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.

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21 Comments Leave yours

  1. Thomas Ryan #

    I think a great store to buy games from is GoG, mainly because they give back when regional pricing affects a game’s price. Right now, if you pre-purchase Hotline Miami 2 on GoG.com you can get it for £10.89 (10% off), and you also receive another £1.90 towards any future purchase made on the site. Sure, you don’t get a Steam key, but GoG are great to their customers, and they’ll also have a Steam style program soon.

    When talking about restricting the sale of games based on region, I think, like you said, that it’s their choice as a company, but it does seem like a strange move. I’m sure we’ll see it in a humble bundle at some point, and many people will probably just wait for that to come around instead of pre-ordering… So they are ultimately shooting themselves in the foot by cutting themselves out of some early sales where they could get more money for their game.

    At the end of the day, someone in marketing thought it was a good idea…

  2. Chris #

    I bought the special edition of HLM2 from there. When I got the message saying not able to buy in my region I assumed it was Nuuvem itself and always did it. I used Hola to say I was in Brazil and bought it. Last time I checked I hadn’t been given the key. I’m assuming it will come out nearer go live of the game. Right now I cannot access the log in page on Nuuvem to check as I keep getting an error 404.

    • Lewie Procter #

      Yeah you should get your key in the next few hours. It’s not out yet, and sometimes there is a short delay getting keys for preorders from Nuuvem.

  3. Pako Asuna #

    Well it’s not only Devolver that blocked IPs outside SA buying from Nuuvem. In the last month Rockstar, WB Games and Paradox joined the group of 2K, EA, SEGA and others. More and more publishers purchase lock their games there ((some publishers locked newer games only but left older games unlocked but that may change). I guess pretty soon Square Enix and Ubisoft will follow, making Nuuvem an option for just a handful of indies or older games provided you don’t want to risk your security with something like Hola which is not the most secure VPN service out there (it’s fine to trick sites into putting things in your basket but that is where I draw the line, I would never log into any of my accounts with it enabled).

    The silly thing is that by locking Nuuvem, people will turn into unauthorised resellers to buy cheaper. Sure Nuuvem had cheap prices but it was a legal distribution channel, which means publishers got their share and the customer bought at awesome prices. Now the customer is forced to buy higher because brazillian / VPN resellers need to make a profit. If anything this change makes the various unauthorised resellers happier because they will increase their profit margins with Nuuvem not being an option for the average gamer. Although the big publishers are trying to scare people away from unauthorised resellers with massive revoking and finger pointing.

    Further more, I can understand how sites like Nuuvem are being a threat to good and honest authorised digital resellers like GreenManGaming and we have to see their side of the story too. The whole Nuuvem thing was unfair to them so I guess they have probably lobbied too in order for this thing to be shut off but where will this end… Region locking, gift locking, purchase locking, activation locking, one time non transferable licenses… Where are our consumers rights… We are paying for a service and we own nothing… Absolutely nothing… But I guess that is the result of frequent 75% sales in pc gaming. Publishers now that pc gaming is on the uprise and the console model doesn’t seem to viable and future proof are turning their gaze to pcs and want to increase the value of pc games (which is dirty cheap nowadays) by first locking things down and then gradually doing less aggressive sales. I can related to that provided they give us back our consumer rights.

    • hairy_yan #

      That’s the problem isn’t it, PC gamers have set their own limits on what they’ll pay for a game for ages. Before Steam it was ‘nowt’ and we were all frantically pirating them. After Steam it was ‘75% off’ and now we balk at spending more than a fiver on a PC game. Given that we get nothing but the means to load and play a game for a finite period (no physical copies) this makes sense. Aren’t we just renting anything that isn’t DRM after all?

      But the market expands and contracts. We might be on the edge of a contraction where seemingly contrite games publishers who have spent the last few years making concessions to PC gamers to secure our custom – now that they have more of our confidence – are going to hike up prices until rampant piracy and dodgy resellers force them to start lowering them again.

      Until then, I just thank all the gaming gods that we don’t yet have to put up with the PSN store! (Unless we use Origin, of course – 50 quid for Dragon Age Inquisition?!)

    • Rack #

      You can hardly complain about your consumer rights being eroded when you’re so flagrantly abusing them. If you want to argue that regional price discrimination between US and UK is unfair you have a reasonable case, but arguing that games shouldn’t be cheaper in Brazil or Russia is patently absurd.

      If you abuse regional sales prices for digital media you’ll have it taken away from you. What’s worse though is you’ll have it taken away from Brazil too. When games over there end up costing a significant percentage of a family car you’ll have to accept that it’s your fault.

      • foofly #

        So your saying that international business can and do profit vastly from international price discrepancy but as soon as a private citizen such as my self take advantage of these same (legal) means I’m “abus(ing) regional sales prices”?

      • Pako Asuna #

        I think you misjudged me. Let’s say, to put it in perspective, that not all people that follow SavyGamer are from the UK so if you think there is a disparity between US / UK prices let me enlighten you that this disparity is a lot worse for consumers coming from the poorer European countries that are forced to pay as much as booming economies like Germany in almost all cases.

        Steam’s EU2 pricing zone has countries such as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia etc. and in like 99% of the games we pay exactly the same amount as the EU1 zone that has countries like Germany and France. Some of the above countries are not that much richer than Brazil yet they pay a lot more for games. Asking 59,99€ for a new game in Greece, Slovakia, Portugal and the other poorer countries from the EU2 zone is a lot of money. I mean in some cases even UK pricing is better than EU2 pricing.

        Nuuvem was a nice alternative for these countries. Now the only alternative are unauthorised resellers or maybe the local retail market (but not always).

        So to come to your point I never suggested that I want Russia or Brazil to pay as much as the Germans or the UK. The perfect solution would be Russian prices for everyone everywhere but I can’t see this happening. I am just trying to tell you that at least Russia and Brasil are having fair prices but there are other (poor) countries that are not only stripped from their consumer rights but are paying premium prices too such as the EU2 zone I mentioned earlier and nobody brings this up.

        Furthermore you have to understand that fair regional pricing is one thing but lower end price shifting is another. In my previous post I wrote that it’s pretty obvious that the big publishers plan to stop PC Games being devaluated down to dirty cheap prices with regularly sales. They want to gradually change that and they will do it now that they have us all hooked up and going. With the above in mind I said I am willing to shallow this tactic (which has nothing to do with regional pricing, to give you an example a game now goes down to 80% at let’s say 3,99€ but in the future the sale will be maximum 50% at 9,99€, which means the lower end gets shifted from 3,99€ to 9,99€) as long as they give us back some of our consumer rights.

  4. Deadfolk #

    Paradox have just recently done the same. I got Cities: Skylines from Nuuvem a couple of weeks ago, but now cannot add it to my basket – and the same applies to the Crusader Kings II DLC I tried yesterday.

    Hola did the trick, though.

    • Rob #

      I also used Nuuvem for Cities: Skylines. At the equivalent of £12.48 via paypal, I’d be crazy to pass up that price for a legal copy. I’ve used nuuvem for quite a while now, have found them to be reliable with fast service.

      For the first time though, I had to login to my account, then use Hola Unblocker to make it seem as though I was based in Brazil. I was then able to add the product to my basket & pay for it. Once bought, it gives a region-free / worldwide retail key that I added to Steam like any other game key.

      For those saying I’m taking unfair advantage of something here… Do you honestly believe the publishers don’t make money on the stuff they sell in Brazil or Russia? Of course they do. They make it enough to make it worthwhile to sell there. That’s why I feel justified in buying in this way. They’re still making money, I’m just not over-paying.

  5. Marcos Ávila #

    I wonder what pushed them “over the edge” on this decision; maybe it’s that Hotline Miami is such a prestigious launch for an indie title, but the Brazilian Real has been falling strongly in the past few months. Is this Nuuvem deal particularly cheap from Nuuvem, or is it at a price you’d expect them to sell?

    • Lewie Procter #

      It’s pretty much in line with other discounts from Nuuvem, but I agree that Hotline Miami 2 is a bigger title that most of Devolver’s other games on Nuuvem.

  6. Lawtle #

    Lewie, question: How does this deal with the fact that different countries have differently strengthed economies? Certainly, EU/US prices should be fairly similar, since the economies are all pretty similar. But what is a fair price in England is not a fair price in Brazil or Russia – the difference in our economies is too strong. This is comparable to one of the big problems with the Euro (although obviously on a very different scale) – you can’t stand two different economies next to each other (e.g. Greece and Germany, or UK and Brazil) and expect to apply a universal rule to both of them (e.g. the value of money or the price charged for a game), notwithstanding the fact that the calculations necessary to reach that conclusion is different in each (i.e. the strength of the economy).

    So let’s posit for a moment that, in England, a fair price for a game is £20. The fair price in Brazil, though, is £10 (nb: these numbers are fictional, merely for the point of discussion). That takes into account the general state of the market (average prices and whatnot), the comparative buying power of money, and the necessary price that a studio needs to charge to make up its costs. What should it do, then? Charge £15 worldwide, ripping off those in Brazil and giving a great deal to those in England? Charge £10 everywhere and likely fail to recover their costs, thus going bust? Or charge £20 everywhere and deprive consumers of the fair price in Brazil? Surely the fairest solution is to allow regional pricing – it protects the consumers in the weaker economies and the developer in the stronger economies.

    • The thing that you are missing in your discussion is that lower prices give higher volumes of sales.

      How many games do people buy and then just don’t end up playing or play very little of?

      With higher prices people will pick and choose what they buy much more than they do with cheaper prices resulting in lower sales volumes for the publishers and distributors which may well hit their bottom lines even more than “savy” gamers (see what I did there?! 😉 ) buying their games from cheaper international sources given that the majority of the public will tend to buy from more traditional routes.

      • Lawtle #

        Obviously a lower price will sell a higher volume. Which is great for both consumers and devs. But I highly doubt that most games will increase their volume to such an extent to make up for the loss of income. Even on its best day, with the best pricing, most games are only going to sell X number of units. I highly doubt that most games will double (for the sake of argument) their sale numbers because the game’s standard price (not sale price) is half of what it would otherwise be!

        It’s also worth considering that if all of the games are priced at the lowest national price point, sales will become completely non-existent. If X Inc. are selling their game (that they would have sold at £40) for £20 everywhere, they already need to double their sales in England. If they then drop the price for a sale (and we all know that PC gamers won’t even bother looking at it if the sale is less than 50%), then they (effectively) need to quadruple the sales for that period or lose money.

        (I recognise that the numbers are oversimplified, but they make the point well enough).

    • foofly #

      The units cost the same to make regardless of country. If they can’t afford to launch in Brazil at a standard price then that’s their fault, not the fault of Brazil. Regional lockouts on digital goods are only good to protect the business involved. It’s anti consumer at best.

      • Lawtle #

        Unit cost isn’t the guiding star, though.

        I work for a company that sells books. Each book costs £12, give or take. But the books sell for considerably more than that because of the work that goes into making them. If we charged £12 per book, we would go under in a day because we couldn’t pay researchers, editors, typesetters and the like.

        So you need to look at the total costs for producing the product before determining what each licence should be sold at. Then you look at what the market can bare. And the market can bare different prices in different locations. So why should one bunch of consumers be penalised because their economy is worse off? Or are you suggesting that a company which can’t afford to sell at Brazil prices worldwide should charge UK prices worldwide? Such an action would mean that suddenly a majority of the Brazil sales are lost, meaning that the cost per unit has to go up everywhere else, meaning we get higher prices and Brazillian consumers are just plain out of luck!

        • Dean #

          Which is fine, in principle. But what then becomes unfair is when it turns out that the QA for the game was done in India, or in your book example, the printing was done in China. Because it’s cheaper, because of the different economies. Why is it fine for the manufacturers to take advantage of regional price differentials to reduce the cost of producing the product, but we’re not allowed to do the same thing when buying it?

          Why is okay for printers in the UK to be penalised because they can’t afford to match the prices of China? You’re basically lobbying for protectionism, which is fine, there are sound economic and philosophical arguments for it. But you only want to apply it to one bit – to the final sale to the consumer, and not to the production of the product.

          Give me a game that was developed, coded, tested, printed and packaged in a single country (or economic zone) and I’ll happy agree that they’ve the right to charge what they like in different parts of the world.

          • Lawtle #

            I don’t think it’s protectionism at all. Protectionism is typically defined by State intervention – tariffs, quotas and the like. What we’re talking about here are the rights for private companies to lock their goods to particular markets and choose what to charge in different places. It’s not an obligation to do so, nor is it measured by the state. It’s the company itself who can choose what to charge. In much the same way that, I’m sure, the bookbinder would price its UK branch differently to its Chinese branch.

            The difficulty here, it seems to me, isn’t free trade – it’s the intangible nature of the product and the easily accessible nature of the shop. Since it can be purchased online from anywhere in the world, and instantly received anywhere in the world, the physical restrictions that normally allow companies to do this (even in a free trade market) fall away. Which invites the problems that I outlined above.

            Now, we could counter that with a protectionist market for intangible goods. But, like you, I think that would be a bad thing. Much better to allow the companies to decide their own price points based on market pressures (more or less. A few prods and pokes are obviously desirable, but by the point that we’re arguing about that then we’ve lost sight of the woods for the trees in this discussion).

            But back to your question. Why is it fair for the company to take advantage of international pricing and it isn’t fair for us to do it? Well, one reason is because the company’s money is (theoretically) being pumped back into the local economy whereas our money is (predominantly) heading to the dev back in England/America/wherever. Another is because the company is contracting to a service company rather than an intangible product company, so the impact on the market is different. The other reason is that the people who ultimately suffer the detriment are commercial bodies, as opposed to consumers.

            So to sum up: free trade > protectionism. But, within that structure, digital games are a special case that need a little extra consideration.

  7. Guy Fawkes #

    Only true solution to this problem is global communism with a basic income system. This would guarantee same price for everyone. Actually I even think that this current system in digital distribution that starts to remind the phenomenon of zero marginal costs is taking us there eventually. No way free market capitalism will work when everything from manufacturing, transportation goes automated.

  8. chris lee #

    i get most of my games for free ,so no biggie .

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