At least do the courtesy of hiding your tracks.
Over the weekend Civilization: Beyond Earth went where many video games have gone before. Practically overnight the price went from the US$49.95 to $89.95. Urgh. We have seen (and been outraged by this) before. Almost every publisher has been guilty at some point. I think we're all acutely aware of how brutally unfair this is. There's a touch of the gallows humour about it. It's almost hilarious at this point.
Yes, the Australian Tax. Yes, the cost of living. Yes, the cost of employing people to distribute, market and sell your product. Yes, you have to protect your retail relationship. Sure, we expect a small bump. Sure, we expect to pay more, even for digital products. We don’t like it, but sure. We have a modicum of understanding for the situation. Just a modicum. We still buy your video games, don’t we?
But this whole Steam thing? The whole raising the price at the last minute? This whole offering a video game at the US price and then SURPRISE, a massive increase on price without warning?
That has really, seriously got to stop.
If you’re going to make us pay a whole bunch more for video games in this country, at least do us the courtesy of pretending that it isn’t a random, massive rort. At least do us the courtesy of launching the game from the very beginning at the price point you plan on selling the game for.
In a sense it’s a pulling back of the curtains. These changes give us a very real glimpse of what is actually happening here: we are being charged way more for video games. We know this. But when it happens right before our eyes it’s all the more infuriating. Not only are we being ripped off, but the folks doing the ripping off have the temerity to do it in plain sight. There’s a certain arrogance (or incompetence, it’s difficult to tell which) about the whole situation. Publishers are simply so blatant about the price fixing.
Recently I had an interesting conversation with an ex-Marketing Manager at one of the major publishers in Australia. He told me that during the absolute peak of the Australian dollar — when we had parity and were collectively howling at the moon about pricing disparities — even then Australians, per capita, among the highest percentage of people buying video games on Steam. In spite of the ridiculous prices we were being forced to pay.
What does that tell us? It tells us that no publisher is going to stop charging us more for video games if we keep buying them at inflated prices. Why would anyone turn back free money?
The only way this is going to change — like seriously change — is if the government gets involved or — gasp — we as a community stop buying the video games we want to play. I don’t see either of these things happening any time soon. And even if we decide to protest with our wallets that doesn’t mean the wider public will follow suit. We may just be the vocal minority on this point, whether it’s an injustice or not.
So we’re at an impasse. Therefore I have a request: if you’re going to continue charging us more for digitally distributed video games, and it looks as though you are, please do us the courtesy of hiding your tracks. Please don’t do it right in front of our eyes. Please find a way to be more subtle about you rorting.
Just hide your tracks. That's all I ask.