I don't know how much people know about this topic. Quite frankly, I wasn't even aware that such a thing as regional pricing existed until Steam added it, and I was baffled. Being from Colombia, this meant that I could finally afford some games without having to think about it, rethink it, and then consider if skipping a meal would be worth a 10-hour game.
You see, being from a third-world country implies that my currency is way, way less valuable than the US dollar. After COVID-19 hit, there was a time where I had to pay $4,000 COP for $1 USD.
I often found myself looking at a game I might want and not being able to afford it. Heck, when I bought Fallout 4, I paid $200,000 COP for it. For reference, the minimum wage here in Colombia is $908,526 COP monthly. That is 22% of our minimum wage for one game. Whenever it's a $20 USD game, I have to fork over $74,000, which should be the price of a AAA game.
Don't get me wrong, I will forever be eternally grateful to Steam for allowing regional pricing to begin with. Ever since then, I've been allowed to purchase and play games so much more commonly. For once, I didn't have to actually skip a meal because I really wanted to play a game before I got spoiled, or finally be there for a newly-released game. Something I wasn't able to do until this same year, with Kena: Bridge of Spirits - I've been a gamer for well over 10 years and this was the first time I could boot a game on launch day.
Game of the Year is coming up and it got me thinking. I've not once been able to know every single game on the list. Never have I been capable of watching the games revealed and know which one I would really choose, because for the most part I got to play one, maybe two of them that year. Seeing the success of Deathloop, I assumed that the game would probably be up there as one of the top games to be contenders for GOTY. So, I went to check the game on Steam and lo and behold, it costs $180,000 COP. I can give up the dream of knowing if I really would have liked it to win this year or not, or just plain out giving up on the possibility of affording it any time soon. And with Elden Ring coming out—knowing FromSoftware doesn't regionally price their games either—I can give up the idea of getting Deathloop until halfway into next year. Maybe.
This is a problem that needs to be addressed. Some people don't have the economical capability to fork over so much money for a game. I've been friends with these people within my country, being paid minimum wage or close to while also working ridiculous hours. And the consensus? They'd rather wait and pirate the game than have to pay so much because it's so unreasonable.
And this stands true to this day. I've lost contact with all of my friends in these past couple of years, but every time there was anything released, be it on PC or consoles, they would just sit around and wait until there was a pirated version.
I'm not saying regional pricing will stop pirating. Unfortunately, this is something common in the industry and something that everyone has learned how to do - whenever given the opportunity, humans will always choose to save money. But perhaps it will slow it down. If regional pricing was taken into consideration, the battle between consoles and PC would certainly thin, because to this day I have to pay copious amounts of money for any console game.
When Horizon Zero Dawn came to Steam and I saw it was regionally priced, my heart fluttered. I was excited that it was going to be something affordable. I spent some days thinking about whether I should buy the game or not due to the aggressive economical loss my family suffered from the coronavirus pandemic. When I'd finally made up my mind, I was determined I wanted the game because of the praise it had received and I really wanted to be able to play it because I was unable to on the PS4 - however, I found the price had been raised.
I was confused. I did some digging, I tried to understand what had happened and I found something that infuriated me. Gamers from the countries that have fair pricing were using a VPN to be able to snag the game at a lower price. The VPN trick that was being used allowed them to get the game at $16 USD. So of course, the only course of action that could be taken was to raise the price. And honestly? I couldn't even blame them.
As a result of this, Horizon Zero Dawn remains with an unaffordable price in the Steam store for us, and Days Gone was released with it too. Neither of these two games am I capable of affording, much less in the arduous times that COVID-19 has given us, and let alone those that are less much economically stable than me.
This isn't just limited to store pages and consoles either. World of Warcraft is a game we love in this household. Generally speaking, three members of my family play it every month. And the reasonable price of $15 USD, becomes $60,000 COP a month. The price of a full AAA game. Per person. For one month. We had to quit playing throughout the entirety of the pandemic, and continue to be unable to afford World of Warcraft 19 months after the virus hit my country.
As an example of how harsh these prices are, I went to The Sims 4 on Steam; which, you guessed it, isn't regionally priced (thanks EA). With every expansion and base game, we're looking at $3,041,000 COP. This is $1,000,000 COP more expensive than a motorcycle. If we keep in mind the minimum wage, excluding monthly expenses like rent, food, and general necessities, a person would need to save up for four whole months. One-third of a year. For a game and its DLC.
I could go on and on about how expensive things are because the story doesn't end there. Including deluxe editions, gold editions, collectors editions, all of which are impossible to afford. But I believe I've put my point across.
Harsher punishments need to be dished out to those that abuse the system and thus in turn make it impossible for us from third-world countries to receive things at fair prices. A slap on the wrist has never been an efficient punishment method. I just wish that Steam would take more aggressive steps to fix this issue. Gaming is a hobby that is growing throughout the world, and it would be really nice if action was taken to facilitate this for everyone.