Yet More Evidence Of How Australians Get Ripped Off With Games Pricing

Yet More Evidence Of How Australians Get Ripped Off With Games Pricing

It’s not news to us that game pricing locally is frequently a rip-off. We’re looking forward to the outcome of the government inquiry into why that is. And the submission by consumer advocate CHOICE to that inquiry highlights just what an iniquitous situation the average Aussie game consumer finds themselves in.

CHOICE’s submission includes an analysis of the pricing for PC games on Steam, and for 20 recent and upcoming games through EB Games in Australia and the US, based on early June exchange rates. Steam was by far the worst offender, with price differences as high as 342 per cent. This table lists the ten worst offenders for Steam pricing as identified by CHOICE:

Title $AU $US $US in $AU Difference
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 $89.99 $19.99 $20.34 342%
Shift 2 Unleashed $79.99 $19.99 $20.34 293%
Lord Of The Rings: War In The North $73.99 $19.99 $20.34 264%
Dark Spore $69.99 $19.99 $20.23 264%
Dead Space 2 $69.99 $19.99 $20.34 244%
Medal Of Honor $69.99 $19.99 $20.34 244%
Rage $89.99 $29.99 $30.52 195%
Soldier Of Fortune $54.99 $19.99 $20.34 170%
Alien Vs Predator $39.99 $14.99 $15.26 162%
Mafia II $79.99 $29.99 $30.52 162%

For PC games sold through EB Games (the US and AU sites respectively), the average difference is lower (51 per cent) but still pronounced. GST theoretically accounts for 10 per cent of this, but that leaves a lot unexplained. (Note that Skyrim is actually cheaper here, albeit only by $1 or so.)

Title $AU $US $US in $AU Difference
Diablo III $88.00 $59.99 $61.05 44%
Guild Wars 2 $88.00 $59.99 $61.05 44%
Max Payne 3 Special Edition $138.00 $99.99 $101.76 36%
Max Payne 3 $88.00 $59.99 $61.05 44%
The Elder Scrolls Online $98.00 $59.99 $61.05 61%
Star Wars: The Old Republic $59.00 $49.99 $50.88 16%
Bioshock Infinite $98.00 $59.99 $61.05 61%
Call Of Duty: Black Ops II $98.00 $59.99 $61.05 61%
World Of Warcraft: Mists Of Pandaria $58.00 $39.99 $40.70 43%
Sid Meier’s Civilization V: Gods & Kings $48.00 $29.99 $30.52 57%
Dishonored $78.00 $59.99 $61.05 28%
XCOM: Enemy Unknown $98.00 $49.99 $50.88 93%
Aliens: Colonial Marines $88.00 $49.99 $50.88 73%
Metro: Last Light $88.00 $49.99 $50.88 73%
Tomb Raider $88.00 $49.99 $50.88 73%
Saints Row The Third: Enter The Dominatrix $48.00 $29.99 $30.52 57%
Company Of Heroes 2 $88.00 $59.99 $61.05 44%
The Secret World $88.00 $49.99 $50.88 73%
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim $59.56 $59.99 $61.05 -2%
Borderlands 2 $88.00 $59.99 $61.05 44%

Not news to any dedicated game shopper, but it’s good to see hard data backing up the need for change.


Image: Mark Nolan/Getty Images


  • Just a reminder people, Steam/Valve don’t set the prices, these are all games published by third party companies who set their own independant price.

    Also, Skyrim being on sale shouldn’t count.

      • This exactly.

        Most of those titles there are by either EA or Activision, who are to blame for the ridiculous price gauging.
        It should be noted that not all titles on steam are like that, and that valve’s games are not only cheap to begin with but are fair.

        • Are those EA games any cheaper on Origin? It’d be interesting to see if it’s just a flat-out rip off, or if they’re pricing it higher on Steam to try and tempt people to buy from Origin instead.

          • Actually no, for the most part Origin is more expensive than Steam… Dead Space 2 for example, $80 on Origin, $70 on Steam.

          • Which is fair enough, since EA have to pay themselves for the Origin infrastructure.


          • Generally because when publishers are busy reducing the prices in the US region they forget about those they already were gouging to a far greater extent

        • EA, Zenimax, 2K and Activision

          WB set LotR and Arkham City at high prices for launch but has at least since had the decency to lower the prices(whether they will continue to do this post price hike or have removed their hiking policy is yet to be seen)

          AvP is still high but it’s far from a recent game and likely the US publisher lowered the price while the local AU one didn’t

        • If you are a big weed in the garden you stand out.

          EA and Activision in order of fault are known in my gamer circle as seriously poor performers when it comes to customer support as well.

          They will bring about their own demise as many of my fellow sport friends are just not updating their sport games anymore knowing too well that the spinoff is not in their favor. It doesn’t mater where you are placed – the cost flow on should be the same for any content but having experienced the side-effects of poor business management when asking for assistance, one is treated like they shouldn’t call support for sake of waking them from the doldrums but when one gets online with these guys, they have very little to offer anyway. I think its like a front for a syndicate so those guys at the front desk really don’t know but get a lot of calls that lead nowhere for anyone. I’ve sent them emails saying I won’t support them and they tried to shower me with free game downloads. Oh if that fixes the issue please explain how? So who cares… its trivial… I decided that its easier to choose titles without the EA or Activision insignia that way I know I don’t have to rely on past-tense and continue to enjoy other release content that has not be swallowed up by the sharks. I say treat them like they treat you.

          Even steam has its issues but I have disbanded my engagement in signing up to any of those communities for the moment as there is no satisfaction in trying to be a part of something that has a bigger problem.

    • Just as EB Games align to RRP set by the same publishers…

      One thing I don’t like about this comparison are the number of games that are still to be released, some of which don’t have a release date yet either, as this COULD mean (not definite) the prices stated could be placeholders also.

      • Then in that case why do other retailers/EB’s competition almost always have better prices? Namely JBHIFI and Dicksmith – especially on new release titles

        EB struggles to have better prices even when they have sales on..

        • The hell? it’s the Recommended Retail Price, it’s the price that publishers believe should be the maximum the item be sold for.

          EB sell the game for that price because it’s their business decision to sell the item for the maximum price possible. Just as they have a policy on price matching, they will price match if you ask them about it, but for every 1-2 people that get them to price match, there is probably 4-5 that pay the sticker price.

          JB and Dick Smith CHOOSE to set a price lower than the RRP to entice people to shop with them instead, that is their business decision, it’s a form of marketplace competition!

          • Yes but the above post made it out that EB have no choice in the matter. Essentially making the claim that like steam they are forced to sell at those prices when that isn’t the case.

            They have discretion to sell at whatever price they damnwell please so long as they pay the wholesale price the publisher demands(which generally dictates the RRP of a product)

            Though while steam is at the mercy of the publishers when it comes to pricing in sub regions.

            They could technically push back but it could be very bad for them to do so.

            They could very well tell Activision to stick their regional pricing where the sun don’t shine. The issue is that this could lead to Activision not letting steam sell their games in any region. I mean would it be worth the potential loss of every US sale to provide more comparable pricing to other regions(probably not)

            The main difference here is that while both companies are out to make money. EB could sell at any price they wanted without pissing off the publishers who have already been paid.

            Steam is in a much more delicate situation where by lowering the prices against publisher demand the publisher can take their business somewhere else.

            For instance they could create a CoD based version of steam that lets them dictate pricing directly. Which leaves steam out of potential sales and another steam/origin for us to have installed with no benefit to the customer whatsoever as a result

          • This isn’t entirely true, I’m a former manager at EB Games. Don’t worry I’m not going to defend the company too much, especially in things like trading which is by far the most despicable aspect of their business. To say they can just set whatever prices they want however without pissing off publishers is ridiculous. EB has had publishers refuse to invite EB employees to events before because they didn’t believe they advertised it enough in store. They’ve had publishers threaten to deny access to collector’s editions already advertised because their preorder box wasn’t displayed in the right place. A lot of why EB prices are so high has been based entirely on speculation, mostly negative because people just don’t like it. More often than not though, EB often pay a more expensive wholesale price for their games than department stores because they buy direct from the publisher to ensure the most preorder content. Not to mention that places like JB HiFi can and often sell well below cost price which EB just can’t afford to do on a regular basis. In a sense, EB do choose to be more expensive but it’s not even close to the reasons many people seem to think. (EVIL seems to be the primary reason… They are kind of evil though)

      • No the RRP dictates the maximum price they should be selling it for EB is not bound by any pricing they could sell their stuff for $1 each if they wanted to. It would bankrupt them since it costs more than that to buy them

    • Yeah I remember seeing an article about this issue from Steam. I think it came out when they had to change the price of a game a week after release, and everyone wondered why we suddenly had to fork out more for a product that a couple days earlier was cheaper.

    • I can’t believe we have to keep linking this site:

      Also, pro-tips: Shop around, for digital pricing. EA and Activision and Sega are all assholes when it comes to applying the ‘Australia tax’ to digital game sales on Steam, but for some reason they don’t apply that as heavily on other sites. Check for physical boxes, but practically ANY alternative digital distro. Impulse powered (by Stardock) will sometimes have the same games as steam, but cheaper. Bonus: You get an ‘activation code’ (CD key) which you can then activate on Steam anyway. Same goes for Origin. For MMOs? Look to the developer/publisher DIRECTLY before looking at distributors.

      Be smart. Don’t give them free money because they had the hubris to demand it.

    • Actually this is not the whole truth.. Steam/Valve does play a part in setting the prices. Yes, the publisher has the final say but Steam/Valve “coach” the publisher into what they can get for their games. I can’t believe that Steam/Valve would be recommending to basically every big publisher to NOT gouge Australians when they know they can get the price. Sorry, but no.. Valve is a player in all of this mess and they could set policy to enforce “fair use” of pricing.. but they don’t.

  • Just thought I’d like to point out that PSN is also a joke in Australia. Buying digital content should be cheaper, but here is an example on PSN…

    The FIFA street game costs…..wait for it……$109.95. ELOHEL

  • If I ever see any American again on the internet bitching because games are too expensive I am going to link them to this article. This is outrageous how we pay so much for these games, no wonder places like GAME have gone ass over head.

    • You have to keep in mind though, that the pay packets in the US are wildly different to Australia.(and of course the cost of living)

      Just looking at National Minimum Wage, Australia: $15.96 (New wage starting 2012) Vs. America: $7.25 (Some states in the US actually have set their minimum wage higher than the national minimum, but keep in mind this is to offset the extra taxes that you would need to pay in those states)

      Food for thought for some people: .
      This site breaks down living expenses into an hourly rate and compares them to the minimum wage. This is broken down by counties in the US as the Taxes are different for each state, and even from one county to the next.

      • Exactly.

        The people who whinge about the dollar being on parity = games should be the same price will be the same ones whinging when prices go up when the AU dollar drops.

        • But it was publishers who used the ‘weakness’ of the AU dollar as an excuse for excessive pricing, until we hit parity!

        • By extension of logic, that would mean that I can buy a US$50 game in Tonga for the equivalent of US$5 – on account of their minimum wage and lower actual average earnings. Sure!
          And please don’t look into the actual figures, the “example” is only to emphasis that the lower wages argument is spurious.

      • I’m sorry but clearly CHOICE has argued that this excuse does not hold up anymore. Especially in regards to DIGITAL products which should not be affected by shipping costs and tarrif.

        • The thing about this is that it’s very clearly a deal being made by Publishers to protect ‘our retail partners’, as they call them. Retail is pitching a bitch-fit that they have to sell boxed games in Australia for $90-110 to make a shitty margin, when customers can go to digital and get them for $60US standard, which is STILL a rip-off catering to US retailers. The publisher sets the price based on the distributor. Go look to or Impulse for comparisons.

      • So by your logic, games *made* in Australia should cost more than games made in the US – but that price should be the same on every digital distributor.

        I could understand retailers charging a higher markup here, but that difference is small. Any retailer will tell you the publisher is charging them way higher prices to begin with (which is why parallel importers are so much cheaper, even though they employ locally).

      • While I don’t have the time right now to read that breakdown it must be said

        The average American has about 6k more purchasing power than the average Australian(after currency conversion into international dollars)

        Which when put in context as to why our shit costs double doesn’t make a lot of sense

        Americans might get paid shit on minimum wage but they tend to rise far quicker pay wise.

    • ? Nz has about the same if not at times slightly higher from what I remember (kiwi in Aus now). Exchange rate helps 🙂

  • I use these guys when Steam is ripping me off. It’s even better when its just a code you activate in steam anyway ! Lol

    • After converting from Pounds, that site is way more expensive than Steam, unless I’m missing something?

  • It’s kind of pointless to compare retail prices in Australia to those in USA. What they should be doing in focusing more on downloadable games from such places as steam (shown above) and Origin and then compare them to the USA price with AU price. Throw in Apple and Microsoft prices of downloadable software for USA and then compare that with AU prices again.

    You will never stop the high prices of items sold off the retail shelves. Focus on downloadable software because that is where a lot of companies are heading towards.

      • I completely agree with you starchildKiller, I dont even think NBN will do much and also consider the waits for it to be rolled out in different areas is basically screwed.

    • I agree with you, on the pricing of the software that is downloaded from the internet. Along with throwing MS and Apple in there too.

      The prices for retail sales aren’t as black and white as people seem to think. I believe we will never see the hard copy prices equaling those in Australia (there are just too many extra costs involved in getting the product to the market, and then again in employing people to sell said product). We might possibly see in the future an extra tax on purchasing from over seas ( artificially inflate prices) to help protect jobs in Australia.

      Whole big can of worms!

  • You’re converting the numbers wrong, and therefore your percentages are all wrong. Not by much, but in Skyrim’s case it’s actually slightly more expensive here than US, not slightly cheaper, everything else is off by a couple of %

    • Figures look OK to me (though it’s CHOICE’s calculation, not mine) The %age comparison is Australian dollars (converted) to Australian dollars, not AU to US (and not today’s exchange rate).

      • look at my example dude. It is wrong, as I said not by much, so the percentages will still be roughly in that area, but still wrong. Tell CHOICE that it’s wrong

    • for people who don’t get it, let me clarify. The third column is all wrong. because he is converting the US D price to AUD using the AUD to USD convertion rate instead of the USD to AUD convertion rate. For example 19.99 USD is not 20.34 AUD, it’s the opposite, 19.99 AUD is 20.34 USD (although he uses a slightly different conversion rate than mine, mine says 20.72, but that’s because it fluctuates)

  • Before everyone jumps on to defend Valve (it’s not their fault, etc), can anyone tell me why there was no Valve pack in the AU store during the Steam Summer sale?

  • I remember reading an article a while back saying that publishers were being forced to have higher prices here in Australia by the local distributors. They were threatening to not stock physical copies of games unless digital prices were similar to the brick and mortar prices, which is adjusted by local distributors. I can’t seem to find the article right now tho, so I could be wrong.

    • I remember when the reason for the high price of games online from services like steam was due to brick and mortar outfits insisting that they be priced to match them otherwise they wouldn’t stock the games.

      Now that it is 2012, good luck finding many pc games in brick and mortar stores. Just doesn’t happen.
      So given that the response to such treats now would be surprise that they still stock pc games and the the dollar is really strong Im not sure what their argument is now…
      Ofcourse given the fact the indie crowd dont have these issues Im not sure they ever really had a good argument for their profiteering..

      • I’ve bought several PC games at brick and mortar stores over the past couple of weeks (I prefer having a physical disc, and I don’t like Steam, so sue me). You can still get them, in fact most places still have dedicated PC game sections. Walk into an EB Games or JB HiFi and you’ll find a PC section in there, I can guarantee it.

  • One issue I have with Choice’s tables is that they never state anything about US taxes. In the US, iirc, taxes are set by the state and can vary from 10-20%. They are also never usually stated in the RRP and are just simply added at the checkout. You remove GST from the AU prices and add in various local US taxes to the US prices and you can easily make up a $20 price difference.
    Disclaimer: I am lazy and haven’t researched US taxes extensively. This is just based on experiences from a US holiday. I’m sure someone less lazy and more know-how, would research it properly.

    • The rate in australia is set to %10, that means for your statement to be true Diablo III (listed at $88) would need to be listed at $80 in the US for your statement to be true.
      Inorder for there to be a $20 difference the game would need to cost ~ $200 in the USA…
      In short the math doesn’t work to explain the difference…

  • It’s a shame there are no console games on here, I suspect we pay an even higher amount for those.

    PC games have always been cheaper than console.

  • Everything’s more expensive in Australia – clothing, food, public transport etc, not just games. I’d rather have those other things becoming cheaper first, THEN we can bitch about video game pricing…

    • Well to be fair this enquiry covers all consumer electronics, not just games.

      And food is actually incredibly cheap here compared to overseas, especially meat.

      • And dairy products, trust me in this. You wouldn’t believe the amount of vital organs you have to part with to buy a small tub of ice cream in some countries.

  • Simple solution. have no distribution from os to au and we will all import avoiding there flawed arguments.

    • Exactly, i can’t remember the last time i bought a game from a brick and mortar store…Oz Game Shop all the way.

      • Errm…technically, OzGameShop is a brick and mortar store. Yes, they are an online store, but they still ship you a physical copy of the game. I think the comparison here between brick and mortar and online is that they are defining online as digital distribution (ie, you don’t get a physical copy) services like Steam.

  • Imagine my surprise when I pre-purchased Guild Wars 2 direct from Anet and *gasp* payed the same amount as an american gamer, no australia tax… I almost had an aneurysm !

    • Same goes for The Secret World. If you buy it from Origin, you’re looking at $80. Buy it DIRECTLY from Funcom and you’re looking at $50. Only in Australia, though. It’s the digital Australia tax.

      Clearly EA feels that Funcom’s cheaper prices are de-valuing their own brand. They’re doing them a favour. Really.

  • I’m going to plug Green Man Gaming yet again . They sell most games cheaper than Steam, LoTR: war in the North for example is $19.99 ($10 atm with their current sale). They also occasionally give away games that you can some times trade in for free money towards your next purchase.

    Also last time I was in JB HiFi Rage was $35 on PC.

    Shop around people

    • +1
      great site and they have more sales more often. Also some things on sale also happen before Steam has them on sale, i.e. Company of heroes was on sale the day before steam had it on sale.

  • I don’t like linking to another site…but GamesRadar had a similar article on “which country is the worst to be a gamer” based on a few categories – Price, censorship and delays
    Australia won overall. Everyone, show your medal with pride.

    PS they also said in the article for everyone to shut up about game prices compared to what we pay here. Interesting hearing that from an overseas site

  • reading a news article about the CHOICE submission, it was found that software from Microsoft to buy here was $9,000 more than the US. A news segment on the radio today mentioned it would be cheaper to fly to the US and back twice and buy the software there than it would to buy it here. I’m assuming it wouldn’t be ordinary consumer software, however the whole idea behind it remains the same.

    For a country who seems to have recovered quite well from the Global Financial Crisis, we sure have a lot taxes and a high cost of living

  • Wher are you finding old republic for 59? Its 90 on origin. Digital download costs more than physical copy. Explain that.

  • Here’s m question, why can I pre-order games on Steam at US prices, but about a month before they come out does the Australian Price shoot up?

    As for RRP it’s not a minimum or a maximum but a recommendation. Just because they have a RRP of $50 doen’t mean I can’t sell it for $100.

    And finally I’m offering you a Job, it pays $200 a day, the problem is to work for me you need to spend $250 a day, any takers? No. That’s EB’s problem, they have to buy the game for $70 to $80, they can’t sell it for less than that and they still need to pay staff, tent and running costs. Why do you think JB have a Grey imports range now. Because they know I can go to Ozgameshop and buy it shipped to my door for less than they can buy it wholesale.

    • And the sooner we embrace this grey import trend and cut the balls off the bastards who are exploiting consumer naievety, the better.

  • And one thing, especially for Australians, is that if it isn’t fair.. we won’t pay. This is why there is a lot of piracy. If its not fair, if someone is trying to rip us off.. we’ll often turn around and rip them off in return.

    If someone tries to make me pay 200% more than someone else, its just not going to fly, and i’m not going to pay it. I will either pirate it (because screw you) or i will just buy it somewhere else. Hong kong, and so on. Or just buying CD keys online instead of actual boxes and thats often cheaper, and that screws the original producers. And its all their fault.

    There is no fair reason for me to pay 100 bucks for something that someone in the US would pay 50 bucks for. I would even be willing to pay 60 bucks, but 100? Nope.. Time to screw you guys like you’ve screwed me.

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