The state of Video Game affairs in Canada.

Ever since the inception of the $69.99 price point for video games here in Canada, I’ve been very loud about how we the Canadian consumers are getting ripped off. This is very evident if you walk into your local Best Buy, which I did on the weekend. You will see that some game pre-orders are 59.99, others are 64.99, and then you have most at the 69.99 Price point. Nobody has officially come out and said that the price hike is due to the exchange rate, and there is only online speculation, which is sound and logical. Personally I think the 69.99 price hike it is due to greed as there is no consistency in a price point between software publishers, aaaaand a 10% exchange rate difference should yield a price closer to $65 not $70. Funny that when the US dollar was trading at less than the Canadian dollar we were still paying the same as the US.

More recently the PS4 hardware price was raised and went up from 399.99 to 449.99, an additional $10 profit for Sony per PS4 sold in Canada. The Xbox One however maintained it’s original price. A few weeks ago Microsoft announced a Kinect-less Xbox One that will be selling at the 399.99 price point. I was curious to see what the price would be for this in Canada. To my dismay I learned that this Kinect-less Xbox One can be pre-ordered on the Best Buy Canada site for 399.99 as well. Interesting that a hardware manufacturer is willing to take a slight hit on their hardware but the majority of software publishers have actually increased their profits beyond the point of the exchange rate. Sorry it’s not interesting, it’s very greedy. I would like to thank Microsoft for showing us Canadian gamers some love. Just like they did when they lowered the 360 price in Canada first.

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Best Buy Canada screen shot.

Right now I’m going to pick on a single game that I have a slight problem with, Wolfenstein The New Order. One thing that irks me about a title like the new Wolfenstein, is that it does not have any multiplatyer, online or co-op game play aspect to it, yet they warrant charging 69.99 for the software. This game at best should be 49.99, even with the 10% exchange increase… but I digress. To be honest I was going to pick this title up when I learned of it, until I also learned that it is a purely single player game and that it would be selling at $69.99 CAD.

So the question everyone should be asking is, does a 10% exchange rate difference warrant a 17% price hike? And will the price drop once the exchange rate balances out?

For your consideration, below is a historic look at the USD to CAD exchange rate. Ranging from 1990 to now. See that huge spike prior to January 2000, this is where I purchased Turok 2 for the N64 and taxes in it cost me about $120, ouch.

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On the other hand PC prices are more forgiving. This is partly due to the fact that Steam and others like Greenman Gamin deal in US currency. Dealing in US currency reflects the true pricing and not this inflated cash grab.

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There are ways to get around this ridiculous pricing on the Xbox One. I’m not sure if this is possible on the PS4, but let me know if it is. If you buy digital on Xbox Live and use PayPal to pay for your purchases, you can temporarily switch your Xbox One to the US region, purchase the game and then switch back to your Canadian region. Online users have reported this as working. This way you pay what the game is actually worth, except for Wolfenstein.

This brings me to another point, why the heck are we paying full price for video games sold to us digitally? Games that have no resale value and do not impact sales of new software. Yes we have to consider the bandwidth and server storage, but come on we have effectively eliminated the need to print a cover, press a disc, mould a case, ship to a distributor, ship to a retail store, have to travel to said store…. etc. You get the point. So why is digital the same price as physical, it makes no logical sense. An incentive in a form of a discount for digital distribution would be most welcome, and would push digital over physical.

I understand the 64.99 price hike but going to 69.99 is just plain greedy. I’m not sure who is setting these prices, weather it’s the distributors or the retailers. One thing I know for sure is that the Gaming industry is run by dinosaurs that do not know how to adapt to new and emerging technologies and like the music industry is driven by corporate greed not profit.

Microsoft does not understand it’s audience anymore.

Gamer’s a fickle bunch, strike that PC Gamer’s are a fickle bunch. Add to that a dash of Xbox One and a pinch of Windows 8.1 and you have yourself a perfect recipe for disaster.

Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, a behemoth like Microsoft would be and is really hard to take down. You have to give them credit where credit is due if anything but they are persistent.

Let’s look at windows 8 for a second, when it came out there was an outcry about the Start button. I think the cries where a little muffled by the time they got to Redmond though. I don’t think it was as much as the lack of a start button but more of the lack of desktop and the fact that the start menu would take up the entire screen. This lead to the slow adoption of the operating system. Don’t get me wrong, for tablet and a touch interface windows 8 is great, and that OS is very deserving of the form factor.

Queue Windows 8.1, I hopped on MSDN and I grabbed the early version available to subscribers. I grabbed the ISO and installed the OS via flash drive. After install I changed a few settings and rebooted. Awesome, it now boots into the desktop environment, start button is there but as soon as you press it, BAM! full screen persistent start menu. What we have now is desktop/tablet hybrid OS. I was so disappointed that I could not change the size of the menu, and that it eats up all my screen real estate, that it prevented me migrating from Windows 7 to 8. I feel like the start menu is way too intrusive in the desktop environment, and yes it is has more customization, but it is not the start menu I like and find convenient. It’s supposed to be a sub menu for the OS not a fully fledged application like interface. I guess the only option left for users of Win 7 that wish to migrate to Win 8 is Start8. As a gamer and heavy desktop user, this irks me a little.

This brings me to Xbox One, when I watched the unveiling I was slightly impressed with the features. However I noticed two things. One the lack of hardware specifications, and two the complete lack of game focus. Instead MS decided to focus on the media capabilities of the device what it can do for sports, and Television, etc. I thought to myself I’m a gamer, I don’t watch sports I only play them. I don’t even have cable television let alone any television subscription except for Netflix. No longer is the Xbox a gamecentric device. I get this, it is supposed to appeal to the whole family not just the gamer in the house, but what if the gamer in the house is the whole family? Either way it looks like an interesting multimedia device, if it is able to play MKVs it would be a winner in my living room for sure.

At the moment all the media is giving MS flack for not having as good hardware specs as the competition, saying it’s 50% less powerful than the rival. I kind of laugh at this because as someone with a Computer Engineering background I know that hardware specs don’t necessarily mean better experience or performance. Prior to the 360 being released 7 or 8 years ago I worked for a company that designed the testing hardware, we worked closely with Microsoft and the drivers for the 360 weren’t finished until a week prior to it being released. Not only that, but driver optimization is a powerful thing, and if Microsoft knows something it is software, perhaps not their audience but definitively software.

Look at Nvidia and AMD they optimize their GPU drivers heavily sometimes yielding 33% performance gains and that’s in an open system such as a PC, imagine the optimization that can take place in a closed system such as an Xbox One. So all the naysayers are probably still working with Alpha drivers complaining about performance, let’s see what November 22nd brings. Either way someone from MS should step out and say something to that effect, because all the dirty console peasants are up in a roar pitchforks and shovels in hand.