The releases of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have helped make buying games digitally the preferred method, as opposed to buying them physically. There are several benefits to going the digital route, such as it being more convenient and ultimately taking up less space, but one thing that’s stopping digital games from further impacting their physical counterparts is the pricing.
At launch, the respective prices are the same – which is to be expected – but weeks or months afterwards, digital prices sometimes remain the same, while the physical versions go on to receive temporary or permanent discounts. The argument has been made before that digital games should be the cheaper option (as they don’t require discs, cases, or shelf space), and yet, we still see digital versions of games retaining their original pricing, or simply being more expensive. Why is that?
Guillemot’s explanation details the relationship between digital and in-store pricing, while also comparing how digital prices work on consoles and the PC. Needless to say, the PC side tends to have far more impressive deals than what Xbox Live and PSN offer.
Said the CEO:
“Digital is more reactive than what we put in stores, but at the same time, it doesn’t react as fast on consoles than it does on PC. What we can say is that when games are older than one year, digital is a lot more dynamic on console because there are less units in stores. It’s a new business, a new trend, and we think all this will get more in line with time, but for sure, at the moment you see all sorts of prices depending on who is doing a promotion for that specific week.”
Ubisoft CFO Alain Martinez followed up on Guillemot’s statement, explaining that the company doesn’t intend to sell digital games at lower prices than what can be found in stores. At least, not initially:
“On digital we will not sell [a game] for a lower price compared to physical. After a few weeks or few months things can change, and as Yves has been saying, sometime you might have a promotion on Amazon [that is] not on GameStop, but we can also react on the digital side.
“We are actually more aggressive on the PC side where digital is very, very strong. We tend to be more conservative on the digital side for more console and more flexible on PC.”
Taking a quick look around at various retailers to compare the prices of one of Ubisoft’s own successful games, Far Cry 4, we can see that the prices between Amazon, GameStop, and PSN are completely different. The PS4 version of the open-world shooter is still going for the full $59.99 on PSN (digital), $39.99 at GameStop (physical), and $24 at Amazon (physical).
Given a little more time, the PSN price is sure to permanently decrease, or get a discount that’s exclusive to PS Plus members, but it’s still surprising that, eight months out, FC4 is still being sold at full price. Even on Steam, the game still maintains the $59.99 price point, but expect that to change in the very next Steam sale.
Ubisoft said that it’s more “aggressive” with its deals on the PC, but perhaps they’ll bring that same enthusiasm to the Xbox One and PS4 one day. The company isn’t releasing any more of its big games to the last set of consoles, and it looks like their Xbox One games, specifically, could use some help.
How do you feel about different prices between digital and physical games, and how often the former get discounted?