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The price of convenience December 22, 2009

Posted by mbdavenport in Uncategorized.
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Thwarted in my attempts to get to the office this morning (Thank you Southern Fail) I returned home to an empty house. Having spent all of yesterday unlocking almost every achievement in the enjoyable Assassin’s Creed 2 on X360 I decided that I would like to play something else.

Not being fussed by the possibility of a trip to a shop I decided that I’d try my hand at downloading a game for my PC.I was aware that obtaining a game from a download-only provider such as Steam or Direct2Drive is generally more expensive that buy a physical copy from a store. I also knew that my e-copy was going to be DRM’d to the hilt so there’d be no opportunity to recoup any cost with a swift listing on eBay after completion. But, hey, it’s freakin’ cold outside and I can’t be bothered.  

Hearing that Game were now offering downloads I headed over to their website and checked out their e-wares. This is what I discovered:  

My my, what reasonable pricing you have...

Dragon Age: Origins. A fairly new game and quite a good one if the reviews are anything to go by. I was suckered in by the lure of that £16.98 sticker price which, it transpires, is not the price available if you want to download the game. No, the purely electronic copy is over twice the price of the physical copy at £34.99.  

Game, if you’re going to advertise games in your ‘Downloads’ section then do so using the download price. I’ve clicked on the Downloads section because I’m looking for games to download, for instant gratification, not a feeling of being cheated and extorted. None of the games that you have available for download are cheaper than their physical equivalents. The worst case I could find was ArmA II which is available for £8.98 for a physical copy and costs 122% more for the e-copy at £19.99.  

Never have I seen such a stark contrast between downloaded and physical goods. Looking at those two prices side-by-side begs the question: where’s the value? Sure, I’m getting the game instantly and I don’t have to venture out on a cold December day and that’s fine. I can see that there’s some value in that and I’m prepared to pay for it but certainly no more than a few quid. Game have had substantially lower overheads in delivering a downloaded game to my HDD than they would do delivering a disc to my hand. There’s no store to rent and associated bills, reduced staff levels and warehouse and logistics costs fall to zero. Alright, you’ve got to run DRM servers and buy the required bandwith but don’t try and tell me those costs are greater than those incurred running a bricks and mortar store.  

Game is in a really good position to take a super-competitive stance in the PC downloads market. It’s got brand recognition, it’s got enough of the UK’s games industry to have some sway over suppliers and it’s got a channel. They should be working hard now to establish themselves in the downloads market with aggressive pricing, limited and targetted advertising and an increased catalogue of available games. This could be an important market for them as Microsoft and Sony start publishing X360 and PS3 games through the consoles themselves, effectively locking Game out the console market as anything other than a hardware supplier. Everyone is watching Apple make a killing out of being the sole content provider for their platform and planning on emulating this success. 

So, what do you think I did? Did I buy the download for £34.99 or did I opt for the £16.98 physical copy? Don’t be stupid. I didn’t do either. Amazon.co.uk have it on sale for £14.99 delivered.

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