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.
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 at (i.e. games that are released on disc too) make it the choice of the stupid, desperate, or your average affluent letterbox-fearing agoraphobe. 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).
- Call of Duty: Ghosts (£34.99)
- Gran Turismo 6 (£49.99)
- Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (£59.99)
- Battlefield 4 (£29.99)
- Lego Marvel Super Heroes (£39.99)
- Doki-Doki Universe (£5.99) – a PSN-only title
- Grand Theft Auto V (£49.99)
- Ratchet & Clank: Nexus (£19.99)
- Diablo III (£49.99)
- 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?
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.