Rohrer Isn’t Wrong About Sales, But He Also Isn’t Right

By Nathan Grayson on January 16th, 2014 at 3:00 pm.

I've been wanting to use this image in a post since pretty much forever

OK, first things first: Castle Doctrine, Passage, and Sleep is Death creator Jason Rohrer is a giant. I am automatically more inclined to believe anything very tall people say. They’ve seen so much more than the rest of us from their monolithic neck perches, their giraffe-like forms stretching up into stratospheres I’ve only dared imagine. Also, it’s instinct: big person beat me up, ergo ideologically correct. So even though I don’t agree with everything he said in a lengthy missive about why rampant sales are hurting gamers (or just the things he says in general), I am obligated to think he’s 100 percent right.

Yes, of course I’m being silly. There’s tons to discuss here, as Rohrer’s criticisms are both important and flawed. Let’s dissect why big sales – for instance, those frequently bazooka-launched at us by the likes of Steam and Humble Bundle – are both harmful and crucial to PC gaming.

The crux of Rohrer’s argument? That game pricing should rise over time – not fall. Sounds like madness, right? But he did make some very good points about how counter-productive to player enjoyment the current system is. In short, he noted that even diehard fans have a hard time justifying a day-one purchase when they know a big sale is probably just around the corner. So many of them wait. Then they buy the game at a deep discount – often along with others – and games inevitably slip through the cracks, purchased but never played.

Those who miss sales, meanwhile, wait until the next sale or forget about some games altogether. And announcing sales well in advance is problematic because you could cannibalize, say, a week of full-price sales in the process. “The worst case here is pretty awful,” he wrote. “The sorry person who buys the game one minute before the surprise sale price kicks in. You’re going to get an email from that person.”

And he’s not incorrect. Believe me: I’ve been there. I imagine you have too. Multiple times, in all likelihood.

But what would a solution that’s beneficial to both players and developers look like? Well, using games like Minecraft and Garry’s Mod (both of which have increased their prices over time and been massively successful) as models, Rohrer proposed the following:

“What if, instead of inevitable sales as a game ages, the price rises over time instead? For the fans, this is a great thing, because their diehard fanhood is rewarded with a lower price, almost like a secret deal for those who new about the game before anyone else. When the price goes up later, they feel smart. Most importantly, they don’t feel torn between supporting their favorite developer at launch and saving money. They can do both.”

“For people who find out about the game a later, after the price has gone up a bit, they may regret not buying the game before the increase (a lesson learned for next time), but they can still feel smart buying the game now, before it goes up again. For the people who buy the game the latest, after the final, permanent price has been reached, they had the chance to wait to hear more about the game before buying. They had less to lose at that point, because the game has been vetted and the community established.”

So it wouldn’t be a ceiling-less, sky-high price ascent, but rather a tiered setup that would eventually result in a full-priced game. Just not at first. Sales as we know them now, meanwhile, would be more or less out of the equation. He further argued that while traditional sales are unpredictable by design, this method would allow developers to lay out a map of when prices will increase so fans will have plenty of time to prepare appropriately.

This, he continued, would be especially fitting with Early Access becoming such a prominent means of delivery, and he used his own game, Castle Doctrine, as an example. While in alpha, the game sold for $8. During launch week (which now officially begins on January 29th, for those interested), it’ll be bumped up to $12. And finally, after that it’ll grow into its Big Boy Price Tag: $16. It remains to be seen how it’ll all shake out, but so far, so good in Rohrer’s book. It’s another very legitimate point too, given that we’ve witnessed many other developers approach Early Access in the opposite direction (hello, Planetary Annihilation). I don’t think dropping a piggy-bank shattering price wall on a community helps anybody, whether we’re talking developers who hope to gather as much feedback as possible or diehard fans who want to offer early support.

The idea sounds pretty reasonable when put on Rohrer’s terms, but it falls apart elsewhere. Foremost, he fails to consider many ancillary benefits of sales. Big sales are events. They put older games back in the public eye. They encourage an “Aw, what the hell?” approach to purchasing. They can be buoyed up by various themes (see: most indie bundles) or carried by more popular games, with a trickle down effect for the smaller ones rounding out the package. The list goes on.

Moreover, while he’s correct that Minecraft and Garry’s Mod have seen tremendous success over the course of many years despite rising prices, he ignores the fact that they’re both hyper-ubiquitous phenomena – not to mention frequently updated creation engines. Both of those factors have added huge segments to their earth-encircling long tails. Minecraft, especially, gets constant press every time a player recreates, er, pretty much anything in-game. These hits were, in other words, born of very specific circumstances and genres, and they found equally specific niches that allowed for their continued promotion. It’s a domino effect, a chain reaction, a snowball bigger than your house. They got big, and then they kept getting bigger.

I’m not saying Rohrer’s proposed plan is impossible on a large scale, and I really do like many aspects of it. But it’ll need to adapt other elements of sales – promotional ones, especially – to be truly viable. Personally, I’m not really sure how you go about doing that. There are few things more primally enticing than artificial scarcity, random rewards, and all the other psychological hooks sales dangle in front of our slavering wallets. Those are the sorts of things that bring people out in droves, even if they wouldn’t otherwise be interested.

Steam Sales rival Christmas for some people in terms of excitement and significance, in large part because they actually share elements like surprise and a sudden avalanche of new, cool toys. Rohrer’s proposed replacement gives pre-existing fans a better experience – which is, again, awesome – but it doesn’t really account for the creation of new ones.

That’s just my two cents, though, and I’m no economist. Also, I’ve mainly been discussing this from a player perspective. Developers may (and probably do) see all of this in a very different light. What does everybody else think? Gather, friends, beneath the Discussion Dome. There are complimentary Thinking Caps at the door.

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216 Comments »

  1. Sidewinder says:

    Another thing to think about- what happens when a game-in-development never gets finished? If the author dies, or abandons it. Even if the early backers get their money back, they’re going to be less likely to trust both the developer and the marketing method in general.

    • WrenBoy says:

      Dunno about that, no dead developers ever told me a lie.

    • Corb says:

      “die hard fans” are going to buy the game day 1 because they want to support the devs best they can so I disagree with that argument. Next, smart people don’t buy day 1 because in this day and age, 90% of the time the game is unplayable on day one or they are being smart with their financial situation. Three, that’s not how economics work. By increasing price over time older games would stop selling because they would all be at stupidly high prices for something that is out of date, obsolete, and or requires time on the customer’s side to get it up and running (like half of GOG’s catalog, gc:2 doesn’t actually work on some systems). Not all games age gracefully enough to make this make sense. If they want more day 1 sales the industry needs to get its s*** in one sock and start releasing playable working games on day one. I don’t care how hard it is, that’s their job to figure out. They also would need a 100% refund guarantee across the entire industry.

      • Diatribe says:

        I completely agree. Like anyone who uses steam and plays a lot of games, I’ve got a backlog. Hundreds of hours of backlog. I have far more money than time.

        I don’t pre-purchase games, with a couple exceptions (Firaxis games and games I’ll play no matter what the reviews say). This means if I see a game that is maybe interesting, I’ll try to keep track of it, and buy it if I think it’s a good value and gets good review or good word of mouth. Right now I have ~16 games on my wishlist that are being tracked for sales or to come out of early access.

        If you game starts at a discount and goes up, I will not buy it. I’m not going to pre-purchase it, because it might be the next Alien: Colonial Marines. I won’t buy it far after release at full price, unless you priced it really low to begin with. You’re competing against potential GOTY games I haven’t bought yet because they haven’t on sale for 50-75% off. Your game has no chance.

        Finally, your game isn’t worth as much as you think it is. Sales tend to fix this. I haven’t payed $60 for a game since Civ 5. Your game isn’t worth $60, AAA developers. Your game isn’t worth $30 smaller developers. Your platformer isn’t worth $15 indie developers. Just because a bunch of idiots with consoles pay that much, doesn’t mean I’m going to. Castle Doctrine, while an interesting concept, isn’t worth $16. So I won’t ever buy it if it doesn’t go on sale.

        Sales and big genre specific games I’m eagerly awaiting are the only thing that gets my wallet open.

        • farrier says:

          Well, I think a lot of us won’t pay $60 for a game not because we don’t think it’s worth that much, but because we know it’ll be on sale. If >33% price cuts weren’t ever a real thing, I think we would value games at much higher prices. If all games were around $60 and never went on sale, then a handful of games went on sale for $50, I think people would jump all over that. I think we’ve conditioned ourselves to pay lower prices, and we no longer attribute a higher value to games, because they’re so plentiful and so cheap.

          Sure there are those that want to support the developers and they’ll pay full price, but as you point out, that’s not a very good strategy to have these days as a gamer, since paying full price usually means paying when the game first comes out, since most games go on sale within a couple months anyway.

          I do both. I’ll pay full price to support developers that I like, but I also wait for sales all the time. But, I have noticed that when I see a game deeply on sale, I think, “Well, that’s now how much I value that game. I know I can get it for that price.” For instance, I missed a sale on Spelunky for $3.74. Well, since I don’t care enough about Spelunky to go out and buy it to support the devs, it’s now worth $3.74 to me. I don’t really like thinking that way, since it’s harmful to the business, but I can’t help it.

          • Diatribe says:

            There are so many games floating around now-a-days that the growth in supply has dramatically outstripped the growth in demand. As a result, I don’t think the sales genie will ever go back into the bottle.

            In this market, you need to have publicity, compelling gameplay (or maybe just good reviews), and a good price point to succeed. Sales get you 2 out of those 3, and thus aren’t going away. In addition, the rise of digital distribution (which publishers love because it costs them less) means supply will never fall and scarcity is over.

            Consumers have realized this, and as a result games aren’t worth what they were 10 years ago. This is pretty basic capitalism. AAA thought they were immune, they were wrong. What chance does an indie have going against this trend?

          • Baines says:

            When I was primarily a console gamer, I bought plenty of games at full price. Shifting to being able to buy games cheaper mostly meant that I was willing to buy more games. I wasn’t necessarily putting more or less money into the system. I was just spreading it across more titles.

            Even when I started switching to PC gaming, I’m probably still spending roughly the same amount of money that I’d have spent without sales. Sales just mean that I get more cheap games and more publishers/developers get bits of cash, rather than me getting two or three games total and all the money going to two or three publishers. (Bundles may have increased how much money I put into the system. And honestly I’d be more likely to indulge in piracy if games didn’t drop in price.)

            If the industry as a whole switched to prices increasing over time, it could potentially have an ugly effect for anything that wouldn’t already sell well under the old system. It could help or hurt consumers and it would hurt some publishers/developers. It would also further encourage buying blind and uninformed buying, which isn’t necessarily something you want if you care about good games being rewarded and bad ones not.

          • arisian says:

            The trouble with this line of thinking is that, historically, it’s just not true. There was quite a long period when games pretty much never went on sale; they remained the same price forever (or until they dissapeared and became unavailable due to limited PC-game shelf space). The result of this wasn’t phenomenal profits for publishers, it was high rates of piracy.

            While it is true that there is a segment of the population who would be willing and able to pay $60 for every game they bought, that semgent is relatively small. The basic idea behind any tiered pricing scheme is to get as much total money as possible, and to do that you can’t just price your product high. You want to get the highest value possible from the (small) number of people willing and able to pay that price, but then you also want the people who can’t/won’t buy it at that price to buy it at a lower price. So long as your price never gets so low you have negative margin (and that’s pretty hard to do with digital products), you’ll always get more money by ensuring that a greater fraction of the population buys your product (assuming each person pays the maximum he or she is willing to for your product).

            So for as I’m aware, the “dropping-price-over-time” model (which “sales” fall into) is the only way of implementing tiered pricing that doesn’t make your customers hate you (which is what happens if you just try to charge different ammounts to different customers based on, say, their income).

            I will admit there are problems with the sale model; the biggest is probably that players who buy 10 games at a time for $1 each are less likely to spend as much time playing a given game as players who spend $60 on one game, which can be a problem for games that require large time investments before they can be fully appreciated. But the whole “developers would get more money if nothing were ever on sale” is pretty much just not true. There’s a reason that Steam has so many sales: it makes them more money. And it makes more money for the devs, too; just ask any of the devs who used to rant against sales, then had their first big title on sale at Steam and had to pick their eyeballs up off the floor when they saw how much money they made (I’m looking at you, Spiderweb!).

          • Death_Masta187 says:

            I know if it were not for sales I would not buy 90% of the games I do. there just are not enough good games that come out to even warrant a $20 purchases let alone a $60 one. it’s not that I’m a cheap ass and refuse to buy games at $60 or day 1. it’s just that I don’t fucking trust devs to deliver a finished product and I don’t trust them to fix it in a timely fashion (if at all) if it is broken at launch. Look at BF4, that game is almost 5 moths old and it’s still broken as fuck on all platforms. it’s so broken EA has 2 class action lawsuits against them because of it.
            Devs can kiss my ass if they expect me to preorder. I guess the Beauty of PC gaming is if it ever went this route I can just play all the games iv bought over the last 20 years to keep me busy. The only people crying about game sales are shitty company’s like EA. Devs really need to see it as would they rather have some piece of the pie, even if its a smaller piece than no piece at all. I could almost bet piracy has dropped sharply since deep discount sales have come into play.

          • malkav11 says:

            For me it’s not that I don’t think that games can be worth $60, it’s that I can’t afford to buy every game at $60 and certainly not take risks on anything new and only potentially interesting. And as long as there are any worthwhile games at less than $60, I might as well pick those up instead of the $60 game unless I know for a fact I will adore the latter.

            The certain knowledge that those prices will go down is definitely a contributing factor, but I bought $50-60 games even less frequently before today’s era of sales and bundles everywhere all the time, so it isn’t the main one.

    • Shadow says:

      That’s one of the ghosts which allegedly haunts Early Access games: what if the game’s never finished? But as far as I know, it’s a ghost which hasn’t actually appeared so far.

      Not to be confused with failed Kickstarters, which don’t quite reach the public early access stage. Or at least not in the likely contractual Steam form.

      • Awesumo says:

        You mean that none of the unfinished games have yet never been finished…. damn, someone call a philosopher!

        • Shuck says:

          Well, what is being said is that none of the Early Access games have, so far, been explicitly abandoned. Which would be surprising if it had happened, given how short a time Early Access has been in place, and how unlikely developers would be to immediately fess up that they had abandoned the project. (More likely is that the developer would intend to finish it, or not want to kill future sales by admitting they had abandoned it, and then only after many months of no updates it would become clear to players what had happened.) However, outside of Steam there have certainly been games released with promises of more content and features to come (i.e. released for sale in essentially an alpha state), that never lived up to those promises when it no longer became financially feasible to continue working on the game. Of course, you’re unlikely to hear much about those games, as they never had the attention they needed to get the early sales to stay in development…

          • Baines says:

            Such games tend to fade from mind due to the lack of updates.

            You normally don’t have a developer announce that he’s abandoned his work in progress title. Rather, you get long delays between news. As time passes without news, you stop checking as often. Within a year or two, you stop checking at all, having forgotten about the game. I know I’ve followed games and other software that gradually drift into silent abandonment.

            The gradual loss of consumer interest might be worse with games, as people tend to lose interest in games as the graphics, mechanics, and tech age.

          • Shuck says:

            @Baines: Yeah, that too. Steam’s Early Access changes things because the storefront is tied into reviews, forums, etc. where people can point out the game hasn’t been updated. That creates a new dynamic. The game could end up available for years, in an alpha state, before it becomes obvious it’s been abandoned, with the latest forum posts all by disgruntled players complaining that the game has never added the promised features. Will Steam remove the game from the storefront? Will Steam take the hit and refund the game from their own pocket (because, unlike with a new, problematic game, they’re unable to return money received before it was passed on to the developer)? Will the unfinished game just sit in the Steam store, indefinitely, as the developers promise they’re still working on it, even though they aren’t?

      • PopeRatzo says:

        Let’s make a list of the “early access” games that were actually finished at some point and are now complete professionally-made games.

        I can’t think of any, but there must be at least one, no?

        The problem with the new development business models (kickstarter, early access, greenlight) is that they just don’t produce good games.

        • Shadow says:

          Early Access, at least in Steam’s form, is too new a thing to make a comprehensive list. But a handful of games have emerged from it despite the system’s short lifetime. Same with Kickstarter, but most of the major game projects born there are still in development. Steady, progressing (not languishing) development.

        • AlexVostrov says:

          Don’t Starve went through Early Access and it’s a very well made game.

        • DuneTiger says:

          Blackguards just got a full release and that was Early Access as well.

    • Premium User Badge bglamb says:

      Yeah, I’m pretty unlikely to trust a dead developer to deliver a quality product on time.

  2. gryffinp says:

    Seems to me like this is one of the rare instances where capitalism can actually do it’s god damn job. Rohrer can use his own pricing model, as well as anyone else who thinks it’ll work, and people who don’t think it’ll work can do what they’re already doing. And in the end, we ‘ll see who stays in business longer.

    Personally, I figure good video games will make money.

    • tobecooper says:

      But what if Castle Doctrine turns out to be good in the end? His model will actively hurt the game, despite its quality, unless it becomes the next Minecraft or Terraria.
      And it most probably won’t.

      Rohrer is making a -Multiplayer- -Indie- game.
      These games die quick. Sometimes after a month. Limiting the playerbase by rising price and never making discounts will actually screw your fans who will have to play on gradually emptier servers.

      But can’t fault Rohrer for trying. He’s generating a lot of buzz from this.

      • Shuck says:

        Rapid obsolescence has always been an issue with games, and although it’s less true in general now, it’s more true for multiplayer games. There are other good reasons for falling prices, though, even for single player experiences. If we look at media where this isn’t an issue, we still do see a trend towards declining prices over time, because it works economically. In US book publishing, for example, you (ideally) start off with hardbound copies, which are the higher profit and most expensive books (because fans will pay more for earlier access), followed by cheaper printings to capture a wider audience. Rohrer could try using his pricing model (should retail outlets like Steam allow it, which is unlikely), but as one game, there are many factors which will impact sales over time, so it wouldn’t tell us much.
        I do think the price over time is a different issue than having the game randomly appear at a steep discount, with people expecting that. But with games being available for Early Access through Steam long enough that they end up on sale with steep discounts even before they’re officially released, it becomes a muddled.

    • Shadow says:

      Personally, I figure good video games will make money.

      The simple truth.

      However, regarding Rohrer’s model, sure, it could work with low-priced games such as his… but I’d dread the day AAA big-wigs picked it up and assimilated it to their schemes. “Purchase Assassin’s Creed VI at the low price of $59.99 dollars now! Price going up to 69.99 and later 79.99 in the coming months! Save 25% purchasing all DLC packs for $99.99! Limited time offer: bundle price doubling next month!”

      Oh, the humanity. This is one of those well-intentioned inventions which ultimately leads to widespread devastation and misery.

      Think about The Sims 5 under this model, applying it to all its copious expansions as well. The very End of Days.

      • vecordae says:

        His model is already being applied to AAA games, man.

        Buy Assassin’s Creed Bromogeddon for 59.99! Buy AssCreedBromo: Keggers of the Illuminati for 9.99! Buy AssCreedBromo: Fancy Steam Engines for 5.99!

        Only difference is that you can, after a few years, buy the entire package for less than the sixty or whatever bucks required to buy the original game’s first installment.

        • Baines says:

          Only if they release a GOTY edition, or you don’t care about DLC. DLC generally doesn’t see price reductions over time (though it can see temporary sales) and generally doesn’t get bundled on its own.

          But big publishers don’t quite follow his plan. While you might get a discount or bonus DLC for pre-ordering, buying early still tends to cost you more than waiting a few months. You generally don’t get *that* much extra value from a pre-order, and the game itself will still get cheaper, which more than offsets any initial savings.

        • Shadow says:

          Yeah, I meant applying Rohrer’s model on top of the current DLC model, which is already a way to further milk inordinate sums out of relatively negligible content, for the most part. That said, I doubt Rohrer’s thing would do anything for most of the big-wig companies beyond stretching consumer trust past the breaking point.

          Not even Blizzard could do it, and they’re the ones who championed the $59.99 standard AAA pricing, a 20% increase over the previous $49.99, back when StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty came out.

    • Premium User Badge phuzz says:

      I see where you’re coming from, but there’s plenty of good games that never made much money, and there’s plenty of crap games that make shed loads of money year after year (eg CoD).
      As another example, Steam my have risen to it’s market dominance through being better than the competition, but now they have such a large chunk of the market it will take more than a good ides (such as the DRM free GoG) to knock them off that spot.
      To a certain extent capitalism works with good ideas out competing bad ones, but there’s also a tendency for a skewed distribution where a few entities are very rich, and the majority aren’t.

    • Frank says:

      Yeah, the more ways to sell, the better.

      One problem with Rohrer’s plan is that it assumes that, as Nathan puts it, “Sales as we know them now, meanwhile, would be more or less out of the equation.” For normal human developers, there is still an incentive to have a sale and cash out (to fund the next game or whatever), even if they’ve followed this pricing scheme up until then. Mojang and Blizzard are swimming in money and plan to live forever, so I guess they can commit to maintaining high prices.

      Fun reading:
      “Rational frenzies and crashes” http://www.jstor.org/stable/2138791
      “Buying Frenzies and Seller-Induced Excess Demand” http://www.jstor.org/stable/2555920

    • Jeremy says:

      I think this is an important point. What works in selling some games just isn’t going to work in another type of game. Monthly sub MMO prices aren’t going to work for a SP game, and vice versa. If he wants to sell his game in a tiered structure, and that works for his game, then that’s awesome. The danger of success is in assuming everyone must now copy that success in the exact same way. If people miss a low price point by 5 minutes, they’re going to be just as frustrated whether it happened before a sale, or after a price jump.

    • Stardreamer says:

      Personally, I figure good video games will make money.

      Too simplistic a view. the classic Thief series struggled financially at every iteration, as just one example.

  3. Killergran says:

    All I can say is that I wouldn’t have bought half as many games if it weren’t for sales. I wouldn’t even have put half as much money in games if it weren’t for the sales. Sales help games get sales!

    • Moraven says:

      But how many of those games have you played? All of them? How much time into each game?

      • Corb says:

        On the other hand, how many of those games would you have never even considered buying because the $60 price tag would be too much of a loss to allow you justifying experimenting with other game types? The indie market would not be flourishing as it is if this were the case because it would be too risky to spend that money on a game that you potentially wouldn’t like and couldn’t return.

        • P.Funk says:

          Who says games not on sale have to be $60? Lets not confuse indie pricing with AAA pricing.

          The experiment of who would buy how much and when cannot be answered as easily when people say “I wouldn’t have bought half as many if not for steam sales” because they actually aren’t considering a paradigm where they cannot rely on those sales and thus would have an entirely different mindset with respect to buying games.

          Its often the argument people make in these theoretical studies which doesn’t actually make sense. Behavior in an alternate reality cannot be easily presumed because it involves thoughts that aren’t self aware of their alternate nature.

          • vecordae says:

            Unless one of those paradigms involves me having considerably more money to spend, I will likely do what I did in the days before PC gaming involved lots of sales: Just not buy games very often and spend less overall on games. Why? Because the asking price for a new game typically isn’t worth it to me. I have a limited amount of money and time, but more than one entertainment medium to spend it on. I don’t HAVE to buy video games. I can watch movies with friends, buy some books, or go out and eat at a nice restaurant.

            The occasional sale or bundle means I can do ALL of those things instead of having to pick and chose carefully.

          • Archonsod says:

            “thus would have an entirely different mindset with respect to buying games.”

            I doubt it. His argument relies on the assumption that people deliberately wait for sales to pick up a title at 50% or more off, and removing that option would result in more full price sales. It;s the opposite in my experience; people buy games at 50% off because the game is 50% off, and have no interest in buying the game at full price, Just looking over the forums and comment posts here it’s comparatively rare you see anyone say they’re holding off on buying a game because there’s a sale coming up. Far more common is stating they’ll pick it up in a sale precisely because of a lack of confidence in the quality of the game. Increasing the price won’t help with that (although I think by far the most popular reason given for delaying a purchase these days is “I’ll wait for the GOTY edition with all the DLC”, something which I think the AAA’s have twigged onto with the now seemingly obligatory season pass)

            He’s somewhat going off half-cock with his assumption that the non-waiting players are buying randomly too. I’ll randomly buy a game if it’s cheap enough (Inside a Star Filled Sky tripped that one for me), but if I’m waiting for a game it’s because I’ve checked out the Steam blurb and whatever marketing has been put out, and concluded that whatever you’re selling is simply not worth the asking price at that point. A reduced price point may make me reconsider (it’s simple competition here. If you’re selling a tower defence game with an interesting twist, and I already have five tower defence games with an interesting twist, then I’m not going to be willing to pay quite as much for another one unless you can really convince me your game is worth it).

          • Corb says:

            Long story short $15-$20 dollar indie game you “might like” but there’s a possibility you’ll hate it and the price is too high for you to experiment like that. Some will watch let’s plays, some will play it at a friends house. I’ll bet most wishlist it and forget about it completely until its on the front page with a 50% discount. Suddenly the loss of wallet cash for this venture into another realm is easier to accept.

      • Shadow says:

        I won’t deny I have a certain… backlog of barely played bundle/sales games, but without such mechanisms I would’ve completely skipped many I have otherwise invested untold hours in. I really don’t see it as harmful: even in the case of those (so far) barely played games, I have contributed to developers who in a sales-less environment wouldn’t have seen a penny from me.

      • CyberPunkRock says:

        I don’t understand why playing the game or not is important. It’s a sale either way. So from an economic point of view it makes no difference, right?
        I bought dozens of games I played only minutes or not at all, most often when they were on sale. Sometimes I find out that it’s not for me, sometimes I just want to support the developer because I like the design concept and want them to do another one but taking their idea to the next level.

        • tetracycloide says:

          It makes a difference because his games are better than those games you never play so in his eyes they’re stealing from him. All that bullshit about it being bad for fans is just window dressing. Case in point, what about fans that don’t discover the game until months or years later? Fuck them, they don’t fit the devs agenda.

      • Killergran says:

        I haven’t even played half of my games collection.
        Which is sort of my point. The money I spent on these games was entirely due to them being affordable for a limited amount of time. This makes me spend impulsively, which is the way you want your customers spend their money.

    • The Hairy Bear says:

      I agree very much with this, the argument starts to fall down once you get beyond the ‘core’ people who would buy a game. The new planescape torment for instance will sell fantastically well at virtually any price point to start because those gamers know they want it. Once you get down to people who aren’t too sure the sale encourages them to take a punt at it and if they never play it, well I’m not really sure that’s a big problem. Some of them will and word of mouth will continue if it’s good.

      The problem I think is where you get ‘unknown’ games where for whatever reason the confidence level or demand isn’t there from day one and people are reluctant to part with their cash right from the start and the knowledge of a sale at some point in the future may well influence them (although you could argue as other people are doing that that’s captalism and you’ve set the price point wrong but then we’d never see new IP’s). I don’t know where the tilting point is between the two but I do see both arguments.

    • GameCat says:

      I think I’ve bought only two games for full price. Proteus for $10 and The Night of The Rabbit for ~€14.
      All other games from my Steam library (~65) comes from various sales/bundles.
      I have also 20-30 more games from bundles that aren’t tied with Steam plus few games like first Gothic or Postal 2 from physical game magazines.

  4. Axess Denyd says:

    Demand does not increase over time except in rare cases, as mentioned. In general, demand will decrease over time, so if price doesn’t also decrease, sales will also decrease.

    • Premium User Badge LTK says:

      Paradoxically, this doesn’t seem to be true for games. If I recall correctly, developers have indicated that things like bundles and steam sales don’t cannibalize on sales that come afterwards. If anything, they serve to increase them, as the game gets more word-of-mouth advertising. You’re never going to get your game onto the hard drives of everyone with a computer, so when the demand for a game depends on its publicity, you can effectively generate demand by advertising your game more, and a steam sale is very good at that.

      • Corb says:

        yeah, but if whatshisname’s system is put in place those sales wouldn’t happen meaning that boon wouldn’t exist. Basically if those games didn’t sell day one they would drop off the cliff into the bargain bin abyss of yore because his system would remove such bundles and sales.

        • P.Funk says:

          If your product doesn’t have the publicity to sell enough to keep your business afloat for the first year or so at least while selling at its full retail price (usually calculated to recoup costs and lead to healthy revenue) then your product SHOULD fail.

          Using sales where you compromize the value of your product to attract people as the near sole means of creating publicity is idiotic, and thats what the original article’s author is getting at.

          Sales traditionally are meant to be a way to get follow on revenue, but in gaming today its apparently shifted to mean something else.

  5. Lev Astov says:

    I love that title image. I’ve seen it on /r/pcmasterrace before, but doubt they made it. Where’d it come from?

  6. SRTie4k says:

    I wouldn’t own 3/4′s of the Steam games I do if it weren’t for sales. I had very little interest in a lot of purchases that I made until I saw them deeply discounted, thus most of my games fall into the “why not?” category.

    • Premium User Badge jezcentral says:

      Same here. The games I want NAOW, at full price, I buy NAOW!, at full price. The rest I buy on the “Why not? It’s sales time” principle and rarely get round to playing. If it weren’t for Steam sales, I wouldn’t have given the games industry close to half the money they’ve got from me.

      • Sharlie Shaplin says:

        When I think about it, all these sales have made me spend money on games I would never have bought! I buy anything I really want at full price, I don’t wait untill it’s on sale 6 months to a year later. I am actually buying less games at release now, but that is because there is fewer games that I find appealing enough.

  7. Premium User Badge AngelTear says:

    I wonder if in his mind his model would allow for some sales “as we know them” for games as they get older (I mean, 5 years after release or so, when they stop being in the spotlight, or when a sequel or two have been released, basically when they become one gaming generation older)

    Despite that, though, knowing that a game is at its lowest price at release would still make people buy tons of games that they wouldn’t play in the foreseeable future, maybe ever, so I don’t see how that solves that problem. Only being responsible with your purchases solves that problem (as I said before, if you don’t plan to play a game within 3 months of your purchase, you can be sure you’d have been able to buy it at the same or even lower price in another sale) On the other hand, if I am an hardcore fan, I WILL buy the game at release precisely because it’s at full price and I want to support the devs (I did as much last year: the only games I didn’t buy on sales were Shelter, Papers Please, Gone Home, The Stanley parable)

    Frankly, I can only see his model making sense with early access games or games with continuous (free) updates that see the amount of content increase substantially over time.

    • Talksintext says:

      Change the dates/prices and you can find a happy middle ground (5 years is way too much). I think the ascent from Early Access to Open Beta to Gold, and then slowly back down by about 15-25-33% over 12 months, finally with a big 50% Anniversary sale event and then on to endless near-free Steam/HB/etc sales after that should work well. 5 years, though…

      If you’re willing to wait a year to get it on sale at 50% off, you were never likely a “release week buyer”. You also probably would’ve bought it sooner when it was around 30% off a few months earlier as part of natural price decline, but perhaps forgot about it, hence the Anniversary event (with some marketing thrown in) to reraise awareness.

      And then some 6 or more months later, you can toss out the price to catch some of the basement bargain players who had no serious interest ever in the game, but wouldn’t mind giving it a shot for $1 or whatever they please. Likely after 18 months past release, few players are holding out who otherwise just won’t ever buy it at even 50% off. You don’t cut prices by a ton, you’ll just miss their money in the end as they can always find another game to play.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        This. Any fixed system is a problem. For all that Steam (or other companies) Sales do right or wrong, it’s flexibility that helps.

        Thinking you have a silver bullet, is only shooting yourself in the foot.

    • tetracycloide says:

      That’s because it doesn’t solve that ‘problem’ for gamers. It solves the devs problem of not getting as much money as he thinks he deserves because people are wasting their money on inferior games they never play. The whole diatribe is super self serving and egotistical. He’s convinced his game doesn’t need sales because it’s just that good and other games are only competing by undercutting.

  8. lanelor says:

    Baldur’s Gate for 80$ !!!
    Planescape for 100$ !!!
    Anybody?

    • Sian says:

      That’s really not what Rohrer’s saying here. I’ll let Nathan explain:

      “So it wouldn’t be a ceiling-less, sky-high price ascent, but rather a tiered setup that would eventually result in a full-priced game.”

      • Premium User Badge LTK says:

        Seems to me that this approach would guarantee that your long-term sales are going to be miniscule. Imagine finding Braid on Steam today, and seeing a price tag of $25 because Jon Blow looked in the future and took Jason Rohrer’s advice. No doubt that you’re going to ignore it and buy a more recent game instead. Basically you’re ensuring that all of your sales come at launch week, and everyone who’s late to the party is that less likely to buy the game anyway.

        • P.Funk says:

          You’re assuming that the actual value of the game as an individual draw is irrelevant compared to its relative pricing.

          You’re basically describing games as totally interchangeable with the only feature being price. Maybe that works for mall food.

          This is a race to the bottom mentality that ignores the concept of value being related to the thing itself. It also completely ignores the idea of any sort of brand loyalty.

          • Urthman says:

            Games aren’t interchangeable, but my time is. For almost every potential game I could play, there’s a bunch of other games that are just as good and that I will enjoy just as much. I loved Braid, but I’d never have played it if it were $30 and there were lots of other great games available for $5 and $10.

            The “problem” is there are too many great games and too little time to play them all. But that’s really more of a problem for developers than gamers. Sure, I’ve got a backlog of good games I’ve bought but haven’t played yet. But that’s a good thing. I’m still running Windows XP, and occasionally I’ll be disappointed that a particular game I’d like to play isn’t available (Just Cause 2!), but I’ve got a long list of satisfying games I haven’t played yet that this old computer handles just fine.

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            And you seem to be imagining the kind of system that only works with perfectly spherical buyers on a perfectly level plane. Fine in theory, but unfortunately doesn’t really refelct reality.

            People, including gamers, are fickle, and new almost always trumps old. Given the choice between a $25 3 year old game they don’t remember hearing about and a $25 new game that they have heard of (because it’s had recent reviews), your Mr Average is going to pick the new game almost every time. Sure, you’ll always have a core of people who will seek out old “classics, but they’re not where the bulk sales lie and not where the profit lies.

          • Lysenko says:

            Let me sum up the thread in one sentence: Rohrer and some die-hard video game fans severely underestimate Video Games’ price elasticity of demand.

          • tetracycloide says:

            Lyesenko, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

        • Sian says:

          Was 25 $ the original price for Braid? Because if it wasn’t, I think you misunderstand the point Rohrer is making.

          A quick google search reveals that Braid was deemed expensive at the MS points equivalent of 15 $, so I’m assuming that that’s it’s original price. Now, in Rohrer’s model as I understand it, Braid would’ve been, say 5 $ at the start (maybe on the Early Access program), later 10 $ and finally the originally intended 15 $, and then would stay at that price forever – with no sales, ever.

          A 30 $ game under the system we have now would still be a 30 $ game in Rohrer’s system, just not from the start. Once priced at 30 $ it would stay there instead of getting cheaper over time, and it would presumably never go on sale.

        • hungrycookpot says:

          I don’t think he’s suggesting that games would never come down in price. What I’m hearing is that he wants game pricing to mirror playerbase; at the beginning, prices are low, player counts are low. As the game matures, and the playerbase fills out, the price increases, up to the full amount you’d pay today. I would imagine that as the game aged and the playerbase dropped off, the price would fall, same as it does today.

          • Razumen says:

            Why would playerbase matter though? Those people that already have the game aren’t paying the developer anymore (unless we’re talking MMO, F2P games) the more important thing to developers is that the playerbase grows, which really means more people are buying the game. Prices would really drop when sales are down. Basing price on number of players doesn’t make sense, especially for singleplayer games.

      • frightlever says:

        That was the sort of price those games, Planescape really, were going for on Amazon etc, before they were available on digital distribution. There’s no scarcity with digital distribution, so it doesn’t make sense – and as someone said way up above, capitalism generally works to match a buyer with a price they’re prepared to pay for a product.

  9. dE says:

    Basically, like preorders? You already do get a game cheaper or with more stuff if you buy early… And the things it ha brought upon gaming aren’t exactly good for gaming. Or the press either. New games already have a higher value, due to cultural relevance. Take the cake is a lie thing, it lost much of its relevance if you played years down the line. You didn’t get the joke if you weren’t in on it.

  10. Premium User Badge RaveTurned says:

    “In short, he noted that even diehard fans have a hard time justifying a day-one purchase when they know a big sale is probably just around the corner.”

    Nope. Diehard fans both want to play the game the earliest and want to see the developer to succeed, so they will happily pay full price provided they can spare the money. Those who wait are either unable to pay full price or are simply less enthusiastic to play the game.

    • Moraven says:

      The Minecraft model works since it actually rewards the diehard fans with a early discount. Having a sale a month later does not.

      • Premium User Badge RaveTurned says:

        Minecraft is a different case for a couple of reasons. Firstly it was set at a lower price because at that it was incomplete. Buyers were taking a risk that Notch would deliver on features after that point, and as more features made it into the game the price increased. More features – more value – higher price. Makes sense!.

        Secondly, Minecraft was Notch/Mojang’s first game. You’re not going to have many diehard fans for a game/studio that hasn’t released anything yet, so the idea of rewarding them for their support is disingenuous. A better term would be “early adopters”. As above, the lower price was there to encourage people to take a risk, not to reward them for loyalty.

        • hungrycookpot says:

          That’s exactly it; I think this pricing model is ideal for indie games without an established fanbase. Like Minecraft, it gets people into the game, spreads word of mouth, and rewards the die-hards. Over time, other people will want to see what all the hype is about, and they’ll buy in too.

          This would not work with AAA games however. Can you imagine if GTA5 was $30 in launch week? Rockstar would have lost a good deal of their total profits, because everyone already knows the game, and knows they’re going to buy it.

          • Premium User Badge Bury The Hammer says:

            Hungrycookpot has pretty much nailed it here.

            The value of a game wrt time massively depends upon the type of game it is, anyway. Minecraft worked with that model because 1) nobody knew what it was 2) the game was in alpha/beta anyway 3) the game gets SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER as more people play. it’s the same reason why stuff like LoL and TF2 have become freemium (and indeed, why facebook et al are free), because building up a customer base is more important than charging for entry. WoW and GTA can get away with it because they already have established customer bases or had massive hype upon launch.

            In the end, it’s up the the devs how they want to sell their game. One of the reasons Rohrer is wrong is because he thinks he can dictate everyone’s decisions for them, when they could be completely the wrong pricing model for an individual developer. As someone said, this is one instance where the free market has done pretty well for everyone (though, I seriously disagree with ‘one of the few times’, but that’s a completely different conversation altogether)

      • tetracycloide says:

        Because if you didn’t know about minecraft on day one how could you be a diehard fan?

        Seriously? No one buys early and is nonplussed or buys late and discovers they didn’t know what they were missing?

        • Premium User Badge RobF says:

          Yeah, it’s absurd. Most of the kids at my son’s school hadn’t heard of or picked up on Minecraft until it came out on the 360 how much longer after the PC version? They’re all -still- crazy mental for it, Christmas set me back a ruck of cashmoney on Minecraft figures and books for my own kid. I know other parents in the same boat.

          How on Earth are these any less fans for coming to MC later than someone who picked it up when it wasn’t half the monster it is now (for better or for worse)?

          The idea of being in there on Day 1 being some sort of prerequisite for how much of a fan you are is dumb as anything. People can adore a work whether they bought it on Day 1 or Day 945090435 and they can adore things they got for free or they got for fivetybillionpounds.

    • Premium User Badge Adamustache says:

      While I do agree that some diehards are as you describe, I know I’ve personally gotten to the point where I don’t necessarily buy something at release even if I am a diehard fan, despite the fact that I could afford it. I just have a bunch of games that I have yet to get to, and some of them are things I am really excited to play. So when a new game comes out that I’m also excited to play, I can still wait for a sale because I know it’s coming and I’ve got other things just as high on my want-to-play list with a limited amount of time to actually dedicate to gaming. Now if I could keep up with all the new game releases, sure, I’d probably buy more things at release. But as things are, I do think Rohrer’s model is more likely to get me to buy something at release since I don’t want to lose the opportunity to get a good deal.

      • ramirezfm says:

        That just means you are not a diehard fan. You are just a fan. Heck, i’m not a diehard fan of RDR, but I bought it and the zombie expansion, because I just loved the concept and decided that Rockstar earned my money. I have played the game for maybe an hour, haven’t even booted the expansion. I don’t regret my buy, even if I could buy it now for 75% less than I paid. I still think it’s an amazing game. Would I buy it as an Early Access game? Probably not, I like sandboxes, but I’m not too keen on the wild west setting. Would I buy it at a full price seeing it was just as good but way cheaper a month or so ago? Probably not, as I wouldn’t believe the game to be good enough to justify the purchase.

        So, bottom line, I would play more the games I buy and buy less games. Good for me? Probably not, I would miss some good titles. Good for developers? Probably not, they would miss some sales.

        • Premium User Badge Adamustache says:

          I don’t personally care if you want to label me a diehard fan or not, but I do assume that by Jason Rohrer’s meaning (which is the most relevant definition in regards to the article), I am a diehard fan of some of the games I’ve waited on. The fact is that sometimes multiple games come out around the same time, and I have to choose one to devote my time to. For instance, I consider myself a diehard Pikmin fan and a diehard Platinum Games fan. But when The Wonderful 101 came out, even though it was one of my most anticipated games of the year, I waited a couple weeks and then bought it in a B2G1 sale because I was already invested in Pikmin 3, which had just come out. If I wasn’t playing Pikmin 3, I’d have bought The Wonderful 101 at release. Similar idea with the XCOM expansion. I waited a month or two to buy it even though the Enemy Unknown reboot was one of my favorite games of the last several years. I just didn’t have the time to play it at the time, and I had also recently been playing Shadowrun Returns, which had scratched a similar itch in my gaming tastes. So for some people, being a diehard fan might mean you have to play it right at release no matter what. For me, that’s just not the case, and I don’t consider myself any less of a fan because of it. I like enjoying my most anticipated games when I really have some time to sit down and lose myself in them.

    • Premium User Badge RobF says:

      Right but let’s also break down what Rohrer is calling a hardcore fan because this is kinda important.

      In this case a hardcore fan is a person who will buy your videogame at full price and then be upset when someone else buys the game at a lower price. So in this case a hardcore fan isn’t someone who wants to see you thrive, wants to see your work reach it’s wide an audience as possible, isn’t someone who really cares about you as a developer. It’s someone who cares only that they receive access to a game at the price they paid and that everyone else, regardless of circumstance, can go and fuck themselves.

      I’m of the opinion that really, most indie game developers should shut the fuck up about fans at the best of times because it never goes right. You either end up with the absurd notion of super fans (which is a polite way of ignoring that not everyone who pays out large amounts of money to you may be your fan or may even be over the age of 8), the return of the xMany fans to success concept or just generally conflating “fan” for “someone who gives me money” which is pretty awful. BUT in this case, it’s especially egregious because it’s defining fan as someone who would be especially happy to ruin your ability to succeed so long as they got what they wanted and tilting a business model to cater to just that.

      And then wrapping it up in the idea of some universal good for gamers because look, I’m stopping you buying games you might not play so isn’t that good?

      Which is tremendous heaving bollocks if you’re a developer because look at what you’re feeding here and how on Earth is this supposed to be healthy and tremendous bollocks for players who suddenly find access to a game no longer comes with the ability to wait it out until it’s affordable, now they’re things of super privileged access. They already are to a degree being a relative luxury and all that but we’ve solved this problem, we drop the prices so people who don’t have the money can buy them. It works.

      There is, of course, plenty of good reasons to opt out of -excessive- sales and bundling and try and maintain pricing except for special events (see Cliffski’s stuff as a good example of how to manage this) but there’s little to no smart thought behind Rohrer’s breakdown and even less understanding of how to treat human beings.

      • Niche93 says:

        He didn’t talk about the diehard fan being someone who buys it at launch and then becomes sad because someone else bought it at a lower price. He described them as someone who buys a game at launch, and then becomes sad that they didn’t buy it at launch. Nothing was said about them having malicious thoughts about others.

        • Premium User Badge RobF says:

          People who are a little bit sad that they didn’t buy something on sale generally understand that sales happen, man. They live.

          • Niche93 says:

            Okay, so do you then take back what you said about what he said about diehard fans, man? Because otherwise you would be implying that the only reason that Rohrer sees it as giving fans a “kick in the teeth” is because sales cause fans to be upset about other people buying the game cheaply . And then it’s still you who are saying it, not Rohrer.

          • Premium User Badge RobF says:

            No I don’t. Read my previous response as to why.

      • Gassalasca says:

        I’m sorry for godwining, but Rohrer’s post read like Mein Kampf to a Jewish person. I truly felt awful reading it.
        There are people for whom it’s either waiting for the 75% sale, or it’s piracy. And he would drive these people to piracy, just for the sake of his ‘fans’.

  11. Xan says:

    Didn’t Steam release sale numbers for L4D once? Saying that “We put the game 50% off and expected double the sales, but what we got was four times the number of predicted sales” or something similar.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      But that’s evidence. Your not allowed it. Evidence leads people to follow the facts. It’s hard to milk them for additional payments with your advice if they can see the truth as it is…

      No, this idea that follows supposition is much better, as the managers, directors and existing “Sages” of the industry can charge massive amounts to “correct” the declining sales they themselves cause by completely insane and damaging business models.

    • Premium User Badge Voice of Majority says:

      This is the key point to be made here. No one has come forward with data showing they lost money because of Steam sales. I have read multiple times that a developer has made a lot more money because of the sales.

      It all comes down to the flexibility of the demand and the fact that “producing” additional copies of games on a download service costs practically nothing. Dropping the price by 50% will more than double your sales. It seems there is an incentive to drop the price by 75% too, so I assume that the sales more than quadruple.

      Valve does not force anyone to discount their games. It must pay off because otherwise the publishers would not do it. Humble bundles keep coming although the discounts there must be closer to 99% than 75% in many cases.

    • lomaxgnome says:

      Not to mention Garry’s Mod, which has continually posted data about how a huge portion of its sales and profits continue to be from sales. Basically, all the available data says that this guy is longing for a PC gaming market that doesn’t exist. But, given that he makes an esoteric multiplayer indie game, and by most accounts lives a fairly spartan lifestyle, I guess that’s to be expected.

  12. kutya says:

    I think early or alpha access isn’t a solution either. For example take Assetto Corsa (Kunos). I’ve bought it as an early supporter. Now I’m not certain what I bought (they announce DLC while they didn’t release neither multiplayer, nor AI) and there were a couple “sales” although it isn’t finished. A paradox IMO. Please don’t flame me, I just wanted to say that early access has its flaws too. Minecraft is a good example of early access going fine.

    I don’t have experience with games finance, but it seems to me, that many devs decide of doing an early access, when they didn’t manage to finish the game, but ran out of money. In others words, for me early access became “buying an unfinished game”. And hoping it will be some day finished. And when their release doesn’t generate the income they expected, they put the alpha on “sale” what is ridiculous IMO.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      No one will flame you. Very concise and illustrated point there.

      Minecraft worked out, Cobalt (Scrolls too?) is a bit stale. Kerbal Space Program and Space engineers are hundreds of times more worth than I paid. Kinetic Void and Blockade Runner seem dead in the water (gameplay wise for me).

      It’s about 50/50 in my experience with Alphas, but mainly down to my own expectations and time of purchase. I can do better by waiting or checking on development or existing content. An Example would be Assault Android Cactus is already content and gameplay full for the price they are asking, so I could not loose. Where as I may not like Elite or Star (what is it?) Alphas as most don’t have flight/gameplay in their engines yet, so I’ve held off purchasing.

      Thankfully there are those out there still doing it with a beneficial or constructive method (even if it’s just pre-ordering or when it’s more involved such as developer feedback + alpha access).

  13. philbot says:

    It’s an interesting idea, but I really don’t think these sales are hurting anybody. I’m no marketing/accountant person, but I’m pretty sure at the end of the day, a sold game is the possibility of that customer buying a sequel as a preorder or at full price.

    For example, I bought metro 2033 for $7.49 a few years ago, and bought Last Light full price.

    Bought CoH for $4.99 or something low… bought CoH:2 full price

    Sure, the devs made pocketchange off the original sales, but ultimately it resulted in growth of a brand.

    • mukuste says:

      This operates off the assumption that excessive sequels and milk-cow franchises are something that is good and healthy for gaming as a whole. I can understand that someone like Jason Rohrer, who makes experimental indie games, wouldn’t subscribe to that.

      • Shieldmaiden says:

        The same thing applies to developers as well as franchises. Someone who enjoys a game they bought on sale is more likely to buy the next game from the same developer, especially for smaller dev studios and indies.

        • P.Funk says:

          Really? Because I couldn’t tell you the names of the studios that made half the indie games I’ve bought in a steam sale.

          For me what I see in steam sales isn’t advertizing for a game or for a developer, I see price. Thats what they’re selling you, cheap diversion with a pretty picture on the front.

          You usually don’t remember who made something because you bought it on impulse, you remember it when you read previews and reviews and saw trailers and did all that other marketing build up that lead to your anticipation to buy it.

          Given how most games let you skip the opening tile that shows the developer its pretty easy then to just play a game that cost you $5, never know who made it, and not really know that they have another game out, especially if you rely on the steam sale impulse buy to populate your gaming library.

          I bought Hotline Miami because it was popular, I read reviews, saw videos, and heard a lot of word of mouth. As a result its in the mainstream of discussion. Hotline 2 is coming and I Know about it. If all I did was see it in a steam sale Im not sure I’d have this social reaction to its arrival.

          • vecordae says:

            Only that I actually do know who made most of the games that I own on Steam, especially if I enjoyed them. The notion that this can generate a sort of brand loyalty is demonstrably true. That some folks don’t bother to pay attention is also true, but not universally so.

          • Premium User Badge darkChozo says:

            You don’t need to know a developer’s name in order to be influenced to buy their products — there’s a reason why most press releases for new indie games from established developers have a line to the effect of “from the developers of X and Y”.

  14. aurious says:

    I think the increasing price model works well for the Early Access part of games development.
    Taking the example of minecraft, the earliest purchasers paid less but they were taking a bigger risk and got less of a game (at the time), they also contibuted to the success of the game (bug reports, community involvement and marketing) and were rewarded with more game as development continued. Later buyers paid more for more game and fewer bugs.
    Planetary Annihilation (and many other kickstarters) painted itself into a corner by making early access a higher tier reward.. they couldn’t then sell it cheaper without annoying their backers.
    Personally I’m just not sold on the idea that being a beta tester is something worth paying extra for.

  15. nasenbluten says:

    They are selling software licenses (read infinite) and there is no second hand market on PC anymore, for people that don’t buy on release it is either nice sales or piracy.

    Making your game more expensive overtime? Good luck with that.

    • P.Funk says:

      Do I smell a justifying piracy attitude in your comment?

      • Urthman says:

        Actually, it’s Steam, Humble Bundle, and similar sales that completely killed piracy for me. Games used to be too expensive, and now they’re not.

        • yobokkie says:

          ^ This exactly! I only used to have pirated games, and now I have replaced every one of those with legitimate games and hundreds more and not an ISO in sight. Because I’m noble? Nope, just because the prices matched what I could afford and I was happy to pay it.
          I think the model Rohrer is proposing could work in a way, but I think a better option might be to actually say anyone who buys the game before day one gets ALL of the DLC as well, none of this season pass BS. Then that will be their extra value and motive to buy early. Stupid DLC packs are one of the biggest reasons I won’t ever pay full price for game… Charge me twice to get the complete game? Piss off… I’ll wait for the bundled edition.

        • drvoke says:

          I’d actually like to say the same. I am basically a reformed video game pirate because of bundles and sales. I can’t remember the last time I pirated video games. It’s been a while. I don’t have a lot of money, so while I can never justify paying full price for games, I can usually pay something. As someone pointed out above somewhere, lost to the mists of time, this is one of those examples of market capitalism working as intended to the benefit of all involved. I am a buyer matched to a product at a price I am willing to pay. I have the product, they have my money. No, they don’t have the cost of a full price game, but it isnt actually a choice between whether I buy it at full price or sale price, the choice is whether I buy it at sale price or not at all.

          If I miss your early release sale, under Rohrer’s scheme, I will never buy your game. I will wait for someone else to release a different game I want and buy it from them for the cheap initial price.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        Observing a fact is not justifying it.

  16. Xocrates says:

    “What if [...] the price rises over time”

    Why yes, let’s encourage pre-orders and day-one purchase even more, completely remove people on the fence from the audience, and utterly destroy impulse buying.

    Is the guy even remotely serious? I can agree with doing that to early access since you’re essentially paying for an unfinished (and therefore “inferior”) product, but do that as the default for a newly launch game isn’t just moronic, it’s bad business.

    • P.Funk says:

      Are you suggesting that impulse buying is good for consumers?

      In general impulse items are all about defeating the rational reflective consumer mindset by spiking them with options with a closing window. Grab the candy bar NOW or regret it on the way to the car.

      Impulse buying is responsible for so much bullshit in the marketplace. I would happily see it die.

    • MrUnimport says:

      If anything, heavy discounts on pre-orders are an acknowledgement of the risk a consumer is taking by purchasing before everyone has come to a consensus, and thus makes it a fairer “bet”. An unreleased game is an unproven investment and thus should carry a lighter price tag.

      • Baines says:

        Heavy discounts on pre-orders is a fairer bet, but it need not be a bet at all. Get rid of pre-order incentives (and pre-order threats), and people have no reason to bet in the first place. It won’t stop people from pre-ordering, but at least the industry wouldn’t be encouraging such habits.

        Of course the game industry won’t do that. The game industry doesn’t want a fairer bet, because the industry is looking out for its own profits and not the consumers. Given a choice between a fair bet, no bet, or an unfair bet in their favor, the industry favors the unfair bet.

  17. Stuart Walton says:

    I think pre-order and early-adopter prices should be heavier discounts than what are currently offered. Those who miss the oat will have to pay full price or wait for a sale or price-drop.

    The main reason why launch pricing on Steam isn’t greater than 10% or 20% discounts is because of the presence of AAA game publishers that will never undercut the non-digital competition during the launch phase. There’s no reason why smaller outfits should follow this model, but they do because they sit on the same marketplace and a heavily discounted AAA game suggests the game is awful and many would transfer that valuation to any smaller game that also heavily discounts in the same marketplace.

    • Premium User Badge Ninja Dodo says:

      Those who miss the oat clearly lack in fiber.

    • Premium User Badge RobF says:

      Actually, the main reason launching on Steam sees slender discounts is because for most (obligatory there will be exceptions disclaimer) games, they’ll do the bulk of their sales around launch so as a developer, you want to make launch a bit more attractive but not so much that you don’t make quite as much money.

  18. mando44646 says:

    To start with, developers themselves constantly rave about how much money they rake in during Steam sales – so right off the bat, he’s wrong based on every other developer I have ever read on this topic.

    Secondly, people HAVE to wait for sales because of how expensive games are. One can only afford so many $50 or $60 priced games. Thats called a capitalist market – prices have to fluctuate around demand. If they never went down in price, less games would be bought and developers wouldnt be able to stay afloat.

    the argument is all around just bad

    • P.Funk says:

      First of all you’re assuming that every developer is right about their conclusions from the sale’s benefit to them. He’s not saying that you don’t make lots of money from sales, he’s suggesting that in the long haul it may be unhealthy for developers of certain types of games. You can’t just read a single sale’s figures and say it was better for you. If you don’t consider an alternate situation you’ve got no way of seeing whether its better or not overall. That kind of assumption isn’t logically correct on its face without a deeper analysis.

      Secondly, you assume that the current pricing scheme is compatible with the alternate marketplace paradigm he’s suggesting. If we were to see a total restructuring of the price model why should we not assume that the final “full” price for many games wouldn’t be different? Also, you’re ignoring the fact that much of his argument is about indie games who’s pricing is often $30 and less for full price.

      This entire conversation is about considering the aggregate result of the whole system, not just about taking one little perspective and harping on about it. “Oh, but most people can’t pay $60 for a game.” So then the final price must be lower. Its not like it isn’t still capitalism if you change the pricing model.

      I’m not even saying he isn’t wrong, I’m just saying that your argument is flawed. Too many people in these comments are just making assumptions that don’t follow. If we’re talking about indie games why are we suggesting $50-$60 full retail prices?

      Certainly it would be interesting to see a professional consultation firm analyze this entire concept, comparing the big sale model to a rising price model. I’d be very interested. Also, just because the current system “works” doesn’t mean it works better than it could.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        They do consider the alternative. When they do not provide a reasonable sale (benefiting both the developers/distributors and the buyers) they make less money.

        There are hard facts and numbers. For instance, as others have said, limited budgets of consumers. These do have an effect. How does a limited budget per year/month per consumer (PC/Console gamer) effect a developer if they price their product to never be discounted after release? Especially when they have a piece of media that usually decreases in value (the existence of other media means your in a market where production outstrips demand) and where only occasionally classical pieces become collectable.

  19. Shooop says:

    I own games I never would have unless they were marked down from MSRP. This is not the 80s anymore where games weren’t in abundance.

    Games are not cars – they don’t retain any value over time. You could never refurbish and sell them again unless they’re novelty items like cartridges with gold paint only collectors are interested in. And now you can’t resell them at all thanks to DRM. The demand for older games will never rebound enough to turn a profit from keeping the prices high so the only sensible option is to cut their price tag. Big publishers already figured this out which is why pre-orders are so important to them – the first few weeks of a game’s release determine whether or not the game sold well or not because the sales take a very quick drop afterwards.

    Is it a coincidence that Rohrer seems oblivious to how early access is nothing more than just another way of pre-ordering?

    • Talksintext says:

      Yup.

      Personally, if I won’t buy a game at $25 now to wait for a sale, I’m never going to buy it at $25 even if there are never future sales – I’ll just forget about it. Whatever the final resting price ($15) is, that ($10) difference isn’t what’s keeping me: I’ll take it for a few bucks or not at all. There are other games to play, either ones I’m interested in at the $25+ range or other ones I’m similarly on the fence about at deep sale. I’d rather take a $3 risk on an intriguing small title than sink $15 or $25 on a bigger title that I feel carries the same risk of my not liking the game or getting more than a few hours’ enjoyment out of it.

      And if all the games I’m on the fence about weren’t on deep sale?

      I’d maybe buy one out of every 10. Or maybe I’d just ignore them all and stick to the titles I already trust and love.

  20. Premium User Badge darkChozo says:

    This already exists, at least to some degree. The 10% preorder discount is pretty much an industry standard at this point, as is the GMG 20% or so sale for the first week or so.

    Anyway, I don’t think that his system is a sensible replacement for sales. The issue with sale right now is that they happen so early and so often that the tradeoff for waiting usually isn’t worth it if you’re not totally hyped for a game. Why buy now when you can get it for 20%, 50%, 75% off if you wait a few weeks? It used to be that you’d wait something like three months for that kind of a sale, at which point buying for $60 seems a lot more attractive.

    But sales themselves aren’t bad; if you never discount your game then there’s an entire set of people who’ll never buy — those people who either weren’t interested or who can’t or won’t buy at full price.

  21. Shieldmaiden says:

    Rohrer’s argument completely fails to take into account the simple fact that a lot of people who are interested in a given game just won’t buy it at full price. That may be because it’s not worth the asking price to them, or they simply can’t afford to. We’ve seen an explosion of lower-priced indie titles over the past few years, but, generally speaking, gaming is expensive. Rohrer seems to be ignoring that and assuming that everyone can afford to buy games whenever they want, but are instead waiting for sales because they’re cheap.

    I’m actually getting increasingly angry thinking about the ridiculous levels of privileged arrogance and ignorance his entire argument displays. With the current model, I know that, despite being about as poor as it’s possible to get in the UK without being homeless, I can actually buy games every now and then. Not just cheap indie stuff, but even AAA games eventually get to the point where I can just about afford to pick them up (not that my PC can run all that many AAA games these days, owing to the aforementioned lack of money, but that’s not the point.) It’s nice to be able to participate in gaming culture, even if it’s a few months after most people, and it’s nice to be able to know I’m financially contributing to future games and not having to resort to piracy.

    Rohrer may as well be saying “If you can’t afford to buy my game at a discounted price now, fuck you, you aren’t ever going to play it.” So I won’t.

    • Laurentius says:

      This 100%.
      Many devs and even publishers still think that most of video gaming consumers spend their money almost exlusively on video games or are in fact very rich. Sure there is this group but tbh people who spend 500$-1000$ on video games a year would continou to spend this kind of money regardless pricing models. For people for who video games are only part of “entertaintment”(cinema,books, conerts,trips, theater, going out,beer etc ) segment of household budgets won’t succumb to this kind of pricing models, hence they will move their money elsewhere. Or as you put it more blunt : Rohrer may as well be saying “If you can’t afford to buy my game at a discounted price now, fuck you, you aren’t ever going to play it.” So I won’t. ” .QFT.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      This. I wish I could post Anon, but I can consider a few of us holding off from buying games in the sales right now due to “necessity”. You won’t even see those sale purchases or the pre-orders if you decide to never discount your product.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Absolutely this. It’s not been uncommon in the past for us to have $10 in spending money at the end of the month. Without sales I could not buy games. Full stop. I would buy maybe one a year. One year the only games I bought were the Geneforge Saga and Super Mario Galaxy. Another, Dragon Age Origins and Assassin’s Creed (on sale).

      I certainly wouldn’t have the money to experiment in my purchases, so I almost assuredly would not buy indie games. For every indie game that I play that I like, there’s one that doesn’t click with me and one that’s mediocre.

      • Premium User Badge jrodman says:

        This sort of comment makes me want to put money in some sort of pot for RPS regulars.

        Why? Because I have far more games than I can play, and I sort of like giving money to an industry I find interesting, and also like the idea of interesting people playing games they enjoy.

        I’ve done a bunch of ‘giveaways’ of games I enjoy on gog.com, but ultimately contributing to people who I have no other contact with feels empty.

        But maybe it’s not a real problem because of steam sales?

  22. huldu says:

    This assumes that the games that are released are actually GOOD in the first place. We all know this isn’t true for the majority of the time. It’s like if someone would release a game at $49.99 then raise the price to $89.99 just because they can.

    Minecraft was a huge success because at the time and even now there aren’t many games that play well in that category. What really brought minecraft to the success it did was mostly because of the insane moding community. They’ve added life to what I believe would not have been a “huge” success at this time if it weren’t for the mods. Now you’re going but people play vanilla minecraft all the time, that’s true, it’s also true that you take a crap every now and then, but that doesn’t make it good.

    • Premium User Badge darkChozo says:

      I don’t think Minecraft was a success because of the modding community; while mods certainly contribute to its longevity as a game and fix many of its issues, it’s not like people are going out to buy Minecraft in order to play IndustrialCraft or whatever.

      Minecraft mostly succeeded because it offered an experience that wasn’t really available in the market, an experience that also has extremely broad appeal. There’s a reason why it basically spawned an entire genre.

  23. Themadcow says:

    Sadly, tall people have a substantial advantage in the field of… pretty much most important stuff. A study some years ago used groups of people who looked almost identical except for height. They dressed them the same and took them out seperately onto the streets asking passing pedestrians for an estimate on the job level and salary of the tall / short versions and almost universally the tall people were predicted far higher jobs and salaries.

    “A 2004 study by psychologist Timothy A. Judge, Ph.D., of the University of Florida, and researcher Daniel M. Cable, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, found that every inch of height amounts to a salary increase of about $789 per year (the study controlled for gender, weight and age).

    By this calculation, someone who is 6 feet tall earns $5,525 more annually than someone who is 5 feet, 6 inches. Over the course of a career, of course, those numbers can really add up.”

    Errr, what was the article about again?

  24. mukuste says:

    One wonders how it works for movies. You can buy a lot of classic movies on the cheap, and I think that’s great. On the other hand, the ratio between the initial price and the bottomed-out “budget” price is much lower for movies, so people have more of an incentive to buy earlier if they are interested. I guess this also has to do with how games are much more tied to the technological (and platform) status quo, whereas movies usually age much more gracefully. Then again, this is starting to get less and less true as the technological development, at least for non-AAA games, slows down more and more as art direction increasingly becomes much more important than pure graphical horsepower. Many new indie games play fine on old hardware, and many older indie games still look fantastic.

    • Geebs says:

      The way it worked for movies is that the studio releases remastered special editions and puts the price up after it’s been bargain bin for a while. That kind of works the same way for games with HD remasters, which is really money for old rope a lot of the time, or certainly would be for a PC version.

      For indie games, you could remaster them every few years with worse graphics :-P

  25. Moraven says:

    Make sure to read the full article (commenators), he makes some good points:

    But in general, people who missed lower prices in the past may not even be aware of what they missed. They come to buy the game now, and see the current price now. On the other hand, when your game goes on sale later, everyone who bought it at full price remembers what they paid and feels the sting. Being unaware of what you’re missing has a different psychological impact than having what you missed thrown right in your face.

    Players who buy but never play:

    To balance this out, we would need a whole lot of people who will buy random games just because they are on sale—games that they had no intention of buying otherwise. Maybe there are enough of these people, and I’ve certainly met some of them: people who have a backlog of 50 unplayed games in their Steam library. Maybe they’ll never play them. But even if there are enough people doing this, it’s not a good thing. It’s just people being tricked into wasting money on stuff they don’t want or need. Better that they spent that money on one full-price game that they really want rather than four 75%-off impulse buys to add to their backlog.

    • Premium User Badge LTK says:

      Buying a game just before it goes on sale is unfortunate, yes, but e-mailing the developer for your money back is completely whacked, psychological impact be damned. Obviously you were willing to buy the game at full price, which means you thought that the potential entertainment value you’d get out of it was most likely worth whatever they were asking for it. If the game then goes on sale you can’t suddenly pretend that you should have gotten the game at a lower price, because if you did, you wouldn’t have bought it in the first place.

      • Moraven says:

        Oh yah, there is this sense of entitlement towards Video games vs other forms of media. A lot probably is due to how easy it is to interact with your audience and those that buy your game. No one not directly interact with someone making the movie to complain how you bought it for $30 when it went on sale for $10. This might be due to the size of Steam and how more and more games are from smaller developers who are directly in control how much a game sells for and when sales are approved. Retailers have a lot more control over pricing.

        To be fair, retailers will typically price match their future price cuts that are within 1-3 weeks. I buy a game for $60, it goes on sale next Sunday for $40. I can walk in and get $20 back, or at the very least in store credit.

        If you get a game/movie/music on sale at Wal-Mart and it goes on sale at Best Buy the next day, Walmart has no obligation to take a return, to price match or do anything. Its how the retail world works. Part of the problem with here is we are only talking about Steam and Steam Sales, one retailer.

        Why does not Steam offer this ability to price match? To dominate of the market? Sales are so frequent that more and more people are learning to sit on the fence?

        For a online game this can hurt since your size of community only grows in spikes.

    • kalirion says:

      Maybe there are enough of these people, and I’ve certainly met some of them: people who have a backlog of 50 unplayed games in their Steam library. Maybe they’ll never play them.

      50? Haha, that’s cute .http://steamcommunity.com/id/kalirion/games/?tab=all

  26. Moraven says:

    And it will take a economist study to know how much this holds:

    To balance this out, we would need a whole lot of people who will buy random games just because they are on sale—games that they had no intention of buying otherwise. Maybe there are enough of these people, and I’ve certainly met some of them: people who have a backlog of 50 unplayed games in their Steam library. Maybe they’ll never play them. But even if there are enough people doing this, it’s not a good thing. It’s just people being tricked into wasting money on stuff they don’t want or need. Better that they spent that money on one full-price game that they really want rather than four 75%-off impulse buys to add to their backlog.

    Which is the other half of sales. How much is sales helping the developer? Sure you see the sales spikes that consist of 60% of your revenue. Is the additonal revenue the only benefit? Or is there some negative to the constant and early sales?

  27. 2late2die says:

    I’m not sure about this, I don’t think it will work for “regular” games. For early access probably, I certainly don’t like paying $60 for an “alpha” but if we’re talking regular release I don’t think it’ll work. Problem the way I see it is that you essentially end up selling the most of your game at the lowest price, and even though it’s likely that the initial number of buys will be more due to lower price I don’t think it will be enough to compensate for the lower price. Obviously this is me just theorizing, I could be completely off the mark, but for example I don’t think that if the latest COD game cost 20% less on release it would’ve sold 20% more, it probably would’ve sold only marginally better and so they would’ve lost money on it.

  28. botd says:

    Someone failed basic economics. Video games are somewhat unique in that they have a marginal cost of production of essentially zero. This means that they should continuously lower their prices in order to entice ever more sales to people whose utility from the game is lower than the previous price. This is pure profit for the publisher AND it is an economic boon to gamers since the utility of the game must be higher than the new cost or they wouldn’t have forked money over for it. It’s a win-win economically.

    Rohrer would need to show that people are so irrational that charging them more actually increases their utility from games. I find this highly unlikely and if anything the threat of higher prices would cause people to irrationally purchase games that they might otherwise not at that price point. This may work out for the publisher (though as I explained above, the publisher wins with sales too), but almost assuredly not for consumers.

    If anything, economic analysis suggests publishers should charge much more at release to capture people with too much money or that are huge fanboys and then start discounting down to capture ever more of the consumer surplus. I don’t think they do this because of complaints about gouging and the obvious “cult of the new” aspect where people will forget about your game if the price is too high for too long.

    • Premium User Badge LTK says:

      This is exactly what I came here to say, only better.

      Although pricing your game higher is actually likely to jeopardise your early publicity at the time when you most need it. If you want your game to be bought by the people who are willing tio pay the most, they need to know about it first, and a very expensive game doesn’t get you very good word-of-mouth. But if you take the early access approach and price your game higher when it’s unfinished, you could save your publicity push for the release and still profit from the people with too much money in their coffers.

    • NotToBeLiked says:

      That’s why most of the large publishers are happy to take part in the sales. They have people working there that actually know about economics and how to set prices to make the largest possible profit.
      People in suits often don’t know how to make good games, but they sure as hell know how to run a company.

  29. hypercrisis says:

    I don’t feel at all disadvantaged by being able to pick up games on sale. If anything low sales on PC gaming are the only thing that keeps me interested in the hobby. The only beneficiary to this argument is publishers.

  30. Serenegoose says:

    Fucks over poor people. Either: gamble on cheaper games that might be shite or: not be able to afford games because you’ve waited to accrue data.

    It’s trying to convince people making uninformed decisions about their money is a positive thing. I’m not (ha ha) buying it.

  31. Junkenstein says:

    The answer is better discounts on pre-orders. Like 50% or so. Sounds crazy, but so would today’s sales/bundles if you mentioned them ten years ago.

    After that, go up to RRP, then crazy sales 6 months later as usual.

  32. Freud says:

    In many ways sales have replaced demos in the 90s. I buy and test games and if I like them I finish them. I have plenty of games that I haven’t played more than 20-30 minutes of and never will touch again. The developers have gotten paid $5-10 for this. It hardly seem unfair or damaging to me. Sales also replaces piracy for some people I know.

    I do agree that I buy fewer full price games these days since I have a back log and when I get older I’m not in a rush to play games the second they are released. Some games I play day 1 but it’s not a must anymore.

    I spend more on games now than I ever did. It seems like a win/win situation.

  33. TechnicalBen says:

    “The crux of Rohrer’s argument? That game pricing should rise over time – not fall.”
    One billion and seven assumptions there. And none of them make that statement true. That assumes production costs always increase. It assumes demand always exists. I mean, those employed to light gas lamps should get increased wages over time naturally, right? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_lighting#Decline_of_gas_lighting

    While demand is increasing, cost of production or consumer spending power (their budget) may not. For certain, the one thing that allows such low sales, is cheaper distribution plus larger market distribution. While it’s still not true it’s all roses. It’s even more wrong to say “prices should increase”. In an economy, it’s all a “might/may/possiblity” it would seem.

    I’m no economist or games producer though. I am however someone who has to live in the real world. I can demand any wage I wish for my work (artistic or not), however I cannot expect such a wage. Can I? Can I suggest I must or deserve to be paid for this post? £10 each?

    Gaming has a market, it will increase and decrease at times until we end up in post scarcity and everyone only works for the enjoyment (as wages become guaranteed for everyone).

  34. Premium User Badge Bluerps says:

    I never really felt bad about buying a full price game that was discounted a short time later. I only buy games at full price when I am excited about them, when I want to play them right now, and the fun I get from being able to do that outweighs the discomfort of not saving money.

    What I agree with is the reduced price for early access games. In fact, I never understood why these would ever be not discounted. It’s not a finished game, and there is no guarantee that it will ever be finished, so why charge the full price for that?

  35. Premium User Badge Chaz says:

    All the anecdotal evidence that I’ve read about Steam sales, seems to suggest that they rake in the cash big time. Especially for old titles that would otherwise have sat languishing in the commercial doldrums.

    If Steam sales weren’t financially viable, there just wouldn’t be any.

    I can’t quite understand why these sales are bad for gamers either. So what if I have a few Steam sales purchases that I never get around to playing. How is that bad for me? I’d much rather pay £20 for 4 games in a sale than £20 for 2 games normally. Even if I only play 3 of those 4 games, then I’m still better off.

    • Moraven says:

      I think he is talking more about releases that are not even a year old. So many Steam games are being discounted heavily within 4-12 weeks of release.

      • harmlos says:

        To me that just means those games don’t sell at the original asking price, so the publisher needs to lower prices if they want to sell anything at all. Games that sell well at release usually take pretty long to reach serious sale territory (it took around two years for Skyrim, Oblivion, Mass Effect, …).

  36. Deano2099 says:

    Right – few assumptions. There’s basically a nearly fixed pool of cash that people spend on games, there’s no easy way to increase that, but it doesn’t seem to have fallen either. So there’s a fixed pot. All we can do is change how that pot is distributed.

    Let’s also assume that we’re just talking about pricing games in a different way, rather than changing the average price of a game. So games will start at bundle prices of $1 or less then rise to the full price. What will happen?

    Simple – people will buy any game they are remotely interested in at the lowest price (we know this – people buy bundles now even when they only ‘might’ want to try one game). The difference between the low price being at the start instead of the end is that there will be no reviews or critical consensus. So people will buy more of what they think might look good, rather than what IS ACTUALLY PROVEN TO BE GOOD. They’ll also probably be more likely to stick to genres they know and like, rather than take a ‘gamble’ on a game from another genre.

    This does not sound good at all. This won’t eliminate the ‘race to the bottom’ effect, it’ll just make it more random as people buy into a load of games early on at bundle prices and hope they end up with a few good ones to play on actual release.

    • P.Funk says:

      Its absolutely ridiculous to try and analyze this by assuming final pricing never changes.

      You can’ t just alter the pricing model and not consider the final price an essential part of this remodel. If you alter the model to work from the bottom up assuming that you can generate better sales over time this way then you would actually keep your final price lower than what is usually the case now because you’re not going to use big sale discounts as incentives, instead you’re trying to capture more people with a reasonable price.

      Assume also that most final pricing today is still predicated on the older concept of no early access. In the past you didn’t make a cent before release day. Now its not the same, so really much of why sales are so attractive is because the final price often feels out of sync with what we expect.

      We’re talking about a total reevaluation of our entire gaming marketplace, and in that case we have to use a deeper scenario than just altering one factor and complaining that it doesn’t make sense. In the Rohrer article he himself said his final price for his game will be $18. That’s hardly the $50-60 most triple A games launch at.

      • Urthman says:

        Rower’s game might eventually be something I’d like to play. But I wouldn’t pay $16 for it, and I’m not going to buy it now when it’s not even finished (who knows if it’s going to end up good or not?) So he’ll never get my money with this model.

    • Emeraude says:

      The difference between the low price being at the start instead of the end is that there will be no reviews or critical consensus. So people will buy more of what they think might look good, rather than what IS ACTUALLY PROVEN TO BE GOOD.

      Weirdly, I was expecting the opposite conclusion from your opening:
      - In our current state, the price becomes low *when the game as already been sold a *lot* and there is ample enough information around to gather a critical consensus.
      - In the proposed model, prices would be low when the is no such breadth of information available – rewarding people that took the plunge, and hopefully making more people do so, making the people who pay higher price be the ones who do so *after* the breadth of critical information is made available, and making that information gathered faster.

      If anything, it’s fairer.

  37. Nosfaratus says:

    With no good discount i would have just 10% of my Steam games. How i know this? I used to buy games from amazon before Steam and i would chose very careful my purchase, because money is finite, but now i see myself buying some games just because they with 75% discount and i have some money in my wallet, witch otherwise i would no bye. I probably will bye Dark Souls II in day one, as i did buy Age of Empires II, Age of Mythology, Oblivion, and others, some years ago on Amazon.

  38. ChrisMidget says:

    What is interesting is how Left for dead 2 was free on Christmas Day, and not long after the sale ended it was in the top ten sellers. Personally I think this shows how often people go “my friend has this game, I am going to get it. ” So in the end sales can boost non sale sales

  39. Emeraude says:

    Something I’ve been pondering these past months: I’m thinking what our current state of perpetual sales has been hurting is the capacity to create and enforce tiered pricing for games – something I do believe we need.

    • InternetBatman says:

      It hasn’t really, the tiers are just where the average point of the sale curve is. Assuming quality remains constant, graphically simple game is going to have that average price lower than an indie with hi production values, which will be lower than a AA game, which will be lower than an AAA game. Price descends downwards with time, but at a certain point the bulk of sales has already happened. Consider the following progression (Hexagon, Braid, Don’t Starve, Skyrim). Of course, games of lower quality (either by age or by just lower quality) go into lower tiers, thus complicating things, but the tier system is still there, mostly invisible.

      I would guess it goes sub $2.50, $6, $9, $25.

  40. remoteDefecator says:

    I can understand why a developer might be apprehensive about the current phenomenon of Steam sales, but it’s going to take a lot more convincing before I’ll believe it’s harming me as a gamer. I’m able to buy a lot more games than I otherwise could.

  41. SquareWheel says:

    “Foremost, he fails to consider many ancillary benefits of sales. Big sales are events. They put older games back in the public eye. They encourage an “Aw, what the hell?” approach to purchasing. ”

    Jason somewhat covers this in the comments section of the Gamasutra article.

    “I saw a lot of this with Inside a Star-filled Sky after various Steam sales. People going WTF in the forums, and hating the game after buying it for cheap and only playing it briefly (I could see their hours played) because they paid so little for it.”

    • Urthman says:

      It’s pretty silly that he thinks people only played the game for a short time because it was cheap rather than because they didn’t like it.

      I guess Rohrer wants a world where people waste their time playing games they don’t really enjoy because they wasted all their money on that game and can’t afford to drop it and buy a different game they might actually enjoy.

      • Premium User Badge jrodman says:

        Well.. there is a thing where people put more value and thus like more products and things that they pay more money for. However, I’m not willing to chalk this circumstance up to those effects. I don’t feel I know really.

      • Kadayi says:

        If you spend £15 – 30 on a game..odds are you’re going to put some hours in because that’s a fair chunk of change, and you’re going to want to get your moneys worth. If you’ve spent peanuts…there’s less incentive to power through and a lacklustre beginning and you’re more likely to drop off than perserve. No doubt developers love money, but ideally I suspect they want people to play their product and enjoy it. If they don’t then they’re not going to recommend it or you to other players.

      • SquareWheel says:

        No, you’re reading it backward. Jason wants players that want to play. He doesn’t want people wasting money if they have no interest.

  42. shutter says:

    Rohrer’s about half right on this, but proper pricing strategy for games is pretty well figured out (the hard part is implementing the strategy in the face of short term goals) and it’s a bit weird for him to be putting this out there like he’s figured out something new.

    Game prices should go up as they get old, as the people buying old titles are looking for that specific game and aren’t price sensitive. But they should also get cheaper after launch but before it reaches its elder life stages (through price reductions and sales) as customers are trading off delaying their access to the game for a discount.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      So you would rather price yourself out of the market? Or are you taking about “up” in the case of Megadrive games being £3 on steam instead of the 0.50p they were 6 years ago?

      Would you get a consumer spending £3 on one Megadrive game at £3 each, or £9 worth at 0.50p each (assuming developer bundle, so they get the same cut)? High pricing could leave you with no sales, couldn’t it?

  43. treeroy says:

    Clearly, there has been a decrease in day-one purchases, because people wait for a sale to buy. But that’s not necessarily a problem, because the gains are so much bigger. He claims that most people who buy a game 50% off would have bought it at full price, and it’s just the minority who wouldn’t have. Not even that the minority are spontaneous buyers, but that the minority are people who ummed and arred about the game as well.

    That’s plain absurd.

  44. vecordae says:

    For what it’s worth (about two cents, apparently), here’s my two cents:

    1) PC video games, in general, do not maintain their initial value over time. In order for older titles to generate any revenue past their initial release, they need to have a purchase price in-line with their perceived value. This is especially true of big-budget titles, but almost a non-issue for lower-priced indie titles. Regardless, prices must be allowed to fall after a certain period of time, especially for expensive titles.

    2) Unless critically acclaimed, PC video games do not maintain market interest. Periodic sales for older titles serve to both remind the market that they exist and to show that the game’s moved to a lower price-point, even before the discount from the sale is applied. This is why Steam sales continue to generate revenue for a title even after the sale itself is over.

    3) Devs aren’t entitled to money. This isn’t an encouragement to piracy, rather a reminder that game development isn’t a closed system. The market fluctuates. The perceived value of (or at least the interest in) a dev’s product isn’t static. In order to get money, the devs or publishers need to work with that system. They need to be flexible as well.

    Just some thoughts.

  45. fish99 says:

    By having sales you’re picking up added revenue from the people who weren’t interested enough to buy the game at full price. We’ve all seen the stats from indie developers who picked up most of their revenue when their game was heavily discounted on a steam daily or in a humble bundle.

    Games don’t all have the same value to everyone. For example – Remember Me, an interesting game but the reviews reckon the combat is dull. I picked it up recently for £6. There’s no way I would have ever paid £30 for it.

    Having 75% off within 6 months, as we’re seeing quite often now, may be counter productive and teach people to wait, but that’s the impatient retailers fault. Honestly though I think sales add to total revenue, and have largely lead to the resurgence of the PC.

    As for people not playing games they pick up in sales, that’s partly because there’s *far* too many games for anyone to play now, and anyway isn’t that better than them not buying it at all? It’s not even true anyway, I’ve played plenty of games I picked up cheap.

  46. mattevansc3 says:

    Another issue with sales is the delayed payment aspect. Even if a developer sells three times as many games at half price thereby making more money they have to wait 6-9 months for that.

    Now if you are being bankrolled by a publisher its not as big an issue but if that game is your direct income a 6-9 month delay in getting your income can be devastating.

    • vecordae says:

      Fortunately, in most cases where the game’s sales go directly to the devs, the devs have the power to initiate a sale pretty much whenever they want.

  47. geldonyetich says:

    Personally, I look at the prices of games in terms of supply and demand. The supply is so extremely high for games these days, that a lot of people are giving them away for free. Obviously, if people can game for free, that means prices of games are going to go down as a whole.

    This is your average Facebook game, which actually captivates a ridiculously large audience compared to us core gamers. This is also the large deluge of flash games you can find scattered around the Internet as freely as weeds on abandoned lawns. To an extent, this is even the Apps you’ll find on iOS and Android devices, which are not always sold for a few bucks or quid, but sometimes simply given out to get noticed in this environment. (To say nothing for the rampant piracy on the PC platform that allows a lot of people to get their games for free, anyway.)

    If you want to make money making games for the PC these days, it’s usually a matter of changing your strategy.

    * The Facebook games that are making big money are doing so by first enticing players to play them and then encouraging them to engage in their own viral marketing on behalf of the game while gouging everyone with micro-transactions. (Casual gamers deserve no less.)

    * Your average MMORPG does something quite similar: get players hooked, then unleash the F2P micro-transactions (sometimes after a period of fleecing people who are somehow excited enough about this tired old genre to pay monthly subscriptions).

    * Minecraft, Garry’s Mod, and Team Fortress 2 are works of geniuses because their creators have basically devised means to put a yoke on the Internet itself, because players of these games might end up working for them, without pay, adding things that simply make their games worth playing; I sure don’t play Minecraft without mods anymore, do you? But even without mods, what else do you do in Minecraft except build cool things, creating the content Minecraft doesn’t come with on its own.

    * DOTA 2 is a cthulian beast that does all of the above.

    All of these games have one very important thing in common: they’re gated by an account login system that makes them that much harder to pirate.

    No doubt about it, the face of PC gaming is a bold new world, and nobody knows for sure what’s going to happen next. That’s technology for you.

  48. Atrocious says:

    “a secret deal for those who new about the game before anyone else”
    But what about the people who are not new about the game? Old people play games too.

  49. hideinlight says:

    How about a low to high to low
    $7 on early
    $10 on release
    $15 for 3-4 months
    $3.5 on sale (People apparently like that %75
    Then raise back to $7 back until back to $10 then down again.

    But there’s still a problem, for instance in the case of counterstrike, your be lucky to find someone on Steam Trade that would buy it for more than 2 keys atm. Once that special hits and people see it, but don’t have the funds at the time, they will simply refuse to buy it for a higher price.

    Once a game goes on sale, it loses it’s value perceived value permanently.

    • bjohndooh says:

      Well, particularly in Counter-Strike (and probably other multiplayer games) you also have the issue of cheaters and hackers buying up hundreds and hundreds of copies when it drops to a new low.

  50. SXO says:

    This is the same thing EA said about Steam sales long ago, and Gabe himself debunked it because he said the sales data hasn’t shown a drop in day-one sales and pre-orders. There are still plenty of people that want the games at release, and then there are more frugal people who simply do not want to spend full price on a game. I’m a mixture of both. Some games I’m fully willing to pay full price for, and I still pre-order quite a few, while others sit on my wishlist for months at a time waiting for a good pricepoint.
    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/174587/Steam_sales_How_deep_discounts_really_affect_your_games.php