It's Budget Day!

by PaulEMoz in , , ,

Morning all, and welcome to Budget Day, where I will spend my day wearing rose-tinted glasses and posting about cheapo games from bygone days.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer can only DREAM of owning a budget bag like that.

So, what exactly is or was a budget game? These days, if a console game is released with a price tag of £19.99, it's considered a budget game. £19.99! My kids don't get anywhere near that much a week in pocket money... whose budget exactly is that?

Games originally cost upwards of £5.95... not too bad in today's prices, but still a fair sum to the kids of the early Eighties. It took companies like Mastertronic and Firebird to introduce a second tier of pricing that appealed to those with less disposable income. Firebird originally offered games for £2.50... much more affordable, as one or two weeks' pocket money would be enough to grab yourself some gaming goodness.

It was when Mastertronic introduced their classic £1.99 range that pocket money gaming really took off. No longer did you have to trail into the city (costing extra valuable money) in order to buy a game... you could find the distinctive Mastertronic packaging in newsagents, petrol stations... shops where kids would be dragged in by the mothers, and displayed prominently, in the chance that mam might be badgered into buying Little Johnny a gaming treat.

It really worked, too. Anybody with a computer owned at least one game with that classic black and red packaging. Firebird soon reduced their games to £1.99, with their own packaging standing out, too. They were happy times, with loads of new titles released, and kids buying them in droves.

The quality wasn't always there, of course. These companies, particularly in the beginning, were outlets for the bedroom coders. And whilst some of those programmers were good and would go on to greater things, if your game actually worked there was a fair chance it would be published, often to the disappointment of children across the country!

Things eventually spiralled out of control, with more and more budget companies springing up and Mastertronic and Firebird introducing range after range, at differing prices. The "golden era" of budget games had passed, probably in tandem with computer owners growing up. For a while, though, it had been one of the most exciting times in the growth of home gaming.