Steam withdraws local payment options for Argentina

  • As of a few days ago, if your Steam account was localised in Argentina and hence in AR$, you could buy games and software with the usual Visa/Mastercard options, but also through Rapipago and at least half a dozen other local options. (see image above)

    However, since the dollar fiasco on the Monday following the primary elections, these options have now been withdrawn, presumably because Steam is going to lose money.

    It's also worth noting that digital purchases in Argentina, regardless of payment options, are subject to 21% VAT (IVA).

    To get around these two obstacles, many are now using prepaid cards such as Ualá, Mercadopago and others. The trick is to use the prepaid card to top up your Steam Wallet where you'll get charged 21% VAT, but then (apparently) when you use your Steam wallet to buy on Steam, the VAT will not be applied.

    I've yet to try this, but will give it a go when I see something cheap that's worth buying.

    Mind you, it's also worth considering that for unknown reasons, the AR$ prices on Steam are considerably cheaper than their dollar prices.

    For example, a game priced at US$40 on Steam's main site, is priced at AR$999 when localised in Argentina which, when converted at say AR$55/US$1, works out at US$18.

  • On this subject and for those who don't know what Steam is, it's a digital games platform where you buy a game or software and then immediately download it, ready to use.

    I've been a Steam client for about 15 years and have bought loads of games and software for video editing etc. They also sell games and software for Mac and Linux and it's the most successful games platform in the world.

    Over the last few years Steam has been localising its purchasing model, so that prices are quoted in local currency and it's said that they use an algorithm based on a worldwide cost of living index and purchasing power. However, many of their prices don't back that up on a regular basis.

    From what I've read on Steam community forums and numerous articles, it's up to the devs what prices are set for games on Steam. On the other hand, some are suggesting that Steam has its own pricing algorithm which they suggest to devs/publishers, but are not mandatory, so to speak.

    That algorithm is said to be based on each region's cost of living index and is directly related to monthly income and purchasing power, although I can't find any evidence to back that up. Getting Valve to comment on matters such as this is almost impossible.

    According to PC Gamer in 2014, Russian gamers weren't using credit cards so much to buy games and instead buying physical versions in actual shops. Then Steam introduced a local payment system for Russia in 2011 where you could pay cash through a kiosk (as per Arg). But Steam games still remain the cheapest in Russia, even today, with it's purchasing power listed as less than Argentina.

    The reason I don't understand their regional pricing are the fluctuations, but more importantly, the relation of price vs the aforementioned purchasing power per region. For example, Gears 5 is on pre-purchase at Steam and is due for release on 9th September with a base price of US$60. Many Steam gamers from South America are complaining that the equivalent USD price of around (depending on ex rate) $52 for say Argentina is far too steep. At first, I thought this was simply whinging until I looked at Steamdb and found that the price in Turkey and Russia is around $15 -$17 and the price for more developed countries such as S. Korea and Hong Kong are less than say Argentina, Mexico or Colombia.

    Having said all that, if you look at the worldwide cost of living index, you'll see that there is some correlation, but there are also some pretty wild discrepancies if that index is taken as the yardstick.

    Then I looked at Cyberpunk 2077 where the base purchase price is US$60, yet Argentina's price (I'm only using Arg as an example of a low-income country) is US$39.20 at a rate of exchange of AR$56. I'm also led to believe that the rate of exchange to the US$ is set on the day of publishing, but how often that is changed, I can't be certain.

    I'm not an economist by any means and am just curious as to how Steam prices are arrived at. My curiosity was originally piqued when I started picking up games on Steam for bargain prices and I wondered why that was the case.

    The more I look into it, the less sense it makes, although I'm inclined to think that many publishers are ignoring Steam's so-called algorithm, with Gears 5 from X Box Studios being a good example.

    I mention this because a lot of Argentines on Steam are complaining about AAA games priced at $55 when they say they should be paying $10 and I can't help thinking they should get real and not expect Argentina to always be treated as a special case.

    On the other hand, should software prices be tweaked for those who can't afford prices of first world countries?

  • I thought I had written about this somewhere, so forgive me if I am repeating myself...

    I use an expensive professional translation software that is usually bought online directly from the developer's website and that is also sold through local authorized dealers. In Argentina, we have one reseller in Capital and the other one in Córdoba or Rosario.

    They set their price independently and in USD, about 20-30% less than on the developer's website, but you pay in ARS at the exchange rate of the day.

    You have to inquire by email to know what the price is, nothing gets published online (!).

    They aren't available 24/7 and it might take 2-3 days to purchase the software, but it is well worth the saving.

    The software activation itself works like with the developer's, as the reseller simply puts an order on your behalf on the developer's website, and you have the license key showing under your account.

    I bought this software for the first time in 2014 when there was still the blue dollar, so I paid with a cash deposit in a bank.

    These are the numbers that lead to a 55% saving in 2014:

    • Official retail price on the developer's website: €855 (960 USD)
    • Offer on the developer's website: €655 (737 USD)
    • Argentinian retailer's price: 6,000 ARS (410 USD)

    The same is true for subsequent upgrades (46% saving):

    • Official upgrade price on the developer's website: €175 (197 USD)
    • Argentinian retailer's price: 1,340 ARS (90 USD)