We all know gaming is expensive in Australia. We've all done the sums – the price we pay locally for games and consoles is way more than gamers in the US and UK pay for the exact same products.
So what gives? Are we being ripped off? It sure looks like it at first glance. Take Tomb Raider on the PS3 – one of the hottest new releases out there right now. US consumers can pick it up for about $40, while in the UK it works out at a little cheaper than that. Here in Australia? Try $59 at JB Hi-Fi, or even worse, $88 at EB Games.
As for consoles themselves, the 500GB Sony PS3 will set you back $400 locally, but only goes for $300 in the US and about $340 in the UK.
The best gaming deals
Now as you probably know, there are cheaper ways of buying games than walking into mainstream physical retailers. Games sold in the UK use the same PAL format we do, and most of the time the basic price at UK online retailers such as Zavvi, The Hut or Amazon is so much lower that even with shipping costs to Australia it still works out cheaper than buying locally.
Australian retailers themselves have picked up on this, and many now offer parallel import copies themselves alongside full Australian releases.
However, there are limits to how much stock businesses can import in this way, and they can't start selling parallel import titles before their Australian release date even if they're released elsewhere first.
Top sites for cheap games
So in reality, most of the time you're still best ordering directly from overseas yourself. Zavvi, for instance, has a standard 99p ($1.50-ish) international shipping rate per item, meaning you can have the aforementioned Tomb Raider delivered to your door (within 1-2 weeks) for a total of just under $39. The Hut offers exactly the same terms.
Amazon is probably the best-known online retailer, but be warned – you'll likely be charged a minimum of $5 per delivery to get your order sent to Australia. The bigger the order the less relevant this becomes, obviously, and Amazon is more likely to offer specific deals through its affiliates than other online sources.
It's worth checking other online sources abroad too. We recently highlighted a deal to get Tomb Raider for the Xbox 360 delivered from UK site The Game Collection for just $28.65. Sadly, the deal has just expired but it's a site worth keeping an eye on.
Another site to watch is OzGameshop, which offers free delivery on all titles. It's actually a UK site, and all items are shipped from there, but it's set up specifically for the Australian market, and prices work out on a par with the likes of Zavvi and The Hut.
If you're and PC gamer and not worried about a physical product, meanwhile, check out Greenman Gaming. It sells download-only titles, so completely removes the cost and headache of shipping physical items from the equation.
You can also trade in digitally downloaded titles for credit which can be used on new purchases. Not all developers are supported, but it's a good idea, and the site regularly offers discounts through coupon and voucher codes.
Why so much cheaper?
That's all great news in terms of saving money, but it still doesn't answer the question why games cost so much here in the first place.
In truth, it's partly because of something we've already covered here: most games sold in Australia aren't actually made here. And it's not just a question of shipping costs either. It also costs extra to get games rated here, and because of Australia's stricter approach to more violent titles, there's often the possibility of an appeal, or the developer having to amend the content to meet rating needs.
Even accounting for all of that, though, Australian games are more expensive. But the general cost of living, and the average wage, is also higher here than in the UK and US. Even accounting for the higher average cost of games, then, they cost a lower proportion of our minimum wage than is the case overseas.
In other words, being able to import games cheaply means if anything we're actually scoring, so if you shop smart there's no reason to complain.
We should mention, though, that using these tactics only lowers the amount of money going directly to the Australian gaming industry, meaning less cash to invest in the infrastructure that will reduce the cost of buying locally in the first place.