Publishers Are Failing to Capitalize on the Canadian Dollar and Digital Sales

The Canadian dollar has dropped in value over the last year, going from on par with the American dollar to ten cents below. To compensate for the ten percent difference, retailers across the country have risen the price of goods, including video games to offset the import fees. Unfortunately, there seems to be an interesting opportunity that publishers seem to be missing that could affect how Canadian gamers buy the bulk of their games.

Publishers across the globe are trying to find new ways to ensure you hold onto your games and don’t trade them back in. The PC marketplace already has that covered but the digital storefronts for Microsoft and Sony contain a lot of potential to start something in the console space, but it’s up to the publishers to make an enticing argument to convert people over. Unfortunately, by raising the price through digital means for Canadians, it’s limiting the conversion rate in the snowy north, and really stifling any potential sales. While it might sound selfish to complain about this considering other parts of the world, such as Australia, pay significantly more for their games, there’s little reason to justify a markup of 17% on digital goods when the dollar has dropped only eight to ten.

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The way publishers such as Sony and Ubisoft are approaching the Canadian Dollar decline with their digital goods is ensuring that there will be very little sold. PS4 and Xbox One games have jumped in price by $10 around March and Canadian gamers were universally upset. While this doesn’t seem like a huge leap, you have to take in account that major populated provinces in Canada are paying upwards of 15% in sales tax. Thankfully, services such as SEN and XBL don’t require you to pay a tax on your purchases, but retailers such as EB Games or Futureshop (or Best Buy for you Americans out there), this comes out to around $80 for a game now, a price that’s incredibly daunting, especially at the rate high profile titles are coming out.

If publishers were to distribute their games at the standard $59.99 Canadian gamers have become accustom to for many years (the dollar has fluctuated quite a bit over the last decade) they would be taking in five dollars less than they would have last year. Some are taking a chance, though as you can see that EA Sports UFC, Lego The Hobbit and The Amazing Spider-man 2 are currently available at the now considered reduced price through Sony’s Entertainment Network. Even better, Bethesda is offering a ten percent sale on top of that sixty dollars through the service for Wolfenstein: The New Order, giving Canadians the game for $53.99 (or $49.25 USD). If you were someone who had to pay around eighty dollars for a game in-store, would this price not tempt you to buy digitally?

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There would be a greater inclination from the core audience in Canada to save close to thirty dollars, when in reality, the publisher is only potentially losing out on $10 USDs (minus whatever fees Sony charges). With this, the publisher doesn’t have to worry about trade-ins, the game getting borrowed or just the overall loss of another potential sale. They have the customer’s money, and while it’s slightly less than what they could have earned, the driven up price is already turning a lot of people off and they’re being more selective with their wallets. Even sixty dollars is feeling like a deal at this point, although it still is a lot of money to invest, but it’s less of a risk in comparison to something that’s 25% more expensive.

As such, it’s hard to understand why Sony doesn’t market this in the Great White North. You look at SCEA and they’ve been, and will continue to be, charging $69.99 for their titles. This include Infamous: Second Son and the upcoming PS4 version of MLB 14: The Show. Even The Last of Us Remastered, an upgraded version of one of the best games of the last generation, is being marketed towards Canadians at this price. I’m unaware what percentage they take from a sale of a third party product, but charging this price for their own published goods doesn’t make any sense. If they really expect Canadian gamers to make the transition to the digital world at these prices, then they’re sorely mistaken.

Granted, this is coming from a man who has lived in Canada for his entire life, but my disappointment is regarding how it’s being handled in regards to the 8-10% drop of our dollar. Those who live in the United Kingdom likely have a similar pricing structure, maybe a little more expensive, and same goes with the Japanese market. But in the digital front, Sony Canada isn’t paying more than they did prior to bringing these onto their service. With that said, Xbox hasn’t flinched yet and has been charging the same as ever with games such as Kinect Sports Rivals staying at $59.99. Who knows what the future holds for them though as this change has only been implemented in the past couple of months.

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Sony and Microsoft are both pushing hard for people to buy big budget releases digitally (and even Nintendo is slowly getting into the race), but the Canadian marketplace right now is not looking so good. Granted, we are a small piece in the grand scheme of things as The United States, Europe and Japan are significantly bigger markets, but it would be small gestures such as this that could help covert gamers in the north. If you don’t like people trading games in, publishers, here’s a good testing ground.