Or is it a deliberate piece of strategy?

The Vita comes in for some stick from a lot of quarters, and when we feel it is undeserved then we will say so, such as the games situation, but when something isn’t right, or is flawed then we will also give an opinion on that, as is only fair.

This article will discuss the ludicrous pricing on the PlayStation store, although it could also be about the ridiculous prices of the memory cards. There is no way I can actually justify the fact that a 32GB memory card costs £80 RRP in the UK and by default it is $100 in the US, so I won’t even try.

The sky high prices of just four memory sizes are anything but fair. Memory cards are compulsory for the Vita, and it is low that despite using flash memory cartridges for the game media, many games actually don’t save your progress onto it, it needs a memory card. But the bigger purpose of the memory is for when you download your games from the store and here comes the purpose of this piece.

Without even taking into account the preposterous £1 nearly equals $1 equals euro ratio that UK/EU gamers have had to endure for some time, nor that the default price of retail Vita games is ludicrous to begin with. Where we have been lucky enough to get Vita versions of console equivalents, they are priced identically, which is certainly not going to help sell units. Some of the publishers have been looking into cross buy, but they aren’t going to adopt this long term, as I cannot see how it is either financially viable or perceived as detrimental to the Vita. And the default price point should clearly be lower, by at least 10 of your currency for a handheld platform. But that’s just my opinion.

But moving on, in the UK last year we had the near collapse of the major retailer of video games, and you would not bet against another collapse in the future, and the games selections in Supermarkets really leave a lot to be desired. With us seemingly moving ever more into a digital gaming scene you would think that we would be starting to get a realistic pricing set up with digital. But the fact of the matter is, we do not.

Not content with already hitting us with the price of the cards, a look towards the EU PlayStation Store shows some of the crazy prices on there. It isn’t something exclusive to the Vita by any means – games on demand on the Xbox 360 are equally ill judged – but an example is Black Ops Declassified, which costs £45. FIFA Football, the first football game EA released last year is also £45. FIFA 13 is cheaper, and obviously newer. These are just a couple of examples but a look through the list versus a look at Amazon. You will probably laugh.

Digital distribution doesn’t have to be transported. It doesn’t have the retailer mark up. It doesn’t have the plastic cartridge nor the plastic case. And they already have your money from the required memory medium. So why can’t the prices be better? If you are trying to drive the online interactive aspect of your new handheld, citing the comparison with home gaming, then surely the pricing should be more appealing?

Perhaps I am missing the point, but I would wager that more people would pay for the bigger memory cards if they knew that in the long run it would be worth it through the savings they could make by buying directly from the store. With PlayStation Plus extending to the Vita, we are now seeing some fantastic savings on many titles in addition to the instant game collection. But if everything on the store which had a retail counterpart also had a 2-5 currency saving compared to retail by default I am sure more people would take it up as their prefered option. Epsecially when you cannot get said game in the shops, because the stocked selection is so poor.

I can understand that perhaps Sony don’t want to undercut retail “partners”, but these retailers are dieing out. Sony don’t ultimately owe them anything, it is the customers which support the brand, and the vast majority are learning and adapting, and going to the cheapest place to buy the platform and the games. Any obligation Sony have with these bricks and mortar shops is massively misplaced in my view as you will see when I make my next article. These business are certainly not doing you any favours here in the UK, Sony.

And anyway, these shops cannot compete with the range of pricing that is being delivered by the online stores. And these online stores consistantly are able to beat the PlayStation Store sale prices, which is simply laughable, and pointless, and the keen eyed bargain spotting gamer knows well to avoid, and ultimately makes the sales pointless.

PSP and PSOne prices are equally ill judged. I’m quite sure that a far better price point for these titles would see many more units shifting. Taking basic revenue out of the equation, when you are trying to shift systems and you have this large back catalogue of games, when it comes down to selling x amount at one price, or double for half the price would you not rather reach a bigger audience? I think the pricing of these games in particular are a missed opportunity. One of the bigger draws for the mobile phone games market is the affordability of games after all.

It’s not a difficult concept and it’s all too easy to say everything should be cheaper, we would all choose to save money if we could, but the reality is that we do choose to. The store should just try to adapt to changes in the real world and in real time. Sony have people managing these things. What is it that they do? Make their weekly posts and ignore all of the negative feedback fro the PlayStation fans unhappy with things as they are?

Too long didn’t read? The price point for Vita games should be slightly lower – as handheld platform pricing should never be the same as console however powerful it is – and the online store should be slightly lower still. and react and adapt to real time prices. And memory cards have silly prices.

Although I now need a 64GB one please. But I’m not paying £160 for it.

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Paul founded The Vita Lounge and is the Executive Editor, but still likes to get involved with the odd piece of news or a review. 35 years young and gaming since 1990, he has a preference for Action/RPG games, Shooters, Racing Games (despite ironically not being able to drive!) and quite partial to a game of FIFA.
  • I wholeheartedly agree.
    However, retail partners aren’t dying out. Most people still buy retail for numerous reasons and stores like Gamestop and Amazon have a large influence on sales.

    In the PSN store, you can up your wallet amount by creditcard, PayPal or PSN card. The latter are still used very often, and Sony takes losses on them (because the sellers need to get part of the value of the card) meaning that these will need to be compensated a little.

    • When I say “retail partners” here, i mean physical bricks and mortar, not really aiming it at amazon and the like.

      Online stores generally represent good value for money and choice of games.

      But not everyone buys online.

      • Brick and mortar do not differ much from online sales partners, though, only of course in case of selection of games and the method of obtaining the game. Their relation to the publisher and platform holder Sony is the same.

        • You’ll see the difference when I do my next article. Even with GAME online I can get nearly every Vita game, and Amazon practically do stock everything. The Supermarkets and physical shops stock practically nothing.

  • Don

    One thing people seem to forget is that when you download games from the Playstation store you can install the games on 2 devices.

    • Hi Don, this is true and handy if you have more than one Vita in the house.

      • Mike Evans

        They also have to be using the same PSN account, and who wants to share a PSN account?

  • Jarrodcv

    Here’s an interesting discussion on the subject of PSN pricing. RotorHed on page 2 notes some worthwhile points.

    bit.ly/Wz9A7S

  • scwiffy

    Great article Murphy.
    A a subject that has always bewildered and interested me.
    Games are dfinitly over priced on PSStore IMO, and for the life of me i dont know why, what are they trying to achive? It only lures away potential digital customers (like myself).
    I disagree that Vita games should be slightly less that PS3 games, most people are perfectly willing to part with their money for console quality games on the go, and why not?
    This whole subect gets even more interesting when you see places in the UK like HMV and GAME failing on the high street, like it or not we are moving to an eventual digital only future, but again, what bewilders me is that it seem Sony seem determined to deter us?

  • Great subject Paul. I agree with your sentiments and partly with Scwiffy also.

    My own situation is thus; I purchased a 4GB card on day one (yeah, I know) and a 16gb a week later, once Wipeout 2048 had filled out the former as a free download.

    Most of the Vita big-hitters I’ve bought as physical copies, however I get plenty of enjoyment from movies on Vita as well. These digital downloads are – in the case of Prometheus or TDK – just under 2GB. Then there’s my growing collection of PS1 classics, mini’s and PS mobile games – there’s not even a choice here!

    Sony historically have been slow to react with pricing issues and I’ve had to accept that nothings gonna change in this regards anytime soon. Like you, I need a 64GB card but ain’t paying those prices, though necessity dictates a 32GB purchase soon.

    And given the instant game collection for Vita PS Plus, requiring ALL content as digital downloads, that issue ain’t going away…..

    As for the Playstation Store prices, a joke. At one point, when comparing online prices for Rayman Origins, Sony had it at shy if £40. Amazon? £14…….

  • It’s a great point about HMV as they collapsed (again) as I’d finished the article.

    Hopefully someone will buy them out. But not GAME as is being touted.

    We need more choice.

  • Vince Harris

    GAME’s Australian franchises went under last year, and as I mentioned in the forums, we don’t stock games in supermarkets, and 3 of our major department stores decided from the get-go that they were not going to stock Vita. So in Australia there are very few retailers that stock Vita games – EB Games, Gametraders, JB Hi-Fi and Dick Smith. And EB Games is the only business out of those that seems to be making even a semblance of an effort. The other stores only have 2-4 titles. But even without the retailer competition, EB Games still sells hard copies for cheaper than the PSN store, and game prices are ridiculously high in Australia already.

    Companies keep saying that they want the industry to go at least mostly digital, if not 100%, but there is currently no incentive for consumers. Digital content often costs more, and you receive less – no book or box. Not to mention, there are no benefits. If I buy in a store, I receive free advice from real people, I have a week to return the game if I don’t like it, I can trade it in for money down the line, I can lend it to friends when I’m done, I can sell it on eBay… Not to mention I get discounts at the two specialist games retailers in my city. And often I can buy a collectors edition game for the same price as the standard is selling for on the store. The only reason I ever buy digital is if that is literally the only option. Because it is currently a rip off in every way.

    And yet companies and marketing departments don’t understand??