By now you should all be well aware that Microsoft is finally bringing Xbox Live to South Africa. Next week Wednesday (November 10th) will see the official launch of the Xbox 360 online service in our country.
The announcement was met with vociferous approval by our local Xbox 360 scene. But naturally, because most gamers seem to be shackled to entitlement complexes, that heartfelt joy gave way to mixed responses, which in turn gave way to moaning and bitching after the local pricing was announced.
Many (in fact, I’m willing to bet that most) local Xbox 360 users already have Xbox Live accounts thanks to fake US or UK addresses and some underhanded trickery. This in turn created a market for local suppliers to provide Xbox Live subscription codes and Microsoft Points to South African gamers. Evopoints.co.za, ZapsOnline.com and MSpoints.co.za are perhaps the most widely used online shops providing the much sought-after Gold subscriptions and MS currency.
With the impending release of local Xbox Live and its heavy pricing structure, online retailers like those mentioned above will probably experience a surge in business. All of this is well and good, but local Xbox Live brings with it another topic for discussion: which local digital distribution channel is cheaper, Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network?
A few gamers are fortunate enough to own both an Xbox 360 and a PlayStation 3. For those, this question of price discrepancies is a relevant one. For those who own one of either console, the answer to the question at least unlocks additional ammunition for your endless fanboy crusades against heathens who do not believe in your console’s superiority.
To begin with, I’m going to look at both Microsoft’s and Sony’s digital distribution channel using official pricing for points and cards. So far, Microsoft has only announced pricing for 2100 MS Points, which will set you back R299.00. Seeing as this is the only official local pricing for MS Points that we know of so far (whether we will get increments of 400 or 4200 MS Points is yet to be seen) we can work out that it costs a little over 0.14c per MS Point. Take2.co.za is listing South African MS Points cards worth 800 points for R152.00, but this makes it even more expensive at 0.19c per point.
There is a ton of content that is available on both XBL and the PSN. Each service definitely has its exclusives, but we’re more interested in that content which can be found on both. Let’s take a recent example: Rockstar’s Undead Nightmare DLC for Red Dead Redemption. On the PSN, this expansion costs R95.00. On XBL the content pack is pegged at 800 MS Points, which works out to a little over R112.00 if you use the official pricing of R299.00 for 2100 MS Points. A difference of R17.00 is no big deal. Or is it? It’s roughly 18% more expensive on XBL. Buying the Undead Nightmare Collection (which includes all of the Red Dead Redemption DLC to date) sets you back 1600 MS Points, which equates to a little more than R224.00. The same pack on the PSN costs R199.00. Once again XBL is more expensive; 12.5% more expensive actually.
Of course, that’s all DLC for other games. What about stand-alone titles like the recently released Costume Quest? Double Fine’s latest digital release costs 1200 MS Points, which works out to just over R168.00.On the PSN it costs R107.00. A R61.00 price difference is a lot for a digitally released game, there’s no way to sugar-coat that fact.
Looking at other recently released games, the same thing is apparent. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is 1200 MS Points (R168.00) or R125.00 off the PSN. DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue is exactly the same. Going back a little further, Braid is 800 MS Points (R112.00) or R95.00 on the PSN.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Xbox 360 though; well maybe it is if you use official, local Microsoft pricing for MS Points. If you use online retailers who import the cards, then you’ll obviously get a reduced rate. To put it into perspective: ZapsOnline sells UK/Europe MS Points for R199.00 for 2100. That’s R100.00 cheaper than our local equivalent and because the code is delivered by email there’s virtually zero waiting. At that price, MS Points work out to just 0.09c each, thereby making DLC like Rockstar’s Undead Nightmare cost R72.00 on Xbox Live as opposed to R95.00 on the PSN.
The catch is, of course, that you will have to maintain your UK-based fake XBL account – so far, it’s been implied that a South African Xbox Live account will be locked into our local pricing for MS Points forever. In other words, imported MS Points cards won’t work on a South African account. Of course, once local Xbox Live launches, Lazygamer will test this theory and let you all know.
In the meantime, Microsoft has confirmed that South African’s with UK and US accounts will not have their account disconnected once local Live launches. Of course, the increased price of MS Points doesn’t give those of us with overseas accounts much incentive to migrate to the South African XBL. Microsoft has pointed towards product support and guaranteed MS Points redemption codes as a perk to switching to local XBL, but you know what, I’ve been on Xbox Live on a UK account for nearly four years now and I’ve never needed product support and all of my MS Points purchases from online retailers have worked out just fine.
For local Xbox gamers who have yet to connect to Xbox Live, then the launch of local Live is a good thing. While it’ll be more expensive than the less user-friendly workaround accounts we’ve used in the past, it’ll at least be a straightforward process with the benefit of full support for those who are less savvy with how the service works. And hey, it’s not like we as gamers aren’t used to paying more for our stuff in South Africa, isn’t it?
Last Updated: November 5, 2010