I have been asking myself this question over and over for a very long time. Why is it that a digital download almost costs so much more compared to a physical copy of the game? Especially now when we are expected to fork out even more money for DLC and add ons, games are becoming increasingly more expensive.
Here is an example: currently, Mass Effect: Andromeda is selling on Amazon at £42.94, with an additional £2 off if you are an Amazon Prime member. The same game is selling for £54.99 on the Playstation Store. Cheaper still, I have managed to find a physical copy of the game for just under £40, granted that you won’t get the game for a couple of days, but still that’s a saving of £15. Another example is Battlefield 1 on the Xbox Store. Currently at £54.99 for the standard version of the game, whereas Amazon again is vastly cheaper at just £31.99. I understand that retailers like PlayStation and Microsoft don’t control the pricing of third-party publishers like EA but Sony and Microsoft do price theirs and some of their pricing is just as outlandish.
I can see why there is the potential for sales with these digital marketplaces, there is a captive audience. You can pre-order a game and have it pre-downloaded and ready to play on the day of release. I can see the appeal in that. It’s easy, there is no waiting and there is no postal service who could potentially mess up and delay your order of a physical copy. But to charge people a substantial amount more for the exact same game with no extras, with essentially no middle man taking a cut, is an insult.
Think of it this way. Physical copies have to first of all be physically made. Then packaged, shipped to stores all over the world, take up space in a warehouse and then be sold on the shop floor. All of this costs money. You have to pay for the shipping, all of the people’s wages who are somewhere involved with the process of handling the game and finally of course your game shop employees. Physical copies cost money. However, a digital copy doesn’t need any of this. It’s uploaded to a server where people can purchase the game and download it. (I think don’t quote me on that). I can in no way see how a digital copy costs more than a physical one. Surely there is a lot of savings to be made here? Why can’t these savings be passed on to us, the hard-working consumers?
I find it outrageous that digital downloads cost way over the odds but I can also understand why. Currently the console market is heavily dependent on retailers selling physical copies. Most revenue for selling games is derived from promotion and sales pushed by retailers. Back in 2013 ex PlayStation boss Fergal Gara said, “first of all, we want to support a healthy retail channel, so it’s not in our interest to go and seriously undermine retail.” He also stated that he believed that prices “would go down” in terms of digital content. This was back in 2013. Four years later and that still hasn’t happened. Surely soon we can get to a compromise where digital downloads aren’t a complete rip off without upsetting big retailing giants, ultimately passing on some of the savings to us, the consumers.