Bring up the topic of video game pricing to your average Australian gamer and chances are they’ll foam at the mouth, go red in the face and start screaming expletives. And rightly so. It’s a sensitive topic but one gamers in Australia and New Zealand are rightly aggrieved about.
It seems when it comes to video game pricing, if you’re not in America, you’re often getting screwed, especially in Australasia once all manner of government taxes are added.
Regional pricing on the cards
Last month, GOG.com (Good Old Games) hinted it was going to implement regional pricing “in the next few months”, saying it had secured three “big titles” – two RPGs, one strategy game – for pre-order and sale which would lead to the new structure coming into effect.
“If you’ve been a member of the site for a long time, you may recall that when we launched sales of The Witcher 2 on GOG.com, we had to add in regional pricing. The game cost different amounts in the US, the UK, the European Union, and Australia,” the GOG team said.
Well, gamers weren’t happy with the plan. Not happy at all. And they voiced their discontent on gaming sites and GOG’s own forums.
I don’t like regional pricing models. As far as I’m concerned, and I’m no business major, it makes more sense to sell a game the same price in every market, no matter what your region.
If it’s $US60 make it $AU60. Sure, some publishers won’t like that but gamers will, which means more copies will be sold, right?
(And while we’re at it, Apple needs to get rid of regional pricing for its App Store purchases, too. Games on the US App store touted as 99c usually sell for $1.29 in New Zealand.)
Backlash forces backdown
But let’s get back to the backlash which has forced GOG to back down on its regional pricing proposal, announcing on the GOG blog:
We’re not perfect, we’re exploring new frontiers, and we make mistakes. We thought DRM-Free was so important that you’d prefer we bring you more DRM-Free games and Fair Price was less critical and that it could be sacrificed in some cases.
The last two week’s (sic) worth of comments in our forums (nearly 10k!), show that’s not the case. We didn’t listen and we let you down. We shouldn’t sacrifice one of our core values in an attempt to advance another.
We feel bad about that, and we’re sorry. Us being sorry is not of much use to you, so let’s talk about how we will fix it.
GOG said it would “adamantly continue to fight for games with flat worldwide pricing,” but if it couldn’t strike a deal with publishers then it would reimburse users, probably with “$5.99 and $9.99 game codes” but eventually with in-store credit.
GOG says this will apply to “every single game where we do not have flat pricing,” including the to-be-released Age of Wonders 3, Divinity: Original Sin and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
GOG still plans to introduce local currencies in regions where credit card and payment systems weren’t “natively in US dollars”.
GOG said while its decision may mean “there might be some companies that won’t work with us” the company will “remain true to its values and will keep on offering you the best of DRM-free gaming”.
Part of me says good on GOG for responding to pressure and backing down on its plans, but the cynic in me realises it did so purely for business reasons: GOG realised it was likely to lose many, many sales from non-American markets if it introduced regional pricing.
Granted it will take some time for some key games to appear on GOG.com (if at all) but it’s clear gamers would rather pay fair prices than inflated ones for digitally distributed games.