Devolver Digital Have Put Regional Restrictions Across Their Entire Library On Nuuvem
In my mind, of all the unique strengths of PC gaming, the greatest is that it is an open platform. The super high end graphical fidelity of bleeding edge hardware is nice, as is compatibility with a range of input devices, and being able to tinker around with mods and tweaks and hacks. But first and foremost for me, it’s being able to buy games from basically wherever you want that sets PC gaming apart from the alternatives.
It’s this openness, many different suppliers all competing for custom, that results in prices being almost exclusively cheaper across the board than buying the same games for a closed platform. There are of course outliers, notably Ubisoft and EA have been increasing the prices of their PC games in recent years, and it’s no secret that this has coincided with seeking to gain tighter control of distribution with uPlay and Origin respectively. There’s also instances where the secondary market for games on consoles (that is preowned games being sold after someone is finished with them), and the nature of physical inventory keeping (the cost of keeping boxes with plastic discs in them in storage) results in prices collapsing far quicker than on the PC, where licenses for games are typically single use and non-transferable, and the market is primarily digital for most games.
Retailers, publishers and developers may seek to minimise this competition on price with a range of methods. One such method is regional pricing discrimination, whereby prices are decided for each regional market to maximise revenue. Where one price might be optimal for the USA, another price might be optimal for the UK. This isn’t a form of generosity, it’s not a case of charging poorer countries less out of kindness (as evidenced by many countries poorer than the USA being charged significantly more), it’s simply aiming to determine the highest price any given market will bare, and charging that. This will take into account factors like antecedent market conditions, like the historical “going rate”.
Some of the best deals on PC games in recent times have come from a Brazilian retailer, Nuuvem. Just taking a look back over deals I’ve posted from them shows that they are pretty competitive. Their prices are seemingly intended to maximise revenue in the Brazilian market, which often results in lower prices than many other retailers. They are perfectly happy to sell to international customers, although they are also happy to block certain customers from buying individual games on a case by case basis, if they happen to be too foreign. For some items, they sell region free keys, but will only sell those keys to customers from certain regions (typically South America). For other items, they only stock region locked keys.
So where do Devolver Digital come into this? Up until very recently, Devolver Digital’s games were all available through Nuuvem for international purchase. Just two weeks ago I directed SavyGamer users to Nuuvem to preorder Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number from Nuuvem, since it was the cheapest retailer by a decent margin. People were able to order it without issue. With it’s imminent release, I decided to remind everyone that Nuuvem was the cheapest place to buy Hotline Miami 2, but was surprised to discover that it was no longer available to purchase in the UK, and in fact Devolver have blocked people from the UK from buying any of their games from Nuuvem.
I think this is a shame. I’m broadly against regional pricing discrimination for digital games. I think it is better to just pick a fair price, and charge that globally. Pricing promotions are a far better way to attract customers with less disposable income, no matter where they reside. That said, obviously any developer or publisher is well within their rights to engage in regional pricing discrimination (as long as they don’t breach laws limiting this in the process, such as EU free trade law), and taking steps to curb customers bypassing these pricing discrepancies helps to maximise revenue.
But it is a disappointing to see a publisher like Devolver, who put their customers first in many other ways, putting restrictions on where their customers can buy their games from. Even aside from pricing, I’ve had excellent customer service from Nuuvem, and they’re always one of the first retailers I go to. In an ideal world, it would be best for customers to purchase their games from whichever retailer was preferable.
Massive publishers like Ubisoft and Square Enix have not put these restrictions on their games sold via Nuuvem, so it does stick out when a smaller publisher like Devolver decides to apply these restrictions. In my mind it is a customer hostile move.
Fortunately, Devolver are still selling region free Steam keys. Meaning if you are able to get a key from Nuuvem, it can be registered on Steam no matter where you are in the world. It is relatively trivial to use a service like Hola Unblocker to trick Nuuvem into thinking you are located in Brazil, and from Steam’s perspective, the key you enter will be indistinguishable from one that you got a Brazilian friend to buy on your behalf.
This article was funded by the generosity of Patreon backers. If you’d like to chip in towards more similar articles in the future, you can do so here.