GOG & CD Projekt Embrace Regional Pricing Bollocks

In my role of bargain hunter for gamers across the UK, I encounter a whole host of deals where pricing is tied to what region the customer is based in. Customers in one country may be charged one price, and customers in another country are charged another entirely different price. This is a textbook example of price discrimination (that’s discrimination in the economic sense, rather than in any other), and there are arguments both for and against these pricing structures. Most retailers selling digital goods engage in some form of regional pricing discrimination: Steam has different prices for different regions, and Valve encourage (but do not force) developers and publishers to follow pricing structures that will help to maximise revenue. The iTunes app store has region specific pricing tiers for apps and in app purchases. Amazon also operate globally, but each national storefront is locally managed, with entirely different product ranges and pricing. However, one of the few retailers who opted to make an ideological stance against regional pricing has been GOG. They have aggressively marketed themselves as fully supporting the idea that you should be charged the same price regardless of which country you happen to reside in. However it seems that they have recently had a change of heart regarding these policies.

Here is a video from GOG, accusing their competitors (specifically GamersGate) of being “unfair” for charging customers different prices based on their location:

For the release of The Witcher 3, a title developed by a different division of the same company that operates GOG.com, rather than sticking with their prior stated policy, GOG have decided to charge customers from Russia, Ukraine and some other countries a price equivalent to around £10-15 for a preorder, whereas the UK preorder price is £41.49. This is a pretty massive discrepancy, and seems to be directly opposed to ideological statements on the matter that GOG have made in the past.

Since my primary concern with SavyGamer is simply to get my users the best deal possible, I instructed my users on how to go about circumventing GOG’s regional pricing discrimination with technical measures, allowing UK customers to actually attain the dream of flat regional pricing promised by GOG in their marketing. Sadly, GOG objected to this and canceled orders that they detected were made using these technical measures. There’s not much I can do about that other than shrug my shoulders and keep an eye out for the next best deal, but I don’t think I’ll be encouraging anyone to spend over £40 on The Witcher 3 any time soon.

For the release of The Witcher 2, GOG and CD Projekt decided to engage in regional pricing discrimination. Here certain regions were charged higher prices on GOG simply for being too foreign. As a cumbersome but ultimately acceptable solution to this issue, GOG offered any customers paying the higher price store credit to the value of the extra they were being charged compared to other customers. As recently as March 2014 they reiterated this policy on their official forums, even specifically stating this would apply to The Witcher 3. It would appear that they have forgotten about this pledge, and customers paying the UK price will not be offered the difference between their price and cheaper prices around the world back as store credit.

This situation is troublesome for two reasons for me. Firstly, I think it is a clear example of a company making promises in order to gain reputational benefits, then utterly failing when it comes to delivering on these promises. Secondly, there is an interesting discussion to be had over what is fair, right, and what should and ought to be done. I shall tackle these two areas separately.

Whether you think it is right or wrong for customers in richer or poorer countries to be charged different prices, GOG have made their stance on this matter known repeatedly. When it comes to advertising what makes them different from their competitors, when it comes down to courting custom from regions that have been treated poorly by many other entities in the games industry, GOG have taken great care to establish that they believe in one price for all customers, and not treating people differently purely because of their nationality. When it comes to actually delivering on this promise, when a lot of money is on the line, they have proven themselves to be unwilling or unable to actually deliver. This seems like hypocrisy to me. If they are dead set on embracing regional pricing discrimination, they should openly admit the change of policy, communicate to their customers why they ended up making this decision, and apologise for failing to follow through on promises they made in the past.

There is an interesting debate to be had over what exactly is the fairest thing to do with regional pricing. Whenever I argue against this practice, I’m always greeted by responses along the lines of “But why on earth should customers in [relatively poor country] be forced to pay the same price as customers in [relatively rich country]”. It’s an argument with merit, but not one that matches up with reality. In my experience looking at prices globally, digital games are never priced in order to be “fair” to poorer countries. Why are prices in the US almost exclusively cheaper than prices in the poorest countries within the EU? Why are Australians notoriously served the highest prices when Australian customers on average have less disposable income than many countries with lower prices? Why do the poorest countries in Africa and Asia get pricing that is directly in line with the US? It’s because regional pricing not designed to be “nice” or “fair”, it is designed to maximise revenue, taking into account antecedent market conditions, and the economic makeup of the likely custom-base within a given region. Corporations are perfectly within their rights to engage in behavior that will help them to maximise revenue (as long as they do so within the law), this is a fundamental tenet of capitalism, but doing so is incompatible with marketing yourself as being different from everyone else, and being ideologically opposed to regional pricing discrimination. I’d be far more tolerant, supportive even, of regional pricing that was geared towards making gaming more accessible towards developing countries and individuals with less disposable income, rather than simply charging the highest price the market will bear.

Whatever you think and feel about the subject of global pricing, and pricing discrimination, it seems pretty clear to me that GOG’s current actions undermine their previous public statements on these issues.

Bringing it back to what this means for SavyGamer: GOG got in touch with me to explain that they were less than happy with my decision to instruct my users on how to bypass their regional pricing. I am signed up to their affiliate program (meaning I get a cut of sales I direct to GOG), although didn’t use an affiliate link in the post instructing people on how to bypass their regional pricing. I have never agreed to refrain from instructing my users of such loopholes, and if membership of their affiliate program was contingent on such an agreement, I would simply decline to be on the program.

I don’t know exactly how GOG plan to proceed, or if they intend to expand their use of regional pricing discrimination to other items in their catalogue, but for my part I will continue to instruct my users of how to bypass such pricing policies where possible, and wherever doing so represents the best deal on a given game.

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.

32 Comments Leave yours

  1. Zahpeter #

    Wow, GOG has gone as far as sending you an email telling you’ve been a bad boy about informing the world (and the rest of Eastern Europe, clearly not as economically challanged as the CIS countries, but clearly not as wealthy as the western Europe- but yeah, looks like nobody gives a damn about us-) about a way of paying less for a game ? There goes a big chunk of my respect for them. Most of the time these guys have been fair with us, but the recent change in their attitude is visible, and it looks teriibly like them trying to cash in on the goodwill acumulated over the years.

    /dissapointed

  2. Terrana #

    This is the first of your articles I’ve helped sponsor through Patreon, and I think it’s a very good start. GOG need to be called out on this. Lying to your customers is never acceptable.

    • Lewie Procter #

      Thanks for saying so! I hope I can continue to impress.

  3. RobR #

    Given that there are now “Content Passes” appearing for The Witcher 3, it also suggests they’ve reneged on their promise for all DLC to be free to all customers from day one.

    • Lewie Procter #

      Yup.

    • Jan #

      Yeah, but question is what they mean by DLC.
      Many companies release endless amounts of skins and such and feel fine charging for it – CD Project decided not to, good for us. The pass is supposed to be two pieces of DLC that are going to be lengthy (30 hours apparently). You shouldn’t be calling it DLC, you should be comparing it with Reaper of Souls.
      I hate when people call others entitled because most don’t seem to understand what that word means, but it does apply here. You can’t expect to get 16 or something pieces of DLC for free and complain that now they’ve decided to make a paid expansion on top of that.
      Just for comparison the DLC for DA:I is something like £15, the season pass for Destiny is a whooping £35
      CD Project intends to keep it’s word and is still ahead of the others and somehow people still complain…

      I’m Polish… i might be biased.

    • InformedPerson #

      Sorry but that is simply BS. They have never stated all DLC will be free. NEVER. It’s one of those bad headlines that got circulated and everyone ate it up as fact.

      They said such small cosmetic DLCs will be free and that only bigger content that they feel is worth it will be charged. I remember this because I have waited many years hoping an expansion to Witcher 2 came out since they made that statement.

      I can’t find the original 2011/12 articles but I did find this from 2 years ago.

      “We could sell extra content to gamers down the road, but we don’t believe in that. Only something really big, and something that will not make you feel ripped off, justifies a price tag. If we ever decide to charge you for something, we think you will appreciate what you get in return.”

      – Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, July 2013
      http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2013/07/29/witcher-3-dev-doesn-39-t-want-to-sell-you-extra-content.aspx

  4. Dantonir #

    I wonder if this is a case of GoG’s objectives not being compatible with publishing simultaneously on console.

    The Witcher 3 isn’t just releasing across multiple regions on PC, it’s also releasing on PS4 and XB1, it may be that Sony and Microsoft have applied pressure to ensure pricing in Western regions is similar across all platforms.

    • Lewie Procter #

      If this is the case, I imagine that the blame lies more with crossplatform publishers/distributors they are working with than platform holders.

      • Dantonir #

        That would make more sense, especially as those publishers appear to be handling retail distribution of the PC version as well.

        If it weren’t for the fact that CDProjekt developed the game I’d assume it simply wouldn’t have appeared on GoG at all (due to incompatibility between their policies and regional publishing agreements).

  5. bobikus #

    Did anybody here have theirs removed? Mine is still in the account, but I never buy from gog so maybe they dont know where Im from.

    • dex #

      Yes, it was definitely removed from my account. The payment was still taken though. So I’m basically paying £11 extra for Witcher 3 now, on top of the regional pricing crap. Thanks GOG!

    • zd #

      Mine is still in GOG account, but I live next to Ukraine, so maybe they thought I might have visited the country or what…

  6. Irien #

    Not entirely surprised by this reaction from GOG, to be honest, as my experience dealing with them privately has been quite different from their public “no DRM, we love you guys!” attitude that they present to the public. Sorry you got hit by that side of the business, Lewie 🙁

    • Lewie Procter #

      They didn’t take any action beyond the email. Their response was actually pretty toothless.

  7. Jan #

    For the first time I completely don’t agree with your stance…
    I hate regional pricing as much as the next guy, but it’s not like they’re charging germany or new zealand differently. It’s Russia and Ukraine. EA sells DA:I for less than £18 over there. The economy is so unstable over there that most publishers have no idea how to do their business in those parts.
    I mean there were such rubble value fluctuations that apple shut there store in Russia at one stage. And that’s before you take the rampant piracy into account.
    This isn’t embracing regional pricing as you have stated in the title. This is a company that doesn’t know what to expect from a market that’s in huge turmoil.
    And have i mentioned that doing business as a polish company with russia is like walking through a minefield?
    When you’re a business ideology is one thing and remaining relevant is another.
    CD Project has fought for many things that consumers desperately want and they still keep fighting. Yet even when they are ahead of the curve they still get s*** for doing something we’re not 100% happy.

    I am Polish, I might be biased

    • Lewie Procter #

      But do you not see this is true of many other countries that they do not give preferential treatment too? The argument you have outlined would be a much stronger position if they also charged countries in poorer Asian and African nations lower prices, rather than simply charging the same as in the USA.

      • Jan #

        I don’t have the kind of data or insight into their politics, I don’t know how big those markets are compared to europe so i can’t really say anything.
        But…
        Like i’ve mentioned russia is our neighbour, their problems are more immediate to us and whether you talk about the general popultion, politicians or businessman, we all care about what’s going to happen over the border. I do believe that to discuss this subject you’d need a greater understanding of the politics between our nations. We don’t know much about asia and care even less what happens in africa, but when putin farts in pur direction evryone is talking about it (slight hyperbole).
        If it were any other european country i would agree with you, but i still believe that in this case you have jumped the shark

        • James #

          So are you saying GOG pricing structure in Russia is about appeasing Putin to stop him invading Poland?

          • Putin loves him some DRM free Sacrifice multiplayer, it’s true. He’s such a Frostwolf rusher though.

  8. Phil Hollett #

    Well I guess GOG will go on my list of do not buy from then. I find most of their stuff overpriced for what would normally amount to abandon ware anyway.

  9. FinnyMcFinnigan #

    *sigh* I really hope this is not a case of cashing in on good will. GOG and CDPR have always stood as bastions against the horrible monetisation trends of the industry today.

  10. James #

    Must say I support your stance on this. If people in the former USSR can afford the hardware to run this game then surely they can afford to pay the same as the rest of Europe for the game. Thanks for your effort in helping gamers to save money. James

    • RiptoR #

      Was coming here to say the exact same thing. The Witcher 3’s requirements may not be extremely high, but you still need a beefy system to run it decently. So if you can buy such a system, you can pay the same price as the rest of us imo.

  11. PapoAtna #

    There are way more poorer countries in this world than Russia, Ukraine yet they get the wrong side of the stick. The only reason these two countries (and many others in that particular region) get so low prices is due to insane piracy rates.

    The same is evident into the Chinese market too. Generally regions with very high piracy rates seem to get lower prices in order to convince people to buy legit copies so people if you want lower prices to your region start pirating heavily 😛

  12. Flappybat #

    I never considered the fact they don’t universally charge less in poor countries, thought it would be lower in all of them not just when it suits them.

    Australia and Canada have it worst, their pricing is shameful.

  13. Adam #

    Regional pricing is a disgrace and the idea that just because you live in a wealthy country that you yourself are wealthy enough to pay a lot more than other countries is flawed beyond belief. Props for standing up for the consumer and thank you for your fantastic site.

  14. kolobos #

    PapoAtna, I completely agree. That in my opinion is the actual reason. When all’s said and done the only thing that truly matters to a company is the bottom line, meaning profit.

    I’d be very interested to see how regional pricing correlates to piracy for different countries such as Canada, Australia, China, Russia etc. My bet would be that fit very closely. More evidence of this is that alot of free to play games are first rolled out in Russia, such as the new Halo online game.

  15. trn #

    Here’s Gog’s manifesto from March 2014 when they caved to regional pricing on their site: http://www.gog.com/news/getting_back_to_our_roots

    They state in point 2 that customers affected adversely by regional pricing will get store credit to compensate. Presumably that means those who’ve pre-ordered TW3 will get a beefy bonus of c. £30 to spend in store?

    I doubt it.

    Thanks for highlighting this latest development.

  16. Filip #

    Something which you did not mention is that GOG offered quite generous discount if you had already Witcher 1 or 2 or both. Something unprecedented in history of gaming which i haven’t experienced before. Also you did not mention that when people were making per orders they where throwing vouchers for 10 dollars (I think) to compensate higher price in this region.
    Why they sell their game over there cheaper – is totally understandable for me – people leaving there earn less and need to live for less simply due to their history and something which they can’t change. I have one Russian on battlelog and he plays on Geforce 560 and even older processor in windowed mode to keep frame rate bit higher. For the same reason MacDonald’s charges for their Macburgers 10 dollars in Manhattan and 1 dollar in Zimbabwe. In this case they wouldn’t sell much, people would pirate this game due to not being able to purchase in first place. Kotick once said that if he could charge more for games – he would do that. When EA abandoned Steam and opened Origin – they even increased prices. Game industry has more problems – I’m looking at you Ubisoft and EA, than debating on charging people less who got lesser.

  17. Filip #

    Small correction – debating is always good – regardless of topic

  18. Naetharu #

    Really interesting article with lots to think about. Insofar as regional pricing goes, in theory I find it perfectly fine to have countries that are less wealthy able to purchase games cheaper. However, as Lewie mentioned above, its a shame that the price-structure is often only based around a few select markets, leaving many poorer countries paying USA prices.

    Insofar as GoG stands, however, I am pretty shocked that they pulled this one given their explicit stance beforehand. I have no issue with GoG changing their policy, and in fact think that it is a good idea all things considered, at least when it comes to big games like The Witcher 3, but I dislike the underhanded manner in which they pulled this one off. It smells a little too much like EA for my tastes.

    Saying that, both GoG and CD Project Red have been champions of PC gaming for a good while now. The first two Witcher games were great DRM free titles and I have every hope that the third will be the same. I\m going to hope that this matter is a case of a small misstep by GoG rather than anything more serious. They’ve an excelent track record so I guess its best to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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