Why Do We Care Less About Game Pricing?

There was a strong sense of injustice, but it never really affected us. Not really. We played the games we wanted to play. Somehow. And if we couldn't? Well, outside of a few exceptions those games were hardly worth our time -- they existed as morbid curiosities at best and we moved on as a collective. In reality gamers could have lived without an R18+ rating for video games, but that didn't matter. The situation was wrong and we all knew it. As a group we mobilised, with verve, and we made a real difference, on an issue that, if we're being perfectly honest, had little-to-no impact on our day to day lives as gamers.

Yet on the contentious issue of video game pricing, an issue that makes a genuine difference to our financial bottom line, we remain largely silent. I wonder why that is?

Here's some perspective: during the public consultation period, 48,437 submissions were received on the issue of an adult rating for video games. That's an Australian record. The issue of tech pricing in Australia? Well, despite the fact that that Minister Conroy explicitly asked for video game pricing to be given priority in the terms of reference, the inquiry into IT Pricing received a paltry 88 submissions. That's 88 submissions.

That's 0.18%. Not even close to being a dent. Not even a scratch. But why? Do people have no interest in the pricing of video games? Does the broader gaming audience care more about a classification issue, one that doesn't necessarily affect their gaming, than they do about the cost of the video games that are purchased every single day? This is something that has a real tangible impact. Why ignore it?

Maybe 'ignore' is the wrong word, really we've just become sedated on the issue of game pricing in Australia. We care less. Part of the problem is that most gamers -- particularly the strong voices that typically dominate in this type of discourse -- have found their solution, and that solution is to either import games at a much lower price, or illegally download them.

It's the convenient solution that the R18+ issue never had, because the injustice in that case was a 'slight', it was a series of statements we could rally against: video games are not for adults, they're for children. Or: video games are more harmful than other types of media. It felt like discrimination and that mobilised us. Our only solution was to shout back. With video game pricing the solution is far more obvious -- take your business elsewhere and be done with it.

And taking your business elsewhere works as both solution and silent protest; maybe that's part of the problem. Charge me more, and I'll damage your bottom line. Dispute over. No need to shout about it, no need to make a political noise on an issue that isn't necessarily political. Let the market correct itself. It'll work eventually.

But in the short term, less savvy consumers are left to bear the brunt of it and since they shop and spend in much larger numbers than you or I, you might be waiting a fair amount of time for that correction.

————— Australian pricing isn't an issue we own as gamers -- and perhaps that's another facet of the same problem. As a group we're not being attacked, not verbally at least. Our intelligence isn't being insulted, we're simply being asked to pay more than gamers in Europe and the US and maybe that doesn't feel like something we should be getting all that angry about.

The R18+ issue was essentially a niche issue, and that's arguably why we made so much noise about it. Perhaps that's why we cared: because it was an issue that belonged to us specifically as gamers. As bad as game prices can be, and as big an injustice as it is, it's not exclusive to us as a sub-culture -- people pay exponentially more for Adobe products, for example. There's a diffused responsibility regarding this whole issue, a whiff of the 'can't someone else do it?' With R18+ if we didn't take responsibility, nothing would have changed. With this issue? Maybe there's a feeling that others will do the heavy lifting for us.

But really, we're the ones who should be driving the change. We're the ones with experience with these kind of issues. We're the ones who have made a difference in the past, and we can again.

I don't know -- maybe we just need an antagonist. Maybe the video game pricing issue just needs its Michael Atkinson -- an outspoken publisher stroking his cat like Doctor Claw from Inspector Gadget, routinely informing us why we should be paying more in an inexplicably bassy timbre. But most publishers locally have been silent, because it pays to be silent. Because it's safe to be silent. Because we don't shout back when they remain silent.

We should make a noise anyway. Because this issue needs our noise. There are people like Ed Husic out there asking for gamers to help with this important issue, and I don't think we've really done enough. We found our own solutions, sat on this issue, and mumbled a little on when prodded. That's it.

I'd like to think we can do more. Yes, game pricing is a complicated issue, and yes there are reasons why we pay more, but that doesn't mean our voice doesn't carry weight. Because it does, and we should use it.


    I submitted, then bought more games OS.

      Similarly, AU games pricing is an issue I've been able to work around by buying from ozgameshop primarily. Hence I feel like I'm getting games at a good price and it isn't worth the effort of me making a submission. Now in retrospect I wish I didn't because the inquiry may well get the worng idea :(

      It's a conmercial issue, and nothing is overpriced, people pay what the market will bear. If people don't want to do the research to get it cheap, or they're too imparient to wait a week for an import to show up, that's fine. In business you vote with.your wallet, and you shouldn't feel bad for multi million dollar enteprises who choose not to compete on price.

      What the retailers need to do is to tell the au publishing distrobutors to go fuck themselves and grey import themselves. The local distributors would get the message pretty quick then.

        My experience working in the games industry - some of the larger retailers were making more of a profit per unit than the distributor on a large proportion of titles. I'm not by any means saying the distributors aren't the problem here, I just think people need to keep in mind that the retailers also play a large part in contributing to the prices we see in Australia.

      The funny thing about this article is it quotes the number of submissions about R18+, but what it doesn't do is point out that like 95% or more of those came from the likes of EB Games (and other retailers who had slips in the store).

      So there was no real effort on the part of people making submissions, just put your details on the form, write a little blurb and the retailer took care of the rest....EB Games is hardly going to get in on the pricing issue though are they...? ; D

        Probably should mention that the mark up on gaming in some retailers is far higher than their other products also. Just to put a bit more context into my argument after seeing some of the points below lauding to the higher rent for retail space in AU etc.

        That comment by bdc pretty much sums up why there was only 88 submissions. I didn't know they were taking submissions about the pricing inquiry. They didn't get the word out and we now might be screwed because of it!

    The people who care enough to be the type to write in are also the people who import and/or download?

      This exactly. The people for whom video game pricing is an issue are the people who look elsewhere for for lower prices, and find them, and thus it is no longer an issue for them.

      I don't really care how much Australian stores sell games for, I just won't buy from them if I can buy cheaper elsewhere. They say money talks.

        That is pretty greedy and selfish to be honest. If the price difference was say $40 for the import or $40-$50 local it's pretty retarded to try to keep some of wealth in your own country. Anything above a 25% percent mark up I can get behind. However if it's under 25% and the consumer is still preparded to sacrifise both Australian retail and local region releases that is a terrible sign of greed. Also supports the whole idea that a large ammount of consumers would pirate products regardless of if the product is well priced, because they spend nothing and to hell with a sustainable economic system. If Australian games were under 25% price difference in store or even better under 10% everytime there would be little excuse for importing. Online game distribution however has no wiggleroom with price and should be the same price everywhere bar certain tax's which would need to be proven to be price increase and consistant with all online products.

          'cept that is the case look a borderlands 2 right now ozgameshop are offering round $50, retailers like EB, JB have there prices at $80+, pretty sure, if i did my maths right, that it over 25% also additionally ozgameshop has free shipping
          the cd key alone can be found even cheaper gmg with the coupon brings it down to round $36, though with our internet structure right now downloading 10gb+ games are a pain (yes i am changing my isp soon)

      Is this a question, statement or someone else's post?

    Any chance of seeing the kotaku submission?

      Kotaku didn't send one either. We're part of the problem.

        In all honesty I think part of the problem is that older gamers - (and thus younger gamers) have ALWAYS paid more in Australia. Those mastertronic games and british computer games mags with 1.99 and 99p always translated into ten to thirty dollars here. It has been the status quo for thirty odd years. With the R18+ debate we can see others playing games that we can not. With this we can not see the foreigners opening their wallets and paying less. We just smile and pay away.

    I see where you are going here, but the fact is, While video game classifications is more of a community thing, something that can be changed by the public and government. Pricing is a private enterprise issue. One that plagues not only the video game or techs industry, but something that has his every import business ....ever.

    Add to this fact that we genuinely do have a way around pricing that isnt labled as "illegal" and no threat of customs withholding our items. Business has boomed with the rise of grey imports, to the point that many major retail chains are going down the path of offering international imports. I have seen the same not just in games but even in the camera industry, and of all things the carpet industry. Going outside the normal supply chains may require a little extra effort, but the cost benefit for an individual or retailer is quite big, and above all, it is 100% legal.

    What my concern is will be embargos. Something similar to what we have seen from companies like games workshop, there are loop holes that make it very difficult for a company to sell internationally.
    Long and short is you are right, we need to do more, and we need to be aware that not only is there is a real threat that our easy way's of side stepping the "australian tax" may one day be taken away, but it is in some ways damaging pockets of our local economy that we may not miss until its gone.

      "What my concern is will be embargos. Something similar to what we have seen from companies like games workshop". Mine too. I play 40k with the models as well as computer games so most people I know (myself included) have basically avoided buying their products altogether due to the obscene prices.

      Any company that embargos Australia is going to suffer from the sudden drop of Aussie customers.

        Well the way embargos work is by stopping supply to any company thats not based/licensed to sell into a country who does so. The point is to limit certain high margin countries options so that bricks and mortar retailers are your only option. I doubt this will ever happen in the case of games as the publishers them selves dont have this sorts of stores the way that Games Workshop does. However i can see other companies doing it

    The thing is, this issue will eventually solve itself. More and more people will simply import games at a cheaper rate, and retailers will either have to adapt (GameTrader's grey import) or die (R.I.P GAME). Personally I hope that they die off completely. Game retailers often hire obnoxious employees, have horrible policies (TRADE IN TWENTY GAMES AND GET A DOLLAR OFF!) and always try to shell useless shit on you (DO YOU WANT DISK PROTECTION FOR ONLY TEN DOLLARS?). For those of you quick to complain that this will be bad because it will cost 'aussie jobs,' you couldn't be more wrong. More imports means more jobs for shipping companies, the post office, delivery drivers ECT. If they don't like it well they shouldn't have been gouging us in the first place.

      A while back I interviewed a guy who was talking about the massive gains in Australian jobs from parallel importing. He actually argued more jobs would be created than lost.

        I must bookmark this page and link to it on Bell of Lost Souls sometime.

        I'm not saying working in these game shops is that good a job anyway, but I can't see the same silver lining. In my time working retail I met plenty of people who would never be happy or capable with working in a warehouse, post office, driving trucks or trying to run an online shop. The jobs lost won't just magically transfer into the jobs created.

      This (re job creation) has been an argument i have had for a while. Still i'd be sad if the only people left selling games was mass merchants like harvey norman and kmart . As much as you have pointed out all the poison in the games retail sector, there are some charms to them that i would miss if they weren't there.

    I think with gaming yes prices are shit but the problem is a lot bigger elsewhere. Corporate software is where most of the ridiculous level of shit is being pulled. MSDN subscriptions being a fine example, with Adobe a close 2nd.

    Also Mark articles like this do not help garner an army of people to fight for something


    Even when it seemed hopeless beyond belief we had a political party come out of no where (croydon4gamers) and every post was 'do your best to get this done, no matter how hard it seems'

    Your sister site writes, nothing will change so dont do shit about it.


      Yeah, mentioned that above -- and this is exactly what Angus Kidman (lifehacker editor) said when I mentioned this topic to him.

    Like Ash said, I haven't bought a game in Australia for quite a while now. Just not worthwhile.
    So that's a simple workaround. However the lack of R18 made buying the games illegal. Not really an easy workaround for that. Hence a bigger issue.

    1) i buy out f bargain bins etc.
    2) If you would like us to do something about it (I would love to cos I know how unfair the prises are and its the reason I buy from bargain bins) then send us a link or something to where to file or whatever ;)

    That’s 0.18%. Not even close to being a dent. Not even a scratch. But why? Do people have no interest in the pricing of video games?

    Because the bulk of the signatures on that huge R18+ petition were gathered by people operating in multiple franchises of a major games retailer. Said retailer would hardly gather signatures for a petition saying that games retailers are ripping off consumers with crazy pricing.

    Importing games, pre-owned or piracy are the work arounds people use to avoid paying the high prices charged in Australia for games. I have been buying games from ozgameshop and other sites for years.

    However recently I have seen a difference in pricing in Australia with some retailers dropping upcoming releases down to under A$70. As a result for the first time in about 3 years I have preordered a game from a local retailer for $69. Online I could probably buy that same game for A$60 but it will be nice to get a game on its day of release for a change instead of 2-3 weeks later in the post.

    I think local retailers are trying to win back gamers who have moved to online purchasing with lower prices. If they are consistent with the lower prices I will probably move back to buying games locally.

      I think this is another great point (lots of great posts here!)

      I was genuinely surprised with some of the prices when I last went to Westies. When we see incremental change, that might actually help placate us all a bit.

    The R18+ issue was absolutely different because, as you rightfully said, it was an issue of adults being told what adults could view and buy by self-righteous, sanctimonious folk lying about gaming, its culture, its content, and its effect on society. Groups quoting non-existent studies suggesting games made kids violent and concocting fanciful slippery-slope or "open the flood-gate" fallacies: "if you introduce R18+ we'll have all type of games with rape, pro-suicide, kiddie-porn themes".

    Pricing annoys us, but it is easily remedied by importing.

      But the answer to the R18+ issue was also importing. Lots of people imported the uncut versions of GTA etc from New Zealand or the UK or wherever in order to get the "real" game instead of the censored version sold locally.

      Yes, technically you run the risk of having it seized by customs if they actually opened your parcel and actually cared enough that it was an uncut version of a game. But how many of us actually had our imported R rated games seized? I don't actually have a number, but I'm guessing it's pretty low.

    I didn't even know there was submissions. If there was, I would have send one in.

    One big part of the problem is that Australian retailers have some of the highest markup expectations in the western world. The markup they expect on items before they even take them on is just ridiculous, 300% in some cases.

    That, needs to stop.

      We have one of the highest retail rents in the world, often over double the rates other first world retailers pay. This plays a major part in retailer mark-ups. There is no simple short term solution for that.

    Also Mark, I think youd make a great champion for this topic. You did a great job of covering R18+ we could start a grass roots movement right here on KOT_au. Other Aus based sites can pick up the the hype and who knows. I just dont think we have had enough runs at this topic. I mean, the R18+ movement took a LONG time to get enough momentum.

    I think another point is that basically Australia is a free market society and we can't impose restrictions politically. Like if they legislated around the pricing it would probably be a constitutional fight the government wouldn't win. Even if the legislation was legal i imagine that the companies would just pull out of Australia, well at least that portion of their business.

    As always the market corrects itself. Key point with R18 was it was the politicians AND ONLY the politicians who could get this done. We had a clear place to go and protest, with this its a whole different ball game. You really need to protest to every company and you can do that by importing and killing their local bottom line, or emailing etc but there is no central point.

    The other side has a central point. Its called the BSAA. Maybe its time for a central point on the other side of the argument, especially if for some reason the ACCC isn't going to get involved.

    Interesting point on Michael Atkinson and having someone to rally against - it really does feel like having a face, a clear image of the opposition sort of spurs us into action.

    If I were to give an excuse as to why I didn't make a submission, it would be either that I don't buy enough games to be concerned about the dent in my wallet (the last full priced retail game I bought was Max Payne 3 back in May), or that prices in some places seem to be going down a bit. Might just be me, but I'm perfectly content with paying $70 for a new release at JBHi-Fi. Would I like that to be cheaper? Absolutely. But I'm not paying $100 for every game anymore and I'm pretty happy about that. Granted, that doesn't cover digital distribution prices...

    Got to love that after the mention of adobe products being more expensive as an example while im typing this comment there is an adobe advert on the right of this box.

    The fact is, there is basically nothing legislatively the Government can do. Most of these companies aren't subject to Australian law. Submitting was quite pointless. I do think the Government should start treating import exclusivity as a monopoly and prosecute accordingly.

      Im not sure there is nothing they can do. The ACCC enquiry in to apple charging Australia more on the app store even after our dollar hit parity with the USD seems to have made a difference, It really didnt take long for Apple to pull the prices back in line with international rates.

      Obviously this is a different ball game to importing, but it shows a decent enquiry to the provider can make change...some things just take a little more heat to have effect.

    When something is everyone's problem, nobody in particular feels compelled to act. Because of it's everyone's problem then it is someone else's problem.

    I am just a consumer. I buy from whoever offers me the right product for the best price. If local stores can't offer that, it's their problem to solve if they want my money.

      "I am just a consumer. I buy from whoever offers me the right product for the best price. If local stores can’t offer that, it’s their problem to solve if they want my money."


    My submission is Number #33 if anyone would like to read it.


    It still shocks me to see the prices in Australia - for instance I got Guildwars 2 pre order from the Guildwars 2 website for $55 USD at local Australian retailer it was marked as a special pre order (get on the 28) for $88.... Sure I had to download but I never reach my limit so win win as far as I am concerned. Oh and I got to start playing last weekend...
    That may well be the future buy direct and the physical stores will simply fade away... I have no opinion of if that is good or bad but I do enjoy competition in the marketplace and I think we get that with options.
    Mark the reason why I didn't comment is that I just don't have all the answers and a high enough degree of knowledge on the topic. 18+ debate went on for months I understood from experts like yourself the facts and what is really meant for me as an adult gamer, where is the champion for pricing where is the debate on sites like Kotaku and others for me to be able to feel comfortable writing a submission... Sure I could have been number 89 but it would have read badly and probably been factually incorrect or at least not quite correct...

    Heres a question. If R18 was legal before but you had to pay $30 extra to get an R18 game, would you have kicked up a stink? and be honest

    Also Mark i think a key point is that GAME and EB ran petitions and did some marketing around R18 raising awareness. It is not in a retailers best interest to be pointing out they charge a lot more than overseas shops now is it ?


    i think prices have gotten a lot better of late, still not as sharp as they could be, but you arent paying 100-120 for new release games. I still import games when i can / care to, but its a new release sometimes its not cost effective to do so. EG Transformers fall of cybertron JB 69$, ozgameshop was 64$ (its now 55$), so why would you import to save $5?? However this trend is not across the board.
    will be interesting to see how prices go now with game being out of market, and companies like JB and HN starting to offer import stock in store.

    This has been a great discussion! Bum pats all round!

    I've mentioned this before but I'll say it again here - I don't think this inquiry got many submissions because it was just that - an inquiry. Personally, I didn't bother submitting anything because what would the use of that be?

    This isn't the same situation as R18+. They were actually after public opinion on that topic, and received submissions for and against. There was a discussion paper made available that presented both sides of the arguement. It was a situation we had clear control over (well, eventually).

    That isn't the case here. This is a government inquiry into IT pricing in this country and I don't think anybody in the right mind would come forward with a submission that said "Yeah! I love getting ripped off! In fact, I'd love it if you charged even more!". Everybody wants cheaper prices, but this wasn't labelled as a public discussion. There was no paper (that I was aware of anyway), and the way the submission form itself was worded was quite vague (and if I recall, the form was actually broken for a good percentage of the time it was live, so you couldn't make a submission even if you wanted to).

    With R18+, we made our voices heard, because we believed we could contribute to a change to an archaic government regulated system. We can scream at IT companies and retailers all we like but ultimately they decide what to charge us for their products and at the end of the day there's not much the government can really do about it. And I think most people realised that.

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