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The high costs of gaming in Australia

Gaming can be a costly hobby

Gaming sure is a great hobby, but it sure gets expensive. Quickly.

Worse yet? It’s most expensive in Australia. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, a new release, costs $90 in our fair country and just $60 in the USA. As for consoles, a 250GB Xbox 360 will set you back $300 dollars in the States…and a whopping $400 here. As you’re probably aware, our dollar is pretty much one for one with that of the USA, so what gives, right?

Stephen Conroy, the Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, announced an inquiry this past April into the high cost of games and other mediums such as downloadable music and e-books. The inquiry “aims to determine the extent of the IT price differences and examine the possibility of limiting their impact on Australian consumers, businesses and governments,” said Nick Champion, the inquiry’s chairman.

The inquiry held its first hearing earlier this week, and truthfully got little done. Whilst big hitters like Apple, Microsoft and Adobe weighed in on the issues, they did so via lodged reports, not even bothering to attend the hearing in person.

While we wait for the government’s own report – and whatever action they deem necessary (or mandatory) – IGN declared last year that Australians pay 140% more and the UK pays 70% more for games than in the USA. Additionally, independent group Choice recently announced that Australians pay between 162% to 342% more for games!

The reasons our games are so pricey

Some argue we shouldn’t compare Australian prices to American prices as I have above, but instead look towards prices in the United Kingdom. Long story short, we use the PAL format for games, and so does the UK so games bought in either country will work fine in the other one. If you look at UK pricing, it’s more expensive than that in the USA and when you compare the Australian dollar to the UK, it all starts to make more sense, apparently, at least financially.

On top of that, many Australian games are actually produced in the UK and then shipped into the country, so we’ve got to cop the extra costs involved in shipping games here, rather than just creating and packing them on-shore.

There are also extra costs involved in getting games rated in Australia, and those costs get passed on to consumers. Especially with more violent games, those costs can also escalate if the rating needs to be appealed or if the game itself needs to be amended to suit our current tiers.

We made you aware of the R18+ issue last month, so consider this: Telltale Games didn’t even bother releasing their latest episodic game The Walking Dead in Australia because they didn’t want to waste their money. Because of the game’s mature content and zombie-killing goodness, getting a rating was too expensive to bother, regardless of the profit the game would have made if on e-store shelves.

Last but not least, don’t forget that Australia has a higher cost of living when compared to other countries. Our national minimum wage for a twenty year old is $15.59 per hour, whilst that in the USA is $7.25 per hour. Try buying a game in Australia working as a waiter in the USA; you can though, and reasonably comfortably too, right? Case closed.

It’d be great if a retailer or a publisher would weigh in on this debate, but do you blame them for staying silent? No one likes justifying why someone would pay more for goods that others get for less.

In the inquiry submissions made this week by the big technology companies, Apple’s entry was made behind closed doors, and Adobe agreed with the sentiment of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), which blamed high costs on Australia’s taxes, warranty policies and the general cost of doing business in this country.

What you can do now

We’re starting to see cheaper games in retail stores because of parallel imports – the practice of buying cheaper games from overseas and then selling them locally at a lower price. Establishments like JB Hi-Fi have taken to selling parallel import copies of games like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3; that particular shooter was priced at $50 relatively close to its actual release date. The problem is, Australian businesses can only parallel import so much stock, so don’t expect to pick up all your games on the cheap.

But, if a retail store can’t offer you a parallel import on a game you’d like, you do have the option of importing yourself – online stores like Ozgameshop and Play-Asia allow you to import titles from the UK or Hong Kong, respectively, which work on your Australian consoles.

If you choose to import yourself, there are three things to take note of: first, the games are really cheap, but they’ll take longer to ship to you as they’re coming from overseas. They also can get hung up in Customs for a while, too. Patience is key when ordering from these outlets, free shipping or not.

Second, buying games outside Australia means you’re not supporting the Australian gaming industry. If keeping jobs in the country matters to you, then importing isn’t a good option – Australia’s industry employs many marketers, logistics personnel, localisation experts and more to ensure you have quality games in your hand as fast as possible. When you don’t support those people, you’ll see a decline in the quality, quantity and frequency of games in this country.

Last, don’t forget that you shouldn’t attempt to import games that are Refused Classification in Australia’s rating system; if you get caught trying to import Syndicate, for instance, you could be looking at some hefty fines.

Don’t forget to put this in perspective

When all is said and done, remember that you’re ultimately in control of your wallet. If you think a game’s too much new, then wait until it comes down in price over time, or grab a “previously played” edition at a cheaper rate. If you’ve got a game, make sure you play through all of its modes, beat all of its challenges and try to unlock all of its achievements to really get your money’s worth. And, more importantly, just think of how many hours of enjoyment that little disc (or download) actually offers you – a $90 game that gives you 20 hours of gaming goodness works out to cost you only $4.50 an hour; far less than a trip to the movies or the footy will set you back!

19 comments

  1. Fed Up says:

    Why are games purchased on Steam, that don’t require postage/shipping still expensive?

    • Louise Moran says:

      Hi there,

      That’s one of the things the enquiry is looking into, Steve tells me!

      Thanks for commenting,

      Louise Moran
      Blog editor

  2. The problem has been around for years . Along with TV and other media being delayed in availablity in Australia and the UK compared to USA and Canada .

    I see no valid reason why Digital Download Store copies of Software or media should differ between USA/AU/NZ/UK/EU .

    No shipping costs for Digital Download Store copies , no packing , no printing manuals . Its all sent via the internet .

    Bad thing about buying software and media from overseas is it helps increase the overseas market sales and does not reflect the volume of Australia/NZ customers annoyed that were paying top dollar

    Charliebrownau – Gamer/Guild Leader

    BTW AU Steam Retail of GRFS was pre order for deluxe edition of 50 , 55 deluxe steam normal au price and it was in EB games AU for 70 i think . This 90 dollar copy might of been the PS3 or Xbox360 one

  3. Lisa says:

    It is not just games (of which I have no idea as I do not partake) but books and shoes are so much more expensive than O/S. I only buy books on-line (or a 2nd hand shop) and shoes when I am overseas. In AU we pay far too much for many things compared to the price overseas .. we are definately being ripped off here on HEAPS of items.

  4. Linda says:

    How is purchasing the latest Pokemon game in Australia supporting the Australian industry, when the game is made in Japan by a Japanese corporation?

    To be honest, I wasnt aware Australia had much of a gaming industry as the audience is comparitively small. All I can think of is the Ty series, and various footy and cricket games.

  5. Magraal says:

    Much of Australian pricing stems from history- the price was originally set at an equal price to that of the US price, only our dollar was worth less and thus we paid more. As the value of our dollar has increased vs the US dollar, publishers and retailers haven’t bothered to reprice their sales- figuring we’ll be quite happy paying what we have always paid. Steam and Sony personnel have weighed in stating that the publishers set the price of online retail, whereas the physical stores have only a recommended price- they are free to mark up or down as they choose.

    On a side note- buying ‘preplayed’ copies of games supports only the company from which you buy them. The original developer and publisher see none of the profits from resold copies. If you truly want to support the developer, buy as close up the chain to them as you can- online > retail new > used (though even buying new only barely supports the developer as most of the profits go to the big publishing companies. Support indie developers if you truly want to play some great and imaginative games for a fair price while giving maximum support to the people that actually came up with it).

  6. Joel says:

    As an avid gamer I usually buy my games online from legitimate sources for between $50 and $70 as charlie brown said, either pre release or on release day. They are significantly cheaper as you aren’t paying for wages, store front rent etc, and not to mention never sold out.

    But my console (standard store bought) plays both Pal and NTSC, so why are we paying more by shipping them from the UK when we can get them straight from the USA and be only paying 1 shipping and handling and manufacturing cost?

  7. Dave says:

    Caution – there’s at least another two reasons you need to be careful when importing games:
    1. It may be a copy rather than a legal product, and may either not work/get locked out of online updates or play (rare?) or just not support the developer/publisher.
    2. Even if it’s legit, several games (e.g. Dragon Age) are region-locked in unexpected ways. Buy a PS3 copy from HK or Singapore and it’ll work fine on your Oz PS3, except that you can’t download or install any DLC etc. Or even worse – it’ll let you purchase the DLC just fine, but just won’t let you use it…

    • Magraal says:

      @Dave, PS3 games are region locked not by the console, but by the online store. This is why you can put any PS3 game bought anywhere in the world into your console and play it (Sony saves on manufacturing costs by only have a single console shipped worldwide) but if you buy a game from the US, you *must* buy the DLC for that game from the US PSN Store or it will not work. Most Australian and UK games are interchangeable (buy a PS3 game in the UK and it will work with DLC bought from the Aussie PSN Store and vice-versa) though there are exceptions- Soul Calibur 4 being the most notable. As the US store will refuse to accept Australian credit cards be extremely wary of purchasing US copies of PS3 games, unless you never plan to download any DLC for that game. If you’re not sure, check the spine of the cover- if the region code is BLES it should work fine with Australian DLC whereas BLUS indicates US DLC compatability only. The same rules apply to PSP games (ULES and ULUS respectively) and PS Vita games have introduced new region codes that I am unfamiliar with.

      One thing to always remember is that by Australian law if a game does not work properly you are entitled to a refund or replacement (if bought from an Australian store only)- this includes if the DLC bought from our PSN Store turns out to be not compatible with the game you bought.

  8. Kel says:

    I can understand the retail argument (though why wasn’t this so much of an issue when the Australian dollar was performing poorly?), but when it comes to digital sales, that’s where it makes no sense at all.

  9. gina bloatedhart says:

    “Last but not least, don’t forget that Australia has a higher cost of living when compared to other countries. Our national minimum wage for a twenty year old is $15.59 per hour, whilst that in the USA is $7.25 per hour. Try buying a game in Australia working as a waiter in the USA; you can though, and reasonably comfortably too, right? Case closed”…There you go…we get paid more so therefore we must pay more. That is called price gouging. It’s a vicious circle…we ask for more money to buy stuff and big multinationals (yeah you gina rhinehart)Just keep jacking up the price. Only we are one step behind them.

  10. Fair comment ..the bucks are up and they count us down.

  11. Oliver White says:

    Release dates, pricing, publishing;

    From what I know (not much!), many factor’s
    come into play at many levels.

    Products come out in practically all mediums considered,
    ‘Digital’. Yet through the eyes of someone abroad,
    upon hearing a new single by an artist; wanting to show support, was denied access, (depending on locality and digital distributor).

    Happy to pay for quality.
    Instead I walked to the ‘DVD/BD’ store next door.
    8+ rows of DVDs, one small section for CD’s. (mostly if not all mainstream poppy)

    Upon request, I got the album I wanted 2 days later.
    A Physical Copy.
    Not only was it slightly cheaper than a digital version,
    The sound quality is of course, exceptional when in comparison to most A/V digital content providers.

    My point? Always forget if I had one.
    Remember that first Vinyl, Cassette Tape, CD, DVD, cartridge based video game you were actually intrigued enough to study the lyrics, the cover, the artwork. The Album.

    That feeling is so precious, and i imagine many others have felt that way. A digital copy stripped down to nothing but 99c.

    Where is the soul!

  12. Phillip B says:

    Someone explain this then. Windows 7 ultimate full version that the 32 and 64 bit disks from Microsoft store online USA $319.99 and AUS $469.00 that a difference of $149.01. From computer stores in AUS from $400.00 and USA stores $249.00. I have purchased the USA version and it works on my computer here in AUS no problems. The USA product made in USA and the AUS version is made in Singapore, so why we pay more. Just Microsoft ripping everyone off for their own gain.

  13. Nick says:

    An interesting video article on the same thing that aired on ABC Good Game 21/8/12

  14. Matthew says:

    It’s good to see some debate on this.

    Price is not the only reason to buy an import version. Some games take longer to reach Australia or worse do not make it here at all. Then we get region coding in an attempt to force you to purchase only the AUS version.

  15. TimRS182 says:

    It’s a bit rich to talk about supporting the local games industry, then suggest people “grab a ‘previously played’ edition at a cheaper rate”.

    Second-hand games don’t provide any extra income to the developers or distributors of the game (or the marketers, logistics personnel and localisation experts), and to be quite honest, they are really the only people I care about giving my hard-earned to.

    The people who make money out of second-hand games are the customer selling to the games store (who receive a pittance), and the retail outlet. And they do it at the expense of the people who actually created and delivered the product.

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