Woke up this morning to a very surprising email.
Great! So prices on Steam will now display in Php instead of the usual USD if you have a Philippine address. What does that really mean, though? Just a couple things.
Prices will be the same. Whatever they charge for games now will essentially be the same price they'll be charging you after the conversion. A $60 game will be worth Php 2,637 given today's current exchange rate. However, exchange rates do fluctuate. There will be days when that $60 game will only cost you Php 2,618 and and days when it'll go for Php 2,715 or so. And that is totally the same thing if you buy it with your credit card depending on the exchange rate that day. The Php price display will only really help doing the conversions for you. That way, it'll be easier for you to tell when you should pull the trigger on that game you've been eyeing.
I did some research and it seems that the currency display will change for 11 more countries including Indonesia (Rupiah), Malaysia (Ringgit), and Thailand (Baht). I think New Zealand, too.
Doesn't Solve The Bigger Problem
My initial excitement quickly died down as I realized that this won't solve the real issue. Only 5-7% of Filipinos have credit cards, and if the forums serve as any indication, not all gamers belong to that 5%. With no credit card, you'd be forced to buy those Steam cards from places like Datablitz, and those normally sell for much higher than the actual dollar value of the card thus making the automatic conversion moot.
If you want to take advantage of this new feature on Steam but you're not part of the 5-7%, there are existing ways of getting around the credit card issue. One such way is through mobile provider payment schemes, like SMART Money or GCash. Once you have a SMART Money card, it's just like having a Mastercard credit card, although it's pre-funded. Same goes for GCash. They're much easier to apply for than regular cards and can be used for online purchase.
Eventually, Bitcoin might be the online currency of choice. And that might be safer than credit cards.
Still Good Though
Regardless of whether it makes it any easier for Pinoy gamers or not, it's definitely a step in the right direction. At least Steam has noticed the market potential in the country. Sony and Microsoft could be following suit.