A highly anticipated tech gadget is landing in Singapore, and many consumers believe they have to pay a higher price for it here compared to the United States.
Pre-order prices for the Nintendo Switch seem to have got some gamers in a tizzy after they were announced by retailers earlier this month.
The Japanese game company's latest console, a hybrid handheld console with a dock to connect to the television set, will be available on March 3.
The Switch console alone can be bought from Amazon Japan for roughly $400, including shipping fees. However, it goes for US$299 (S$425) in the United States without shipping. Local retailers have listed Nintendo Switch bundles (with up to two games) at $600 to $700, though local distributor Maxsoft has not officially announced prices.
If you know where to look and local warranty isn't crucial, electronic goods such as graphics cards and TV sets can be cheaper elsewhere than in Singapore.
The local pricing of the Switch also seems egregious compared with current consoles from Sony and Microsoft. The Sony PlayStation 4 Slim starts at $449 while the Xbox One has been discounted to $319 on the Microsoft Store.
Both of these consoles also offer more powerful hardware and a larger game library as they have been out for a while.
Unsurprisingly, online commentators have suggested that buyers here should import from overseas, despite the lack of warranty coverage.
This was exactly what I did in 2013 when I bought the Sony PlayStation 4 console from Amazon. The online retailer was selling it at US$399, which, at that time, was around S$500. The same console in Singapore then retailed at $639. Free shipping to Singapore sealed the deal. This was before a change in Amazon's shipping policy.
Local warranty is about the only thing you'll miss with an imported Switch.
Unlike previous Nintendo consoles, the Switch is not region-locked and can play games bought from any country.
The Switch also charges via a USB Type-C port, which means those who already have a compatible charger for their phones or laptops probably do not even need a power-plug converter for an overseas set.
The issue of higher prices isn't confined to Singapore. Australia made global headlines a few years ago for its high software prices. A consumer watchdog calculated that it was actually cheaper for an Aussie to fly to the US to buy Adobe and Microsoft software than to purchase it locally. A parliamentary committee investigation subsequently found that Australians paid up to 50 per cent more for technology hardware and software, compared to the US.
The Switch, by the way, costs A$470 in Australia for the console, which works out to around S$510.
It is worth noting that the prices listed at US retailers do not usually include taxes. Once you account for GST (exempt for goods below $400 in value), some of these prices may not look as attractive.
Granted that some companies sell their products here at prices comparable to those in other countries. Apple and Microsoft, for example, price their tech gadgets similar to what you'll find in the US. Apple even offers international warranty for all its products, except for the iPhone. But they are the exceptions, with other major brands tending to price their products higher here.
I understand why distributors and retailers need to mark up prices. But when price discrepancies get large, people may gamble that their units will not need servicing for a year.
Having imported many gadgets without getting a dud, I, for one, will take my chances and continue hunting for the best deals.