Though many of the machinations of capitalism seem cryptic to us non-corporate types, something we can understand is that a non-material product costs less to produce than something that involves smelting and a team of dwarves. Whosoever’s responsible for the pricing of Steam games must think we’re idiots, or we’re unfamiliar with the concept of money – cave communists. £39.99 for Empire: Total War! We engineers are shovelling wads of cash into the Steam engine, yet the output seems miserably meagre. Today, I demand transparency from game publishers. I want to see through Creative Assembly’s frock.
Since I’d need to be an industry insider to know the kind of profits publishers are siphoning off Steam (and I’m not) this article is framed around a set of assumptions.
Assumption 1: If someone charges the same price for a digitally-distributed game as they do for a physical copy, the profit-margin for the sale of the former is substantially larger.
Assumption 2: This person is overjoyed at having found, in digital distribution, a wonderful new way of cutting expenses, but it’s painful because they have to suppress their smiles for fear of their customers finding out that the savings are not being passed on.
Assumption 3: The customers, having worked out for themselves that something is amiss, can do something about the lack of justice. They can send emails to Valve or directly to the publishers, asking them for a disclosure of their profits or for lower prices – they could even boycott the offenders. If enough customers do this, a change will come about.
Creative Assembly are far from being the only guilty party – I’m picking on them simply because E:TW is coming out soon and it seems like a concerted effort on our behalf could force a £25 March. So, let’s do this shall we?