Steam Stuff - What Has the Digital Distribution Giant Done Lately?


Ok, but I would then expect this mechanic to apply to every country that doesn’t use USD, yet I do not hear about people from other countries having this issue. Why is Australia special in this issue or does it happen to everyone not using USD and aussies just bitch about it?


When I lived there, back in 2007, COD MW1 just came out and for a couple days it was $60 on Steam (and the USD and AUD were close to parity). I snatched it, and then 2 days later Steam realized their mistake and made it cost $80 for Australians.

Back then the reason was that physical shipping costs to them were expensive, combined with the fact that in the not too distant past 1 USD bought like 1.3 AUD (or more) so $80 AUD was pretty close to $60 USD. As the USD and AUD got into parity retailers refused to adjust their prices downward and publishers did not want digital stores to out compete physical stores on game prices.

When I bought Witcher 1 I had it shipped from Amazon UK because it was literally cheaper to have it shipped from the UK than to buy it locally in Australia (or on Steam).


Really? I always thought it was a VAT situation.


It exists. The conversion between US and Euro has also been discussed in the past, typically centered around a 1:1 conversion between USD and Euro.

Edit: Also, forget to add, name another country that would use USD on Steam, that you would expect to encounter users online. There isn’t many that I can think of.


Steam has been sending emails to devs for over two months now that they needed to set an AUD price and that if they did not they would not be in that region when it happened. So basically you have a list of who does not pay attention to their Steam emails.


There’s a 10% GST tax, but that doesn’t account for the differences. @KallDrexx is correct, it has been pressure from brick and mortar stores to remain competitive. As for censorship, that was partially addressed with the R rating a few years ago, but there are still certain lines that cannot be crossed, particularly depictions of drug use. This is of course silly because no such restrictions apply to daytime TV, but nobody said life made sense anymore.


Let me take you back to the 90s. The exchange rate was around 0.7 for much of the decade, and games were sold in physical boxes of cardboard in like one or two stores around Australia. There was very little retail competition for such a small market, and these boxes of cardboard with cds in them had to be shipped here across the Pacific or Indian Oceans (Pacific?). For these reasons, despite the exchange rate not being 0.5 the equilibrium price for a AAA new release game here was $100 AUD when they sold for $50 USD in the US.

Australian gamers didn’t like it, but what can you do? Around 1998-2002 the exchange rate dropped significantly to around 0.6. Game prices didn’t really move, and it really entrenched the fact to Australians that new AAA games cost around $100, there wasn’t much complaint and we all saw it as one of the compromises for living in a better country (jk).

The exchange rate went back to around 0.75 around 2003ish, and online options started to proliferate. Now we had the option to import games from other countries, or even buy games online and eschew the cardboard box entirely! Our small Australian minds broadened, albeit slightly.

It set the stage for the largest collective whinge in the history of videogame retail. Between 2007 and 2014 the exchange rate was just below or above parity with the USD. Why are we still paying $100 AUD for videogames, we all asked? Retail stores were, if anything, increasing the price of games. Prices of $110 or even $120 AUD started to become a thing (for console games at least), meanwhile we could start buying from online marketplaces for less than half what we would pay if we went to the local shopping centre. As you would expect, Australian gamers at least on PC developed a dependency on online game buying. I have no data on this but I think PC gamers here shifted to online much faster than they did elsewhere in the world. Steam was our Saviour!

Publishers got used to fleecing us, and didn’t like that we could buy them cheap from US stores, so ‘regional pricing’ started to become a thing where they wanted Australians to pay prices closer to the ones we face in retail stores. One by one the websites of the internet fell to these greedy buggers. The hilarious part of it is that many stores didn’t support selling directly in AUD, so the publishers decided to just charge 80 USD or 90 USD so that when exchanged to AUD it became roughly equivalent to the retail price here. Doing this for online downloads really exposed in such a naked fashion how bereft of decency or honour these publishers were (or the retailers who didn’t even try defending us).

It was sad, and I am not sure about others but I started to avoid AAA games entirely and play indie games or ones from publishers that don’t do regional pricing. Anyway, the exchange rate is back down to around 0.75 and for many games there are so many online retail options that an Australian PC gamer can get by OK.


Let is come back to the 2018’s. 24 million Australians and that gaming market. How is it now? That’s California here and --no insult intended – California is richer. I am incredibly sympathetic to companies screwing our sisters down under (god help NZ) but ….

Let’s hope Steam normalizes the prices. I actually thought Australian dollars recently got a normalization on steam recently.


Note, the population of CA is just short of 40MM.


I remember years ago when one of our MMO friends couldn’t join us for a new expansion because the boat sank that was bringing it over. It seemed so unbelievable then. We’ve come a long way, but he never mentioned costs much. I thought it was screwy that box games would stay at retail price and then vanish but at least our retail prices were not so extraordinary.


@Tim_N pretty much got it. The price has traditionally stayed high in ANZ region, and there has been little market force to bring it down. 2K, Bethesda, Activision and Ubisoft are the worst culprits of regional pricing. At least they didn’t region lock their games (which I suspect will be illegal, given that parallel importing is legal in NZ at least).

Kind of like $60 USD as a price anchor for new game I guess. There is no reason why $60 is a magic number other than the maximum the market will tolerate.


We may have to disagree about the population of Australia. But I am sure we all agree that they shouldn’t be paying more than anyone else.


Before or after taxes?

Also, how do we feel about Russians paying less?



I’m just glad indies will still have to pay out the nose. Fuck those guys. The sooner they fold the sooner we can get back to remastering and repackaging 360 shit.


Perhaps, but on the other hand, in theory if the numbers were right Valve becomes financially incentivized to spread success to as many games as possible, whereas with the flat 30% Valve gains zero direct benefit from helping indie exposure. I doubt Valve actually has any such intent - like the article mentions, it’s most likely just trying to limit the damage of publishers running their own stores - but I’ve been surprised that none of the other store attempts - like Discord - have tried such a thing. Everyone seems happy to take the same flat 30% (whether they do anything to deserve it or not)


Itch is a “choose your own” %. Leaf Cocoran (owner) says avg runs around 8%


So there’s an interesting thing that Microsoft announced earlier this year: reduce the cut to 5% for apps that the purchaser got to via being linked directly to the store page from elsewhere, 15% for apps if the purchaser found it via the store. Except… They excluded games from these changes.

So at first glance it seems kind of bizarre. They’re willing to compete on price where there is no viable competition (except for developers selling the product directly), but not interested in it in the actual competitive market. But it makes some sense. Let’s say that Microsoft reduces their cut on games to 15%. That’s a nice bonus for the developer, but nowhere enough to convince them to sell exclusively on the MS Store since it probably means losing 90% of their sales.

So giving the developer a bigger cut doesn’t really give them any competitive advantage. What about instead reducing the price that the end-users see? A permanent 15% discount could be enough to get some people to switch over from Steam. My guess is that this must be due to some kind of web of “most-favored-vendor” clauses, where some stores won’t list a game if competing stores are selling it for cheaper.

That’d also explain why nobody else is trying to cut the prices either. (Except via very indirect ways, like Humble’s store discounts for monthly subscribers).


Yeah, my very first thought was “shouldn’t be the opposite” ? It’s the little indies the one who need whatever extra money they can get.

Then, of course, I understood it. This is Valve trying to make the big publishers to stay instead of opening up their own storefronts/launchers, like uplay, origin, the bethesda one, etc. The little guys aren’t in Valve radar here.


And as someone who wants as few single-publisher clients as humanly possible, I’m all for a backend change that has no direct impact on consumers if it gets us there. Even if it’s kinda backwards and fucked up.

(Yes, I want real competition for Steam, no, uPlay/Origin/ Social Club/ are not it.)