To celebrate QuakeCon, which is currently taking place in Dallas, Bethesda is putting together a sale on almost all of its titles, releasing new deals each day – but looking at the bigger picture, it seems as though Bethesda, whether by mistake or by design, has removed its controversial ‘Australian Tax’ on games sold over Steam.
Skyrim, for example, is being sold with a 50% reduction. But instead of being discounted from its former price $89.99 -- the increased price for the Aussie market -- 50% has been removed from the US price of $59.99. Meaning that Skyrim is currently available for just $29.99.
The very same thing has occurred with Bethesda's other major release of 2011, RAGE. The extra dollars we used to pay for that game have also been removed, meaning that Australians, who previously paid more for Bethesda's titles, are now paying the same as the rest of the world.
This is a good thing -- but why? At this stage we’re not precisely sure.
The Australian IT Pricing inquiry was in full flow this week and plenty of attention is clearly being paid -- both in government and the mainstream media -- to precisely how much more we're paying for digital goods compared to the US. It is possible that this price drop is in response to that.
Ed Husic, MP for Chifley, has been perhaps the most vocal Member of Parliament on this issue. If this is an official move to reduce prices on the part of Bethesda, he approves.
"They should get a pat on the back," he said, speaking to Kotaku. "There's no justifiable excuse for the difference in price for video games. If this is a permanent move then I welcome it."
But when we got in contact with Bethesda's local representatives, they claimed that the price drop is simply part of the sale itself. That would also make sense, but the 50% reduction is a reduction of the US price, not the old Australian price.
Bethesda’s local Australian prices are actually decided overseas – and it’s unclear at this point precisely how big an impact the IT Pricing Inquiry is having outside of Australia. It is possible these new prices are simply a mistake, a mistake that may be ‘rectified’ in the future. Bethesda's local reps are currently looking into it further, but for now have stated it's simply part of the QuakeCon sale.
Time will tell -- either Bethesda will leave the local Skyrim price as is, or quickly adjust it to 50% off the old price of $89.99. It's difficult to say. If Bethesda had made a conscious decision to remove the 'Australian Tax' from local prices, you might expect a bigger song and dance regarding the whole situation, as part of some PR exercise, but we've heard nothing.
Regardless of the outcome, there are still multiple publishers applying artificial price increases on digital software sold on Steam. Ed Husic told us he was looking for the gaming community to really mobilise behind this issue, and make a difference.
"The gaming community flexed some real muscle in pushing for changes to game classifications, especially via Twitter and the #R18AU hashtag," he said.
"I hope they can throw that weight behind this campaign for fairer pricing too -- because the gaming community here is being taken advantage of in a really bad way."