Exhibit A: Are you being “gouged”?

This week the new download-only PSPgo was released to a surprising amount of rancor across the web. Certain sites have published ill-considered, extremely negative reviews of the device citing things like a high price and no upgrade path for existing PSP owners. Of course, if you take existing owners out of the equation, and you really should (there’s no reason to upgrade), a lot of the complaints don’t apply anymore.

But some persist. It’s pricy, but the smaller size may hold value for a lot of people. No support for faster wifi is disappointing. The lineup of downloadable games is missing some important titles, like every Final Fantasy game Square has released for the PSP. The MGS: Acid games are also MIA. If those are important to you, definitely hold off for a while to see if they materialize, or go with a PSP-3000.

But a lot of people keep harping on the digital distribution only model the PSPgo has adopted for games. The claim, being shrieked in comments and forums everywhere right now, is that the current pricing for downloadable titles is significantly more than the prices for the same games used on UMD. While a lot of people are making such accusations, usually they look up one new game, compare the price on PSN to the price from a single online retailer and then make sweeping generalizations. I took it upon myself to do some actual research into the matter to see how big the difference really is.

METHODOLOGY: Now, I had no interest in checking the prices for all 100+ PSP games you can buy through the PSN. Instead I installed Sony’s MediaGO software and browsed the Playstation Store to pick out all the games I’m really excited to play. I ended up with a list of 9 title and their current price as a download. I then checked Amazon, Buy.com and Gamestop to find the absolute best price, shipping included, for that game on UMD, whether new or used. You’ll see below in every case the best price was from an Amazon seller. Now, you might complain that if you buy from a local store you don’t pay shipping, but in my experience prices online are advertised lower than you can find locally, but when you add in the shipping it’s pretty much a wash. This is just to create a general idea of used prices. I don’t have the time or resources to come up with a true average price for used PSP games across online sellers and B&M shops. That comprehensive research would probably move the used prices higher anyway, and a best case pricing is sufficient for this kind of quick analysis.

RESULTS:

Game title PSN Price UMD Price Store
God of War: Chains of Olympus 15.99 13.24 Amazon
Jeanne D’ Arc 22.99 14.92 Amazon
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 39.99 32.98 Amazon
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite 29.99 26.98 Amazon
Burnout Legends 19.99 14.92 Amazon
Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days 29.99 25.99 Amazon
Prinny: Can I Really be the Hero? 9.99 27.48 Amazon
LocoRoco 2 15.99 11.39 Amazon
Patapon 2 10.89 10.89 Both from Amazon!
TOTAL 195.81 178.79

So, if you buy these games used instead of through PSN you save a grand total of $17.02, or an average of about $1.89 per game. Hmm, not exactly the corporate ass-raping we’ve all been warned of. In addition, UMD games have certain drawbacks. The PSP-3000’s battery life is comparable to the PSPgo’s when playing games from the memory stick, but if you’re playing a used UMD to save a couple dollars that battery life will be significantly shorter. Buying used UMDs also puts you at the mercy of local selections, shipping time for online purchases and the preorder/trade-in nazis at Gamestop and EB. If you buy digital you can also take heart in the fact that your money is actually going to support the developer who made that game and not simply lining the pocket of some highly targeted pawnshop.

So it begs the question, how are PSPgo owners getting ripped off on game pricing again? Or was that all just a bunch of unsubstantiated bluster?

7 thoughts on “Exhibit A: Are you being “gouged”?

  1. No rentals, slow download speeds as opposed to going to the store to pick a game up should factor in as well.

  2. Oh, Prinny definitely throws off the average to some degree, but I didn’t cherry pick these. I could have gone through the entire list and found nine games that are really rare and go for collectible prices used to tilt the entire thing in PSNs favor. There are a surprising number of titles that have held their value like that. Someone could also cherry pick a list of trash no one wants and are effectively free used to do the opposite. A more rigorous statistical analysis might’ve demanded I throw out the outliers, but it also would have demanded I find a more realistic average used price. If I did both I think we’d be back where we started, showing that over a number of titles you could probably expect to save perhaps $2 on average by buying used. Mostly my intent was to show what difference I would have paid yesterday to buy all the games I’d like to buy. And that’s just about $17.

  3. You’re still discounting the fact that UMDs have value as physical objects. I can resell a UMD when I’m done with it, some go up in value (as you mentioned), and if my PSP breaks I can go get another PSP and I’ll still have all my games, no need to re-buy them or re-download them.

    People are upset because the value of the downloaded product is lower, the cost to the producer of the item is significantly lower, and yet the price is the same or higher. I would get a PSP Go in a heartbeat if titles were 50% – 66% the cost of retail, but there’s no way in hell I’m paying MSRP for a non-transferrable electronic copy that disappears when my PSP dies, gets lost, or is stolen.

    Not to mention, PSP Go doesn’t run emulators and homebrew, doesn’t let you rip your own PS1 games to it, yet costs more than a PSP classic. That in itself is also a significantly lower value proposition. Nothing makes a long flight go faster than good ol’ FFIX.

  4. If you want to hack your PSP and have the ability to sell UMDs, then by all means, don’t buy the Go. You still have that option. You’re not being forced into anything. Personally, I haven’t been in the habit of trading in games since I was about 12. And it would be hard to factor that in to this kind of analysis because, sure, you got some money back but, hey, now you don’t have that game anymore. In most cases it’s a transaction you actually lose money on. Certainly there is a segment of the population in the habit of trading or reselling there games with high frequency, but they aren’t everyone and they are served by the PSP-3000 in any case.

    But you’re completely wrong about this part:

    “a non-transferrable electronic copy that disappears when my PSP dies, gets lost, or is stolen.”

    Games bought through PSN can be installed on up to 5 PSPs at a time. You have to register them with your PSN account, but after that you can download, redownload and even play them simultaneously on up to 5 different PSPs. And if you PSP gets lost or stolen or breaks Sony can deauthorize that particular system to allow you to authorize another. So they are fully transferable to an effectively unlimited number of devices, up to 5 at a time and there is no limit to the number of times you can download any game you’ve bought.

  5. If you feel it is childish to trade in games, and that trading in games is a bad deal, then we are in agreement. I don’t trade games either. I understand you when you say that there are other options available, and that nobody is being forced to buy the Go. However, these are both straw man arguments, because they both distract from my real thrust which is that as physical media, with a case and a manual, the UMD still has greater value than the downloaded copy of the same game from the PSN store, and thus the higher price asked for the downloaded version is unfair.

    Your chart is predicated upon the idea that a downloaded version of a game is a product of equal value to the physical version of that same game. Those who feel that PSP Go prices are usurious feel that a downloaded version of a game is a product of significantly lower value than the physical copy.

    To make an accurate comparison, one must first address the relative value of the two products. They are not apples and apples.

  6. There is no set way to assess value as you’ve suggested. Some people might like the security of a physical object, others might be glad not to be tethered to a disc they have to carry around. I can’t simply pull a ratio out of thin air to describe the relative worth. Both mediums have advantages, but both also have drawbacks. I don’t think it is at all clear that UMDs are the defacto winner in that debate. I only wanted to look at the actual cost difference out there right now. It’s up to each person to decide what they value most and what price any given game is worth to them. When I buy a game it’s to play it. I’m not investing in specie. I’m the same way with comic books. I know there are collectors out there who buy two issues of everything to keep one mint in a plastic bag placing value on the object itself, but I buy comics to read them.

    So when I look at a game, no matter how it was delivered the real question is, is this game worth the price being charged to play it? I don’t care if someone spent more money to get a disc to a store or less to serve up a download. It’s either worth $19.99, or whatever, to me or it isn’t. That a publisher’s profits are significantly higher on a downloaded version is completely immaterial to my thought process. Actually, you know what? I like that I am supporting the developer of a game I enjoy as much as possible. If talented dev houses can make more money selling fewer digital copies that is a net good for sustainability and innovation in the industry.

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