If You're Going To Rip Off Australian Gamers, At Least Hide Your Tracks

At least do the courtesy of hiding your tracks.

Over the weekend Civilization: Beyond Earth went where many video games have gone before. Practically overnight the price went from the US$49.95 to $89.95. Urgh. We have seen (and been outraged by this) before. Almost every publisher has been guilty at some point. I think we're all acutely aware of how brutally unfair this is. There's a touch of the gallows humour about it. It's almost hilarious at this point.

Yes, the Australian Tax. Yes, the cost of living. Yes, the cost of employing people to distribute, market and sell your product. Yes, you have to protect your retail relationship. Sure, we expect a small bump. Sure, we expect to pay more, even for digital products. We don’t like it, but sure. We have a modicum of understanding for the situation. Just a modicum. We still buy your video games, don’t we?

But this whole Steam thing? The whole raising the price at the last minute? This whole offering a video game at the US price and then SURPRISE, a massive increase on price without warning?

That has really, seriously got to stop.

If you’re going to make us pay a whole bunch more for video games in this country, at least do us the courtesy of pretending that it isn’t a random, massive rort. At least do us the courtesy of launching the game from the very beginning at the price point you plan on selling the game for.

In a sense it’s a pulling back of the curtains. These changes give us a very real glimpse of what is actually happening here: we are being charged way more for video games. We know this. But when it happens right before our eyes it’s all the more infuriating. Not only are we being ripped off, but the folks doing the ripping off have the temerity to do it in plain sight. There’s a certain arrogance (or incompetence, it’s difficult to tell which) about the whole situation. Publishers are simply so blatant about the price fixing.

Recently I had an interesting conversation with an ex-Marketing Manager at one of the major publishers in Australia. He told me that during the absolute peak of the Australian dollar -- when we had parity and were collectively howling at the moon about pricing disparities -- even then Australians, per capita, among the highest percentage of people buying video games on Steam. In spite of the ridiculous prices we were being forced to pay.

What does that tell us? It tells us that no publisher is going to stop charging us more for video games if we keep buying them at inflated prices. Why would anyone turn back free money?

The only way this is going to change -- like seriously change -- is if the government gets involved or -- gasp -- we as a community stop buying the video games we want to play. I don’t see either of these things happening any time soon. And even if we decide to protest with our wallets that doesn’t mean the wider public will follow suit. We may just be the vocal minority on this point, whether it’s an injustice or not.

So we’re at an impasse. Therefore I have a request: if you’re going to continue charging us more for digitally distributed video games, and it looks as though you are, please do us the courtesy of hiding your tracks. Please don’t do it right in front of our eyes. Please find a way to be more subtle about you rorting.

Just hide your tracks. That's all I ask.

Originally published on Kotaku Australia

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    No excuse to charge Australians more through Steam/similar.

    Last edited 26/08/14 9:09 am

      I'll take a slight increase for currency conversion/local servers etc. But not 200%(or so) the price.
      Guess who's not getting my money until the game goes on sale? Because I sure am not the one who's going to be hurt the most by the price/willingness to pay.

        Currency exchange is a given, but there should be no extra mark up. I'll wait until it's on humble bundle or $10 through Steam sales.

      'As a private business, we can charge whatever the hell we want for our products'.

      Seems like a pretty good excuse.

      As the article said, the only way it is going to change is if people don't buy said products. But they do. And so the business has absolutely no reason to charge less, because math.

        the only way it is going to change is if people don't buy said products
        don't buy and don't pirate...
        The problem is that the second bit is what people tend to do and instead of focussing on the actual problem, the rightsholders then focus on the copyright infringement, rather than how to sell more.

          Piracy is a legitimate form of economic protest, imho.

          Much like poors wearing knockoff Rolexes, it's retarded to claim that one download = one lost sale. But at the same time, it's ridiculous to think that your product pricing lives in a vacuum and has zero effect on the purchase/pirate decision.

            You might think so, but the law disagrees and it's clear that it blinds rightsholders to the reality too.
            PS - I'll freely admit to succumbing to desires to pirate occasionally myself.

            Last edited 26/08/14 12:37 pm

    Was looking forward to this game... Looks like I'll have to wait till the price drops back to a more reasonable level now..!

      Came here to say the same thing. Saw it on Steam recently and thought the price was pretty good. Not now that its over $80! I'll wait until it drops in price (or buy it in store where it will be cheaper)

      I do have Civ V to catch up on however....

    And then they complain about how much we are illegally download their software...

    An increase of $40 wow. After considering all the expenses that still a huge mark up. Suppose they are in this for profit but you'd think they would think of the fans a bit and also try and bring in new fans.

    I think that you can get it for $38 with a promo code - this was on io9 this morning: http://io9.com/bond-civ-beyond-earth-godzilla-vs-the-criterion-col-1626512933

    even then Australians, per capita, among the highest percentage of people buying video games on Steam.

    And there's your problem (thought I wonder if that figure is skewed by Steam Sales). It's not going to change. The general public is just too stupid or doesn't care. It's the same reason we get a new shitty Transformers movie ever year, it's the same reason we get a new COD and BF game every year. People keep paying for it.

    I'll just continue buying my games from Ozgameshop or GMG or Steam Sales or whatever, just like I continue to ignore repetitive AAA garbage and continue to use Netflix...

    Last edited 26/08/14 9:46 am

    and... where is ACCC?????? price gouging at it's best... Ahhh.... :(

      'Price gouging' isn't illegal, no matter how many nerd tears are shed on Gizmodo.

      So I daresay the ACCC is off doing their real job, not the one you invented.

        Price gouging is illegal - but only applies to necessities and a captive market (think home repairs after a flood). In the case a a video game price gouging doesn't apply and there is little the ACCC can do until the government makes legislation that attacks these pricing policies - and that isn't likely to happen.

          No, it really isn't. I think you are confusing it with regulated industries - which is a defined set of infrastructure where natural monopolies mean that the Government has to address a specific market failure through prescriptive pricing. Things like energy transmission and postal services.

          'Price gouging' was never a thing. There used to be a section of the TPA outlawing 'price discrimination', which is what people are generally bleating about, but that was repealed almost 20 years ago.

          The idea that the Government is going to swoop in and peg local sale prices to some arbitrary 'US price' is ridiculous and just some nerd fantasy. If the (generally uninformed) people constantly trying to promote it took five seconds to think about the ridiculous complexity and monitoring/compliance/enforcement overhead it would incur, they would realise that too.

          Last edited 26/08/14 12:35 pm

            They can charge whatever they like; not illegal, as you say. But what is illegal (at least in some market areas) is restriction of trade. So is pricing collusion.

            I'd have no real problem with Steam's AU storefront charging double if I still had the option of purchasing from a different, cheaper country's storefront. But the fact that they're using geoblocking and import restrictions to prevent us from shopping around - that I have a problem with. That's not an open market.

            The other issue is that it's not just one publisher, or one distributor - it's virtually all of them. If we want to buy from an Australian retailer, physical or digital, they're all overpriced like this. Where's the competition? To me it strongly suggests collusion on the part of the publishers - "let's ALL keep charging higher prices to the AU market, and they'll have no choice but to pay us double!"

    We saw the initial list price and jumped on it straight away figuring this might happen. Ubisoft games are notorious for it as well, starting with a low list price and then jacking it up closer to release. If I hadn't gotten in before the price rise I would have been scouring key sites or getting a U.S. friend to gift it for me. No way am I paying that much for a game, regardless of how much I want it, just on principle.

    Pah, $47.99 AUD through OzGameShop. Same product.

      No one is forcing anyone to buy games on Steam from such disgracefully dishonest publishers. There are other options that are far more realistic and competitive for those who have the smarts to hunt them down.

      As @silverdrone suggests, buy from OzGameShop, GreenManGaming or Dungeon Crawl. These are arguably the most competitively priced sites that I know of.
      And if you want to stick it to the publisher, publicize the cheaper options; tell your friends, tweet, post on facebook, comment on Steam; and if you want to go a step further, write the publishers an email and let them know you bought it cheaper elsewhere to spite them.
      Protesting with your wallet may work eventually, but we can't expect everyone to follow suit if we don't put the word out there.

    Hola through GMG gives it at approx. US pricing. And a steam key is a steam key at the end of the day.

    It could be easily fixed. All it would take, is for our gutless prime minister to tell Obama that if their mongrel companies keep over charging us, then America can pack up and get the Hell out of pine gap. Pronto. See. Easy, if Abbott had any balls, but he hasn't, so we're fucked as usual.

      Yes. We should totally risk our entire strategic defense partnership with the world's most powerful military and effectively demand that the world's largest economy turns to communism (or, at the least, a semi-command economy) because... you have the sads over the price of a videogame.

      Any other brilliant ideas?

        Ah f*ck the yanks, who needs 'em anyway ? We'd be in a lot better place if we told those nancy boys to pack their sh*t up and leave like PeePee suggested :) Look at New Zealand ... they don't let American nuclear vessels in their waters and the Indos haven't invaded them yet !

    Piracy is the only rational response to these corporate raiders

    Defense partners. Ha. The US couldn't give a shit about us. You really think that the US would take our side over anyone. They have already proved that they won't take our side when it matters. Go read Malcolm Fraser's new book and tell me that the US would defend us. No, the yanks don't give a crap about us and we could easily tell them to pack up and f#ck off. It's just our politicians are too gutless and are worried that the US will send down a hit man to kill any Polly that stands against them. The US kills it's own people if they step in the way. They don't give a damn.

      Settle down, grandpa. The war is over.

        If the war is over, then why are our soldiers still fighting american invasions of other countries.

    If they are going to be taking the approach of, it's there product they can price it at any price they deem necessary, then i agree with them but i will be buying there game at the steam sale for no more than $5 (i can wait however long it takes).

    They make there choice, i make mine.

    I have become very annoyed at the practices of some of the publishers in the industry, it's getting ridiculous with all the broken up dlc for each individual store, pre order bonuses and the non stop siphoning of peoples wallets due to micro transactions and season passes.

    I have decided to buy most of my games second hand, i don't want to support company's that treat there customers like atm's, it's bull shit.

    If they do the right thing by there consumers i will by there product brand new, i will be picking up Bayonetta 2 brand new as well as The Order 1886 and The Witcher 3.

    Ill be getting Far Cry 4 and Diablo 3 on PS4 but will be buying them both second hand.

      And this is precisely the correct response, and infinitely more effective than endless blog posts about 'teh straya tax'.

    No, forget this "cover your tracks" crap. Just stop ripping us off.

    $49.99 for a new Civilization game? Shut up and take my money!

    $89.99 for the same game, while people in America pay $49.99? With a practically equal currency exchange rate? "Ahoy mateys! Weigh anchor! Set sail for the Isle of Tortuga!"

    Or just buy it from someone overseas who will charge a fair price for it. Either way, the Australians ripping off their fellow countrymen don't see a cent.

    Once a nation of convicts, always a nation of convicts. amirite?

    If it was the full game, I would consider biting the bullet and paying the ridiculous amount. But we all know how this franchise's game is played, base game then string of endless dlc, also burdened with a 40% markup.

    So no 2k games and Firaxis. You may make good games but are one of the last holdouts on outrageous regional pricing. For that, let me introduce to you my misers tax, where you get nothing, zero, zip, nada, until the game gets a gold edition and is so cheap you wont be able to buy a cup of coffee with the proceeds from that sale.

    Keep up the good work.

    What is steam

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