Civilization: Beyond Earth
Civilization: Beyond Earth Supplied

Gaming money-grab hardly a civilised approach

WHEN I pre-purchased Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth on a Friday night, the game cost me $49.99, as it would have for gamers in the US or anywhere else in the world.

But as of the following Saturday morning, the price had almost doubled to $89.99, but only for Australians

Since this went to print, a similar price jump occurred for our friends across the ditch in NZ.

At the time of writing, the publishers, 2K Interactive, have failed to provide an explanation for the increase in price.

It's also not the first time this has happened. Australians are regularly charged far in excess of tax-justifiable price increases.

Borderlands 2 reportedly jumped in price in a similar fashion. Fallout: New Vegas and COD: Modern Warfare were both said to have been hit with what has come to be called the "Australia Tax".

The problem is so common that then Communications Minister Stephen Conroy called a parliamentary inquiry and tech giants Microsoft, Google and Adobe were asked to explain why their software often cost so much more for Australians.

The inquiry's conclusion was blunt: the price differences couldn't be explained by the cost of doing business in Australia.

Two recommendations stood out from the inquiry's report.

The first was that parallel import laws needed to be reviewed and changed so that they couldn't be used to justify blatant price gouging.

The second and most widely reported recommendation sent waves of mirth through the technosphere - Australian copyright laws needed to be changed to allow Australian citizens "to circumvent technological protection measures that control geographic market segmentation".

Despite the government turning up and agreeing that Australian software users, including gamers, were being given an unfair deal, an election happened and nothing changed.

The reaction to the price change has been damagingly negative. Reddit communities, already known for venting rage at the slightest provocation, have gone straight to the disappointed-shaking-of-the-head-and-turning-away stage of disapproval. Steam's forums have reacted in much the same way.

There's another unfortunate context here. Sid Meir, the game's namesake founder, is to computer gaming what Marlon Brando was to cinema - he helped define a new level of seriousness for the medium. So in this case there's at least a slight level of betrayal going on by those who've assumed control of what he started that caps off what is otherwise a difficult to fathom money-grab.

The gaming community has waited a long time for a spiritual successor to Sid Meir's Alpha Centuari. It's obvious Beyond Earth is heading for that title, let's just hope that 2K Interactive plays fair with pricing.