In preparation for the release of Rock Band 3 next week, we throught we'd do a bit of investigating. The availability of the game is not in question - it will definitely go on sale next Thursday - but questions with regards to the availability and the pricing of the new instruments still remain.
Finding information on instrument availability turned out to be extremely difficult. EA are distributing the Rock Band 3 game but the instruments themselves are being made by Mad Catz, which means they're being distributed by a completely different company in Australia: a company called Home Entertainment Suppliers.
We managed to get in contact with Home Entertainment Suppliers and quizzed them on the details. In terms of availability, a limited stock of Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii controllers, including the new Keyboard peripheral, have already been sent to EB and JB Hi-fi and should be ready for launch this coming Thursday. There has been a problem, however, with stock on the PlayStation 3 and Home Entertainment Suppliers has estimated that it will take at least another three weeks for the new PS3 instruments to hit stores.
But then there's the issue of pricing. There seems to be a massive discrepancy between what we are paying for the instruments in Australia, compared to the pricing in the US and the UK. Here's a quick comparison...
US Pricing (from Amazon) Rock Band 3 Wireless Fender Mustang PRO-Guitar Controller: $149.99 Rock Band 3 Wireless Pro-Drum and Pro-Cymbals Kit: $129.99 Rock Band 3 Wireless Keyboard: $79.99
UK Pricing (from Game UK) Rock Band 3 Wireless Fender Mustang PRO-Guitar Controller: £119.99 Rock Band 3 Wireless Pro-Drum and Pro-Cymbals Kit: £119.99 Rock Band 3 Wireless Keyboard: £69.99
Australian Pricing (From EB Games) Rock Band 3 Wireless Fender Mustang PRO-Guitar Controller: $288 Rock Band 3 Wireless Pro-Drum and Pro-Cymbals Kit: $288 Rock Band 3 Wireless Keyboard: $138
Now we understand that there are certain discrepancies - issues such as the GST, shipping, and problems of volume - but there still seems to be a real element of unfairness with the Australian pricing. The comparison to the US dollar is particularly startling - we're extremely close to parity at the moment, yet we seem to be paying almost twice what Americans are paying for the exact same equipment.
We asked Mr Sebastian Giompaolo at Home Entertainment suppliers to elaborate on the reasons for the price increase.
"There are a number of reasons why we charge more, but the main one is we are more in line with the European prices," claimed Sebastian. "We buy all our stock directly from Mad Catz in Europe."
The European Mad Catz office is currently closed, but we're planning to try and contact them to see if they have any explanation for the price increase.
Watch this space.