No One Really Knows How Much Games Cost

Look at the Steam forums for almost any game. Between the bug reports and the arguments, you’ll see a near constant refrain: this game is too expensive; $20 for this?; I’d buy it if only it was $15 or $10 or $5 or whatever is cheaper than it is right now.

If you’re a developer, this is frustrating – and this response from one of the developers of Brigador is a good and funny explanation of why.

Brigador is a cool, isometric mech combat game, which looks like someone took the art style of the original Command & Conquer, modernised it and made it destructible. It’s currently in early access and I wrote a little about it here.

Hugh Monahan is one of the game’s developers, and he responded to a recent request that they lower the price of the game from $20 to $15. The response begins:

We have spent 5 years making Brigador, if you include when we started building the engine.

5 years.

Much of that has been working full time, 6-7 days a week, 8+ hours a day. Even at a very conservative estimate that’s over 10,000 hours of work per person, and there are 4 of us. We did not do a kickstarter, we do not have a publisher. We have funded this entire project out of pocket.

He goes on to describe the scale of the game, which includes “2 hours of original music, over 100 different enemy units, a story campaign, a free play mode” and a playable landmass comparable in size to Grand Theft Auto 3. He then lists things which are more expensive than the game, which includes a plunger, the Point Blank remake Blu-Ray, and a Nickelback poster.

It’s bad enough there’s a Nickelback poster worth more than the game we’ve spent the last 5 years building, worse still to have people come along and announce that in fact our game is only worth about as much as this other more common Nickelback poster. I hope you can understand the frustration this inspires.

The post then more seriously breaks down how, after Valve’s cut and taxes, they need to sell around 50,000 copies to be able to pay themselves and their contractors a decent wage, before stating that they’re “not asking for pity or charity”, but that they hope people understand why it costs what it does.

Monahan isn’t the only developer to recently respond to this kind of post on the Steam forums. Ten days ago, Jane Ng, environment artist on Firewatch, responded to a post from someone trying to decide whether to refund their game with similar reasoning:

We were excited, but terrified. We felt free, but were constrained. I have been in this industry for 15 years almost, and this is the hardest I have ever worked. We all gave it our all, to make this weird thing, and we had no idea if it was any good to anybody else. All we could do, was try the damn hardest to make something we are honestly proud of. At the end, if this was a commercial failure, all we have got is what we have made. Nobody could take that away.

So yes, I am sad when people think this game is not worth the money we asked for (which we thought was a fair ask). It makes me feel like I failed them. It is ok if people don’t like the game, but it affects me personally a lot, when people feel like it was not -worth- the time they engaged with it.

Players never see all the effort that goes into make a finished game, of course. Nor should they necessarily need to, since as Monahan points out, it’s not reasonable to expect people to “buy a game just because people worked hard on it – it’s possible to struggle valiantly and still make poo.” I haven’t played enough of Brigador’s current build to ascertain whether it’s worth your money yet. I liked Firewatch, but as Ng points out, “I don’t know your financial circumstances. $18 might be a lot. Or even it isn’t a lot, why shouldnt’ you try to get the most out of it? That’s a fair desire.”

But there’s an issue when there’s a demand, even before a game is finished, for prices to be discounted. It’s a race to the bottom that benefits no one. Developers taking the time to explain where they’re coming from can only be a good thing.

For what it’s worth, in both these instances responding had a positive effect. The creator of the Brigador thread responded to say that they’ve bought the game, and has edited their original post to be a recommendation to others to do likewise. The creator of the Firewatch thread edited their original post to say that, “I have made my decision to keep the game. Campo Santo had more balls than Donald Trump on steriods to make this game, and they deserve the money.”


  1. Wulfram says:

    I don’t see the point in complaining about release prices because it’ll end up £5 soon enough

    • icecreamjones says:

      That in itself is a pretty huge problem thats cutting into developers ability to keep making games.

      • Freud says:

        Steam doesn’t have sales as a charity. They have figured out that some customers are willing to buy a lot of games at that price point but not at the original one.

        Developers have made a lot of money on sales.

        The problem is that there are so many games competing for gamers attention and gamers have limited time to play. All these indie developers are competing with each other. If every indie game would make money, it would only mean one thing. More people would make indie games because it’s guaranteed money.

        • BooleanBob says:

          I’m glad this point is made right at the top of the thread because I feel like it’s easily missed.

        • Ashrand says:

          What people are objecting to is not necessarily sales in general, it’s the growing notion that ‘games’ are a commodity you buy in bulk and sift for the good parts, not artistic visions or communities you invest in.
          The reality is that games are an artistic medium, to say ‘well if it was guaranteed profit everyone would do it’ ignores the fact that lazy greenlight rubbish is extruded on to steam regularly, the better question should be ‘if this game with a fine art direction, a unique design flourish and a frugal budget can’t make it’s money back, then what is wrong with the system that this is allowed to happen’.
          to put it in perspective, if 1 in every 160 steam users that logged in today or yesterday bought brigador, they would have the sales they claim would account for ‘minimum wage’ levels of pay instantly or 137 a day for a year. That this is still seen as unlikely to people is the entire point, we treat games not as separate things to be consumed by people with an interest but as general filler for time and interchangeable, we measure by hours what we should measure by experience and Steam as a whole and steam sales in particular reinforce this, to the detriment of good projects.

          • MrUnimport says:

            The limited disposable income of Steam users as a class isn’t a culture problem, it’s an economic fact. People simply don’t have the dough to subscribe to every experience on offer, even if those experiences appeal to them. The “commodification” of games (which have been commodities ever since people started charging money for them!) is a direct result of the proliferation of indie games and their competition for a pie that hasn’t gotten big enough to support them all.

            I purchased Brigador in Early Access and am watching it keenly. Very high hopes, and while I’m a bit unnerved by this forum post blowing up into A Thing, hopefully the publicity winds up being good for Stellar Jockeys.

          • Ashrand says:

            Again, not advocating for free money forever, nor that every project be successful. I’m suggesting that seeing all games as interchangeable time sinks is ultimately having a toxic effect on the games community as whole.
            When i say games are becoming a commodity I’m not suggesting we need to reach some kind of magical artistic future, I’m saying games are not bulk rice or steel (actual commodities) something bought in quantity to be consumed in a process. They are artistic works that offer (hopefully) different things to each other and the propensity for steam (and humble bundle to a lesser extent) to talk about it in terms of offering “THIS much game” on the cheap.
            and as regards your concern for the proliferation of indie devs, i wasn’t exaggerating above, not that many people need to buy this game for it to instantly make the money it needs, realistically that’s going to happen over a number of years, but buying it on sale only lengthens that time and makes it harder to sell a game in the future (when you are competing with games made years ago, now deeply discounted past what you can afford to charge and still survive) in a market with near 0 marginal cost the end result is an app store, where you only make profit if you capture almost the entire market and nothing else will work.

          • Baines says:

            Games *are* effectively interchangeable, though. I don’t mean that Slaughtering Grounds is equivalent to The Witness, but that there are simply so many games available (with more released every day), fighting over the same limited number of players which have a limited amount of time to play.

            If you want a $1 or less timesink, then there are millions available. But also if you want a game that will engross you for the next three months or more, then there are probably tens or even hundreds available, and there will be more around after three months. Unless you have extremely restrictive tastes (won’t play anything more than three months old, won’t play anything touched by a major publisher, won’t play any game for more than an hour before moving on, etc), then there are already far more games available than you have time to exhaust.

            Short of a change on the level of a widespread market crash, that is simply reality.

          • Ashrand says:

            Everything you said would be true if the only purpose of playing a game was to consume time, saying there’s too many games for someone to keep buying them is like saying there’s too much tv, it’s true but you missed the point.

            If we said that something like Brigador is for a particular audience and consider that audience completely seperate from say, a CoD audience, we could make a judgement about how much those people have to play and what is it competing with. That doesn’t happen nearly so much as it needs to though, we still treat games a ‘for everyone’ or ‘niece and worthy of disdain’.

            I mean maybe i’m wrong, maybe MANY games just like this come out every day, in which case that’s a shame, what i suspect though is that the games listed offer something different, that should really be valued over a notion of “yeah but is it good value for money?”.

            It’s not even as if there isn’t that audience at all, plenty of people want to buy the game they are just saying that they are unwilling to pay what is ultimately not very much money for it. that they think this will just mean better games forever is also a shame.

          • socrate says:

            Quite frankly thats the major problem with gaming these days dev don’t understand that at this point the competition is just massive and before a failure would mean bankruptcy on a wide scale..yet these dev now think that not getting a massive amount of money and coming off even is somehow bad i see so many dev like that that just want to get rich after their first indie game while most of these game end up looking like stuff you would see on the snes,genesis or at best the psx(first playstation)…and even then most of it are cheap homage or remake of game that existed such a long time ago to begin with and are often worst then said game…back in the days you didn’t have release that would happen that often…now it is just insane not to mention that the quality isn’t really there anymore.

            The funny thing is they all complain and try to justify their price(like the stupid price gouging in some country other then the US which make literaly no sense in this time and economy of some country..or the absurd jump in Triple a game price)when physical product are no longer a thing…when manual aren’t even a thing anymore and that most stupid game end up relying on a wiki to do their dumb work for them…old studio would end up working in their home and setting themself up there…today they all want to be big entrepreneur and have everything and are wasting tons of resource on dumb stuff that aren’t necessary…then they whine that oh boohoo were indie…we dont have a publisher…we didnt kickstart…i mean do the customer actually put a freaking gun on their head and made them do that?….NO…it was their decision i mean ffs people…game maker nowadays think that they will go rich and have the big house and life and don’t see the work and sacrifice that the few dev that made it like that did and had to do..and its not a sure thing either…i mean if you are in it for the money like 99% of the dev these days then change job right now cause its not a job for that il tell you right now…

            and this is just the tip of the iceberg…they would need to understand that you know what…its hard on alots of people these days economically in alots of country and in the world in general people aren’t buying every damn game out there and very few have the disposable income to buy lets not forget…a luxury item which video game are and you should be thankful that you have such a massive opening of the market like that,because before you wouldnt have had that opportunity and such a massive worldwide market and that failure would probably mean you would lose everything like many dev and company did back in the days…but do they understand that…noooo

            its the same thing that happen with piracy and you just can’t make them understand that…piracy was a thing before also..its inevitable..people that don’t have the money or will want to check it first and know how will pirate your software..the only thing to do is to make a good impression and be in their price range.

            its not necessarily their fault for not having no income…but then again try to teach that to someone who was never face with these problem or faced with the people with these problem.

            oh and lets not forget that dev are about the worst people at managing money i think ive seen in this entire world..very very few are actually good at making good investment and good decision.

            Oh and not to mention the time of release,the category of the game,if it is well presented and if you actually have any way of showing your product to the most people…most dumb dev these days rely on youtuber to do all the job or a few site…but like i said…the competition is massive..not to mention that you can’t by everyone and some people might find tons of bad thing in your game…getting good review on steam is at this point not a very big feat quite frankly and they also are horrible for checking if a game is good or not,not to forget the current trend and if people actually want a game like that currently..

          • Ashrand says:

            Actually the amount mentioned by the Brigador devs was to pay all their contractors and then have enough to pay the dev team minimum wage for the time put in. It’s also not a question of wanting overnight fame and fortune, they want enough money that they can afford to do all this again and going on sale for the people that refuse to buy the game until then only makes that process harder and take longer.

      • fish99 says:

        Honestly I don’t think it is a problem. You can’t assume that because someone bought a game for £5 they would have paid more for it were getting it for £5 not an option. More likely they wouldn’t have bought it at all.

        It’s not like cheap games are an invention of the digital age either. People have always bought 2nd hand games and the devs/publishers would traditionally see none of that sell-on revenue.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        Except that it’s not. There are more games than ever before.

    • Sandepande says:

      Yeah, I do think that this constant barrage of publisher weeks, fifth Thursday of the year sales and all that should be toned down a lot.

      Not that it’s stopping me from buying games on day one.

      I can sort of understand why EA stated that they wouldn’t be having that many sales on Origin, because it cheapens the brand, or in a more broader sense, the hobby.

      • bjohndooh says:

        I’ve pretty much stopped buying games at day one.

        It’s not due to waiting for sales so much as the ever growing game backlog.

        • roothorick says:

          I’ve stopped buying games day one, but for very different reasons.

          I’ll happily pay full price for the right game (which, I will admit, so far hasn’t been more than $25), but only after it’s been out for a few weeks and the impulse buyers and press have weighed in on it. It’s the same idea as the “no preorders” movement: for me to open my wallet, you first need to prove your game isn’t shit.

          But, I will admit, my growing backlog has had a chilling effect on what “the right game” is and what I’m willing to pay even for games I committed to waiting for a discount on.

          Videogames are such a ludicrously saturated market due to the sheer amount of passionate people that are willing to make games for the sake of making games, money be damned, that the race to the bottom was simply inevitable, and, realistically, nothing can stop it. Sales will continue to decline across the board as consumer demand is increasingly suppressed by choice paralysis and backlog fatigue. Even straight-up freeware games taken in isolation are a heavily saturated zone, so the bottom is, literally, zero.

          • pullthewires says:

            For me, it’s not just that I’m going to get the best possible impression from critics and friends on whether I’m going to get an enjoyable game. It’s more that you get the best possible game. Take Skyrim – I paid £10 for the game and all DLC about 2 and a half years after release. It also had all the official patches released. And the unofficial patches were fairly comprehensive too. Why would I pay the ~£100 to get all that piecemeal without the benefit of patches?

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Because you can wait and not everyone can. There’s a business model around this very notion that works wonderfully.

          • MrUnimport says:

            @Penguin: Forgive me if I’ve misread your post, but it sounds kind of like you’re promoting waiting-for-cheaper as a reward for virtue: I’m not really sure this a situation where delaying gratification until a game goes for dirt cheap is a practice we want to universally promote.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            No, and i actually am one of those who often splurges day one on the sort of stuff i like.

            The guy above didn’t seem to understand why would people pay full price instead of waiting for a sale, putting it like there is no reason at all to do something as stupid as that.

            I’m not promoting anything in particular, but we’re not talking about artificially inflating and deflating prices, we’re talking full, standard release pricing versus sales which are bound to happen down the line to those who wait.

    • Shuck says:

      And it’ll end up as part of a £1 bundle with four other games not long after that. People complaining about the cost of game at release (especially when we’re talking about prices that are less than half that of a AAA game) utterly baffle me.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        But games ARE too expensive on release. In fact, I think if more games came out for about $30 when brand new, I’d buy a lot more of them on release and now wait them out until they are $5.

        The thing is, publishers know that a certain percentage of idiots will pay $90 for a game. Then some people will be dumb enough to think that $60 is ‘cheap’ compared to $90. Then for a while they’ll farm the game around the place for $20-30 a hit on ‘sale’. Then finally it will be in a Humble Bundle for 2 cents.

        All of which is completely intentional and within the control of the publishers. They could sell it at a modest but not too modest price right out of the gate (like Brigador, in fact), but most of them don’t.

        They are also in a free market. If I can get another really good game for $5, I’m not spending $30 on something similar.

        • SanguineAngel says:

          Also don’t forget that many people subconsciously equate price with value. Given the choice between two similar items [games] at £5 and £30 they will choose the £30 option simply because they can’t shake the feeling that there must be a reason it’s 6 times the price.

          I’m with you, as it goes. If release prices were more in-line with my own expectations then I’d be picking up more day 1 releases. My perceived value of a game goes down over time after release so, what I felt a game is worth on day 1 is not what I feel it’s worth 6 months later.

        • Shuck says:

          “But games ARE too expensive on release.”
          Games are cheaper than they’ve ever been, in real money terms. In between that and exploding dev costs, the price x average sales indicates that they’re far too cheap. Ever decreasing consumer pricing expectations mean that the publishers that survive are the ones that master the most exploitative revenue models. That you’d buy twice as many games if they were half the price isn’t an argument – not to mention that time quickly becomes a limiting factor more than money, and a developer that starts selling twice as many games at half the price isn’t doing as well (there’s per-unit costs).

        • Cederic says:

          Then you get idiots like me with 200 games unplayed and occasionally dropping over £100 on a game.

          I pay to support the industry, bought ATS on day -1 to reward the creators even though I’m not yet ready to play it, but also generally wait for the discounted game of the year fully finished properly patched edition.

          I probably spend a similar amount to the teenagers that must have the shiniest new game seconds after release; I just spread it across more developers and get a hell of a lot more for my money.

    • epeternally says:

      Five quid is expensive these days. 1,300 games in my Steam library cost less that fifty cents USD, not including ones that are free to play or were in giveaways. Just stuff that I paid for. Obviously I’m benefiting from the race to the bottom, but the extremes to which it has gone are just ridiculous. I know that if you sell enough copies at a low price, it evens out, but I have a hard time imagining how indie game developers survive when everyone ends up selling their games for the price of a gumball.

      I’ve stopped feeling good about getting games for a pittance and am starting to question the ethics of participating in the market in it’s current state. I’m already solidly in the anti-capitalism camp, I’m not just newly coming to the conclusion that capitalism is inherently unethical and exploitive, but theoretically buying games is the right thing to do. You’re supporting the developers. But when what you’re supporting is an unsustainable race to the bottom, are you really?

      • DrollRemark says:

        I’ve stopped feeling good about getting games for a pittance and am starting to question the ethics of participating in the market in it’s current state. I’m already solidly in the anti-capitalism camp, I’m not just newly coming to the conclusion that capitalism is inherently unethical and exploitive, but theoretically buying games is the right thing to do. You’re supporting the developers. But when what you’re supporting is an unsustainable race to the bottom, are you really?

        Heh, this rings so many bells to me.

        I’ve tried to argue my dislike of buying games at super low prices before (especially from shifty “unsupported” key resellers), but it’s such an odd, privileged position to argue from. “Hey, I spend more money on games because I can! I’m such a good person.” The whole stupid point about the importance of money is trying to maximise what you get for it, so I can completely understand people wanting to pay less for it.

        I think I agree with the idea suggested above, that many people are now buying in bulk and sifting the results for what’s good, rather than actually appreciating each individual purchase, and I think I’d rather do the latter. If someone else doesn’t, then fair enough, but I think I’d rather at least try everything in my backlog, than just go for the relentless accumulation route.

        • Cederic says:

          That’s nothing new though. I acquired Dynamite Dan by buying a 10 game compilation for my C64 instead of paying the same price for a brand new just issued game.

          4-5 games I played once, didn’t like. 3-4 games I played a few times, got value from. Dynamite Dan, once voted one of the top 50 games of all time.

          These days you buy a bundle, or just scan the Steam sale for the ‘fuck it, I’ll drink one fewer coffee this week’ titles, and get that same opportunity to try something and throw it away if you don’t like it.

          It’s probably better than the 90s when the equivalent option was ‘download the warez, only buy the games you keep playing’.

          The other factors developers don’t necessarily consider is that there’s a level of loyalty going on. Relic sold three copies of each of the Dawn of War titles, two copies of DOWII (and all sequels), four copies of Company of Heroes (and sequels) and CoH2, all because they chose to release Company of Heroes with no copy protection.

          Admittedly their implementation of CoH2 means they’re unlikely to get many more sales, but it’s not a bad haul for making it cheap and easy to acquire one of their games.

    • NemesisZidar says:

      Why not? There are people who say its worth the price, why shouldnt people say when its not?
      The point is, this is the market and its fair and even good when people tell that in their opinion its a too expensive game.
      Why? Because setting a price for such a product can even be a hard task that sometimes hits the spot, but sometimes misses it largely.
      I personally think that Vermintide was very much worth the price it costs because i got over 100 hours out of it. I also think Braid was great and worth the price of around 15€ back then. I also bought games for twice this price and think they werent worth the price, even got games for 2€ with a bundle and felt they werent worth even the time i spent for them trying out.

      Why not give that feedback? Feedback isnt a one way route, its often negative but constructive.
      When i ordera pizza and it is at 12€ which is quite much for a pizza and it ends up being a bad pizza, its fair to tell the company selling it that the price isnt quite right for the quality i got. People do that all the time, thats called trading.
      Its fair to say that its frustrating but thats the real world, money often doesnt reflect the work you put into.

      Shall i tell you and the developer something?
      At the moment i do a short time job before going back to studying again, i get 9€ per hour for doing care work in an institution for people with disabilities. This involves cleaning their butts, showering, dealing with infectious deseases all day, dealing with so many not nice things the whole day when taking care for people that cant even get up from bed alone. 9€ per hour, which is by law in my country the lowest you can go as a company or institution. Im fine with that, because its a job i wont do for long. But those people doing such work every day, often even get nothing in return, spend 10 hours a day doing this for years, maybe their whole life and dont get paid well, ending up with such a low wage that they could also not do any work and get social benefit payments instead because they end up at the same money at the end of the month.
      Its not fair, they should get paid much much more. I could name many jobs where people get too less money for the work they have to do every day, often even risking their lifes in schools as a teacher, as a nurse, as child care worker.
      But then such a dude comes by and complains because someone on the internet said his game is too expensive.
      I think thats quite off. Its fair to name the reasons why the game costs the price they ask, its not fair to complain about the evil world beinf unfair to them because they dont get what they should get.
      It was their choice to go this route, deal with that.

      People should be allowed to give their feedback about the price of a game, its as fair as the other way around and subjective anyway. Often it can even help when many give the same feedback, because then it might be true and the price is off.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        The pizza market is rather stable and not in a constant flux, furthermore it’s not a self-deprecating race to the bottom.

        Nowadays you have all the tools in the world to evaluate pizza in a price/quality fashion, but complex projects like ambitious games requiring years of work have far more unknown ( to most consumers ) variables to understand first.

      • Urthman says:

        I have no idea how to do market research to figure out how to put a price on a game. But developers would be fools to base their pricing decisions on the handful of forum whiners who are almost certainly not representative of the vast majority of the market who don’t spend their time commenting on game forums.

        Pretty much the only thing whiners can do is maybe discourage a few people from buying the game (and maybe encouraging a few sales from people who hate whiners). So these kinds of dev responses seem appropriate as I guess they have the potential to counter some of that negative advertising (although nobody knows how many sales all this chatter influences; it may be an utterly insignificant number).

      • wake says:

        Brigador dev who wrote the original post here–

        If we tank as a studio because Brigador didn’t sell enough, that sucks but it’s fine. We’re all intelligent, able-bodied men who should have no trouble moving on to other jobs. I wrote the post not to bemoan this terrible fate that has befallen us; I’m the designer and it’s in a large part my fault that the game took as long as it did to make. With how many games are coming out in the indie space it’s increasingly difficult to get any kind of attention, but that’s life. My point is that the economic reality is that regardless of how people value games, the cost of producing them doesn’t change. And if the common valuation of a game’s worth doesn’t match or exceed the cost of producing that product then the scope of games being made will decrease dramatically, because small $5 will be the only thing viable. Personally I like big, complicated games which is why I pay that premium, but at the end of the day it’s a consumer driven economy. Just know that the decisions you make when magnified determine the fate of the industry.

  2. Greg Wild says:

    As someone in book publishing, it’s a similar case with books. They really are not cheap to produce – which is why ebooks are often the same price as print books.

    • sweenish says:

      Or more expensive in the case of mass paperbacks. Ebooks irk me, as the distribution cost is relatively nil. At $5, I would buy a ton more, more often. Instead, I wait for sales where I pay less than that, or buy hardcover. I do still like the feel of a good book.

      I’m not even necessarily saying that $5 is where ebooks should be, I get that authors and editors need to eat. But their current prices are ridiculous, for me. Especially when about half of the ebooks can’t even be bothered to be formatted in a nice way.

      • draglikepull says:

        The real reason e-books cost the same as paperbacks is that publishers are trying to protect their distribution networks and their large retail partners. Publishers would earn more revenue from e-book sales if they lowered the prices, but that would likely cut into their print sales and anger their print partners, so they keep the price of e-books high to prevent that.

        • Greg Wild says:

          Amazon are a big factor when it comes to setting prices too, especially if you sell Kindle editions via Amazon. They control your pricing pretty ruthlessly.

          • Thronin says:

            If you self publish on the Kindle platform you set the price, not Amazon. On top of that, the author gets 70%… an amount that is astronomically better than anything you would ever get from a publisher. I personally never buy a book from a publisher any more, I only buy self published. I refuse to support what is literally one of the most draconian institutions in the world.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            Thronin…yes self publishing is now a much better model, but you do realize that publishers take such a large chunk mainly because they have to eat a lot of unsold books? I mean sure successful publishers make tons of money, but similar to any industry many of them also take huge losses. If publishing was this surefire way to print millions it would have been a much larger part of the economy.

            This is exactly the type of shortsightedness we are talking about here. You have zero basis for thinking publisher percentages are “draconian”. Have you ever been a publisher, or examined the financial records of one?

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        phuzz says:

        Actually, ebooks cost as much as paper books because the majority of the costs are in the publishing, not the printing.
        Actually printing the thing out, and shipping it to stores (and dealing with returns etc) makes up around 10% of the price.

        • iainl says:

          I’ve heard 20% for the printing and distribution, which makes it the same as the VAT that books carry but paperbacks don’t.

      • Greg Wild says:

        Distribution isn’t the real cost for a quality publisher – it’s the cost of editorial in service of creating a quality book.

        For a low-quality publisher that just takes your manuscript and binds it, they’re basically laughing all the way to the bank with your royalty. Fuck those guys.

        • draglikepull says:

          The cost of editing is fixed (as is cover art, etc.). It is paid up-front and once it’s done, it costs the same amount whether you sell 100 copies of a book or 100,000. E-books could easily be sold for at a lower per-unit cost to the consumer and publishers would make greater revenue off them, but large book publishers will not do that because it would be disruptive to their existing business relationships. (The same is true of game publishers.)

          Indeed, smaller or independent publishers that don’t rely as much on print sales and don’t have large business relationships to protect are doing quite well selling e-books at a lower price. (The excellent web site Author Earnings has covered this topic at some length.)

          • draglikepull says:

            I should clarify that this is not *always* true. Books with niche audiences, in particular, may very well do better selling at a higher price point, since the audience is relatively fixed and is willing to pay a higher price. But in general, pricing e-books lower increases revenues through increased unit sales.

          • Greg Wild says:

            Yeah, it varies on a publisher-by-publisher and a topic-by-topic basis, absolutely. As far as industries go, publishing is ripe for disruption. Which is odd, considering Amazon did so much to disrupt it in the early 2000s onwards. I think we’re going to see the poor quality, hands-off publishers see the door in the next few years, leaving us with self-published authors, high-quality independents, and mixed-quality corporates. Nobody will be sad to see the poor-quality publishers who do nothing to help their authors make a better book go.

          • LexW1 says:

            Er, I dunno about generally, but with genre fiction, that’s kind of what’s happening already. Books which have a large audience typically see the e-book version drop in price pretty steeply after a few months.

            Trilogies and the like almost always see the first book drop to a very low cost, and then often the second and third books are more “normally” priced (sometimes it’s staged all the way, with the last book being “full price” and the rest less).

    • Abndn says:

      I may be missing the point here. If books are expensive to produce, why would that then make e-books the same price? What sort of production costs are we talking about here? It can’t be materials or shipping, since those would be virtually none for e-books. Are you saying that paying authors and random fees costs so incredibly much that shipping/materials are next to irrelevant?

      • Shuck says:

        Because the cost of printing is a relatively minor part of the production costs.

      • Greg Wild says:

        ‘Random fees’ are neither random, nor non-trivial costs. A fairly new development editor alone is $30 an hour. A more experienced one might cost you $40 or $50 an hour, even.

      • Punning Pundit says:

        Don’t underestimate the cost of bandwidth or storage. That stuff adds up.

    • Baines says:

      That’s not completely true, or at least is somewhat misleading. Ebooks cost so much because it is still largely controlled by the paper publishing industry, and they’ve worked to preserve their already established systems. That preservation of existing systems and methods also happens to keep ebook costs high.

      • Greg Wild says:

        Not really. The cost of printing is fairly cheap these days. If you’re a print-on-demand publisher you can pass all the costs off to the consumer, and for a print-run publisher the volume of sales you’re aiming for makes it worthwhile.

        Costs are all in editorial.

    • SuicideKing says:

      Frankly books are expensive in the west; in India we get much cheaper books and “low price editions” – so I’m not sure why you folks pay so much.

      And ebook prices are dumb. Granted, you need someone to convert the book into a proper format and stuff, and they need to be paid. But for the author and publisher, this is an additional revenue stream on top of what they were going to do already.

      • Greg Wild says:

        This is largely because selling books at the kind of prices you see in the West is basically impossible. You sell the rights to an Indian publishing house who often makes changes to the book, and uses a much lower grade physical product. It’s kind of a raw deal for publishers, who go along with it because it’s better to make some money selling the rights.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      What part of publishing do you work in Greg? I work in an educational publisher in Dublin.

      Some of the costs that make up a book are nuts. I won’t even say how much it costs to license Ordnance Survey maps for Geography textbooks…

  3. H-Alien says:

    I have a huge backlog so I really should not buy anything new but that response from Hugh Monaghan is worth 20 bucks by itself…

    • Joshua Northey says:

      I am literally going to purchase it for just this reason (well that and the concept sounds ok). If there is any type of posting on here or Steam I absolutely despise, it is the constant refrain of people claiming that X product is costs too much for what you get, or that all big developers/publishers have infinite money and should be selling games at losses.

      First off games are super cheap compared to many forms of entertainment.

      It always strikes me as the attitude of people who are 15-20, broke and have never had to work a day in their life. They don’t value other people’s labor because they have never done any themselves. Of course if you challenge them on it they all claim to be millionaires who just care about the pricing because “capitalism is the devil man” or some other such nonsense.

      Software is difficult and expensive to make, and just because the cost of selling 100 copies are not wildly different from the cost of selling 500,000 copies doesn’t mean the price should be $1 for every marginal sale.

      Cost to Make (including publishing etc.) / Projected Number of Sales gives you a rough price. If you want to by Obscure Paperclip Torture Simulator II, don’t be surprised when it costs $100 and looks terrible because they only spent $500 in labor making it an and were only counting on 5 sales.

      • SuicideKing says:

        People are free to deem something too expensive; it’s the complaining (to the dev) that is uncalled for.

        If it costs too much for you, don’t buy it or wait for the price to drop. That’s completely valid and fair. It’s also completely fair to make a subjective value judgement.

        • Abndn says:

          Though not what most people seem to do when they complain, which is to say that “this is not worth the price”. Protip: “X is/is not worth Y” is always a false and misguided statement.

          • unacom says:

            Let´s put that in perspective.
            X is (not) worth Y might be very well a valid declamation, if X is factually very good or oughtright shit.
            -Command and Conquer (the then highest-priced game ever released).
            -Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust
            -Diablo 1+2
            -Silent Hunter
            -Contract JACK
            I think we´ll easily be able to agree on the items on this list (except one, which is a bit decisive -you know which one).
            Given journalist- and gamer-reviews, the presentation (on steam et. al.) and personal taste, I think everyone should be able to decide if a game might be worth their money. And I think everybody is entitled to saying so. However, it would be nice if they could elaborate on why they deem it fairly or overpriced.

      • roothorick says:

        Unfortunately, it’s basic economics that the cost of production has zero direct influence on the value of an item (game, in this case). It only influences supply, which has been slammed in the other direction by producers with non-monetary motivations. From there, market saturation does the rest, to the point that games are literally worth less than they cost to make. The only way that will change is if supply stops eclipsing demand twice over.

        We need LESS people making games. I just don’t see that happening. There is an overwhelming population in the market that isn’t in game dev for the money. Freeware alone is in such abundant supply that it would hopelessly saturate the market by itself. This is absolutely a “starving artist” market; if you don’t come into the industry either intending to keep an unrelated day job, or expecting to spend your career eating ramen in a cramped apartment with more roommates than bedrooms, you won’t last long.

      • welverin says:

        I may have spite bought Black Mesa when it was first put up for sale, though after playing the mod version I think it was worth it and they deserved the support.

        I definitely felt some scorn towards all the people criticizing the developers for selling it.

  4. TΛPETRVE says:

    A lot of people have been disillusioned by the amounts of shovelware flooding Steam. Everyone’s new darling Devil Daggers regularly gets chided for costing 5 quid, while offering even less content than your average Unity asset flip that you get thrown at for 99 pennies (and granted, in this case I can understand it, because the game does feel a bit like a – riddickulously awesome – techdemo for something even greater). Effort and quality becomes less and less of a yardstick compared to content and raw playtime.

  5. Cross says:

    People are, and have always been myopic about economics. We have no sense of how budgets different to, or indeed more complicated than our own, make sense. More pertinently, we always want more stuff and to pay less. As such, it’s hardly surprising that people are crap at measuring the value of other people’s work.

    • roboczar says:

      More likely it’s completely the other way around. Individual consumers define value in terms of their own marginal utility within their own bounded rationality.

      What’s at issue here is that indie developers are not usually very savvy businesspeople with a deep understanding of concepts like Cost-of-Goods-Sold and marginal returns on investment. So while my heart goes out to the struggling developers who make a great game and spend a lot of time and money putting it together, all it really shows is that they built the game on a wing and a prayer and didn’t limit costs in line with risk.

      Putting the onus of determining “value” of other people’s work on the consumer is absolutely backward. It’s very much the developer’s responsibility to understand their market and build a business model that can function within that market. This means putting down the keyboard and getting out the ledger for the people who manage the project.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        Well yes and no. You are absolutely right that the companies need to operate in the markets as they exist, and that many many developers make shit business people.

        But! That can be true at the same time that the consumers in the market are generally unrealistic idiots when it comes to what their expectations on product pricing.

        Both things can be true.

        We are well past the era of classical economics and assuming all the actors are fully rational or that their decisions/preferences are tautologically the correct ones.

        It makes total sense and is in fact true that the current video-game market is badly hampered by consumers whose main opinions about and processes for selecting products are inconsistent bordering on the nonsensical.

        I don’t think I need to lay out examples.

        • roboczar says:

          Just want to clarify that when I said “bounded rationality” in my post, I was making it clear that I was not speaking of the classical “rational actor” which does not exist.

          Otherwise agree with your post with the caveat that so far nobody has come up with a quantifiable way that consumers can consistently translate value into prices that are paid to a developer. The best you can hope for is some kind of voluntarism like you see in “pay what you feel” bundles.

          Nobody’s demonstrated any consistent principles that would allow developers to capture value outside of pricees.

      • Shuck says:

        “Cost-of-Goods-Sold and marginal returns on investment”
        But we’re talking about creative endeavors here, not manufacturing widgets. They’re two totally different things. For one, you have no idea how many sales you’ll get of a game at a particular development cost and price point – it’s some number between zero and 20 million (and most likely to be at the zero end). At the same time, whereas there are standard prices for books or movie tickets regardless of production costs – and they can vary by orders of magnitude – games start off with totally weird, arbitrary pricing variations, based on consumer expectations. Those pricing expectations for games are based – usually erroneously – on perceptions of how much the game cost to make, in large part.
        Publishers are charging as much as they dare to charge, but because of consumer expectations, they rarely can charge as much as they need to – which is what has given us DLC, etc.

        • roothorick says:

          I highly doubt consumers give even the slightest thought to development costs when considering a game. Nobody talks about movie budgets when considering the cost of tickets; why are games any different?

          • Shuck says:

            They don’t – not in any systematic or self-aware way, that is. But how else are these snap judgements about what a game’s “worth,” when people haven’t even played it, being arrived at? People are ultimately largely basing it off of what they perceive (usually incorrectly) the production values – and costs – to be.

          • gwathdring says:

            @ Shuck: Well, not JUST perceptions about production cost. But that’s the general idea, certainly. Customers base their value on unknown things on a wide variety of known and estimated factors. When customers are bad at estimating, the make bad valuations. This makes the market harder to predict and less fucntional.

            Education consumers as to how the market works is very important to creating a functioning value system. Talking about value like it comes only from existing data (like how much similar games cost) and personal preference (how much I like similar games) is wildly inaccurate. It misses large portions of the valuation picture.

            Comparing to movie ticket prices is somewhat odd, since game publishers directly set their prices whereas movie theaters have a much more complicated relationship with the original film’s budget. Also, you’re paying for brief access as opposed to extended access and/or ownership; this further distances the valuation of going to the movie theater from assessments about the value of the entire film creation process.

          • gwathdring says:

            I think I figured out where a miscommunication is happening. You still might disagree but let’s try this.

            When I and others say stuff like “Consumers base their value, in part, on expectation of cost.”

            You’re thinking “No one goes ‘I bet this cost 50 million to make and will sell 1 million copies so it has to cost at LEAST $50 to break even. I’ll pay $60 for it because I’m a nice person.'”

            But I’m thinking this:

            Consumers often make valuations on moral judgements about ‘fair’ costs. Consumers want to pay as little as possible and grudgingly pay what they feel is, at most, ‘fair’ unless they’re really in a good mood towards the prodcut/producer in which case they’ll pay more than they think is ‘fair.’ This indirect moralism is connected to their vague and unspecific understanding of cost. They aren’t doing math, they’re doing fuzzy half-religious estimation: other games cost this much and did this much; I paid that and didn’t feel ripped off so it MUST have been a fair, moral price both for me and the company and that game does that much and costs this much which is a worse ratio of cost to stuff accomplished … but it’s not as bad as THIS OTHER game which did THIS OTHER amount for THIS OTHER cost and made me feel just a little bit ripped off so that was the border case for a fair, moral price … so I’m willing to pay for this game but I’d rather wait for it to go on sale as it’s fair but not AS fair as I like.

            That sort of process. Customers frequently talk about not just what they are willing to pay, but what is fair. Whether or not they are being cheated. They clearly have some perception of an objective value system to which neither the game developer nor reality is privy to. Does that make more sense?

        • roboczar says:

          If you don’t think COGS and making sure you have a safe operating margin is the province of people making “widgets”, I hope you never attempt to run a business, creative or not.

          Creative endeavors still have a labor and materials cost, and I’m pretty sure most developers are not all that interested in running a charity for “cool free games we made”.

          • Archonsod says:

            The problem is that whether it’s a creative product or not only makes a difference to the producer, not the consumer. The purchaser has no particular reason to care how much time, effort and resources went into a given product, they’re judging it on it’s perceived value in relation to similar products (and scarcity doesn’t come into it, thanks both to the sheer number of games produced plus of course the infinite supply of any given game).
            It’s more like a service than a product economy. Ultimately, as with movie or concert tickets, we’re paying to be entertained. So the value calculation has nothing to do with the cost of production, it’s a question of perceived entertainment value. The problem for developers being that entertainment value isn’t directly affected by production costs (if anything you could say that only effects the presentation). The quality perception, like movies, tends to be influenced more by the reputation of the developer and similar. You therefore get an issue for indie developers who can’t draw on a reputation or similar pull – given I’m just as likely to get twenty hours of entertainment out of a game costing £5 as I am for one costing £50 you’re going to have an incredibly hard time convincing me the more expensive option is worth it.
            Not to say the quirks of the market doesn’t screw them over. It occurs to me that the best model for an indie dev these days would be something similar to the original shareware – give the base game away cheap or free, then utilise DLC at a higher price to capitalise on the reputation of the base; I can guess at the reaction they’d face to a game using that model however, based on the expectations from the AAA DLC market.

          • roboczar says:

            Archonsod, I think there’s a misunderstanding here. I’m not saying the consumer needs to be aware of the production value, I’m saying the opposite. It’s the developers that need to be aware of these costs so that they aren’t resorting to begging on Steam or RPS for people to pay them what they think their product is worth, based on a lack of planning.

          • Shuck says:

            Of course games have costs. That money is being spent on things like art/content/other features and game polish that will directly impact the perceived value of the game. It’s the other part of your formula I take issue with. What, precisely, is the market for a game that doesn’t yet exist? There’s an upper bound to the kind of sales that one might reasonably expect – and experienced developers are good at not putting themselves in a position where they need sales that are more than that – but there’s no lower limit, which is where things get dangerous. Game sales are largely a function of marketing money spent, but indie games with no marketing budget rely on viral marketing – on word of mouth, game reviews, Youtube plays, etc. But these are all highly unreliable and hugely variable in their results. You have to hope you’re making a game that will resonate with some group that will provide a response that sells games. More money spent means a higher likelihood of appealing to someone (within bounds). But it’s not remotely a guarantee of sales and creative works inherently have a hard time determining risk. To make creative works is a leap of faith that you’ve produced something that people will want. Book and movie publishing have many more decades experience trying to figure out risk, having come up with elaborate mechanisms to reduce it, yet historically they – just like games – see a majority of their output fail to turn a profit.

          • Shuck says:

            @roboczar: To show the absurdity of your comments in another way, they’re like responding to a novelist who spent a year writing a book and didn’t get enough sales to live off of by saying, “Your problem is you don’t understand business – you need to have written the book in a month to be profitable!” It may be true, but it’s not at all helpful and it’s very silly – things don’t work that way.

    • Emeraude says:

      I don’t think it’s so much they’re myopic as much they neither care nor have to.

      The value an entertainment product has to a final user is in very little amount related to how much it cost, how hard it was to make.

  6. C0llic says:

    Game development has to be one of the riskiest, most difficult ways you could choose to make a living. I have a lot of respect for small developers who try and make a go of it. As great as the steam-led indie resurgence has been there’s another problem now, and that’s the sheer saturation of the market. Best of luck to them.

  7. Risingson says:

    It’s the same thing with everything: most people see prices as market offer and demand, but then their salaries as rights. We all were taught in a very “ME” world that never takes into consideration each one’s responsability in buying as, for example, why one should decide not to buy in Amazon despite the cheap prices, or in Primark. Not only that: it is demanded that everything is supplied, and cheap, or free.

    I think we need a lot of education on this.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      This is a huge problem I have with people on both sides of the political aisle. Markets in cases it benefits me, intense government intervention in cases it benefits me. And then a lot of pointing fingers at other people over the same hypocrisy they themselves are committing.

      I am sure I do it too sadly…

  8. draglikepull says:

    I think it’s true that many gamers under-estimate how much it costs to make games and I think young gamers in particular under-estimate much money a person needs to maintain a decent standard of living.

    And yet, the “right” price for a game is presumably the one at which the developer will make the most money. If you can sell 10,000 copies at $30 or 40,000 copies at $10, you should probably price your game at $10 (at least with digital games, where there’s no significant per-unit costs).

    It’s difficult to know what your optimal price-point is (though the difficulty can be reduced if more developers share sales data), and so developers often price their games for what they think they’re “worth”. I think that typically makes them err on the high side, because they see it as a statement about the value of the work they put into it. But really, the price of the game should be the one that makes you the most money (unless making money is not your goal).

    • roboczar says:

      I feel like the calls for gamers to think more about the true value of the labor involved in making games needs some real thought put into why it’s the consumer’s responsibility to pay the difference, and why it’s their responsibility to make a subjective value determination that is outside the realm of prices. Nobody has really explained (so far) how one could even make that determination rationally, and moreover, how to translate that subjective value into a price that can be paid to a developer, since developers can’t eat and drink “value”?

      • Baines says:

        But it isn’t really the responsibility of gamers, is it?

        If you produce a product that you can only sell for a loss, then you made a bad business decision. Yes, it is sad to see game devs doing poorly, particularly for pursuing their dreams. But that doesn’t mean it is the fault of gamers for not being willing to pay $25 for a game that they believe is worth $10. It falls on the devs (and publisher) for both not making the game look as if it was worth more and for simply spending enough in the creation process that they feel that they have to sell 50,000 copies at $25 or whatever to break even.

        It is really only a matter of scale that differentiates this from people saying “What were they thinking?” when you hear a story about how some AAA publisher needed to sell six million copies of Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball 2 to break even due to their 5 years of development with a staff of 600 and their $200 million ad budget.

        • roboczar says:

          No, it’s not their responsibility. That’s mainly my point. If you feel like it *should* be their responsibility, it’s helpful to hte argument to maybe indicate just how one assesses subjective value and then translate it into a “value adjusted” price.

          I don’t think consumers in general can or should have to do that, but that seems to be what is being asked of them more often, these days.

    • Xocrates says:

      “err in the high side”?

      I seriously doubt that’s the case. Games are expensive to make, and a many, if not most, people will undervalue their work, often knowingly, in an attempt to not alienate their potential audience. This is aggravated by the race to the bottom that’s been going on for year now.

      I pay about as much for a AAA game nowadays as I did in the 90’s. Often even less. And production costs have only gotten bigger.

      And regardless of how much you price your game, odds are that the number of sales you get will be far less than you need.

      To quote a different part of the Brigador post:
      “And people’s reticence to pay what amounts to a pint of beer more for the game means adding another 33% or 16,000 copies to see the same results. That increase alone amounts to more units than many independent releases ever sell.”

      • roboczar says:

        Yeah, all that quote really says to me is that the people behind Brigador didn’t really look very hard at total costs before launching into production, and are now taking to the media to drum up sales because of their failure to plan their project and rein in costs to match their market.

        I feel bad for them and the obvious mistake here, but how is that the fault of gamers and their consumption patterns? It’s the developers job to decide if they can profitably market their product, not complain about the fact they can’t get enough sales after the fact.

        • Xocrates says:

          I’d laugh at you, but frankly you’re just making me sad.

          I realize that you think you’re being sensible, but everything you just said is not only unrelated to pretty much everything I said, but most of it is just plain wrong.

        • Shuck says:

          “rein in costs to match their market”
          That literally makes no sense when applied to games. Again, games are not widgets. There’s no demand for X copies of your game before you start making it. In a sense, each game has to create its own market, and the upper bounds of that potential market are set by the total number of PC gamers out there. (And obviously no one ever comes anywhere near spending so much dev money they’d need every PC gamer to buy their game to break even.)

          • roboczar says:

            Do not attempt to start a business. I beg you. You’ll only be causing yourself and your potential employees irreparable psychic harm with your terrible business acumen.

        • MrUnimport says:

          Nobody ‘took to the media’. This was a direct reply by one of the four-odd people working on Brigador to a poster on the Steam forums declaring that the game was worth $15 and not $20. The media are the ones who took it as a generalizable point and ran with it.

      • Emeraude says:

        I pay about as much for a AAA game nowadays as I did in the 90’s. Often even less. And production costs have only gotten bigger.

        But then the market has grown to compensate.

        Honestly, I’d have more compassion for those production cost increases in the AAA space if it wasn’t an issue of the various actors’ own making.

        No one demanded that explosion in cost. It’s on publishers and manufacturers.

        • Xocrates says:

          But the market hasn’t grown equally across the various genres. Famously, the Adventure game market didn’t so much die as it stopped growing, which cause AAA to abandon it.

          The same is true for pretty much every “niche” genre now, some of which used to dominate the gaming scene.

          So now we have the AAA scene dominated by a handful of “safe” genres and franchises, while we argue that 15€ is too much for a game that we would pay 50€ for in the 90’s.

          • Emeraude says:

            But the market hasn’t grown equally across the various genres. Famously, the Adventure game market didn’t so much die as it stopped growing, which cause AAA to abandon it.

            And given I was specifically addressing the AAA claim, I was not talking about those games at all. Maybe *you* were, but then that wasn’t perfectly explicit.

            The niche/small/medium-sized studios certainly suffered of the development costs explosion, but then that was one of the specific aims of such explosion. To kill the competition that couldn’t afford to keep up. Buy them off the market.

          • Llewyn says:

            You were talking about those games, you just perhaps don’t remember it. As Xocrates implies in saying that AAA abandoned certain genres, those genres were at one point represented in AAA output. The fact that they’re the preserve of indies and small publishers now doesn’t mean they always were.

          • Emeraude says:

            It’s good that you can tell better than myself what it is I’ve been saying.

            At least that way you can finish that conversation alone.

          • Llewyn says:

            Naturally. It fits well with you choosing to ignore any exception to your rule.

        • Shuck says:

          “But then the market has grown to compensate.”
          It hasn’t, though. It really, really hasn’t. AAA dev costs have grown by many orders of magnitude. Total game industry revenues have increased linearly over the long term (and often flat or even declining in the short term), and that includes the addition of new forms of gaming – e.g. mobile, which competes to some degree with AAA game sales. Sales of consoles have actually declined compared to previous generations. The number of AAA developers – and games – has steadily gone down for some years because individual games haven’t seen their sales rise consistently over time, either. There are plenty of top-selling, multi-platform, AAA games that still don’t manage to get the sales numbers that some games got in the ’70s/early ’80s on the Atari 2600, long before there even was such a thing as “AAA.” If the market had really grown to compensate, all modern AAA games would be exceeding sales records from that time.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        I think one of the largest things hurting the industry honestly is the commitment to the sub $100 price points. I would love to see someone come out and go, look we are going to have solid post release support, but no DLC, and no expansions, but the game is going to be polished and solid and cost $150. Something like Civ 5 could have REALLY used this model.

        It is so frustrating to watch legitimately good games get rushed out there or get half maimed through DLC/exclusives/needless expansions because the companies know that if they charge more too much no one will touch it even if in the meantime they blow $300 on 10 different half broken games that barely hold their interest.

        I would love to see Paradox, or Amplitude, or Firaxis one of the niche indie developers take this approach.

        Of course the other problem with high price points is they exacerbate piracy.

        • MrUnimport says:

          Isn’t this what the modern Season Pass model is? A new Battlefield comes out, you put down $60 for the game and $60 for the DLC that will be released at some point over the next year, sight unseen. At least some people do, anyway.

          • fabronaut says:

            this is the thought that came to mind for me as well.

            that’s what the “Season Pass” thing is all about — softening the blow for people who want the main experience (or similar), and if you want more and have the means, shell out a lot more for the rest?

            it’s a bit of a conundrum, really. my threshold for buying games is very different depending on context. I have an absurd number of games on Steam that I haven’t even touched, most of which I’ve paid a fraction of their “standard” store value for, due to deep discounts in sales, bundles, etc.

            sometimes this benefits the developers. as an example, I got Dungeon of the Endless from a friend as a gift, loved it, bought all the DLC (discounted), bought a second copy for another person on Steam (who prolly hasn’t even played it), and bought myself another game from the same developer that cost around ~$25 Canadian even while discounted.

            weirdly enough, I *still* haven’t played the game that I bought for ~$25 (Endless Legend, looks great and RPS seemed to love it), but I don’t mind. I’m still having a blast in Dungeon of the Endless and I wanted to pay it forward to the developer.

            as others have pointed out, it’s very difficult for developers today. I only have so much time and / or money, and I already have such a ludicrous stockpile of games that it takes a pretty big dash of impulse on my part to overcome my reticence and purchase more, especially at full price (whatever that might be).

            value is such a strange thing, really. I’ve spent several hundred dollars on a Wii U system that mostly is just used for my parents to watch Netflix and Youtube on. I completely adore the games I purchased for it, most of which I got for full price, since people don’t generally part with their physical copies, given that they’re of a staggeringly high quality. spending $70 + tax on a game after years of affordable PC games is quite a shock, but my value perception is very different there. not to mention that Nintendo’s absurd eStore policies (locking your DLC / content to that particular console and that one ONLY) also makes me more inclined to buy physical copies, price be damned. Particularly since I play the games so intermittently that I want them available for years down the line, so I’m a lot more flexible (or erm, less price sensitive?) in that market as a result.

            an approach I’ve found rather appealing as of late is when developers clearly message from the outset that their game will NOT be discounted for a relatively long period of time. (say, a year or so, maybe six months down the light, whatever.)

            I think Valve has had success with this in a different light, what with its recent policy of “the discount sale price is the price, no more flash sales” when applied to the seasonal store sales. instead of waffling on whether or not to buy a game now, I can buy it and be happy knowing that I’m not going to potentially save a few dollars if I wait. alternatively, I can keep my eye on it for a few days, and when the sale is drawing to a close, buy a few more that I’ve been pondering after checking the prices.

            I’m so used to scrimping and trying to slash costs from many years as a broke student, and I’m still struggling to figure my life out. it’s hard to break those habits, particularly when the only game I semi-splurge on occasionally is Dota 2. I tend to buy the International compendiums that come out annually (around ~$15 CAN), and I bought the winter one recently (~$12 CAN), both prices which amount to about an hour’s work of adult minimum wage here.

            it’s easier for me to spend a bit of money on that, and Valve has extracted a LOT more money from me accordingly by providing an excellent game and framework, support in the form of patches, and throwing in completely optional DLC flavour stuff in the form of cosmetic items that don’t affect the balance of the game.

            if they’d asked for $30-60 up front, I wouldn’t have bothered. I had a friend teach me how to play the game, and that’s what sucked me into the whole cycle. /shrug

            anyway, rambling anecdote complete. tl;dr version: price sensitivity threshold is different for everyone, developers are in a hard place, but as a frugal-ish consumer, I can’t really justify altering my behavior that much. Nintendo gets a pass from me, but that’s because I can generally rely on a long history of top shelf content. PC developers have a much tougher case to make in that regard, due to an absurdly large library available.

  9. wilynumber13 says:

    My favorite example to point to will always be the multiple instances Lab Zero has had to deal with. During Skullgirls’ DLC development there was an uproar over how much it cost to make each character, to the point that multiple games press outlets chimed in with the facts to help educate people. Fast-forward to their Indivisible crowdfunding, and yet again people somehow thought the budget was too high for the scope and style of game!

    • Baines says:

      Of course at the time Lab Zero was running an Indiegogo campaign asking for $225,000 per new character, the Indiegogo for Yatagarasu (composed of former SNK employees) was saying that they needed $25,000 per new character.

      To be fair, Lab Zero did manage to get their characters out well before Attack on Cataclysm saw release.

    • Emeraude says:

      To be fair, the cost issue with Indivisible, as far as I can tell from conversations, had to do with what LabZero wanted that potential backers didn’t value has much – mainly animation. People totally uninterested in the demands and costs for animation quality that didn’t matter to them thought the game could have been priced lower.

      And of course it could, just not as LabZero wanted it.

  10. Christo4 says:

    I think sales are good, if they are RARE.
    As it is with steam, sales are way too often imo, so unless you REALLY want a game, it’s better to just wait and get a better sale, especially on titles and producers you know will offer huge discounts.
    Stuff like MGSV and From Software games (DS 1, 2, STOFS and now 3) for example, offer fairly rarely discounts so they are worth more when you buy them sooner rather than later, in my opinion.
    I still remember when i bought Killing Floor 2 when it first released, after just a few weeks it went from 20 or 30 euros to 10 or something like that. And i didn’t have time to play it that much, so basically the value of the game decreased drastically. I should have expected it though, because it happened the same with KF1…

  11. BrillBill says:

    I dont ca

    • BrillBill says:

      I dont care about how many man hours a game took to make. If its a good game then I’ll buy it. The developer doesn’t need to convince me how hard they’ve worked or many hours they’ve spent they need to convince me its a good game that I want to play. They need to convince me this is the game I buy over the millions of others out there…

      • Risingson says:

        You SHOULD care.

        And I think I’m leaving this post for today. This ego selfish attitude angers me a lot. “It’s not my fault, I only care if it’s cheap, me me me me”

        • BrillBill says:

          I can honestly say I’ve never judged or bought a game thinking about how many hours someone has put into it. If its a great or if its a pile of crap why does it matter how long it took to make? Should we judge duke nuke forever differently because it took decades and squillions of man hours to make?

          What I’m saying is the developer doesn’t need to justify his price by quoting man hours. If its any good the game will sell at the price.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          I don’t think that’s what he is saying.

          More like: as the consumer, my task is to determine if something is worth my money. Into that equation does not enter how hard the devs worked.

          On the other side the dev needs to determine what price is worth their time and will at the same time still sell.

          I appreciate that most devs work hard. Hell, I work hard at my job, shite as it is. We all do. That just doesn’t really matter when I make a choice on a purchase. Though I also don’t post angry screeds about price. I mutter ‘Too rich for my blood’ and move on.

          I suppose my question is: why ought he care?

          • brokengod says:

            Somewhere along the line, the question being asked has morphed – that is why the answers no longer make sense.

            When someone complains about the price of a game, and insists it should be lower, they are not saying “this game is shite and not worth the asking price” as that would be a simple “do not buy” resolution.

            When someone insists the price is lower, they are saying “I want to buy this game, but I believe the price is too high”

            From that comes the answer to “why ought he to care?”

            We should care how hard the devs worked because that is what defines value. When we consider the price of buying a sandwich, we should consider the cost of the ingredient, and the cost of making those ingredients available in sandwich format. Then we can pass judgement on “is the asking price fair?”

            The great majority of the ‘ingredients’ of a game is man-hours and effort. How many man hours, and how much effort, are -very- important things to consider when judging “is this game worth this price?”

            You don’t -have- to care about this. But if you care about the continued availability of high quality games, you certainly -should- care, and you -should- want to pay a fair price for a game you will enjoy.

        • Christo4 says:

          There’s this guy that stared 10.000 hours at a blank piece of paper (with NOTHING on it, just white) and then put it in a museum and called it art.
          I don’t care if he stayed 100000000000 hours and stared at a piece of paper, a piece of paper is still a piece of paper and a crappy game can still be a crappy game!
          Not saying this game is crappy, i never tried it, but developers shouldn’t be offered a free pass on publishing lackluster games even if they spent a lot of time making them (can’t think of any examples at the moment. I guess Bioshock infinite could be one for me, there were a lot of repeating faces and other stuff that were faulty, as i felt them when i first played the game, but they spent 400 million $ on it or something).

        • aldo_14 says:

          If we were to scale the worth of games based on the time spent making them, how much would Duke Nukem Forever cost?

          It’s fair enough to explain why something costs what it does. That doesn’t mean it should automatically be good value to the purchaser.

        • roothorick says:

          Why should we care? Developers went into one of the most if not THE most saturated market in the first world fully knowing they’ll be competing with millions of others over a few thousand prospective purchases. I have deep respect for them taking that risk, but we don’t have an obligation to bail them out when their product doesn’t turn a profit, whatever the reason.

  12. mukuste says:

    Is it weird that I almost never buy games at €20 (usually buy things on sale for under €10) and yet fully agree with this post?

    Also, his list made me feel like I’m wasting my life, 5 years at a time.

  13. frightlever says:

    Steroids shrink your balls.

    That’s the issue here, right?

    Games are worth what people are willing to pay. That’s how capitalism works. The amount of effort that goes into the game is immaterial. There are terrible games that cost tens of millions of dollars.

    Pointing at one small developer with an unproven game and saying, “those guys so this” is illogical. Although Future Cop: LAPD was a good game.

    • frightlever says:

      (… tens of millions of dollars to make. To make. Though there were some pretty pricey special editions.)

    • Risingson says:

      Oh, “that is how capitalism works”. This is what you are going to be told whenever you have any salary decrease or just bad luck.

      • WastedJoker says:

        Yeah, ethical purchasing is all well and good when it comes to textiles, tech buying, and food stuffs but you can’t really compare an educated and conscious decision to avoid buying from manufacturers who use sweatshops to buying a video game, can you?

        Triple AAA game employees may feel like they’re enslaved and badly treated (looking at you, EA and Activision) but that in no way compares to the poor sods in China/India having to risk serious injury or death just so I can buy an OTG cable for less than £1 including delivery.

      • Hobbes says:

        No, you’ll be told that you’re being made redundant (or being downsized, or rightsized, or your work has been reallocated elsewhere and you are now being freed up to pursue new challenges outside of the company). That’s the polite form of “That’s how capitalism works”.

        You might ASK to take a pay cut in order to preserve your job, only to be told that’s not possible, and your boss really wishes you all the best as you look for new opportunities.

        THAT is how Capitalism works. Live and learn.

      • frightlever says:

        Not really an issue for me. I embraced capitalism.

        I’m not sure how this effortocracy is supposed to work though. Capitalism is a lot simpler.

        If you make something people want, they’ll pay for it.

        Hype and marketing will skew this, but indie games people want to play still sell well. It’s the niche games, which people don’t want to play, most Arcen games for instance, that are in trouble.

        The game can be a labour of love, but you can’t manufacture an audience.

        • Ashrand says:

          To explain with capitalism then, Games currently have a next to zero marginal cost and high set-up costs, they also have a monopoly in the form of a copyright on the art assets and much of the other ‘creative’ elements.
          Saying it’s simple requires you ignore all the complications involved in getting a product people actually want at a good price under those conditions.
          If we accept that we want more, well produced games, we accept we want most of the people making quality products to be fairly paid (or they have no capital incentive to do so) how do you propose to do that without pointing out that the skills they have would be much better rewarded in other industries and seeing that as a problem.

  14. bovine3dom says:

    “It’s a race to the bottom that benefits no one.” – er, consumers?

    This is how the price mechanism works, at least as I understand it.

    Competition for consumers’ business reduces prices.

    Lower prices reduce the number of people that think they can make money by making games, reducing competition, so prices can go back up.

    Somewhere in the middle is a happy medium.

    What’s interesting about digital goods is that the cost of selling each additional unit is near zero, so there’s no hard lower limit to the price – it’s all about what people can be persuaded to pay.

    • Janichsan says:

      “It’s a race to the bottom that benefits no one.” – er, consumers?

      Actually, no. In the end, the consumer loses, too.

      Lesser prices mean lesser profit margins, meaning the producers have to cut costs, meaning product quality suffers. Meaning in the end, you get nothing but cheap shit.

      • Distec says:

        This may be an issue with particular dev houses that don’t have their shit in order. I’ve yet to be convinced that this is where the industry as a whole will be heading.

        If a dev/publisher starts seriously skimping on the quality of their games due to financial reasons, I expect them to die off and somebody else will step in to deliver.

        • Janichsan says:

          This may be an issue with particular dev houses that don’t have their shit in order.

          No, that’s basic economics. The end result of a downward spiral of sales prices is that no one will be able to provide a product or service without having to skimp on quality. A minimum of quality has a still price.

          • Distec says:

            Yes, I see that as the end result if we follow that argument to its fullest extent possible and logical conclusion.

            I just don’t believe that the gaming industry is anywhere close to this kind of scenario, nor that sloughing off a bunch of game makers in a crowded market because they can’t financially hack it is some inherently bad thing. The downward spiral of sales prices only seems to be negatively affecting a subset of developers amidst a great deal of confusion of how games should be valued any way.

            There are so many other things that would have to happen before we end up in an era of nothing but “cheap shit”.

      • Chaoslord AJ says:

        Exactly – in the sixties we produced household wares and tools which can still be used today. If you hold an artifact like a drill from that era it’s massive, has barely any seems and will probably outlive you.
        Nowadays it’s 95% cheap consumist shit with ugly plastic grates, you shake it once and it falls apart.

  15. Artist says:

    Well, nice rundown of their costs and investment. But a sad story that they had to reply to the usualy “too expensive”-crying of the spoilt kids on Steam. And yes, its mostly kids that dont even spend their money, but their parents. Which also explains why they complain.

    But imo thats what should be adressed in the first place – who is complaining – and not what they complain about. Because once the “who” is identified it usually shows that the argumentation falters anyway.

  16. tortortor says:

    Let’s say it’s a game you like, and you spend a few dozen hours playing it. The opportunity cost of that is several hundred dollars, if you have a regular job. Presumably people think it’s worth that, so why do those first $20 make everyone so upset?

    And if it’s a game you don’t like, and don’t play very much? That just means you don’t invest those hundreds of dollars. It’s a win-win situation.

    • Windows98 says:

      Maybe if you’re a contractor, but for someone with a 9-5 the opportunity cost is measured only in time you could spend playing something else, rather than loss of potential earning.

      • Philopoemen says:

        I work for the government, but I tend to measure purchases in time, or entertainment equivalent.

        I’ll pay $20 to go see a 2 hour movie, $100 for a decent meal, and if I have a big night out, $200 on alcohol etc which has no replay value.

        But I found myself in the past balking at paying $10 to play a game that might entertain me for 40 hours. Given that I used to pay $80-$100 for box copies of games whilst i was growing up, I found myself looking at this incredulously. So now, especially that I’m at the point where I’m comfortable financially, the only reason I balk at paying prices is because I want the feature-complete GOTY versions…not because they’re cheaper, but because my time isn’t worth dicking about with fixes and patches etc when I can just wait for the full game and DLC all in one.

      • carewolf says:

        Then you undervalue your own time. It is not something to follow strictly but it is always a good guideline. You work about one third of your life, sleep one third, and spend the last third. This means for each hour of work you have one hour of non-work. Taxes, food, living and fixed costs eats some 75-95% (depending on kids or not) of your income leaving some 5-25% of the income of an hour of work to spend on each hour of non-work.

    • roothorick says:

      You’re conflating usefulness with value. We’d all be dead without air, but we’re not shelling out billions to be able to breathe, are we?

      People want to pay $5 because they perceive it as of similar quality as other games that cost $5. Which, if their judgement is true, does indeed make the game worth $5.

      The real issue is more systemic than that. The overwhelming abundance and easy convenience of games has left pretty much everyone with massive backlogs that progressively devalue all games with every purchase. What was once a $50 game is now barely worth $5 because we already own 300 other games of similar or better quality, many for which we paid, well, $5.

      I think the visionary artist culture of indie developers is primarily to blame. When a lot of people are willing to take a grave risk, or worse, accept financial failure as a foregone conclusion, so long as it means they can realize their creative vision, you wind up with exactly this kind of market crash.

      But the only way out is to abandon that notion, which comes at a price. That means all those visionaries packing up and going elsewhere, fewer minds making fewer games. Variety is important to a creative market, and when the producer side of the market shrinks, variety suffers.

      Literature is facing a very similar crisis. TV and movies have protected themselves by breaking away from charging consumers per-work, instead selling only indirectly (theaters), via all-access subscriptions (Netflix et al), and/or making access to their very consumers a service to be sold (advertising).

      I don’t really know where that leaves us gamers.

      • tortortor says:

        You’re conflating usefulness with value. We’d all be dead without air, but we’re not shelling out billions to be able to breathe, are we?

        And we’re not shelling out hundreds of dollars for a single game either. My point is not that games are cheap – I realize how the market works and why prices are being pushed down. My point is that if you can’t afford spending $20 on a game, how can you afford spending 20h on it?

        • TechnicalBen says:

          You really, really have no idea how some people live, and how some people are children and don’t actually work. :P

        • Joshua Northey says:

          A good question for a rational responsible person, but honestly a lot of people are neither.

          And a huge portion of the game market is still kids, big kids (college students), and forever kids (those people who never really move past college lifestyle). To them the marginal 5$ means a lot because they want to work as little as possible.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        This is exactly right. What the market needs right now honestly is fewer games made better, by larger teams, spending more time on the game. That won’t happen of course, but it would make a lot of people’s lives better.

        It is no good trying to sift through 300 B and C games looking for the B+’s. It would be much better to have 30 games many of which are A’s.

        Ugggg my steam backlog is in the literally thousands of hours of playtime…

  17. Luminolza says:

    Or just make it free to play with microtransactions and let people pay £1 or £1000 if it makes them happy.

  18. DuncanIdah0 says:

    The problem I see is that game development is part art, part engineering, part business. My impression is that most of the indie developers focus mainly in the art elemment, some in the engineering element (less than in art) and very little in the business part.

    While any sensible bussines, when developing a new product, would think of the budget they have, return on investment, competitors, etc., before deciding how much to invest int it, indie developers seem to think more like artists. They have this cool idea, or this dream project and they give all they have to make it real, however, from a economic point of view, it probably doesn’t make sense.

    In addition to this, from some of the porjects I have followed in recent times, there is a total lack of project management and in general correctly orginised developmet; it looks very chaotic. This may be good for creativity but is horrendous for keeping a project in schedule, in cost and in quality.

    In other words, they have to think that perhaps they should be less like Van Gogh and more like Henry Ford, even it its less glamorous.

    • Distec says:

      It does seem like some indie devs are drawing attention to problems that creative types have already dealt with in other mediums. Making commercially successful creative products is hard and there really isn’t a safety net if you fail.

      This isn’t even to sell the lie you just need to “work hard” and “have business smarts” in a capitalist market. Most people are extremely lucky for having their success for just existing at the right place and the right time when something took off. Most other people can do everything right and try their damnedest, only to never see the fruits borne from their efforts.

      That sucks. I feel for that completely. But I’m a bit put off when a game maker comes out and adopts this sort of lecturing stance, as if their hardships are just incomprehensible to the audience they’re serving. There’s this belief (not always outright stated) that they’d be doing better financially if their customers just wisened up. And they’re not completely wrong; most people have no idea how games are made. But what’s to be done about it? If your pet project costing you time, money, and blood is not worth 20 bucks to the guy on the other end, then it’s not worth it to them. There’s not much more room for argument here, I’m afraid.

      “Trying to make a living as a small-time creative is hard.”
      Yes. And?

      I don’t want to come off as too unsympathetic. If there’s some kind of platform or practice that can help smaller devs make a living outside of simply buying a product, I am supportive of it. We’re also still living in the wake of the digital distribution’s disruptive entry, and it’s a time where there’s a lot of confusion over the pricing and value of products/services. It’ll be some time before the ground firms over and some lessons are learned.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        I think some are moving to a Patreon style support (as are many Youtube/Twitch/bloggers etc). So even further from Kickstarter style funding.

        No idea if it’s better/worse for the creators or customers though.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      You Ninja’d my post, and got it right with the balance on Art, Business and Coding. :)

  19. SuicideKing says:

    It really works like this, I think: I paid about £10 for a retail copy of XCOM 2, played it for 52 hours. No major bugs, poor performance but I barely meet the min reqs on the GPU front. Net result? I felt it was worth it.

    On the other hand, those who paid $60 on Steam and got to play a buggy mess of a game will NOT be happy, or feel it was worth $60.

    Firaxis obviously thought $60 was worth it in the US but lowered the price in the Indian market.

    Point is, everyone knows what a game’s worth to THEM, but to trade people have to agree on terms of exchange.

    • Philopoemen says:

      This is what annoys me about digital distribution – why, for a product that has no physical form, and doesn’t have import/export excises, is there different prices across different markets? In Australia we get shafted on digital distribution, where the traditional excuse of shipping costs don’t apply. That’s not just Valve, but Apple, Amazon etc.

      • Frosty Grin says:

        Because you’re getting higher wages for equal work. That’s why it’s fair and at the same time profitable to charge you more.

        • Cederic says:

          Thing is, my wages suffer because of competition from people living in areas where they can work for half my salary and enjoy a far more luxurious lifestyle.

          This is because they can hire servants, buy property, cover living costs for a relatively tiny subset of that income, and then spend the rest on games at $4 each rather than the $40 I get charged.

          Sure, a lot of their neighbours are living in absolute poverty, but don’t go pretending that I’m massively better off than people doing equal work elsewhere. That’s very definitely not the case.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        You are aware that different countries have different economies and different standards of living? If you charge $4 for a gallon of milk in Bolivia no one is buying it, nor $20 for a movie ticket. That could be a couple day’s wages. In the US it is an hour’s wages.

  20. TechnicalBen says:

    Art has an infinite cost. Games have in part art in them.
    Thus the cost of a game is possibly infinite. The value of it though, is down to the market, not the producer, to decide.

    Saying that “games are expensive” is missing the point. Games development costs either as much as we choose, or infinitely as much as it will take to make an infinitely high standard. It’s just most choose “acceptable” and ship at that.

    So I’m gonna say it, you’re ALL wrong. ;)

    (Though I’m not right, I’m not suggesting I know who is)

  21. Andy_Panthro says:

    I was perplexed by a few people on twitter mentioning it, and checked the price and was amazed there was any outrage at a game costing £15.

    On a side note, Brigador reminds me much more of C&C2: Tiberian Sun than the original C&C.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Watching gameplay footage my immediate thought was that it looks like Crusader: No Remorse only with the camera pulled waaaaaay back.

      And you know, a robot.

  22. Heliocentric says:

    When Phantom Pain was £35 I rolled my eyes, when it was £30 I shrugged, when it went down to £25 I winced as I heard a cat shriek and quickly forgot about PP.

    I have no intention of paying More than £7.50 for it. It might be worth more that but I can only trust that I can pay that much and never feel bad about it. I work on greatest denominator payment, what is the most I believe I can pay without feeling guilty in the context of my families needs, if it’s less than that, they got a sale.

    • Unsheep says:

      Waiting to buy a game until you can afford it, or justify buying it, is rational and understandable. Its the responsible thing to do.

      Its a different matter entirely when people are questioning the value the developers put on their work. To me that is the crux of the issue.

      • roothorick says:

        Mm. Mixed feelings.

        On the one hand, it’s delusional to claim that cost of production should influence consumer demand or the value of the product, or for that matter, that the product’s quality justifies some arbitrary price point. So, they’re not wrong.

        On the other, the market will bury the unfit on its own; adding insult to injury and berating them for their naivete is just mean for no reason. Doubly bad if they’re just plain wrong and the developer is actually pricing the game correctly.

        • gwathdring says:

          Why is it delusional for production costs to modulate value?

          Capitalism isn’t some sovereign system rules; it’s a description of systemic interactions. We still have agency within those systemic interactions; we still can and invariably do modulate value systems however we darn well please with advertising, cultural moralisms, government subsidies, discourse …

          Supply and demand is a descriptive abstraction, not a law of the universe nor a Commandment from Above. If gamers consistently ask for quality the market can’t sustainably meet at the prices gamers expect, some open discourse about how we evaluate what a game is worth is certainly in order. That doesn’t mean gamers owe more sales to developers; but value isn’t a rigid thing based solely on what the customer wants in their heart of hearts. Value is very flexible and can adjust according to myriad factors. It makes plenty of sense that we should work to create a more mutually functional system of value in gaming rather than just trust to market to work value out “naturally.” Not communicating is pretty dang unnatural in an economic system.

          Delusional is making the same mistakes of Social Darwinism and applying that poor logic and even poorer moral fiber to economics and pretending that’s “capitalism.” That’s not capitalism. That’s lazy ignorance.

          • gwathdring says:

            P.S. Which, based on your posts elsewhere, you’re not actually doing! So I apologize for that bit at the end there. My core issues here are:

            1) Describing how it does work only gets us part of the way to describing how we want it to work; it helps us set the bounds for what is reasonable, but within those bounds we still get to pick where we want to go.

            2)Successful business absolutely demands that we set the price according to the cost portioned out across the customer base.

            3) So why is it unreasonable to expect consumers to make minor modulations to their value structure according to those same principles? Afterall, most customers have extremely erratic and incoherent valuation strategies. Why is it delusional to attempt–through dialog–to boost customer valuation of things that are more difficult or expensive to make? Consider this a socially-modulated risk venture.

            If customers are willing to lean in a little bit when something already valuable to them was risky–either because it is innovative, or expensive or what-have-you–then producing things valuable to those customers becomes more sustainable.

            4) Customers clearly don’t understand their own value systems. They buy more games than are worth their time/money in the present digital games market quite consistently! This isn’t necessarily a one-sided failure, obviously, but it speaks to my main point: talking about supply and demand is only as good as the ability of both sides to assess those things. If customers don’t understand how the supply works, they mis-value and mis-demand. If developers don’t understand what customers are thinking, they mis-price and mis-supply.

            5) As such, I find labeling attempts to actively manipulate a clearly unhealthy valuation system “delusional” … well, let’s go with counter-productive and confusing.

  23. Shadow says:

    I have a simple and, I believe, fairly reasonable rule as far as videogame purchases are concerned: one dollar for each hour of entertainment. If your game’s my cup of tea and meets (or better, exceeds) that ratio, then chances are I’ll buy it.

    If the game falls under that ratio, then I’ll demand an exceptional degree of quality. But only to a point, after which there’s simply no deal until I see a better pricetag.

    The amount of man hours spent developing any given game is largely irrelevant from the consumer’s perspective. One can produce a masterpiece in two years, or a completely forgettable opus in five. It’s not at all an indicator of final quality. If said quality isn’t up to snuff, then I’m sorry: you’re selling luxury items, and charity doesn’t have a required part in it.

    • Gunrun says:

      That’s how you get Far Cry Primal though, a game with about as much worthwhile content as Blood Dragon, but spread paper thin so you can play it for 15 hours.

  24. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Strangely if you see a game discounted 75%-90% in early access it’s almost certainly really bad or abandoned.

    I usually jump at sales like everyone but I also make it a point to pay in full if I like someone’s attitude or think they deserve it (or I’m really really hot to play on release).

  25. derbefrier says:

    IT really seems like programming classes should have a mandatory business class with them since every indie game dev has dreams of becomeing the next Notch. games are a dime a dozen these days. you cant swing a dead cat without hitting 100 new indie games anymore. I believe this has more to do with an overstauration of the market rather than consumers not knowing what a game is worth. WE know exactly what its worth to us ( value is relative after all) and honestly gimmicky indie game # 34343423 isnt worth a lot to the average consumer and with so many of them its easy for us to miss the rare good ones that might slip past us. I dont deny these guys work hard on their games but when you choose to get into a field of work thats highly competitive with a super easy entry point with a customer base thats used to paying pennies on the dollar. you cant really complain when that happens to you and blame the consumer. Its like growing up and getting mad your garageband didnt become rockstars simply because you showed to to practice every day and put a demo on the internet.

  26. frogmanalien says:

    I can’t blame the devs who shout out about consumers who actively engage with them about the cost of games- most seem happy to provide a technical (business) break down of why a game costs so much- this seems entirely fair to me.

    I also subscribe to the belief that must indie devs are doing trying to make money out of their art- and that unfortunately is a risky venture – theirs plenty of good painters, singers, film editors and writers who will struggle to make money out of their art and this will be equally true of games. Fortunately, the cost of production for many of these people can be £0 if they chose to see their own time and money as fuel to be burnt on the fire of their passion.

    I don’t think I’m on board with gaming’s rush to the bottom – but just as we lament the value of the TV license in the UK (soooo many hours to content for so little money) and there will be some who don’t bother to donate in free art galleries, there will always be a desire to push prices down.

    For me, I’d like to see a viable model that supports creative people doing creative things – a commission structure perhaps that isn’t as business oriented as Kickstarter or the traditional Publisher paradigm, but I don’t think such a thing could exist.

    In an industry as rich in content we should consider ourselves fortunate- but both gamers and developers alike lament backlogs and low prices – perhaps the solution is to have a Spotify for games where you’re paying per “game” and you just get a cut?

  27. haldolium says:

    Well that is basically some legacy shit the big players brought upon the industry AS WELL AS THE REPORTING ABOUT IT with intense marketing that didn’t gave a clue about what it means making games and so resulting in the circumstance that no one actually knows what it means to make games.

    It’s just too complex for most of the audience to grasp the idea what it means to bring a game into life with code, sound, art, writing and how time consuming it is and how much knowledge on so many ends it requires.

    That is imo rather the issue as the pure abstract of the costs which are a result of this.

    You can’t see the work that went into it unless you actually know the work. And that is something the game industry has cultivated over decades. With massive help by magazines that were rather on the marketing and yellow-press end as actually giving a sophisticated look into game development.

    It’s still true today, even here on RPS the reporting is usually consumer friendly without going too much into depths or technical details, even though nowadays the knowledge is a lot more widespread. It’s still only about buzzwords and technological ignorance.

    So yeah, actually most players DO NEED to see it for once at least what it means to bring a game into life. And that is especially true for all the negative shit, things that get cut, deadlines that have to be reached etc.

    That doesn’t mean they can’t critize, I do so all the time and I know damn well what it takes to create a game, but that is rather the core of the issue really for the devaluation of the art. Many other things piled up on top of it, but I still see that as one of the major issues with games.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      You are absolutely right that the business of games is sorely under-covered by RPS, which at times can be particularly galling when some of their vociferous criticisms of particular things in the PC gaming space comes from widespread ignorance of the business of making games from both consumers, and often the writers here.

      • Cederic says:

        If something is sub-optimal then the effort needed to even get it to that level, let alone optimise it, is not relevant to the simple fact that it’s sub-optimal.

        Would I prefer to have a steaming pile of utter rancid misery (e.g. Arkham Asylum) or no game at all? This is an easy choice, I can find other games, other forms of entertainment or just catch up on my sleep.

        The fact that someone’s heart and soul went into that festering mess and they’re distraught about it is a personal human tragedy. Call me callous but there are four billion of those out there, I don’t have enough time to actually care.

        RPS and other sites help me differentiate the pitiful gaming black holes of despair from the extraordinary awesomeness that’s available. This is why I own ETS2.

        It’s a valuable service. It’s a good thing. The time, effort, resources and emotion that went into the games are far far less relevant to the audience than the simple facts around whether they’re worth the time, effort, resources and emotion of the potential game player.

        Please RPS, vociferously criticise away. People need to know, including the deluded fools that think it’s right to sell a noxious clusterfuck of a game.

  28. Unsheep says:

    What the? how have I not heard of Brigador before ? Thank you RPS for bringing it to my attention. I can even get the game DRM-free.

    As for the article’s topic.

    I have the impression that Indie games have a lower value attached to them among gamers who predominantly play triple-A games. Many of them seem to compare an Indie game against the production value of a triple-A game, even when the asking price is much lower for the former. In other words there’s a gap in some people’s reasoning.

    Maybe its because the gamers who complain about the price of Indie games are quite young, at least that has been my experience on the Steam and GOG forums.

    • gwathdring says:

      That gap is called tradition and marketing.

      Sometimes a cheap product can increase it’s apparent value by simply increasing its price; this obviously doesn’t always work, but the cases in which is does work are quite interesting. In any case, no one can effectively question the $60 price point for AAA games at this point. In the abstract, if it’s more popular and it costs more, the companies involved must make more money off it so it must be better so it must be worth more.

      In practice, a lot of that money first goes into marketing to keep AAA games, well, AAA. Second, major studios are a bit like airlines. In chasing solvency in a rapidly changing industry, they lay off workers at the drop of a hat. This is very, very, very inefficient. Even when they don’t lay off workers, there’s still inefficiency from having a larger team than you need. Even when you fill your team’s labor hours to capacity there’s still inefficiency because designing complex products like games to fit arbitrary things like “How many employees do I need to put to work on something that will eventually make money” instead of really focusing on what each project needs is going to cause some of those projects to suffer. Even if you scale things right project-by-project you’re paying people to do maybe less work than they could be doing for the game cost to you …

      So AAA is less efficient. No surprise there.

      But it’s also stuck self-escalating. A lot of AAA marketing is based on superiority rather than uniqueness. This creates the familiar bigger-world, better-graphics, longer-playtime escalations that cause so much to go wrong in otherwise good games. This self-escalation makes it less efficient for the player, too.

      So why is it still worth $60? Because value isn’t linear. Customers don’t sit there and compare value against some scale in their soul. They’re caught up in tradition/resignation, reasonable expectation, marketing hype, word of mouth … a AAA game is going to cost $60 to play right away. There’s nothing you can do about that. A non-AAA game? It could be set at any price point! They didn’t have to wait for a sale to price it competitively! They could price it whatever right now!

      AAA has, for both better and worse, made itself a separate value category. The real problem is when customers are insufficiently self-aware and start comparing value across value categories–usually using abstractions or outliers that do not properly translate. For example, comparing the quality of the animations in Assassin’s Creed and the scale of The Witcher 3 and the tight design of Street Fighter IV all in amalgam to either other AAA titles or worse to a non-AAA title … you can do all that for $60! Surely you can do a third of it for $20?

      Communication/education would help a lot of this. It wouldn’t mean the frustration for developers stops, but it would lead to gamers making more honest and coherent decisions which would mean developers could base their expectations of real information rather than the confused muddle of gamers who barely even understand their own valuations.

      • gwathdring says:

        The most obvious thing education would help is clarifying that Price != Budget. All else equal, Budget scales with Quality which scales with Value.

        [All else is not equal, but nor is there accounting for personal taste so there’s not much sense in clairifying a lot of the non-equalness since we still have to ask the customer if they’re interested in the end.]

        But Price = Budget / Expected Sales. All else equal, then, since Price~Value in the case where a consumer buys the game, and Expected Sales ~ Popularity when everything goes according to plan:

        Price ~ Value ~ Budget / Popularity. Gamers who don’t understand this, tend to skip budget and end up with Price ~ Value or at best Price/Popularity ~ Value.

        All of that’s just me having fun with imaginary numbers, though. The key concept is that gamers have expecatations that are based not on their actual value systems, but on the intersection of their value system with their expecations about how the whole gaming economy works or should work. When these expectations are wrong or unrealistic, valuation gets thrown off. As such the whole “Blargh, but capitalism; people pay what they’re willing to pay” is a load of horse shit. Capitalism is a description of what happens, not a moralism about how it should happen. Capitalism tells us, indeed, that value is flexible; we can flex the value into a more productive and mutually functional shape by encouraging communication and fostering more reasonable expectations.

  29. SamuelKikaijin says:

    I understand, but its hard to justify buying every game at full price when you have such a huge backlog.
    Trying to return to quality over quantity here thou.

  30. syllopsium says:

    I sympathise slightly with the developers, but there’s a lot going wrong here.

    Is the list of things they’ve done worth 20 dollars? Almost certainly. Is the game itself worth 20 dollars, and was their planning sensibly targeted? Possibly not – even leaving aside the fact the trailer is a good one.

    This isn’t a new game that’s being unfairly targeted – it’s a game that’s been out five months regardless of whether it’s in ‘early access’ or not.

    It’s also worth studying pretty much everything written by Jeff Vogel, and especially Dave Gilbert. Dave’s third Blackwell game was actually a step down in visual/technical quality from his second, but it sold more. Dave spent his development money on what would actually sell games (plot, characterisation, puzzles) and not what some people wanted (higher resolution art, better animation).

    Using that strategy Dave is now a game publisher, as well as writing his own games. These guys? It’s five years on, they’re an unknown, and their game has still not been released.

    It’s really difficult not to shoot for the moon when developing, and sometimes, when you’re Looking Glass Studios – it works. Everyone else should be extremely careful.

  31. rkaycom says:

    That’s sad to hear but that’s how economics work, consumers set the price they are willing to pay, not the product producer, you aren’t entitled to money because you “worked really hard on it”, Firewatch is a good example, good looking, interesting, high production values, short… There are plenty of games in the same price range that offer more then Firewatch does so why buy it? The games market or more accurately the indie games market is over saturated and has been since the SMB, Fez, Braid revolution a few years ago, some indie devs need to fall by the wayside their are too many for the market, hard reality of the industry atm.

    • RabbitIslandHermit says:

      …because I wanted to play Firewatch and not a rougelike or a platformer or an oldschool RPG or even something in the same ballpark but still very different like Gone Home? If you think a the price for a given game is too high then that’s your prerogative, but personally I find this idea that games are all equivalent packages that can be compared by measures like hours per dollar to be bizarre.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Yeah, the idea that all games are basically the same and can be measured against each other in hours of fun/dollar is absurd. Each game is its own experience and you play THAT game because that is the specific experience you want, not because you need to fill X number of hours with just any activity…

        • Baines says:

          Except you also only have X hours to fill…

          That means that you are already comparing the various ways to fill those X hours.

          Unless you are independently wealthy, a thief, living off of others, or unconcerned for living beyond your means, then you only have X dollars to spend… That means cost is a factor in anything you do. Which means you are now comparing entertainment potential, time, and cost all together. Which does mean that “hours per dollar” is part of your consideration, even if you don’t think of it directly.

          (And when people say “hours per dollar”, there is an implied minimum level of entertainment. It isn’t just “X hours for Y dollars,” because what is not mentioned is the idea that the person is willing to spend X hours on that recreation rather than on something else.)

    • frightlever says:

      People used to code scene demos to show how clever they were. Now everyone wants to write games and thinks they should be able to make a living at it.

      In much the same way anyone can write a book, ANYONE can make a game. Neither automatically deserves an audience.

      Typically, successful authors are either extremely smart, or they meticulously tailor their work to their target audience.

  32. Hobbes says:

    Right, so I’ve read their post. I call bullshit. Not on the content of their post, but on the conclusions of their post. They’re attempting to appeal to sympathy in the end, which is one of those nasty fallacies that needs burning down before we go any further.

    Firstly, they made their own engine, they made their own maps, their own units, their own animations, this is all very nice and all, but it doesn’t -entitle- them to the price they’re charging. They’re allowed to -ask- for it, and they’re allowed to explain why they’re asking for it, but they’re not allowed to say that changing the price point magically makes their game unable to break even (because they don’t know), nor are they allowed to compare what their efforts equate to in terms of time spent because not all time spent is equally productive (because it’s not).

    Do I think their asking price is high for what it is? Yes. I’ll be waiting for it to hit sale, that’s capitalism at work. I’ll wait for it to hit a price I’m comfortable with, I pay what I feel a game is worth, if I don’t feel it’s worth £15, then guess what? I’m not obligated or required to pay what you suggest it’s worth, and your darling little explanation, little snowflake, isn’t going to convince me otherwise.

    TLDR : Economics, I know them, and apparently the devs do not, or they’d not make false equivalences and bad assertions all the way through their so called “explanation”.

    • MrUnimport says:

      But the devs’ post specifically acknowledges those points. It’s a defence of their choice to price the game at $20, not a complaint that (some) people are unwilling to pay it.

      Honestly I’m getting the impression that partial quoting of Monahan’s post in gaming media is just doing damage to the reputation of everyone involved as people jump to their own conclusions about what’s being said.

    • Hobbes says:

      No, I read the steam post, and my point stands. The whole thing is riddled with logical faults, and if I wanted to I could rip it to shreds. The fact that the whole thing is essentially one big appeal to sympathy despite the fig leaf that they pretend otherwise makes no significant difference to the overall picture.

      The TLDR is that customers think the game is priced too highly, personally I’m inclined to agree, because games like FTL have proven that you can have runaway successes at lower price points, conversely you can have games at £35 which go nowhere (HELLO AFTER RESET! I’M LOOKING AT YOU, NO HIDING AT THE BACK).

      Brigador in my personal opinion (and from experience, I tend to be correct more often than not) is incorrectly priced for the market it’s aiming at, simple as, if the devs think otherwise, that’s their good right, but a somewhat emotionally driven post which goes “C’mon guys, it’s the cost of a nickelback poster!” as part of it’s running theme isn’t going to win on anything except attempting to tug on the press heartstrings (in which it’s succeeded).

      Maybe they’d be better off looking at the pricing strategy rather than putting on the puppy eyes.

      • MrUnimport says:

        I think your cynicism is misplaced. Jack Monahan wrote a personal reply to a personal question: the fact that took place in a public (and infrequently used) forum doesn’t make it an appeal to the press. You are visibly looking at this as an attempt to manipulate the media and yourself, which speaks to a particular prejudice.

      • Poison_Berrie says:

        If I had to venture a guess, you are trying to confirm your own bias, based solely on the fact that this gained some momentum in the greater gaming press.

        The reality is that this was a reply to a otherwise small thread on a forum solely for this game. The reply is mostly an attempt to show their reasoning for their pricing, with the clear disclaimer that you shouldn’t feel compelled to buy the game.

        It is more telling of a cynicism on your part that you don’t see it as that.

  33. celticdr says:

    I never understood why people complain about the price of $15-$20 indie games on Steam – in the case of Firewatch I see reviews decrying it for only having 3-5 hrs of playtime for $20, has anyone been to the cinema lately? That’s better value than seeing the new [Stars Wars/Deadpool/etc] and you get to replay it as many times as you like (unlike the film – unless you buy it on DVD).

    These devs pour their hearts and souls into these games – I say give them their due.

    • Hobbes says:

      I pay what a game is worth. I’ve not bought Firewatch because of the same reason I’ve not bought Brigador. They’re not worth that price point to me. I’ll buy them when they drop to a point that I feel comfortable paying. That’s my good right as a consumer.

      They are developers, their right as a developer is to make a product, if their product is good and interests me and is priced appropriately, I will buy it, but they have no right to attempt to con me into, or emotionally compel me to buy it. At that point I’m tempted to no sale them on principle.

      “Giving them their due”? Don’t make me laugh. They are there to make a profit. That’s their -job-. They’re not some charity saving kittens, they’re in this to make money, same as any game dev. The fact they’re in a job that allows them to do something that if it works out will give them a return that MAY eventually allow some comfort of living is their goal, but they are by no means guaranteed that. That’s like the bollocks League of Geeks were trying to pull when they did their whole Kickstarter mess, understand, developers are promoting a product, one they’ve made and now have to sell. That is -all-.

      • celticdr says:

        Well I’m glad to have made you laugh… seriously no one is forcing you to buy a game if $20 is too much for you, my philosophy is: If a game is priced out of my comfort zone I won’t buy it, or wait for it to go on sale (which is what I’m doing with Firewatch).

        Don’t complain about it or give it negative reviews because the game is too expensive – if you can’t afford it just don’t buy it. Do devs really deserve dealing with complaints and negative reviews because people don’t feel that they got “their moneys worth”?

        As the article states most of the time these indie devs work pro bono whilst completing a game – they have rent and bills too – is it wrong of them to charge $20 a copy to at least make enough to get their overdue electricity bill paid off?

        • syllopsium says:

          Course it’s not wrong – they should price it as high as they can get away with, and they’ll always get complaints. What’s important are the sales figures. If they’re too low then either the price is too high, the market is too small, or their game is not good enough.. Flash sales can at least point at whether price is the issue.

      • Unsheep says:

        ‘..emotionally compel me to buy it.’
        That is the very point of marketing, regardless of product.

        That’s why they show trailers, that’s why they put adds in magazines, that’s why they put up posters in retail stores, that’s why they invite media to try their games before launch, that’s why developers give interviews about their upcoming games.

        Its all part of creating awareness and generating interest for their games. After all if you are selling a product or service you want people to buy it right ? otherwise what’s the point of running a business. And good marketing should be compelling.

        Con you into buying their game ?! No developer or publisher has ever forced you to buy anything. It was you who clicked that ‘buy’ or ‘purchase’ button, but hey, its way easier to blame others right ?

      • Hobbes says:

        Want an example of a fairly successful con job?

        Aliens : Colonial Marines.

        The case rests m’lud.

    • Unsheep says:

      Also, these days you can easily find information on how long a game is. Yet some gamers simply don’t want to take any responsibility for their own laziness or stupidity.

      If game-length really concerns you, the rational and responsible thing to do is find out how long a game is before you actually buy it, this should be common sense among gamers but apparently it is not.

  34. TheAngriestHobo says:

    “it’s possible to struggle valiantly and still make poo.”

    Anyone who has potty trained a toddler can attest to this firsthand.

    (I dunno what you guys are doing up there in the comments with your highbrow debate, but I’m making poop jokes)

  35. fabrulana says:

    Games are wonderful pieces of art that people spend many hours on creating whether they used engines or created their own. Each game have their owners love and energy they put into it.A developer or developers may pour hours of creativity into a scene/graphic/atmosphere, that maybe quickly glanced over by many gamers as they quickly move on to a next scene or game. I think the worth of most games are way beyond their price range but then no one would buy it. I think people has become desensitized to games. When the market wasn’t so populated and the technology was still starting off people appreciated what effort were being put into creating these games, especially the 8-bit era. Sign of the times I suppose. Hopefully there are still many out there that however appreciate these renderings of art for what they are, and we wish we could pay you more to continue to do it.

    • syllopsium says:

      Really poor example – go check out the North American game crash of 1983. Also, at that point a lot of the computer games were quite cheap, and created by small teams in a short period of time.

      The eighties is really in no way comparable to today. The nineties started to hit high complexity and larger teams, online came later.

  36. rexx.sabotage says:

    Anything is worth what it’s purchaser is willing to pay for it.

    • keefybabe says:

      Pretty much exactly this. In creative industries it’s not the time you put in you pay for it’s the product at the end. There are albums that took years to create which are poor and sell badly and there are live albums that took literally as long as it took to play (plus mixing) to make that sell like hot cakes.

  37. davidelrizzo says:

    I think so many people blaming it on Indy developers business skills is unfair. It’s clearly the Steam’s and Humbles that have driven the prices down. But you can’t blame a distribution system that everybody wants and uses either.

    I have a decent disposable income but still want to minimise expenditure. When the Steam backlog is so large there is no way you can justify spending full price in a game I don’t have time to play and don’t know if it’s good yet.

    Having said that, once I DO know a game is good I have no qualms following a developer, buying from their store, picking up the DLC full price. I have full respect for the effort and skill from talented game devs. I think more should put ways to gain revenue in game/post sale or even a donate button. I would gladly contribute.

  38. caff says:

    I’m just concerned this might devalue my Nickelback poster.

  39. redfish says:

    Nobody really cares what games cost to develop, either. That has nothing to do with what the game is worth to potential buyers.

    To me, the game is worth 0$, because I am not interested in playing it. I wouldn’t even play it for free, if I had the chance. The same is true for many games that cost 10 million dollars (or more) to make.

    Why flame the guy that believes the game should cost 15$? The game may in fact turn more profit at 15$ or 35$, or even 5$. Price finding isn’t easy, because nobody *really* knows the market, but those are all *valid* prices, because the incremental cost to the developers is *zero*. Valve takes care of what little it costs to distribute it. The comparison to all these physical items is nonsensical, because they all cost money to *reproduce* as well.

    If I am supposed to define what a game is “worth” by production cost, then why isn’t Brigador hopelessly overpriced at 20$ with my very generous estimate of a 10 million dollar budget, when GTA5 is priced at only 60$ even though it cost over 250 million dollars to make?

    In reality, price finding can only be driven by projected unit sales and the budget has to *adjust accordingly*. For some games it will be impossible to turn a profit, but you can’t *know* beforehand.

    • iainl says:

      “If I am supposed to define what a game is “worth” by production cost, then why isn’t Brigador hopelessly overpriced at 20$ with my very generous estimate of a 10 million dollar budget, when GTA5 is priced at only 60$ even though it cost over 250 million dollars to make?”

      Good question, and the answer’s probably the same as to why I paid £25 for a Blu-ray of Upstream Color (production budget rumoured to be under under $100,000) but only £4 for one of Titanic (budget around $200,000,000) – because a work of art is only worth what someone’s prepared to pay for it.

      Add that to a second rule that most people will only pay what they need to, even if they might have paid more if they had to, and devs are welcome to ask whatever they want, and I’ll decide whether to pay that much or not. Maybe I’m not desperately interested. Maybe I think it looks really good, but don’t have that much money at the moment. Maybe (and this certainly holds for a bunch of the games being talked about here) I’d like to play them, think the prices are reasonable, but have too much of a backlog to catch up on first.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Nobody really cares what games cost to develop, either. That has nothing to do with what the game is worth to potential buyers.

      Yes, this.

      The other side of this is that hard work is not value. “We built everything from scratch” translates as “we did needless busywork”. If I decided to replace my keyboard with a telegram switch at work, tapping away in morse code, I would not get a payrise for the extra challenge.

      Doing work is something you should work hard to avoid. Do only the work is valuable. Stand on the shoulders of giants for everything else.

      • gwathdring says:

        This reminds me of the lovely “Good artists borrow, great artists steal” saying.

  40. Don Reba says:

    There is currently a huge glut of games on the market, and with Iran’s embargo lifted, it will probably start pumping out even more games, driving the prices to new lows.

    • Harlander says:

      Just how many games do you think Iran is going to make and sell in Western markets?

  41. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    It’s the MOST pointless debate. If a game is $2 people will still complain it’s not $1. If it’s 99 cents they’ll complain it’s not free. If it’s free they’ll complain it doesn’t have enough ‘content’.

    I wonder if all these “look, we worked really hard” stories might be counter-productive in the long run because it creates a weird expectation where only devs with a heartwarming tale of struggle against the odds ‘deserve’ to have their game bought at full price.

    The truth is, *everyone* who makes games (or any creative medium for that matter) works their assess off, and any game that ships is frankly a miracle every time. They shouldn’t need to tell you their life story for you to understand that they deserve to get paid for their work as much as the next person. No more, no less.

    So NO, you shouldn’t get a refund for something you bought and played. Legitimate reasons to get a refund are: A) it doesn’t work on your computer or B) the product does not match its description to the point of false of advertising… That’s it.

    A game should cost whatever the creators think is fair, and if you can’t afford it at that price, or if that’s not what you personally are prepared to pay, you wait for a sale.

    If you like something and want more things like that to exist, you should support it, because if devs can’t afford to eat, there won’t be any more games.

    • redfish says:

      This is a “slippery slope” argument, nobody asked for a free game or for a refund. All the guy said was that 15$ would be a better price for the game and you know what? I think he might be right. 15$ “feels” much cheaper than 20$, so it’s quite possible that the increase in sales would’ve made up for the loss in revenue.

      Unless you hate to make money, you should price your game at whatever you believe will turn the highest profit, even if that collides with your idea of a “fair” price. I highly doubt Brigador will ever turn a profit with projections for 25,000k units and up. The game has been out for months and sold less than 3000 copies, according to Steamspy, so all they can do is lower their losses. A lower price probably won’t help now, but it might have made a difference at launch.

      Honestly, I’m surprised they haven’t had a sale yet and whether their beliefs about pricing is holding them back on it.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        > This is a “slippery slope” argument, nobody asked for a free game or for a refund.

        Not at all. And yes they did. This is part of the larger discussion about price and refunds, how much it costs to make a game and how much devs ‘deserve’ to be paid, which is what this article is about. You’ll notice that while it opens with Brigador the article also quotes the Firewatch refund story where someone was asking if they should get a refund for a game they finished and enjoyed (!). It’s all the same discussion: players complaining games shouldn’t cost X amount of money because of debatable perceptions of value and devs sharing stories about how hard they worked to create those games.

        I’m arguing devs shouldn’t need a sad story to convince people to pay for their work. And someone is always going to complain no matter what the price is.

        The thing is, choosing not to buy something at full price is totally fine! Just wait to buy it at whatever price YOU think is fair in a sale or a bundle. Just don’t complain about it. Telling a developer “this is not worth the asking price” is not feedback. It’s just insulting and a waste of everyone’s time, including your own.

    • Geebs says:

      Spot on.

    • gwathdring says:

      But … the devs in these cases didn’t tell a heartwarming story about their days as a refugee dreaming for a brighter future and coding on the old beat up computer in the orphanage.

      They told a heartwarming story of being a human being who makes games and gives a shit about them. And if you can’t tell the heartwarming story of working hard on a project you care about, as a game developer and human being … well …

    • gwathdring says:

      I mean … you’re saying ANY dev could tell this story, so you agree with me there. But then you’re saying it’s counterproductive because it’s unrealistic to … what?

      You can’t have gamers magically understand what game development is and what it costs if no one sits down and talks to them. You’re essentially arguing that communication is counter-productive and gamers need to just wise up and be born understanding the economy of creative produce.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        I think you misunderstand my point. If people come out of this with a better understanding of game development that’s great and all, but I should think the fact that your entertainment costs significant money and effort to make and the people who create these things are human beings should be fairly obvious. Someone being a likable snowflake is not really relevant to whether or not they should be fairly compensated for their work.

        We’re acting here as if the only reason one should pay full price for a game is the developers did a song and dance about how much they deserve your money. This sets a troubling precedent. I’m sure we agree that having a positive relationship with your customers is a good thing, but this is not charity here. You are paying for a product at whatever happens to be the price at the time, and whether the devs especially deserve your money, more so than someone else, is frankly irrelevant.

  42. keefybabe says:

    This is great. And Joe Vogel makes the great point of there being more and more games released but people still have the same money in their back pocket so they get choosy.

    But this is the same with every passion industry. Music, Art, Games, Novels… Nearly all of the above are 1000% easier to fail in than succeed but people still want to do it and therefore the number of releases don’t decrease.

    Can you imagine a normal job acting like that. “You’ll spend years and years doing accounting degrees but still probably won’t get work, or if you do it’ll be badly paid because there’s so many accountants out there?” No. People would just decide not to be accountants.

    But passion industries are different. People will still do it anyway in the hopes of being the next Stephen King, David Bowie or Notch.

  43. Geebs says:

    it’s possible to struggle valiantly and still make poo.
    3 of the 5 years of Brigador’s development were spent installing cameras in bathrooms.

  44. jordirovira says:

    Amen to that! When we faced the pricing of our indie game Steamroll we had too much contradictory information: should be try to pay for the work done? should we set a price comparable to similar games?

    We ended up deciding a price that allowed each of the 3 developers to take a beer every time somebody bought the game.

    We are not drunk very often.

  45. RED says:

    The customer is always right. ALWAYS.

    From the other side of the fence we have the fact that developer is in no way obligated to lower price of his product. Distant World Universe for example. Released in 2014, 55€ all the way, sometimes (very rare) -50% which is still 28€. 4X game, niche of the niche.

    Problem? None whatsoever, dev thinks his game is worth that much, customers who think otherwise can complain for a bit and then move on. That is how things work.

    I hate the attitude of some guys thinking they can get in between the developer and his customer having a purely voluntary deal.

    • gwathdring says:

      You seem to be mistaking Captialism–a vague and non-specific descriptor for certain kinds of economic behavior–for a religious dogma complete with a holy text you can interpret however you see fit and from which you will sprout pantomime moralism.

      Gamers, like any market actors, have expecatations that are based not on their own actual personal value systems. Their expecations are based on the intersection of their value system with their expecations about how the whole gaming economy works or should work. This is why things like advertising can change people’s buying habits. Valuation is flexible. It is not a fixed quantity. Valuation is not sovereign and acting like it is makes you bad at capitalism. Capitalism is all about understanding and modulating value systems to create the desired flow of capital!

      Back to expecations. Gamers have monetary value expectations that are not linearly related to their personal systems of “worth”. When these expectations are based on assumptions that are wrong or unrealistic, valuation gets thrown off and the market doens’t function right because no one on either side is communicating and no one on either side is understanding the data properly.

      As such the whole “Blargh, but capitalism; people pay what they’re willing to pay” is a load of horse shit. Capitalism tells us, indeed, that value is flexible; we can flex the value into a more productive and mutually functional shape by encouraging communication and fostering more reasonable expectations.

      Crucially, transactions are not the only god-damn form of communication. You’re the one trying to get in the way of open discussions about market valuation and operation. You’re the one trying to clog up capitalism with some kind of half-assed religion about the sanctity of transactions.

      • RED says:

        Capitalism ain’t vague. It just slightly differs between its versions.

        Valuation indeed is flexible that is why it is up to creator to convince ME that HIS product is worth MINE money. There is no place here for YOU or anyone else to tell me, or even a developer for that matter, that our assumptions are wrong or unrealistic.

        I wonder what kind of communication you have in mind in a world where every second thing is a freaking trade secret. Lol, encouraging communication… between whom exactly? Game developers and their customer base? Developers are notorious for keeping their mouth shut or outright lying but hey, by all means, let’s all buy Godus for 15€ because folks worked hard and put many workhours in it. I am sure they can show papers and CCTV footage to prove it. Meanwhile my gut tells me that game ain’t even worth 0,5€ so either Peter can convince me to it or it will never set a foot in my Steam library. The only thing you will ever know FOR SURE is the price you are being asked, nothing more.

        Not that expecting people to know about workings of the gaming economy (or any other economy, average family buys thousands of products every year) is nothing short of insane. Unless you ask ppl to get things at face value but that would be completely different kind of being wrong.

        I am curious what is exactly wrong with game life cycle exactly. Alpha stage – sucking people on preorders and early access, first stage – impulse buyers and hyped crowd, second stage – educated buyers and then third stage – you round up everyone else by lowering the price. Last stage not mandatory, as I said developer can REFUSE to get additional profit by keeping the price high.

  46. KhanSolo says:

    I think most people are full of crap. Especially people who think games should be cheaper. Its not like they cost much in the first place.

  47. PancakeWizard says:

    The right answer is somewhere in the middle. There is a ‘right’ price for a game that many(most?) experienced gamers have a good instinct for. The Witness for example, is too expensive for that kind of game. You can make as many arguments you want citing length, ‘quality’ or whatever, it’s not going to change that.

    All this gets drowned out in the noise of those who are just out for as free a ride as possible and think everything is too expensive and will clamour for advantage.

  48. ZeroWaitState says:

    In other, less industrialized societies, this “race to the bottom” conversation is called haggling. It’s a perfectly normal human activity. It’s also perfectly normal, and even expected, for the buyer to demand absurd discounts, and for the seller to express indignation and insult when asked a price that is far too low. In other words, don’t take this stuff personally.

    • Hobbes says:

      Except when haggling, such indignation is generally played for show and is part of the negotiating experience. There’s a lot of body language and subtext which means that said feigned indignation is very different.

      Whereas this is very real and is put out not for show, but more to berate and play to sympathy in an attempt to circumvent logical argument or possibly the simple fact that Brigador is simply incorrectly priced.

  49. Lobotomist says:

    “We were excited, but terrified. We felt free, but were constrained. I have been in this industry for 15 years almost, and this is the hardest I have ever worked.”

    This is exactly why i left work in Game industry. Good riddance.

    We gamers have became so entitled , it became a slave driving job. Crunch, long hours, stress – and reward is : insults , even threats some times – and on the end the game gets purchased only trough very deep discount. And the sad thing is that even work relations between people that work on games suffer. You will think that a group of people that love the games and do work of love will form great teams and friends. But the truth is that the pressure is creating toxic environments and constant arguments.

    On the end i figured : I entered game creating because I love games. But I can still love games while doing more normal less stressful work.

    Good riddance…

    • socrate says:

      im sorry but this is just the biggest bullsh$$ ive heard…you’re either spazzing or are very new to game design,this is not something new…crunch time is not something new and is actually common to the job and although illegal in alots of country it is still done to make the product viable for success and as always been like that,if you ask me its dev who are now “entitled”…that word ffs…i love how you state to have worked in this industry then say “we gamer” not to mention the dumb discount excuse and the insult and complain which again are part of the DAMN JOB…its like expecting any decision making job to be without these thing…did you ever actually do that?because that come with the job in any damn business…go in the army and ask for a fluffy bed and to be woken up at 10 am…see how they react to that…

      seriously stop throwing random false information cause this is actually what it is…if you actually go in and expect something different then you aren’t in the right domain…playing a game children is not the same as making doesn’t mean its not fun it means you need that passion to explore and enjoy making them for other..if you are in for the money then change path right now.

      Lets also not forget that these dev decided to build their engine which is an insane sink of time and resource when there is alots of other alternative at this point which are quite less expensive im guessing they wanted that look…but thats their decision they cannot blame the consumer for all their decision and their own stress they kept putting on themself and not really the gamer from all the time ive heard from this game prior to release.

  50. SquidLord says:

    How much games cost, but they certainly know – and are extremely verbal about letting others know – how much they are worth. These are very different economic principles and confusing the two is why a lot of publishers and game creators get disgruntled with the people who are paying – or would be paying – for their dinners.

    Frankly, from the consumer point of view, it simply doesn’t matter how much it costs to make a game. That is not the problem of the consumer at all. If the producer can’t create a product that the market wishes to procure sustainably, they have two choices: do something else, or do what they’re doing better. That’s how it works. That’s the only way it works.

    When gamers tell game producers that “$20 is too much to pay for their product,” that’s what they mean. They mean that their time is valuable, that their attention is valuable, and that there are a multitude of other games willing to compete for that time and attention, and those which do it best get rewarded by more attention, more time, and most importantly – more money. That’s the exchange. Really, game creators and producers are in a market, competing with each other for the gamers’ attentions. Gamers want to maximize doing things that they enjoy and supporting products that they get enjoyment from.

    The modern game-scape is a buyers’ market. Because of the absolute glut of material available to a buyer, they can afford to be picky. They can afford to be demanding. They can and will be both picky and demanding. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    All too often I see stories like this which paint the role of the creator and producer as, having created a product, having invested their own time, blood, and treasure in this product, they are owed the money of the gameplaying public. They are entitled to it, simply because they put some number of years and some number of money into making it. Not only are they entitled to money from the market in general, they are entitled to money from each player in specific to a certain value – without regard to what their competition is, whether or not the product is actually good, whether or not the product actually meets the demands of those in the market, and effectively no matter what. Then when they get the feedback of “this is not worth the price you want to charge, so I am going to give a smaller amount of money to someone else for something that I find more in line with the value I perceive,” the creator decides to whine and pout, journalists encourage such things because they make for better news copy, and the market of gamers continues to buy games that they find are good value propositions.

    No creator is guaranteed an audience. None of them. No creator is guaranteed an income. None of them. If they find themselves investing more in creating things that the market is willing to give them in exchange, they need to do something else. They don’t have to like doing something else, but they need to do something else.