By Kieron Gillen on June 26th, 2009 at 7:20 pm.
Hmm. Blood bowl’s just been released via Digital Download. I almost didn’t blog about it. Which is some going when I normally leap a the slightest chance to mention the Skaven. The reason why is the small matter of its price. It’s forty quid, digital download only. And there’s no demo. That’s not on, is it?
I occasionally feel as if I’m alone on this one. I’ve a tendency to tweak marks down for clear price-gouging, because the mark’s sole purpose is a consumer guidance role. Accepting a game’s increase in price for no clear reason is a betrayal of the consumer advocacy part of the gig. Seeing the period when Activision were doing terrible ports of their superhero action games and releasing them for thirty five quid grated enormously. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’ll be reduced in price almost immediately – reducing from a higher price to a lower one is incremental, and if we let people release for more money then it really just leads to more expensive games.
But for a digital download – and a game solely released this way – it seems even worse. The thinking on matching prices online to those in the shops is that developers believe by undercutting the shops, the shops will stop stocking them. (They’re right here too, which does lead to the situation where you can more consistently buy a boxed copy cheaper than you can a download one – the sales skew that one a bit, of course, but they’re not consistent. By definition, really.) Perhaps the thinking is by releasing on Direct Download first they have to be more expensive than the shops, to discourage people from buying it from them now?
(I presume it’ll be hitting the shops eventually. Last I heard the 360 version was, which makes a PC version not doing the same a really odd decision)
Alternatively, they’re aware that as a game with a certain hardcore audience, some people would pay the little extra. They know not everyone will – but better they get the money from the people who will before the inevitable price cuts. Which is basic economics – different people will pay different amounts for different things and you make most profit by making sure everyone in each group pays as much as they can – but a difficult thing to accept when it’s as brutal as it is. I mean, extrapolate outwards. If – say – Epic let you have access to Gears of War 3 two weeks in advance of everyone else but you had to pay a grand for it… yeah, I bet there’s people out there who’d do it.
Okay, I’m going into thought experiments on this one. But fundamentally, it annoys.
Am I alone on this one?
(And – er – what’s it like, folks?)