it comes to video games. I had two consoles in the early 1990s. My brother gave me his Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and my parents bought me the Sega Genesis.

The SNES came out in 1991 priced at $199.99 in the United States. Strangely enough, the console would be decently priced in 2014 at $349.97. That is much cheaper than today’s consoles and it had more games on it that I loved than I can count.

The Sega Genesis originally came out in 1989 and cost $189.99. There is a two year difference between the Sega Genesis and SNES, but that slight difference adds up. With inflation, from 1989 to 1991, the Sega Genesis increased in cost by $20 in that time. It is not that much of a price difference compared to the SNES, but it does look like the SNES would have been the better choice if I was looking to save money. Also, the Sega Genesis would be decently priced at $365.18 in 2014.

Take My Rings! via The Sonic Stadium

Besides console prices, the video games themselves were unreasonably priced in comparison. Video games cost roughly $49.99 to $59.99 during the 1990s for both the SNES and Sega Genesis. When I compared those prices to today, a $49.99 game back then would cost $87.48 now and a $59.99 game would cost $104.98. It was great that the consoles were so low, but the video games were so high that families could not afford them. My brother’s SNES video game collection was incredibly small and I only owned four or five Sega Genesis games in the lifetime of that console. The only way for me to play any new games back then was to rent them. If I remember correctly, it cost roughly $4 or $5 to rent a video game for 4 days; I made sure that within those 4 days, I played nonstop.

The Late 1990s

Atomic Purple GameBoy Color via Wikipedia

The next system I owned was the GameBoy color. It was my very first handheld console that provided hundreds of hours of entertainment. However, my GameBoy color was no ordinary color, I had the Atomic Purple variant; man, did it look sleek. This variant came out in 1998 and cost roughly $69.99. During that time, I could not imagine my family having that much money, so I was surprised when my parents bought me one. In 2014, with inflation, this handheld console would cost $102.34. That is fairly cheap compared to my Nintendo 3DS XL I bought last year for $199.99. The hardware is completely different, but both provide entertainment on-the-go, which is perfect for me.

The next console I would like to discuss is the Nintendo 64 (N64). After playing with the N64 at a friend’s house, I knew I had to have one. The only problem was that it cost $199.99 in 1996. In 2014, the N64 would cost $303.80, which is very reasonable compared to the Xbox One and PS4. The video games for the N64 were a little higher, being priced at $49.99. With inflation, a brand new N64 game would cost roughly $75.94 in 2014.

To my surprise (sometime between 2000 and 2001), my parents bought me an N64 with a copy of Tony Hawk Pro Skater. I could not believe my eyes when I saw it in the living room on Christmas Day. I was ecstatic since I had not owned a home console since the Sega Genesis. I felt like one of the cool kids on the block finally. Until I realized that I only owned maybe 8 video games for it. Like before, I rented most of my video games for the N64 since my family could not afford the $49.99 price tag.

The 2000s

Nintendo GameCube via Wikipedia

My next console was the Nintendo GameCube. The main reason I wanted this console was not solely based on its graphics (even though they were beautiful back then). I had to have the new Super Smash Bros. Within the first two years of the GameCube’s release, it was hard to find in stores. My mother explained to me that she luckily found one in a Target and picked it up for me since I was asking for it during Christmas. I knew my family was really poor at that time because of reasons I will not discuss, but she still managed to pick it up for me. In all honesty, I should really thank my mother for getting me into video games since it was her time and money. The GameCube came out in 2001 priced at $199.99. With inflation, it would only cost $269.15 today, which is incredibly cheap. The video games were still priced at the $49.99 price point which would cost roughly $67.28 today.

Another popular console that I still love today is my Xbox 360. I skipped the first Xbox because it did not have many games I cared about (except for Halo and Halo 2), but I wanted to start over fresh instead of sticking with Nintendo branded games. One of the reasons I wanted to purchase the Xbox 360 was because of Gears of War. When I saw the commercial below for the first time, I knew I had to have it.

The Xbox 360 was released in 2006 and priced at $399.99. That was an unfathomable amount of money for me to buy, so I waited for a better deal in 2007. If I remember correctly, there was a sale at Target where if you bought the Xbox 360, you receive a $100 gift card in return. My mother pitched in some of the money while I paid the rest; I told her to take the gift card, but I most likely used it on a couple new games at the time. Since I still bought the console at full-price, the Xbox 360 would cost $459.80 in today’s market with inflation, which is still cheaper than what I paid for my Xbox One last year.

It is worth noting that during this console generation, video games rose in price. I remember being upset about the $59.99 price point, but it is not all that unreasonable compared to today. With inflation from 2007, those brand new games should cost around $68.96 today.


Which to choose via NOTR

Gamers can argue that the prices were better back then, but in reality, they were not. Based on the inflation of video games, it is better to buy video games now than ever before. The console prices are very close compared to its predecessors, but video games are still cheaper even if the game is used.

When I make an old, used, or rare video game purchase, I like to think how much money I actually saved. For example, I recently bought a used copy of Xenosaga III: Also sprach Zarathustra for $40.00 on eBay. I have been looking for this game for years and it is nearly impossible to find decently priced. The first two games in the series were easy to find, and much cheaper. Xenosaga III came out in 2006 for $49.99. With inflation, the game should cost roughly $59.10 today. However, based on its rarity and limited quantity, the game is worth over $100.00 new. As long as the game works, I believe finding it for $40.00 like I did is nearly a steal since it saved me $60.00 from buying a brand new copy.

The current price for a brand new video game is $59.99. Based on the facts I presented, this is the best time to buy video games compared to inflation. When looking at my income now, the price is substantially less compared to my youth and having no job at all. Also, consoles are nearly the same price as its predecessors before them, so I have no complaints there. Do I recommend buying all the video games? No. I recommend budgeting and checking out my older post where I discuss my Video Game Equation. There are tons of ways to save when purchasing video games, and I want everyone to know that gamers should not be shunned away by the pricing. Instead, cherish these times of cheap video games. The next generation of consoles could see the prices rising $10 again, which sounds ridiculous now, but may be in line with inflation.




  1. I was telling my brother the other day how the price of this one game had come down, when it was launched it was so expensive but now so cheap (months later). The mark ups are so sick :/


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