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View Full Version : Games' price: let's rap



Giaddon
02-11-2011, 06:33 PM
As we all know, games are simultaneously getting more expensive to buy and cheaper to buy. At the same time as we are seeing new games retailing for $60, we are also getting more, and better, deals on everything from old games to pre-orders. I myself pre-ordered Battlefield 3 for $42 from Amazon, a savings of around $20, (an amount which itself could buy me 4+ games)

The recent Indie Royale bundle made my jaw drop--Gemini Rue, Sanctum, ARES and Nimbus for ~$2?! When I bought Gemini Rue alone it cost me $15 (a fine price, by the way).

What do we think of this? Is this good? Bad? For whom? And why?

Perhaps most importantly, how does it change the way we think about and play games? Backlogs (including my own) are groaning under the weight of games bought on sale and thrown to the bottom of the pile, perhaps never to be played. Is the cost trivializing games?

I want to hear your thoughts!

Wizardry
02-11-2011, 06:35 PM
It's terrible in my opinion. Why? Because niche indie games are also expected to be dirt cheap like the easy-to-make gimmicky platformers, even though their target market is far smaller.

vinraith
02-11-2011, 06:42 PM
I tend to think the drive towards cheap games serves to make them more disposable to most gamers. A huge backlog means that deep games are unlikely to ever be explored at any depth, long games are unlikely to ever be finished. If there's no profit in lengthy, deep titles then there's no sense in spending the resources to make them, so the entire movement pushes the industry more and more towards disposable fluff.

I'm rapidly reaching the conclusion that anything that's really worth taking the time to play is worth more to me than $5, so I probably shouldn't be buying games at that price point (at least not very often). Instead, I'm making it a point to buy fewer games at higher prices, actively supporting developers that make substantial games that I enjoy without filling my backlog with unplayed detritus.

Wizardry
02-11-2011, 06:49 PM
I'm rapidly reaching the conclusion that anything that's really worth taking the time to play is worth more to me than $5, so I probably shouldn't be buying games at that price point (at least not very often). Instead, I'm making it a point to buy fewer games at higher prices, actively supporting developers that make substantial games that I enjoy without filling my backlog with unplayed detritus.
That's a good idea. I think I may adopt that policy too.

Unaco
02-11-2011, 06:52 PM
I'm cool with it. the 30-40 for a new release has been the standard almost as long as I've been gaming (Amstrad CPC tapes where a couple , but from my Mega-Drive/Genesis days new games have always been that 30-40 price... mostly 39.99). If anything, I'd say they were getting cheaper, what with the Internet and the multitude of retailers you can shop round and search... and, then you have those retailers trying to get your business, so they're competing with extras and reductions.

I'm cool with the price for Indie games as well. It can net them massive numbers of sales, because it's not that big a purchase. With things like Steam, and the internet in general, where a deal can be announced and go 'viral' in a few hours, they can get ridiculous numbers of sales (look at something like Terraria, which was top seller on Steam for a week or a couple weeks). And, I can buy games that I would never even consider picking up if they were in the 30-40 range.

Kaira-
02-11-2011, 06:54 PM
That's a good idea. I think I may adopt that policy too.

Yeah, personally I've also moved to that. I have too many unplayed games already, no point in collecting more just for having them. If I want to play something, 5-20$ is dirt cheap for that.

thegooseking
02-11-2011, 06:57 PM
As I said in another thread, games at $60 weren't unheard of (even if they were rare) 20 years ago, and we've seen about 70% inflation since then.

TillEulenspiegel
02-11-2011, 06:57 PM
It's terrible in my opinion. Why? Because niche indie games are also expected to be dirt cheap like the easy-to-make gimmicky platformers, even though their target market is far smaller.
To an extent that's true. But I also think that a lot of people are still willing to pay for quality, especially if it's something they really want and there's no close substitute.

At least for the moment, I think you're still safe targeting $20-25 if you've got a big, unique game. M&B Warband is $30 without a sale. I'd guess they've sold more than a few copies at that price.

Cable
02-11-2011, 07:07 PM
I'm not so sure about it either but I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. I think it's making gaming, at least on the pc, more accessible. Being as I am a student I would be playing far less games than I am now if they all stuck to the old pricing regime. Cheaper games have allowed me to take more risks when i'm buying games and to broaden my tastes which i wouldn't have done otherwise as it would have been too expensive.

I understand what you mean about devaluing games by them being incredibly cheap but we can still value them even if they are not a large financial investment, there is still the time you spend playing them. I think there is a risk of the lower prices influencing our feelings about games but it's only a risk.

I think the beauty of digital downloads is that it does cost nearly nothing to sell a game so they can go cheaper and sell more copies and still make sufficient profit. Isn't it better that more people get to play, since really isn't that what it's all about? helping more people to enjoy and value one of our chosen hobbies and allowing us to do the same.

Anthile
02-11-2011, 07:12 PM
As a German, I tend to see that a bit different. Publishers love to do the $=€ conversion so I always look for the cheapest deals, import games, buying keys and good old smuggling. Indie developers do that too though I suspect that is more due to carelessness and having an external pay service instead of corporate greed.

Wizardry
02-11-2011, 07:20 PM
To an extent that's true. But I also think that a lot of people are still willing to pay for quality, especially if it's something they really want and there's no close substitute.

At least for the moment, I think you're still safe targeting $20-25 if you've got a big, unique game. M&B Warband is $30 without a sale. I'd guess they've sold more than a few copies at that price.
Yes, some people are willing to pay $20 for an indie game, just not that many. Why pay $20 for a large and complex indie game when you have hundreds of varied $1 indie games installed but untouched from various Steam deals?

CrinnyCow
02-11-2011, 07:24 PM
I think it's (for the most part) totally fine in both regards. I buy new games and I buy indie games. Lets face it, most indie games aren't going to stand a chance in hell if they release for 20-25 dollars. By nature the indie game demographic is smaller, but it increases exponentially when the game reaches a price point at or lower than $10. If developers weren't making money off of these kinds of deals I promise they would not be happening.

While some users may see these games as "throw aways" those users are the people who would not have even bothered with the game if they didn't get it that cheap meaning they are, as Valve would call it, "unexpected income". This is earning more money for the indie dev which will yield bigger budget games.

As for the more expensive games, even disregarding inflation, I believe the number of people who feel they are still worth the money has not decreased at all. The people willing to spend that amount of money will, and the people who don't feel it's worth that much will wait for a price drop. It's as simple as that.

Nalano
02-11-2011, 07:38 PM
Considering that, once a game has been made, it can be infinitely reproduced at practically no cost, any price point is almost completely arbitrary.

Althea
02-11-2011, 07:49 PM
Put it this way - Minecraft is expensive for what it is, but at the same price, Battlefield 3 would be cheap.

I look at the price of a game and what you get, especially as I'm on a budget.

Warskull
02-11-2011, 07:56 PM
As I said in another thread, games at $60 weren't unheard of (even if they were rare) 20 years ago, and we've seen about 70% inflation since then.

Since the days of Nintedo/Genesis, the market has grown up. People have a taste for quality and value now. I'm fine with paying $60 for a game if the game is truly worthy of the $60 price tag. Only so many games can live in that $60 price space and I have skipped plenty of games because they were too expensive to take a risk on.

There is a huge amount of evidence that most games are overpriced. Look at steam rake in the cash with steam sales and look at the used game market. Are you the next big hit in an established franchise, then yeah you can get away with $60. Are you a new untested franchise, then releasing for less than $60 would probably be to your benefit. Gamers can only buy so many $60 games and if you aren't on their list and try to sell yourself for $60 you will get choked out of the market. Mirror's edge is a great example of this, it didn't do great at release because it was an unknown $60 title being crammed into the Christmas rush.

Valve is practically screaming at people "sell your games for less and you make more money!" What game market needs is flexibility in pricing.

sinister agent
02-11-2011, 07:57 PM
Lower prices mean more net profit for the makers. It's hardly news, but the big publishers have historically been such fuckwits about it that they'll never admit it. Fortunately, a few companies have started to figure it out.

Heliocentric
02-11-2011, 08:10 PM
I'm probably an economic extremist and exist on some government watchlist but between indie royale, humble bundle and obcene-o sales on digital stores the concept of spending more than a fraction of nothing is obscene to me.

TillEulenspiegel
02-11-2011, 08:19 PM
Why pay $20 for a large and complex indie game when you have hundreds of varied $1 indie games installed but untouched from various Steam deals?
Because the $1 games are almost invariably shit, that's why. You can definitely buy some good games for $5 on sale, but that's as low as it usually goes.

If you want to charge more, you have to make something unique that offers experiences you can't get anywhere else. I know Minecraft is the exception to all rules blah blah (bullshit - it's an example, learn from it), but it rather neatly demonstrates that millions of people will gladly pay 10-15 Euro for quality and originality. The games you actually want to play are worth more than stuff you shovel in bulk from the bargain bin and never play. Anything that I'm going to sink 50+ hours into has earned a premium.

vinraith
02-11-2011, 08:23 PM
The games you actually want to play are worth more than stuff you shovel in bulk from the bargain bin and never play. Anything that I'm going to sink 50+ hours into has earned a premium.

Amen. Consequently, if you can suppress the defect of human psychology that causes you to buy cheap shit you'll never play, you can save money, avoid developing a huge backlog of crap, and have more money to spend supporting games that actually matter to you. What's surprising is that, even knowing all that, it's difficult to fight down the "oooh, cheap games!" instinct.

archonsod
02-11-2011, 08:41 PM
Amen. Consequently, if you can suppress the defect of human psychology that causes you to buy cheap shit you'll never play, you can save money, avoid developing a huge backlog of crap, and have more money to spend supporting games that actually matter to you.

To be honest it seems like a sort of reverse effect these days. The games costing 40 (i.e. most AAA titles) don't actually appeal that much, while there's a fair few indies coming out at the sub 10 mark which actually look interesting and worth playing.

Which is fine for me since it seems the game market has the pricing the wrong way around - innovative, interesting and fun games are low priced, cheap clones of whatever the last big game was are full priced. And long may it continue.

Admittedly, I'm not happy with the price of Modern Warfare and the like, but then until the price includes someone smashing a brick into your balls for 12 hours upon purchase I doubt I ever will be.

vinraith
02-11-2011, 08:44 PM
To be honest it seems like a sort of reverse effect these days. The games costing 40 (i.e. most AAA titles) don't actually appeal that much, while there's a fair few indies coming out at the sub 10 mark which actually look interesting and worth playing.

Which is fine for me since it seems the game market has the pricing the wrong way around - innovative, interesting and fun games are low priced, cheap clones of whatever the last big game was are full priced. And long may it continue.

Admittedly, I'm not happy with the price of Modern Warfare and the like, but then until the price includes someone smashing a brick into your balls for 12 hours upon purchase I doubt I ever will be.

To be clear, I'm talking about paying, say, $30 for the new Achtung Panzer instead of $5 for the latest big name shooter to hit the bargain ditch price point. I bought Bronze the other day from Shrapnel for $30 and am happier with that purchase than I have been with any $5 sales item purchase I've made this year. My tastes don't run towards the kinds of indie games that start out super-cheap. The least expensive "full price" purchases of that kind of made were things like AI War for $20 and Revenge of the Titans for $15, both of which were great buys.

Heliocentric
02-11-2011, 08:46 PM
Amen. Consequently, if you can suppress the defect of human psychology that causes you to buy cheap shit you'll never play, you can save money, avoid developing a huge backlog of crap, and have more money to spend supporting games that actually matter to you. What's surprising is that, even knowing all that, it's difficult to fight down the "oooh, cheap games!" instinct.
To hell with the "sales are bad" attitude, I got 2 games I really wanted "blocks that matter" and "the binding of issac" for $5, I don't buy every $2 piece of junk, I have an awesome cheaply acquired backlog, long live the golden age.

Heliocentric
02-11-2011, 08:48 PM
stuff.

Wizardry, are you ashamed that he burned your strawman and didn't realise?

Wizardry
02-11-2011, 08:55 PM
Because the $1 games are almost invariably shit, that's why. You can definitely buy some good games for $5 on sale, but that's as low as it usually goes.

If you want to charge more, you have to make something unique that offers experiences you can't get anywhere else. I know Minecraft is the exception to all rules blah blah (bullshit - it's an example, learn from it), but it rather neatly demonstrates that millions of people will gladly pay 10-15 Euro for quality and originality. The games you actually want to play are worth more than stuff you shovel in bulk from the bargain bin and never play. Anything that I'm going to sink 50+ hours into has earned a premium.
You've missed the point. This is nothing to do with how I spend my money, nor is it anything to do with how you spend your money.

If a small group of game developers spend a couple of years creating a complex game that sits in a niche genre, they expect the smaller audience to pay a decent amount for it. But you are assuming that all fans of that genre are like you and I and would be willing to spend $20 on it. It's just not true. Even hardcore CRPG players can't justify spending however much money Spiderweb games cost because other games in other genres they play are much cheaper, as well as AAA games in the same genre. Also, long games compete with long AAA games for the time of gamers.

vinraith
02-11-2011, 08:59 PM
To hell with the "sales are bad" attitude, I got 2 games I really wanted "blocks that matter" and "the binding of issac" for $5, I don't buy every $2 piece of junk, I have an awesome cheaply acquired backlog, long live the golden age.

To each their own, Helio. For me, sales generally ARE bad. They prompt me to buy things I don't play (the two games you mention would, for me, fall clearly into that category), and create a backlog of detritus that is, frankly, an embarrassment. It's entirely my own fault, of course, but I'm never buying another game just because it's cheap and "I might want to play it later." No, no I fucking won't.

Better to pay $30 for a game I'll enjoy for many, many hours than buy 6 $5 games I'll never or barely play.

Althea
02-11-2011, 09:08 PM
The thing for me with indies is that pound-for-pound, I'm taking a bigger risk.

With Sanctum, it largely paid off. I got an enjoyable game that I've no regrets about buying, even if I don't play it all that much. But with Eschalon Book II? I spent however much it was (8 in a sale, I think) on a game that I just couldn't get into, and one that I felt wasn't good value for money. It wasn't a bad game, just one I didn't get much use out of.

I spent 10 on Dawn of War 2, and got a lot of value out of it. I spent 10 on Anno 1404, and the same. 6 on The Settlers 6. Thanks to the UK's love of budget labels and some patience, I'm by far outstripping indies in value for money.

I look at Minecraft, and he's charging, what, $15? I'm not paying $15 for an unfinished game, especially considering how Notch has been with certain legal cases. I don't see Minecraft as a $15 value, I see it at about $5.

deano2099
03-11-2011, 01:02 AM
The least expensive "full price" purchases of that kind of made were things like AI War for $20 and Revenge of the Titans for $15, both of which were great buys.
And I also enjoyed both those titles but picked them up for half that in sales. I wasn't sure I would like them, so I waited until the price was one I was okay with taking a risk on.

I take a bit of an issue with your stance as I see it as a bit depressing. Because the problem is, it's dependent on having perfect information. It's dependent on making a choice on whether you'll like a game based on reading about it rather than playing it (obviously, exception is games with demos). Take The Binding of Isaac. I think I'll hate it. I think it'll be too hard for me. So I didn't buy it. But I'll probably pick it up in this new bundle and I'll try it. Maybe I won't like it and never go back to it. Probably. But maybe it'll surprise me.

Thing is, yes this new pricing devalues games and makes them disposable. Is that such a bad thing? If everyone discards 70% of what they buy after having a quick go on it, is that really so bad? Because they'll treasure and value the other 30%. And everyone's 30% will be different. At these crazy sale prices and bundle prices, I can just *try* stuff. Stuff I wouldn't touch at full price. And sometimes I'm really pleasantly surprised. I picked up Alpha Protocol for 5 and bloody loved it and tell everyone about why they should try it whenever they get the chance. Five years ago it'd never fell below the 10 mark and I'd likely have never played it. The fact I paid 5 for it doesn't devalue it at all.


I tend to think the drive towards cheap games serves to make them more disposable to most gamers. A huge backlog means that deep games are unlikely to ever be explored at any depth, long games are unlikely to ever be finished. If there's no profit in lengthy, deep titles then there's no sense in spending the resources to make them, so the entire movement pushes the industry more and more towards disposable fluff.
Then start making episodic content. Really. I'm surprised this is still such a mountain to climb. Instead of making your epic 120-hour RPG for $40, sell me the first 10 hours and 10 levels for $5 then go work on the next batch of stuff. The only things that really suffer here are open-world games. Anything linear or narrative-driven can be done episodically.


The thing for me with indies is that pound-for-pound, I'm taking a bigger risk.

With Sanctum, it largely paid off. I got an enjoyable game that I've no regrets about buying, even if I don't play it all that much. But with Eschalon Book II? I spent however much it was (8 in a sale, I think) on a game that I just couldn't get into, and one that I felt wasn't good value for money. It wasn't a bad game, just one I didn't get much use out of.

I spent 10 on Dawn of War 2, and got a lot of value out of it. I spent 10 on Anno 1404, and the same. 6 on The Settlers 6. Thanks to the UK's love of budget labels and some patience, I'm by far outstripping indies in value for money.
I don't see why it's a bigger risk? Eschalon Book II is a huge game so this can't be about playtime. Surely you can see that somewhere out there there is bound to be someone who bought those same games and loved Eschalon but couldn't get into Anno 1404.

Yes, commercial games drop to indie prices in sales eventually, but indie games drop to tiny prices in sales too.

vinraith
03-11-2011, 01:59 AM
Thing is, yes this new pricing devalues games and makes them disposable. Is that such a bad thing? If everyone discards 70% of what they buy after having a quick go on it, is that really so bad? Because they'll treasure and value the other 30%And the makers of the 30% you treasure will make the same money from you as the makers of the 70% you disposed of. This strikes me as a bad thing.

I understand entirely where you are coming from, I really do, but I think the effect of it is to surrender the impact of "voting with your wallet." The only alternative here is to make a point of double-purchasing any $5 game you find and truly love. I've certainly done that in the past (I've bought AI War three times, for example), and it's certainly an alternative viable strategy to the same ends. It'll cost you a fortune, though, and you'll still end up with a Steam list full of crap. If you're ok with that, you're ok with it. I'm not.

I'll still end up gambling, indeed I'll be gambling bigger, but not buying $5 games means not buying games I never really thought I'd like anyway. Those make up a major part of the backlog, "outside chance" purchases that should never have been made, and never would have been at a higher price point. I'd rather take fewer gambles at higher prices, because they'll tend to be smarter gambles. Again, your mileage may vary.


Then start making episodic content. Really. I'm surprised this is still such a mountain to climb. Instead of making your epic 120-hour RPG for $40, sell me the first 10 hours and 10 levels for $5 then go work on the next batch of stuff. The only things that really suffer here are open-world games. Anything linear or narrative-driven can be done episodically.And virtually every RPG product will randomly die in the middle of the plot. In order to be sure you get the full story you'll have to wait until all the episodes are out, but if everyone does that they won't make enough money and episode 2 will never come out (which will convince everyone that held out that they were right to do so, and should do so next time). This is the reason episodic content doesn't work.

And as you say, it doesn't work for open world games.

Nalano
03-11-2011, 02:03 AM
There's a capitalist adage: "everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it."

I think you are all ascribing value on a game based on its price, which such should not factor beyond the initial purchase.

vinraith
03-11-2011, 02:06 AM
I think you are all ascribing value on a game based on its price, which such should not factor beyond the initial purchase.

But it's human nature to do exactly that, subconsciously if nothing else. A game you bought for $5 is a disposable commodity, a game you bought for $50 probably isn't. That it shouldn't be that way, logically, doesn't change the psychology of it.

One side effect of that, by the way, is that you miss a lot of good stuff that has a significant barrier to entry. Having 100 $5 games means they get a 15 minute trial and then are tossed aside if they don't grab you. You're a lot more likely to put some effort into learning to play a $50 game even if it doesn't click right away. This is, again, a matter of taste, but especially with the kinds of games I like I'd rather have the latter experience than the former.

Nalano
03-11-2011, 02:08 AM
But it's human nature to do exactly that, subconsciously if nothing else. Game you bought for $5 is a disposable commodity, a game you bought for $50 probably isn't. That it shouldn't be that way, logically, doesn't change the psychology of it.

Then why don't you pay a hundred bucks for the games you like? Or five hundred?

Since clearly it'll make you like them more.

vinraith
03-11-2011, 02:20 AM
Then why don't you pay a hundred bucks for the games you like? Or five hundred?


Because I don't have to, and I don't have those kinds of means. If I had serious money to throw around, I'd gladly throw some of my favorite devs a few hundred bucks for their games.



Since clearly it'll make you like them more.Valuing something more is not the same as liking it more.

BillButNotBen
03-11-2011, 07:20 AM
I think it's an indication of two things:

A - A clear split in markets. PC gaming (and gaming in general) used to be niche. Now (some) games are mainstream, which means they can spend a fortune on making them, and charge a fortune for them. Other games like indie games will probably only ever be niche, but the internet and something like steam means that even a niche game can sell a lot IF the price is low enough or the deal is special enough.

B - The pressure to be first / fast moving society. For lots of gamers it seems very important to have the game on launch day (or even before it), so they preorder or pay out high prices to get the games when they launch. For other gamers (like me) we couldn't care less about playing a game punctually, so it's much harder to get us to shell out big bucks simply to be first. This, along with more games being released, means that games are big news for a much shorter time. They can sell for $60 for 2 weeks, but after that they get dropped to $30 and then are at $5 in 2 months. In the old days they might have started at $40, but they stayed there a lot longer. Power of hype, advertising and the want-it-now society I guess.

Personally, i think it's ok. It means the developers get as much cash as they can. They get lots of cash from those eager/able to pay full price, and then they get lots of cash from those able/wanting to wait.

I do worry that indie games are devaluing themselves though - but on the other hand they have a much wider reach now, and they have a short time to make a big splash - so they have to maximise their sales in that time.

I've come to the conclusion that people's buying habits don't often reflect logic or what they need. I keep buying games at "bargain" prices even though i still have lots of games i haven't played. And by the time i get round to playing them they have become more "bargain". Pirates keep downloading games that they can't have time to actually play. But that's how the human mind works... like a squirrel... and that's how discounts and sales work.

Althea
03-11-2011, 08:24 AM
I don't see why it's a bigger risk? Eschalon Book II is a huge game so this can't be about playtime. Surely you can see that somewhere out there there is bound to be someone who bought those same games and loved Eschalon but couldn't get into Anno 1404.

Yes, commercial games drop to indie prices in sales eventually, but indie games drop to tiny prices in sales too.
It's a bigger risk because I tend to enjoy bigger budget releases much more. I could buy an indie Anno 1404-a-like, and the chances are I would not enjoy it as much as 1404.

deano2099
03-11-2011, 08:43 AM
And the makers of the 30% you treasure will make the same money from you as the makers of the 70% you disposed of. This strikes me as a bad thing.
Right, except if I really like a given game, I'll then likely pick up that developer's next game at launch price. I'm not suggesting all games be $5 from the start.


And virtually every RPG product will randomly die in the middle of the plot. In order to be sure you get the full story you'll have to wait until all the episodes are out, but if everyone does that they won't make enough money and episode 2 will never come out (which will convince everyone that held out that they were right to do so, and should do so next time). This is the reason episodic content doesn't work.
That's an entirely different argument related to indie-game funding. Put simply, if as an indie, I have the resources to make a huge RPG and then sell it for $30, I could make the whole thing, split it up in to three parts at $10 each and release them over six months.

Skalpadda
03-11-2011, 12:25 PM
A game you bought for $5 is a disposable commodity, a game you bought for $50 probably isn't. That it shouldn't be that way, logically, doesn't change the psychology of it.

I think that's something that will vary very much depending on who you ask. I certainly don't feel any greater incentive to enjoy or get my money's worth out of a game bought at full price than I do for something bought in a sale. The exception would be games that came with a bundle that are more or less "bonus games" any way, but what does it matter?

Sales and cheap indie games have been good for me, in that they've let me pick up a lot of games I wasn't sure about, many of which have ended up being wonderful and made me excited for the next thing the devs of those games make. That in turn means I'm more likely to buy the next one directly and at full price.

I don't sit around and wait for stuff to go on sale though. If I want something I'll buy it, but the option to take a chance on something and possibly discover a gem is great as far as I'm concerned, and certainly better for the devs than if I'd never paid them anything and never played their game at all.

c-Row
03-11-2011, 01:01 PM
This thread made me think of a (possibly) interesting experiment: The Social Indie Bundle. You are free to pay what you want, except that the person who pays more than the others sets the new minimum price for all those who follow by that, so you would have to balance between what you think the bundle is worth vs. what price won't drive away potential customers.

Tikey
03-11-2011, 02:03 PM
Well, sales and digital distribution has allowed me, living in a developing country, to actually be able to mantain my gaming hobby without having to recur to piracy. And as far as I know it's something quite common. Steam has turned a lot of pirates into buying customers. Before steam sales and digital distribution became ubiquitous buying games if you lived here costed four times as much as in the us or europe while earning four time less on average. This has actually allowed me to even buy games at full price when I believe the developer deserves my money.

TillEulenspiegel
03-11-2011, 02:03 PM
That's an entirely different argument related to indie-game funding. Put simply, if as an indie, I have the resources to make a huge RPG and then sell it for $30, I could make the whole thing, split it up in to three parts at $10 each and release them over six months.
It's an option, but only for a certain type of game. And realistically, nobody works this way - you don't wait until you've finished the whole thing when you could have released the first third much earlier. And if your first episode fails, you may not want to continue, even if you have the means. Why waste more time when nobody wants to buy what you're making?

I'm really starting to think that DLC is the solution to a lot of problems. Good DLC, mind - small expansion packs. Stuff that provides real value for people who love the game. So you release your open world RPG for $10. Then you work on and sell major enhancements for $5+. New areas, new races, new monsters, new items, new character types. Reasons for old players to get excited again, for the press to mention your game again, and for new players to give it a try. It's not unlike the Guild Wars method.

Traditional models of game development may be dying, but I think there are interesting new ways to make ambitious games financially viable.

Nalano
03-11-2011, 02:57 PM
Because I don't have to

Which can, does, and should matter more than "because, by reaching the upper limit of my purchasing power, I am forced to pay more attention to this game."


I think that's something that will vary very much depending on who you ask. I certainly don't feel any greater incentive to enjoy or get my money's worth out of a game bought at full price than I do for something bought in a sale. The exception would be games that came with a bundle that are more or less "bonus games" any way, but what does it matter?

This.

hamster
03-11-2011, 03:09 PM
I do worry that indie games are devaluing themselves though - but on the other hand they have a much wider reach now, and they have a short time to make a big splash - so they have to maximise their sales in that time.

I've come to the conclusion that people's buying habits don't often reflect logic or what they need. I keep buying games at "bargain" prices even though i still have lots of games i haven't played. And by the time i get round to playing them they have become more "bargain". Pirates keep downloading games that they can't have time to actually play. But that's how the human mind works... like a squirrel... and that's how discounts and sales work.

I personally don't get it. I know it's a pretty wide spread phenomenon. But when I see some micro-transaction item, or on-sale indie, that's something like 5 dollars, I don't really get the impulse to throw cash at it if i'm only mildly interested.

For example, Terraria for 2.5 USD during the Steam summer sale. Looked at it. Wasn't too interested, but heard good things. Didn't buy.

The games that i have bought are usually new high budget titles which I purchase retail, old(er) high budget titles on sale (fallout GOTY, divinity, batman, bioshock 2, witcher etc.), and one or two of the humble indie bundles, which i paid average for, because there were a good couple of games that i wanted to get.

I highly doubt that i'd buy a micro-transaction "skin" from LoL, for example, unless I thought it looked really cool. I won't impulse purchase anything. But apparently, alot of people will just go "BLAAHH" and click purchase.

archonsod
03-11-2011, 06:02 PM
To be clear, I'm talking about paying, say, $30 for the new Achtung Panzer instead of $5 for the latest big name shooter to hit the bargain ditch price point. I bought Bronze the other day from Shrapnel for $30 and am happier with that purchase than I have been with any $5 sales item purchase I've made this year. My tastes don't run towards the kinds of indie games that start out super-cheap. The least expensive "full price" purchases of that kind of made were things like AI War for $20 and Revenge of the Titans for $15, both of which were great buys.

I remember Shrapnel's answer to the constant litany of requests to discount Dominions 3 have always been "it's a niche market, so we charge more", which is a lot like saying "we're a monopoly, so we charge more". I'm not necessarily devaluing the game as such (in terms of gameplay I can't argue it's worth it), but I think there is an element of abusing the fact customers have no choice when it comes to pricing the games so high.
In effect, I think they're trying to have their cake and eat it. They expect me to pay AAA prices because it's a good game, in a niche and therefore can't rely on mass appeal which is fair enough. But at the same time if you demand AAA quality (in terms of things like UI, graphics et al) they excuse it by pointing out it's a low budget production. So I'm paying for (or often above) a high budget game produced on a low budget why precisely? Because it won't sell as well as a high budget game? Even ignoring the arguments regarding whether the price might be part of that, if it cost less to make surely it doesn't have to sell as well as an AAA game?
As far as I can tell it seems there's two extremes. Either you release your indie game cheap at the sub 10 end, or you charge 40 because it's niche. Surely the correct positioning, and one far more likely to be profitable, would be somewhere between either extreme?

Giaddon
03-11-2011, 06:08 PM
Even ignoring the arguments regarding whether the price might be part of that, if it cost less to make surely it doesn't have to sell as well as an AAA game?

Yes, but the difference is huge. An AAA game is considered a failure if it sells only hundreds of thousands of copies, while I'm sure Shrapnel would be ecstatic if Dom3 sold that many. Also remember that Shrapnel wants to keep proven sellers priced high so they can have a base from which to gamble on publishing games that may not bring in enough money.

TillEulenspiegel
03-11-2011, 06:12 PM
I remember Shrapnel's answer to the constant litany of requests to discount Dominions 3 have always been "it's a niche market, so we charge more", which is a lot like saying "we're a monopoly, so we charge more".
That's an incredibly harsh take on what is a pretty simple situation. It costs a certain amount of money to develop a game, right? To recoup those costs and make a bit of profit, you need to price your game accordingly. Niche games sell fewer copies. Therefore, to make a certain amount of money, you need to charge more per copy.

I'm just saying, I don't know any niche indie devs with money hats. You think they're being evil, I think they see an audience of a certain size that isn't likely to significantly grow if they lower the price. Because that's typically how niches markets of any kind work.

For example:
http://www.notabene.com/

$400+ for a niche word processor. And it's successful.

archonsod
03-11-2011, 06:31 PM
Yes, but the difference is huge. An AAA game is considered a failure if it sells only hundreds of thousands of copies, while I'm sure Shrapnel would be ecstatic if Dom3 sold that many. Also remember that Shrapnel wants to keep proven sellers priced high so they can have a base from which to gamble on publishing games that may not bring in enough money.

The other difference is an AAA game costs a few million bucks to make. Dominions 3 on the other hand is worked on part time by people with other jobs, so probably cost less than a hundred bucks to make. Like I said, I can understand it won't sell quite as many copies. What I can't understand is why it particularly needs to, given the break even point is going to be far, far lower than otherwise.


I think they see an audience of a certain size that isn't likely to significantly grow if they lower the price.

Isn't it? I would say the reason the audience won't grow is because the barrier to entry (ie price) is too high. Again, look at Dominions 3 - there's constantly threads on the Shrapnel boards from people who state they would happily buy the game if it was a little cheaper. That to me doesn't sound like an audience that won't significantly grow, that to me sounds like an audience waiting to be tapped.
I accept it won't apply in all situations, a hardcore ornithologist simulator is going to have a limited audience no matter what. But on the other hand the opposite is also true, there's many niches that remain niches precisely because new fans are priced out. Railworks is a good example; I'd say you can't get more niche than a train simulator, yet since it hit Steam at a 20 price point the game has been a runaway success.

Fumarole
03-11-2011, 10:54 PM
There are many Matrix games I'd buy in an instant if the prices weren't so damn high. Sure I have a limited budget, but I'd much rather get a game cheaper than not (who wouldn't?), regardless if it is something I've been waiting for or an impulse purchase.

deano2099
03-11-2011, 11:41 PM
Isn't it? I would say the reason the audience won't grow is because the barrier to entry (ie price) is too high. Again, look at Dominions 3 - there's constantly threads on the Shrapnel boards from people who state they would happily buy the game if it was a little cheaper. That to me doesn't sound like an audience that won't significantly grow, that to me sounds like an audience waiting to be tapped.
I accept it won't apply in all situations, a hardcore ornithologist simulator is going to have a limited audience no matter what. But on the other hand the opposite is also true, there's many niches that remain niches precisely because new fans are priced out. Railworks is a good example; I'd say you can't get more niche than a train simulator, yet since it hit Steam at a 20 price point the game has been a runaway success.
This.

They say: "It's a niche market so we have to charge more". I say "You're charging more so limiting your audience". That said, I think there is something to it, but most of these games that call themselves 'niche' willfully go out of their way to be so. Why not make your Dominions 3 a bit more accessible? Civ 5 sold well. Gal Civ 2 did great. Space Chem and Frozen Synapse are indie success stories. Is your game really more niche than those? And if so, why? What is it offering that would be lost if you actually made it accessible.

Likewise Geneforge, why is it not selling to people that enjoyed Kings Bounty, Dragon Age and so on?

There are very, very few games out there that have to be niche, and even then, something like Railworks you'd think would be one of them. Surely Super Meat Boy is as niche as you can get? Ultra-hard 2D platformer?

There's this curious combination of elitism and lack of ambition that just seems pointless to me. When you look at all the indie success stories of the past five years, Minecraft, fucking Minecraft... something that looks like an Amiga game, isn't finished, doesn't have any plot or direction and leaves you to figure things out for yourself. One of the best selling indie titles ever.

The audience is there, they can be reached, you don't have to 'dumb down' to do it. Just make better games and you might not be stuck in your niche anymore.

SephKing
04-11-2011, 02:29 AM
I don't have a problem with paying 30 to 35gbp for a game whatsoever. I literally just ordered LA Noire, Skyrim and Arkham City at full price on play.com. What I do have problem with is paying 30 pounds for a game that has no demo.

It's ok with games like the above as it's highly likely they will be good ports but generally speaking, PC games can come with all kinds of issues like poor optimisation, bugs, and ...the game may be shite. With consoles this isn't an issue as you can rent the game, buy it second hand and they usually have a demo but with PC, I find it very hard to justify buying new games at full price for this very reason.

I genuinely think a lot of people pirate games just to test them out. I've done it before a few times and know a few people who do the same. The last two games I just bought without trying first were RAGE and Red Orchestra 2 and look how that turned out. If the game runs fine and is worth playing then i'll always buy it but until devs start releasing demos on PC again, then I refuse to pay full price for something I can't try first.

c-Row
04-11-2011, 07:39 AM
Perhaps most importantly, how does it change the way we think about and play games? Backlogs (including my own) are groaning under the weight of games bought on sale and thrown to the bottom of the pile, perhaps never to be played. Is the cost trivializing games?

If devs worry about gaming being trivialized, they should stop taking part in sales or Indie Bundles. I don't feel like a bad person if I take an offer a dev volunteerly made me.

RobF
04-11-2011, 08:29 AM
Railworks is a good example; I'd say you can't get more niche than a train simulator, yet since it hit Steam at a 20 price point the game has been a runaway success.

It's awkward to compare what happens "on Steam" to what happens "off Steam" when it comes to sales. Steam provides you with a ready made market of people who pop their eyes out for a bargain. So, for the sake of simplicity we'll bag that under "high profile", right?

If you're part of a humble bundle or Mike & Simon's new fortnightly bundly thing, for the sake of simplicity we'll bag that under "high profile" too.

If you're not... it's a drop off a cliff traffic and potential earnings wise. When Shrapnel do their deals (regardless of what you think of them as a store), how often do you see them posted on The Bargain Bucket or elsewhere? Incredibly rarely.

Because they're off the radar for most people, their traffic isn't going to be a drop of what Steam, Humble or the Chicken Royale With Cheese Bundles. Even *if* they reduce the price, that's not going to drastically improve the amount of traffic that passes through Shrapnel, it's not going to magically grow a whole load of fans for what are, deliberately, outsider games.

They might think about putting a bit more 21st Century bundling together every now and then to try and make a noise but I suspect the result won't change drastically. They're not just niche games, they're niche games on a niche site for a niche of people and they're not the sort of games that you can easily grow the market for organically or forcefully a la Railworks (its ubiquity coming from being the game on Steam with over $SHITTINGCRIKEY amount of DLC).

It's never going to be a case of just drop the price for them because you wouldn't naturally find people flocking to Shrapnel to buy their stuff and the amount of people who'd have an interest in Shrapnel stuff is small. So you'd be making less money off roughly the same amount of people.

And if that money isn't enough of an incentive to make games then you're left, as a person who loves those games, with the hope that everyone making the games you love is doing it for the love also. And that, sadly, isn't something you can bank on.


Why not make your Dominions 3 a bit more accessible?

...because that's not the game they want to make? But also, there's a lot of other mitigating factors to the other games you mention being a success and I'd bet my cats anus that each and every other point is more important than price. You're never going to get the same chatter over SpaceChem for Dominions 3, y'know? And if they make Dominions 4 more like Blah5 then they're probably (I'm guessing here, I shouldn't but I don't think it's unreasonable given Shrapnel's modus operandi is to publish stuff that steps outside the mainstream) losing the parts of the game that make it attractive to a hardcore userbase or, worse, to develop in the first place.

So, I think I'll counter that with "but why make Dominions 3 more accessible?". If charging x means that those outlier games can continue to exist then I'm down with that because I want them to exist. I don't care for them personally but if we really want to maintain a vibrant and different gaming landscape then yeah, we need to accept to a degree that there's stuff that isn't for us. Not necessarily on price but that's going to be something that's always there as a part of that.

deano2099
04-11-2011, 11:29 AM
I don't think accessibility needs to be either/or. You just have to be willing to include some kind of tutorial/campaign to teach the game, within the game itself. Not just say: oh, you have to read the forums or the wiki, because that's how we are.

It's not like Dominions 3 is so complicated that the vast majority of people will never be able to understand or enjoy it is it?

RobF
04-11-2011, 04:16 PM
No, look, you're absolutely right that no game has to be wilfully obscure and I can name ways for most games to improve on how accessible they are. I include things in my own stuff to prove that very point (everything from using 4Noah to allowing people to drop the framerate if their motor skills aren't up to speed) and completely, totally agree with you there.

But! It's ok to be wilfully obscure if you want to be. It's ok to be an outlier. It's ok to sit on the fringes flicking bogeys at passers by.

For some people the draw is in the inaccessibility, it is in being a part of the elite club and for some developers, that's a draw to create that sort of thing too. I'm not saying Dominions 3 is any of that but there's certainly a proportion of people out there who are into that sort of thing. And much like nailing cocks to tables, it's a "as long as it stays in your own home" thing, right? They're not harming anyone, let them be. And let them have their above average prices so that they can all amuse themselves together and keep enjoying making and/or playing the stuff they do for their particular niche.

archonsod
04-11-2011, 04:21 PM
It's never going to be a case of just drop the price for them because you wouldn't naturally find people flocking to Shrapnel to buy their stuff and the amount of people who'd have an interest in Shrapnel stuff is small. So you'd be making less money off roughly the same amount of people.

Except as stated, in the six months or so around the launch of Dominions 3 there were numerous threads on their forum stating people would happily buy it if the price was a little lower. So again, is the reason they get less traffic because people simply don't go there, or because people go there, see how much they're charging and decide not to bother? Dominions made quite a splash on release, not to mention the series always gets good word of mouth advertising; I suspect an awful lot of people did indeed go to the site to check out the game, saw the 40 price tag and left.

RobF
04-11-2011, 10:17 PM
I don't know, I'd need to see the figures Shrapnel sees. I mean, I know Shrapnel are, umm, not as on the ball as you'd probably expect when it comes to selling digital products in 2011 (is that tactful enough?) but without access to their figures I couldn't say.

It's certainly not unknown for devs to lower the price and find themselves making a lot less money contrary to popular internet opinion. It's harder to go back up than it is to go down too so it's something you do with care.

As for people cropping up on the forum, within 5 seconds of a game going online now people say "will buy if it's cheaper/in a sale/wait for a bundle", that -alone- isn't a reason to drop the price. It's a reason to consider dropping the price definitely but not a convincing argument to do so if the only people who end up buying are the 12 people who said they'd buy if you dropped the price and the people who would have bought it at $HIGHER have bought it for $less instead. If that makes sense.

For all I know you might be right though, they might make a shitload. It's just not anywhere near as guaranteed as a lot of people think.

Scumbag
05-11-2011, 12:41 AM
May as well post after lurking on the main site and occasionally looking here for Christ knows how long.

I’ll try and avoid commenting too much on the subject of that Shrapnel company, reminds me of the Extreme metal underground “We have very few customers, but that matters not. NO FAIRWEATHER FANS PERMITED!” Though that’s only me saying it reminds me of it, certainly not saying that’s the driving force.

I personally like indie cheapy deals. Without a job for me to buy games atm I do need a very good reason to do so, and if I’m paying for an item I want for less then normal AND I get some extras thrown in? I see that as a bonus. Maybe I wont play all of them, but if I spend 5 on a bundle, get 5 games, 1 I really wanted, 2 I enjoyed, 1 I did not like and one I never played, I feel I got a far better deal then a single game I spend 10 on and did not like in the slightest. Maybe I do have a large backlog of stuff I will not play for possibly a long time after buying. Some things I think I got about a year ago and yet never bothered with (think I have Silent Hunter 3 un-touched still) but the future is vast and unpredictable. When I got humble indie bundle 2 I did not bother with Revenge of the Titans, played it 3 days ago as I was board and I bloody love it! There are more things I have un-played. Will I play them? Will they remain untouched? Who knows.

One thing I’m not sure I’m keen on is a mindset that seems to be creeping in with all these indie bundle things; I would like Limbo. I would like to have it an awful lot. I refrain from buying Limbo however as one thought gets in the way: “Its an Indie game. It may end up in a Humblebundle or whatnot.” I’ve never minded that I theoretically have paid for about 3 copies of Machinarium, but when it comes to splashing out for a single product I cant help get a feeling that it will end up in some deal bundle at some point.

hamster
05-11-2011, 01:41 PM
I don't know, I'd need to see the figures Shrapnel sees. I mean, I know Shrapnel are, umm, not as on the ball as you'd probably expect when it comes to selling digital products in 2011 (is that tactful enough?) but without access to their figures I couldn't say.

It's certainly not unknown for devs to lower the price and find themselves making a lot less money contrary to popular internet opinion. It's harder to go back up than it is to go down too so it's something you do with care.

As for people cropping up on the forum, within 5 seconds of a game going online now people say "will buy if it's cheaper/in a sale/wait for a bundle", that -alone- isn't a reason to drop the price. It's a reason to consider dropping the price definitely but not a convincing argument to do so if the only people who end up buying are the 12 people who said they'd buy if you dropped the price and the people who would have bought it at $HIGHER have bought it for $less instead. If that makes sense.

For all I know you might be right though, they might make a shitload. It's just not anywhere near as guaranteed as a lot of people think.

I think it's all about value. There are all sorts of AAA games going for $55 or $50 USD. But these games have great production values, celebrity voice actors and stuff like that. Some people say these things are unimportant - and I agree that it's not everything - but it's undeniable that the devs have made a considerable expense to bring these things to the table. So even if the game is sorta lukewarm, people still feel that they got some meaningful value from their purchase.

Now...if you look at Dominions 3, it doesn't have that. Already i feel the value isn't there. It's like eating in restaurant. Some mom and pop restaurants charge (relatively) cheap prices and serve tip top food. But they still can't charge like a fancy restaurant in a hotel no matter how good their stuff is if the premises is basically a small apartment unit converted into a dining room. You just can't.

deano2099
05-11-2011, 04:41 PM
For some people the draw is in the inaccessibility, it is in being a part of the elite club and for some developers, that's a draw to create that sort of thing too. I'm not saying Dominions 3 is any of that but there's certainly a proportion of people out there who are into that sort of thing. And much like nailing cocks to tables, it's a "as long as it stays in your own home" thing, right? They're not harming anyone, let them be. And let them have their above average prices so that they can all amuse themselves together and keep enjoying making and/or playing the stuff they do for their particular niche.

Which is fair enough. The problem I have is when those devs then start to bitch about sales devaluing indie games in general. It's fine to want to stay out of the mainstream market, to refuse to adapt to how things are changing, but you don't get to do that _and then_ moan that everyone else is spoiling it for you and ruining your niche with their sales.

Wooly Wugga Wugga
05-11-2011, 05:13 PM
I'd also like to chime in and say that I think they're pricing themselves too high. I'd love to see them experiment a bit with pricing once a game has broken even or made them a bit of profit. I'd really like to play Panzer Corps but I just can't justify spending that much on it. Even dropping the price by a quarter would make me seriously consider buying it.

I'm also curious as to why they don't consider putting a few games up on Steam. It would really increase the size of their potential audience and a sale or two could really shift some units.

archonsod
05-11-2011, 05:21 PM
For all I know you might be right though, they might make a shitload. It's just not anywhere near as guaranteed as a lot of people think.

It's not, but like I said in this instance we've clear evidence of a demand at lower prices. Plus of course you can do it the way Jeff has, which is really no more than following the traditional pricing model - I think you can take it as given after three years of releasing Geneforge 5 you're no longer going to see significant sales numbers at it's original price - anyone willing to pay that price will likely have it by then. Dropping the price, even without putting it on Steam, is likely to see a spurt of sales at the new lower price (and even if it doesn't you haven't really lost anything, even a single sale is more than zero sales).



One thing Im not sure Im keen on is a mindset that seems to be creeping in with all these indie bundle things; I would like Limbo. I would like to have it an awful lot. I refrain from buying Limbo however as one thought gets in the way: Its an Indie game. It may end up in a Humblebundle or whatnot.
That would be part of the de-valuation argument, but I'm not sure how widespread it is; certainly I'll buy something if I want it and the price is right without worrying about the bundle. In fact I suspect one of the strengths of the HIB is the pay what you want - doesn't matter if I've already bought three of the four games in the bundle, I simply justify paying less than I otherwise would on account of it only giving me one game.
Plus the same is true of any game - ultimately the vast majority of games will end up on sale at a lower price at some point, yet it doesn't seem to affect sales on release. Which really suggests that a fair portion of the value of the game is tied up in being able to play it now rather than later.

deano2099
05-11-2011, 08:27 PM
It's not, but like I said in this instance we've clear evidence of a demand at lower prices. Plus of course you can do it the way Jeff has, which is really no more than following the traditional pricing model - I think you can take it as given after three years of releasing Geneforge 5 you're no longer going to see significant sales numbers at it's original price - anyone willing to pay that price will likely have it by then. Dropping the price, even without putting it on Steam, is likely to see a spurt of sales at the new lower price (and even if it doesn't you haven't really lost anything, even a single sale is more than zero sales).

Interestingly Jeff's reluctance to put the games on Steam or sell for cheaper previously was because even stuff like Geneforge 1 was still selling at full price. Not loads, but enough to keep a steady regular stream of income.

winterwolves
06-11-2011, 11:33 AM
As an indie developer myself, I won't ever sell my games for $2 - as BASE PRICE.
However, I like the idea of having time-limited sales (I'm having one right now!). Why? Because I know that some people really cannot afford to pay $20, and I'd rather have them wait 6+months but get the game for under $10, than have them pirate the game.

Heliocentric
06-11-2011, 11:57 AM
If you can afford 10 you can afford 20, it's about value and cost. Some games cost more than I value them, I don't buy those games. Some games cost less or the same than I value them, and I lack a backlog (that I actually mean to play) in that area of the genre, those I buy.

Fumarole
06-11-2011, 02:54 PM
If you can afford 10 you can afford 20, it's about value and cost.Sorry, no, that's just objectively wrong. You may as well say if you can afford $20 you can afford $30 or even $40. I happen to be on a very tight budget while my girl finishes school, and I often do not have $20 in my account after paying 100% of our living expenses. Steam sales and Humble Indie Bundles are what keep me in my hobby, albeit months after everyone else. This means I pretty much do not play any multiplayer game as by the time it drops enough in price few people are playing it. Sure I have old games and continue to get value out of some of them, but I need some new flavors every once in a while. And that's what these sales do: keep me gaming with fresh experiences.

Heliocentric
06-11-2011, 03:02 PM
Just wait twice the time that $10 took to collect, profit?

RobF
06-11-2011, 04:21 PM
I'd rather have them wait 6+months but get the game for under $10, than have them pirate the game.

You don't get to make that choice though, man.

archonsod
06-11-2011, 06:25 PM
If you can afford 10 you can afford 20, it's about value and cost. Some games cost more than I value them, I don't buy those games. Some games cost less or the same than I value them, and I lack a backlog (that I actually mean to play) in that area of the genre, those I buy.

Hard to value them until you've played them though :P It's more of a risk/commitment thing I think, particularly with indie games which lack much mainstream coverage. I might be willing to risk 10 on an unknown, but 20 hits the area where I need a little bit more reassurance regarding what I'm buying.
Which is another good reason to drop the price for the more prolific developers. Take something like Geneforge - drop the price or even release the first game for free and you'll attract a fair few people who will pay full price for the rest of the series. It's the old drug dealer trick - give them the first hit free and you can almost charge what you want once they're addicted ...