Baker’s Tirades: On the subject of Pricing

Well I’m back for more, did you miss me? This time it’s not about games, well almost. The subject of pricing is a difficult topic to dissect, and can really only be evaluated on a case by case basis, by which I mean, looking at each console and their products that they offer, as well as optional extras and Games available. To put it in other words, I’m really trying to sort out whether we’re getting our true dollars worth for our hobby, or whether the industry is fleecing us out of our hard earned rupees.

In the interest of fairness, I will be putting in multiple pricings, notably the $US, the $AU. For example: a PS3 game in $AU usually retails for around $100~120, now this is equal to $90-95~ $US, whereas PS3 games sold in the states are usually around the $60-70~ mark, which would equate to $65-75, a small increase which belies the fact that even when you factor in transport and retailer fees, Most Australians are getting shafted on pricing. This is not only in the PS3 market, Xbox360 games are also marked up signifigantly to match in with the PS3’s retail values, so they can appear to be “competitive”, the Wii also is a part of this price gouging racket as well, with most of their new release titles ranging at the $100 mark.

Now I hear you saying “well the price of making games has gone up, so should the price of buying games” well, yes and no, yes, I believe that the pricing of the games should reflect the platform and content of the game, but having such a sizeable markup between two foreign markets is ridiculous. I’ll go one further, years ago, before the PS3 and the Xbox360, games used to be a fairly average price in Australia, ranging at the $50-$60 mark, PC games were the only ones to range upwards of $70, all of this would equate to roughly a .5% less price in $US, but the content was there to put purpose behind the price tag, PC games were considered the long stayers in the market, the ones which if time progressed, would still be played, and are still played today, treasures like Unreal Tournament 99, and the Warcraft 3, although is being quickly surpassed by the likes of Starcraft II and the free DotA clones.

what the fuck? for a game and a rc car?

Now somewhere along the lines, the price tags got higher around the arrival of the new hardware, everyone just assumed it was a temporary thing and that the games were more expensive because they were “New” and had to be made on much more expensive hardware, but time has passed, five years to be exact, and little has changed on the price issue, if anything you would expect a drop in overall pricing, just like the gaming systems themselves do after a certain period. The PS3 slim, and the Xbox360 Lite, both revisions of the former console at a much cheaper price point, The new Xbox360 4GB edition being sold at $199 US, $100 more if you want to add Kinect to that bundle, whereas in Australia, it costs as much as $450 AU for a Xbox360 lite by itself, and extra $100 with Kinect. The PS3 Slim Retails at $300 US, or $400 US with the Move bundle, whereas in Austrlia they start at $500 and rise to$600 with the Move starter pack. Both of these are reductions of at least $100 dollars on their launch prices, the PS3 being $200 less than launch, whilst still having a massive increase in difference between Au and US retail prices. (using Electronics Boutique/EB)

on the left is the Electronics Boutique pricing for the US, and on the right, for Australia, notice the sharp differences?

Even hand held games are subject to these outrageous prices, the cost of an N64 game is now the cost of a Playstation Portable or Nintendo DS game, $60AU if you didn’t already know, gone are the days of a great deal, except through ebay or cash converters, and when buying second hand you’re always taking a risk. No, it seems that fair pricing is a thing of the past, especially when stores like EB Games, or GameStop in the US and other territories, are buying near new games at a pittance, only to resell back at near-new prices to make a quick buck off desperate gamers. These stores are the worst, offering trade-in deals where you can trade in 5 games to shave $50 off the price of a new console* (*must be from a range of games that are worth more than $250 to qualify for deal).

It seems that the only place that’s doing right by gamers is Steam, and even they do it wrong sometimes, not often, but they do fuck up, and not often by their own doing. See Steam is one of those beautiful things that can come from DRM and DLC, when a developer so loves it’s franchises that it chooses to create a delivery system so easy, so user friendly, that it soon draws others in to share of the preverbial pie. Steam originated around the course of Counter-Strike, where upon time to update the game, a large amount of the players had to be disconnected from their services, and thus were unable to enjoy the game, for days on end. Thus Steam was created, to provide a way to deliver content to their consumers, and to manage hackers and cheaters in their games, using their own proprietary software, VAC, or Valve-Anti-Cheat, which banned users from playing games over steam if they were caught cheating or hacking in any way. This was the creation of the Steam Delivery Service, and around 2002 various Developers decided to try to get in on this action, by allowing their games to be sold and updated through steam.

There have been some hiccups with Steams service, and at the beginning it was by no means a bug free system, but the groundwork was there. With the backing of several developers feeding Valve with money to keep the service running, Steam became a veritable Marketplace, Community and eventually a gaming Culture, with most of Valve’s games requiring it to be played online. The marketplace on Steam is one of the best online delivery services I have ever come across, it has a massive range of games, with Publishers and Developers adding more and more each day. All games are sorted into categories like Genre, playing style, pricing and publisher, and with Steams ability to make or break a games sales, the often lauded Steam sales are a great boon for all businesses hoping to use it, with some amazing deals to be caught if you hang around on the right days, such as their famous Christmas & New Years sales, where you can buy games for literal dirt.

one of the often found deals that can be seen on the Steam service.

But no marketplace would be fine without a little controversy, and this is where it starts to become evident that the publishers are the ones pumping the prices up in order to satisfy their own diabolical ends. In the case of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, in retail stores most pc games would go for $90~ AU, but on Steam they would be marginally cheaper, and I’m talking like $20-$30 cheaper, but not the case with MW2, it seems that Activision wanted everyone to pay the exact same price no matter what the format their samey shooter came packaged in, and as such the price was $90 on steam as well, and while $10 less than the console prices, there were no extra features added to warrant the price hike, in fact features were taken out to “prevent hackers” but I’ve already raged about that. another case was with Ubisoft, and their always online DRM, which caused problems for customers who purchased the Silent Hunter5, Assassin’s Creed 2, and Command & Conquer games through steam, which meant that the products required two kinds of DRM in order to work properly, and even then the products didn’t work half the time, requiring patch fixing mere minutes after launch, the price points also matched their console compatriots, a frightening trend which I fear may be continuing to rise. So all in all, several problems cause by outside influences on an otherwise great service.

I’d also like to add that for all those of you who fear the great DRM machine that is Steam, this quote should put you at ease, as not only are you able to play all Steam games offline, with only a single online activation required, but if any unforseen circumstances do occur “we would presumably disable authentication before any event that would preclude the authentication servers from being available.” He added, “We’ve tested disabling authentication, and it works.” – Gabe N.

So what’s my final thought on pricing? bollocks, yep that’s right, the fact that prices have increased heavily over the past few years with no distinct reason is a scary thing, and makes you wonder if the next generation of games will reach into the $150 mark, just because the “tech is so new”, hell, the Signature edition of GT5 costs $300 AU! the price of a PS3+Move bundle! I’m not sure I can take it anymore, thank god I only buy used games 5+ years after they’ve been released, or wait for a really good deal on something before I throw my money at it.

oh god, what?

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About SolidBaker

Edward is the Australian Asshole of the group, you'll often find him bitching about censorship or the fact that he gets shafted on most video game releases. Solid has a penchant to rattle on about little niggling parts of games that he gets angry with and tends to get angry with them often. He owns most of the current systems and a lot of the older systems, and has a general distaste of most of the current generation of games, but that doesn't mean he can't enjoy them all the same.