It’s always the cover up which gets you.

I suppose Watergate is the archetypal example of the consequences of the cover up being worse than the original offence, but you see it all the time.

The example I have in mind has less geopolitical significance, but will probably be more interesting for most readers.

A company named PopCap Games publish a nice little game called ‘Plants vs. Zombies’. I played the demo for the allotted 60 minutes when it was originally released, and then forgot about it when my trial expired.

About a week ago they released a free Flash version, which uses a subset of the plants and zombies from the full game, and playing that got me interested in buying the full version again.

The game sells for USD20 or AUD30, which at current exchange rates is a bit rich — the Australian dollar is buying 92 US cents at the moment. Just yesterday I bought another game, Machinarium — which also sells for USD20 — for AUD22.32.

So I sent a tweet to PopCap enquiring about their pricing:

@popcap_games why is PvZ AUD30, when USD20 is only AUD22?

To their credit, they replied quickly, but I didn’t find their answer convincing:

@tgdavies USD price displayed is pre-tax which is added in the cart. International prices include sales tax.

To get 22 to 30 you need more than 30% tax — Australia’s GST is only 10%, and I think paying that is my responsibility as the person ‘importing’ the game.

Of course, the real reason is that as recently as March the Aussie dollar was only buying 65 US cents — which gives you about AUD30 for USD20. PopCap simply haven’t adjusted their prices.

I wish they could have said that, or just “I don’t know”, instead of invoking some mythical tax!

PopCap aren’t the only company whose Australian prices are out of whack — the cheapest 15″ MacBook Pro is AUD600 more expensive than a simple exchange rate + tax calculation would suggest.


  1. Rob
    Posted October 21, 2009 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    It could be worse, I was talking to someone last night in Australia (I’m in Canada currently) over buying a copy of Fallout 3 via Direct2Drive games, a web based games website run by IGN. They recently dropped the price to USD39.95. A bargain, I thought, for a relatively new game that was pretty popular. It was still USD50 on Steam too.

    Only, that’s the price for the North America. I missed the line of text underneath

    “Also Available: Fallout 3 Australia & New Zealand Regions (£34.65 / AU$89.95).”

    There is nothing about those numbers that matches up, USD39.95 is about GBP24.40 and AUD43.39 (Also EUR26.80, but they charge EUR44.95 for those in Europe). At least a macbook pro is a physical item and Apple really don’t like changing their prices, electronic media though isn’t hard to keep a regular currency conversion on.

  2. Posted October 21, 2009 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Are you prevented from purchasing in USD (with an Australian credit card)?

  3. Tom Davies
    Posted October 21, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    The ‘buy’ link on PopCap’s site only shows AUD prices, so it must be doing some geolocation — I should try via a proxy.

  4. Shihab
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    iPhone devs can’t actually set a specific price for their app, rather they have to select a tier in which to sell their app. The currency value of tiers is set by Apple.

  5. Joe
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    For physical goods like say an xbox/ps3, i can understand they cannot do immediate currency conversions – but for digital goods, it should be sold at the current exchange rate!

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