Dungeon Hunter Alliance is hitting retail stores in the US a week before the Vita’s official launch. The game, and Ubisoft’s other launch titles, are going to be in store early to give people a chance to gather up some software before they get the console but also for those who pre-ordered the week-early bundle. Good move, Ubisoft. As an importer, I hope this also happens in the UK.[drop]Here’s the bad news: It’s going to be $40. Usually that translates to around £30 in the UK. Even if we ignore the iOS Dungeon Hunter games (which are currently £4.99 for the first two, the third is free with in-app purchase support) and use only the more direct comparison of Dungeon Hunter Alliance for PS3 on the PSN, that’s not a particularly tempting price point for the Vita version.
The PS3 version launched almost a year ago at $12.99/£9.99 and has since been through sales and PS+ incentives to discount the game further. It’s three times more expensive on the handheld console than it is on the home console.
Of course, Ubisoft hasn’t just ported the game for Vita. There are control considerations specific to the device. A couple of imaginative uses for that gorgeous touchscreen don’t justify such an inflated price though, at least for me. It’s difficult to imagine what could justify the jump to cartridge and the inflation in price. Let’s speculate for a while.
Ubisoft might just be gouging. This is what most people will immediately assume. It’s a launch game, early adopters will have limited choices for their new console and Ubisoft might be trying to exploit that fact to leverage some extra cash out of keen gamers. But the Vita’s launch line up isn’t sparse and it’s not weak. Gamer’s options aren’t that limited.
Perhaps Sony’s licensing is horrendously expensive? For every cartridge a publisher wants to put out, they have to pay Sony a licence fee for using their format. Maybe Sony has set this so high that anything being released on cartridge needs to be priced accordingly to make up for that cost. I doubt this is the case though, with Sony keen to get third parties back on board their handheld gravy train after the PSP’s decline. And if it is the case, Ubisoft could have presumably just released via the PSN Store and kept the price in line with the other version that way?[drop2]Perceived value. Now, here’s an interesting idea and it’s one that represents a risky strategy for any publisher taking the punt. The idea is that because the game is fairly unique on the Vita at the moment, it’s more valuable than if there were a dozen similar titles. The problem with this chain of thought is that it relies on your market attaching similar value to the product as you do, rather than just ignoring it until a similar product arrives at a lower price. The biggest problem with this might be that the comparable product is actually the same game on a different platform, and one which traditionally demands higher pricing than handhelds do.
Market parity. If Ubisoft released Dungeon Hunter Alliance on the Vita for a more considerate price of £15 it would be on shelves next to the likes of Uncharted and WipEout at £35-£40 and people might assume that it’s so much cheaper because it’s not very good. Obviously, in such a busy and quality-packed launch line up, that wouldn’t be desirable.
Whatever the reason, it could be a dangerous step for Ubisoft and Gameloft who might end up wishing they had helped to populate the Vita PSN Store rather than dealing with the issues caused by releasing on cartridge. Of course, we could find out that the improvements for Vita have turned this decent team-based RPG into a must have and that it becomes a launch window dark horse. We’ll let you know with a full review as soon as we can.