The Rantings of a Gamer – the extortionate price of downloadable and in-store games

I’m going to start by giving a little context to this article. I’ve written a few articles entitled ‘The Failings of a Gamer’, in which I talk about my penchant for failing at gaming (you probably guessed by the title). But, sometimes, the root cause for those fails weren’t found in my execution of the game, rather, they were underlying features and bugs left by the developers. This often lead my articles to be kind of ranty… and I mean, who doesn’t like a good rant. I often find that the most innocent things will get my blood boiling. People not walking up or down the stairs sticking to the left, for instance (we Brits drive on the left and it’s common courtesy to stick to that side in most social activities that require ‘lanes’. But, for readers that drive on the other side, when I’m in your lovely countries, I of course stick to the right). That’s the sort of person I am. I get aggravated by things that shouldn’t bother me. But I tend to keep them to myself, because I don’t want to bother other people with my strange, pernickety thoughts and feelings.

All of that being said, sometimes in life we need to let out the little things that bother us, particularly when they are grievances that the majority of other people seem to share; and that’s what this series of articles is going to be about. I’m going to address the things about the games industry, and gaming in general, that us gamers seem to get most frustrated about. So, to kick things off, I’m going to start with the price of digitally downloadable video-games, as well as the extortionate cost of purchasing them in-store.

The price of things these days, hey. Everything seems to be getting more and more expensive; that bloody recession. House prices are going up, the cost of living is going up and the price of video-games seem to be skyrocketing. Just the other day I spotted GAME selling Ryse: Son of Rome for £40. That game is almost a year old and they’re still selling it for the same price that Amazon were offering it for, way back in November. What’s that about? Games like Alien: Isolation, The Evil Within and Shadow of Mordor are all going for £50-£55! Who the hell is even paying that sort of money for a video-game? Not me, that’s for sure. I popped my head into GAME and HMV last weekend, after I’d traded in a load of old games for some cash at a place called CEX Exchange (which gives incredible value for your old games, DVDs and tech, by the way), to see what games I wanted to buy with the money I’d just got. It turns out, literally none of them, because they’re all extortionately priced. It actually worked out £10 cheaper for me to take the cash I had after trading in my old stuff, pay it in to Barclays, go home, buy the game off of Amazon AND pay for next-day delivery, than it would have for me to buy Alien: Isolation from GAME or HMV. That’s a sad state of affairs right there.

I know that we should be supporting our local high-street, and I do feel for the little guys at times, especially when the pricing isn’t the staff’s fault. Still, going in to the high-street isn’t only time consuming (and pricey because of the petrol / parking / bus fare), it’s also a bit of a pain. The crowds are big and the queues are long. Not only that, but if something goes wrong you have to go back in to get it sorted. For example, at HMV a few months ago my brother purchased Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag on the Xbox One (for £55, I might add), but instead of being given the Xbox One disc, he was given the PC version. The person behind the till actually had to fold the Assassin’s Creed booklet to fit it, and the PC version of the game, into an Xbox One case. Surly having to fold a booklet to make it fit into a case would start some sort of alarm bells ringing. Apparently not.

Then we have the other alternative, digitally downloading the game through the marketplace. Now, this is a console specific complaint, as I know that digital downloads can be made affordable because Steam manages it every single day. Not so for Microsoft and Sony, though! Oh no, for the luxury of getting a game then and there, you’ll have to pay around £55. What’s that? You want a quick game to play so you thought you’d download Zoo Tycoon? That’ll be £45. Unless you just fancy waiting a day or two, because you could get it from Amazon for £31. The difference being is that you’ll get the physical disc so that the case can look pretty on your shelf AND you can then trade it in or sell it on when you’re done with it. So, in essence, you’re getting far more and paying far less. Where’s the logic in that? Perhaps there is some law that I’m not aware of, where digital distributors or publishers have to charge extortionate amounts for something that, in theory, doesn’t actually exist and isn’t even tangible beyond a bit of code, to keep the market stable and competitive. Who knows. All I know is that it’s a bit of a joke for a company like Microsoft to sell a game (which they publish) for £45 on their own online store, when it’s not only almost a year old, but can also be purchased for £14 less online. I’d love to meet the person that makes those decisions.

It’s difficult, because I want to support my local stores. But I don’t have a huge amount of expendable cash and, if I wanted to buy two games from the high-street it’ll end up costing me well over £100. Whereas I could get the same games online for almost £30 less for the two. Not only that, but I’d save time and effort getting in to town, as well. If the high-street stores want to start getting more custom, they need to be more competitive. Perhaps they should start introducing DLC packages only available in-store; it’ll drag more people in and warrant the extra £10., as well They also need to start bringing their online prices more inline with their store prices. At GAME, I can buy a game for £55 in store or spend £45 online. It makes sense to charge a little less online because they’re not paying for staff, or rent, but surly all that’s doing is driving people away from the high-street and online instead. As for downloadable games, I’ve always preferred having the physical disc anyway, so until they start brining their prices down, I doubt they’ll be getting soaring sales (form me at least).

So it leaves me to ask, how do you buy your games? Do you like to go in-store to help support your high-street, or for the customer service? Or do you spend the extra £10 or £15 to download a game and have it then and there? Or, are you like me, and try to save as much cash as possible by using online stores like Amazon or ShopTo?

  • Michael Scoates

    I generally wait a couple of weeks after launch then buy online, it’s so rare that bricks and mortar stores compete nowadays, only the supermarkets still offer great value but it’s only on specific titles.

    I’m as baffled as everyone else about Sony/Microsoft online prices for newly launched titles but can understand that if they did undercut bricks and mortar they’d lose a lot of valuable shelf space which equates to free advertising. As for DLC I’d love to see it die off altogether rather than segregate gamers within the same game.

    Basically I’ve shopped around for the best price online for every title I’ve bought in the last 5 or 6 years.

  • Michael Scoates

    I generally wait a couple of weeks after launch then buy online, it’s so rare that bricks and mortar stores compete nowadays, only the supermarkets still offer great value but it’s only on specific titles.

    I’m as baffled as everyone else about Sony/Microsoft online prices for newly launched titles but can understand that if they did undercut bricks and mortar they’d lose a lot of valuable shelf space which equates to free advertising. As for DLC I’d love to see it die off altogether rather than segregate gamers within the same game.

    Basically I’ve shopped around for the best price online for every title I’ve bought in the last 5 or 6 years.

  • Michael Scoates

    I generally wait a couple of weeks after launch then buy online, it’s so rare that bricks and mortar stores compete nowadays, only the supermarkets still offer great value but it’s only on specific titles.

    I’m as baffled as everyone else about Sony/Microsoft online prices for newly launched titles but can understand that if they did undercut bricks and mortar they’d lose a lot of valuable shelf space which equates to free advertising. As for DLC I’d love to see it die off altogether rather than segregate gamers within the same game.

    Basically I’ve shopped around for the best price online for every title I’ve bought in the last 5 or 6 years.