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Steam Introducing New Currencies: Good or Bad?

Updated on December 4, 2015
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Anti-Valentine reviews PC games and writes about the video game industry. He also sells games and gets commissions through Amazon.

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I received an email last night from Steam, telling me that soon Valve would be introducing local currencies in my region. I saw this coming after seeing that they’re introducing local currency in other major regions like India.

I’m in two minds about this. Part of me thinks it might be good, seeing as some people in the forums claim that we might actually get a better price compared to having to deal with fluctuating exchange rates all the time. This was one of the better points about BT Games’s digital distribution platform that they launched in 2013 (which seems to have been retired now). Back then, brand new, Splinter Cell Blacklist cost us R400 in SA, whereas anywhere else we would have to pay R530 – R600 or more.

"We might actually get a better price compared to having to deal with fluctuating exchange rates all the time."

There’s also the possibility that because the prices of games is now in our own local currency that we might have to pay less in the way of fees. I for one use VCPay, which is a virtual credit card by Net1. Currently I have to pay a 2% fee on international purchases, which means 2c out of every dollar. I’m not sure if this will still apply if I no longer have to pay in an international currency. If I can pay in rands, then I might not have to pay that fee. I certainly am not seeing it on my list of transactions any more, although that might be because they're either extremely delayed, or it's just a case of the company not being transparent with their fees.

Valve states that local prices will be based on conversion rates, so even though there’s some belief that we’ll pay what we can afford, the prices will probably fluctuate with the exchange rate anyway. Still, because it’ll likely be a price that might change once or twice a day, it’ll still be a bit cheaper than say paying with VCPay, which seems to have a very up to date conversion rate, and you’ll get charged different amounts at different times of the day for different items.

"There’s also the possibility that because the prices of games is now lower and in our own local currency that we might have to pay less in the way of credit card fees."

I’ve seen this on some websites, where there is a bit of lag, where the website’s conversion rate is behind the actual conversion rate.

Someone pointed out that seeing as we’ll all soon be able to buy things in our own currency, it may mean that we’ll get region locks on all products, meaning that a product that is bought in a specific region will only be able to be activated in that region. So this will basically severely limit trading for example, or cut down on reselling. Countries like Brazil and Russia famously pay very little for games, which is supposed to be tied into the average income (i.e., how much the customer is willing to pay), and not the actual conversion rate.

People in those countries can then take the games they buy and resell them to other people and make a marked profit, because they’re so damn cheap.

"We’ll be able to buy things in our own currency and get get region locks on all products, meaning that a product that is bought in a specific region will only be able to be activated in that region. So this will basically severely limit trading for example, and cut down on reselling."

At any rate, it will be interesting to see how this affects the prices in my country on Steam, and if it affects my purchasing habits negatively or positively. The good news is there are always resellers like GMG and even Humble Bundle, where the price is still standardised, as in USD, so if things don’t work out for us price-wise on games, I can still buy them there.

Some stores already have converted to using local currency, like GamersGate and Origin. So there was at least a bit of a preview in terms of what to expect, but seeing as I have yet to actually purchase anything from there, I’m not really familiar with them and how the prices stack up against other alternatives. This is largely due to the fact that GamersGate never really has anything at a good price for me, and maybe that is due to the whole conversion rate issue.

So it will be good to see what Steam can pull off, and if the games will be any cheaper, more expensive, or if the price will stay more or less the same. At any rate, it will save me one headache, and that is constantly having to check exchange rates.

"The good news is there are always resellers like GMG and even Humble Bundle, where the price is still standardised, as in USD, so if things don’t work out for us price-wise on games, we can still buy them there, where they still accept PayPal and even bitcoin."

Update: Today the new prices rolled in, and I’m happy to say that it looks like it’s mostly in our favour for now. The price in rands on Steam is lower than the actual conversion rate, so we’re paying about R10,21 to the dollar, instead of R14,19 (which is the conversion rate as of this morning). So for example, Borderlands 2 GOTY is on sale for R102, so that works out to less than $8, which is about the lowest it has ever gone for. Up until yesterday we would have paid $9.99, so that’s about a 20% saving right there.

And more good news: as for Steam wallet and market prices, they seem to be trading at the normal conversion rate and not the lowered one in the Steam store. So in the end, we’re making money selling cards at a profit, and basically getting games cheaper than we would have otherwise. I have an update on this: it may have just been applicable to the existing funds in our Steam wallets, resulting from past sales, and not any new listings.

Plus, credit card charges for international purchases are lower – mine with VCPay are at a fixed 2% rate, so on the Borderlands 2 GOTY, if I were to purchase it, it would be R2,04, rather than paying R141 yesterday, and the charge would have been nearly R3. I know, big difference, but it adds up on very large purchases. For example, if I were to buy Fallout 4 at R799, the fee would be R16!

Steam in SA
Then
Now
 
Prices were expensive due to being based on the exchange rate
Prices are cheaper in general
 
Could trade with anyone
Region locked, so trading is limited
 
Most games were available to us
Even more games are unavailable due to pricing issues
 
PayPal was accepted as a payment method
PayPal currently not supported

It probably will affect my purchasing habits a bit, because unless another store has a very good deal on a game, it’s just going to be cheaper on Steam, and not to mention the sale prices in the upcoming Christmas sale should be ever better, plus coupons I have that stack with existing discounts, from Alienware Arena.

The only real problem is that a number of games aren’t yet priced in rands, and so that means they cannot be purchased yet. Some people have talked about starting another Steam account and running it through a VPN, where they would be able to buy games in the old dollar currency (or another currency even), but that does go against the Steam Subscriber Agreement, so it’s not a very wise decision, and could lead to the loss of one or all of your Steam accounts, and you should ideally only have one per person.

But since we've switched over to using the new currency, games that were previously blocked for purchase in SA, like Max Payne, Max Payne 2, and Grand Theft Auto III, can now be bought.

And it looks like we’re now region locked, which is going to put a damper on things trading wise. We can no longer buy items as gifts and give them to people in other regions. When we buy something we can only really give them to people in the same country, i.e. the games can only be activated in SA. This was done, I imagine, to stop people doing what is done in other regions, which is get a Russian or Brazilian person to buy games and then they sell it to you. They still make a profit, and you still get the game cheaper than you would have otherwise. This does affect me somewhat as I can’t now give people steamgifts in trade if they are overseas, but most of the games on my trade list are keys from other resellers anyway like Indiegala, Greenman Gaming, Groupees, etc., so while it is an inconvenience it’s not a complete loss.

Some games, as pointed out on mygaming.co.za, even though they are cheaper than they were, it would still be cheaper to buy them from a local alternative, like BT Games, Takealot, or Raru -- and get a physical copy that activates on Steam. And yes, Takealot for example offers free shipping over a certain price, so you're covered there.

And I've learned that PayPal has been deactivated as a payment method on Steam for the time being.

All things considered, the change didn't go through all that smoothly, but I for one am quite happy anyway, seeing as I don't use PayPal, and pay with my virtual card or Steam wallet, and the prices are cheaper overall, so I save money. I think for the most part, it's a step in the right direction.

Do you like the new change in currency on Steam?

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© 2015 Anti-Valentine

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