Opinion: Kiwis are paying a third more for video games and that's not OK anymore

New Zealand is getting ripped off when it goes to video games, with Kiwis paying almost a third more for the same digital content.

For example - Sea of Thieves from publishers Rare (owned by Microsoft) is out today worldwide, but there's a considerable disparity in price depending on where you buy it, and New Zealand is at the bottom of the heap.

Sea of Thieves is a highly-anticipated open world game where you take control of a plundering buccaneer while teaming up with your friends to sail the seven seas.

A price comparison of Sea of Thieves from international Microsoft online stores
A price comparison of Sea of Thieves from international Microsoft online stores. Source: Microsoft/Screenshot/1 NEWS graphic

It looks like a lot of fun - but at a price of NZ$109.90 from the New Zealand Microsoft online store, it is 32 per cent more expensive than the very same digital content from the US store, at US$59.99 (NZ$82.82).

Prices at the UK and Australian versions of the site are also lower than New Zealand's, at GB£49.99 (NZ$96.96) and AU$99.95 (NZ$106.32).

Why? The simple answer is: Because they can.

The pricing might have been OK and acceptable ten or 20 years ago - New Zealand is far from many other countries and of course there were distribution costs - but in the age of broadband and undersea cables, how is this still the norm?

Things have changed, New Zealand is just as connected as the rest of the world to digital content and there is no longer any legitimate reason we should pay more for it than other countries.

It's worth mentioning that Microsoft's annual profit is astronomical - they had net income of US$21.20 billion last year. Just saying.

So my message for you, Microsoft, is that we're not in Antarctica.

We have the internet here and we can see what you're doing - isn't it time to stop and give the loyal Kiwi gaming market a fair go?

I reached out to the Sea of Thieves and Microsoft accounts on Twitter, but they were, predictably, quiet.

Luke Appleby is on Twitter - @lukeappleby

A Sea of Thieves promotional image.
A Sea of Thieves promotional image. Source: Rare

Flight of the Conchords use US TV appearance to ask Jacinda Ardern if she'll have them for dinner

New Zealand comedy folk band Flight of the Conchords have used an appearance on a US late night talk show to ask the Prime Minister if they can come round for dinner.

The pair, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote an upcoming HBO special.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will appear on the show tomorrow, after appearing on the Today show earlier this week, and host Stephen Colbert asked the pair what he should ask her.

"Why don't you ask her if we can come round for dinner, maybe at her place," said McKenzie.

"You're bringing people together," he told Stephen Colbert.

The host then asked about the Prime Minister's house, which the pair described as "nice".

"It used to be a preschool," said McKenzie. "And my brother went there for preschool....then they turned it into the Prime Minister's house.

"It's down the road from where I grew up."

As well as unveiling a new song, the pair discussed their lives since the end of their US show in 2009, including having children.

"He's got a few, and I've got one, but together we've got two each, I guess." Clement told the show.

Colbert noted that the pair don't seem that interested in fame, and asked if they can walk around in New Zealand without being recognised.

It's only tourists who notice them, according to McKenzie.

"If someone lights up when they see us, you know they're foreign," Clement added.


Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement used an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, who will interview Jacinda Ardern this week, to make a request of the prime minister. Source: YouTube / The Late Show with Stephen Colbert


'Lights, camera, action' soon as isolated Otago community hosts $300m Disney remake of Mulan

Hollywood heavyweight Disney has settled into an isolated part of North Otago for a $300 million live-action remake of the 1990s animation Mulan, creating a big buzz for locals. 

The movie is being partly filmed in the Ahuriri Valley, near Omarama, and is set to inject millions into the economy.

An entire city is emerging on the edge of one of the country's most scenic sights.

But getting a closer look at the set of Mulan is problematic, with security tight, and even residents in Omarama are being kept in the dark.

"Some people, they come in and they say, 'it's top secret and they can't really talk about it'," said a local shopkeeper.

That's still not enough to stop it being the talk of the town.

"Lots of ice creams. They've been great for business," said a woman scooping ice cream in her shop.

Another woman said: "The town is absolutely buzzing. It's so, so good for Omarama to have all these people around." 

Originally an animation, this Disney film is directed Kiwi Niki Caro of Whale Rider fame and stars martial arts actor Jet Li. 

It has a reported budget of $300 million and is set to be lucrative for the regional economy too. The Waitaki District Council estimates $13 million will be injected locally.

Although tucked away in the Ahuriri Valley, business owners in Omarama are smiling.

"I was talking to a guy the other day who was organising beds and they had to find 800 beds between here and Twizel and Otamatata. It's definitely positive," said a local man.

The council says the producers have paid a bond to cover removing all buildings, structures and gravel should the area of the set not be returned to the same or a better condition, when filming wraps up in a few months.

The movie is due for release in March 2020.

Disney’s remake of Mulan is being partly filmed in the Ahuriri Valley. Source: 1 NEWS


Gary Numan left 'utterly devastated' after his tour bus struck and killed elderly man

Gary Numan has been left "utterly devastated" and "filled with sadness" after his tour bus struck a 91-year-old man in Cleveland who died.

The 60-year-old singer was forced to cancel his concert at Cleveland House of Blues in Cleveland, Ohio, last night, after a "terrible tragedy", in which a 91-year-old man died.

In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Gary wrote: "We are all utterly devastated by the fatal accident involving our tour bus earlier today.

"Everyone of us is filled with a sadness that made it impossible to even consider playing our show this evening, and out of respect it would have been entirely wrong.

"At the moment all we can think about are the people affected by this terrible tragedy and to them we send all our love."

He also tweeted: "We are all utterly devastated by the fatal accident involving our tour bus in Cleveland earlier today."

According to News 5 Cleveland, police said the man was pushing a cart when he was struck as the Cars hitmaker's bus was making a right turn, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver was not arrested and officials said he did not appear to be impaired, but they are continuing their investigation into what happened.

According to The Blast, witnesses from a nearby church administered last rites to the victim.

It's not known if Gary was on board the bus at the time of the incident.

A message on the House of Blues Twitter account read: "Due to unforeseen circumstances, tonight's show with Gary Numan at House of Blues Cleveland has been cancelled.

"Refunds will be made available at the point of purchase."

Gary Numan. Source: Bang Showbiz


Instagram co-founders resign from social media company

The co-founders of Instagram are resigning their positions with the social media company without explanation.

Chief Executive Kevin Systrom said in a statement today that he and Mike Krieger, Instagram's chief technical officer, plan to leave the company in the next few weeks and take time off "to explore our curiosity and creativity again."

"Mike and I are grateful for the last eight years at Instagram and six years with the Facebook team," Systrom said.

"We've grown from 13 people to over a thousand with offices around the world, all while building products used and loved by a community of over one billion. We're now ready for our next chapter."

"Building new things requires that we step back, understand what inspires us and match that with what the world needs; that's what we plan to do," Systrom said.

"We remain excited for the future of Instagram and Facebook in the coming years as we transition from leaders to two users in a billion."

No explanation was given for their sudden departure from the photo-sharing network they founded in 2010.

Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, just before going public, at a price that seemed inconceivable at the time — $1 billion — especially for a little-known startup with no profit.

At the time Instagram was ad-free, with a loyal following of 31 million users who were all on mobile devices — still a somewhat elusive bunch for the web-born Facebook back then. Since then, the service has grown to more than 1 billion users and has of course added plenty of advertisements.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Systrom and Krieger "extraordinary product leaders" and said he was looking forward "to seeing what they build next."

The departures are a challenge for Facebook.

Instagram has been a bright spot for company not just because it's seen as a more uplifting place than Facebook itself, but because it is popular with teens and young people — a group Facebook has had trouble keeping around.

Instagram has largely escaped Facebook's high-profile problems over user privacy, foreign elections interference and fake news, even though it is not immune to any of these things (Facebook recently disclosed it has deleted hundreds of pages on its namesake site as well as Instagram that were linked to global misinformation campaigns intended to disrupt elections).

Though Systrom, in the early days of Instagram ads, famously checked each one personally to ensure it aligned with the app's aesthetics, he was not as loudly anti-ads as the founder of another popular Facebook-acquired mobile app, WhatsApp.

WhatsApp's CEO Jan Koum resigned in April.

Koum had signaled years earlier that he would take a stand against Facebook if the company's push to increase profits demanded radical changes in the way WhatsApp operates.

In a blog post written when Facebook announced the biggest acquisition in its history, Koum wrote that the deal wouldn't have happened if WhatsApp "had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product."

Berlin, Germany - 05 21 2016:  Apple iPhone 6s screen with social media applications Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Youtube, Vimeo, LinkedIn, Pinterest, WhatsApp etc.
Instagram (file picture). Source: istock.com