The end of $60 games?

The expensive video games that we buy for game consoles from Sony and XBox have always had competition. There have always been plenty of online options that were free, from multi-player games to free chess. You could find places to play bingo (sign up now) or even do stuff like fantasy baseball.

But the gaming world is definitely changing, and the impact is being felt by the companies that create and sell the most expensive games.

There’s a war going on in the video game world, but it’s over dollar signs, not virtual land.

A boxed copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the world’s top-selling console game, costs $60. Angry Birds, the world’s biggest mobile game franchise, costs $1 for software that you can download in under a minute. The pricing gap between what’s traditionally considered the highest-tier premium games and the fast-evolving mobile, tablet, and social gaming market is widening, and it’s spelling disaster for countless game makers caught in the middle.

According to The NPD Group, physical content sales were down 8% in 2011. This year hasn’t been a cakewalk either, with sales continuing to slide. Though some of the blame can rightfully be foisted upon the decline of the once-mighty Wii, it’s apparent that people aren’t buying games like they used to, and the industry is scrambling to figure out why. But most agree that it begins — and likely ends — with the high cost of new games.

Basically, the mobile world is changing everything. You can go online and do all that stuff you could do before, but these cheap games are now dominating the landscape. It’s not that the ultra-cool expensive games are going away. There will always be a market for quality and visuals. But, as depend drops with more competition, you’ll start seeing more rational pricing for these games. That will hurt the developers, so it will be interesting to see what happens to game development budgets, but the business is definitely changing.