The One Thing All Three Consoles Could Really Learn From The PC

The PS4, Xbox One and Wii U are all very different consoles, but there's one thing I wish all three had in common: their digital pricing. Something they could learn from the PC.

Steam gets a lot of credit for rejuvenating the PC gaming market, and there's one area it deserves more praise than anywhere else: its regular, highly-discounted sales.

I say this not because I like things to be cheap. I realise a brand new game does, and should, cost $US40-$60. But the real value of Steam, and its crazy pricing, is that it actually caters not just to the budgets of gamers, but their gaming habits as well.

The pricing model console games rely upon is fundamentally broken, because it doesn't understand how most people play video games. Purchasing a single title for $US60 is something people will only do regularly for the very biggest and best of games. Most people just don't have the time, or the money, to do that more than a handful of times a year.

It's the main reason we've seen so many "B-grade" studios making "average" games close over this hardware generation; they simply can't compete. If publishers and platform holders continue to rely on that retail model, they're going to fail.

People who play games are - mostly - people who also have lives. There are other things competing for their time and money. Sure, it's awesome to spent $US60 on Skyrim and lose a few weeks, but experiences like that are few and far between.

Sometimes you just want to unwind after work with a new game. Sometimes your partner will be away for the weekend and you've got a free afternoon. Sometimes you miss a game and want to come back to it months or maybe years later.

Those brief, sometimes unannounced windows of opportunity, which is how many adult gamers can indulge their habit, are entirely incompatible with the AAA console retail model, which relies on preorders (ie advance notice) and that premium pricetag.

It's also incompatible with the platform holder's farcical digital pricing model. If new games are available digitally for the same price as they are in stores, that's understandable. But the way all three companies insist on pricing older games at inflated prices defeats the purpose of having them there in the first place.

If you're in a forum, or talking with friends, and they tell you "son, really, you have to play 2009 Action Adventure Game before we continue this conversation", you've got an impulse to get the game at that instant. Ditto if you've got 3-5 hours free, remember you always meant to play it, and want to go try it out. If you check Xbox's Games on Demand, you'll probably find it for $US20-40.

That's not an impulse price, and it's not something you're going to pay just to join in a conversation or indulge in a quick catch-up. So you spend nothing. Neither Microsoft or the publisher gets a cent.

If you checked Steam, however, you'd probably find the game for $US10. $US15 with its DLC included. You might even get lucky and be checking during a sale, when it's down to $US2.50. That's an impulse buy, and as millions of people's burgeoning collections can attest to - and the regularity with which Valve holds its major sales - it's something a lot of people will happily pull the trigger on.

You might play the game for an hour and hate it, you might play it for six and love it, it doesn't matter. You paid for it, people made money off it, and they did so because it was priced to match the situation and the amount you were willing to spend for it.

So please, platform holders, realise this. Speak to the publishers whose games you're selling, look at the popularity of Steam, look at how many games people are buying on the service and the way they're buying them. And if you've got room left to copy one more thing the PC does well for your new systems, make it this.


Comments

    Crysis 3 was just added onto Games on Demand on 360. At the price of $110...

    ...Even EB is selling it at about 50 bucks.

      Far Cry 3 on PSN is $100.

      Or $49 at JB.

        Or the Kingdoms of Amalur saga where it was released on PSN for $126, but could be found in the local bargain bin for $20 or in a buy two games for $35 deal. I bought it and the Sega Mega Drive collection, played it for 5 minutes then shelved it. Should've taken my car through the local car wash instead.

          Hey, give the game some more love. Just a little, there's more to the game then that lame intro.

          I have something like 700 games on Steam, maybe 200 of which are installed (/ever played).

          I really, really, REALLY do not want to start thinking about what RL-enhancing things I could have done with that money.

      Jesus tap-dancing Christ on a pogo-stick, $110?

      I guess the kinect on the xbone will do us all a favour by making sure we're all appropriately bent over and spreading our cheeks before it'll open the store app.

      Yeah I think even the wii u is expensive like that, it's almost as if they release it on there for shits and giggles, I'm all for sale prices for digitally distributed games good article for once kotaku... For once...

    I realise a brand new game does, and should, cost $US40-$60.

    This clearly is American pricing.

      I would imagine so, given it's in US dollars.

        IE: Irrelevant.

        P.S, some people use US as a global standard. Doesn't mean the pricing is the same...

        Last edited 23/05/13 1:17 pm

          This is an US written article. What currency would you expect them to use?

            I'd expect the editor of OZtaku to take a few seconds to change it to pricing that is relevant to our country.

              They added 'US' to the prices to make it clearer, and Steam lists prices in US dollars so it's relevant to the article.

              Except it's an opinion piece, not a factual article, and they probably DON'T agree that a a game should cost $80-$100 if you were to ask them.

              Or maybe you would like our AU editor to make it say
              I realise a brand new game does, and should, cost $US40 ($41.44) - $USD60 ($62.16).
              I always get a kick out newspaper articles where they do that in completely irrelevant instances - like this one.

                Cheers Bruzzah! but congrats on still being irrelevant to the Australian market. Try again.

                Last edited 23/05/13 1:54 pm

                If an editor were to change they would also have to add tax and nothing sold in the US is listed with it's tax. Depending upon what type of product it is and where it is shipping from and who is shipping different taxes can be applied.

                  Step one: use 'hide my ass' to get a US proxy
                  Step two: visit www.steampowered.com
                  Step three: open steam and compare prices. %110 markup for dark souls, %80 markup for CoD, %70 markup for farcry 3.

              Why, a brand new game does and should cost US$40-60.

              A brand new game does cost AU$90-$110, it bloody well shouldn't though.

                Relevancy. Color realize utilize etc.

      Well you are referencing what PC does will and for most games the US price is the same price we pay here. There are a few publishers who enact a convict tax but otherwise the US price is what we pay (in US dollars)
      That is another thing PC does well, if we could just get people like activision, 2k and ea on board this it would be good.
      Although I must say they do often drop of Australia tax when the price drops down to the $20 mark.

    Before Steam, my playstation games numbered in the hundreds and I had a few PC games here or there... Now it's the opposite. I simply get better deals on Steam. Once I made the transition from console to PC gaming, well I haven't touched my PS3 this year.

    Last edited 23/05/13 1:08 pm

      Absolutely, I'm the same. I trade games on the PSN and Xbox now (wont be happening next gen obviously) but I usually average about 5 games at a time? Steam however I think Im at around 200 games owned??? Should hit 300 by the end of this year? I usually purchase 50+ games each summer/winter sale.

        I have no idea how people can do that. I bought like two games this year and one of those has 600+ hours racked up. I'd find it hard to even want to play that many games, most of them must really suck.

    I've got 169 games on Steam and I don't even know how half of them got there anymore. On consoles that I've owned since 2004 I've probably owned 25 games and actually purchased 18 of them (the rest being gifts). I guarantee that the Steam account even with its number of cheap purchases is making more money because it's digital, it's easy and as I get older and time becomes a commodity I can't justify an impulse buy at $70 but at $7 hell yes I'm buying that game even if I think I might not have the time to get through it.

    Last edited 23/05/13 1:12 pm

    How many of these PC games do you buy in EB?

    Console DD prices are high due to publisher agreements with retail stores.

    Should really include that in your discussion.

      Keep telling yourself that. So why are XBL and PSN prices so high for full games then?

        I think it's as simple as the online prices being the RRP. Retailers just cut into their profits by selling under the RRP to be more competitive and move stock. If they don't move stock they don't make any money.

          Except that logic doesn't hold water with what's written above. By what's written above, production costs, manuals, disc stamping etc has to be taken into account? Online hosting would cost a fraction of that?

          I mean case in point? Check out THE BINDING OF ISAAC on Steam, then go walk into EB and ask for a copy...

          Last edited 23/05/13 2:04 pm

            Good point. I can only speculate those costs are absorbed by the publishers and manufacturers (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft). The $ cost in man hours is significantly more to produce online help resources and the contents of the user manual. The only other thing that might not be covered is the box art, unless in game art, game manual art, website art and miscellaneous art are bundled costs.

              Obviously there's FAR more to it than that simplistic example, there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes other than 'How does a game get onto the server? MAGIC!' but yeah, companies love direct download games because no physical product = pure profit most of the time.

        Ummm... he just did (note: DD means digital distribution, which means XBL and PSN).

        Because Sony and MS have an agreement with the bricks and mortar to not undercut the physical prices. They're still dependent on retailers to sell their hardware and the vast majority of their software, so they can't afford to get them offside.

        Although I'm not sure how PS+ fits into that scheme since it's basically giving away full retail games for almost free.

          So anotherwords, they're pricefixing :O

            Well, IANAL (which amuses me in acronym form because I word-associate it), but I think price-fixing as a properly punishable offense only means if you collaborate with your direct competitors. As opposed to the guys you distribute through, but who your competitors just happen to also distribute through... Jeez. I'd love to believe there's a case there. Why aren't there more gamer lawyer prosecutors out there?

    This is less of a reason of digital pricing making an impact as such, but rather the Australian market with its ridiculously inflated prices finally fracturing under it. In Europe and the US the market for games has been super-competitive and generally customer-friendly for years before Steam et al. Games never held their release price long and soon "Gold"-etc offerings of a game at budget price were thrown at the market. When I came to Australia, however, I was astonished at how high prices here are, not just release, but post-launch retailers can dare to ask absurd prices for years. Look at stuff like Diablo 2, a positively ancient game and the prices it fetched until a year or two, when D3 was released, at places like EB Games and elsewhere.

    Generally the retail market for many things in Australia is a disaster, computer games are just one aspect of it.

    There’s been a few times where I would search for a game on XBL, thinking “this is a pretty old game, surely it’s a good price” and seeing it still for $80. Then I don’t spend money at all, because what a waste of money. I was only moderately interested in your game in the first place.
    Then I check steam and they have it for $15 (sometimes less) and I am pretty happy with the value for money.

    Here it is If all games were 10 -20 dollars i would truly be to lazy to pirate them i belive truly that all new games have masive file sizes partly to put people of torrenting them. I buy most of my games but i still DL them to see if they are any good what happened to the days when you could DL a demo of the game or buy a mag that had 20 - 30 demos on it now adays it all pre-order this or dlc season pass why do we keep giving them money without knowing if it any good Aliens: Colonial Marines is a prime example the internet was screaming for a refund why didnt you wait 1 week to see if it was anygood?

    something to think about you wouldnt buy a car if you hadnt test driven it right.

    You need to also tell this to the F2P publishers of mmos with their ridiculous cash shop pricing.
    Me and my mates keep wanting to buy stuff from them, but the prices are so ridiculous, we just stopped buying and play for free as much as possible.
    When will more people realize you make more dollars by selling to more people at lower prices!!!! especially digital items!!!!!

    I picked up heaps of cheap games on that massive Xbox Live sale a few months ago.. I just wish they did it more often.

    Having the Xbox, PS3 & Wii. I can say I use my PC more than any of these combined. More so I play mostly steam games, both for it's platform of convenience & price. That said, I'm really just waiting on Steam Box to be released later in the year.

    I will be damned if I'm going back to shelling out local Australian pricing for all my games, I've almost always been able to get a hold of a new release on PC for a bargain from shopping around (I probably pay an average of about $45-$50 a game these days).

    The listed $118 price tag for XBO games can fuck right off, I'm not made of money.

    I have 346 Steam games. I have 14 Xbox 360 games. Case in point, I suppose.

    That's the biggest problem...the massive price differences worldwide. I was in the Philippines last year and picked up a copy of WWE '13 for PS3 for $50 AUD (with the pre-ordered DLC) where as here in Australia it was $90 (depending where you buy it from)...we've been screwed in terms of pricing for games for years. I would to see PSN Store or XBL Marketplace have a crazy sale over Christmas where games are super cheap but it won't happen because

    a) they both don't have a lot in their library
    b) they haven't made a quality deal with publishers (like Steam)
    c) they set the pricing

    If you look at Steam, they have a whole heap of publishers and indie developers to have a massive game library and done deals where crazy pricing and/or great bundle packages can occur (my mate picked up the THQ bundle last year for about $20 off Steam where it would have cost him about $30-$90 per game)

    And here I thought this was going to be a story on game modding. Yes we PC users have steam sales but no preowned games, I'd rather skip the sales and be able to resell and buy used games.

    And then there's sites like Green Man Gaming, Get Games, Games Gate, etc, which make PC gaming even more sweeter.

    Great article, mirrors my sentiments exactly.

    I've always been a console gamer, a resolute console gamer.. the annoying one that would argue with you for an hour about why console gaming is better. And there are still some advantages to console, well... only one really, which is the plug and play nature of it's gaming experience - but even that is not 100% reliable these days.

    Steam is a massive game-changer and all consoles need to copy it exactly, or they will slide into oblivion.

    30cent WiiU VC games has been great, wish Super Mario World wasn't $10.50 though...

    Angry Birds is $39.95 on the Australian PS-Store, I shit you not >_>

    Publishers should experiment with online hardware sales. Imagine if you could buy an Xbox One from Microsoft directly for $50 less than the retailers. I think within 1-2 generations they'd kill brick and mortar entirely and have more profit for themselves.

    My personal rule is NEVER to pay more than $65 to $70AUD for ANY game. I import 99% of my games and usually pay around $58AUD for a new game with free postage. I would NEVER pay $110 for a video game. If I want DLC for an import I just buy a digital PSN card for whatever region my game is from and redeem it on my alternate region accounts. Sometimes I can even manage to pay under $40 for a new release. Some people seriously need to wise up or stop paying more just because it's "easier" in their view. Let me tell you, importing and creating an overseas account can take less time than complaining about how supposedly "hard" it is to import.

    Price matching and sales are a farce because you're still giving rip off merchants your money. I.e EB
    Personally I'd rather support an overseas market where things are cheap from the get go.

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