Publishers need to drop PC games prices in order to stem the flourishing grey market, says Matt Martin.
“How are you going to sell me Far Cry 4 for £45 when I can pick up Far Cry, Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3, Far Cry: Blood Dragon and extra DLC for just £30?”
Some players have been booting up their PCs to discover games have disappeared. I get angry when I can’t log-in for five minutes, or if I have to download the latest DLC. Imagine how you’d feel to discover your entire game has gone AWOL. A game you paid good money for.
Yesterday it came to light that Ubisoft has been deactivating copies of Far Cry 4 that were bought from unauthorised third-party sellers. The publisher told Eurogamer that sellers via G2A’s marketplace had bought keys “fraudulently” before selling them on to customers at a knockdown price.
Ubisoft didn’t go about this the right way. Anyone’s going to be shocked to discover a game has vanished, and the instant reaction is probably to blame a company that already has a poor track record with its consumer products. Customers should have been warned their games were to be cancelled.
But you can’t blame Ubisoft for taking action. It needs to protect its business and profits. Allowing companies or individuals to undercut and sell-on unauthorised keys isn’t good for the consumer in the long term. Fraud only leads to increased prices, and digital prices are already too high.
This is the root of the problem. Why else is there a business in selling cheaper game keys in the first place? Because digital prices are too high on PC, just as they are on console.
Far Cry 4 costs £44.99 on Steam and Uplay. It’s £20.83 – less than half price – on G2A.com. Playing games is an expensive hobby, so which store is the gamer going to opt for? If you don’t know anything about a retailer’s past (and really, unless you’re a dedicated player, why should you?) then you’ll buy from the store with the best price. And you can’t be blamed for doing that.
The culture of cheap sales and bundles for PC gaming is partly to blame here, too. Steam sales are an event where players can snap up a pile of quality games for low prices, or even a whole franchise for the price of just one new release. Consumers conditioned to jump on these deals will obviously reject full-price releases. How are you going to sell me Far Cry 4 for £45 when I can pick up Far Cry, Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3, Far Cry: Blood Dragon and extra DLC for just £30?
We have to trust Steam and Ubisoft as the gate-holders of their games and services. That’s part of playing games on PC. What we want in return is an official product that works on the right service for a decent price. When we don’t feel we’re getting that, we resort to “bargain” deals. What hasn’t been previously obvious is that you’re making a £20 bet. And the odds aren’t stacked in your favour.
While consumers have to learn from this latest episode with G2A keys, so should the publisher. It stings, but the only legitimate way to play a great game like Far Cry 4 on PC is to pay the asking price from official sellers. There’s a reason why gamers deviate. The industry needs to start tackling the subject of digital pricing now.
High prices are allowing resellers to flourish. Knock down prices and publishers will sell more games, have less hassle with a grey market and get players back on their side. And a popular vote is something Ubisoft needs now more than ever.