Government inquiry calls for fairer Australian game pricing

Australian government inquiry recommends lifting geo restrictions on game services, abolition of parallel import rules for retail products.

A government inquiry into the pricing of IT products in Australia--including video games and consoles--has recommended banning geo-blocking, lifting restrictions on parallel imports, and setting up public information campaigns to make Australians more aware of how they can circumvent country restrictions on pricing and access.

The Australian government has found serious discrepancies in the prices Aussies pay for games compared to people overseas.

The inquiry into IT pricing made 10 recommendations, ranging from better tracking of IT prices in Australia and overseas to the removal of current parallel import restrictions. With video games, the inquiry noted that a submission from consumer group Choice found significant differences in pricing of retail games in Australia compared to the US.

"The submission compared the prices of 20 recent and new-release games sold on EB Games’ Australian website against the same company’s US website. Only one game--The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim--was at parity with the US, while the majority of games were between 40 percent to 90 percent more expensive on the Australian website," the inquiry report stated.

Many of the inquiry's recommendations, however, focus on the practice of geo-blocking, which is the restriction of electronic products or services based on geographic location. Examples of geo-blocking services cited in the report include Steam, Origin, Xbox Live, and PlayStation Network.

"The practical effect of geo-blocking from the Australian consumer’s perspective is to restrict access to a cheaper global marketplace. According to views expressed in submissions, many Australian consumers see themselves as limited to a national market characterised by markedly higher prices for IT products and services," the report stated.

The inquiry recommended that any contracts or terms of service agreements that enforce geo-blocking restrictions be considered void under Australian law, and has even called for a total ban on geo-blocking as a "last resort" should other market mechanisms to restrict their impact on Australians prove to be unsuccessful. The inquiry is also advocating for more consumer support in this area, including clarification on the legality of any practices to circumvent geo-blocking, as well as more education on how Australian consumers can go around current blocks.

The recommendations come after a federal government inquiry in 2012 looked into whether Australians are being asked to pay more for IT goods and services, the reasons behind any such discrepancies, and what could be done to level the pricing playing fields. House Communications Committee chair Nick Champion MP said that the inquiry--which heard directly from Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe executives, as well as receiving more than 130 submissions--found that IT companies and copyright holders are charging Australians, on average, 50 percent more for products.

“While companies should remain free to set their own prices, the committee took the view that there are a number of ways in which Australia can act to increase competition in IT markets, which should reduce prices over time,” Champion said.

The inquiry's recommendations now go to the federal government for consideration. With the Australian parliament now in recess and not likely to reconvene until the Federal election later in 2013, it's unlikely that any of the recommendations will be acted on in the short term.

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RandolphRam

Randolph Ramsay

Randolph is the managing editor of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.
32 comments
midway_nights
midway_nights

games should be between 50$ to 70$ .how much for gta 5 we have to pay?

Bahamut_10th
Bahamut_10th

Brazil is the 4th biggest gaming market in the world and we still need to pay pretty much 100% extra or more in console and games thanks to the stupidity of taxing video games as gambling article. 

This issue isn't exclusive to Australia at all.

RockZillaX
RockZillaX

EB should be taken outback and shot period

RockZillaX
RockZillaX

This is good to see. there are ways to get games cheaper  from sites such as Getgames.com or play-asia to name a few but hardware is another matter.. I would love to see prices equate to equality in Australia

wolf503
wolf503

I don't mind paying a bit extra than other countries, just as long as it's not significant like $30-50 more, I've stopped importing to show my support to retailers as much as I can (and because I cbf checking regions now) but now I've reached a point where I barely buy games on day 1 release, which I used to do a lot of in the past. The Last of Us is a perfect example, it's still too expensive for me, even though from what I've seen it could be worth a 9/10 or 9.5/10, but I can see it overseas for like $50-60 vs $90-100 here. EB are surprisingly taking on the market really well now days but they still have a bit to go.

As for Geo-Blocking, I don't even know why it's implemented. It's so annoying when they release a web series on YouTube or similar and you want to watch it but instead you get a message showing "the uploader has not made this available in your region" and you have no other way to watch it until they make you buy it down here or aquire it through other methods. The same goes for Steam, what ticks me off even more is that Steam detects an Aussie IP, will give me Aussie marked up pricing, but are still happy to advertise an exciting game, then when I click on it....can't buy it because it's not available in my country.

Scorchstar
Scorchstar

$98 for a PS4 game at EB Games? I want to see $59 like on Amazon and it better happen.

blaqphantom
blaqphantom

about time shame its going to be pushed back...


BludshedX
BludshedX

Good to hear an inquiry is finally in the works. I've been waiting for this moment since the 80's!

ChaosUndivided
ChaosUndivided

So it should Aussies pay $90-$110 for new release titles. But can find the same game in the US or UK for $50-$70. Our Classification Board also tries to restrict the purchase and importation of products from other countries.

jawslover
jawslover

The real question is how is EBGames still in business in AU when JBHifi consistently prices games $20-$30 lower..

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

Well... It is only fair enough..

AceBalls
AceBalls

I don't understand any of this. My brain hurts. I'm calling the police.

Nintendo_Man
Nintendo_Man moderator moderator

Did it mention the worst of the lot, Iwata with Nintendo?

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

@wolf503 Agreed. The prices have come down significantly, some $10-30. I've actually never seen so many $88-ish games, and what's more they go down price quicker today also. I remember early in the days, when new releases were $110-120--now that was unjustified. But they're still much too expensive even today.

nick0112
nick0112

@wolf503 why support them when they rip you off. Its stupid people like you that we have these stupid prices. 


Jasurim
Jasurim

@jawslover It is crazy really, isn't it?

For example just a bit ago I was looking at pre-orders online for the new GTA5, JB has it for $89...meanwhile over at EB they have it set at $108 and these are both the *same* normal basic edition.  It is insane how they can get away with stuff like that lol.

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

@jawslover I think it is better however  rather than JBHIFI to make a purchase at EB games tho as a EB member..

Lhomity
Lhomity

@jawslover Because when you're in EBGames, it makes their used game prices look better. They're more interested in shoveling used games than anything else.

Sadly, I'm in Lismore. Two EBGames stores. No JB HiFI. I can order from JB's website, but on 2 out of 3 occasions where I have, I've received damaged goods.

wolf503
wolf503

@Devils-DIVISION Yeah, and I remember when they used to stay at that price for a while to. That was even worse. You could have most games around the $110-120 mark, maybe a $5 drop in 2-3months. Now, give it less then a month and the price drops $10-20 sometimes a lot more. There's that occassional title, that sticks around at higher prices, but not as much as before, usually like 2-3 titles by bigger publishers.

wolf503
wolf503

@nick0112 You obviously didn't read my whole comment. It's stupid people like you who think it's 100% their fault and have probably never worked for a retail company before, to understand how some of their systems actually have to work.

I also like having an excuse to get out of the house as well and would rather companies like EB (who are pretty much the only proper gaming store left in Australia) to stick around if they can.

I also don't let them rip me off, I don't understand where you got that from my comment. I either wait for the price to come down or get them to price match another local store. I can't be bothered waiting for overseas stuff to, I like seeing the product in my hand when I take it away and having a place to bring it back to. I do hope they fix the pricing system, so I can at least purchase games day 1 again and not have to wait.

natalieyan
natalieyan

@Lhomity @jawslover you can do price-match at EB, just show them the JB price and the staff will be happy to reduce the price for you.


SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

@Lhomity @jawslover Yeah but at least as a membership card with EB games you can exchange your game 3 times if you don't like it or """"

jawslover
jawslover

@natalieyan @Lhomity @jawslover They say that but most of the time they try to find ways to get around it (at least in my area). My friend tried and they told him it was a sale (even though it wasn't) so it doesn't count.

wolf503
wolf503

@Lhomity I like the EB World perks. got 65% (50% special + 15% for lvl 3) on top of my PS3 games when trading in towards PS4, that got me $284 towards it, and I was gonna waste my time selling em for like $10 each on ebay which may have got me $300 roughly not including shipping and time spent to advertise each game. I also prefer EB over JB since you can usually chat to the staff more often, at JB they kind of seem pre-occupied too much of the time or barely give a shit lol You get that at EB games to but a lot less now days. Although I avoid the Chadstone 1 a lot now because of that. + with EB card it makes it easier not having to hang onto receipts. I also like their Gameinformer Mag xD

Lhomity
Lhomity

@SIDEFX1 @Lhomity @jawslover I'm a level 4 member. None of the "perks" benefit me whatsoever. Extra time to pick up a preorder? Meh. Extra trade-in credits? I've never traded in anything and never will.

The membership scheme is tailored to entice you buy more used games and trade in more. They even give double points on used game purchases. Blegh. =(

If they offered me something like store credit, or some merchandise, through a rewards scheme, I might be more interested.