Canada Is Getting Raped On Downloadable Content

Hot on the heels of the larger-than-expected Xbox 360 Canadian price drop, and number three’s post regarding the pricing of Warhawk on the PlayStation network, I decided to see what the nearly-at-par Canadian-US exchange rate is doing in terms of the “points” the various online services use.

What I found is not amusing. Some words that spring to mind:

financial rape

Well, pudding is always on my mind so let’s concentrate on the unfair part.

The US-Canadian dollar exchange rate, as of this writing: 1.00 USD = 1.05452 CAD. This is not a new situation – indeed, we have been nearly at-par with US dollars since April.

Let’s start with Xbox Live, and their dreaded Microsoft Points (MSP).

A 1400 MSP card from either, or $19.99 CDN. That’s not nearly equal to the actual exchange rate. There is a card selling in America that retails for $19.99 US, but it’s worth 1600 MSP – a 200 point difference. (The MSP Converter site is exactly right with this figure, putting 1600 points at precisely $19.99 US.)

At current rates, a $19.99 card that nets you 1600 MSP in the US should get you 1517 MSP in Canada. Instead, it gets you 1400 MSP. Doesn’t seem like much right now (which is why Microsoft is using an intentionally confusing system like “points”), but that can add up pretty quickly over the course of a few purchases.

Microsoft is certainly not the only guilty party in this situation. Sony regularly charges $1 more on digital downloads than the US price. So far this has been on small-ticket items such as Super Stardust HD or Calling All Cars, which were $8 and $10 US items (respectively) that ended up being $9 and $11 CDN. Incidentally, Sony is the only console maker using actual money values rather than some stupid point system, so it’s a little easier to see the difference. And it always seems to be exactly $1 more in CDN so far, no matter what the actual price… which is why we’re really curious to see what the price of the $40 US Warhawk turns into up here.

And Nintendo: a 2000 Wii Point Card is $19.99 US… and $24.99 CDN. The biggest gap of all.

So, here’s a handy chart that illustrates the problem nicely:
DLC rape-o-meter
There is absolutely no good reason for any sort of disparity whatsoever. There are no import taxes on digital downloads. There is no additional heavy lifting required by Microsoft, Nintendo or Sony to make the content available in Canada as opposed to the U.S. Exchange rates could in fact be plugged directly into the online storefronts in realtime, up-converting whatever points you bought to the current rates – even retail MSP card purchases would not have to be a ripoff after the fact. This is trivial stuff.

So why the difference? Occam’s razor: because they can.


17 responses to “Canada Is Getting Raped On Downloadable Content”

  1. That chart helped me think this through. It helped a lot.

    This kind of thing is almost as irritating as the online music scene: owing to arcane and outmoded licensing issues (ie., total fucking bullshit from near-corpses who won’t let the music industry evolve into something post-Dickensian), there are different online stores for different countries. And guess what? Surprise! The Canadian one sucks giant hairy donkey balls.

    People, these are FUCKING MP3 FILES. There are no shipping costs, no refrigerator trucks required, no heavy wooden palettes groaning with shrink-wrapped merch, no logistics, no warehousing issues.

    We’re talking about clusters of data that are ALREADY ONLINE ANYWAY!

    Jesus ASS! God damn it! What a shitload of fuck.

    And then I woke up all sweaty and angry.

  2. […] Citizen Game posts a (less than) amusing truth about living north of the 49th parallel: You get screwed in the exchange rate. Once upon a time, our shining little loonies and toonies were worth half a big green American bill. This is happily no longer the case. […]

  3. I noticed this issue a loooong time ago and have not purchased any downloadable content whatsoever. I download demos and anything that’s free from MS but I will not stoop to paying extra for something that:

    1. Doesn’t cost MS anything extra to produce.
    2. Doesn’t cost MS anything extra to transport.
    3. Is usually free when it comes out on the PC.

  4. You can avoid the Nintendo raping by buying Wii points online (you buy them in USD). Is this the case for Microsoft and Sony as well?

  5. Prices differ in each country no matter how high the exchange rate is or whatever bla bla bla, heck the ps3 is supposed to cost 599€ in Europe and in most countrys id does but what the heck! not here !! Its actually 680€ hehe thanx thats $900 USD

  6. The only problem with buying Wii Points online is that you get charged Canadian taxes on American dollars. So 1000 points for me ends up being $11.40 USD.

  7. If the $CDN reaches true parity (or actually becomes more valuable than the $USD), and we’re still paying more for DLC, electronics, cars, etc, then all hell will break loose because then even the stupid yet manically vocal masses will realize they are being ripped off.

  8. What pissed me off is that I was in the States and figured I’d pick up a points card since they’re a better value there - only to find out when I got home that US points can’t be added to a Canadian XBL account. Weird, since my US-bought XBL membership renewal card works just find on the Canadian XBL account. Oh well, gave me a reason to set up a US XBL account and see what the media marketplace is all about.

  9. Did you take into accout that the US market, population wise, is around 10 times the size of the Canadian market? Canada’s population is around 32 million and the US popluation is around 300 million. Unless you have an insanely high percentage of the population that plays videos games your answer could be right there. Aye?

  10. […] Canada Is Getting Raped On Downloadable Content Hot on the heels of the larger-than-expected Xbox 360 Canadian price drop, and number three’s post regarding the […] […]

  11. the “+1″ dollar with Sony is to prevent losing money if rate changes to 1.059999 or more.

    If these rates rape Canada, what it does to European ? (I don’t want to imagine it !), just see : a PS3 60 Gb cost 734 USD (599.99€) in Europe, while it cost 499 USD in USA, these 234 USD “extra bonus” are paying the boat trip to Europe ? wtf ? same shit for xbox360 or Wii, it seems funny to Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony to convert “1$ = 1 €”, especially when the dollar going down… capitalism can’t work whitout trust, and how can we trust anymore these corporates ?

  12. Mike - I see what you are saying (will the market bear it, etc) but the thing is – the content is already created and online for the US market. There is no additional cost to “ship it” here since the product a download. That’s why I don’t think there should be a difference; Canada is not in a financial vacuum. Heck they don’t even have to print french manuals which is one of the excuses publishers use for the $10 markup on physical-media games.

    Klem - yeah I agree, the countries overseas get nailed even more badly. Game prices, not necessarily so much but console hardware… ouch.

  13. Nice find.

  14. @ nerf - There is a cost to ship it, in all honestly. You do have to pay for the bandwidth to send the files. I cannot give you a 100% complete argument as to why you pay more. I just thought it was worth looking at. Here are some other numbers.. keep in mind what countries complain about prices and see where they are on this list.

    Population, All estimates:
    UK - 60 million
    France - 60 million
    Canada - 32 million
    Australia - 20 million
    Japan - 127 million
    US - 300+ million

    Japan and US are seen as having the best prices. Where as Austrailia and the UK, have the worst. Or at least that’s what the kids say on the internet.

    I am not saying this is a definitive factor, but it’s interesting to look at.

  15. USA = bigger population = lower price ?
    (source : english wiki)
    Eurpean Union : 494,070,000 (in 2007)
    European using euros : 317,000,000
    USA : 302,231,000 (in 2007)

    USA still a bigger market ? of course, when you see the prices, more people can afford buying games/hardware !
    Corporates alway think Europe have on one side the super-rich (they think the rich people are their only buyers !) and on the other side the poor : downloading, hacking, stealing games and musics, but they forget we got a middle class, things changed since WWII. Whatever, I can’t wait the dollar stop defining other currencies.

    (Europe : 710,000,000)

  16. […] Canada is Getting Raped On Downloadable Content [Citizen Game] […]

  17. Looks like Tycho is championing our plight over at Penny-Arcade. Thought back to your article. =)

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