from the price-is-right dept
While we’ve had a lot of conversations about how some forward-thinking content creators have managed to look at understandably frustrating things like copyright infringement as opportunities rather than threats. There’s a lot of ways that can happen: looking at infringement as free marketing research, looking at it as an avenue for exposure, looking at infringers as under-served customers, etc.
But it might be more difficult to see the potential benefits of something like price tourism in the video game space. If you’re not in the know, price tourism is where some folks out there will spoof their location identity in order buy a video game that might cost $25 in the United States, but is offered for the equivalent of a much lower dollar amount in a different country. Publishers set up those price differentials due to economic conditions in different areas of the world. Price tourism is generally, and understandably, seen as skeevy shit that people shouldn’t do. Publishers generally get very angry about it.
But not the creators behind Let’s Build A Zoo. The publisher of that game, No More Robots, released the 2021 game recently for pre-order on the Nintendo Switch. Mike Rose from the team has an awesome Twitter thread about what happened with those pre-orders, but Kotaku also has a nice writeup of what occurred.
It started with Rose going to bed after setting up the pre-orders for the game. Then he woke up and saw that there were a ton of those pre-orders. Except it seemed that a huge percentage of those pre-orders were coming from Argentina, where the game cost a fraction of what it cost in the United States.
Now, Argentina is not a strong economy, and due to the Switch’s regional pricing, the usually $24 game and DLC bundle was priced there at around $1.50. Obviously these weren’t genuine Argentinian sales, and Let’s Build A Zoo was the victim of price tourists, who use various websites to identify the cheapest location to purchase a game, spoof their IP or register a Switch account for that country, and then buy the game at its local rate. All these pre-orders were netting NMR only a buck each. And it began to seem like a disaster.
And if you go read through Rose’s Twitter thread, you’ll see that he too thought it was a disaster. He was ready to have a full on freak-out. And, really, who could blame him? A bunch of people who didn’t live in Argentina were getting the pricing afforded to that country by spoofing their location. Suddenly, the publisher, an indie publisher, was selling a game like crazy but getting a fraction of the compensation it would have expected. At this point you’re probably thinking, “Well, how is that not a disaster?”
However, due to a weird quirk of the way Nintendo compiles its regional sales, it groups all of the Americas when monitoring sales for the United States, and counts units sold, not revenue. All those Argentinian pre-orders were being registered by the Switch’s algorithms as U.S. interest, and it immediately began promoting the game far more heavily on its storefront to some of the highest-paying customers: Americans.
This then saw the EU Switch store think this game was big business, and it started being promoted to much of the rest of the world’s full price-paying nations. By launch day, September 29, the game was high up on both stores’ “Great Deals” tabs, getting—as Rose tweeted—“loads more attention than we would have got.”
Yeah. Now, there’s no good way to quantify just how much more money No More Robots has raked in because of the price tourism that occurred with its game… but it’s obvious that that dollar amount is not zero. And it’s likely that the exposure generated by the bad actors resulted in a considerable windfall for the game and publisher.
Does that make price tourism a good thing? No, not at all. It’s a shitty thing to do, full stop. Does it mean that, not unlike copyright infringement, that it’s at all worth the publisher to pursue all kinds of legal action and demands for remedies when it happens? Well, based on this story, absolutely not. It sure seems like this is yet another case of a game being acquired in less than above the board ways resulting in an overall net benefit for the content creator.
So, just like copyright, the question is what should the publisher do about this? Well, the answer, if you’re a Mike Rose, is nuanced.
“Every loophole always gets taken advantage of,” Rose tells me when I ask how he addresses the ethical issues, adding that he thinks a lot of developers will see it as an “‘Oh crap’ situation and raise the price.” But for No More Robots? “I’m just gonna keep pricing our games how they’re meant to be priced, and then if people take advantage of that, I guess that’s their right.”
I guess I don’t agree that it’s “their right.” But I think, at least in the case of Let’s Build A Zoo, it’s also not “their wrong.” After all, if everyone ends up winning, who is being harmed?
Filed Under: let’s build a zoo, markets, price tourism, video games
Companies: no more robots
Source by www.techdirt.com