World Of Goo Sale Offers Fascinating Results

By John Walker on October 20th, 2009 at 12:58 pm.

Tee hee.

As expected, 2D BOY have published details of their World Of Goo First Birthday experiment. Offering the game for whatever price people wanted to pay (previously it was $20), this meant people could get a copy for as little as $0.01 or as much as fifty million squillion space dollars. (I believe that’s the upper limit.) Originally this was intended to last for a week, but has now been extended to 25th October. And being a rather open sort they’ve announced how many copies they’ve sold so far, and indeed how much people have been paying, along with much more. It’s an unprecedented amount of detailed sales information. Its significance shouldn’t be underplayed.

In the last week there have been approximately 57,000 sales of the game. Which is a pretty stunning number. So let’s look at what people paid:

Don't be fooled.

Now it’s immediately important to very much hold onto your horses. When Radiohead experimented with this pricing model with In Rainbows it was ludicrously declared a failure by the press because most people paid nothing, despite Radiohead making a whacking great ton of cash for it. It’s that whacking great ton of cash that’s interesting here, rather than how many people nabbed it for free. So clearly, as was always expected, the largest number of people paid 1c for the game – the lowest amount they could. But this is already more complex than only people taking it for the lowest price possible.

There’s people who were getting a second copy. Many bought it on Wii or PC or Mac or Linux and wanted another version. Having already paid full price for it, this was their opportunity to get a version working on another platform without paying all over again. Of course, this isn’t going to account for many of the 16,852 who got it for almost-free. Huge numbers certainly are people taking advantage of getting a free game legitimately. So the question is, how many of these people would have bought it for the full price were this offer not available? I’m going to stick my head out and suggest a fairly small number. Why? Because the game already was available at full price for a year previously, and they didn’t get it. As the Steam sales show (below) there’s the possibility that some of them may well have paid full price if the same volume of advertising had occurred without a price drop, simply because they were reminded of its existence. But I doubt that accounts for many. The question that remains, and it’s one that I don’t think can be answered from the data gathered on this occasion, is how many of the one-centers would have bought it were it reduced to, say, $10, or $5. All we can say for sure is that these were 17,000 (minus those duplicating/replacing copies) who were unlikely to ever pay the $20.

I think it’s fascinating that then more than twice as many people chose to pay between one and two dollars than chose to pay between one cent and one dollar. In fact, almost as many people chose to pay in this third bracket as chose to get it for free. Clearly getting World of Goo for under two bucks is an insane bargain, but it’s still important to note that people are choosing to pay when they don’t have to. Not a significant amount at first glance. Until you multiply 15,797 by 2, and put a dollar sign in front of it, for a year old game. (Clearly minus a significant Paypal commission.)

Other interesting spikes appear at $5 and $10. It’s kind of cute that people default to recognisable round numbers. That twenty-three times more people paid $10 than $9 is, well, possibly useful knowledge for those picking pricing. People seem to prefer to pay a round number. This same pattern repeats at $15 and $20, with again thirty times more people paying $20 than $19.

I think another really significant number is that $20 point. That’s how much the game cost a year ago, and indeed a week ago. 306 people chose to pay that. That’s $6120 minus the Paypal cut, when it could have been absolutely zero. Although let’s not forget that 16,000 people paying between one and two bucks (minus cut) is a hell of a lot more money. (And 7347 at $5 is $36,735 of course – keep doing this maths and you can begin to see why 2D BOY describe it as a “huge success”.)

The other enormously interesting finding that 2D BOY have revealed is the effect the sale had elsewhere. It’s absolutely fascinating that the developers making their game available for all-but-free on their own site saw a 40% increase in Steam sales. They explain that it’s not unusual for a rise or fall in sales on Steam, week by week, of around 25%, but 40% is a significant anomaly, and is unlikely to be coincidental. The sheer volume of promotion their sale received presumably drove people who preferred a Steam-integrated copy to finally get around to buying it. And it’s important to note that 40% increase was following the previous week that had already shown a 25% increase. (Of course we don’t know what that’s an increase from. They may well have sold four copies, then five, then seven. Although perhaps that’s a little unlikely.) The effect even extended to the Wii where sales showed an above-normal increase of 9%

There’s tons more data to pore over, and you can even download all the responses people gave when asked to explain why they paid what they paid. Although as 2D BOY point out, this is skewed information, with the majority of those responding to questions being those who paid in the $5 bracket. Of those people, the most frequent explanation for price was that it was all the person could afford at that time. I do not think a more resounding piece of information can be garnered from all this than that statement. Oh, and 10% of those responding were people who had pirated it and now wanted to pay. Shout that out loud in the street. You can access all the data here.

But I think the punchline to all this is: 2D BOY made around $100,000 in a week. That’s $50,000 each for writing a blog post about a game they finished a year ago. By letting people pay whatever they wanted. That’s damned important information.

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234 Comments »

  1. Scalene says:

    Wait, that’s $50,000 per blog post?

    You guys are getting ripped off.

  2. Lars Westergren says:

    Fantastic. Good on them.
    :)

  3. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Pretty interetsing. As said before, I paid beteen 10 and 20 euros. As it happens, it was somewhat less than the retail price, but not by much.

  4. Senethro says:

    Looks like to me that you don’t want the buggers paying less than a buck, thanks to paypals skimming.

  5. P7uen says:

    Hear hear

  6. dartt says:

    Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye…

    Sorry about that, yes, I’d certainly like to give those two gentlemen a firm handshake and a pat on the back.

  7. 678 says:

    Do you get a Steam key if you buy from their site ?

  8. bill says:

    I love that they release all their statistics. One thing I’d like to know is if they LOST money on those $0.01 sales due to paypal commissions and suchlike. Do they touch on that ?

    Didn’t but it this time as i already bought it in one of the steam sales. Can’t remember how much i paid, but it was definitely worth it.

    I’ve discovered an interesting thing from frequenting GOG where their prices are only $5.99 and $9.99.
    If they release an interesting game at $5.99 I’ll pick it up without thinking. If they release the same game (or a better one) at $9.99 I’ll spend a lot more time thinking about it, searching for reviews, etc.. and probably not end up buying it.
    (and i think it’s the number that’s significant, not the currency. I suspect if we were talking 5 quid or 10 quid it’d be the same result. )

    • bill says:

      ps/ their server is all stressed out again (aww!!) so i can’t check for myself. not just being lazy…

    • Fede says:

      Quoted from their blog post:
      “For all purchases of around 30 cents and under, we actually saw no money, PayPal took it all, but they probably ended up losing money on most of those transactions ($0.01) as well, they’re not the bad guy.”

  9. Sunjammer says:

    Absolutely love this business model. I’m still amazed at how much money can be made from miniscule transactions, and how hilariously inept most of The Industry is at seeing that fact.

    I suppose it comes down to greed. As a musician I always felt that music is essentially free. When i put up all my tunes in a big whopping list, people actually *asked me* to put up a donation button, and i’ve made a little over a thousand dollars from just people being nice so far. That’s free money.

    These are awesome times to be independent.

    • Clovis says:

      and how hilariously inept most of The Industry is at seeing that fact.

      They can’t see it because of the gigantic piles of cash blocking their view from $60 console sales from Generic FPS 5 or whatever.

      This is a great move by 2d Boy, but not applicable to all businesses. If Modern Warfare 2 used this strategy I don’t think it would work out so well.

    • Sunjammer says:

      I suppose i was thinking more about the music industry really, which at least attempts to operate within that price range, yet is infuriated when it “loses sales” to piracy (which we know are sales that didn’t exist to begin with).

      The 60 dollar mark is ridiculous. Here in Norway that comes down to something like $90, which for all the generic shit we wade through these days is an INCREDIBLE amount of trust to ask of a consumer.
      I’m still not entirely sure why games cost more than movies to byt, in terms of cost of production.

    • Clovis says:

      Ya, music pricing is weirder than games. It often costs little in comparison to produce an album than a movie. Movies are longer and include music and video. But, at least in the US, you can usually buy DVDs (in bargain bins) cheaper than CDs or sometimes even mp3 albums.

      Of course, none of any of that makes a difference in the price, just like digital distribution does not guarentee a change in price. The price is based on what people are willing to pay. The console kiddies jump at the opportunity to pay $60 for a title, so that’s how much it costs. When the XBOX 720 or whatever is digital distribution only, it will still cost $60 for a title.

      For independent musicians this system should work great, especially since they can also earn money by performing. The big labels are essentially selling a different product though. Not music, but a sort of marketing package. I don’t think they are missing out on sales of Lady Gaga by not using the pay what you want method. People are willing to pay $1 for a Lady Gaga track, so that’s what it costs. It is just too bad that many good artists are stuck with big labels.

    • Fumarole says:

      Horse Armor would disagree with you.

  10. bill says:

    Ah… found the info: For all purchases of around 30 cents and under, we actually saw no money, PayPal took it all, but they probably ended up losing money on most of those transactions ($0.01) as well, they’re not the bad guy.

    I gotta wonder what would have happened if they’d made the minimum $1 instead. Do you think they’d have made $16,000 more dollars, or would most of the $0.01 people have skipped it entirely?

    • Jaffo says:

      I thought they should have made it $1 minimum for the version on their site and $2 for a Steam version (with achievements), especially if PayPal takes the first 30 cents. I would bet that they’d have made more money in that bottom block than they did.

  11. Kelron says:

    A quick mathmatising from the graph says people paid $2.35 on average. Anyone want to correct that?

    I’d be interested to see if an indie game, even a fairly substantial one like World of Goo, actually made more money being sold at £2-5 on release than at the £15-20 we might think it’s worth when compared to other games. I think because people don’t know what they’re getting with these games, unlike the next Call of Duty or Half Life, they’re less willing to shell out full game price, even if the game deserves it.

  12. Clovis says:

    I know that when I “bought” the mp3s for free from Radiohead it made me want to actually pay for something else by them as soon as possible. I ended up buying the CD when it came out. I think they may be the last real CD I’ve ever bought.

    If I hadn’t already bought WoG (thanks to RPS’ coverage), I might have paid $1 or so for it, becasue I’m cheap. But I would probably buy their next game for full price on day one (which I normally never do) because of how highly this makes me think of 2D Boy. Too bad 2D Boy doesn’t have a new game ready to be released…

    OTOH, if EA let me download their entire catalogue for free I would do it and would still only buy their games when the price drops considerably. I wouldn’t feel guilty about this at all.

  13. D says:

    And conversely, how would it have influenced the number of people getting it for >$1?

  14. wintermute says:

    This puts to shame another current industry pricing experiment, where a certain anticipated game is seeing how many people are willing to pay an extra 33% of the industry standard to purchase it's "hype" component.

    Perhaps World of Goo should offer a Platinum edition, retailing for $100 but coming with its own jar of tar.

  15. Ginger Yellow says:

    I’d love to know if there’s been any serious economic research on this kind of offer. I mean, the results fly in the face of conventional economic theory (especially the Steam sales spike), but that’s not to say it couldn’t be explained. I’d love to see people grapple with the info.

    Also, I’d like to say a huge thanks to 2D Boy. Over and above the great gesture in the offer itself, they’ve done the indie game community, and indeed the world of retail in general, a great service by publishing detailed data like this. If only Steam were anything like as open as this about their absolute numbers.

    As for Paypal, I’m pretty sure the standard minimum fee is 20p/30c, which means the 1c purchases will have been pretty costly unless they arranged something with PayPal in advance.

    • Gott says:

      In terms of website sales, it doesn’t really fly too far in the face of Economic Theory. I, however , have been drinking so my explanation might.

      From 2D boy’s point of view, Its probably fair to say that most of the costs of making the game have already been recouped. This is important as it means, effectively their only costs for these units were in hosting, paypal and ads. In other words, comparing WoG to a game running this promotion at launch is somewhat disingenuous.

      The most interesting thing about the Steam spike to me, from an economics point of view, is that, if people buying from Steam were aware of the promotion, it potentially lets us look in to the value people place on Steam services, albeit in a roundabout way. A fully constructed experiment working on this basis, possibly in a modular way (with the baseline full game being available for 1c and additional features like steam inclusion and achievement support adding to the baseline minimum price), might come up with some really interesting information on services which have often been free-ish.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      In other words, comparing WoG to a game running this promotion at launch is somewhat disingenuous.
      I wasn’t doing that comparing, and I agree it’s not the same thing. I’d be very surprised if any major release (by which I mean studio or major indie) went down this route at launch.

      What I was driving at was more the anomalies in the prices people were willing to pay. PArticularly that $1-$2 spike and the Steam thing. If I were to offer an Economics 101 answer, I’d say that some people find utility in the future survival of 2D Boy and were thus willing to pay more than they had to and more than those who don’t value 2D Boy’s future survival. It might even be possible to test that hypothesis by comparing the answers to the motivation question with the price those people paid.

  16. Alex May says:

    Fascinating results – I wonder what would happen if this had been done from the beginning? i.e. does it rely somewhat on brand recognition?

    • bill says:

      i suspect it relies a lot on “getting a bargain”. If they released it for very little originally, people would probably have considered it worth very little. But (like the steam weekend sales) the chance to get something at much lower than the usual price is a BIG draw.

      I’d guess it’d be much less successful if done from launch. But it seems like something that could be done much more successfully later on. At some point, everyone who really wants it has got it… so you might as well give it away.

  17. innokenti says:

    It’s a shame that the ease-of-pay offered by PayPal comes with a punishing commission for smaller donations. Other than that – that’s awesome to know.

    This kind of data is extremely valuable. I think it would be great to get the Steam-sales stats when various weekend and other deals come on. I seem to remember Valve saying that the first time they brought L4D down from £27 to £14, they got a record number of sales, in that short period outstripping their sales in all the time before.

    (Armed with that info I’m still surprised at some of the Valve pricing though…)

    • mootpoint says:

      Was thinking the same thing about paypal. Did 2Dboy mention that paypal does that? If not you have to wonder what people would have done had they known. Sad if they still would have paid 1c, cool if they’d paid double the paypal cost (someone said 30c – so 60c then).

  18. Cutman says:

    Hooray, now every game is gonna start doing this. Can’t wait to buy twenty games for twenty cents.

  19. Baboonanza says:

    I think I paid 15 Euros. It was always one of those games I planned on getting but I felt the price point was a bit too high compared to what else I could get for the same money, particularly because Steam cheats on the currency conversion. I’m always happy to pay for games, it’s the exact price point that’s usually the issue.

    Interestingly I’m actually not that impressed by it. I really like the style of it and the narrative good (with some very excellent geeky jokes/references), but the actual gameplay leaves me almost completely cold. What I really dislike is when you’re trying to do something quickly but it’s difficult the grab a goo because they wander around, but maybe this is made worse by playing on a small netbook screen.

  20. MeestaNob says:

    I really wish more people gave them at least $5 and I really hope most of those $0.01 purchases were for second copies…

    • Kamos says:

      I know someone who bought it @ $0.01 “just because DURR HURR”.

      The world is doomed. :P

  21. Mike says:

    I see they noted that the average price rose as time went on – did they link this to the idea that the people who bought early were probably the ones most interested in taking it for a cent?

  22. Ginger Yellow says:

    I’d be interested to see if an indie game, even a fairly substantial one like World of Goo, actually made more money being sold at £2-5 on release than at the £15-20 we might think it’s worth when compared to other games. I think because people don’t know what they’re getting with these games, unlike the next Call of Duty or Half Life, they’re less willing to shell out full game price, even if the game deserves it.

    Oh, definitely. See also the reaction to Braid, which was, what, 1200 MS points on XBLA? People are happy to spend £40/$50 on Madden or Pro Evo every year, but ask them to spend a tenner on one of the most creative games in recent memory and they go nuts.

  23. cliffski says:

    I’m surprised so many people paid such a small amount, and so few a large amount. WoG is an astounding game that sucked up hours of my life. If I had to guess, I’d say I got $40 of fun from the game, and I haven’t even finished it.
    If I was buying it under this system, I’d probably pay less, like maybe $24, because I only realise how much fun it was once I’d played it.
    In fact, I wonder how many people had bought it before and used this as a ‘tip jar’ to throw money at the developers.
    At the lower end, I find it weird that people would pay $0.01. That’s kinda strange. It’s like throwing a single penny in a collecting tin. If something is worth *anything* to you, then it’s worth $0.10 at the very least surely?
    Even if you only play half the first level, that’s ten cents of entertainment right there. 25 years ago we were paying 10p for a single go at a game of space invaders, surely world of goo is worth more than that?

    • Clovis says:

      I only base what I’m willing to pay on something on how much value it actually has. I have an upper limit on what I will pay, not a lower limit. If someone is giving something away for free I will take it. I’ll probably consider buying their next thing at a higher price point though.

      If you bought a meal at a restaurant that had a $5 special, but the meal was AMAZING, would you then pay the restaurant more for it? Or would you just be more inclined to coming back?

    • cliffski says:

      But this wasn’t a $5 special. If a restaurant did this pricing model (one did, and had to stop it ebcause of freeloaders), would you *really* have the cheek to pay $0.01 for a meal?
      I wouldn’t.
      Not unless it actually made me feel ill, which frankly PC games cannot.

    • jalf says:

      Two reasons:

      1: “I already have the game on Windows. I’d like it to run on my Mac as well”
      2: “My budget for buying games at the moment is basically zero dollars. I’d love to pay more, but paying one cent and playing the game is a hell of a lot better than paying nothing and not playing it.”

      The thing is, we are consumers. We don’t *have* to think about the developers’ livelyhood. If they’re willing to sell us a game for $0.01, we have no moral obligation to pay them more.

      You might feel otherwise, because you’re trying to make a living as a developer, but gamers, ordinary people who *play* games, but don’t *make* them don’t. They don’t care about 2dBoy any more than you care about the profitability of Nike when you buy new shoes.

      And to be honest, it’s refreshing to see that some developers understand this. It isn’t *all* whining about piracy and cheap-arse gamers and “why won’t you pay as much for my game as I want to charge you?”

    • Clovis says:

      If a restaurant did this pricing model (one did, and had to stop it ebcause of freeloaders)

      You shouldn’t denigrate the users of an establishment because the proprietors FAIL at business forever. I would definitely eat that meal for $.01, and would not consider myself a “freeloader”. Unless they were obviously trying to be a charity or something, then I would support them. But 2D Boy is not a charity, they are a business. They made a business decision to give their game away for as little as $.01.

      I already paid for WoG, and would personally have given 2D Boy a few bucks b/c they are cool, but there is nothing wrong with someone taking them up on their offer.

      Would you really give EA more than a penny if they did this?

    • Kamos says:

      You might feel otherwise, because you’re trying to make a living as a developer, but gamers, ordinary people who *play* games, but don’t *make* them don’t. They don’t care about 2dBoy any more than you care about the profitability of Nike when you buy new shoes.

      If you were right, everyone would have bought it for a cent. But you are wrong. The thing is, some people are idiots, some aren’t. Some people don’t care. Some think that, because they are paying, they can do whatever they want.

      But you are wrong.

    • jalf says:

      If you were right, everyone would have bought it for a cent. But you are wrong. The thing is, some people are idiots, some aren’t. Some people don’t care. Some think that, because they are paying, they can do whatever they want.

      Umm, reading comprehension?

      I never said **everyone** thought like this. I’d have thought this was goddamn obvious, since I pointed out that we exist as exceptions. Of course some people pay more. Many people pay a bit more, a few pay a lot more. But a lot of people pay the lowest amount they can.

      I simply said that *many* people don’t think about the developer, any more than they think about the cow when they buy their milk. It’s a product. They want it. They pay what it says on the sign. If the sign says “one cent or more”, then they pay one cent. Not out of cruelty or hatred against the games industry, and not because they’re deeply immoral creatures who all deserve to die in their sleep.

      But because the people selling the game told them it was ok.

      I think it’s time for a reality check. No one stole the game, no one broke into 2dboy’s offices and robbed their piggy bank.

      2d boy went out and said “hey, you can buy our game for as little as one cent”. And a lot of people did exactly that. That’s hardly a criminal action. 2d boy could have set the minimum price at $1, and they’d probably have made more money total. Calling people “idiots” because they pay what it says on the sign is just dumb, ignorant and offensive. Are people idiots if they accept one of the free copies of Windows 7 too, that Microsoft is giving away left and right?

      If you give your product away for free, you shouldn’t expect everyone to pay you.

    • Dan Milburn says:

      I don’t really feel the restaurant comparison is very helpful. If a restaurant gives the option to pay a cent for a meal, they lose a significant amount of money for each customer who does so. They still have to pay for the ingredients even if everything else can be considered a fixed cost. The number of people willing to pay a sum which is higher than the cost of producing the meal has to be high enough to offset all the customers who are losing them money. It should be no surprise that this didn’t work.

      For each customer who only pays a cent, what does 2D Boy lose? Nothing, more or less. (Obviously thousands of people downloading 63 MB of data from their servers will eventually amount to enough that the cost of it can be measured, but the per-unit cost is effectively zero).

      So while I happily paid $20 for the game, I don’t feel that downloading it and paying $0.01 is immoral or being a ‘freeloader’, especially since 2D Boy are giving you the legal option to do so

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Clovis: Regarding the restaurant analogy.. that’s what tips are for. And yes, some people give tips (and I’m not talking about the absurd situation where staff is paid for by tips. That’s just not done, in my opinion. Employees should have a right to regular pay).

    • Kamos says:

      Yeah, I get it. “It’s being sold at $0.01, so there is nothing wrong with buying at that price”.

      You simplify things too much. Money isn’t just for buying, it’s also a way to show that you support an idea. Yes, you can pay $0.01, but if you like it and believe it’s “worth playing” and that more games like that should be made, you’re not really helping yourself. This is a world where you vote with your wallet. If that wasn’t so, we wouldn’t have shitty games flooding out of the gate.

      Of course, I write this being mindful of what you’ve written, and I agree that there is “no moral obligation” – but I just happen to personally know someone who has paid $0.01, and he admitted that he paid that amount “just to be a dick durr hurr”. Go ahead and defend him, I’ll still think he is an idiot. If you’re feeling like “stealing it at $0.01″, why not just steal it at $0.00? Just go pirate the damn game and be done with it. It’s easier, faster, etc. Hell, you could even stretch it and say it is safer, no credit card number moving around, etc.

    • Dan Milburn says:

      I just happen to personally know someone who has paid $0.01, and he admitted that he paid that amount “just to be a dick durr hurr”. Go ahead and defend him, I’ll still think he is an idiot.

      But here’s the thing: so what? He may be an idiot, but he didn’t cost anyone (apart from, it seems, Paypal) anything. He obviously isn’t the sort of person who was ever going to pay any more for the game, and from what you describe it seems unlikely he’s even going to play it.

      I don’t defend him, I just think he’s an irrelevance: to 2D Boy, to the games industry in general. Worrying about people like him will only distract you from catering for the people who do appreciate and pay for good games.

    • Kamos says:

      Hmm… That sounds wise.

      But I’ll still go buy some orange juice to spill over his notebook. Bwahaha.

    • Rohit says:

      I bought it for $0.01 because I could.

  24. Bhazor says:

    This also shows that gamers are filthy liars. With only 13% claiming to have spent a few cents and 25% claiming to have spent between 5-10 dollars.

    Indie game is advertised on every gaming blog for two weeks and ends up with a rise in sales? Wonders never cease. People buying games wish that games were cheaper? Wowee!

    As for the Radiohead thing. Surely the “great ton” they made have something to do with a) a rabid fanbase including some obsessives who would give Yorke their bank details if asked, b) the fact it was direct to seller so no retail commission or producer cut and c) the crapton of advertising it received.

    But in the end WoG is a wonderful game and 2D Boy deserves every damn penny. Just don’t hold your breaths that this will work as well on the 5th or 6th or 807th try.

    • jalf says:

      Where did 25% claim to have spent 5-10 dollars? The survey only shows those who chose to fill it out. Not everyone did. It doesn’t mean anyone lied, just that, as the RPS post points out, in case you read it, those who paid in the 5-10 range were more likely to answer the survey.

    • Bhazor says:

      Or those who filled in the questionnaire are more likely to lie about what price they paid. The 2d Boy servers are down so I can’t read the article but I’m fairly certain theres no real way for 2d Boy to link benefactors to their survey responses, unless you regularly post under your paypal account name which you might want to stop doing, so trying to put the two together is pretty impossible. But so few people admitting to paying a few cents would suggest at least some respondents were lying.

      It’s also worth pointing out there is no correlation between perceived worth and actual payment.
      14% claim to have paid upwards of $10
      86% claim the game is worth upwards of $10

      I’m sorry but however I slice it we’re coming up shite.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      That doesn’t prove or even imply that anyone is a liar. It’s entirely possible (and I’d say pretty obvious) that more people who paid a higher amount for the game took the time to fill out the survey than people who paid next to nothing. People who don’t care enough to pay aren’t likely to care enough to fill out a survey. Simple as that.

    • Bhazor says:

      So your assumptions are obvious, self evident and unquestionable then?

      If you’re true then the whole survey is meaningless as the vast majority of consumers (84% paid under $10) are ignored rather than simply sugar coating their responses for the sake of the company they just gave 10p to.

  25. cyrenic says:

    Not only did they make a good chunk of change with this promotion, but they exposed a whole bunch more people to their game. That’s bound to bring in at least some future business (or even spur sales for the iPhone version of WoG they’re making).

  26. bill says:

    of course, it wouldn’t be half as successful if everyone was doing it. The publicity is a major factor.

  27. roryok says:

    I wonder what the most any one customer paid for it was? Did some rich fan pay 50? or 100? I can’t find that info in the data / responses

  28. Tony says:

    I paid $5, I think.

    It’s all right. Nothing to write home about, I feel. I wouldn’t have paid $20 for it, though.

    I guess I’m not really a fan of more casual games. I wouldn’t pay any amount of money for Plants vs. Zombies, for example.

  29. aoanla says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    I wonder what the most any one customer paid for it was? Did some rich fan pay 50? or 100? I can’t find that info in the data / responses

    Well, the chart they generated tops out at $50, with 4 sales at that price, so…

  30. Gnoupi says:

    See what you should do: let people pay whatever they want to read Rock Paper Shotgun!

  31. BigJonno says:

    I’m going to admit that I bought it for a penny. I feel slightly ashamed about it as I like to support indie devs whenever I can. (In my defence, I was laid off earlier this year and have had to stay off work to look after my son and my disabled wife due to her condition worsening. Our WoW subscriptions are pretty much our entire entertainment budget and I’ve been able to spend approximately £6.50 on games since April.) However I immediately went off to post about on the main forum that I frequent and I know several people went and bought it for at least $5 a piece. Proof that it works.

  32. Alexander Norris says:

    I find it funny that the implications of this are bigger for established studios than they are for indie games.

    Let me elaborate: I’m fairly sure this worked mostly because of the large amount of good press that World of Goo has received. Most journos who cover indie gaming have harped on and on about how good it is, and how lovely the aesthetics are, and how 2D Boy deserve to be rolling around in piles of cash because World of Goo is just that good. Sadly, an indie studio releasing its first game isn’t going to benefit nearly as much from a similar sale, because it will be lacking the good press at release; only an established studio with critically-acclaimed games can really make the most of this.

    By contrast, this is a great way for big studios to get more cash out of old games that aren’t quite abandonware and that were critically-acclaimed masterpieces but never sold very well (I’m thinking of you, Psychonauts and Beyond Good & Evil – or more recently, Mirror’s Edge). With the sort of free publicity that someone like EA can get simply by doing something, this strikes me as a business model with enormous untapped potential and something that good marketing teams should have picked up on ages ago.

  33. Razz says:

    I’m actually wondering what the reason behind that reaction is. Do we just automatically think indie games are somehow inferior to (and thus worth less than) big budget titles because we’ve been ideologically trained to believe that (maybe BECAUSE they traditionally cost less, chicken-egg)?

    I mean, they’re generally not even less value for money than big budget titles, what with a lot of current “triple A” titles being 5-10 hours long. The only significant difference is the production values, which seems to mostly show in the graphics. It’s not that the gameplay is any less creative, quite the contrary. And even then, I wouldn’t consider World of Goo’s graphics to be less aesthetically pleasing than, say, the new Call of Duty’s. In other words: I can’t really see a reason for the price difference, let alone a reason why people would try to continuously justify and agree with it. Curious.

    • Razz says:

      Another reply fail, that was a reaction to Ginger Yellow.

    • dpCapital says:

      @Razz and Ginger Yellow: Totally different demographics. Those who love Braid love intellectual/cultural/artistic things, while those who love Madden love the base/primative/lustful things. It’s like comparing

      My love (love), my love, my love, my love (love) You love my lady lumps (love)

      -Black Eyed Peas (make lots of money)

      to

      You could have just propped me up at the table like a mannequin
      or a cardboard standup
      and given me any face that you wanted me to be seen
      we’re damned by the existential moment
      when we saw the couple in a coma
      and it was weakened with the cliché
      but we carried on anyway

      -Ben Folds (probably not as much money as BEP)

    • AndrewC says:

      Don’t dis lust, dpCapital.

    • Stijn says:

      Careful there, dismissing popular stuff as inherently inferior is rather dangerous territory.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      I’ve no idea what the reason is, mainly because I don’t have that pschology at all. I’d say I mostly play indie games these days, not out of some ideological thing, but because I find they tend to offer better value and because indies make more games in genres I like (eg point and click adventure, turn based strategy). My only guess is that certain gamers have a fairly prejudiced idea of what AAA games offer versus indie games, and simply refuse to believe that two games from those brackets could be even close in value. Yet I’ve seen on here some pretty bizarre price reactions from people who clearly do play a fair amount of indie games.

      As to dpCapital’s point, I understand the games attract different demographics, but that doesn’t really explain the differing reactions to price. Why should someone who values intellectual things be more upset by Braid’s relatively low price than someone who values “base” things is about Madden’s relatively high price? With those two examples I suppose you could argue that Madden has replay value through the multiplayer, but plenty of people balk at paying $20, or even $15, for multiplayer indie games.

    • dpCapital says:

      Easy, because “a fool and his money are easily parted” and by this i mean that those who play Madden or who love Fergie’s “lady lumps” are half-wits.

    • Oak says:

      Easy. Yes, it certainly is easy to explain without all that pesky nuance getting in the way.

  34. TotalBiscuit says:

    Well this demonstrates what we already knew, gamers are cheap-arse.

    If you gave them 1 cent You’re better off pirating it, at least you don’t put stress on their servers that way. Christ, it’s abysmal.

    Having said that, you’re also looking at a game which has had multiple sales and anyone interested even vaguely most likely had it already.

    • jalf says:

      No, it’s still better than pirating it. Because if you bought the game for one cent and you like it, you go out and tell your friends and coworkers “I bought this awesome game, you should try it”. And then some of them might buy it.

      If you pirated it, then you can go tell your friends “I pirated this awesome game, you should try it”. And then some of them might pirate it.

    • AndrewC says:

      An attitude perhaps not of cheap-arsedness, but of gamers considering all publishers as ‘the enemy’, with any ability to get one over on them considered a ‘victory’.

      Partly this is down to a standard adolescant ‘me versus the world’ attitude that probably we have all had at one point, but partly this is down to historical business models – ie. removing power from the consumer by controlling the means of distribution, limiting supply, monopolising markets, fixing prices – all of which were very good for maximising profits from a captive audience. It breeds resentment from that audience, who will then seek to undermine the business model and ‘get one over’ on the publishers.

      But now that market conditions are different (or rapidly becoming so) just as big businesses’ attempts to cling to the old models are seen as increasingly old-fashioned, perhaps the consumers’ knee-jerk resentment of all publishers is old fahsioned too – as evidenced by trying to shaft a tiny company like 2D Boy with $00.01 payments, which seems like a dick move to me.

      I reckon.

      Possibly I am projecting too much forethought onto the decision making processes of gamers.

    • jalf says:

      I don’t think people are trying to shaft anyone. It’s just that not everyone are as hardcore gamers as you and I. When I play L4D, I think “what a good job Valve has done”. When I play World of Goo, I think “amazing what a small indie company like 2d Boy can do”.

      When your average gamer plays World of Goo, they think “this is fun. I’d like to play more of this”.

      When you see that it is possible to pay $0.01 for WoG, you think “what a rip-off, how are 2dboy ever going to be profitable?”

      Everyone else thinks “Ooh nice, I’d love to play this game, and it’s cheap this week. I’ll buy it!”

      Most people just don’t *think* about the developer or the publisher. If they see a cheap game they count themselves lucky, they don’t go worrying about stealing the food out of the developers mouth.

      And honestly, I don’t really think that is a problem. Of course people would rather get a product at a low price than a high one. That’s how the market works. And if 2d boy can make $100,000 in a week, on a 1-year old game, by accepting and embracing this, then I really don’t think we have any business whining about the cheapness of gamers or the terrible state of the industry.

    • AndrewC says:

      Any market, especially of non-necessities, works almost entirely on irrationality in the attitudes of consumers. It’s why advertising works, for example. So speculating about the attitudes of the consumer goes hand in hand with analysing the numbers. But I guess that does prove your point that there’s no point trying to bring in moral questions of what people ‘should’ do into discussions of business, only practical questions of what they will or can-be-persuaded to do.

      Though I do reserve the right, outside of this specific discussion, to whine about gamers.

    • Dr. House says:

      People suck.

    • qrter says:

      This is all beside the point – if you offer your product for $0.01 and then a lot of people take you up on that offer, you can’t complain. Nobody forced anyone to do this.

      It’s the same thing that really irked me about the whole Radiohead thing.

    • Kamos says:

      Bah. I don’t think it’s wrong for the people who wouldn’t have bought it any other way to pay $0.01. I think it’s pretty cool – you have $1, pay $1. You have $5, pay $5. Whatever.

      Its just that a lot of people who bought it at $0.01 “for the lulz”.

  35. Sagan says:

    I find their last point most interesting. That to the question “Why did you choose that amount?” the least chosen answer was actually “That’s what the game is worth to me.”
    It appears that “pay what you like” does not equate to “pay what you think is fair.”

  36. shiggz says:

    What if prostitutes worked from this pricing model?

  37. Meneth says:

    @Sunjammer
    Yeah, new games are incredibly overpriced in Norway, 500kr (ca. $90 for you non-norwegians) is way too much for a game, but atleast old games are usually cheap, often just 100-200kr (ca. $18-36), so I seldom buy new games unless it’s a sequel to a game I like, or an MMO, but I buy lots of games that’re a few years old.

    • Meneth says:

      Why did my reply show up down here? I know I pressed reply on Sunjammer’s post.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      $90 is the same price as pretty much everyone has to pay for new games in western Europe. It’s not like the Norwegians are a special case.

    • Meneth says:

      Thanks for the information, I don’t know much about game-pricing outside Norway, but I tought it was lower, as stuff in Norway usually cost alot more than in most other countries.

    • Baboonanza says:

      What? Maybe for console games, PC games are always cheaper.

      Modern Warfare 2:
      Console: RRP – £54.99($90) Amazon – £44.96 ($73.70)
      PC: RRP – £34.99($57.35) Amazon: £28.50 ($46.72)

      It would be more in Euro land of course, since the exchange rate to the dollar is better. The reason Norway is even more expensive is definitely the exchange rate, I was in Oslo recently and it is immensely pricey! Very nice though :)

    • Meneth says:

      Console games in Norway cost even more than that, as they usually cost 600kr (ca. $105) when they’re new, but the high price isn’t only because of the low exchange rate, it’s also because Norway is one of the richest (per capita) countries in the world, so we get charged more.

    • Pace says:

      There’s also the matter of taxes. Somebody’s gotta pay for paternity leave.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Baboonanza: I’m not sure if you’d noticed, but “western Europe” isn’t limited to the UK. In fact, we’re not actually on the continent (being a bloody island) and not part of the EU. New PC games are still frequently retailing for 60€ in western Europe, which converts to about $90 US (though granted, some releases will go for 50€/$75). :P

      Edit: that said, I don't think console games go for any more than 60€ these days, but I haven't really read up on their prices, being a PC gamer.

    • Pace says:

      Um, the UK is part of the EU, no?

    • Meneth says:

      Yeah, pretty sure the UK is in EU, while Norway isn’t.
      And taxes isn’t an all that big part of the price, just 20%, so with no tax it would still be 400kr/72$, so it would still cost more than in the USA.

  38. ZomBuster says:

    I’d love if Valve/Steam did something like this for once, maybe for HL2 or something.

    Not that I think it’s needed, I just want more of those graphs.

  39. Metal_circus says:

    Can anyone explain the logic in buying a duplicate copy? Humans can be so utterly dim at times it makes me weep.

    Unless they’re returning their old copies for a refund and then buying the new one at 1cent, i’m afraid this logic is bafflingly idiotic.

    • Po0py says:

      They might have purchased it on a different platform first time round. Now they want it on another platform. It’s been released on Wii and Linux as well as PC. I can imagine a lot of Wii players especially having a pop at this on PC.

    • John Walker says:

      Because you can’t play a Wii game on a PC, or a Mac game on Linux.

    • JinglesO'Flaherty says:

      Or, people buying it for 1c to try it out legally (rather than risking a pirate copy that might have a virus on it or whatever), then later buying another one for whatever they’ve decided it was worth.

    • Urthman says:

      Actually, John, Dolphin can run quite a few Wii games on PC.

  40. Po0py says:

    I would love to see more of these kinds of offers. I think it might only work if you have a small single player type game. Think of all the Xbox Live Arcade stuff that doesn’t get released on PC. Or it could breath life into other big budget games that didn’t sell too well at retail. Mirror’s Edge, for example.

  41. pkt-zer0 says:

    I went and checked out how much the game actually cost them to make: it was 116K. Compared to that, 100K a year after release does indeed seem really good.

  42. Dave says:

    Magnatune lets you choose anywhere from $5-$18 (or 4-14 euro, or £3 – £10) to buy an album download. They recommend $8 by default. The artist gets 50% of all sales, plain and simple.

    I was the first person to spend $18 on an album. As I recall, the label and artist both wrote to me to thank me. :) But then, I’ve only done it once and not bought much else there, so it’s not like I’m their best customer. Just felt like making a musician happy.

    I suspect those paying > $20 for World of Goo had similar thoughts running through their heads.

    • John Walker says:

      Magnatune is fantastic. I’ve paid well over the asking price for lots of their albums. I recommend it to all.

    • Alex May says:

      Kunal:
      Yeah I’m open to all ideas man, it’s pretty interesting to see people try new business models. We’re in a transitional time where people are just getting used to new ways of buying things and IP ideas are being chucked around. It’s really exciting.

  43. aoanla says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    But this wasn’t a $5 special. If a restaurant did this pricing model (one did, and had to stop it ebcause of freeloaders), would you *really* have the cheek to pay $0.01 for a meal?
    I wouldn’t.
    Not unless it actually made me feel ill, which frankly PC games cannot.

    Aye, but quite a lot of research suggests that people behave totally differently (ethically) depending upon the company they're in, and how "observed" they feel. In a restaurant, with lots of other real people able to tell what you're paying (or, at least, hear the proprietor call you a cheapskate), you'd never pay $0.01. On the internet, nobody you care about knows how much you paid.

  44. user@example.com says:

    The race to the bottom in Indie pricing was bad enough before the iPhone came along. Don’t encourage it, it destroys good games, innovation, and games with lots of quality content in favour of cheap junk.

    • user@example.com says:

      Oops. That was meant to be a direct response to Kelron, above.

      Jeff Vogel has a few big posts on his blog about the subject, anyway. Worth a read.

    • jalf says:

      How does it destroy good games or innovation? 2dBoy made 100k in a week by allowing people to pay less than usual!

      It’s not built into the universe that games **MUST** cost at least $50.

      All that matters, from the point of view of “good games” or “innovation” is that these are rewarded with profitability.

      And games, like all digital media, have the nice property that it doesn’t cost anything to produce ten times as many copies. BMW would go bankrupt if they started selling cars for $5. They’d lose money on every sale.

      A game developer never loses money on a sale (unless it’s boxed, and sold in retail of course). It doesn’t cost anything to put a game on your website.

      Whether you sell 100k copies at a dollar each, or 1000 copies at $100 each, it’s all the same. That’s not hurting innovation. It’s hurting old-fashioned developers who are stuck in the mindset that games must be expensive. That there is some kind of fee for “entertainment per hour”, that if a game is good for 20 hours, then it should cost 20 times as much as something that’d entertain for one hour.

      All that really matters for the games industry as a whole, is 1) how many people buy games, and 2) how much money they spend on average.

      If I spend $50 per month on games, then why does it matter whether that money goes to one or to 10 games? Overall, it’ll even out. The games I like get the same amount, on average.

      But I’ve also noticed that I tend to spend *more* money when games are cheap. I have to stop and think about it when I have to pay €35 for a game. I might hold off for a month or more before I decide to buy it.

      But if I see a handful of fun games at €5 each, then I can easily spend €35 in an afternoon. And still be willing to buy another €5 game tomorrow.

      The games industry just has to wake up to the fact that it is no longer all about retail stores and publishers. There is no longer the same requirement that you *must* give away your firstborn to a publisher, or that every sale incurs a fixed, say, $5 cost just in shipping and shelf space at the store, and other “physical” costs. Back in the old days, it’d have been bad business sense to charge $3 for a game. No matter how well it sold, all the money would be eaten up by these middlemen.

      Now, you can also sell it on Steam, or on your own website, and then the amount of money per copy because almost irrelevant. What matters is the total amount spent on your game. In the worst case, you’ll have to buy another $5/month webhost account in order to secure bandwidth for people to download the game (that’s what 2dboy did – buy a handful of these cheap-ass accounts, and write a simple script to direct each download to a different account)

    • user@example.com says:

      That was in direct response to someone saying that new indie games should release at £2-£5, which is very different to an existing game lowering its price, or this sort of deal. That scheme “works”, if you like a market flooded with MATCH THREE COLOURS, where there’s no useful way to sell enough copies to make enough money to release something significantly innovative and new, because the “standard indie pricepoint” is £2-£5.

      You have to sell a LOT of copies to make a profit on a game that isn’t a lazy clone, at that price, and that is very, very hard without massive word of mouth and promotion. Which new releases won’t have.

    • cliffski says:

      I pay $175 a month for the webhost at http://www.positech.co.uk. You can’t have reliable web hosting for $5 a month, even aggregated, which is evidenced by their servers collapsing several times recently.

      Its true that the marginal cost of game production is zero, but the fixed costs are still high, even for indies. Full time indies have to pay themselves a salary for the duration a game takes to make. For me, that’s a full years salary, and the corporation tax on top of that.
      That adds up. You need to sell a LOT of games to pay it back, especially at $2, with a payment company taking a big chunk of that,
      The cheaper games get, the larger the proportion of total game spending goes directly to the coffers of credit card processing companies :(
      Someone needs to offer a paypal style micro-transaction system with a close-to zero minimum cost.

    • jalf says:

      I pay $175 a month for the webhost at http://www.positech.co.uk. You can’t have reliable web hosting for $5 a month, even aggregated, which is evidenced by their servers collapsing several times recently.

      True, of course. And it’s unfortunate if your site goes down. But if the downloads do go down temporarily, it’s probably not the end of the world.

      Its true that the marginal cost of game production is zero, but the fixed costs are still high, even for indies. Full time indies have to pay themselves a salary for the duration a game takes to make. For me, that’s a full years salary, and the corporation tax on top of that.
      That adds up. You need to sell a LOT of games to pay it back, especially at $2, with a payment company taking a big chunk of that,

      Of course, but the point is that this isn’t dependant on the *number* of copies sold. (Apart from the fees to paypal or CC companies, but those probably aren’t going to make or break your business, unless you’re targeting a price range like $0.50.)
      The main issue is still the total income, not the income per copy sold. The fixed costs are high, but they’re fixed, at least, which gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of pricing than, say, dairies or car manufacturers.

      Someone needs to offer a paypal style micro-transaction system with a close-to zero minimum cost.

      Definitely. Or perhaps a fixed monthly cost, or something like that, which isn’t applied per-transaction. As much as I hate the system, perhaps something like Microsoft’s points might be a solution. But it’d have to be so universal that I don’t feel ripped off if I have to buy for $20 points just so I can grab a $2 DLC pack. If such a system existed which allowed me to spend these points on virtually *any* game, then it might be a sensible approach.

  45. shiggz says:

    I think a significant question will be average sales 2-3 months from now vs the unknown average before this. Essentially how many of those penny people tell other people about the game. These kind of second or third hand uptakes move very slow. Ive referred movies or games to friends only to literally months or years later have them come to me to tell me how awesome it is. But then that’s the life of a Maven.

    • jalf says:

      But it might work the opposite way as well. It’s possible that sales for the next couple of months are going to be near zero, because all those who were considering buying the game just did so this week.

      Like you say, going to be interesting to see what happens from now on.

  46. RogB says:

    the game didnt really click with me – I certainly havent had my $20/£12 worth out of it, so I didnt even bother getting extra 0.1c copies.
    However, I am still sad for them that the pricing isnt skewed a little higher. an average of around $10/£6 would have been a nicer result

  47. Stense says:

    Great to see 2D Boy are considering this experiment a success. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the games industry react, if they do.

    I took advantage of this offer. I’d bought the game upon release and thought it was the best game of the year and was raving about it. I chucked them $1.50 this time around because I wanted to support an interesting initiative and I wanted to get a copy I could give to a friend to help cheer them up after a shitty week and let them see the wonderful game I’d told them about before.

  48. jsutcliffe says:

    Wow — I’m very impressed it worked out so well for them.Thanks for the math, M. Walker — I would probably just have glanced at the graph, tutted at the 1c people, and gone about my day thinking their experiment wasn’t successful otherwise.

  49. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I’m not sure i agree with all your conclusions, primarily, i think you over estimate the link between the numbers people pick when being asked to choose randomly vs the significance of numbers people are given. i.e. in this case it’s natural to type £20, not £19.99, but a whole different thought process is involved when people see £19.99 vs £20, for selecting numbers we will separate the two into separate categories, when being given them they will be considered identical, marketing departments have played on this logic for a long time, which is why you see games priced at 17.99, people round 19.00 to 20.00 and 18.99 to 19, therefore, 18.99 == 20 whereas 17.99 is genrally considered far enough away not to instantly round up.