Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Digital Distribution Prices

I used to buy a lot of games on steam and I still sometimes do when there is a deal on or I’m interested in a game that I can only get on Steam. I like Steam and the possibility of re-downloading and installing my games anywhere without issues. I like Steam Cloud and all that good jazz. So why is it then that I am still getting boxes of most new games I buy?

The answer is simple – Steam is way too expensive. Ordering Fallout: New Vegas from amazon.co.uk would cost me £24, or £30 with shipping. That’s €34 to get it here. Ordering it from my local Amazon would cost me €45.50 which is a lot more expensive but still €4.49 less than Steam. So I can pay €34 to get the game in the English original a day or two after it is released, I can pay €45.50 to get the localized version on the day of release (or in rare cases before that) or I could pay €49.99 to get the digital version on release day through Steam (and be forced to buy the localized version there). I know which one of those I’m definitely not going to choose.

I get that game publishers don’t want to  undercut the retailers and that Amazon can sell at lower prices than retail but honestly what’s the point in digital distribution if it costs me more than regular old mail without being significantly faster? If it was up to me I would tell publishers to forget about retail sales, or at least about tailoring to them. The only people who buy retail are those who either have so much money that they don’t care about the difference and those that don’t realize that it would be cheaper to get the game elsewhere. Neither group is going to realize that there is a discrepancy between  online and retail prices.

While I think that retail is going the way of the dodo, I’m sure it is still worth offering retail options for a select group of people. I just think that you won’t ever be able to make digital distribution really big if you keep hamstringing it by overcharging. Digital distribution is clearly better for game publishers than retail and personally I think it is better for gamers as well. (Some disagree on the latter part. DRM and all that.) Why on earth would publishers cling so much to the regular old model?

  • “all that good jazz”

    But if steam would be less expensive, amazon wouldn’t sell any games. Since they would not like that, it’s clear why they are cheaper. Obviously.

  • It’s true that many mainstream games are more expensive as digital version on release which is ridiculous. But, if you are a patient man, you can wait for a deal which usually pops up quite quickly in one of the online shops. There are pages like http://www.deals4downloads.com that make this quite easy. Normally, it takes only a couple of weeks of waiting. I mostly use Steam as a convinient place to get my hands on some great indie games.

  • Indeed, deals are very good on steam (and similar services) and most of the games I have on Steam came from some deal or another. I’d just love to get my regular games there as well, but no dice apparently.

  • Not true in America. Fallout New Vegas is selling for $20 in Gamestop. (Biggest Retail Game store) But it’s selling for $50 on Steam.

  • @anthony: that was exactly my point – steam is way too expensive unless you are picking things up in a sale.
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