My time buying games with the “Australia Tax”

Buying games was not always as easy in Australia as it is now. Back in the Atari and Commodore days of 8 and 16 bit machines you often had to rely on local distributors or specialist retailers feeling the same way about games as you did. Hard to believe but FTL’s Dungeon Master (easily one of the Atari ST’s killer games) was rarely in brick and mortar stores here. Most games tended to be sourced from the UK so it was easy to find titles from publishers such as Ocean, US Gold and Domark but anything from the USA or Europe was much harder to find. And if they did have the games… well… you’d pay a hefty premium for them. Thankfully UK retailers were happy to fill the void by retailers here and a good part of my collection from the era is thanks to these imports.

Just a few of my Atari ST games from the collection.

Games are not always a cheap hobby not matter what era you’ve played in. For an active player you might go through a number of titles in the space of a month. In regions like Australia the variances in pricing can make this process a LOT more expensive. Even now it’s still a pain in the ejection mechanism. Here it’s sarcastically known as the “Australia Tax” which is the mark-up on pricing supposedly due to transportation and storage costs on physical games. With advances in international postage and specialist retailers like Play-Asia and OzGameShop making imports so much easier you’d think local pricing would be more competitive but it seems like there is a desperation here to hold onto the existing Recommended Retail Price (RRP).

In the USA the price of most AAA physical games for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 I believe is around the $60US mark which translates to about $75-80AU. However the RRP of the same games here is closer to $100AU. Worse is that digital prices are required to match that so if you’d think that there’d be a saving due to lack of shipping on a digital product you’d be wrong. Retailers here have found ways around that to compete for gamer’s money and over the last couple of years many have offered limited time launch discounts on major titles. Having games (briefly) selling for $65AU makes them even cheaper than in the USA which is a shock however the digital prices continue to remain at $100AU. All this makes a mockery of the digital purchases in general when you can get a physical copy for 2/3 of the RRP. Even after these launch prices end you can often get the games at prices still under the digital RRP.

Buying a physical copy cheaper meant I could play The Division 2 sooner.

The cheap launch prices do help gamers get the titles they want more easily but I’d imagine they also result in many games here having a much shorter tail in overall sales as the value proposition drops off the moment the game goes back to RRP. It probably also contributes to a bigger number of players jumping over to “the next big thing” and get the cheap games at launch resulting in others quickly falling away to also-rans. It would not surprise me if this contributed (beyond the polish) a little to Call of Duty Black Ops 4 taking a big slice out of the Oceania player base for PUBG. I wonder if Anthem may have recently taken a similar hit in Australia with The Division 2 releasing two weeks later.

Then there’s Game Pass, EA Access, etc. These subscriptions have gone a long way into cutting back my own spending on games because I can access a decent amount of the content for a price that’s much friendlier to my wallet. The saving made here has then made it easier to consider spur of the moment purchases on other games (like The Division 2) but it also further calls into question the overinflated digital prices – why buy a game when I can eventually play through it for a tenth of the price? If Anthem comes to EA Access eventually it might be worth me waiting instead of spending now? It’d be nice to think that some time in the future there’ll be a closer parity in prices across the board but it’s hard to tell when it might happen here especially for console games. There are some shining lights in the PC space such as who try to offer equal (or close) prices on their games which is a substantial gesture and it’s a shame no one else sees the advantages of doing that. Give gamers value and they’ll come back for more… seems like a good idea doesn’t it?

I’m no expert on the topic so this is all just my own experiences and opinions on the subject but I’m curious to hear what others think. Feel free to comment below!

3 replies »

  1. I do find it very disappointing we get slogged with $100 for a digital full price game. I much prefer digital over disc based games now, but even I’m waiting for sales a lot more because of the high prices.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Funnily enough, before I started using Amazon Japan importing from a store in Australia was the best and cheapest way for me to get Amiibo in Canada, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

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