Death To Middlemen: Dirty Dozen Sale Direct From Devs

By Graham Smith on August 24th, 2014 at 12:30 pm.

Cass picked up on this in yesterday’s Bargain Bucket, but it deserves a post of its own. Show Me The Games are currently running the Dirty Dozen sale in which a 12 games are substantially discounted. What makes it special? These are direct-from-the-developer discounts, meaning Show Me The Games isn’t taking a cut and every penny you pay goes to the people who actually made the games.

The games on offer include Gone Home, Frozen Synapse, Infested Planet, Democracy 3, and some game I’ve never heard of* called Sir, You Are Being Hunted. That’s a good haul.

Also included in the sale: Blackwell Epiphany, Revenge of the Titans, Defender’s Quest, Retro City Rampage, Bionic Dues, Beat Hazard Ultra, and Loren: The Amazon Princess. It’s a good selection of games, with each game discounted between 40% and 75%. We’ve written about almost all of these games at one point or another, but for my part I found Infested Planet compelling and thought Democracy 3 was a game about a brilliant menu.

Show Me The Games is run by Positech Games, Cliff Harris’ company and the makers of Democracy 3. Given the proliferation of discounts , it’s presumably handy for all involved to team up and market their sales together. It’s also nice, given how small a cut people often make from sales and bundles, to have an offer which delivers every penny to the people directly responsible for making the cool games.

At the time of writing, there’s a little under five days remaining on the offer. Take a look.

*To be clear, I have heard of it, and it’s made by our own Jim Rossignol’s game dev team, Big Robot.

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67 Comments »

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  1. elmuerte says:

    Humble Bundle isn’t a middleman?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yes, it is, but the on-site widgets only have a couple of percent margin.

    • Jake Birkett says:

      All payment providers e.g. BTM Micro, FastSpring, Paypal, take a small % and Humble Widget isn’t any different. It’s not the same as a portal taking 30% + (for their marketing services) though.

  2. rei says:

    Shouldn’t they be able to sell for less and not more since there’s no middleman? Or is this basically charity?

    • AngoraFish says:

      It’s certainly underwhelming that none of the discounts are particularly deep. If any of these prices were going to appeal, one might assume that one might have already taken the plunge given that these percentage discounts have been seen several times before.

      Also, I note that Sir conveniently appears front and centre on the screen grab.

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        That’s because of all the corruption.

        • Jason Moyer says:

          You either need to build more courthouses and police stations or to try switching your civ over to communism until you can move your palace closer to the center of your empire.

          • Ejia says:

            Crap, I already built the Forbidden Palace on the same continent!

        • AngoraFish says:

          You don’t have to be actively “on the take” to have a conflict of interest, and it’s a pretty standard ethical principle that the perception of conflict of interest is, for most practical day-to-day purposes, effectively the same thing.

          Still, I don’t need to explain journalistic ethics here since it’s clear that the concern is understood, it’s just not something that RPS thinks should actually apply to them – per the snarky, insincere disclaimer included towards the start of the majority of articles about Sir.

          • Bull0 says:

            Isn’t it generally undisclosed conflicts of interest that people get bent out of shape about? When everyone’s up front about it you know to exercise the correct level of skepticism in what you’re reading, etc, but you’re left to take things at face value if it’s undisclosed.

          • Jim Rossignol says:

            None of those disclaimers were snarky or insincere. Go read, they’re on the site. Flippant, maybe, and I know that is a crime in many countries – Oh god I’m doing it again!

          • pepperfez says:

            SHAME ON YOU

          • MobileAssaultDuck says:

            There is a disturbing amount of arguing going on in the comments for a post that was basically “Hey, cheap games that support the devs!”

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            keithzg says:

            Flippancy is endangering our children!

        • Greggh says:

          It’s because one of the editors has been LITERALLY sleeping with himself.

          Jim, honest question: you still do anything for castle RPS?? Long time no see!!

      • Bull0 says:

        Careful, almost cut myself on that edge.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    That’s a rather annoying website, just listing percentage-off figures and not actual prices to accompany them.

    Also, they’re still trying to flog Gone Home on people for that much money? They’ve got some cheek, those Fullbright guys.

    • JFS says:

      Gone Home was sold by GOG for 5 or 6 bucks on release, two weeks ago. That was a good price. The MSRP of 19.99$ is ridiculous. And I really liked the game…

      • toxic avenger says:

        Isn’t this about supporting the developers? Oh, no one in here is really interested in doing so? *Sigh* Carry on, I suppose.

        • The First Door says:

          Sadly most people stopped giving a crap about actually supporting developers a while ago. Actually, that’s perhaps unfair. Perhaps I should say: Many of the most vocal commenters stopped (or never started) giving a crap about actually supporting developers.

          • MobileAssaultDuck says:

            For the purpose of devil’s advocate:

            Since when does supporting something mean paying more than something is worth?

            Isn’t it part of the responsibility of the product creator to ensure the product is priced at a point that most people would find fair?

            This is especially true in an age where outright theft of a product is a viable and easy alternative to purchasing.

          • sinister agent says:

            I think most people also like to support having food and a home and other things in their life.

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          princec says:

          Well, therein lies a bit of a problem. It turns out that stuff takes an awful lot more time and money to make than consumers really realise. Even stuff that looks simple.

    • bill says:

      Maybe it’s an annoying website because they didn’t want to pay the middlemen web designers to design it.

  4. Tei says:

    Gamer Problems: I want to support this, but I already own the titles listed here that I have a interest

  5. Premium User Badge

    The King K says:

    Infested Planet is splattery fun. Reminds me a bit of Creeper World, but less static (and so far, the missions are quicker).
    Democracy 3 is also a lot of fun, both in winning and failing. I consider it a mark of honor to have been assassinated by the religious zealots.

    • Jake Birkett says:

      +1 it’s a really great game, highly recommended and easily worth it at full price let alone on sale. Many hours of fun.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Trinnet says:

    What we learn from this is somewhat counterintuitive: Middlemen appear to save consumers money.

    For example, last month “Sir, you are being hunted” was on sale for $5. Now, with the middlemen cut out, the sale price is $10. “Revenge of the titans” – $1 with middlemen, $3.74 without. The trend appears consistent across all games in the sale.

    The natural assumption would be that if developers received all of the proceeds, the sale price would be lower than – or at least match – the sale price when developers only receive a portion of the proceeds. So why isn’t it?

    * Is it that the cost of the infrastructure to take payments, provide keys, support, etc is simply higher for a small company?
    * Is it that steam’s dominance allows them to push prices down lower than developers are comfortable with?
    * Is it that the data shows people buying outside of steam will just be willing to pay more?
    * When estate agents sell their own homes, they tend to ask for a higher price than when selling on behalf of someone else – is something similar happening here?

    Developers are understandably not always keen to talk about pricing, but the fact that Jim’s involved in this might give us an opportunity to understand the reasons for this.

    • Bull0 says:

      Pretty sure it’s the second one? Recent events have definitely made me think more about sales. Well, specifically, the guy from Puppygames’ mega-rant in response to this: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/08/18/puppygames-battledroid-basingstoke/

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Well from my point of view it’s more just a litmus test to see what a direct-sales sale will do. Direct sales are so limited now that I had no idea what to expect from this, so a standard sort of discount seemed like a good way to see what it would do.

      • BletchleyGeek says:

        A few honest questions, Jim. Of course, feel free to ignore them.

        1) These prices are really crazy. To me only make sense under one (or both) of the following conditions:

        a) The game has already covered development expenses. Further sales are just icing on the cake.
        b) The game is about to receive some form of DLC expansion – which isn’t discounted. It makes sense to lower the entry price so to increase the reach of the expansions.

        2) Don’t you think that we’re seeing a price war? Aren’t you worried by the economics of these deep discounts? I mean, undercutting “publishers” royalty cuts (between a 20% to a 40%, depending on the publisher) can make sense. But here I’m seeing discounts of over a 50%. This looks a bit like dumping. Which I think it is something that a major retailer like Tesco can afford to do. But I reckon that as a producer, a totally out of control race to the bottom can’t be good (but it is true that Valve was perhaps the first one starting the race). The bottom line is that expenses need to be covered (salaries, promotion, art), so as an indie developer, I am at a loss at seeing what’s the sense of doing such deep cuts, unless I can break it even. I am aware of the strategy where ones tries to increase volume decreasing the entry price, but I think that the odds of sales volume to soar to sufficient levels may be quite long for some titles. Especially “niche” stuff like Democracy 3, which at least on Steam

        http://steamcharts.com/app/245470

        looks like having an audience numbering on the thousands at best.

        • toxic avenger says:

          Oh, how you dance so eloquently around your answer!

          • BletchleyGeek says:

            I do appreciate the old 1930s Busby Berkeley dance routines, FWIW. And you didn’t even try to answer, even if the question wasn’t directed at you. Cheers!

    • Jake Birkett says:

      I really don’t understand this mentality: “It was once on sale cheaper somewhere else than it is today in the SMTG sale therefore I am dissatisfied, even if it is no longer on sale at that other place.”

      Sales are like opportunities; when they occur if you have the money, are interested in the game, and the discount is right for you, you buy it. If not, you wait for another sale. OR you buy it full price if you are fan of the dev and want to help them out (I’ve done that plenty of times.)

      Really what should be compared is full price, not discounted prices. If the direct sale full price is the same as say the full price on Steam you know that the dev is getting more money, which is nice. The devs could sell for less on their own site but if they go too low then they’d be making less money than selling on the portals, which would defeat the point. Also some portals don’t like devs selling for less on their own site and have a clause in their contract that they can match the lowest price elsewhere.

      Devs could even sell for MORE on their own site and hope that customers like supporting them (like with kickstarter etc) so that they can keep on making games, but I suspect most people, especially the bargain hunters, would not groove that that.

      At the end of the day, selling direct isn’t “to save customers money”, it’s to help the devs a) keep more of the sale price due to cutting out middlemen and b) help build up a fan base who they can keep informed of future games/sales etc. Expecting devs to undercut the portals and sell cheaply on their own sites just so the customers get a better deal, even if it means the devs get peanuts and eventually go under and stop making games, is frankly selfish if you ask me – it’s a product of the entitled gamer generation expecting everything now and everything free. /rant

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        Llewyn says:

        There’s no mention of dissatisfaction and Trinnet’s questions are interesting (and, if he’s the Trinnet I once knew elsewhere, almost certainly interested) ones in the wider discussion of indie games pricing, a discussion that many indie games devs participate in (including, I’m fairly sure, Cliff Harris).

        As you say, sales are opportunities. Personally I’ve had the opportunity to buy many of these at lower prices. Some I’ve bought (and some of them at much higher prices with no dissatisfaction), others I haven’t. As a potential customer, if I’ve passed on the opportunity to buy at one price there’s relatively little incentive to buy at a higher price from a different source. The knowledge that the creator receives a higher percentage might be enough to tip me into a purchase at the same price, without the need for an even deeper cut.

        Of course, these opportunities will be new to some potential buyers, and perhaps that’s the market being targeted in this sale. Or, as in Jim’s case, it’s all largely experimentation. But nonetheless these are interesting questions, and the discussion of them potentially provides interesting information to devs looking into direct selling.

        • Jake Birkett says:

          Yes that’s true there is no dissatisfaction voiced by the OP, although I have seen that same thought pattern voiced with dissatisfaction elsewhere and that is why I flew off the handle. Apologies.

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            Llewyn says:

            It’s no problem. I thought the rest of your comment was a constructive part of the debate in any case.

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          Trinnet says:

          Yep, same Trinnet!

          And as you say, I’m not dissatisfied, I’m just interested in how game/sale prices are arrived at, and from Cliffski’s previous comments and blogposts we know it’s something he puts a lot of thought into, so it seems likely those answers will be interesting.

    • Blackcompany says:

      For games in which I have an interest, I would rather pay the developer $10 than the middleman $5. Sure, I dont save as much. But if we all – all of us, mind you – continue with only ever paying the bargain basement prices for indie titles, how many indie devs will be able to afford to feed themselves and their families on their revenue? To say nothing of making enough money to avoid Early Access and Kickstarter for their every single title.

      • moocow says:

        If all of us continue paying bargain basement prices for indie games, then more devs will be able to afford feed their families.

        People aren’t spending less on games. People are spending, in total, more on indie games than ever before.

        The economic problems of indie devs are not sale prices “devaluing” games, nor of middlemen taking a 30% cut (including payment processing, and free distribution of your game for all those sales where you cut out the middleman but still gave the customer a steam key)

        The problem is simple: there are exponentially more developers and more games than ever before.

        • Shuck says:

          ” People are spending, in total, more on indie games than ever before.”
          The problem is that the money is spread between a much larger pool of developers than before. When each game is priced such that (the average indie game sales number) x (ridiculously low retail cost) = (completely unsustainable amount of revenue per developer), it doesn’t matter if it’s more than before. It’s true that any game will get sales when sold for a dollar, so a game that might have not made any appreciable number of sales at a higher price point is getting more revenue. But between per-customer costs (e.g. tech support) and the fact that it’s still not enough money to support the developer, they’ve simply gone from a hobby developer to a failed commercial developer; meanwhile it’s cutting into the revenue of other games that could have gotten sales at a higher price point.

          • Jake Birkett says:

            Yeah it’s super-crowded and only the fittest will survive. There’s going to be a lot of indies looking for regular jobs soon.

          • moocow says:

            I have a problem with it being described as “cutting into” the revenues of others. It’s a question of the nature of markets, supply and demand.

            I don’t consider it a problem so much as the reality of the market. Low barriers to entry, many skilled workers, massive globalised digital sales potential with essentially zero incremental sales costs (developers can point to customer support, and often do as it’s literally the only plausible incremental cost, but I think it’s a cost that can be largely mitigated).

            There is only one result, and that’s a market that will in the long run always have slightly more developers and games than the market can bear, because the perceived benefits of independence and passions of developers frequently outweigh the risks, and there’s always a chance you’ll win the lottery.

            So the question, if we accept there will always be more developers than can get paid enough, is: would people spend in sum total more on indie games if prices were higher? I don’t think so, but I’m sure people can make a plausible economic argument the other way.

          • Shuck says:

            @Jake Birkett: That’s not particularly new – most games have always failed. What’s new is that the finances are so screwy that even the “successes” won’t necessarily survive.
            @moocow: Well, by dropping the prices as low as Valve routinely have, the dynamics have totally changed. Say you have $40 in your entertainment budget to spend on buying games. When games are $40, you pick the game most appealing to you and buy only that. When games are a buck or two, you buy that game you wanted but also make impulse purchases (and so maybe you exceed your budget and buy $50 worth of games, now, instead of $40), and those impulse purchases include some garbage, because it doesn’t matter (especially since you’re not likely to play them, either, because who has the time?). Junk that made very little money before, because few people were going to splash out $40 for it is now making as much as anyone else. The market hasn’t grown that much (and player have only so much time to play games), so the maximum number of copies you’re going to sell hasn’t change much, which means that by radically dropping prices, you’ve perhaps increased the minimum revenue you’re likely to get from a game, but decreased the maximum potential take, perhaps by quite a bit. Since you need to target the widest possible potential audience, that also means spending more porting to as many platforms as possible (with each platform netting less), and with each platform increasing the odds of having to provide tech support (that you can’t afford to give). If you were successfully selling $40 games before this change, it’s hard not to see this new pricing model (more than competitors) as cutting into revenue.
            Since the market is essentially working to make traditional PC games worthless, you either end up selling cheap games in bundles that you hope no one will ever play, or you go the route of exploitative free-to-play games in response if you want to be more than a hobby developer.

        • toxic avenger says:

          Man, I need chloroform to lie to myself that much.

          • TechnicalBen says:

            What? From what I’ve seen, sales numbers from most companies show people are spending more than ever before (except for declines due to economic ups and downs).

            Peoples disposable income tends not to change much. What changes is people spend less on your product. Case in point, the shop I work at. People will buy something regardless, it’s just if they get it from us or the chain store down the road (they think they spend “less” but 9/10 they get what they pay for and end up paying more some other way).

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Not all devs are equal, and not all sales are either.
      Some devs have sold games at less or at more, middlemen or not.

  7. Doctor Coque says:

    Picked Loren the Amazon Princess. Put off by the art style but I heard good things of its writing so I reckon it’s worth the 10€.

    • JFS says:

      It looks like cartoon softporn. I don’t like it a bit. Even the guys have bare midriff armour.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      I admire it for the things it’s getting a very limited engine to do, but that’s about it. I tried the demo and thought the art was passable and the writing mediocre at best. I see far more interesting visual novels being given away for free on the Ren’Py forums – sure, they may not have hundreds of items/monsters/whatever, but that’s really not what wins me over.

  8. CookPassBabtridge says:

    There needs to be a DLC pack set in a traditional British pub, featuring Lords / gentry drinking too much port. The aim is to serve them enough booze to get their manservants to express their concern. It can be called “Sir, you are getting *unted”

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Bud-dum-tsch!

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Heh I’ve been getting a lot of online badumtishes lately :) :( Ever since The Chamomile Lawn, I’ve found posh people using foul language hilarious. I once ruined a very serious London play in front of 1000 people due to that. Sniggered at a moment where I oughtn’t have sniggered. Whole theatre turned to stare. An actor tutted. We left. It was very British.

  9. iainl says:

    These are all very good arguments. But an even simpler one is that if you wanted to buy it straight from Steam at that lower price then you probably should have done, like I did.

    Having missed the opportunity, I guess you’ll have to either take or leave today’s offer.

  10. DRoseDARs says:

    I declare shenanigans. I’m interested in Democracy 3. Steam has it listed for $24.99 (not currently on sale). Going direct, Positech Games has it listed for… $24.95. It claims 75% off, but getting through the process up to Reviewing your information on PayPal, it still says $24.95. So either this game is $74.85 regular (it’s not) or the 75% off is a baldfaced lie.

    • dE says:

      I declare greater blindness on your part. Just click the bloody “Buy Now” Button on the DirtyDozen Site and it takes you to the lowered price. What you’re doing is going to their website, leaving the site that offers the deal and then complain about it not offering the deal.

      • DRoseDARs says:

        I would thank you, but you decided to be an ass about correcting me.

        • dE says:

          So you’re just mad I pointed out that you were going off on a rampage because you looked in the wrong place? Alright, gotcha.

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            Jalan says:

            If that’s what constitutes a rampage, I’d hate to see that individual post when they’re really upset.

          • DRoseDARs says:

            @Jalan
            It would involve prodigious use of explicatives and many references of doing unspeakable things to and with plushies…

  11. subedii says:

    I’m going to “do my part” and recommend Infested Planet. Very nice little strategy game, very different from most other strategy games. You regularly see yourself battling back and forth with the bugs on each map, losing the advantage one minute and being pushed back, then suddenly having a breakout moment as you adapt and change to the circumstances, or pull off a risky raid that takes the pressure off your flank, or even just remember an ability you had been forgetting about until now.

    There’s a heavy emphasis on on-the-fly strategy, with the battles ebbing forwards and backwards as you advance, gain ground, the aliens adapt, force you back, and you desperately try not to loose too much whilst they counter-attack and frequently circumvent your previous strategies. You can gain momentum, but so can the enemy, and the game has a lot of scope for turn-arounds from dire circumstances with the right play (which applies just as much to the enemy often times).

    All in all, I definitely recommend it, especially if you’re looking for something a little different from the standard RTS or squad level tactical game.

  12. Viceroy Choy says:

    Finally bought ‘Sir’ :D

  13. bill says:

    I’m not sure I like the dismissal of middlemen.

    I assume most middlemen exist because they provide some kind of useful service or add some kind of useful value. Otherwise we would buy every product direct from the maker, which we almost never do.

    It’s also worth pointing out that middlemen positions create jobs. Whether it be web designers, managers, salespeople, customer support people or whatever. Plus the middlemen provide important things like credit card payments (which in turn creates more jobs).

    If we went fully down the path of no middlemen then we’d probably have a lot less customers too.

    Case-in-point: both that site and RPS could do with a decent full time web designer/developer. But they’d have to pay someone for that..

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      princec says:

      That’s not really the position of a “middleman” though, that’s an actual “worker”. A middleman is someone whose sole business is basically connecting two parties by being in the middle. Sometimes this is an advantage – such as when it’s hard for two parties to actually find each other. Sometimes it’s just parasitism. You might think it’s creating jobs, but in reality it’s monopoly power creating bloodsucking parasites that simply live off of the toil of others whilst simulteneously keeping the two parties from connecting directly once they’ve found each other. That’s when middlemen become gatekeepers.

      I think Alan Sugar once said the art of good business was being a good middleman.

      • Tei says:

        He guys, this guy is the author of the mini-GL library for java that Notch used to make Minecraft.
        I know that, because I have spies everywhere. This person is awesome x 1000.

        If you love Minecraft, send some love to him too, as he is one of these names that helped made it possible.