DVD-ROM vs PC download
November 16, 2014 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Hello--I see that the new game Civilization: Beyond Earth is available as both a DVD-ROM or PC Download. They're virtually the same price (just under $50). I'm wondering why this is--I would think that the download would be slightly cheaper since there is no physical item to ship.
posted by lirael2008 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total)
You would think so, but the thing is, it's not. No manual, no shipping, no box, no CD - that's quite the hefty savings! Why, they should pass that on to the consumer. PFFFFT.

I play plenty of games, and I can tell you that while that makes a lot of sense to you and me and everyone else... it's just... not so. Sad but true.

All you need to do the confirm this is bop on over to a marketplace like Steam's online store. There's the digital edition of Far Cry 4 for $59.99 digital download, same as in town.

The bastards.
posted by kbanas at 7:03 PM on November 16, 2014

Best answer: To distill it down, the publishers established a price point for AAA games in the pre-digital era and they have decided to maintain it because it's good for business.

So, to distill further: because they can.

The main place that you see a pricing change is in the speed and flexibility in which titles go on sale, particularly on a platform like Steam.
posted by selfnoise at 7:04 PM on November 16, 2014

Best answer: Also, discs and packaging are not a large cost for the publishers, particularly since they have gotten away from providing any kind of decent manual or other physical goods. Plus the cost of delivery over the internet (servers, bandwidth) is not zero. So the difference in cost may not be as large as one might think.
posted by selfnoise at 7:06 PM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: To some: being able to reinstall from any network connection is, itself, a valuable property - compared to having a CD which might break.
posted by pompomtom at 7:07 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One thing with the digital download is that you can always re-download from Steam, whereas if you lose/damage your disk you are SOL.

Also, if you have purchased for one platform (such as PC) you will be able to play on others (Mac or Linux) if/when they are released. You don't get that with the physical disks.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:09 PM on November 16, 2014

and the fact that distribution is a drop in the bucket compared to development.
posted by Ferreous at 7:21 PM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think one of the reasons for price parity between the physical disc and the digital download is that brick-and-mortar stores will loudly object if the publisher undercuts them on pricing for a direct download. Gamestop, Best Buy, Target, and whoever else still carries physical game discs are likely to cut their preorders in protest if a game is priced for less as a digital download on the day of release, so keeping the price high really is, as Selfnoise says, good for business.
posted by Mothlight at 7:24 PM on November 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

The cost of software has never had much to do with the physical cost of goods. Also the products are effectively equivalent; most games sold on disc today include Steam downloads anyway, so really you're buying a license to run the software.

If you really want to hurt your brain, ask yourself why the Steam download of a game in Australia costs 2x what the exact same game costs in the US.
posted by Nelson at 8:22 PM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

The physical copy costs the publisher about $1.
posted by achrise at 8:27 PM on November 16, 2014

The cost of the infrastructure to have high speed downloads for a large number of customers on a release date is not at all trivial.

Think of how many 'Black friday' type sales have websites that spend most of their time non-functional.
posted by Ashlyth at 9:02 PM on November 16, 2014

Another way you could think about it is that the digital download includes a convenience fee: If you go buy the disc, you have to spend the time and money to get to the store, stand in lines, etc. And then they might run out of copies or whatever. When you download it, it's less of an investment of your time and that's a net win for you. So it probably evens out either way.
posted by nushustu at 3:06 AM on November 17, 2014

Publishers establish a single price for the game. That is what they want you to pay, full stop.
The cost of high-speed, high-bandwidth servers to accommodate downloads; the cost of printing DVDs, manuals, and boxes; the cost of shipping physical goods to stores; these are all just costs of doing business. They are completely de-coupled from the price of the item, to the extent that they want to continue charging a premium price for the game. And as others have said, undercutting on price will damage relations with retailers.
posted by trivia genius at 7:18 AM on November 17, 2014

One thing to consider: outside of maybe the first three months of a new games life, the list price for digital copies goes down pretty steep. I would actually look for Beyond Earth to drop to $30-40 during the holiday season.

So the price is the same at first but the digital copies go on deep discounted sale pretty frequently.
posted by Tevin at 9:40 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's all supply and demand.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:41 AM on November 17, 2014

To expand on Ferreous's comment, games take years to develop. Outside of the indie space, you're talking offices, salaries and healthcare for developers as well as all the high end machines they use to produce the games. Times that by the number of the projects we never hear about or do hear about and get cancelled and the publisher is looking to recoup that money somehow. If they can't, and the number of games that have a significant amount of resources expended on them but never see the light of day is surprisingly high, then they will eventually go out of business. That's why digital games cost the same as physical.

All that being said, Steam has Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall sales. Just wait a bit and then buy them then.
posted by haqspan at 10:35 AM on November 18, 2014

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