The good news is some of the current prices. They've gone a bit mad. The bad news: it might be the end of future savings when buying things via Steam.
So let's take a look at some of the good news. These are all in GBP. The beta looks at your location and assigns the correct currency, so I'm afraid I can't work out the same for Euros. Perhaps readers can.
Right now there's some odd prices up there. Bioshock is currently £13.99. On the US Steam it's at a mystifying $54.99. Which when bought at UK prices, with tax, would be £42.38. That's a mysterious saving of over £28. Er, blimey. The Complete Pack for Civ IV is a whopping $59.99 for Americans. That would have been £46.21 for us. It's £26.99 on the EU beta. Even some brand new games, like GTA 4, have notable savings. US converted price: £30.80. EU price: £26.99. And the complete publisher packs are currently insanely cheap. Fire sale prices.
Edit: Have to include this one. Civ 3 Complete US: £23.12. Civ 3 Complete UK: £2.99. Huh?
Which all sort of leads you to suspect that something's gone wrong. Which should then lead you to login to the beta page and buy this stuff before someone fixes it. Because even if these prices are intentional, they might not last.
The bad news is the UK is very used to paying hugely hiked up prices when compared to those in the US. In many cases you can swap the $ for a £ and keep the numbers. Steam's universally dollar-based sales, despite adding on VAT, have often kept things a lot cheaper, which seems entirely reasonable since it's digital distribution. But publishers must surely have been infuriated by this? Some, like Ubisoft and Atari, have flat-out refused to even sell their games to Europe via Valve's platform, although have repeatedly declined to explain why. Could it be because they're undercutting themselves? If your converted dollar price is cheaper than your shop shelf price (or indeed that of your own digital distribution), people can start to see quite how much more they're being asked to pay.
Of course right now the pound is so useless that the US dollar prices are actually converting to UK rates, which is a tad frightening, and an example of how peculiarly over-priced PC games are in the US when compared to the rest of their economy. So while the forthcoming Empire: Total War's UK price of £39.99 is obviously quite mad (you can currently pre-order it for under £25 at Game), it does work out to be the same rate as the equally daft $49.99 expected for the States. Should the GBP recover, however, this will become less equal once again.
We contacted Valve to find out what's the what. Their response? Cryptic:
"The future is now (in beta anyway)."
Interpretation? Prices are coming down on Steam? Not for Euros they aren't. Bemused.
Right, that's the closest to economical nonsense I'm ever going to get. But the key thing is here: shit! The UK prices on the Steam beta are CRAZY. Buy stuff!
Huge thanks to Theory and the RPS Steam Chatters for the tip-off.