Within the international gaming community, Brazilians are either a recurring joke or a reason for angry banters on forums. As one myself, I can’t disagree that many of us are anything but educated and respectful, traits that in most cases extend outside of online games. It’s an issue directly tied to a flawed education system and old customs from when no one was financially safe. In part, I agree that many online games should get their own South American servers (nay, Brazilian servers since other South Americans also have to deal with the kind of behavior that we’re famous for), although I don’t think developers should lock nice gamers who are also fluent in English from global servers. But that’s a topic for another time. Today we’re going to talk about how companies treat Brazilian gamers, which is, in a way, close to how the community reacts.
It recently came to my attention that Square Enix adjusted the subscription cost for Final Fantasy XIV in Brazil and Russia. The price is absurd (R$47,28 for 30 days and no bonuses such as additional characters and retainers, which is almost A Realm Reborn‘s price, R$52,99), but what angered both Brazilians and Russians the most and drove them to change the game’s recent Steam reviews to “mostly negative” is the company’s behavior. Square Enix, father, son, and holy spirit of JRPGs (except for that one time in 2009) waited a month after Stormblood‘s release (when refunding it wouldn’t be possible) to adjust ratings without any previous warning. It took South American and Serbian players by surprise, especially because it breaks Square Enix’s very own user agreement, which is as follow:
“4.1 FINAL FANTASY XIV Subscription Fees. In order to access SQUARE ENIX’s servers to play the Game, you must agree to a recurring subscription (“Subscription”) with a minimum subscription term of 30 days, and pay a recurring subscription fee (“FFXIV Subscription Fee”). Square Enix may offer different subscription plans in its sole discretion. Further, Square Enix may offer you the chance to purchase additional features for your FFXIV Service Account, which we call “Add-ons” or “Options.” Add-ons may be subject to either additional recurring fees or one-time fees. A “Recurring Fee” is a fee that will be charged on a recurring basis until you terminate your subscription. A “One-Time Fee” is fee that is only charged once. All fee rates will be posted at http://sqex.to/ffxiv.na.fees and any changes to Recurring Fee rates will be posted with 30 days’ advance notice and notice will be provided to the Game community.”
“Suck it up!” The reader screams with a sly smile on their face. “What you’re paying is exactly how much we pay if you consider exchange rates, which you should because if we pay $60 for a game, everyone else in the world should, too.”
That would be right if the world revolved around North America, which it doesn’t. Yes, I’m sorry to tell you, dear reader from the Free Country, but you’re not the center of the universe even though your language and culture are considered universal. The economy of other countries has little to do with American dollars, which have no influence locally. It is true that console releases can suffer drastic price changes due to the cost of US dollars in determined countries, but we’re talking about digital services. For comparison, if I pay R$100 for Steam wallet credits, I get exactly R$100 on my Steam wallet. There are no extra charges for conversion or services provided by a foreign company. No taxes, no shenanigans. Nada.
Developers and publishers such as Square Enix don’t seem to understand that the economy in poorer countries should have an impact on prices. This is not the first time they don’t consider varying economies seeing as how the A Realm Reborn and Heavensward package used to cost a total of R$229,98, which is the reason why, at first, I catered to a European copy of the game (less than R$130 at the time). Unfortunately, this conduct can be observed in other companies as well, Bethesda being my favorite example.
It might come as a shock, but the father, son, and all that bollocks of Western RPGs is greedy. North American fans are often blinded by the fact that companies only care about money until it becomes convenient for them to complain, but we South Americans have been aware of that for a while now. When it first came out, Fallout 4 cost R$250 (rounded up). That’s R$250 For The Base Game dot com.
“Tough shit.” The reader giggles. “That’s what, $60? It’s just what we pay, so work harder and stop complaining, you little piece of human waste.”
I thought we were over that—but of course, it’s naive of me to think North Americans would understand how foreign economy works. The exchange rate is a recurring counter argument regarding prices. A ridiculous amount of North American and British gamers will often point out how the developers and publishers are right by raising prices seeing as how X game costs $60 or £50 or whatever it is, so of course, everyone else should pay the same regardless of the local economy. That tends to silence users from third world countries who can’t find any way to reason with those from first world countries, who continue to talk about exchange rates as if the world revolves around their currencies. It’s this inability to reason that excused Bethesda from dropping the price of Fallout 4 from R$250 to R$230, or why Prey still costs R$230 (we’re still talking about base games here). Someone give Bethesda a gold star for they are almost giving these titles for free! It took them almost two years to lower Fallout 4‘s price to R$70, which is more than reasonable—it’s a full-price bargain for a triple-A title seeing as how The Witcher 3 was released at R$130 and NieR: Automata, R$160. Hell, Dead Rising 4 is R$199,95 and although that’s quite expensive, is not as ridiculous as R$250.
Bottom line is, Japanese and North American companies don’t seem to understand anything outside of the comfortable circle of first world gaming, neither do they wish to. One could argue that Square Enix doesn’t even claim to offer any kind of support to South American players seeing as how Final Fantasy XIV doesn’t have official South American servers, but the fact that the game is fully available on Steam is enough for them to acknowledge this user base. No one is asking for servers based in South America, no one is asking for a full Portuguese localization, and not everyone is angry that the subscription is now a limb and an eye; all we want is to be warned beforehand when the subscription is increased. You know, as the user agreement says. We might not pay what everyone else around the world does for the privilege to play FFXIV, but that doesn’t mean we’re less than customers who, by the by, still have to turn the game purchase and subscription fees into careful financial moves. Although R$48 might sound cheap to foreigners, it’s expensive for us as I imagine the price increase in Russia is for Russian players. A warning was all it took to avoid this commotion.
“Well, fuck you!” The reader flips the table, throwing all of my hard-earned Monopoly money on the mud. “You’re the one who can’t be reasoned with! If you don’t understand why you should be paying more, then you’re the problem. Good thing we won’t be saying Brazilians around anymore, because you’re all a bunch of fuckwits anyway. Go play Hello Kitty Online!”
As a final note, I would like you all to give a warm round of applause to everyone’s favorite topic—piracy! Yes, I am perfectly aware of the ramifications of piracy in first world countries, how companies treat those who practice piracy, and how the community cringes at the combination of letters. But when you make something desirable inaccessible, people will “steal” it no matter how ugly that sounds. Piracy isn’t legal in Brazil, as I’ve seen some uninformed people claim, but it’s been such a part of our culture that for many years my family said “R$45 is too much money for one record, Gabriel. Do you know how much we can do with R$45? Why don’t you just get it for free on the internet and worry about more important things such as studying?” Thus I would spend my allowance of R$50 (that was supposed to last the month, which is nearly impossible if you have any sort of social life) on shiny imported deluxe edition albums.
I have also been a conscientious consumer and used most of my tiny salary to purchase video games (sacrificing my previous social life, a conscious choice), but I can’t say the same for other Brazilians who have to deal with a number of bills and absurd prices in everything they hold dear. And no, I’m not saying people can “pirate their way into FFXIV,” but this situation is something to consider when deliberately adjusting prices in less fortunate countries where people won’t think twice before resorting to more convenient ways. What’s better? To sell your product for a reasonable price point so that everyone has a happy ending or to have absolutely nothing in return because the product is so expensive, people would rather steal it?