I’ve never understood regional pricing. Why does a game in the UK cost more than the same game in another country? Granted, with physical copies you could perhaps make a somewhat flimsy argument around shipping and packaging, distance from point of origin, blah blah. But for Steam, and entirely digital platform to not only adopt this strategy, but to outright defend it is unconscionable.
Of course it’s not just Steam. This deplorable practice is widespread in the industry. If this comes as news to you, then here are a couple of examples to get your blood boiling. Red Dead Redemption 2 retails at $59.99 in the US, but in Turkey the exact same game can be bought for $34.50. Of course, this arguably helps Turkish gamers who a subject to a less than thriving economy. But Watch Dogs, on release was priced at $60 in the US, but $66 in the UK, and a whopping $78 in the EU generally after conversion.
Guerilla games demonstrates some Guerilla pricing on Steam
Of course, it’s not for Steam to decide the price that publishers set their games. And in the case of Watch Dogs, we can hardly expect Ubisoft to act in consumers’ interests. Still, when we’re all downloading the same bits and bytes from the same servers, it feels unfair at best, and punitive at worst. The thing is, gamers have found a way around the restrictions, with the help of the mighty VPN.
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a means of mirroring your IP so that you appear to be surfing the webs from another location. Until recently, users could utilise a VPN to trick Steam into thinking that they were in another country, and by setting their region to the corresponding country within Steam, unlock pricing from anywhere in the world. Sneaky buggers, these gamers.
Why are Pirates called Pirates? Becasue we Arrrrrrr (ripped off)
That was until now. Revealed on Twitter yesterday, third-party tracker Steam Database revealed that the digital marketplace will limit user initiated regional changes to once every three months. From there, purchases made will be completed via payments methods accepted in that selected region.
Up until now, this habit of region swapping was all but considered part and parcel of the Steam experience for savvy gamers. But alas, it seems those days are now gone, we luckless few once against at the whim of the seldom consumer friendly capitalist machine. A shame, too, as Steam emerges as one of the winners from the Pandemic, growing from a meagre 90 million active users in 2019 to over 120 million in 2020.
You’d think with all that extra cash laying around they could afford to turn a blind eye to some of it’s more industrious benefactors. Either way, excpet a dramatic increase in Turkish player from here on in.
For an indept look at regional pricing accross a variety of indie and AAA developers, check out the excelelnt article from PC gamer, here.
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