Game prices in India may see an increase on PS5 and Xbox Series X. Last week 2K, the publishing label behind the WWE, NBA, and Borderlands franchises to name a few, announced that upcoming basketball game NBA 2K21 will have a $70 price on PS5 and Xbox Series X instead of the industry standard $60. While 2K’s reasoning for the hike is focussed on “value” it refused to comment on a $70 price tag would extend to its other upcoming PS5 and Xbox Series X games such as the next WWE or rumoured BioShock title. So what does $70 translate to for Indian gamers? Well according to a press release from 2K, that would be Rs. 4,599 for NBA 2K21 on PS5 and Xbox Series X.

It is important to note that 2K’s NBA 2K21 Rs. 4,599 price announcement for India also contained the following disclaimer: “Based on 2K’s suggested retail price. Actual retail price may vary. See local store for info.”

That said, 2K did confirm to The Mako Reactor that Rs. 4,599 would be the PS5 and Xbox Series X NBA 2K21 price on the PS and Microsoft Store respectively.

“Yes, that’s correct,” reads an email from a 2K spokesperson to our query. “The digital version of NBA 2K21 Standard Edition (Next Gen) will be INR 4,599 on both PS5 and Xbox Series X via their respective stores.”

Game prices in India are not direct currency conversions

In the UK, NBA 2K21 is priced at GBP 64.99 (around Rs. 6,055) and the US price is $70 (approximately Rs. 5,221) while the converted pricing of the UK and US versions of NBA 2K21 for Xbox Series X and PS5 are higher than the suggested retail price for India, it is worth noting that game prices in India have never had direct currency conversion and have followed their own pricing bands. Over the last decade, prices in India have ranged from Rs. 2,499 to Rs. 3,999 for many publishers with increments of Rs. 500. Rs. 4,599 would be the first time a publisher that has previously conformed to sub-Rs. 4,000 pricing in India has broken that barrier for a standard edition release. Publishers such as Activision and EA have been outliers, and this move puts 2K in their ranks.

With 2K being the first to raise price on PS5 and Xbox Series X games, we wondered if this had the potential to be an industry-wide shift across storefronts, including brick-and-mortar stores as well as e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart as digital sales aren’t as popular as physical retail in India. E-xpress Interactive, India’s biggest games distributor and also responsible for distributing 2K’s games in India did not reply to our request for comment in time for publication.

This should come as no surprise. Between Microsoft’s silence on the Xbox Series X for India and Sony’s controlling presence over which stores list the PS5 and which don’t, the current climate surrounding the next-generation of gaming in India is tense to say the least, making it tough to announce game pricing at local retail when there’s no idea on how much the actual hardware running it would cost.

The lockstep approach to wait on console pricing is a side-effect of the lack of competition in the space in India with Microsoft being almost non-existent as is Nintendo. It’s in sharp contrast to how pricing and messaging around next-generation games has been managed internationally, with 2K checking the temperature with a potential price hike that could alter game prices across the board.

However, if Rs. 4,599 was to be the standard price for PS5 and Xbox Series X games, not many retailers are convinced it would sit well with customers.

“We don’t think Rs. 4,599 can be the norm for PS5 and Xbox Series X [games],” says one Delhi-based retailer on the condition of anonymity. “Outside of Nintendo first-party and Call of Duty games, Indians do not spend on Rs. 4,599 for standard edition games.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by other retailers we’ve spoken to across the country. Game prices in India have seen a steep increase over the years with varying degrees of success.

A brief history of game prices in India

During the Xbox 360 and PS3 era, Microsoft priced its exclusives at Rs. 1,850 during the Xbox 360’s early years before settling on Rs. 2,599. Sony and third-party publishers like Sega had a Rs. 2,499 price. The holdouts at the time were Capcom, Bethesda, Activision, and EA. Capcom launched in India with a Rs. 3,499 price for standard edition console games on consoles which it maintains to this day.

Bethesda followed Capcom’s lead though it had some misadventures, experimenting with Rs. 4,299 for Wolfenstein: The New Order and Rage 2 on consoles both of which didn’t sell too well at that price point according to multiple sources in the supply chain.

Much like the Skyrim and Fallout 76 publisher, EA did raise price through the last and current generation, moving the price of PS3, Xbox 360, and PC games by almost Rs. 1,000 at the time. The PS4 and Xbox One era saw a hike to Rs. 3,999 for games like FIFA 15, which didn’t impact sales too much.

What did however, was a ridiculous move by erstwhile EA distributor and “exclusive” retail partner Amazon India to price Battlefield 1 at Rs. 5,199 which promptly backfired, resulting in a price drop to Rs. 4,299 days later. And while FIFA 21 has a Rs. 3,999 price for PS4 and Xbox One, if 2K’s Rs. 4,599 price ends up being palpable by a large chunk of the Indian gaming populace, we won’t be surprised to see EA increase prices as well.

For Activision’s part, it maintained a Rs. 2,799 price upto the launch of Call of Duty 4 aka Modern Warfare and Call of Duty World at War. After that it had stuck to Rs. 3,499 until Call of Duty Ghosts that had a Rs. 3,999 on PS3 and Xbox 360 and Rs. 4,299 on PS4 and Xbox One. Now its games command a premium over the others with the likes of 2019’s Call of Duty Modern Warfare sporting a Rs. 4,499 price on consoles (down from Black Ops 4’s Rs. 4,699 price). It’s unlikely we’d see another price increase considering how expensive its games are to begin with.

Even Microsoft tried raising the price on Xbox One exclusives. Halo 5 and Forza 6 had a Rs. 4,699 price citing a nebulous “individual pricing” as the reason. Suffice to say most of these were discounted to as low as Rs. 1,499 a few months later.

NBA 2K’s India price increases over the years

As for the NBA 2K series itself, it’s seen several price hikes over the years. NBA 2K14 for PS4 and Xbox One debuted at Rs. 2,999 as did NBA 2K15 and NBA 2K16 with PS3 and Xbox 360 versions priced at Rs. 2,499. It was only with NBA 2K17 onwards did we see Rs. 3,499 being the standard for the series on PS4 and Xbox One, while the last generation ports stuck to the Rs. 2,499 price.

Nevertheless, it’s a perplexing choice for a price increase. Reason being, annual sports titles like NBA 2K21 have a ridiculous number of in-game micro-transactions making it $70/Rs. 4,599 the price of entry versus the actual price of playing. Previously, the industry argument for egregious micro-transactions was to offset burgeoning development costs. Considering this, a price increase seems moot.

This is before you take into account 2K parent company Take Two’s net bookings (net amount of products and services sold digitally or sold-in physically during the period, and includes licensing fees, merchandise, in-game advertising, strategy guides and publisher incentives) for the last fiscal grew by 49 percent to $729.4 million citing the likes of NBA 2K20 and longstanding hits like GTA V and Red Dead Redemption 2.

What about PS5 and Xbox Series X game prices for India?

So will other game publishers follow suit? We’ve seen Sega holding on to a $60/Rs. 3,499 price for Yakuza: Like a Dragon while Bandai Namco has stuck to $60 for Scarlet Nexus which doesn’t have an India price yet but if Code Vein is any indication, it should be Rs. 3,999, whether this continues to be the case as the generation wears on remains to be seen.

It’s quite likely 2K is testing the response to $70/Rs. 4,599 pricing to see if it’s a tenable way forward. Rest assured, other publishers are looking to see if they can too.