Ah the internet, never will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, to quote a certain movie. Everyone has an opinion and are lot of them are just plain wrong, so going forward here is your handy cut-out-and-keep (or bookmark) guide to why things are they way they are in the videogames.
1: Why prices on Xbox and PlayStation digital stores are higher than those on the High Street
At present, the majority of videogames are purchased from brick and mortar stores or through online retailers. Publishers need to keep GAME, Amazon, Gamestop and other retailers onside, because if they stopped stocking their products or went out of business, the publishers could very well find themselves struggling financially. This means Ubisoft, EA and all the rest can’t undercut retail prices on digital stores, especially as many of those retailers rely heavily on games being traded in, which you cannot do with digital copies.
Of course, it’s a win-win situation for the publishers at the moment, as they either make money from a retail sale or they can make a little bit more online at the full RRP. The only way this will change is when the majority of games are sold digitally – like PC games on Steam – and the high street’s hold on publishers is relinquished, but with the high prices online, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation.
Don’t expect those crazy RRPs on the PlayStation Store to change any time soon.
2: Why the prices on the UK and EU PlayStation Store higher than those the United States
The first part of this is easy to explain, the US PlayStation Store does not include tax, ours does, and this instantly adds 20% to the price of the game. When the Americans go to the checkout on their PSN store, that’s when their sales tax is added in. It’s a hidden cost over there, albeit a lower one.
The second reason is a little more complicated and involves the currency exchange rates. Whilst relatively stable they do fluctuate from time to time, and part of the problem for consumers is that large companies will not transfer small amounts of cash between currencies. You might pay £30 for an EA game in September, but if EA decide to convert that £30 into their home currency of dollars, they will only do so when they’re working with substantial sums of money.
The exchange rate will change during that period of time, and if it goes the wrong way then EA will be losing money through no fault of their own. Thus a ‘buffer’ is added in to the price which should cover any losses due to currency fluctuations. EA are a business, and they would be negligent if they did not prove to their investors and shareholders that they are removing as many risks as possible.
Your EU and UK games cost more due to tax, currency conversion costs, and currency fluctuations, and not because publishers are trying to scam you.
3: Why you have to pay for PS2 Classics on PS4
Sony have announced that certain PlayStation 2 games will be playable on PlayStation 4 and whilst most have welcomed the opportunity, the internet has given a voice to those who think the games should be free as the have purchased them already on PlayStation 2 or as a PS2 Classic on PlayStation 3.
The first question that needs asking is where does this sense of entitlement come from? The back cover of Manhunt doesn’t have a little box-out with “You can play this on any PlayStation, including ones that have not been invented yet”. The games purchased for PlayStation 2 are for the PlayStation 2 console, nothing more. Sony, and indeed the publishers of any of the many PlayStation 2 games, are under no obligation to get these games working on PlayStation 4.
Making PlayStation 2 games work on PlayStation 4 takes time and money, especially as Sony have added new features including trophy support. That money has to come from somewhere, and as we have already established, the original game which you bought did not include support for future consoles. Playing PS2 games on PS4 is a nice feature, but certainly not one demanded by a huge number of people, so Sony have decided not to pay for this one out of their own pockets.
Of course, there are plenty of examples where companies have covered this cost, as a gesture of goodwill. A number of developers on PlayStation – admittedly usually indie devs – offer their games with Cross-Buy, where you can buy the game once and have access across any combination of PS4, PS3 and PS Vita.
More recently, Microsoft introduced free backward compatibility on Xbox One for a growing range of Xbox 360 titles. It’s a lovely, and no doubt quite costly gesture, but it also fits with their need to play catch-up in terms of console sales, and letting people keep and continue to play some of their existing games collection on a newer console is a great PR move.
PlayStation 4 is a different format to PlayStation 2, just as DVD is a different format to Blu Ray. You don’t get free upgrades from DVD to Blu-ray for movies, do you?
4: Why a two year old PC game which you can pick up on Steam for £3.99 costs £30 when it comes to Xbox One
Once again, it’s a case of following the money. It may come as a shock to you, but time does not negate development costs, unless you are Doctor Who.
Converting a game from PC to console or from one console to another costs money. While the price of a game will fall over time, the brand new version needs a team of developers to handle the port, needs to go through rounds of Q&A both internally and with the console manufacturer, and needs all of the certification paperwork to be filed and so on.
Converting a hit PC game to consoles costs money, so whilst the price of the PC version will fall over time, the brand new console version is created over a period of time by developers who need to be paid, thus the higher price.
5: Why DLC content does not mean parts are cut from games
First let’s acknowledge that in the past this may have been true, especially when DLC was in its infancy. Asura’s Wrath, which had the full end of the game locked away behind a paywall, and Assassin’s Creed 2, which had two chapters ripped from the middle of the game, are obvious examples.
However these days, the main game and the DLC that follows are very separate, and work often doesn’t even start until after the full game has shipped. In a fairly extreme example, Fallout 4 will have DLC, but even though you could buy a season pass at launch, Bethesda publicly stated they did not yet know what it would include.
The perceived problem of content being ‘cut’ from a game occurs when DLC development occurs in tandem with the full game, or when companies announce what the DLC will be before the game’s actual release. Day One DLC regularly brings cries of “why wasn’t this included in the full game?” and the answer is simple; economics.
Let’s say you are hungry and pop in to a newsagent. You buy a Mars Bar and pay for your purchase. Do you then demand a Twix because it’s produced by the same company and popped out of the factory on the same day? Of course not, the Twix and Mars bar have been produced by different teams, with different budgets and different sales projections. Now replace the Mars bar with your favourite game and Twix with DLC. That.
You also have to remember that like films, video games are subject to thorough editing and some ideas get dropped purely because they cannot be made to work within the time and budget assigned for the game. Some of these ideas may end up as DLC, but they were cut for timing or story issues, rather than to make a quick buck down the line.
Bonus Question: Why Deadpool on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One costs £45 when it has not been enhanced in any way
Because any old tat will do when there’s a movie on the way…