Shivering Isles will be available "everywhere" for the PC and downloadable through Xbox Live on March 27, according to executive producer Todd Howard. The PC edition of the expansion can be purchased at retailers for $30, while Xbox 360 players will have to download it from the Xbox Live Marketplace for 2400 Microsoft Points ($30).I've been sceptical about Shivering Isles for a while, since it was announced that it was going download-only for the 360. This makes sense on some levels, but my assumption was that a digital product would cost less than a retail one. The PC gamers get to experience the joy of owning an actual product, complete with shiny, enticing jewel case, manual and disc and 360 owners get to pay the same price to spend extra time downloading it?
Then, to add insult to injury, the PC version will be reduced to $15 within a year and the 360 version will still be $30. Bethesda are infamous for squeezing every last cent of profit out of Oblivion, so this comes as no surprise. But, still, they could have at least knocked $5 off. Other than "because people will pay", Bethesda have no justification for the equal prices.
I disagree with Greg Costikyan's notion that the fixed price of online distribution is justifiable because games don't spoil, as it's counter-intuitive to the joy of trawling through rows of games and the sense of sheer euphoria when you do a bit of bargain hunting. Online distribution never has a sale, and is loathe to knocking a few bucks off its prices. These long-term issues will develop over time. The problem right now is that is that 360 owners are expected to pay the same for a delivery system that adds more hassle. Every megabyte of bandwidth, at least with the system of imposed monthly limits which proliferate almost all UK ISP's, costs the customer. There's an extra cost in time from downloading the game and, while I could probably get the game a few hours sooner if I obtained it through the Marketplace, I might just as easily spend those hours in luxury, waiting for the postman to deliver the game whilst using that precious bandwidth to play Worms online. Bethesda is, once again, using 360 owners. And we're all just going to sit back and let them do it.
A fixed price for online games is justifiable (and physically published ones, too, I'd think), but only if the game was reduced in price to begin with. If Oblivion itself is $60, then $30 is more them charging what they can get away with more than production costs.
Bethesda hasn't really been using fixed prices on their DLC though. They've had several of them included as pack ins on the OXM disc recently. In fact that GRAW Chapter 2 content that people were bitching about last summer was on one of the recent discs as well.
Even EA's gotten into the discounting content game.
And 30 bucks is still a reasonable price, IMHO. But then, I really like Oblivion. Maybe if it ever comes out on a Sony platform, you'll get a shot at it.