For a few weeks, 2K Games' new title, Borderlands, was available to Australians at the same price on Steam that it was available in the UK and US. The game has been pulled from the Australian Steam site for the last week. Kotaku is now reporting that the game will reappear at a much higher price.

2K Games Borderlands (image from Kotaku)

2K Games' Borderlands (image from Kotaku)

This probably doesn't quite amount to resale price maintenance, which is the illegal practice of setting minimum prices so that retailers don't undercut each other. It's probable that the relationship between Steam and 2K is complicated enough that this isn't technically an example of game prices being hiked up in order to lessen competition and protect Australian retailers, who have become used to selling games at a much higher price than their counterparts elsewhere in the world. Nevertheless, it is the sort of behaviour that's likely to annoy consumers, and quite rightly.

The huge markup for electronic distribution seems to be a trend - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, for example, is available from Steam for Australian residents at USD$89.99, and US residents for USD$59.99.

This is, of course, no big surprise for Australians. We have become quite used to paying more for books, music, and movies. What's particularly upsetting is that there is no way that retailers can justify the price increase for digital distribution by blaming the size and remoteness of the Australian market - the bits no longer have to be shipped here by boat.

When Trent Reznor realised that the price of his CDs in Australia were, in his words, 'ridiculous', his advice to his fans was to "Steal and steal and steal some more and give it to all your friends and keep on stealin’", because that was the best way that publishers would "get it through their head that they’re ripping people off and that’s not right."

We don't condone copyright infringement here, but there is growing unease amongst Australian gamers about the unfairness of a system that seems to discriminate against them - even when, as now, the Australian dollar is doing extremely well against the US Dollar. Perhaps if the industry cares about how fans view publishers, it will do something to address these concerns.

For now, we suggest that you purchase your games from overseas retailers, or get a friend with access to an international Steam store to gift it to you at their lower prices.

4 comments

  1. It should also be noted that there's no way that they can justify a price increase using claims of increased distribution costs.

    If 2k Games were trying to distribute digital download versions themselves in Australia, it would be almost certainly be prohibitively expensive due to the vast cost of large amounts of bandwidth in Australia (due to our bizarre pricing situation, etc, etc).

    However, using Steam means - in the case of Australia - Australian ISPs are mostly footing the bandwidth bill. I'm not sure if Valve pass on some sort of distribution cost (I'd be surprised if they didn't), but at the end of the day the cost of distributing a game digitally in Australia via Steam should cost no more than anywhere else in the world, thanks to the generosity of those Australian ISPs that run Steam Content Servers and make the data available.

    Comment by trog on 21 November 2009 at 8:05 pm
  2. This is a mild example.

    I recently wanted to update our corporate firewall software.
    The price in the USA was around $5000USD
    The price here was $7500USD, $2500USD difference.
    Why? I have no idea. It's distributed electronically and support is via the USA anyway, (at US hours of business) so it's not like it cost them one cent extra to sell here.

    My thoughts are they are protecting Australian resellers here as well.
    I ended up buying it from a US company via a branch of our company in Canada.

    Greed just cost the Aussie reseller a complete sale.

    Comment by Simon Shaw on 28 November 2009 at 3:37 am
  3. Some of us have been following this since the start when borderlands mysteriously disappeared from steam. I have compiled a heap of info in the following link including rather non-helpful discussions with Elizabeth from 2K about it all for anyone that is interested.

    http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread....

    Comment by Rolond Lock on 9 January 2010 at 11:13 pm
  4. 2K games have shafted Australians yet again with the release of Bioshock 2

    US price = $44.99 USD (special) / $49.99 USD (usual price)
    http://store.steampowered.com/app/8859/?cc=us

    Australian price = $71.99 USD (special) / $79.99 USD (usual price)
    http://store.steampowered.com/app/8859/?cc=au

    An extra $27/$30 USD for the same product with no delivery costs...

    Comment by Jimbo on 22 January 2010 at 8:49 am