Feature, Rant

RantSpace – Regional Pricing Bullshit

If you live in the US-and-A then either this rant will be news to you, or you simply won’t give a shit. See, you are the golden children of regional pricing and the market bends to your will and your whims… The rest of us though, we just get what we’re given.

I used to game almost-exclusively on the 360 so I paid a lot of attention to console game prices. As a general rule, throughout the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 generation, Recommended Retail Prices have been thus:

  • USA – $50
  • Australia – $100 (I seem to recall it started as high as $110 or $120, but that was ludicrous)
  • UK – £50

Whilst it doesn’t take much shopping around to find a retailer selling for less, these are still the prices set by the publishers – ergo, this is what they think they can get away with. If you know anything about currency exchange rates though, you’ll quickly realise this spread of RRPs is absolute fucking bullshit.

[Video Games and Comics were the last consumer items to simply double the US price. I haven’t been able to find out exactly when the Australian dollar was last worth 50 US cents, but it has been well over a decade. Someone thinks us nerds are easy targets.]

Even at the lowest exchange rate of the past ten years we Australians should have only been paying $80 at full RRP. Nowadays – when the Australian dollar has been buying between 88 and 108 US cents for over three years – we’re still paying $89 for a preorder of the latest Call of Shooty rehash.

Similarly, the Great, no make that Fantastic British Pound has bought between 1.5 and 1.6 US dollars for the past three years, yet they are paying £44.99 for Call of Duty: Paranormal Activity.

We’re going to do a bit of maths, using pre-orders for the upcoming Call of Shooty on the Xbox 360, and current exchange rates via XE.

Call of Duty: Ghostbusters:

  • US (GameStop) – 59.99USD = 59.99USD
  • UK (GAME) – 44.99GBP = 70.52USD
  • Australia (JB HiFi) – 89AUD = 80.20USD

A 10USD gaming tax for residents of the United Kingdom, and a 20USD gaming tax for us poor, downunder bastards.

If you want to know why the vast majority of discussion on this website is about PC games, that right there is a big part of the reason why the (currently all non-American) writers here moved away from the consoles and into Gabe’s loving arms.

It’s not all rosy on PC though, and Steam has its own regional pricing bullshit.

* * *

Dishonored is a game I am interested in playing, but with so many other games in my library I can’t justify the purchase; chances are it will remain unplayed for months anyway. The last time I was toying with the idea of buying it, I realised that whilst the US price for Dishonored is $29.99, the Australian price is $44.99 – same game, same Steam, same bytes that customers are downloading, but a fifty percent price hike based on geography alone.

It’s not just Dishonored though – every game Bethesda publishes suffers from this regional discrepancy, at least until they’ve been out for a few years and Bethesda decide to even things out. Unsurprisingly they aren’t happy for it to go both ways. Bethesda will happily gouge Australian wallets, but their games simply aren’t available in Russia where they would need to sell the games cheaper due to the lower wages earned by our post-Soviet comrades.
It is, simply, so much bullshit.

I’m picking on Bethesda because theirs is a catalogue that I have paid attention to over the years, but it’s a near-universal issue; 2K, Activision, EA, Ubisoft, they’re just as bad as each other. All the big publishers and plenty of the smaller ones are joining in on these consumer-hostile practices. It’s getting to the stage where you’ll want to visit Steam Prices religiously to check the conversions and make sure you aren’t being taken for a ride – the only other way to tell is to use a VPN or Proxy.

When it comes to physical games they’ll cite additional distribution and retail costs to justify the inconsistencies. When it comes to digital games they’ll cite different costs of living and differences in the minimum wage. That’s fine. Justified or not, utter bollocks or not, it’s their prerogative to try and make as much money as possible – after all, these are businesses. Just remember, as a consumer it’s your prerogative to be happy that you’re getting a good deal.

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