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