The price of video games in South Africa skyrocketed over the past few months.
Big new PC releases now sell for between R600 and R900, while triple-A console titles go for between R800 and R1,100.
Setting the high end for the scale is Quantum Break, which is published and distributed by Microsoft in South Africa and was priced between R1,100 and R1,200 at launch.
Pre-orders on Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare are nearly as expensive, with retailers asking around R850 for the PC version, and over R1,000 to secure a copy for the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Battlefield 1, which will be published by Electronic Arts. Its PC pre-order is R600, while its console versions are priced around R800.
1990s: Electronic Arts PC games 50% cheaper than everyone else
This pricing discrepancy among big game releases in South Africa is nothing new.
As long ago as the late 1990s, releases from EA Games in South Africa sold for significantly cheaper than other titles.
Over time, EA brought its prices in-line with the rest of the market, and when prices started to increase it managed to hold onto the old price points for slightly longer than other local game distributors.
Price of video games in South Africa: 1998–2016
Such major discrepancies in prices between video games distributed or published by different companies makes it difficult to compare pricing between platforms over a period.
Average or median prices can’t really be compared without significantly more data, and comparing just the most expensive games may not paint an accurate picture either.
The graph below therefore compares the “typical” price of a video game in South Africa as far as possible.
Prices were obtained from my collection of NAG magazines dating back to December 1998, until November 2008. From NAG’s 2009 redesign, it started omitting recommended retail pricing for its reviews.
This was a symptom of the time. From around 2009 or 2010, prices on video games varied wildly by platform, distributor, and even retailer.
The numbers reported in the graph from that time should therefore be seen as a rough indication of the average, based on various comparisons and old online store listings that are still kept in archive.org.
Some important dates to keep in mind:
- November/December 2000: PlayStation 2 launched in South Africa
- 29 September 2006: Xbox360 launched in South Africa
- 23 March 2007: PlayStation 3 launched in South Africa
- 10 November 2009: Activision hiked price of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on PC
- 13 December 2013: PlayStation 4 launched in South Africa
- 22 September 2014: Xbox One launched in South Africa
Exchange rate: 1998–2016
An important factor to keep in mind for the above comparison is the fluctuation in exchange rate between the rand and currencies like the dollar, euro, and pound.
The graph below shows how the rand performed against the US dollar between December 1998 and June 2016.