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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Steam is ripping you off

Online distribution of content should be cheap and easy. Compared to the complexities of making and moving around DVDs and such, moving bits is pretty much free. So it's a no-brained that games on Steam should be cheaper than the same games on DVDs, right? Of course that's not how it works.

These are top 10 Steam's best-selling games - this list is rather generous for Steam, as people would prefer to buy games on Steam which were better deal on Steam than on DVD, and would prefer to buy games on DVD which were better deal on DVD - so it's reasonable to expect comparing other games Steam would come out even worse.

As for DVD alternative, I wasn't looking too hard - just Amazon. I'm sure there are ways to get the games even more cheaply, but let's stick with the default online shop. Here are the prices, all Amazon's are with free shipping:

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Amazon £29.65; Steam £39.99 - Steam costs 35% more
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2 - Amazon £24.99; Steam £29.99 - Steam costs 20% more
  • Left 4 Dead 2 - Amazon £19.98; Steam £19.99 - essentially equal
  • Counter-Strike: Cource - Amazon £14.99; Steam £13.99 - Steam costs 7% less
  • Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City - Amazon £14.99; Steam £19.99 - Steam costs 33% more
  • Civilization V (pre-order) - Amazon £30.99; Steam £29.99 - Steam costs 3% less
  • Mount & Blade: Warband - Amazon £16.97; Steam £24.99 - Steam costs 47% more
  • Borderlands - Amazon £11.78; Steam £19.99 - Steam costs 70% more
  • Just Cause 2 - Amazon £23.92; Steam £29.99 - Steam costs 25% more
In other words - median cost on Steam is about 25% higher than on Amazon. That's even though physical DVD costs quite some money to make, packaging, ship etc., while for Steam it's just pure profit.

And please don't even mention "Recommended Retail Price" - if you fall for this kind of blatant anchoring effect, there's no hope for you.

So to summarize: Steam games cost a lot more, and to make matters worse have no resell value, they're simply ripping you off.

PS. Amazon prices are for NEW games. These are not used titles. Anyone claiming otherwise has no idea what they're talking about.

PS2. Prices I gave are for UK (notice the £s). acct_rdt made a similar list for US prices, which shows exactly the same thing - US Amazon is cheaper than US Steam too, even though the difference is not as drastic (median 7%)
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - $37.80 new on Amazon, $59.99 on Steam
  • Bad Company 2 - $43.83 Amazon, $49.99 Steam
  • Left 4 Dead 2 - $29.99 (both)
  • Counter-Strike: Source - $19.99 (both)
  • Episodes from Liberty City - $27.99 Amazon, $29.99 Steam
  • Civilization V - $49.99 (both)
  • Mount & Blade: Warband - $24.53 Amazon, $29.99 Steam
  • Borderlands - $27.99 Amazon, $29.99 Steam
  • Just Cause 2 - $39.99 Amazon, $49.99 Steam


Teeks said...

your an idiot. You are posting the prices for USED games, not amazons retail values. Not to mention you don't include shipping on any of these items. Your full of crap.

taw said...

Teeks: These are prices for NEW games, not used, with free shipping. They're all from UK Amazon vs UK Steam. You have no idea what you're talking about.

zach said...

Dude, you are full of shit. The games prices you posted from amazon are from used games.

I hope you are trolling

Unfa said...

7/10 for the troll. Would lol again.

Anonymous said...

He did post the new prices, not the used prices. I just checked. Steam is more expensive for these games whether you want to believe it or not.

Enigma said...

Steam Is more expensive and sure it does take a little more time for the prices to come down but the weekend deals and the midweek deals are so much cheaper.

Another thing to consider is Valve who own steam do not set the prices for 3rd party games. There publisher does so once again it's those filthy greedy publishers who are doing the work of the devil.

But if you can get them cheaper do so especially for games which activate on steam anyway.

As for the resale value who cares I do not resell my games I like a collection of games.

taw said...

Enigma: Why are people blaming publishers for Steam's prices if Amazon has to deal with the same publishers, and can have lower prices anyway?

Amazon has special deals too (but I haven't actually used them ever, so I won't guess if Steam's or Amazon's are better).

I don't sell stuff I no longer use - I give it away. It seems like the most sensible thing to do to me. On Steam I cannot even do that.

Enigma said...

Amazon has already dealt with the publishers which is how they got there stock in the first place, after that they can sell the game at what ever price they feel like to stay competitive with other resellers.

Unlike Steam which is always in talks with with the publishers which is how they set the prices for on-line distribution.

Other On-line platforms such as EA Store and alike are also more expensive than some if not most retail shops.

This is where steam fails really as it was originally a platform for developers to publish there games to with no middle man publishers to get in the way.

Also The prices may be higher due to Valve taking a cut (unknown how much they take) which covers bandwidth and advertising and what not.

Ross said...

"Amazon has already dealt with the publishers which is how they got there stock in the first place, after that they can sell the game at what ever price they feel like to stay competitive with other resellers."

You've posted this idiotic argument on reddit and here, yet you haven't responded to the follow up.

Amazon has the low prices because it's still selling a physical product. It's not just greedy publishers, it's greedy publishers who DON'T VALUE DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION.

That's why the 3rd party title prices are distorted worldwide, but Valve's 1st party prices on Amazon & Steam are IDENTICAL.

Enigma said...

I have not posted anything of the sort on reddit others have. It is also the portal to which I found this blog.

Kai said...

Like it or not we are going the way of no resell value. In the admittedly-dying record industry companies are holding onto their "rights" and therefore want to prevent the amazingly-vibrant used record market from existing. Fuck that.

Add to that ISPs wanting to charge per bit. We already see limited internet connections and the like. Transferring bits isn't free. Still, that doesn't mean digital distribution shouldn't be cheaper. After all, there's no physical shipping and manufacturing costs involved.

I suppose they keep the prices the same because they are still creating some numbers of physical items. Wholly-digitally distributed content tends to be quite cheap.

Quickshot said...

If this keeps up then eventually there is going to be a massive shift in laws dealing with data in its various forms and most likely against those who wish to hoard it all.

It certainly isn't a coincidence that 'piracy' rates continue to increase as they continue to treat their customers worse and worse.

Randin said...

Teeks, zach, maybe you should learn how to read then come back, seems to be you two are the trolls, the only way Steam beats Amazons prices is when they have a deal on it. Say why don't you two confer and maybe together you can make a coherent comment.

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Anonymous said...

What ab out the gifting option¿

Anonymous said...

There is one aspect that is not being mentioned here ... deals and discounts ... many times we can find some high priced AAA games (TOMB RAIDER etc) available for 75% discount for limited time ... ans surely huge volume of sales that occur is main source of income for VALVE and PUBLISHERS alike ... Few buy when price is high, and when it suddenly drops the sales increase easily by 50-100 times ... many buy the games that they do not generally buy since they feel it is too good a deal to pass up ... so when the game is 40$ and above , there may be 10 sales, and once it drops to 5$ for limited time , there will be more than 500 sales ... and at no additional cost to PUBLISHER or VALVE

Anonymous said...

My son purchaed a game from Steam and it seems to have a isue with the screen and being a software developer I have tried all the usual fixes apart from down grading DirectX to get the game to work.

We contacted Steam and they want to pass the trouble over to the games developers and have us play pig in the middle and won't return our money.