253: Gamers of the Third World

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boholikeu:

ENKC:

Are you in Australia? You'll find that whilst the currency you pay in is USD, some prices are different.

Borderlands is $79.99 USD on Australian Steam
Borderlands is $29.99 USD on American Steam

Try explaining how that's anything other than price gouging (not you, the world generally).

Honestly, AU gamers are a tenacious bunch. I don't think I'd be able to continue with this hobby if every game I wanted to buy was either censored or 200% more expensive than other Western countries.

Do you have any friends in America? You could always work out a deal with them where you send them money to buy the games for you and then they gift the games to your account. It's what I do when something comes out that's not in my region (damn you Rockstar for not extending your Steam license to Japan!).

It so happens that a friend of mine (in Aus) found 'ways and means' of obtaining the international (read: uncensored) version of Left 4 Dead 2 for the international (read: lower) price. It does seem absurd though that when we're trying to legitimately pay for the game rather than pirate it in the first place, we still have to pay more for digital distribution. A large part of the point of digital distribution is that they have none of the massive costs of importation and retailing, so they should be able to have global standard pricing.

I'm not wanting to hijack the thread for a whinge about our prices, but the relative prices in different countries with different levels of economic development does seem pertinent.

<edit>

Random One, to my knowledge Aus prices are not the result of an online sales tax. Generally it is the expensive, big name titles that cost significantly more. My understanding is that our major retailers have agreements by way of the publishers such that Steam will not significantly undercut their prices on major new releases. This does of course remove a huge part of the incentive to use Steam for those specific titles.

This was a fascinating article. I always thought of India and China as countries of inexpensive electronics - I figured they'd be more prone to gaming than us because comparatively speaking, it costs less for them to buy it.

I guess I didn't take into account the variences between class-based income and the lack of things like minimum wage and government pensions. I've never really felt rich - and right now on a student income I feel downright poor! But now I can see 'Holy hell, my government actually pays me to study full time'. And if I picked up ten hours of work a fortnight (all I am allowed to do without cutting my payments in half) that's almost $200 a fortnight I could then spend on games. Or food.

And this is me living BELOW the poverty line in Australia.

Well written and very touching article Michael. Games are like an interactive cultural portal that can span the depths and ocean that is political and even socio-economic, and reach to people wherever there is electricity.

The Random One:

Tom Phoenix:

Michael Thomsen:
PC gaming will never go away. It is to videogames what the movie theater is to filmed entertainment. It will continue to host the medium's most spectacular and technically sophisticated works. In the same way that the advance of broadcast television, pay cable, and internet distribution eventually filled out the medium of film to make it accessible and relevant to the entire world, so too will the environment that surrounds PC gaming continue to expand in ways that will include more and more people.

Fixed. :P

Sorry, but no. A PC needs to be set up and configured to run a game. A videogame needs only to be attached to a power source and have the 'on' button pushed[1]. Until PCs become so widespread even bedouins are carrying one, (and I'm talking about people who probably don't even carry radios), videogames will be spearheading this revolution.

I think the first part is more accurate than the second.

[1] Some vigourous cartridge blowing may be necessary as well.

Reading the article, I couldn't help but be reminded of that Chinese NES remake of Final Fantasy VII.

Embeded video for the curious...

After all, if NESs are more commonplace in China (or elsewhere) then PSXs, something as bizarre as an 8-bit FFVII become more understandable.

Silva:
Frankly, it's a relief to finally see an article that gains some perspective on this, Mr Thomsen.

I know that some writers on The Escapist could do with a reality check regarding how much harder it is to buy a game if you're not in the first world. The support I see in these articles for expensive services, paying for virtual and unreal products, leasing server space instead of buying a physical copy of a game, and DLC in general needs to slow the Hell down if not outright stop.

I think the magazine is caught between being very pro-consumer and not realising how much the consumer actually goes through regarding games and their expensiveness as a luxury item which has a super-large profit margin - it costs far less to create a game than you make out of it, especially with the big releases. So consumers are getting rorted on a regular basis. Let's hope that writers are reading closely.

ENKC:
Congratulations. You have better prices than Australia.

Wrong, at least in the case of his example. 500USD translates roughly to 557.55AUD, and a PS3 will cost from $499 (same price as his) to $650 here according to this site:

http://www.myshopping.com.au/PR--88814_Sony_Playstation_3_Console

I like to complain about our game prices too, but at least they're not worse than Argentina's in this case. Maybe they are overall, but it would take a serious study to say for sure.

Not to even compare argentinian wages with australian ones.

Therumancer....Working on fixing their country? How exactly is your average Yu Xi Xuan going to topple the most tyrannic communist regime in the world, where the slightest hint of dissidence is met with brutal violence. No one will ever convince me that a 10 yo chinese child playing a pirated version of an obsolete game 25 or more years old is wrong. I would like to think that the developers of such a game would consider it an honor that even in the darkest, harshest conditions, so many years later, their creations are giving people joy....even if they get no financial recompense for it. Just thank God you were born in an affluent country when the "creation lottery" handed you your ticket. I know I do.

Therumancer, you are.... ignorant. Because some children (and adults) live in a poor country they shouldn't have the free time to play games? They should "fix" their economy.... How?

Therumancer:
My opinion on the subject is mixed.

The Third World is what it is for a reason, in my opinion these guys should be spending money on other things, and working on fixing their country, rather than playing video games to begin with.

"Guys"? Dude, I'm just gonna say this: KIDS. You're talking about KIDS. In Third World Countries KIDS play Tekken, KIDS play Super Mario, and KIDS play Pro Evolution Soccer. They sure ain't gonna start spending their nonexistent "money" on building a road somewhere. Kids don't do that. Kids play games. So let's just leave the Third World Countries' and Developing Countries' KIDS alone, ok?

Anyways, if it weren't for piracy and all its benefits, games wouldn't be even as half as popular as they are today. Heck, not even a tenth...

Also, buying a pirated product is not stealing.

/thread

I believe this is on topic:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/18.188902-Why-do-people-think-its-ok-to-pirate-games?page=1

If you're curious as to what the situation about purchasing games in Macedonia is (a developing country), feel free to read some of my posts.

To summarize it for you: If you were living in the U.S. or the E.U., but had the same standard/original video-game ratio as third world or developing countries have, buying a SINGLE original game would cost you some $500. Or even more. Would you buy Assassin's Creed 2 if it cost you a third, or half your salary? No you wouldn't.

And don't tell us to spend our money on more important things, because we HAVE all important things! Food, drinks, roads, houses, clothes, cars, night life, parties... You name it. But all those products are accommodated to our standard (food is relatively cheap, clothes even cheaper, night life's not expensice, we can buy second-hand cars for the price of 10-20 Assassin's Creeds, etc.).

Cause in some countries (like mine) a single game can cost up to 80% of our lowest legal wage. So go ahead, put yourselves in our place, and throw your hardly-earned salary on 10 hours of fleeting entertainment in a screen. Games are very overrated, at least where I'm from. Either that, either give us FAIR prices so we can afford an original product (I sincerely doubt it that making a legal copy on a disc costs more than 2 EUR). Give us the disc with the game, a legal account, a simple paper package without all that fancy price-lifting stuff, and we'll be VERY happy!

And piracy will be no more.

And we're still waiting for big-buck companies to adapt to our markets... 20 years now. Come on Ubi, how hard is it to market a budget copy (appropriate to my standard) of your games? Eh? The thing is, big buck companies don't WANT to provide budget products. No one would buy the fancy Christmas-package stuff. They wouldn't be fooling people into buying overpriced products. The goal is, clearly, to make more money, instead of making gaming available to everyone, at a reasonable price (to both their purse and their lives).

Cheers pals.

DuX1112:

Therumancer:
My opinion on the subject is mixed.

The Third World is what it is for a reason, in my opinion these guys should be spending money on other things, and working on fixing their country, rather than playing video games to begin with.

"Guys"? Dude, I'm just gonna say this: KIDS. You're talking about KIDS. In Third World Countries KIDS play Tekken, KIDS play Super Mario, and KIDS play Pro Evolution Soccer. They sure ain't gonna start spending their nonexistent "money" on building a road somewhere. Kids don't do that. Kids play games. So let's just leave the Third World Countries' and Developing Countries' KIDS alone, ok?

Anyways, if it weren't for piracy and all its benefits, games wouldn't be even as half as popular as they are today. Heck, not even a tenth...

Also, buying a pirated product is not stealing.

The point is that while I very much agree that the price of video games should be a lot lower, the logic that game companies should be lowering the prices so as to specifically exploit "potential markets" in the third world is absolutly ridiculous.

There are plenty of reasons why game companies should be charging less for their wares, but the fact that third worlders can't afford video games is not one of them.

I agree with the overall message about pricing (as I understood it), I disagree with the logic.

-

As far as piracy goes I have expressed my (again mixed) opinion in the past.

Simply put I think the game industry itself is corrupt enough in it's operations, that I feel little sympathy for them. The game industry does things like engage in cartel behavior, price fixing, and moving release schedules around to avoid direct competition between titles. When you look at things like the coordinated $10 price hike of a couple years ago, consider that at least in the US that was basically illegal for them to do (everyone in the industry getting together to set a price) so far it's been a non-factor because the goverment doesn't care about that aspect of video games.... compared to say gas companies where there have been ongoing investigations over exactly that kind of thing (supposedly competing companies coordinating to raise prices at the gas pumps). I also look at things like how with the release of "Modern Warfare 2" a bunch of companies pushed their products up/changed release dates to avoid competition as opposed to everyone trying to increase quality while lowering prices to try and outdo the competition. Rather, by shuffling release dates like this to avoid competition everyone could thus charge top dollar for their product. I also feel the lack of competition fuels the laziness you see with the whole "meh, we can patch it later" attitude.

That said, I also feel that piracy is both wrong and risky (trusting that whatever game you obtain won't be virused), however it's somewhat balanced by the fact that the guys being stole from are basically a group of thieves themselves. It's just that the way the game industry operates is more like the modern mafia, operating with spreadsheets, and a business mentality, dancing on the pinhead of legality. The pirates are like gang bangers, who are arguably robbing a group of crooks. Nobody can truely claim anything resembling a moral high ground here. When the game industry makes claims about all these hard working developers and producers being robbed of their creations, you'll notice they tend to skirt around the business issues. They'll talk about huge development budgets, and how games like Modern Warfare 2 cost half a billion dollars to create/market, but are very tight on explaining how much money the developers are demanding, and other factors. Interviews like the one here on "The Escapist" with the 1C corperation shed some light on what the actual profit margins (after the expense of making the game) look like, as do things like the fact that in Brazil people are apparently able to make fortunes off of selling games for $5.00 a pop.

Simply put it's like "rat wars" from where I sit at the moment. Both sides have their justifications, both with some validity, and both are wrong in the final equasion.

Now where I *DO* agree with piracy is when games/movies/books/etc... are censored or not released in a specific region. I feel that you have no right to steal the version that is currently for sale, but getting uncut/uncensored movies or video games is something else entirely. Of course I tend to also feel that one should try legitimate work arounds first, such as imports. Simply put I support things like fansubs, and translations, and do not see them as piracy.

My basic attitude is that if the gaming industry was to become less greedy, and operate more legitimatly, it could deal with the piracy issue entirely by lowering the prices to the point where the risks are no longer worthwhile for people.

Therumancer:

DuX1112:

Therumancer:
My opinion on the subject is mixed.

The Third World is what it is for a reason, in my opinion these guys should be spending money on other things, and working on fixing their country, rather than playing video games to begin with.

"Guys"? Dude, I'm just gonna say this: KIDS. You're talking about KIDS. In Third World Countries KIDS play Tekken, KIDS play Super Mario, and KIDS play Pro Evolution Soccer. They sure ain't gonna start spending their nonexistent "money" on building a road somewhere. Kids don't do that. Kids play games. So let's just leave the Third World Countries' and Developing Countries' KIDS alone, ok?

Anyways, if it weren't for piracy and all its benefits, games wouldn't be even as half as popular as they are today. Heck, not even a tenth...

Also, buying a pirated product is not stealing.

The point is that while I very much agree that the price of video games should be a lot lower, the logic that game companies should be lowering the prices so as to specifically exploit "potential markets" in the third world is absolutly ridiculous.

There are plenty of reasons why game companies should be charging less for their wares, but the fact that third worlders can't afford video games is not one of them.

I agree with the overall message about pricing (as I understood it), I disagree with the logic.

What's wrong with the logic? Companies enter the market and lower the prices just about enough to be competitive but keep it legal, and voila - people will rather buy their original product (at the appropriately lowered price), plus no sales will be lost and the company will undoubtedly profit (lower price per unit, but dramatically greater number of units sold), and everyone will be happy. The logic is that because of the lowered prices, games would become far more accessible and thus the need for pirating will lessen considerably - it may even become sporadic and insignificant.

As a market-protecting measure, they can also region-code the game editions, if low prices are a problem. (This thing btw, is true about movies and music too. Movies for example, are region-coded, but still too expensive. Virtually all legitimate digital media is overpriced here).

Basically, I'm saying the same thing you said, this: My basic attitude is that if the gaming industry was to become less greedy, and operate more legitimatly, it could deal with the piracy issue entirely by lowering the prices to the point where the risks are no longer worthwhile for people.

That's exactly what I'm saying. With the exception that instead of the goal of making money, they use a more humane excuse (making digital data available to anyone while not making them face starvation at the same time). Or, a better excuse is dealing with piracy. Whatever works, really. Just make things locally affordable!

I also agree with the date-shuffling business, and on many other topics you brought up. But, piracy being dangerous? :D Maybe that was a while ago, but nowadays - No way Jose - I haven't encountered a single virus in a "pirated" file/game/movie/album/whatever for 4-5 years now (and more). The whole "scene" is actually more professional nowadays, they deliver everything clean and in top shape. And they even update their own cracks or DLCs too, if need be.

Of course, there are also many intentionally false "files" out there (and "false alerts" like keygens, for example), boasting a trojan or a worm, but once you recognize the pros, there's no mistaking (they'd rather kill themselves than ruin their reputation by planting a virus to thousands of people). I've never had a virus from anything "legitimately" pirate.

Now, suspicious websites - that's a whole other story...

Honestly, most everyone commenting on here couldn't be poor enough to truly appreciate what this guy is saying.

We have computers and internet. Obviously.

This article was a real eye opener Like most I had never really thought about gaming in the 3rd world, I had always assumed that games were universal not that they were a luxury privilege for a few and that the rest of the world has to resort to more desperate means.

Thank you!

The best article on the site, by far.

I hope this puts a lot of things into perspective, because I'm also coming from the side of "piracy as only means" since where I grew up buying a game was prohibitively expensive so we either rented or bought them pirate cartridge (in the few cases it was worth owning something.)

But consoles not being sold until they were cracked to play pirate games is still the norm in a lot of places (you could get them still from big retailers, but for double the price and since you have to pay 200% for the games, you'll end up cracking it anyway eventually if you want to play anything.)

In any case, I bet everyone who grew up away from Europe/America/Japan will identify with all this to some degree. Or for example someone's first exposure to gaming was a Chinese NES knockoff that had 50 games in memory or whatever (hell I first knew the NES through the dozens of Brazilian clone consoles.) It's all rather commonplace stuff that I bet many people "on the other side" don't think about, or don't see it as valid experiences for some reason because it involves "piracy."

But really now, I see it as access to culture. If the economics are retarded, piracy will make things accessible and that ultimately is what counts to me. It's not the method, it's the end result (getting access to culture denied by politics/economics/etc.)

Oh yeah I specially liked the art-gallery comment. That's a fantastic analogy. In many cases it would be like taking a photo of some famous painting and showing it to people who can't see it personally. Sure it's not the real thing, but depending on the photo you can still get an idea of what it's like.

Very informative stuff! I recall playing a pirated version of Counter-Strike while I was in China at an internet cafe, good times.

Brazil is a third world country with one of the heaviest taxations of the world. So, it is a logical pirate haven if the price of a pirate dvd is only 1/30 of the pfficial.

Hell, even here in NZ any decent game sells for over $100 even years after release. I don't blame them for finding alternative ways of getting a simple game at all/console at all.

Though, need to get the internet to be less centred on the Western world too.

I live in Argentina and in my province, a PLAYSTATION 2 costs $800 - $1200 pesos depending on the store and whether it comes modded or not. That's estimated at about $270 - $400 USD. Can you imagine paying almost $300 or more for a console that was released more than a decade ago? Well, I have a friend who finally got his hands on one. He had been playing his modded PSone ever since he got it a few years ago. It was normal to go to an internet cafe and play on a PS2 for $2.50 pesos an hour.

It's weird talking about piracy cause I personally wish I could get my hands on original physical games. I do proudly own several of them and it's nice to have the original case with the disc and manual. But seeing how we're not really on many gaming companies' minds when it comes to their products (cause if we were, NTSC games would come in Spanish and Portuguese as well), there isn't a legal and accessible market for them. The guys at Sony for example are proud to mention that South American sales for the PS2 are booming, but won't dare mention game sales or any problem with piracy. It doesn't concern them. Why? Cause they aren't shipping us games in the first place. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe in Buenos Aires there's some amazingly legit store that's getting original games at good prices, but I'm here, paying $30 USD for 7 year old, used game titles that I KNOW FOR A FACT, are on shelves across America being sold for less than $2 just to clear a shelf space.

It would be tough to handle pricing in a way that they're high enough to make a profit, but low enough that people can afford it. For example, here in Costa Rica, games cost 80-90 dollars, but hacked copies cost less than 10 dollars.

Amen. We have no other option here, and the overpricing is just too much. Piray may not be right, but having to pay three times what a game is worth is a crime as well.
Besides... if you could buy a licensed game for 5 dollars... wouldn't you?

As a gamer who currently resides in a 'developing nation' I completely relate to your story. It was a great read ripped right from the pages of my daily life. Nicely done mate.

Wow, that was a very insightful article.

I was reminded of the $3 DYI console I saw a while back, http://rossum.posterous.com/20131601

I Really hope that Western developers consider people in the third world as a new source of profit. With Cloud gaming and especially with the, up and coming, cloud consoles will enable people in the developing world an opportunity to play AAA titles as they come out and in the way that developing users experience.

I think its insulting that people in the first world are criticizing people in the third world for paying to play games. They have a right to spend it however they want to. When the great depression came to the US, Hollywood was the only industry that was not affected because people wanted to escape the depression through movies. Were movie patron not richer or happier having experienced these movies. Were theater and move production employees better off. The same can be said about the gaming industry even if it is not all legal.

This article more or less relates to me, and I kinda cried a bit when I read it. I played a pirated GTA III in a dirty internet cafe in my country, because at the time I had no computer, hell I was only just then discovering computers, I can't even begin to explain how that has changed my life... dunno if for the better or for the worst, but I never gave up on PCs ever since. These machines are so much a part of my life and I can't think of life without them.

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