Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Shift To Digital Sales

I was disappointed to read that Green Man Gaming - a digital games website - has decided to join the list of online retailers that support the Australian publishing industry's price-gauging of Australian consumers. It did so, it claims, because the publisher was put under pressure by an Australian retailer.
Hi - we have had a number of enquiries about price increases on Borderlands 2 and XCOM Enemy Unknown in Australia and New Zealand. This was done at the request of the publisher based on local retailer feedback. We would rather not have had to do this but we really value the relationship with our publishing partner.
I'm not faulting Green Man Gaming for this (though it will mean that I won't be getting BioShock Infinite from them given it's a 2K title), but it is disappointing that once again the Australian consumer is being punished for choosing an alternative option to physical product. Especially, too, that the move is in response to a physical distributor putting pressure on the publishing company.

The thing is, the more that I see the possibilities of digital distribution, the more I wonder what the need for physical distribution is any more. It seems that I'm not the only one wondering this, and that its enough of a concern for the physical distribution chain to manipulate the market to justify its own existence.

There are two different ways in which this practice seems unfair. The first is that we as consumers are being punished for choosing differently to the status quo. The retail chain cannot compete in the retail market as it stands, so instead of shifting to cater for the new demand, it is manipulating the market to make it the least unattractive option for buying an attractive product. The second is that by doing this, it perpetuates the high prices that Australians are forced to pay for games.

I want to support gaming, and as a consumer my way of doing this is to pay for products. If I want to see more games being made, I need to pay for existing games. Yet local publishing rights and retail chains are relics of a pre-Internet era; I no more need them than I need Australian book publishers if its going to be cheaper to get books sent from the UK than to buy locally. They are just a price-gauger between me and my gaming.

A long article was recently published on why it is game prices won't go lower for Australians. It's a good read, but what struck me was this line from an anonymous source:
"People complain so much [about game prices in Australia] but they still go out and buy the games. It's a lot of noise but very little action. If consumers got fed up with paying so much for games in this country, they'd stop buying them altogether, both at retail and digitally. But that hasn't happened on a mass scale yet."
There's no question that games are an in-demand product. Yet stores like Green Man Gaming are a way for people to have their displeasure recorded as more than just noise. If it weren't that people were looking for cheaper online alternatives, then why would retail chains and publishers be worried about the online presence? Otherwise voicing our displeasure is all we can do. And as one who has stopped buying games when they are being price-gauged*, it's disappointing that an alternative to abstaining altogether is being taken away.

I'm happy to pay for games, I'm not happy to be ripped-off because I need to support an outdated distribution model. People using Green Man Gaming (as opposed to acquiring the games illegally) was a legitimate way of expressing displeasure at the current state of retail in Australia. For me, the hunt is on for another GMG equivalent until the eventual (yet sadly prolonged) death of those archaic retail chains. I'm just glad that I was able to pick up XCOM Enemy Unknown when I did off GMG, as its a great game and well worth supporting.

*Fallout New Vegas, Civilization V, RAGE, Diablo III, Max Payne 3, and Farcry 3 are all AAA titles that have been lost sales due to price-gauging. I've been happy to wait until they're bargain bin and on massive discount before purchasing.

No comments: