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Mar 29, 2017

Digital Ripoff – Why Are Digital Downloads Priced So Highly?

With more gamers going down the route of digital downloads the question starts to become why do physical and digital copies of a game cost the same amount? For years PC gamers have used Steam, Origin and U-Play to get games digitally and with physical copies of PC games no longer being actively available in stores, it has meant gamers need to rely on these outlets for their games. Even with regular sales these games are full price to begin with and for what? you don’t get a disk or any other sort of physical item for the game.

Now with the progression of the PlayStation and Xbox Store even more people are paying full price for a game which has no physical evidence that you own said game. So is it greed? Is it a way to get people into stores to keep the industry turning? I believe it’s a bit of both. if digital copies were cheaper it wouldn’t make me want to leave the house to get a game, but if a new controller was needed visiting a shop is nice to get a view of the product being purchased. However if you know what is needed and it isn’t desperate to have today getting one on Amazon with next day delivery is infinitely easier.

It could be that game developers are giving shops like Game a fair chance to sell their products but with places like Tesco undercutting other outlets by £10 or more it seems a little redundant to go to a gaming outlet when you can pick up the game of your choice plus accessories alongside a main shopping trip. Most game sellers outside of supermarkets survive on pre-owned sales and that is no use to developers as they have already sold the game so a resale doesn’t benefit them.

That isn’t to say they don’t sell new titles, in fact they do very good sales of special editions and consoles. However the problem is still there from a publisher’s point of view, they are in the business of making money. So when if someone buys a copy of FIFA from Tesco at £40 plays it and trades it at their local game store for £30, EA only gets the initial sale. The game store picks up the credit and can sell an almost-new game for next to retail price. I understand why publishers and developers want a slice of this pie – but forcing that onto digital buys is just wrong.

Big publishers have been trying to undercut this market for years. Online passes were a cheap way of them creaming money off the secondary market – only for console manufacturers to stop that practice in its tracks. Heck, even PlayStation 4 made a big deal of being able to share games with friends physically – something you can’t do with digital downloads. Thus taking this option is always the inferior option for gamers – who can’t re-sell that game or make use of it away from their home console (Not without enacting a heap of bizarre and awkward terms and conditions anyway).

So why not lower that price? Convince gamers that going digital is the way forward? Cut a bit of that money that publishers spend on shipping discs and physical copy’s around. Pass that saving on. Sadly in the current video game industry – such noble ideas don’t float. This is an industry that cuts up DLC wholesale and charges as much as it can for micro-transactions – another investment gamers are expected to make once they’ve bought their game. It seems bizarre to me that in 2017, we still can’t buy digital games cheaper on consoles than we can in the store – where the price depreciates.

Personally, outside of DLC, I don’t spend money on Micro-transactions (for instance FIFA points) unless the game was free. Maybe a better way for the publishers and developers would be to allow people to buy digital games a bit cheaper. This would give people more reasons to recommend the game to a friend and more incentive to purchase in-game extras. In terms of stores I feel there is still enough people who enjoy going into shops and browsing the products on view and even with cheaper digital downloads stores will still survive on online sales and walk-in customers who want clothing or a special edition Fallout 4 as it has a PiP Boy. Time will tell though and for now people will choose whatever buying method makes them happiest.

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