Plans to support the Australian dollar on Steam have been in the works for years. But when the AUD finally appears on the front page, what actually happens? To dispel some of the confusion and concern, I spoke to some developers to help outline what customers can expect next month.
Once you've gone through the hoops and have approved access to the developer backend, Steam lets you set the price of the game in US dollars. At that point, Steam will then uses a matrix to suggest region-specific prices.
Say a developer sets the price for their game at $US10. Valve's algorithm then makes recommendations on pricing for other countries. It might be slightly lower, as recommended for some parts of South East Asia, or the CIS territories.
Australians are generally charged the same price in USD as Americans. One example below is Two Point Hospital:
But because the AUD wasn't available as a currency to purchase games with, the recommendation could result in Australians paying a higher USD price than other territories.
So for the most part, developers and publishers have been happy to let Australians pay the global USD price.
That hasn't always been the case, though. Major publishers have often been the most egregious offenders, with DOOM and Civilization: Beyond Earth recent examples. Both games were instances of locals being slugged an extra $US20 than our American counterparts, before the currency conversion and bank fees were factored in.
You know how the price of DOOM for Australians was way too expensive, thanks to our glorious exchange rate and Steam's refusal to actually sell products in Australian dollars? Well it quietly went down yesterday, from US$79.95 to US$59.99. Pity that didn't last.
At least do the courtesy of hiding your tracks.
This is why the impending support for the AUD has, traditionally, been welcomed. Since it was enabled on Fanatical and GOG, two major third-party marketplaces that sell games in AUD, the Australian price has been marginally better than what the US price would have been post-currency conversion.
And amongst the developers I spoke to for this article, the general sentiment was that Australian pricing should remain largely the same, if not a little better.
One developer, whose game currently sells for $US14.99, explained that Steam's recommended Australian pricing was $21.50. That's a fraction higher than the current exchange rate - $21.11 at the time of writing. But once you factor in the extra charge from Australian banks, the price ends up being a little higher ($21.74 if you're adding a 3% fee).
PayPal, in this instance, would have charged just over $22.
Another local developer, who requested anonymity, outlined another scenario. For a $US9.99 game, Steam recommends developers charge Aussies $11.95.
If you were to buy that $US9.99 game today, you'd be charged around $14.07. That doesn't include whatever your bank will charge for the currency conversion either.
Even applying the worst case scenario - where Steam enables sales in AUD, and adds 10% GST on the top - Australians should still be charged roughly the same amount.
A key factor here is whether Valve changes its pricing matrix, which makes recommendations for regional pricing based off a global USD price. If it remains as is, Australians should expect to pay about the same, if not a little less.
However, all of that is moot if a developer or publisher opts to set the price manually. Let's say a particular game is being published on other major platforms. If GOG suggests a $US19.95 game be sold for $24.95, and Steam recommends a higher or uneven figure - like $24.30 or something - there's a good chance the publisher/developer would adjust that themselves to keep things uniform.
Because of that desire to keep pricing fair across multiple territories, as the War for the Overworld developers noted, the most likely outcome is that game prices will remain largely the same.
Of course, publishers and developers can always set whatever price they want. Steam might recommend - as an example - that a $US49.95 game be sold at around $70. But that can always be changed to $74.95, $79.95, even $89.95.
There's nothing stopping them.
Where Australians will see the most benefit are from indie publishers, smaller studios and the AA-type games. The ones you might drop $40 or $50 to buy digitally, the ones that won't appear in a store at first. Without the currency charges from banks, and what Steam is currently recommending to developers, Aussies shouldn't get shafted.
We may even save a few dollars here and there. And even if the prices work out roughly the same, at least that's not money going back to your bank.