Objection! Do We Complain About Game Prices Too Much?

Objection! Do We Complain About Game Prices Too Much?

It’s been too long since we’ve had an old fashioned Objection! So we’ve decided to take one of the most controvesial perennial topics, game pricing, and take a different angle: are we too entitled? Should we really complain about the price of games when we, as consumers, have more choice than we’ve ever had before?

To help us out we have James O’Connor, senior writer for Hyper and PhD candidate, helping us out by bravely arguing that maybe we shouldn’t be complaining too much about game prices after all…

MARK: Oh James, you’re a brave man I’ll give you that. When you asked if I would be interested in doing an Objection piece in which you would argue that games weren’t too expensive in Australia, my first thought was this – your funeral buddy.

Then I tried to anticipate the points you might make, and I realised that maybe we would find some common ground here…

But I’ll stop there, and let you make the points I think you’re going to make before I decide whether or not I agree or disagree.

So tell me you crazy bastard – why aren’t games too expensive in Australia?

JAMES: Well Mark, let me open with a few simple clarifications.

For starters, I am no economist. I got a 14/20 in Year 12 Economics (which was six years ago now). I’m not great with handling my own funds. In fact, if anyone knows a good accountant in the Adelaide area, feel free to recommend them in the comment thread.

Also, I am writing this from a position of extreme privilege, which I think is worth admitting to. As a games reviewer, I get most of the games I play for free. The same goes for you Mark. But I have known all too well the sting of not being able to afford the latest releases – as a child, my parents were overly generous with pocket money, but buying a single game still required months of saving.

Objection! Do We Complain About Game Prices Too Much?

For the last few years – ever since our dollar strengthened, eventually overtaking the value of the US dollar – people have been complaining that we pay way too much for videogames over here. And it’s true that, compared to the US, we are paying a lot more, but that has always struck me as a bizarre and overly simplistic reason for arguing that the prices need to come down. Obviously it would be nice if they did come down, as is the case with pretty much everything, but are we really being ripped off so badly?

There’s quite a bit to dig into here. First up – how much is $100 worth to us, exactly? According to Wikipedia, the most reliable of all sources, our minimum fulltime wage is the second highest in the world, after Denmark. Almost 50% of Australian households earn over $70,000 a year, putting them in the top 0.1% globally, earnings wise. Those 1%ers they’re protesting against in the US right now? They’re on $380,000US a year. Our top 3%, on the other hand, is earning over $13 million annually. Our current unemployment rate is around 5.2%, which isn’t amazing, but is far better than the USA’s 9.1%.

So, that’s the first part of my argument – we’re taking the strength of our economy for granted. By and large, we can afford these high game prices. Thoughts, Mark?

Objection! Do We Complain About Game Prices Too Much?

MARK: Without sounding like a patronising tool, I thought you were going to hit me with the minimum wage thing, and the strength of the economy, and I think it’s a fair point. Honestly.

I’ll begin with the points upon which I agree: this whole game pricing business isn’t as simple as ‘we have dollar parity therefore we should be paying the same as the US’. Of course there are other factors: our higher cost of living, the fact that we earn more in general, the fact that the logistics of sending stock around Australia — a massive country with a relatively small population — is a difficult task.

Then compound this with the fact that everyone involved in this process — the store clerks, the distributors, those involved in logistics — most likely get paid more than their US/European equivalent, then you start to get an idea why we might have to pay a little more than our overseas brethren.

But here’s where the whole thing falls apart — and this applies more to the distributors/publishers than retailers — it’s easier and cheaper for a small, independently owned Australian retailer to grey import copies of a game direct from other overseas retailers than it is to buy direct from local distributors!

Now how can this be? Does OzGameShop have better logistics than EA/Activision/Ubisoft? What’s going on here?

Objection! Do We Complain About Game Prices Too Much?

JAMES: Alright, yes, I can see how that would be a problem for the retailer. For the consumer, though, the entire situation is win-win, and that’s why all the complaints bother me a bit.

Somewhere along the line, Australia videogame consumers lost sight of the fact that paying half price for imported games wasn’t something they somehow inherently ‘deserved’. I could import a copy of Skyrim from the UK right now and pay a tad under $50 after shipping. To me, that’s not something I’m entitled to – that’s a damn bargain. Hell, the $79 I paid for it was a more than fair price for what I got in return. In fact, it’s less than I spent last time I took my family out to lunch.

And hell, games are cheaper locally than they ever were before anyway. Have any of Kotaku’s readers honestly ever paid $120 for a game? The increasingly fierce market competition makes paying RRP unnecessary. Back when I was a young lad with an N64, if you saw a game going for $20 you bought it on general principle. I remember picking up Hydro Thunder for $20 and being elated. I also remember people complaining when the vastly superior Hydro Thunder Hurricane cost $20 on XBLA. At the shops today, I noticed that EB, GAME and Gametraders all had tables dedicated to selling games that were selling for $10-20, which would have been all but unheard of a decade ago. We may be paying more for new releases, but if you’re gaming on a budget in Australia, you’re still set.

My argument isn’t so much that we shouldn’t reassess our current models of business so that we can avoid issues that are affecting retail outlets, or that we need to go and spend $100 on every new release. What I’m arguing is that games aren’t necessarily overpriced in stores just because there are ways of getting them cheaper. Does that make sense?

Objection! Do We Complain About Game Prices Too Much?

MARK: It kinda makes sense, but I take issue with local publishers and distributors absolving themselves of all responsibility when it comes to the recommended retail price of video games in this country. Sure you can get some bargains at retail in Australia, but for the most part that’s because they’re selling at very, very close to cost price or, in the case of big stores like Big W and Target, as a loss leader for other products.

I even had the Managing Director of a major publisher tell me — and I’m paraphrasing here — that local distributors didn’t have to worry about pricing that much because retailers did all the discounting for them. I remember thinking to myself, if I’m a retailer and I’m hearing this, I’d be getting mightily pissed off! I get the feeling that, considering the cost price of games in Australia, this so-called ‘healthy’ competition is far from healthy, and I think we’re seeing this in the struggle folks are having at retail. Paul Yardley, the MD of GAME claimed that everyone has to band together to make prices lower in Australia. At the moment I honestly think retailers are doing their part — local publishers and distributors? Not so much.

To be honest, I’m not sure if that unstructured rant answered any of your specific questions, but I’m keen to hear your thoughts anyway!

JAMES: I don’t disagree with any of what you just said. I simply think we’re approaching this argument from completely different angles! If the retail sector is being screwed over – and according to your research, it is – that’s a bad thing. Something should be done about that, I agree. I recently read a great piece on Games On Net about the issue, which actually referenced some of your research, and for the people selling the games, this is undoubtedly a problem.

My argument lies more with the consumers that are under the impression that they’re the ones being completely screwed over here, when in reality they have it better than they ever have before. If game prices come down – if they have to come down – that’s great for everyone, obviously. But the idea that we’re being hard done by here, as customers, strikes me as a bit silly. I think we should be clear on why these changes need to happen, and to suggest that they need to happen because we’re being ripped off doesn’t sit well with me. If you’re going to demand lower prices, I don’t think that an entertainment product that has been priced consistently for at least sixteen years (that’s the entire time I’ve been gaming, so I don’t know what prices were like before that), that doesn’t really seem to have been influenced by inflation or rising production costs at all, should be top of your agenda.

So basically, I agree with your points about retailers, they have good reason to be upset. The consumers, not so much.

MARK: I think I’ll agree with you on this point: with the choices consumers have at the moment, shopping online, buying locally at reduced cost price, consumers have — literally — never had it better when it comes to the price of video games.

If they want, consumers can shop at OzGameShop or any equivalent and get games for cheaper than they could ten years ago, so in that regard gamers have little to complain about.

But I don’t think gamers are complaining about that. For the most part gamers are irritated about the fact that publishers and distributors are selling games at an inflated cost price — that’s what they’re complaining about, even if they misguidedly blame retailers for the prices on the other end. Gamers know they have more choice than ever before, but that only serves to make the price discrepancy all the more obvious.

However, I’d like to salute you James for taking this difficult position. Man, over 1500 words and we haven’t even started on Steam prices yet…

Maybe next time!

Comments

  • I buy from OzGameShop and Steam, but I can’t stand how publishers try to sell games on Steam for 100 US. It’s madness.

        • Yeah and in the case of Batman Arkham city i struggled to get above 100kb/s out of their crummy capsule system.

          What should have taken 4 hour’s on my connection took over 50.

  • I think game prices are generally on the improve here. I’ve noticed in the last six months or so that there are generally some pretty good deals out there for new releases locally (recent example is Uncharted 3 Special Edition for $78 on release day).

    (It’s still often cheaper to import, but then… internet shopping is almost always the cheapest option, no matter where you live).

      • I’ve heard a few times from distributors or retailers that there is a price lag after a currency change as they move old stock and operate, even on new stock, on the old assumptions. Could it be fair to say that what you’re pointing out illustrates this?

      • I concur. Although I’m still wait for the Objection! where somebody throws a chair. Like if the rednecks on Jerry Springer were avid video game enthusiasts.

  • It is true that, personally, I’ve never seen games cheaper than they are right now. I do feel like I’ve got a bargain when I buy a brand new blockbuster for $60 from overseas, but also think $80 is about the maximum I’d pay.

        • Ozgameshop’s postage is pretty good on the international side of the delivery. The local side is spotty.

          When I was in Sydney it wasn’t that good. Now I’m in melbourne and have it delieverd to a university post office I’ve never had to wait for more than 5-7 days

    • I’ve ordered three titles from ozgameshop. So far, all three have come almost spot on 2 weeks. Very consistent so far.

      Mind you, none of this within the control of ozgameshop anyway. It’s the postal system which is completely responsible for any delays. I just have a consistent post office, I suppose.

    • If the saving will only be $2, buy it in a shop, but most times you are saving > 30%, best price I’ve gotten was 60% better than JB. It isn’t for the impatient, and it is a lottery sometimes on delivery, but that’s caused by the postal services on both ends. They dispatch right away then it is out of their hands. I’ve gotten some within a week, others have taken 3+ weeks. Their prices are worth the wait most times.

  • The whole issue of higher wages, higher logistics costs etc goes out the window when you see games selling for higher prices on DIGITAL services. It’s the same files being streamed from the same servers, thus not costing the vendors a single cent more to serve the files to Australia compared to serving them to the US,, but somehow they still put a big markup on for Australians. So how can we believe anything they say when they blame logistics expenses?

    And the fact is that logistics aren’t the ONLY expense they’re having to cover with physical retail. There is still a significant portion of the price that goes to actually purchasing the games from overseas. The strong dollar over the past year or two should have reduced that part of their expenses, yet the pricing of games hasn’t changed in the slightest.

    • I know — I thought it best to just side-step that whole thing, because it’s a far bigger issue. And one I still don’t fully understand despite talking to so many people about it!

    • Which serves to highlight that though local retailers may face higher costs (in terms of labour, rent etc) than their equivalents elsewhere, it’s the publishers and distributors who are taking the extra money from the Australian market.

    • Re : Digital releases, I will agree that setting the price at the RRP is the wrong thing to do, it should be lower than the cost of a physical copy in store, but I don’t agree of a standard price between territories..

      Publishers still have local offices inside Australia, those offices help co-ordinate stock, marketing, etc.. they have budgets, sales targets also… I think most publishers would still like to have a local presence inside various territories, so sales from Australia need to cover the cost of these offices, so games still have to be priced fairly and in line with our market.

      The problem is that publishers still need retail stores and providing a digital version at half the price is going to piss them off. By comparison the music industry shows digital prices aren’t too much different to the physical copies (obviously there are cases where they are cheaper and/or more expensive), so how is the gaming industry really any different?

      • I guess the question I’ve got there is just how involved are the Australian offices of these publishers in the digital sales, though? My impression is that the local Australian offices are there primarily to deal with local Australian (physical) retailers. I guess they do the advertising if you’re talking about your bigger-selling games like COD, Battlefield, etc. But in the case of lower profile games where there is little or no local advertising, I really don’t see any justification for the local office of the publisher jacking up the price of the digital version when they didn’t actually contribute anything to the sale.

        • Frankly, there’s little need for a local publisher office for advertising, either. In today’s world, there’s simply no reason a local ad agency can’t be engaged from the US as easily as from Australia.

          Simply put, if a distributor can’t import and distribute boxes in bulk at least as cheaply as the Post Office does singly, then they’re wasting cash – OUR cash, since we have to cover that cost. GST and exchange rates are valid costs, but fat distributor margins are not.

          Arguing that we SHOULD pay more because we CAN is as ridiculous as the military paying $1000 for a toilet seat. We’re paying more solely because exclusive distribution arrangements prop up artificially high prices by limiting competition, and its our local retailers who suffer the most as a result.

      • Except when it comes to digital distribution which is primarily PC orientated. Try getting half those releases from a local retailer unless it’s a big name release like MW3,BF3 they don’t stock it.

        Around Dead Island’s release went to buy a hardcopy for a friend and my EB basically said oh we didn’t order any on PC 2 week wait.

        They don’t want or care about the PC market, because they make money from trade in’s the primary thing that PC will never have

    • One reason for having higher price for the Digital version is, have it it the same as physical or the physical doesn’t get stocked at all, its basically the retailers/distributors threatening publishers, honesty, screw the entire box retail market in Australia, want a box retail? import overseas. If there is no boxed pc in australia, it will then be the publishers being greedy pigs for keeping the prices high. A recent example of a threat was CD project being threaten by the Australian Distributor to up the price on witcher 2 DD or there game wont be sold in Australia for boxed PC versions.

  • I’m fully aware that I am not being screwed over here because I am one of the minority customers that is aware of the availability of games from cheaper sources.

    The problem is that we, as a nation, are paying more for games than we should because the supply chain is so horrendously broken that I, as a regular consumer with very little purchasing power, can buy games for less than a retailer with incredible purchasing power.

    That means we’ve got a horribly inefficient system in place where the majority of customers are paying more to cover these inefficiencies and retailers are basically forced to become either loss leaders or pawn brokers to try and remain competitive.

    Our high average wages mean that we can afford to bear these costs but its a very simplistic argument. The market can carry this burden but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t try to fix things, especially if it means that spending might be stimulated in other areas as a result.

    It’s a problem across many retail sectors, not just games and there is no easy way to fix it.

    • We shouldn’t have to bear it. We have high minimum wages precisely in order to give those on the minimum wage a better standard of living than those elsewhere (the working poor in the US, for example), and that goal is undermined if everything is simply more expensive.

      • It’s one of those annoying price elasticity issues.

        People have shown that they are willing and able to pay $100 for a new release game. So the only real reason that a retailer will drop the price is because they will take sales away from competitors that don’t (or loss leader situations where they use the lower price as a way to get people in store and buy other products).

        Companies don’t have any obligation to sell to consumers for the lowest price they can bear, there are arguments why they could but the reality is that if people are willing to page $100, then stores will charge $100.

        Competition is about the only thing that will drive prices down, which is why we’re seeing games at ~$80 now, because of competition from major retailers like Big W and Kmart who don’t care and sell at near cost.

        • Couldnt agree more.
          I would only add that the increase in imports is also contributing to competition and (I think) making a difference to retail prices here as well.

          • To be honest, this is the only way this is going to change. Putting legislation in place (as some people have discussed elsewhere) to control a free-market issue is grossly inefficient and IMO the only way the fat is going to be trimmed from the current distribution chains is when they start losing a critical amount of potential sales through their retail ends to cheaper import methods. As long as people keep paying the price that things are being sold for, no matter how much they whinge about being ripped off etc, the system still continues to functions as it always has…

            Again, this doesn’t just relate to games, but to pretty much everything that gets imported to Aus.

          • yeah but the problem is the difference to prices here is coming from the wrong end of the chain. Instead of the distributor’s making it easier to compete with the foreign market’s.

            The retailer’s have to cut into their own profit’s in order to stay relevant. Which is why when you aren’t selling at or under cost like Bigw/target/JB Hi Fi. You try to make all your money on trade in scheme’s

  • “the fact that the logistics of sending stock around Australia — a massive country with a relatively small population — is a difficult task”

    I would argue that this is not even a point worth considering unless America suddenly was the size of a large island that contained 10 cities. The logistics in sending stock to every major town and up in America would be staggering. Much more than the puny number of destinations in Australia by comparison.

      • That’s a bullshit argument. If our population was as spread out as the US’, it’d be one thing… but it’s not. YOu have a few major population areas to deal with.

        I use some trickery to buy from the US steam store, but that doesn’t mean I’m ok with less tech-savvy people being taken for a ride.

        If they can’t find a way to finance local operations for less than 60% of the retail cost of the game in the US on TOP of the retail cost, their business plan is probably in need of someone from the right side of the bell curve.

        At least they don’t try and pull the economies of scale crap with video games.

        • Actually, it’s not a bullshit argument. Aside from our population centres, which are still REALLY far apart by US standards, there’s very little in between. In the US, you can barely swing a semi around without hitting a city with at least 200,000 people in it. It’s a VERY different distribution model.

          • I won’t argue that it’s different, but it’s not that hard to work out, either. YOu don’t need to have one truck drive through every town in Australia to make sure everyone gets their games.

          • Lasy I read, we’re the most urbanised, coastal country on earth. The logistics argument makes sense for utilities because they have to cayer for literally everyone no matter how remote. Try finding a games retailer in the Clare Valley.

      • I am sure the cost of shipping and distribution is an influencing factor on prices here but I think its influence on price is heavily overstated and is really just a bullet point on a presentation for distributors to justify their high prices.

  • I also buy all my stuff from ozgame, unless I need to trade games…

    Absolutely agree that it is better than it ever has been, the local competition, and even OS competition is bringing games prices down. Paying $75 or so for a brand new AAA release on day 1 is a pretty good deal compared to our history.

    But if the same game goes for under $60, even if i have to wait for a few weeks, I’ll wait.

    Steam prices was going to be my end point too but I’ll leave that for Mark.

  • The mass market is not aware of the likes of Ozgameshop, so they still get screwed over at retail, if only in relative terms. Still, it is complicated. eg. The Witcher 2 had its price artificially inflated just for Australia IIRC, and GOG.com was apologetic to the point of giving us credit towards their other games to make up for being told to charge us more.

  • I agree that we do have a boatload of options in terms of where we buy our games from, and people should stop complaining. Online shopping is great and games are a lot cheaper for new releases, but the wait really sucks (too inconsistent) and there’s always a chance that your parcel may get lost. Buying locally is more expensive but at least you’ll get the game right away when you pay. People just need to realise that you can rarely have the best of both worlds. It’s pretty much price vs convenience at this point.

  • Paying more for a physical copy of a game in a bricks and mortar store I can kind of tolerate. But when I turn on my PS3, go to the store and see I’ve been given the privilege to buy BF3 for 109.95, it pisses me off.

    Or games on Steam being sold at a higher price than what they would cost me in a store is depressing.

  • Won’t somebody think of the mothers buying for their kids? They don’t know any better and I really don’t like the idea of them paying $120 to EB Games.

  • When I see Skyrim being sold at EB for $120 and across the street at JBHiFi it’s going for $78, then there is something going wrong. $120 is more than double the price that people in the US pay for games – just because we’ve been ripped off in the past doesn’t mean we shouldn’t complain now. Import game shops have simply become more prevalent and therefore people have a better idea of what to compare prices with.

    Also, there is a good reason why most prices haven’t increased over the last 10 years, games are selling a hell of a lot more. Games are selling at record highs – if this wasn’t the case then we’d be seeing a lot less blockbuster games around.

    Ideally I would be content paying around $10 or so more per game than they do in the US. I think that would be fair and should more than cover the extra costs.

    • EB will price match. They’ll try for $120 because they’ll scam little old ladies buying Christmas presents, but they’ll sell for $78 if you ask. This is the world of commerce.

      • No it’s actually because eb games usually buy a brand new game straight from distribution for around $83, jb hifi can afford to sell at a LOSS because they’re a multi-department entertainment store, they don’t just rely on a single product to sell. As much as you may hate eb for whatever reason, they aren’t just trying to “scam old ladies”. They’re trying to turn a profit just like jb hifi.

  • ” Those 1%ers they’re protesting against in the US right now? They’re on $380,000US a year. Our top 3%, on the other hand, is earning over $13 million annually.”

    1% of 312 million is 3.12 million people.
    3% of 22.7 million is 681,000 people.

    I’m fairly sure if you took the top 700,000 incomes in the US instead of the top 3 million, you’d find their average wage is a hell of a lot more than 380k.

    • Also, “Have any of Kotaku’s readers honestly ever paid $120 for a game?”

      I have. But not from Australia.

      If you think our RRP game prices are insane, you should look at the sort of money they charge for games in Japan

  • i totally disagree with the idea that we should be happy that we are getting better prices than before, we are still being screwed over royally why would i be happy that I’m still getting shafted just only slightly less rigorously.
    so better doesn’t = fair
    don’t get me started o n distribution costs, 10-15% more i can understand
    for example COD MW3 for xbox US eb games = $59.99
    Australia eb games =$98 distribution wages doesn’t warrant such a difference.
    or assassins creed revelations for the xbox
    US eb games $59.99
    AUS eb games $108 almost double

  • I have no issues with prices going up or down really. After all the market corrects that. Price a game at $200 and it wont sell etc

    What I do have a problem with is the regional differences in pricing which hits Australia particularly hard. Whoever is responsible, publishers/wholesalers/retailers are mongrels but shame on the aussie consumer too for walking into a store and playing $100+ for a new game as well.

  • I can understand that the competitive nature of retailers means you rarely have to pay the full $120 (EB!) price tag on a new game, but what is unfair is that retailers like EB are able to get away with charging those exhorbitent prices to people who are unaware of the fact they can negotatiate. They are effectively ripping people off, and are allowed to get away with it. The ACCC really needs to step in here and regulate the market.

    • I used to work at EB about 2 years ago now, and I would openly price match games without the customer asking and tell my manager openly that it’s a fucking joke we would sell games for 120. He had no problem with that. I felt bad selling a mother or a kid a game for 120, so much so I simply wouldn’t do it.

  • Don’t large retailers have a lot of buying power? Can’t they negotiate better prices with publishers or distributors? Or is this a case of they can’t be bothered?

  • I would have less of a problem with the pricing if we (australians) didn’t get slagged for every last cent. Its not just video games that are expensive here, its movies, hobbies, sport products, clothes, (some) food items…. this list can go on and on.

    the fact I can purchase just about any non-perishable item on the internet and have it delivered within a couple of weeks for LESS THAN 50% of the RRP in Australia says there is something wrong with the system.

    video games, especially with digital distribution should not be running at $100+ RRP. regardless of the wage/living standard etc. While we have a high minimum wage, the PPP is still lower than in the US.

    • Three days ago I went to buy two movie tickets to see something in 3D. Worked out to be over $50.
      Just because our average wages are decent doesn’t mean every damn supplier should get a slice of it.

  • And hang on a second here!

    “I don’t think that an entertainment product that has been priced consistently for at least sixteen years (that’s the entire time I’ve been gaming, so I don’t know what prices were like before that), that doesn’t really seem to have been influenced by inflation or rising production costs at all, should be top of your agenda.”

    Games were $100 RRP in the PS2 era, when they were $50 USD. Games were suddenly $110 RRP at the start of the 360/PS3 era, and now they’re $120 RRP. That’s not consistent, that’s increasing over time.

    • Why though? EB are simply selling the game for the RRP, JB are looking to sell the game for cheaper to get a share of the market.

      JB are able to offer a lower price because they make more money on other products in store, EB have a tougher time doing that because there stock is basically all video games.

      These practices aren’t exclusive to video games, but basically any product you can buy.

  • I don’t care about the average wage argument. If we were paying $70AUD for a brand new release on consoles, that’s fair. $120 is in no way fair. And don’t get me started on Steam.

  • Really nice discussion.

    If local publishers and distributors aren’t bothering to make cost prices competitive because they think retailers will do it all for them, that’s really unfortunate (and a bit… unethical).

    Importing en masse to send a message to the middle publishers might seem like a good idea, but it’s not exactly practical (how many millions of games are still sold at retail? How do you get casual customers to switch?) and in the end it probably hurts brick and mortar retailers far more than it would unscrupulous local distributors.

    It’s a very bad situation for retailers if prices are kept artificially high (even if it’s not as high as people complain) by suppliers, and they can’t do much about it. They even cop all the flack from customers.

    Prices have been getting much more competitive recently, but I’d suggest it’s more because retailers are cutting down on already thin profit margins on products, and not because suppliers are lowering the cost price out of the goodness of their hearts.

    • Maybe this makes me an asshole, but I’m not going to shed a tear for brick and mortar stores if they’re complicit in the ripoffery that is Australian pricing. They choose to deal with those suppliers.

      At least with games we have the choice to import them, my motorcycle helmet would have been about $350 in the US, but cost me almost $700 here because of the dipshit government having to come play their nannystate agenda and giving distributors the opportunity to literally charge whatever they want because we can’t parallel import helmets.

  • Don’t forget that in comparison to some of the other countries I’ve been to, I would find Australians in general rather astute in terms of getting better deals and retailer competition. When I was in the US I noticed that for most retailers it was “You don’t like that price? Then you don’t get it.”

    I understand the argument here that the dumb masses here are happy paying over $100 but I disagree. I used to work for Harvey Norman, a place well known for catering to the kinds of people who don’t know how to find better prices, and I still had scores of customers complaining that our games at RRP were too high, yes all those clueless mums and fratboys. The only reason you could say people are putting up with this price is because savvy soccer mums and the like are going to EB and JB for Trade-in deals or even just looking for the best price being suffered by the retailer. The publishers and distributer will simply see “Game X that we sold for the value of $100 RRP is selling by the truckload!”

    The way I see it RRP is meant to be the price that both: Allows the involved parties to make reasonable profit after costs, and offers a price in line with the value of the product in the eyes of the AVERAGE consumer. If you go around and everybody is saying about the RRP, “It’s too high, maybe I’ll trade in for it/get it later/get it second-hand/go to that loss-leading retailer/go online/import it” Then there’s something wrong.

  • One thing I’d like to ask while we”re on the topic, purely in local markets, if piracy is such a major issue on PC, why are PC versions of games $10-$20 cheaper than console games?
    Yes, we’re paying more to buy our systems, but they have other uses and are pretty much equal when you look at the lifespan (my last major hardware upgrade was for Oblivion, now hardware upgrade for Skyrim, it lasted all that time) so why the difference?

    • Because you don’t required a special license fee to publish to PC. Console manufacturers charge publishers/developers a large fee to allow a game to sold as a product for their system. These fees may or may not include the Hardware and Software Development Kits developers use to run and test their builds on.

  • Saying that just because we have a higher exchange rate at the moment doesnt mean we deserve cheaper games isn’t correct. Other items get price reductions or increases when our dollar fluctuates.
    Having worked in a large national electronics retailer I know for a fact plenty of items made and designed overseas have dropped and rised in price when the dolar has changed. Items like TV’s, cameras and computers. We would be told that the price was about to drop as the dollar had gotten stronger, and vice versa when it got weaker. This wasn’t something that happened every day the dollar changed a little but after the dollar had been at a different value for a period of time the prices also fluctuated.
    To deny that this should happen, or in fact already happens across many industries is just wrong.
    Also if you are going to use the minimum wage as an argument then the US should be paying 3/4 of Australian prices, but their RRP is half of our own.

    • We do deserve it. Its the reward for the vagaries of the floating dollar. When our dollar drops, we can expect to pay more again.

      • Yep, that’s exactly what I was saying.
        The prices won’t change every day, obviously, but our dollar’s consistently been at parity or above for a long time now.

  • While the article was on point by and large, and mostly agreeable, I just don’t care. At this point, individuals have global buying power and are no longer necessarily at the bottom of the food chain, all these ‘US landmass/wagesVS Aus landmass/wages’ arguments are little more that scraping around for excuses and reasons for the disparity in pricing – particularly the landmass argument which is especially weak.

    As for Paul Yardley saying “everyone has to band together” I offer nothing more than a hearty LOL, having met and spoken to the guy previously on EA project $5 and GAME’s own policy of importing UK games to Aus stores.

  • I’ve heard that EB will be parralell importing from the UK and selling them new as used for about $70-80 next year, there are also rumours that JB and GAME have simillar plans.Hopefully this will give local distro’s the kick in the A they need to get competitive.Until then Ozgameshop and the like for consoles and Greenman gaming for pc for me.

    • GAME has been doing that for years; importing ‘mint’ titles direct from the UK and selling them in both the ‘pre-owned’ and ‘mint’ sections of local stores.

  • Though I will point out that the dollar parity issue is a salient point – many of the orders for games that end up in stores are paid for (by the retailers to the local distributors) well in advance, often with credit, at almost predetermined prices, regardless of what the dollar is doing by the time the game is actually released.

  • While yes we do get paid more as a minimum wage.

    the fact is that it’s quickly offset due to the cost of living in the country

    According to the international Monetary fund(link is rather nasty to post) the average Australian has $7000 dollar’s less in purchasing power than the average american with basically Australia’s 40k Vs US’s 47k. This is all based off the international dollar. so there is no exchange rate difference in those figure’s.

    Yet our game’s are still taking up more of our purchasing power than they are in the US.

    I don’t believe we should be at parity but i do believe the upper limit should be 80 dollars instead of 110-120

    And regional pricing online need’s to end. There is no reason i should be punished because of where i live. And the thing is i’m now used to paying 50USD for games because that’s all i have paid for the past 4 years. So instead i now used CD-Key site’s and other places which get’s me the game even cheaper. I’m not even sure that in some cases these sites see any money got back to the developer.

    But when something like Batman is jacked from 50USD to 100USD it’s ridiculous to expect anyone to pay that. And what’s worse is those prices are USD. If the dollar were to drop again, batman could easily become 130AUD or more

  • With all due respect James O’Conner, your attitude is exactly the reason we pay higher prices than elsewhere. Without pressure on the sellers over prices (and really in the end voting with your wallets) game prices would still be $110-$120 and not the 80 to 90 most people pay now.

    I was reading your arguments and at points I almost started to think you believe prices have come down because the store owners were visited by the ghosts of Gaming past, present and future and not because it was the financially sound thing to do.

    These companies don’t drop their price because its fair or out of some good will to the consumer. They drop prices because the market dictates it. IE. They will only drop prices when the product won’t sell at the old price point.

    You should maybe thank the consumers who complain and don’t accept the RRP as they are the main reason YOU no longer have to pay it.

  • OzGameShop is not worth talking about when it comes to local pricing because it’s simply not local. Importing is not relevant to this discussion at all.

    Steam/XBL/PSN are worth talking about because we have local portals for each of them with different ranges and prices; clearly relevant to a local issue.

    Can we have an Objection Mk. 2 with the above factored in?

    • OzGameShop is relevant because it is a viable alternative for consumers. It’s part of the competition even if it isn’t competing on an even footing.

      It’s not something that can be ignored just because it isn’t based here. If it’s available for people here to use, then it is something that is relevant to the discussion of local prices.

    • This is a fallacy that many posters have already discussed, myself included. Customer now have the ability to take their custom *anywhere in the world*. We are no longer stuck with whatever is in the local ‘burb/town mall, we can shop whenever and wherever we like. And many of us.

      It couldn’t be more relevant.

    • I sure hope you don’t run a business, Fenix. You have a terrible concept of what the competition is in video game pricing… out of sight, out of mind? How naive.

  • Bitch all you want about $120RRP. The point raised in the article is still valid: no one ever charges that much. And if they do, I can’t imagine many copies selling when there are so many other options.

    And besides, consider the reverse: game prices may start pretty high, but they drop faster and more dramatically than any other retail product I can think of. Name me something else that halves in price within a few months.

  • I have a damn right to complain. If the local distributors are ripping off retailers whilst retailers (especially EB with their own little world) are ripping off everyone then why shouldn’t I be complaining about prices?

    $79 should be the standard across the whole board, max. Starting at $55 from distributors. It’s not as easy as it sounds but everyone has to make it happen.

  • Pretty much in Mark’s side of the court here (then again, who in their right mind wouldn’t be?). I learnt fairly early on that retailers pretty much weren’t at fault in this problem so I stopped blaming them a long while ago.

    I find that the most infuriating thing about this is that instead of pricing things more competitively at the retail outlet, distributors and publishers are forcing us to pay more for digital distribution. That is a blatent sign of how much they refuse to be competitive. Yes, that may apply only for PC games but it’s nevertheless indicative of what they think of the Australian consumer. I only hope that JB go through with their threat of grey imports soon. That would definitely shake up the system.

  • I havent bought a game from a bricks and mortar in well over 2 1/2 years due to stupidly high prices. And havent bought anything off steam recently either for the same regionally priced rubbish. I now only buy from steam on sale otherwise its ozgameshop and zaavi. just finished hitting the checkout buttons on Deus ex 3, Dead space 2, Space Marine, Witcher 2, DOW2 retribution. all up 125 bucks incl postage from OZGS and Zaavi. Bricks and mortar EB store it would cost me 245…ONSALE!!! So my heart most definately doesnt bleed for aussie retailer or distributors. They can take the piss but not my money!

  • I think video games prices are getting better, I got The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for $75 and Super Mario 3D Land for $49 at Target and both on launch day. However, I’ll only buy PC Games from OZ Gameshop. As for the discussion, I still do think Australians are still being ripped off on video games and there’s no excuse for it.

    • Yes there have been pockets of goodness – HN selling Xbox 1500 cards for $21, Targets launch price for Mario 3D Land, this week BigW has Saints Row the Third for $58 and DR2 OTR for $28!!

  • Maybe not game prices – but the price of HYPER magazine – sheesh – do they realise how much they are undercut by Game Informer!?

    As for game prices – simple – unless there’s some you beaut deal – don’t buy on release and never pay full price, also pre-owned is for chumps or last gen – pretty much every game in my collection is sub $50 (with half of those sub $30) and all of them new copies save for the odd PS2 title.

  • I can’t remember the last time I even paid as much as 40USD for a game while I was in the US. Maybe it was that travesty of a TMNT brawler? I traded it in for Timesplitters 2.

    I bought a new copy of Metroid: Prime on GCN for $7, I recall, even before they repressed it. It was almost criminal. If people look at US RRP and compare to what they’re getting if they’re thrifty, they’re not getting an accurate picture. You should compare spendthrift pricing here to the same there.

  • i import 90% of my games for ps3 and 360 and buy all my pc games digitally… i don’t pay more than $50-60 for new release titles on console (about $30-40 on pc generally) and if its a collectors edition or something that shipping might be difficult for i’ll buy locally or if i just must have it day 1.

    prices are improving, day 1 sales are becoming common but then the prices go back up so you either get in quick or wait a couple months if you buy local

    steam regional pricing is a joke also, but there are many games that can be bought from other sites (and no… not cd key sites) for much much less and be steam activated… which is great!

  • Sorry, I can’t tell if this article is parody or if the writer and his guest are simply apologists.
    On importing games… “To me, that’s not something I’m entitled to – that’s a damn bargain”, James is an idiot… This MUST be seen as something we deserve for very simple reasons:
    1. Our prices are some of the highest in the world (not just on Games), and we DESERVE to be able to find the best deal.
    2. If we say we don’t then the brick and mortor stores have a bigger opening to try and restrict importing (as they have been trying to)

    I also find the argument about salery and employment galling… a brick and morter store can’t give different prices to different people based on their income, JB’s wont sell a RRP $2000 TV to a customer who is on low income for $400, nor one who is on high income for $4000, thats is just not how things work, so why should ANYONE be okay with it on a country level, this is now worsend by region coding on some media to lock customers into their region and it’s pricing structure, and the regional distribution of downloadable content where the price of distribution is virtually non-existant yet the USD price is significantly lower than the AUD price.

    I have heard the agument that prices where high (once apon a time) due to our dollar being about 55 US cents, this makes sense, but the fact of the matter is this disparity has gone away and every-one in the chain has just decided that Australians have always paid a similar amount in AUD so all the middle men get bigger cuts and only the customers are the victims.

    The idea that we complain to much is just wrong, clearly we don’t complain enough as the system still hasn’t changed.
    When a retail store can order ther stock from a online retail store overseas and make >30% there is a problem (again this is not limited to games, as this applies to the vast majority of tech goods)

  • One point in why pricing is so different here that I haven’t read being raised yet is that retail rents are 50-70% higher here in Australia that in the US and 30-50% more than in the UK.

    I know this cause I own a gaming store and pay the damn rent! Just to open up costs me $14500 per month which has componding increases of 5% per year. By the end of my lease my rent will be topping the $18000 per month level, and I know that the EB Games store in my centre is paying 15% more rent that I am. And to add to that wages in Australia are sky high when compared to the US and UK markets.

    I do import and resell, I never go out at rrp – no one would shop with me if I did (and I wouldn’t blame them either). I try to always be the best price in my shopping centre but when you get the publishes charging $91inc of GST for COD MW3 as a wholesale price and BigW and the like price crash it to $78 I cannot afford to do it. So no though I import I’m not making HUGE profits on doing so. Importing helps me to pay the bills and be competitive in my market. I do have a mortgage to pay and family to feed at the end of the day, plus business costs like staff wages and insurance (workers comp, business insurance, public liability insurance), utilities, superannuation etc etc etc.

    The consumers decision is to either support Australian jobs and understand that our retail cost bases as far higher that 99% of other countries in the world, or support retailers by demanding that publishers lower wholesale pricing, demand that the government lower minimum wages and fight the Westfields of the country to substantially reduce rental costs.

    PS: The last two demands of the consumers to lower minimum wage costs and to fight Westfields in said in jest. Good luck on anyone acheiving those goals!

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