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