Thursday, 21 January 2010

Price Gauging

I was a big fan of the first Bioshock game, it wasn't quite System Shock 2 but it still offered a good story and gave enough hair-raising moments that I hit F6 more often than needed. So on February 9th comes the release of Bioshock 2, something which I'm looking forward to playing. I've held off buying a physical copy because, well, I knew it would be on Steam. And that it was, retailing at a mere $80USD for us Australians.

While that's about the same price I would pay retail, I was a little confused. Steam usually gives good prices on games. They don't have to worry about packaging, distribution, retail surcharge. Basically the advantages of Steam is that all you are paying for is data and data distribution (which is essentially nothing), which should save costs. And this is the sacrifice to have a permanent non-resellable item. Unlike my physical copies, I can't just give away unwanted Steam games.

So what do I find when I get on the UK and US stores? That it's retailing on both those stores about $30 cheaper than it is in Australia. What the?!? For decades Australian gamers had to pay more for games than their American counterparts, so finally when we have a global distribution network systems are put in place to keep the same region-locking anti-competitive practice in place. It's exactly the same product, it's exactly the same distribution, yet we're still locked into the pricing practices that may have been an excuse back before online distribution.

When it's buying in a retail store, fair enough. I can and do buy games at that price when need be. But when it's blatant price gauging like this where I'm being in effect charged extra for the same product just because I live in the wrong country.

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