As retail prices for games drop, the projected future is reflective of a more expensive time.
In one of the worst-kept secrets of 2013, Sony recently announced the predictably named PlayStation 4. While the presentation fell shy of actually showing off the console itself and talked around some of the hardware specifics, the most notable omissions were price and a specific release date. We know that it will be available “this holiday season”, but that undoubtedly applies to the US of A, and not necessarily the rest of the world; particularly not necessarily markets such as Australia which is much smaller than the Asia and Europe regions.
Couple this with the fact that the PS3 hit shelves in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada and America four months before the European market—which Australia is lumped into—it’s best to not start counting down the days to a late-2013 PlayStation 4 release in this part of the world. Well, not yet, at least. That being said, on the same day the announcement was made in New York and went out live around the world, EB Games cleverly listed pre-order information for the console (with a picture of the announced-controller in lieu of an actual shot of the box) and a handful of launch titles with the tentative release date “TBC 2013”.
The cause for concern, though, is in the clearly marked “Placeholder Price” for everything related to the PS4. All the launch games have been listed at $118, with the console itself cautiously priced at $899. It may just be the case that EB is being cautious with its pricing, hoping to pass on potential savings to customers and preparing them for a worst-case scenario, but it still grates to see such a high default pricing structure. The “Australia tax” has long been applied to gaming hardware and software Down Under, and only in more recent times has it started to scale back to prices that are slightly more in line with the continued strength of the Australian Dollar.
Granted, the PlayStation 3 launched in a time when the Australian Dollar wasn’t nearly as healthy—around 70 cents compared to the US greenback—at an initial recommended retail price of $999.95, compared with the $599USD launch price in America. Six years on and with one Australian dollar the equivalent of $1.03USD, EB Games is predicting the next-gen Sony console to be $100 cheaper than the launch of its current-gen older sibling. The projected prices for games, too, have seemingly jumped back to 2007—or even 2012, if you want to be honest—with that not-so-magic $120RRP being projected as standard.
Even as a worst-case-scenario projection, it doesn’t reflect the recent trend of price drops, inclusive of RRP-charging outlets such as EB Games. For instance, if you want to pick up a shiny new copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops II on PlayStation 3 at EB Games today, you’d pay $98: $20 less than the projected RRP for a new PS4 game. If you wanted to take EA’s latest competing FPS title Crysis 3 for a spin on PS3, you’d pay the same price. Jump over to a title released by a publisher that isn’t Activision or EA, and you’d be able to pre-order a PS3 copy of the new Tomb Raider game for $88: that’s $30 cheaper than the projected price of a PS4 title.
Even as there’s a government inquiry into the so-called Australia tax and prices are expected (or is that just wishful thinking?) to normalise further against overseas retail costs, it’s upsetting to think that the EB Games default is to err on the side of the worst-case scenario. Given how prominently each PS4 item features the words “Placeholder Price”, it would have been just as easy for EB Games to list a more optimistic price, knowing full well that a potential higher finalised price may disappoint consumers, but at least they’d been warned before pre-ordering.
Furthermore, taking into consideration that industry analysts are predicting a PS4 console launch price as low as $299USD, it stings even more that Australia’s largest games retailer is predicting a cost that’s 300% higher than this. Analyst projections aside, even persistent rumours have the PlayStation 4 pegged at a $400USD launch price, but that still makes EB’s estimate more than double the price. I don’t think too many prospective PS4 purchasers will balk at paying a slightly higher price than American gamers—after all, we are a significantly smaller market—but it sure would be nice to hope that we could get some equal treatment on the launch price of the next-generation of games consoles.
According to EB Games’ placeholder estimates, such hopes are best curbed.