Is the price difference between physical and digital the same worldwide?


#1

I know that digital is generally more expensive that physical copies. Various reasons touted for it, some I buy and others I don’t. I just wondered if the general difference in terms of value was the same across the various markets? I am in the UK and since getting a Switch I have been much more inclined to get digital versions of my games. I haven’t owned a PC capable of playing games for years, so with my various consoles I have been conscious or price but also storage space on whatever drive the hardware came with. With my Switch however I got a sizeable memory card pretty cheap and also I am taking this thing to work, friends houses etc, so being able to instantly load whatever I want without swapping carts, or even safely transporting the carts is a major plus.

That convenience obviously comes at a cost, but I am looking at Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and it is £50 on the eshop, £11 more than I can get it online. That’s like a 20% price difference I think. My maths is rubbish but either way it’s a crazy difference.

Is it the same in the USA? Australia? Is it even more of a difference maybe?

And when will the madness end for us on consoles?


#2

I think physical and digital tend to be the same in the U.S., since retailers don’t want digital having that many advantages.
There definitely are differences across the globe, though. In Japan, for example, it’s common to keep prices the same between the two, but there have also been smaller publishers who’ve priced digital versions of their games lower than the physical release. Though, granted, I can only speak to ones on PSN in this regard; I don’t know if it’d be the same on the eShop.


#3

Wow, very different to the UK then. I think it is always more expensive to get digital, often by quite a bit. Miffed.


#4

New AAA games are pretty much $80 across the board here in Canada.


#5

Generally they are the same in Australia, assuming the digital store offers $AUD. If it doesn’t then it will depend on the exchange rates.


#6

Man this is an outrage. We are being stiffed in the UK! I assumed it was the same here as elsewhere but clearly not.

I am off to start an online petition.


#7

Probably worth putting it in some context: UK game prices have had a turbulent history (Hello £1 cassettes & other dodgy dealings) but if you asked me for a price for a CD/PS-eras (so last 20 years) game price then I’d say you’d hope to pay £30-35 brand new AAA and the worst case would be £50 (that’s avoiding cart price increases etc). I’ve got collector’s editions of stuff like Bioshock and Fallout 3 that cost under £40 (the lunchbox & Big Daddy figurine editions both launched for £35 on PC). That’s another big point: before 2012 then anything you ordered online could be free of sales tax (was 17.5%, now 20%) if it cost under £18. If you brought a game online for £22 the shop got almost the same money as if they sold it for £17.99. You can see what the price for expansion packs and value games quickly became and even where some AAA games pushed (at least on PC, where you didn’t have the platform owner cut to consider).

When the xbox first launched here in 2002, new AAA games for it cost £50 in HMV (possibly £45 for first party due to MS discounting their own games?) and it was shocking as you’d been getting games for less. But that’s kinda the SRP and have been for ages. In year two of the xbox, those new games came out and most stores carried them at £40 - it effectively became an early adopter fee you only paid when there wasn’t the volume of consoles to push down prices. Games costs are nothing if not constantly discounted. Our big supermarkets used games as loss leaders to try and break the specialist stores. £25 for Mass Effect 3, available at midnight as many stores as open 24 hours. There is this huge history of aggressive pricing so we forget that SRPs have been too high for too long in the UK (which has experienced a “lost decade”, average disposable income has been going down and inflation has been going slowly up - luxury items like games are very delicate on the former which is why they shouldn’t really try following the latter).

Recently, PC games moved to £50 SRP when before they were always discounted below console games. But sometimes publishers (especially as Sterling has weakened in the global markets) have pushed higher. £55 and even £60 SRPs for console games, just the basic edition. This has, looking at how often those attempts have been walked back, not gone over brilliantly.

And here’s the thing: digital stores, the big ones like Steam and PSN and XBL, sell games at SRP here. But almost no stores do. Even with supermarkets being less aggressive in their pricing recently, you simply don’t pay SRPs for physical copies. Buying digital here is bad value because local markets have been ignored. Elsewhere, digital games track physical prices because physical games sound like they often sell at SRP and price parity keeps everyone happy(ish). Here digital is where you go to spend significantly more, not get any trinkets, and have to download 100% of the game on your own bandwidth. Because the local digital stores go by the rules they use elsewhere on pricing, rules that don’t work in the UK. It’s a great example of a failure to adapt to local conditions.

You know who does have digital prices that are about in-line with physical copies? Key sellers. People who purchase bulk copies of the physical products and scan in the cd keys. Because they are competing with other physical purchasers who also have to pay shipping to customers, sometimes they can even buy them cheap as products meant for lower income locations (if they’re not region locked). So the official stores are being completely outplayed by companies with a scanner and a website. And you can’t really feel sorry for anyone involved because they messed up the transition to digital by not looking at the history of the local market and how volume games had always been sold for under the SRP.

TL;DR: When someone in the UK says they just looked to buy eg Need for Speed Payback on PSN/XBL and it cost £60 (not the Deluxe edition, that’s up for £80) then it’s less that it costs ~$80 and more than it used to cost about half that for a new NfS game on a console (physical). We’re used to buying a lot of games for cheap - a great sign of a good market for products which approach zero duplication cost (and something the digital transition could sabotage during this period of precarious economic activity).