It takes a considerable amount of money to play a modern game on the current set of consoles, and the price is only getting higher.
Microsoft is the most egregious with its pricing model. An Xbox One retails for $500 and to access most of its third-party features like Netflix and Hulu, and to play online multipayer games, you need the $60 a year Xbox Live Gold subscription. As GamingBolt pointed out today, Titanfall, the already-popular shooter, is an multiplayer only game, making it essentially $120. It’s important to keep in mind that the subscription fee also includes access to severral other features, but there’s no getting around a price like that when a parent or someone not familiar enough with Xbox Live finds he or she needs to pay that much to play Respawn Entertainment’s new game. I too have been in retail when a parent wants to get Minecraft for their child to play with his or her friends but quickly realize they’ll need to purchase Xbox Live Gold.
Sony’s PlayStation Plus will also require a $50 a year subscription to play multiplayer online games, it just so happens the PlayStation 4 (which costs $400 itself) doesn’t have a game that’s similar to Titanfall yet. That time will come.
The Wii U would be the best option but its lesser hardware and lack of third-party games makes it a harder choice.
But by that logic, games pretty much require an internet connection. Internet is expensive and pretty slow for what you get, depending on where you live. Some more rural areas don’t even have the option. Those people are cared for less and less with games because many big releases need patches on the day of release that fix critical problems, and for others, half of the game is built to be played with other people online. If you don’t have internet, you’re clearly missing out.
And if we take it even further, lots of newer games work much better on high definition screens–things like on-screen text can be illegible on standard definition screens. HDTVs aren’t necessarily expensive, but it’s another cost if you don’t own one.
At least we got rid of one cost almost: controllers. Fewer games have local multiplayer which means you don’t have to buy four $50 controllers for your friends. This is certainly not applicable to every game but I’d bet there’s significantly less people with a basket of spare controllers around, unless maybe they’re in a family or prone to physical destruction when angered.
So, no, I wouldn’t call it “marketing genius” I’d call it a worrying barrier to entry for the medium, especially compared to say a novel or a movie. Big, blockbuster games are expensive to make and play. The rise of independently developed and cheap mobile games might be helping lower costs for fun experiences, but the base price just to stay current is still large. And if the end goal is for more and more people of different ages and backgrounds to play games, something might need to change about that.