Australian game retailers speak out on grey imports

EB Games and JB Hi-Fi both confirm policies to import overseas video game stock for local market; iGEA says the move directly impacts local publishers.

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Australian retailers EB Games and JB Hi-Fi have both confirmed that they are importing video game stock from overseas to sell to Australian consumers.

According to JB Hi-Fi, its decision to source some video game titles directly from overseas instead of local Australian distributors comes from a desire to provide customers with a competitive price.

JB Hi-Fi and EB Games are both importing overseas video game stock to sell locally.

"In some cases, consumers could purchase cheaper from overseas than we could locally," JB Hi-Fi marketing director Scott Browning told GameSpot AU.

"We have decided to act in accordance with our cheapest prices promise, and source selected popular titles directly from overseas wholesalers, in order to pass on these cheaper prices to customers."

Browning said that the retailer's decision also stems from its observance of "global pricing realities" in the video game sector.

JB Hi-Fi's imported stock comes from territories like the UK; in some cases, the retailer is restickering imported stock to display Australian classification ratings. Some JB Hi-Fi stores are currently selling imported video game stock alongside Australian stock, but at cheaper prices.

However, when asked whether the decision to source video game stock from overseas, instead of buying from Australian distributors, has been communicated to the retailer's local video game distribution partners, JB Hi-Fi did not comment.

EB Games also confirmed that it is importing overseas video game stock to sell in its Australian stores, but claims it does so only on "rare" occasions, when stocking a product from local distributors is not a feasible option. However, the retailer said it has informed its local video game distribution partners of this move.

"EB Games is committed to supporting the Australian gaming industry, and as standard practice buy our stock from local vendor partners," EB Games national brand, events and engagement manager Debra McGrath told GameSpot AU. "There are rare times when stocking a product from a local vendor is not a feasible option, and stock needs to be obtained elsewhere. This is something that our vendor partners are aware of."

The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA), which represents Australian video game publishers and distributors, said the parallel importation of video games into Australia is not a new issue. However, iGEA CEO Ron Curry said that grey importing impacts local video game publishers and distributors by taking away from locally generated revenue.

"[Importing stock from overseas] stems right back to the SNES and Mega Drive days," Curry said. "In the past, with a low Australian dollar and high costs of importing product into Australia, parallel importing was carried out in an opportunistic manner--AAA sellers and niche products tended to be the focus of importers. [However,] Europe's continuing struggle with its worsening economic position has seen a flood of excess stock hit the open market. Coupled with a very strong dollar, this makes it very appealing for local retailers to purchase this product directly from offshore wholesalers."

Curry said that local publishers and distributors need a local level of support from Australian retailers to maintain their survival in the local market.

"Wholesale parallel importing does have a direct impact on local publishers, distributors, and the companies who support them. The revenues generated locally support not only local employment, but fund marketing, in-store displays, advertising, classification obligations, etc. Without this local level of support, retailers in Australia will see a direct impact on their businesses, as will consumers and other local businesses who survive by supporting the Australian video game industry."

Last month, the Australian government announced a move to investigate high-tech and game prices in Australia.

Discussion

40 comments
joju_australia
joju_australia

well...a very interesting write up! well done Laura! NOW: this is a very delicate topic to me, as i totally support CHEAPER prices and I am sorry to say, but the prices at local stores (any stores in australia) are so over inflated, it makes me wonder how a shop can for example sell a LOCK for $7 and still make money when exactly the same item can be purchase for $38 at another MORE known branded shop! ...enough about locks hahaha...GAMES, are an entertainment item which when searched online, can always be purchased cheeper, even when you pay for shipping, you are still better off a few bucks...enough to see its insane to purchase products locally. BUT lets enjoy it while we can, our government will try to jump on day one day soon and will interfere with this joyful privilege! 

CraigNinten
CraigNinten

I've been buying games from ebay for the last 3 years, you know, region free copies from hong kong that works perfectly fine on my consoles, generally 50 bucks cheaper than my local EB games, but you will have to wait like 2 weeks for them to get here. but its OK, not like I cant wait for 2 weeks. 

its totally logically for us consumers to seek for cheaper games, honestly, why should I care about our local distributors/retailers?

maxguevera
maxguevera

Yeah it had to happen and it's working as I've started buying from the retailers again, it was at the point where a new release was $90 which is too much for a game. It's a shame it'll cost the Australian publishing industry but perhaps it was never a viable business model to begin with?

zaprct
zaprct

This is good news. I'd also like to see digital content on PSN and XBL being more competitive...you know, since it's digital and all. Unbelievable that full PS3 games cost $109.95, you'd think they'd try to complete with traditional media formats more.

eric_neo3
eric_neo3

I can see why they're importing.

1 Australian dollar = 0.9925 U.S. dollars

 

Yet DIABLO 3 is $88.00 AUSD locally or $59.99 USD imported...

 

benboz
benboz

This will be good. I hope they bring prices down like near what ozgameshop sells at.

FITRS
FITRS

The local distributors have been price gouging Australian gamers for years, now JB announces they will also seek the benefits of by passing the middle man, then they cry foul.

 

What is really "Australian"? Price gouging consumers or getting the best deal for consumers?

davedrastic
davedrastic

So this article discusses the issue from the point of view of the retailers, and the distributors but fails to mention the consumers.

 

Selling us non Region 4 games is perfectly fine, as long as:-

 

a) They are clearly sold as such. i.e. we're not ordering what we believe to be a Region 4 game but to receive a Region 2 game. And putting stickers over the UK classifcations systems so it appears that it is a Region 4 game is deceptive and wrong.

 

If you want to sell non Australian games then make it entirely clear that that is what you're doing.

 

b) Don't sell games to us as new, but open them up just so that you can put a sticker on the game cover, thereby defacing the item. How do we know that it isn;'t a used copy if it isn't sealed? How do we know that someone hasn't already used the DLC/online pass codes, or that all the appropriate items are in the box?

 

These game retailers are bending the rules and they ought to play fair to all parties. not least the consumers.

TurambarGS
TurambarGS

Odds of JB/EB prices being nearly as cheap as ozgameshop or PlayAsia even if they're importing? Pretty slim. Still, more competition is a good thing for consumers. We get massively overcharged at retail here.

SlothfulPunk
SlothfulPunk

I almost always buy games from JB. I bought Prototype 2 and Max Payne 3 for $150. It would have cost me $50 more at EB. I'll only go to EB if I'm really not sure about the game because of their one week return policy.

 

namyedips1
namyedips1

We pay way to much for games in Oz. sorry EB Games, $109 is way to much for a game. Blu-ray and DVD are technologies that gave been around for half a decade now, so why is the price lost double what one countries sell. Good on you JB

aussiemuscle
aussiemuscle

Now  you know why Sony adds region coding to their PS games, lol

Good on JB and EB for supplying cheaper games, since pc games don't have region coding.....but, i still buy from UK myself and still get it cheaper than JB/EB even when adding postage on top of it.

FlamingFury
FlamingFury

But if they don't import the stock, consumers (like me) will. I don't care about the industry and whether my local EB stays open when I can get the game for over half the price off OzGameShop. Consumers don't care about the industry when the price difference is huge, and unless EB starts to lower their prices then they'll end up in the same boat as GAME.We need video game price parity with the US, otherwise importing will continue. 

SwiftusMaximus
SwiftusMaximus

If we are destined to pay ludicrous prices via retail in Aus, then of course i will continue to import.

MaxStar360
MaxStar360

Wait...are EB still going to charge $100 for the imported titles like they do for locally obtained copies? I wouldn't put it past them.

superbuuman
superbuuman

Grey import all the way, if its price competitively then it oks in my book, if the business cannot be competitive or refuse to change to be competitive than death to them. They can close up shops. I see retailers complaining but none actually wants to do anything about it, how about taking it to streets and protest?...

Winter2710
Winter2710

This type of thinking is well overdue by physical-media retailers like JB and EB in Australia. When Australian consumers are faced with the possibility of paying up to $100 for AAA releases in stores, or forsake local industry in favour of imports at a fraction of the price - well, not much choice at all, really. What Australia has lacked in this market for a long time is industry competition; if properly implemented this new initiative will hopefully force retailers to lower their prices to remain relevant and promote their business.

MVan86
MVan86

Good! The days of being ripped off because we live in a certain part of the world should be well and truly over.

K1TT1K
K1TT1K

So does that mean they are making more profit off the Aussie consumer by buying in games cheaper?

S3rialThrill3r
S3rialThrill3r

 @ts997 

 

In many cases, I find that boxed copies are cheaper.  Besides, I'm sure many people still like their things to be tangible.

 

ts997
ts997

is their a need for this when digital stales is on a fast rise, in the next 5 years boxed games will be on a decline.

like music stores had a hit with iTunes and video store had a decline as people could down load or stream movies. with technology come change.

Mr_Q_Oz
Mr_Q_Oz

Maybe it's time for local publishers and distributors to consider dropping the "Australia Tax" and start charging us a more reasonable price.

wawasjohn
wawasjohn

its good news but i don't think they should be able to change the rating sticker seems a bit miss leading. 

stubar1
stubar1

 @zaprct Create a second user and sign up for a US PSN account. Use a US address and you can download games for the US retail of $59.95 instead of the Aus $110 and $10 instead of $15 etc. Totally agree with you about the price and that's why I did this. Also, If JB sell foreign games, I'm presuming they will now accept them for trade?

Lhomity
Lhomity

 @aussiemuscle The PS3 is region-free. Where have you been the last 5 or so years? :P

Auction_Sniper
Auction_Sniper

@aussiemuscle The ps3 is their first region-free console - I tend to import the Asia NTSC version games because they still work and play in English on PAL consoles.

Lhomity
Lhomity

 @MVan86 On games, yeah. But as long as man walks the Earth, man will ripoff man. Its like breathing.

MVan86
MVan86

 @ts997  I'd rather have a physical copy of a game any time.

rekuhsben
rekuhsben

 @ts997 Yes there is a need for this - digital (console) games in Australia are generally priced the same or higher than they are in local retail stores.It'll be a long time before Australian digital distro can compete with/replace physical media.

flammable_zeus
flammable_zeus

 @ts997 Digital games often have a similar (if not more expensive) price than their physical counterparts. If I buy retail or import, it's because it's cheaper than digital copies. Plus, with retail versions you don't need to waste so much of your internet allowance.

masterds64
masterds64

 @wawasjohn Its required by law, thus they have to put australian ones over the overseas stickers as not only do they use a different system but is may be rated higher/lower (mostly lower) than australia's weak standard.They just match what local copies have on them that's all its not like putting a G rating on god of war XD

davedrastic
davedrastic

 @rekuhsben I disagree. There's been several PSN full release games at sub $20 pricing, Far Cry 2, Assassins Creed.

Sure, in general PSN pricing is much higher than the current retail costs but it seems to be changing, and as the industry moves away from retail items to digital distribution then these changes will continue. By the look of it retail is in a mess and the console manufacturers would be best off withdrawing their support.

davedrastic
davedrastic

 @masterds64 Fine, it's required by law, but I think it's also required by law to clearly represent what is being sold, and the identifying marks of a Region 2 game are being covered. From that the retailers really ought to play fair and make it very clear to us when a game is not an official Region 4 game. But they're not doing that at all.

 

And this isn't a new issue, this has been going on for years, I find covering the classificaiton symbols as being deceptive - intentional or otherwise, it is misrepresenting the item and that is unfair to the consumer.

MVan86
MVan86

 @FlamingFury I don't like disc switching but I'd still rather have a physical copy of something, seems more I dunno real when I can pick up a case or disc.

kingzacaus
kingzacaus

 @davedrastic

 I can understand your rationale now that I know what you've been through. Obviously ordering one thing and recieving a different (however slight the difference) is an annoyance and probably illegal in most senses.

Our experiences are obviously different which is why we have different viewpoints, in terms of games I wouldn't have a huge problem as long as I was getting the same game that does the same thing. You want the region 4 game that you paid for, understandable.

 

Perhaps if you've you've had these problems in a number of circumstances you should have made a complaint to the ACCC or relevant body to ensure that this doesn't happen to you again.

davedrastic
davedrastic

 @kingzacaus I've been into EB Games, bought games, and then discovered that they're not Region 4 games, they had simply been stickered to appear as such, so to hear that EB are now correctly marking their products is very much a good  thing, and may I say, a new thing. Let's hope this practice continues and the other bricks and mortar and online retailers follow suit.

 

Perhaps we ought to ask why they're putting imported stickers on their imported products? My guess is that they've suddenly realised that they ought to be doing the right thing and not marking items as something they are not, and that deceiving customers is both illegal and not prone to good customer relations. I can't think of another reason myself.

 

"Who cares it's a cover. Are you really going to get top dollar for a resale game anyway?"

 

Resale value is somewhat irrelevant. Not totally irrelevant as Region 2 games do have a market value lower than Region 4 games, but it is somewhat irrelevant as it does not follow that all games bought will be sold.

 

I would think we all care about our covers as much as any non consumable product we purchase. If your happy to buy a CD of Abbas Greatest Hits at full cost but without the album art then we're simply a part of different generations. The generation I belong to expects to receive what they pay for and expects to receive new items in perfect condition.

 

"Games are often opened as well, major department stores, KMart, BigW, Harvey Norman etc often open the games to put discs and books behind the counter, you could have the same argument over opening the seal on these games as well.""

 

Agreed. The same issue occurs within these shops in regards to opening up the items and to a lesser degree with stickers.

 

When they open up the item how can any of us be sure that the DLC codes haven't gone missing? We can't be.

 

I also very much dislike the stickers these companies put on the items. If they put the stickers on the sealed product then there is no issue. If they put the stickers on the plastic game box then frequently an ugly glue residue will be left (dependent on the quality of the sticker), which thus turns a shiny new product into an ugly one virtually instantly, which is a shame for those that pride their collection. If they do what I was complaining about, which is to put the stickers on the actual paper manual or cover then they're basically defacing the item as to remove the stickers will inevitably lead to damage.

 

I can tell you that i've bought games from 2 major retailers in the last month, I've bought the games from their online stores in which they had an image and description of the Region 4 game, and I've received the Region 2 game. That is unfair and illegal. If you order an advertised product, the supplier is obliged to supply that product. Not something very similar to that product, not something that works the same as that product, but the actual product that was ordered.

 

Now if these retailers had clearly marked, online and at the point of ordering, that the games were imported then there would be no argument. But that is not what they have done.

 

From what you've said, it seems that some of the retailers are realising their faults and finally doing something about it.

 

I'm not disputing that it is not their duty to cover up the classification stickers, I've not said that at all. My point is that it is their duty to ensure consumers aren't misled into believing a product is one thing, when it is another, as in the case of a bricks and mortar store placing stickers over the classification symbol and not otherwise indicating that the item is not the Australian version, or as in the case of online stores it is their duty to clearly advertise the item as an imported product or to actually send out the Australian item.

 

Now if I wanted a Region 2 item I can go to many online stores to buy them at a much lower cost than the major retailers will sell them for. But my preference is to have the Region 4 item. So if I buy a game that has been advertised as a Region 4 game from a major retailer at a cost of $30, and receive a Region 2 game with no apology or explanation, that I could have purchased elsewhere for $20 should I be happy with a Region 2 game, then I have every right to feel deceived by the retailer. Being able to purchase a game cheaper elsewhere or not is technically irrelevant. The retailers should send out the advertised item under all circumstances. But i've mentioned the above to illustrate the issue.

 

Your experiences are clearly different to mine. I've bought games from EB in store that have not been marked as imported games. This practice of marking them is a new practice, I can assure you.

 

Further, I have, several times, ordered games from the major retailers that have been shown to be the Region 4 games on the online images, and then received Region 2 games.

 

Further, when addressing the retailers in all occassions i've been faced with "the item is exactly the same, there is no region locking, there's no problem, we're not going to do anything about it". Which IS an extremely slack attitude and it disapoints me greatly that these national retailers are able to continue to break the laws by selling items that are different to those that are ordered.

 

Perhaps this analogy may help. If I order a Mambo T-Shirt and receive a Billabong T-shirt, do I want to be told by the retailer that they're both t-shirts  and do the same thing and that there's no problem. They're either the same thing or they're not. If there are differences, then they are different. It doesn't matter how different, it's a matter of whether or not they are different. And despite the retailers, and many gamers, assertations to contrary a Region 2 games IS different to a Region 4 game. Indisputably.

 

kingzacaus
kingzacaus

 @davedrastic

 Last time I was in EB Games (and probably the only time I had been there for a long time) I noticed some import games. They had a sticker saying they were imported and the rating sticker either stuck on the cover over the UK rating or on the plastic over the UK rating.I dont know what your argument is about really, I've bought a number of games from places where a barcode or other sticker has been placed on the booklet. There are often stickers on covers too, promotional items, price tags etc. Who cares it's a cover. Are you really going to get top dollar for a resale game anyway? Games are often opened as well, major department stores, KMart, BigW, Harvey Norman etc often open the games to put discs and books behind the counter, you could have the same argument over opening the seal on these games as well.The games are marked as imports, if you want something that isn't then pick up the more expensive copy next to it. Come to think of it I think that last time I was in JBHiFi I noticed an import sticker on a game as well.For your question"If they advertise Region 4 games, send them to us. If they cover up Region 2 games with Region 4 games, can they not do that on the actual cover itself, and can they make it clear to us that we're not buying a Region 4 game."Like I said from what I've seen they haven't made attempts to cover up where the game is from, they've simply done their duty to cover the UK rating with the AU rating, typically on the plastic but yes on some occassions on the cover.If you want to get an Australian Copy, with no stickers and go into the store or order online I almost guarantee you would get Australian stock. If for some reason you got an import I would understand your anger but from what Ive seen they are clearly marked.

davedrastic
davedrastic

 @kingzacaus What they're doing with these stickers is representing a Region 2 item as a Region 4 item. That is deceptive.

 

Also, if they put the sticker on the cover itself then they are defacing the item - whiteout or not. If you attempt to remove the sticker from the paper for sure you'll rip the cover.

 

When people buy a game, they are not just buying the ability to play the game. They are buying the whole item. Much like with a CD.

 

If you go to Sanity and they sell you a copy of Abbas greatest hits but they don't give you the album art, are you just going to accept that? Probably not, because you will be keeping this item amongst your collection for several years and you want to receive the item in pristine condition, unless you are paying a discounted rate that you understand to be discounted because there is no cover art.

 

What the retailers are doing, online and brick and mortar, is advertising the Australian Region 4 games then sending out Region 2 games - and to add insult to injury, they're unsealing the games (which means we're not to know whether or not the item is new, and wether or not the DLC codes have been used), and then putting stickers  that can't be removed on our property.

 

The whole practice is absurd, deceptive, destructive and unjustified.

 

If they advertise Region 4 games, send them to us. If they cover up Region 2 games with Region 4 games, can they not do that on the actual cover itself, and can they make it clear to us that we're not buying a Region 4 game.

 

Gees is it too much to ask that they provide us with what we pay for.

kingzacaus
kingzacaus

 @davedrasticThey're just sticking AU classification stickers over the UK, they're not going through with whiteout eliminating all mentions of the region it was intended for