I don't understand Return of Rome's pricing strategy

OK, first thing, I can afford Return of Rome just fine. I’m writing this from a business perspective, on how Return of Rome works as a commercial product.

I think given the apparent strategic goal for Return of Rome (to attract the Vietnamese community), even the AoE2 bundle is a bit too expensive.

To do some napkin calculation using the classical “Big Mac index” metric:

  • The AoE2 + Return bundle currently costs $21.68 in the US, 325,500 VNĐ in Vietnam.

  • A Big Mac burger is now $5.15 in the US, and 74,000 VNĐ in Vietnam.

  • The Food Expenditure Share (FES) in Vietnam is 20.8% at the moment. Whatever the FES is in US now, I’m sure it’s much lower than this.

If I’m a Vietnamese who’s not used to gaming on Steam, I might honestly hesitate on paying the price of over 4 Big Macs for a new version of AoE1.


Prior to the announcement, I thought their bundle scheme would be more like this:

  • The option for typical existing AoE2DE players is to buy Return of Rome alone, which can be priced cheaper than it currently is.

  • A Steam package (which must be bought together, not supporting personalized Complete Your Collection) of AoE2DE + Return of Rome, very aggressively priced - it can be discounted lower than buying AoE2DE alone (!), but still more expensive than buying Return, to make it only attractive to new adopters who never owned AoE2DE, including the potential Vietnamese users.

  • A Steam bundle (supporting Complete Your Collection) of AoE1DE + AoE2DE + Return of Rome, as a discount bridge for AoE1DE owners, and not attractive to users with no interest in AoE1DE.


As a thought experiment, here’s an alternate strategy:

  • Imitate what Creative Assembly did with Fall of the Samurai.

It was originally launched as DLC for Total War: Shogun 2. However, Creative Assembly later spun it out as a standalone game, titled Total War Saga: Fall of the Samurai, and you can simply buy this alone, then expand into the main Shogun 2 game, no strings attached!

How Creative Assembly did this involved some Steam game structure tricks, but basically, they isolated the basic Shogun 2 engine into a Steam app, and made both the main game data set and FotS into DLCs under said app.

  • The “main game” now consists of: base Shogun 2 engine + main game data set.

  • The “standalone” FotS package is: base Shogun 2 engine + FotS data set.

And if you own them all, no problem! This scheme handles FotS’s own DLC fine.

It’s quite clever, and theoretically could have worked for Return of Rome: this way, Vietnamese users can start by buying the standalone Return of Rome, then ease into main AoE2DE at a separate time.

Now imagine if we execute Return of Rome this way:

  • Market Return of Rome as a new leading version of AoE1, lean and community-focused, this time in the AoE2 engine with all its benefits, which existing AoE1DE owners can cheaply upgrade to.

  • And AoE2DE players can buy Return of Rome to unlock Romans in their game.

This way, the messaging to users is crystal clear, without any of the confusion that the actual Return of Rome marketing has caused.

  • Vietnamese players have a less intimidating entry point.

  • AoE1DE owners might grumble a bit about upgrading again, but they do this at a discount.

  • AoE2DE owners wouldn’t feel confused and burdened by this strange new move, instead seeing it as a side bonus they can get. (They get a discount, too.)

  • You can now expand Return of Rome with its own DLC, without cuasing any confusion like this situation: “that’s DLC of a DLC, make sure you own RoR before buying it!”

The above are the pros of marketing Return of Rome as an AoE1 upgrade (mainly the clarity of messaging and user expectations).

It has cons that may ultimately outweight the pros (and possibly why World’s Edge did not chose the above route):

  • World’s Edge has better metrics on the existing AoE2DE userbase than the relatively harder-to-reach Vietnamese community. Marketing Return as “AoE1 comes to AoE2”, while slightly confusing, is more exciting.

That is to say AoE2 players are more likely to buy “their own DLC” than another AoE1 remaster - we can see many such reactions on social media. Meanwhile, whether the VN community would adapt is less certain.

  • Adding to that, “buy another game to unlock Romans” also sounds less appealing.

  • A “new version” labeling sets up expectations and pressure that Return may not be able to fulfill: people will expect the old campaigns and fully new graphics, rather than “only 3 campaigns” and reusing AoE2DE graphics. The “DLC” label makes expectations more in-line with reality.

In the end, Return of Rome is a corrective maneuver, an attempt at recovering AoE1’s community and reputation after the rough landing of its DE. Its business strategy has to exist in the shadows of AoE1DE’s impact.


Not sure if there is any mystery. I don’t know anything about the economic situation in Vietnam, but for me and the majority of owners of 2DE it’s irrelevant and viewed ‘as is’, and what is here doesn’t really look particularly suspicious: buying this DLC with a ‘complete your package’ discount costs a tad bit more than latest DLC for 2DE or 3DE, that add 2-3 civs, and 0-3 campaigns.
Here we have 3 campaigns and 17 playable civs + Romans available in 2DE (Available in singleplayer and unranked multiplayer games.)

They are clearly nodding toward the Vietnamese community and it’s cool, but describing that as a ‘strategic goal of the DLC’ is a bit… you know.

You concert just USD to Vietnam valuta, based on the USA price? I dont think it works that way. Prices depend on the nation too.

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Thats why “Big Mac index” metric is employed here


US price is slightly below 4 BigMacs.
Vietnamese is slightly above 4 BigMacs.

Doesn’t seem much of a difference to me.
4 days worth of lunch for a game you might play for years? Doesn’t sound like a bad deal.

But I agree that there should be a standalone version of the DLC that doesn’t require you to buy AoE2DE.

In the worst case you have to wait for the next sale. Sumer Sale on Steam starts July 29th. AoE2DE will likely be 75% off. The DLC itself might not be but that will make the bundle a lot cheaper.

So here’s what I’m implying in the OP in non-ambiguous terms:

In a developing country, where over 1/5 of an average family’s income is spent on food, where eating at MacDonald’s is a minor treat a family only occasionally indulges in, “more than 4 Big Macs for a game” is a cost that one can afford, but will feel hesitant to, due to all the other cheaper entertainment expenditures this will eat into. This is doubly true for a young student or worker.

Lowering the threshold, or somehow splitting the cost into two parts, would have sweetened the deal.

Can you please rephrase in a couple of sentences, your specific issue with the current pricing?

RoR’s price set against all others available atm is the 12 cheapest on Steam:

You’re analyzing the situation through the prism of your own economy and that’s something hard to wrap mind around for any outsider (most of people).
This game is being developed by people working and being paid in a completely different economic situation, by a company operating out of the same, western financial reality, and they are making a product that is selling (not by design, they would happily sell as much as possible everywhere) primarily in NA, EU and chunks of Asia (JP+CHN).

This DLC is very much making a bow toward Vietnamese players, that built a community around AoE, but at the same time, it’s not possible sell this DLC in that market at (comparatively) extremely low price. Right now its RRP on Steam is already more than 42% lower than where I live.
They are really not trying to screw you on price like it was accused in other places where due to poor/troubled economic situation, asked price was problematic to some people (like with AoE IV and places like Turkey).

Video games are a hobby, a fairly expensive one, that offer an extremely good value compared to all other types of entertainment like books or movies, and as I’ve said before- price seems to be matching content of this expansion.
My price is almost 1:1 to Euro, despite my currency being more than 4,6x weaker than Euro.

You are actually looking the wrong place. Here’s where you should check prices around the world for a game https://steamdb.info/sub/766084/

What changes? It’s still the 12 cheapest.

Have you looked at the your print or you just pasted it here?

I set the regional prices by relative value, and at this moment it is 12 from the bottom.

Looked at what? Describe what you have in mind because I have no idea.

Valve suggest a price so the corporation can have max profit at the same time maximizing sales in a country based on their own economy. So, if Vietnam didnt have the 12th cheapest, but was closer to the $15 just converted to their currency, it would sale much less, which I guess is not the idea behind World’s Edge initiative, right?
Very often people from global north come saying “Im paying more!!!”, instead of looking how much the global south could pay for something. Advocating for a plain converted price - or something close to that - is just gatekeeping the majority of global south players

Something to consider using Mexican pesos as an example (Sorry I was not able to upload Vietnamese Currency)

According to the prices suggested

At 7.5 hr minimum federal wage it would take a little less than 2 hours of work pay in the USA to get the game.

In Mexico with a Daily minimum wage of 205 pesos, it would take around 5 hrs of work to pay for the game.

Valve’s suggested prices are just suggestions. Publisher can set whatever price it wants, not sure why look at them and not the actual price.

Your argument is ‘if the price was lower I would like it more and more people might have buy it’. Yeah, obviously. But that’s not the answer to my question, which is: what’s wrong with the price of this specific DLC?

The pricing of RoR in Vietnam is next to Turkey’s Lira.
For example, for ‘Dynasties of India’ it’s also next to Turkey.
For ‘Lords of the West’ - the same.
For ’ Dawn of the Dukes’ - the same.

Nothing here looks unusual.

Are you just discovering differences between world economies?
Is that a surprise that almost all economies are worse than one in the USA?
I also have to work a lot more than people in the country next to me.

What’s new or strange? Yeah currency of Mexico or Vietnam is much weaker and their situation when buying Western-made products (physical or services) is worse.

What is the actual demand? For them to sell it even cheaper? It’s already up to 70% cheaper than the value in USD. Should it be 85% cheaper?
Developers are paying their bills for electricity, wages, social security, food, marketing in $/€/£, not in Vietnamese Dongs. And they need to make that money back.

In a digital world, without region restrictions and different game versions for different markets, people would just flip the codes and resell them in other places, heavily lowering the profitability of the product. Unless we want them to not make a profit (or rather- Microsoft), there’s no good way around it. Customers in some countries are always in a worse position than others. That’s sadly how it is.
It might be possible to sell it even cheaper, but for a physical disc, made in that specific region, without Steam code attached.

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I was trying to make your point, I am sorry if I wasn’t clear.

Different economies require different prices, and compare to the dollar seems like they are paying less, that may not be the case based on their economy.

I think they are targeting the richer folks in vietnam, if affording a game amounts to a meal with bigmac they certainly would not have the hardware to play AOE2DE. no point targeting that market section.

getting the richer people which would later have an effect (or not) on the gaming scene. if they can get the pros and decent amount of people move onto AOE2DE then i’d say in just a few years we’d see a lot more as hardware becomes more accessible overtime.

You for real? Hesitant on choosing 4 little meals vs minimum 1 000 000 hours of entertaining on steam on a quality game?

I think that you need to recalculate your priorities in life =))))))))))))))))))))))
The price on this game’s expansions are so low they are almost free (also considering that it is multiplayer) vs the price of 50-60$ of any new single player game’s experience that can give u max 15 hours of entertaining.

Now that the DLC has been released for near 2 weeks, the verdict is out: this whole thread is mostly moot…

Because it’s currently sitting at 0 Steam reviews in the Vietnamese language.

And this is a foregone conclusion, easy to see from 10 miles away - some of the devs probably foresaw it as well as anybody before they embarked on this project.

We know one of the DLC’s goals is to court the VN market. Back in late 2022, long before the Lac Viet civ or the D3 mode was announced, they had specially invited VN beta testers, and sent out user surveys that were translated into Vietnamese.

But we also know how AoE1 is played there - using free downloaded copies of Rise of Rome version 1.0 (because they utilize a bug where you can press “S” to infinitely replenish Farms). You cannot possibly replace a free download entrenched into a low-Steam-adoption national esports community by simply asking them to make a Steam purchase. Even if Return of Rome was priced competitively as my post suggested, it would still fail to achieve this goal.

To seriously pursue the goal, you’d need boots on the ground - have somebody in Vietnam to speak with all the stakeholders face-to-face - the net cafe owners, the tournament organizers, the common stream watchers, the average students, the athlete players. You’d have to listen to and observe their needs, to sit down and drink with them, immerse yourself in the cultural ambience to gain an understanding.

And this replacement product would have to be closely based on the local community’s needs. The price can be as low as 100% free, and the stakeholders would still need something to gain from making the switch.

But from the franchise owner’s perspective, what do they have to gain from winning over the VN market? The answer is probably: not worth the effort it takes. Very well, Return of Rome it is then.

As an aside, OTOH a better pricing strategy might have bumped up its Steam review score a notch.

Return of Rome currently has 1060 total “bought on Steam” reviews at 44% positive, which translates to ~594 negative reviews.

It has 488 reviews in English at 58% positive, which is 205 negative reviews.

For comparison, it has 255 reviews in Simplified Chinese at 16% positive, or 214 negative reviews -
clearly the largest slice.

Other than the typical complaints, apparently an important factor of the negativity in China is the local price point - higher than AoE1DE itself, and near double that of other DLCs.


Personally I’m really surprised there wasn’t a discount for already owning Aoe1 DE, or at least a bundle where you could buy both together. As someone who already owns Aoe1, I’m really not interested in buying the game once again.

And then as an Aoe2 player, if you’re not interested in Aoe1 at all, then $15 for essentially 1 civilization doesn’t seem fairly priced.

For someone who is interested in the single player part, already has Aoe2 DE, and doesn’t already have Aoe1 DE, then maybe the price makes sense. But that’s not the entire audience.