Counting pennies? It could be worse: you could be Danish

Wednesday, 21 December 2011 08:02 GMT By Mike

Next time you ready a whinge about our mutual hobby, spare a thought for gamers outside Japan, the UK and US – like Mike Bowden, whose lament for our Danish brethren is echoed across Europe.

In Denmark, we have 25% VAT on everything. That means items over here compared to those of the UK are relatively expensive. However, games really do take that idea and run with it. Most new console games are 450-550 Danish kroner. The current exchange rate is 0.87 at the time of writing so that means Skyrim, for example, is about £50. It’s astronomically high compared with the UK.

The last time I wrote something I said I didn’t like games any more: they bored me, I said. That, of course, wasn’t strictly true and was more some desperate cry for some kind of fundamental change in the way games are composed and executed. Now every developer has heard my plea and the very foundations of the industry have been shaken to the core, I’ve got something else to moan about: being a gamer in Denmark.

The fundamental problem is price. Denmark, for those of who don’t know, has 25% VAT on everything. That means items over here compared to those of the UK are relatively expensive. However, games really do take that idea and run with it. Example? Alrighty then.

Most new console games are 450-550 Danish kroner. The current exchange rate is 0.87 at the time of writing so that means Skyrim, for example, is about £50. I can, of course, go online and get a deal knocking an enormous £5 off the RRP, but it’s still astronomically high compared with the UK.

“Why don’t you buy games from the UK and get them sent over?” That was once an option: not any more. Amazon now whacks loads of VAT and shipping on games, so the difference is much of a muchness, and Play.com now only sells games in euros, which puts it up considerably, and more and more people are getting their stuff stopped at customs (as Play operates from Jersey, which is outside the EU).

There are some sites that send to Europe but their prices aren’t as competitive as the aforementioned, and when you’ve factored in shipping it really isn’t worth it.

Then there’s the PC market. Again, the same. So much money. No wonder Pirate Bay is based in Sweden. Seriously. There’s nothing more annoying than hearing “Skyrim is £22.95 is GameStation!” when posting on forums. For those interested, that’s under 200 Danish crowns. It’s 350 crowns in the shops here. Digital downloads don’t help, either. With Steam charging €50 a pop for a new game and no real competitive market driving the price down, it’s no surprise people with a more liberal conscience visit shady sites instead of investing in the industry.

€50? It’s a joke. A really, really bad joke.

It’s extremely difficult to sit back and watch as other communities pay less than half. Gaming retail has to realise that the world is now a tiny place, made even smaller by the internet, and that we all read the same sites, see the same ads and want the same things at the same price. Our markets aren’t that different.

My next point is localization. Or the lack of it. I’m not talking about wanting games for my kids to be dubbed into Danish (although that would be nice); I’m talking about features that seem to be open and available to the rest of the word, but not to Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia. For a start, the recent Xbox dash upgrade has caused quite a furor about the location of the Indie Games tab. Forums have filled up worldwide with complaints that the service is being pushed aside by Microsoft and sections of the community and industry alike are (rightly) up in arms about it. The thing is, in Denmark, the Indie Games section had Kingdom for Keflings and, well, that’s it, actually.

I’ve written to Microsoft, asked people in the industry and so on, but the only response is “rights” – and that’s it. If I was an indie developer I’d be more concerned that my game is getting zero visibility in certain countries using the same service, paying the same subscriptions over and above the issue of decreased visibility – although it is the lesser of two evils, I’ll admit.

Post dashboard update I skate over to my Apps screen and I’ve got Facebook, Twitter and nothing else. There’s no promise of the services given to British 360 owners. How much is a Live sub?

Another Xbox dash change is the addition of the Apps screen. Forums were buzzing about Lovefilm, Netflix, iPlayer and the like. So, post-dash update I skate over to my Apps screen and I’ve got Facebook, Twitter and nothing else. There’s no promise of the services given to British 360 owners. How much is a Live sub? “Well, that’s £55 a year, thank you very much. But you only get to play multiplayer and use Twitter and Facebook, OK?”

It’s as though Denmark has been kicked into touch and completely forgotten.

Denmark is a small country of 5 million people. Therefore competition isn’t exactly at a premium, which explains retailers’ lack of motivation to even begin to compete internationally. If Microsoft’s explanation of rights having been the issue since the Indie Games service began, then I can’t see them investing the necessary time and money into sorting it out any time soon.

So us Danish gamers continually have to sit on the sidelines whilst the rest of the western gaming community enjoys low-prices, special offers and added services at a lower premium. Will it ever change?

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