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Consoles Doomed to Pay High Digital Prices Forever?

Author:
Brendan Griffiths
Category:
Features
Tags:
Digital Distribution, Games prices, PS4, PS4 games, Steam, Xbox 360 games, Xbox One

Consoles Doomed to Pay High Digital Prices Forever?

For years, PSN and XBLA gamers have been enviously staring at the generous offerings PC gamers can gorge themselves on via sites like Steam, GOG and Green Man Gaming. The ever-increasing number of sites sees regular price war over these digital titles, leaving PC gamers the clear winners for cheap games.

For console gamers, it’s been a very different story as PlayStation and Xbox gamers have been left with one first-party option for a digital game store on their console. With only one option available, this has of course meant that there is no need for competitive prices or discounts bar the odd sale.

So when I heard Amazon.co.uk had opened a beta site selling full PSN titles, I dared to hope that this could lead to games going for a little bit cheaper than the bloated prices we see every time we log onto PSN.

Except Amazon aren’t offering a competing service, they’re only selling codes to use on PSN, so why would there be a discount? The games online at Amazon today include the likes of Journey, Stealth Inc and Hotline Miami, all selling for the same price as PSN, which you can access on a web browser here. The shop window may be different, but the prices still leave us out in the cold.

Consoles Doomed to Pay High Digital Prices Forever?

Beyond the occasional site selling PSN Credit with a slight discount there’s no way to get a better deal on PSN and we’re sick of it. There desperately needs to be an alternative to the official avenues for digital versions of console games. The prices they currently sell most of their full-sized games (i.e. games that are released on disc too) make it the choice of the stupid, desperate, or your average affluent letterbox-fearing agoraphobe. Even more so when compared to the prices of physical versions at the sites we here at Dealspwn link to everyday for cheap deals. Hell, most digital prices can be beaten on the high street.

But perhaps one of the bigger problems is the consumer themselves. Despite these ridiculous prices, people are paying them. A lot of people. As a regular reader of the UK retail trade magazine MCV, I’ve noticed that the official PS3 PSN charts are frequently dominated by these over-priced monstrosities. Take the last chart from the week ending December 16th, here’s the Top 10, with the prices correct as of today (December 29th).

  1. Call of Duty: Ghosts (£34.99)
  2. Gran Turismo 6 (£49.99)
  3. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (£59.99)
  4. Battlefield 4 (£29.99)
  5. Lego Marvel Super Heroes (£39.99)
  6. Doki-Doki Universe (£5.99) – a PSN-only title
  7. Grand Theft Auto V (£49.99)
  8. Ratchet & Clank: Nexus (£19.99)
  9. Diablo III (£49.99)
  10. NBA 2K14 (£24.99)

Doki-Doki and NBA aside, all of these can be found considerably cheaper for physical copies and some of them are on offer today compared to when the chart was put together, so they were even more expensive at the time. Things are even worse on PS4 where £54.99 is commonplace.

The sad thing is, it seems unlikely that anything will change soon. Can you see a world where Sony or Microsoft will allow third-party sellers to open up their own download clients so we can download games from them instead via a new app on the PS4 or Xbox One?

Consoles Doomed to Pay High Digital Prices Forever?

Although, we have seen  sites like Green Man Gaming sell games that must be downloaded through the Steam client, a giant of PC gaming. I’m presuming Steam takes a little cut of the action from GMG there, so as a business model, it’s entirely feasible.

We have to remember that for the most part (first party titles aside) Sony and Microsoft aren’t the bad guys. They don’t set the prices that are charged for the likes of EA and Activision titles, so they need to take their fair share of the blame too.

iTunes popularised legal music downloads, Netflix has made streaming movies through the internet an attractive alternative to shady illegal downloads or buying DVDs and Blu-rays and and Steam has done great things for the wallets of digital PC gamers. So when are consoles going to creep out of the dark ages and start acting like they want consumers to embrace digital like the rest of the entertainment industry? Sony Microsoft and third publishers need to take note: Millions of gamers have already shown they want to stick with console gaming for the newest generation, don’t make them wish they had bought a gaming PC rig instead.

Add a comment10 comments
Tsung  Dec. 29, 2013 at 15:42

The old arguments were games are expensive because people copied them. I think we've moved on from that a long way; apart from a few die hard people copying games really doesn't happen. Also those who do it wouldn't buy the game in the first place.

The next argument is the costs of producing and distributing the games discs, manuals, etc.

Now it's the cost of hosting the files and bandwidth.

I see two reasons why digital games are expensive and stay expensive (on consoles).

1. Anti-Competitive behavior from the retailers. Eg. if you sell your game digitally for a price lower than I can sell it in my shop I will not stock your game(s) or console(s) anymore. Oh and I want exclusive tat as well.

2. No competition digitally there in no reason to give offers at all.

Oh well what can you do? (the consumer). Doesn't matter if you buy or not as it costs little to offer the service.

Late  Dec. 29, 2013 at 17:57

There's no way I'd pay fifty quid for a digital copy of a game, but why lower prices if there's no competition (and why would you allow competition? I guess they swerve monopoly legislation because most of their games are available on disk from lots of retailers, but I know a lot aren't - similar to Apple's app store. The monopoly issue confuses me.)

Of course, you're only paying the ticket price for a game if you buy your credit at face value - and I doubt many hukd/dealspwn regulars pay full price for credit. Even if you manage to get your credit at 25% off (which is about as good as it gets, unless you discover a glitch) you're still looking at very high prices.

Personally I'm keeping a pretty close eye on the upcoming Steam Machines. I'll happily switch from traditional console to a front-room friendly PC with a console-style controller if it means most new(ish) games will be around £15-£20 instead of £40-£60 and there's a back catalogue of thousands of games for a couple of quid each - often much cheaper... So long as said machine isn't prohibitively expensive up front.

JoeDark64  Dec. 29, 2013 at 18:05

The old arguments were games are expensive because people copied them. I think we've moved on from that a long way; apart from a few die hard people copying games really doesn't happen. Also those who do it wouldn't buy the game in the first place.

The next argument is the costs of producing and distributing the games discs, manuals, etc.

Now it's the cost of hosting the files and bandwidth.

I see two reasons why digital games are expensive and stay expensive (on consoles).

1. Anti-Competitive behavior from the retailers. Eg. if you sell your game digitally for a price lower than I can sell it in my shop I will not stock your game(s) or console(s) anymore. Oh and I want exclusive tat as well.

2. No competition digitally there in no reason to give offers at all.

Oh well what can you do? (the consumer). Doesn't matter if you buy or not as it costs little to offer the service.


Just to add a third point: People are buying them!

Why on earth would a company reduce the price of a product performing within their sales expectations and at elevated margins?

Something is only worth what people will pay. If companies are happy with these levels of returns then nothing will change.

Coals  Dec. 29, 2013 at 18:26

Console makers sell their hardware for low price (generally not-for-profit). They need to make more dollars back on software. There's less head room for them to discount. Steam etc.., operate on systems where the consumer has paid premium dollars for the hardware, which the digital software distributors have nothing to do with anyways. Easier for Steam etc., to retail games at the lower price
I think digital distribution prices aren't even the big issue here. A real issue is that newer games are costing several times their initial sale price via DLC and microtransactions

Late  Dec. 29, 2013 at 19:20


Why on earth would a company reduce the price of a product performing within their sales expectations and at elevated margins?

Something is only worth what people will pay. If companies are happy with these levels of returns then nothing will change.

Better to sell a million copies at £20 than a thousand at £50.
Those numbers are of course plucked from thin air - I have no idea how many copies they currently sell nor how many they'd sell at a lower price...

Tsung  Dec. 29, 2013 at 20:02

Well Late, great news for you, more and more PC games are controller friendly. The prices during Steam sales can drop to silly amounts, even then other retailers sometimes beat them.

I picked up Splinter Cell for £7, that looks sweet and is totally controller friendly (from simplycdkeys).

In the steam sales recently bought a load of games, too many really (I'm sure I'll get around to playing them), some were as cheap as £1 :D

JoeDark64  Dec. 29, 2013 at 22:01


Why on earth would a company reduce the price of a product performing within their sales expectations and at elevated margins?

Something is only worth what people will pay. If companies are happy with these levels of returns then nothing will change.

Better to sell a million copies at £20 than a thousand at £50.
Those numbers are of course plucked from thin air - I have no idea how many copies they currently sell nor how many they'd sell at a lower price...


Yup, exactly. Presumably they are happy with the margins/ return otherwise they would have to move on price.

I remember when the original Xbox sold out ahead of Christmas and I was chatting to a guy from MS. I was frustrated we couldn't get more stock but he was saying MS were delighted. They had sold everything they made well ahead of forecasts and as such it would be 3 more months before stock came back in properly! To flip it back round had someone came into my shop that afternoon and offered to buy everything in stock I would have been delighted. The guy who came into the shop after him wouldn't be but it was just a different point of view!

The market will dictate what happens. If people continue to buy these titles and other alternatives (Steam Box I'm looking at you) don't get traction then this is the future.

I suspect what is likely to happen is what has happened in the film and music industry. A subscription based service. Arguably this is where Sony are already ahead of MS with PlayStation Plus. Pay a yearly subscription for unlimited gaming access. Sadly there will likely still be a fair amount of micro transaction to boot but the market will decide.

Bodzilla  Dec. 29, 2013 at 23:16

There is a lot of baffling pricing for digital content on the stores, but I believe that is the fault of the publishers rather than Sony/Microsoft.

There's a couple of good things with digital games however, one of which is the 'sharing'. Sony used to allow 5 active consoles per account, which meant 5 people could chip in and buy 1 overpriced PSN game, so things like FIFA 12 + Battlefield 3 were £10 each. As more full games became available digitally, Sony reduced future purchases to only activate on 2 consoles, but you can still pick up a good deal, especially as digital content is available globally and games are 99% region free.

Amazon.com sells digital copies of PSN games, so during the black friday sales I purchased Assassin's Creed 4 and Battlefield 4 for a combined $55 (less than £35). And thanks to gamesharing, I split that with a friend. £17 for 2 newly released AAA titles? Digital is good.


Just did a quick check and the more expensive games from the article's top 10 chart are currently $40 (£25) from amazon.com

Jerec  Dec. 30, 2013 at 13:00

Personally I'm keeping a pretty close eye on the upcoming Steam Machines. I'll happily switch from traditional console to a front-room friendly PC with a console-style controller if it means most new(ish) games will be around £15-£20 instead of £40-£60 and there's a back catalogue of thousands of games for a couple of quid each - often much cheaper... So long as said machine isn't prohibitively expensive up front.


I am with this too, a Steam Box that allows me access to the 66 games (of which I've probably only played 10 properly!) on a TV with a decent controller, then I will get that rather then a PS4 and then sell my over priced gaming Laptop to pay for it.

Jerec  Dec. 30, 2013 at 13:02

I also think the "Charts" that are used by PSN/MS are **** anyway, just there to entice the kids to spend their money because they think the best games are being bought so they need to buy them too.

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