EA’s dramatic price increase of PC titles has not gone down well with gamers in India

India has always been a safe haven for PC gamers. Historically, PC titles in India have been sold at heavily subsidised rates — often a fraction of international prices. For instance, Grand Theft Auto IV, at launch, cost a measly Rs. 499 (around US$8 at the time), while the U.S. version cost over five times as much. In the nineties, however, PC games were preposterously expensive — I personally remember purchasing a PC copy of FIFA 97 for Rs. 2,700 and Monster Truck Madness for even more (so much more that I’m ashamed to admit what I paid for it). Things did change for the better, however, and the standard price for PC games in the country has been Rs. 999 for several years now, with a maximum deviation of about Rs. 500 either way — the reduction in price was a direct measure to combat piracy. This clearly worked. A by-product of the new pricing structure was that PC games became more accessible to the gaming public at large — it also remains the definitive argument in favour of PC gaming in India.

With distributors standardising prices for several years, volumes saw a steady increase, but the insignificant size of the Indian gaming market has caused publishers such as Activision, and more recently, EA to re-evaluate their strategy. The new approach involves dramatically increasing the cost of PC games to generate the same amount of business (or better) achieved previously by volumes (interestingly, some distributors claim that volumes have increased despite higher prices). The “margin” logic almost seems sound, given that it suits the distributors in the country, who are now forced to pay the same amount of customs duty for PC games as they are for console games (PC games were not subject to the same duties when the price point of Rs. 999 was standard).

It would also seem that the publishers are banking on core gaming audiences to pick up copies of titles with huge fan bases at launch, ignoring the drastically increased price so that the required numbers are achieved during the games’ launch windows. Moreover, games like FIFA 14 are likely to both sell heavily at launch, while retaining steady round-the-year demand during the product’s life cycle (which is effectively until the next yearly instalment). An unfavourable exchange rate has also resulted in PC and console titles becoming more expensive. This, combined with publishers bringing parity to console and PC games pricing (a standard internationally) has seen prices soar — as a bonus, pricing on a par with international releases will curb the sale of cheap Indian game keys in the grey market.

EA’s new releases for the year will be priced as follows: Rs. 2,499 for FIFA 14 (FIFA 13 was priced at Rs.1,499) and Rs. 3,499 for Battlefield 4 and Need For Speed Rivals (Battlefield 3 and Need For Speed: Most Wanted were both priced at Rs.1,499). Prices of console games have seen an increase as well, but this could be attributed to the change in exchange rate. Needless to say, PC gamers in India are none too pleased with EA’s price increase of PC titles, and have taken to the Internet to vent their frustration (just follow the #EAPCIndia hashtag on Twitter) — these digital protests seem to have gained some traction with the international gaming press as well.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not that gamers in the country have never paid high prices for PC games. Even recently, Activision games such as Modern Warfare 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 were priced around the Rs. 3,000 mark, while this year’s Call of Duty game, Ghosts, is expected to cost around Rs. 4,000 on PC. If EA sticks to the new pricing despite the gamer outrage, it’s pretty likely that all other publishers will follow suit, and we’ll find ourselves in the same position as gamers across the world, carefully picking the titles we buy while hunting for deals at the local retailer or on Steam (or Origin, but that boils down to a matter of principle, doesn’t it?).