While the PR is maybe bad and such visible customer outrage could be avoided, the goal of sales were always price segmentation. This simply means “sell the same stuff high to the rich/enthusiast and low for the poor/barely-interested”. This sounds like a rip-off. You get a worse price for the same product just because the seller assumes that you can afford it.
You probably consider this practice evil and want to ban it. The EU banned several instances of such practices. Drug re-import is a hot topic in the USA. Nobody likes price segmentation.
I do, because it increases the GDP, therefore the well-being of everyone. To understand why, you must understand that all products have fixed and variable costs. In short, the fixed cost is the cost of creating the first product, the variable is the cost of creating copies. For something like a natural resource or a service, most of the costs are variable. For example a waitress has hiring costs and training costs, but this is in the magnitude of one month salary. So if you have a waitress for a year, her costs are 90% variable. But the more advanced the product is, the costs of development are getting higher. For digital entertainment and software, most of the costs are fixed.
If the product sells in N copies, then the price must be V+F/N to break even. If you can’t sell for this, you go bankrupt. Price segmentation is realizing that this is only true on average. The individual customer can pay less or more. Imagine that you can only sell a game for full price because such segmentation methods are banned. Let’s say the development cost was $10M and operating the servers and paying for the digital download provider is $5/copy.
If you can sell 100K copies, than you must price them $105. Except this sentence makes no sense. The amount you can sell of a flexible product like a video game greatly depends on the price. Let’s say there are only 50K people who are ready to pay this price. Bang, you are bankrupt.
However if price segmentation is not banned, you might not go bankrupt. You sell 50K copies for $105, so you recouped $5M production costs. Then you drop the price to $55 and you can sell another 80K copies. That’s another $4M. Finally you drop it to $25 and sell 100K more copies. Now you have $2M more, so you paid for your fixed costs and made $1M profit. If you would have opened with $25 price and sell all 230K copies for that, you’d only make $4.6M, you can start writing the “with heavy heart we must announce that…” letter to your customers, including the ones who would gladly pay $105.
Imagine price segmentation as pushing a cart together. The strong pushes more than the weak, but they both push and the cart is moving faster (or at all) this way compared to the strong pushing the cart alone. By buying for full price, you support the developer more than the guy who buys on sale, but he still supports it.
This isn’t leeching. The poor still contributes to the common good by carrying a portion of the fixed costs. That portion does not need to be paid by the rich. If we’d ban this practice, the prices would go up. For example the mentioned game must be sold for $205 if no one can buy it for less than $105. Except 50K copies wouldn’t sell for $205, so the price needs to be further elevated.
I agree that this case wasn’t the nicest implementation. The company should provide at least a marginal benefit for those who support them more and make his practices somewhat transparent. For example they could add extra costumes or whatnot to the original version of the game to reward those who don’t wait for the sale. But the main goal is solid and good.