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?