Novel idea: Stop shafting them then. Not like Steam completely bans everyone from NOT setting very different prices for regions.
Ah, but then the devs feel like they're shafting themselves. In some cases they actually do, in other cases it's what Steam tells them.
(Also, some rightsholders have to deal with monopolist regional distributors and are in fact banned from setting reasonable prices, even on Steam).
"Rich countries" are usually a vat issue. I think Joel posted a breakdown of their pricing in the Trine3 thread (?).
Suppose the devs want to get an honest $9.99 for the game, Steam takes 30%, so $14.99 looks like a good price point... except Country A happens to charge a vat of 27% on top of that (which it presumably spends on the citizens' welfare), and Country B doesn't charge a vat at all. The devs, meanwhile, are from an unrelated Country S. Why should they, effectively, pay A's citizens' vat for them (which goes back into the economy to benefit A's citizens)?
And no, I'm not saying "they shouldn't". There are in fact convincing soundbites such as
"It's the cost of doing business with A, pay up or GTFO"
"A's excellent welfare system makes more people able to access and afford the game"
"A is actually a kleptocracy in slow fall and the people are poor, maybe you should partially subsidize the purchase to increase total revenue"
But none of those is an inherently better argument for fairness. Also, "overpricing" (vs. flat pricing) should not be an issue for GOG regulars, because store credit is still a thing and it now lasts forever, so GOG
ends up paying for your politicians' hookers and blow.
Regional discounts are a matter of purchasing power. Ostensibly, if developers are not making use of the ability to convolute the supply/demand curve and set up different prices for different regions, they're losing substantial amounts of revenue. In practice, however, the results the system produces are more batshit than Wells Fargo's cross-selling goals ("eight because it rhymes with great"). Consider these two frontpage offers: Clustertruck
: $14.99 base, $5.29 in Russia. Looks potentially incredibly fun and potentially incredibly disappointing (depending on difficulty level). $5.29 is the price of an average movie ticket or a shitty lunch in Moscow, or a decent lunch in the neighboring regional capitals -- looks about right for an instabuy. If they're planning to make money off deep sales (maybe because it's the natural state of the market these days, maybe because the best way for gimmick games to make money is to sneak in with a mass of impulse purchases beyond Steam's 14-day refund window), it's underpriced and should be 599 RUR ($9.4) instead (to skim some instabuys, have a nice "less than 300 RUR, feels like a great deal" 50% off price, and hopefully get a couple fractional cents after fees at 75% off). It's kind of a mess, and the GOG cms with its lack of sanity checks doesn't help, but at a flat 1000 RUR, a gimmick game is not going to sell. At all. (Some games will; titles featuring "classic" gameplay such as RPGs and adventures are often substantially underpriced.)
Now the other one: Shadow Warrior 2
: $39.99 base, $10.69 (currently $8.69) in Russia.
...excuse me but what
? Fucking seriously?
If impersonal-you have access to a computer you can actually play SW2 on but can't afford it at (say) $29.99 (1999 RUR) no matter where you live, go sell your life story to a Hollywood studio or at least write a Cracked article. The shittier the country, the less
likely it is that you've managed to afford a high-end PC despite financial difficulties
and the more likely you are to be a beneficiary if not the cause of said country's shittiness.
And the exceptions are not a meaningful market share. There's no way a person who just sold their kidney to buy a new gaming PC can't also pay the US price for the newest AAA game said PC can run -- but they won't stay
in the market because staying requires upgrades
and their second kidney is not for sale
. It doesn't matter if an AAA game in two years' time costs $70 or $40 or $10 or $0.99 for them -- their PC can't run it. Pricing it regionally at $0.99 to cheer up the kidney-sellers only benefits kidney-buyers
But sure enough, 'experts' say, "price it low or Russians gonna pirate!!1!!!!11!". Fuck. It's not 2003 anymore. It's 2016, 2.5 years since Russia choked on Crimea, and for the people who are still in the AAA market, lack of a client
is the hardest-to-crack DRM evar