Coffee Break – Why Are PS4 and Xbox One Digital ‘Deals’ So Terrible?

Coffee Break is a place for the GameRevolution staff to air their thoughts and share their grievances. Reading over coffee isn’t a requirement, but it is a very strong suggestion.

If there’s one thing I’ll never understand, it’s PS4 and Xbox One owners outside of the US opting to buy their games digitally. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals popping up across a whole bunch of online and brick-and-mortar retailers, Sony and Microsoft once again decided to barely compete with the likes of Amazon, eBay, and co. in the UK, knocking cash off its already inflated price points to bring the cost of its digital games in line with the cost of their physical editions.

There are two advantages that should come with buying a game digitally. Firstly, you’re able to buy a game there and then, with you not having to wait around for a delivery or visit a store. If you have a decent download speed then this is fine, but if you’re like me and have been held captive with shitty internet, then it’s not so fun. Secondly, with the cost of physically shipping a game, printing it to disc, and creating a box to store it in completely eradicated, digital games should logically be cheaper than physical editions.

Unfortunately, it seems that no one has told Sony or Microsoft that this is the case. Scrolling through the PlayStation and Xbox Store’s Black Friday “deals,” I was struck by how many digital games on the platforms were either the same price as their physical equivalents, slightly cheaper or in some cases even more expensive.

These Aren’t “Deals,” Folks

Take the PS Store’s top Black Friday deals. Even with a cursory Google search, I can find no fewer than three retailers shipping physical editions of Spider-Man for either the same price as listed on Sony’s online marketplace or cheaper. The same goes for FIFA 19 and Detroit: Become Human, while Black Ops 4 received a “price drop” from £59.99 to £41.99. I can’t find BO4 anywhere for £59.99, and in a variety of retailers, it’s currently being sold for £34.99.

Compare this with the price cuts available on the US PS Store and the discrepancy is obvious. God of War was available for $21.99 reduced from $39.99 (roughly £17), Detroit: Become Human is also $21.99, and FIFA 19 is $29.99,.

The Xbox Store doesn’t fare any better. FIFA 19 is being sold for £41.99 despite retailing on Amazon for £34.99, while Red Dead Redemption 2‘s special edition is purchasable for £59.99 elsewhere yet being advertised on the Xbox Store for £71.24. This is after a pitiful price drop from £74.99.

The insistence that video games will soon move to a digital-only future is a very US-centric belief that overlooks the reality of gaming in countries outside of North America. We don’t have the high internet speeds required for widespread game streaming in the UK, and the prices of digital console games are extortionate to the point of being laughable. Why would I ever opt to purchase Red Dead Redemption 2‘s special edition for £71 and wait for its 100 GB download to fill up my hard drive, when I can buy a physical edition for over £10 cheaper and play it after a minimal download?

There is literally zero incentive to purchase the majority of games on the PlayStation and Xbox Store outside of ignorance or laziness. Who is handing over their money to Sony and Microsoft when they can get physical versions of the same games for a lot less money? Who is paying through the nose to buy digital games that can’t be resold? I must meet these people and ask them if they’re okay.

Even though the industry continues its push towards digital downloads over physical purchases, the PS and Xbox Store’s prices have not accommodated for such a shift. Digital downloads on consoles outside the US are priced as though consumers don’t have access to Google, yet we’re all expected to embrace our purported digital future as if it isn’t insultingly expensive. Clearly, people are buying these games at these price points, but those people should stop doing so immediately. It’s your fault that Microsoft thinks that the digital version of Black Ops 4 costs £47.99.

With the continued decline of the pound sterling seeing the price of goods grow increasingly expensive, it’d be nice if the cost of digital console games wasn’t so ludicrous. Maybe one day I’ll feel compelled to purchase from the PS Store, but until then my money is going literally anywhere else.