Where Is Our Correction?

Today Apple brought the cost of Applications on its App Store in line with the US, to account for the consistent strength of the Australian dollar in comparison to the US. Yet we, as gamers, are still paying more on almost any other online service you care to name. Apple has adjusted to the exchange rate- where is our correction?

“The exchange rate is the exchange rate,” says Ed Fong, Managing Director of Ubisoft Australia. “18 months ago it was a very different story. Should we peg our pricing to exchange rates? That gets messy.

“I think that if the exchange rate stays where it is, there’ll be a price correction.”

Today Apple made a correction. App store prices were brought in line with the US - the end result of parity in the dollar. Today I want to ask all video game publishers in Australia - when will you be making your correction?

Let me make one thing straight - I'm not talking about games sold at retail. When it comes to price, there are presently far too many reasons/excuses to even bother arguing - GST, logistics, etc. For now, I'm talking specifically about goods that are distributed digitally, via any number of channels.

Take Microsoft points on Xbox LIVE - dollars conveniently disguised as points. In the US you'll pay $10 for 800 points. In Australia? 1000 points will set you back $16.50. Doing the maths, Americans get 80 points per dollar. Australians get 61 - despite the fact that we are buying more points. Americans get 30% more bang for their buck.

Another example: a couple of weeks ago I caved to nostalgia and bought Link's Awakening on the 3DS store for $9 Australian dollars. US consumers can buy the same game for $6. That's a 50% difference in cost.

On the PlayStation Network Flower is $9.99. Australians pay $12.99.

In the face of Apple's move, how is this fair? When do we, as gamers, get our correction?

This morning, after hearing the news about Apple's change in App store prices, I immediately called the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Rumour has it that Apple changed local Australian prices in response to a letter sent by the ACCC questioning the discrepancy. Would the ACCC send the same letter to Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft et al?

"We rely on consumers a lot," the ACCC representative claimed. "It may be simply that there haven't been enough complaints."

In short, we're not making enough noise. We're being charged more because we let it happen.

In this country certain publishers engage in some insidious business practices, and it's always at the cost of the consumer.

Publishers blatantly raise the price of digitally distributed products on services like Steam and GOG.com to help their retail buy in numbers, and they don't even have the courtesy to be subtle about it.

We, as consumers, ought to get something straight - the amount of stock specialist retailers buy for their stores is not a consumer concern - it's not our problem. We should not be taking the shitty end of the digital stick because distributors want to sell box copies at a higher cost price. This is grossly unfair for consumers and something should be done about it.

Yet it happens and continues to happen - right in front of our eyes. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the latest example, but the same thing occurred with Fallout: New Vegas, The Witcher II and numerous others.

Apple has done the right thing - they have made a correction. Now where is our correction? It is my sincere belief that publishers should not be allowed to artificially raise the prices of digitally distributed games in one specific territory. In addition, we should not be paying more for games that are distributed online - account for GST by all means, but the logistic cost is no different. We should not be paying more for Link's Awakening on the 3DS, Microsoft points should not be more expensive. This has to stop.

The ACCC website can be found here. If you want to call and make a complaint, the number is 1300 302 502, or you can send an online complaints form here.

These practices are unfair. We need a correction, and if we make enough noise, we may just get it.


Comments

    Don't forget the BLATANT gouging on steam.
    prices range from upwards of 50-200% more than the US prices.

      yeah but people have to realize that once again thats not steams fault.

      They are at the mercy of the publishers for the region.

      otherwise you end up with what D2D does where they just don't sell to any region that has a different price(No EA game can be bought off D2D outside of the US & CAN)

      Personally id prefer the ability to buy it at a jacked price than to not see it at all

        Then you sir, are a MASSIVE part of the problem. Order off a website and save money. Don't be gouged? Geez.

          Im a massive part of the problem in what way.

          I haven't payed the AU price gouging on a single Steam game.

          i have a full time VPN and a US based CC i circumvent the measures.

          My point is that

          Being able to buy the game at a price hike.

          is better than not being able to buy it at all. Which would be an issue for some people.

          I'm simply saying that it could be worse again, and that it isn't steams fault

      Right now I'm writing this as I install DNF I imported from the UK for $30 inc postage rather than pay the $80 asking price on Steam :D

    You got my vote!

    Ima gonna call'em off the hook!

    You go son. Interestingly enough, i had filed a complaint not long after the dollar reached parity. Directed at microsoft, not sure if anything got done about it though. There is no additional cost to digitally distribute a product to Australia. No costs that would be any higher than in other regions, so really, they have no excuse. Sure they can say "we dont want to damage the retail market", but i say, then why allowed digital distribution at all. It is just a smoke screen for everyone to make more money.

    Hey Mark I just want to chime in and say you have been killing it with these articles. Awesome work duder :)

    Wonder if we all complain about region locking too things would change. ;)

    I got stung with the Fallout New Vegas price hike, I was quite pissed off. I actually pirated the game but it wouldn't work properly.

    I have sent my on-line complaint. Great article I like these informative pieces, keep up the great work on the good fight.

      To clarify, I attempted to pirate because of the price hike. I don't do it, which probably explains why I couldn't get it to work.

        Even if you bought a legit copy you probably wouldn't have been able to get it to work.

        Boom-tish.

    Remember when GOG struck back with Witcher 2? Not only letting us subvert the forced regionlocking for the digital title (enabling us to get the uncut version), but also issuing a credit to anyone who paid full Australian pricing - even though it meant they took a loss on the title because of what the publisher was charging them?

    Have we even figured out where all these additional bucks are stoppping yet? The retailers say it's not them. The publishers and distributors say it's not them. Even when something is distributed digitally we're charged more, and I very much doubt the developers are just charging double because their work is going to Australia instead of the US.

      I have submitted my 1500 character whinge, highlighting specifically the 65% markup of Microsoft Points on Xbox Live. $16.50 AUD instead of $10 USD (which I remind you would be LESS than $10 AUD right now) for 1000 points means we're paying $19.80 for a $12 (1200 point) game.

      no they were offering credit because they actually got that money(Namco in that case didn't benefit)

      They lost money because people could then take that credit and buy other licensed games.

      so instead of getting the whole 25 dollar difference.

      they lost say the 50% or whatever of each game the person bought with that credit.(even though they wouldn't have got that in the first place)

    Hell yeh I'm going to send a complaint in. I'm sick of this BS. I only hope us doing this isn't in vain. I fear there aren't enough of us who give a stuff for the ACCC to do anything about it.

    Once NBN rolls out and the average home gets fast net and larger caps to follow many gamers would be happy to go DD if the prices were even out, but the most likely thing that going to happen is more people are only going to pirate.

    And Screw Retail, they are dead either way considering how cheap and easy online importing is now days.

      Retail is not dead yet, I see EB games full of kids and parents every time I walk buy.

      I bet all of them don't even know how much cheaper it is online or overseas, hell, even some of my gaming friends don't know and continue to buy their ridiculous price.

      Getting them to convert is harder than it should be, but I doubt we will ever buy games from EB again. But there is always going to be the parents or the kids/teenagers.

        You're right. Retail is far from dead. In fact people who import are in the vast minority at the moment.

    We make plenty of noise. But because we're gamers, our voice isn't good enough to be heard by those in power. Because remember, games in Australia are for kids and only kids play games.

      i c what u did thar!

    Great article Mark!
    The main reason i have yet to buy games on LIVE is the price difference.

    "Publishers blatantly raise the price of digitally distributed products on services like Steam and GOG.com to help their retail buy in numbers"

    GOG pricing is the same globally, and I do not believe their prices are higher than retail for any game they sell. In fact the opposite is true when comparing Witcher 2 and AU retail :)

      I was wrong. Some GOG games do have regional pricing. My bad.

      I might remove GOG.com - especially since they were so good about The Witcher 2.

        I wouldn't, your point is completely valid. The publisher forced GoG to put up their prices to compete with the Australian retail market... it's exactly what your article talks about.

    Got my complaint in! lets get more support guys!

    I've sent in my complaint as well. I mentioned Valve's Steam as something I was really pissed off about.

    Thereby killing EB, JB, Game and Gametraders? Changes need to be made to all games, not just digital ones.

      yeah but logically speaking EB,Game should be exerting there force on this anyway.

      The publishers in their eternal greediness instead hiked the online sales instead of lowering the store based distribution costs.

      If it cost's steam the same to buy a Digital copy as it did EB,Game to buy a physical then any price differences aren't a result of publishers but of stores.

      so then EB,Game would have to make the decision to keep selling at 100 or to match steam. since it would now be feasable without making losses on the boxed copy.

      whether or not they could survive on the margins that steam makes is another story. and one that is more indicative of store rent in australia than anything else.

      But at the same time they would be putting an end to importing since it would no longer be fincially beneficial.

      theres also the fact that a correction technically would only need apply to PC games. since DD for console is rather lacking at the present time

      For one, digital distribution on consoles is a whole different beast to digital distribution on PC. You're not gonna get many people downloading bulk full games from Live because there aren't as many of them available and it's not really practical. There is no retail comparison for a lot of these products because almost the entirety of Xbox Live Arcade is digital only.

      How many retailers place an emphasis on their PC catalogue over their console and handhold catalogue? I'm willing to bet, bar one or two specialists, none of them do. There is absolutely no logistic, defensible reason for a lack of digital distribution parity. None. Whatsoever.

        *logical

    Why are you comparing to US prices, videogames and consoles have never had an Aus US comparision, we are always compared to the UK. This is why we are gouged.

    Its just another example of why regioning the world sucks. Either work out a way around it or live with it because as long as we are spending the extra dollars the companies are going to do it. Buy your PC games from Asia, get your microsoft points from the US. Remember complaining gets you very little with these companies, but with holding your cash will work.

      Because the AUD isn't benchmarked against the GBP, it was floated against the USD.

      If we're compared to the UK then why does UK based ozgameshop have games so much cheaper than here?

        exactly regardless who we compare our prices to we are getting gouged.

        and if the UK is getting gouged off the US price we are just getting gouged 2 times :P

    Can we get some more info about complaint-writing in this case? I'd like to know what sort of comments I should make, issues I should raise, services or examples I should call out, in order to see the best possible return.

    What's the ACCC going to do? What the companies are doing is ethically dogshit, but it isn't illegal.

    I complained about Steam a year ago. They said that since Steam operates in US currency and is an American Business, ACCC can't do anything about it.

      Probably worth noting that it isn't Steam, it's publishers that set the price.

        Does not matter who sets the price as the service, Steam, does not operate in Aus and does not charge in AUD.

    "We’re being charged more because we let it happen."

    This, I think, is the crux of the whole issue.

    http://www.steamprices.com/au/topsavings = buy!

    http://www.steamprices.com/au/topripoffs = proxy buy!

    Excellent article, Mark.

    Publishers' raising of prices on Steam to make them competitive with retail boxes is, as you say, grossly unfair.

    Not to mention potentially anti-competitive.

    There's a cosy partnership between retailers and publishers to keep prices artificially high, especially with exchange rates as they are.

      And you're sure of that are you??? Let's looks at what is currently going on at GAME and EB... Both have sales, both are selling selecting newer releases at low pricing. Their sales are the product of publishers allowing certain stock to be store much cheaper to the stores due to overstocking and other reasons...

      So again, this is only possible because the publishers/ distributors whatever allow it. The retailer is at their mercy, there's no cosy pocket. You keep forgetting gamers work at these stores. We/ they buy from there too. If this was going on... So you think no one would say a thing?

      I sure as hell know I would! I don't think digital sales will bring any forced change either. I think physical importing will though. It's a show of lengths gone to get the SAME product, but cheaper... A digital downlOad is not only a different thing it's also fluctuating due to publishers...

    It's redicoulos when games like PS3 Mass Effect 2 cost $99.95 for a digiatal download copy on the Playstation store compared to buying the same game brand new on disc at stores like game for $28. And also when retail stores like EBGames US(Gamestop) sell brand new PS3 hero editions of infamous 2 for $59.99 US, which comes to around $55 AUS but at ebgames australia the same game sells for $188 AUS.

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