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On the Expectation of Value From Inexpensive Games

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the all-about-the-washingtons dept.

The Almighty Buck 102

An article by game designer Ian Bogost takes a look at what type of value we attach to games, and how it relates to price. Inspiration for the article came from the complaint of a user who bought Bogost's latest game and afterward wanted a refund. The price of the game? 99 cents. Quoting: "Games aren't generally like cups of coffee; they don't get used up. They don't provide immediate gratification, but ongoing challenge and reward. This is part of what Frank Lantz means when he claims that games are not media. Yet, when we buy something for a very low price, we are conditioned to see it as expendable. What costs a dollar these days? Hardly anything. A cup of coffee. A pack of sticky notes. A Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. A lottery ticket. Stuff we use up and discard. ... I contend that iPhone players are not so much dissatisfied as they are confused: should one treat a 99-cent game as a piece of ephemera, or as a potentially rich experience?"

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Phurst Posting! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28147765)


Not surprising (3, Insightful)

TheSambassador (1134253) | more than 4 years ago | (#28147799)

This makes me think of this [penny-arcade.com]

There's something about games where people expect to be entertained... no matter the price. It's incredible what people are willing to throw money away on, but games (and sometimes other media) tend to have strange, insanely high expectations.

Shouldn't people expect the same amount of satisfaction out of a 99 cent cheeseburger as they would get out of a 99 cent game? This is definitely a weird phenomenon.

Re:Not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28147983)

Eating is something you have to do to survive (however dubiously a cheezbrgr fulfills that objective) and must do incessantly. A game does not fill a similar need.

Now if you wanted to compare the increment of cost that corresponds to the tastiness of your vittles compared to something that is merely palatable, even someone of your limited cognition would see the expectations are quite reasonable.

Re:Not surprising (2, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148083)

In other words, you should expect the same amount of enjoyment out of a 99 cent game that you would out of a $1.98 cheeseburger, when a 99 cent cheeseburger would've provided similar nutritional value, without that taste?

But, fine, let's look at the shirt. You'll spend $15 for a shirt that says "No, I will not fix your computer," or something like that, but 99 cents on a game is too much? Yes, you have to clothe your body, but I'm guessing you had enough shirts.

Re:Not surprising (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28149169)

It boils down to Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Our brain attaches abnormally high values to food/clothing/sleep/sex because without these, we cannot function properly. Video games show up much higher on the pyramid, and are therefore less necessary and less valuable.

Re:Not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28151319)

But for the most part, the 1.98 and 99 cent burgers are not the same nutritional value -- which translates to health (or perception of health) -- which is a long term value (or "investment" if you prefer).

In the case of the 1.98 and 99c being the exact same thing, that's just the marketing complex muddying the evaluation process. In particular, things that must be acquired multiple times per day like food will have more noise in the value evaluation calculation due to the many sources they are available.

Re:Not surprising (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 4 years ago | (#28152013)

But for the most part, the 1.98 and 99 cent burgers are not the same nutritional value

Yeah, the 99 cent burger is probably better for you.

Re:Not surprising (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 4 years ago | (#28150017)

I wouldn't mind a $0.99 game that's entertains me for several minutes. What you need to remember is that with games, it's not just the money you spend, but the time you spend on the game as well. A while back Steam was having a sale in which I bought Luxor 2 and Bejeweled Deluxe for $0.99 each. The former provided me more than enough entertainment for my time and money, while the latter ... didn't. I truly wish I had not bought it and had spent that 15 minutes doing something else instead.

Re:Not surprising (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#28153833)

It doesn't have anything to do with the price.

People return stuff that they feel is "returnable" and don't return stuff they don't. It's a natural thermodynamic sense: if they feel the transaction is reversible then they will reverse transactions they don't like.

A cheeseburger doesn't fit that model: if you return it, you will have one less cheeseburger, but the restaurant will not have one more cheeseburger, they will have one more cheeseburger-sized amount of garbage.

Downloadable stuff does fit the model. If you return it, (by destroying your copy), you will have one less copy that item (the state you had before the transaction.) The store will have exactly as many copies as they had before the transaction as well, because downloading didn't actually reduce their count of copies.

People often have notions of fairness, and most people, I would assume, feel that if you can return to the pre-transaction state, that that is fair to all parties.

Let me tell you about "value"... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28147805)

Paying for games? That's SO old school!

The value of a buck weighs in as well.... (2, Interesting)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 4 years ago | (#28147841)

Moreover the value of ones time, which degrades when the game experience is good. If the game sucks, then suddenly we grow impatient and want the buck back out of spite. If the game is good, then hours become years as we trance out like lab rats on the crack feeder button test...na na na na ....be the ball billy....

Confused about the value? (4, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#28147851)

If the consumer thought it was a bad game, he would have probably asked for a refund even if it was only ten cents. Price paid is kind of irrelevant.

I think pretending the consumer is 'confused' about how much he values the game may just distract you from what really happened.

Re:Confused about the value? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28147941)

Another term for this usage pattern is "being a cheap asshole". The app has screen shots and if those screens shots are in it and the app works, even if it's buggy it's pretty fucking weak to demand your money back for a ninety-nine cent app. From a service perspective, go ahead and give them their money back, but you're better off banning them from making future purchases of your other offerings because they're likely to be repeat offenders (not just with you, but with everyone, though unfortunately you can't warn other devs in a public way). Every time a twat returns your app, you're facing a net loss.

One thing many iPhone developers have learned is that you're much worse off selling your app for $0.99 and going for high sales volume; you get a lot more assholes who expect the world of you because they spent almost a whole fucking dollar. People have seen their app's rating take a nosedive when they lowered the price to $0.99 from $3 or $5. Thankfully these other developers have warned me away from that model for my own apps, as that was the way I had planned to go -- I figured then there'd be low expectations, and I could capture most of the market and make a living from updates and feature-adds. I apparently underestimated how many douchebags there are out there.

The one way Apple is at fault here is that their money back guarantee is ridiculously long given the distribution model; 89 days of usage of a ninety-nine cent app should give the app an automatic five star rating, not let them be open to a three-months-past-purchase refund request. You could also blame Apple for keeping their commission on returns, since they're the ones who set the return policy, but that's a little more up for debate.

Value is asserted, not assessed. (5, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 4 years ago | (#28147957)

If the consumer thought it was a bad game, he would have probably asked for a refund even if it was only ten cents. Price paid is kind of irrelevant.

Years ago, my wife and I had a yard sale. A bunch of our shiat parked in the front yard with little signs made with white masking tape and a sharpie. We had a full set of Time-Life books that were fairly recent. We figured they'd go quickly at $0.25 apiece. And while we were asked about them repeatedly, they didn't sell.

But then we raised the price, from $0.25 to $2 apiece. Suddenly, they weren't "junk" books, they were suddenly valuable! They sold quickly, many of them "worked over" to $1 apiece.

Most of the value you see in things around you aren't based on your assessment of the value, but rather your acceptance of the assertion of value. You value things not for their relative qualities, but for the value asserted by the salesman.

I drive a 10-year-old Saturn 4-door car, a very common car in my town. It's very reliable, it's got a good safety record, mine has just shy of 200,000 miles on the original engine/transmission. Parts are widely available, and cheap to obtain. Even with over a decade of heavy driving and lots of miles, the exterior looks quite nice, and the interior is still together.

By any measure, this car delivers value upon value upon value. Yet it was a cheap car, even when new! Meanwhile, a BMW commands top notch prices even though merely copying a key costs well over $100.

Why? Well, they are a well-engineered piece of equipment, but it's definitely not 5-10x as reliable as my cheap Saturn. They are perhaps marginally safer, but certainly not 5-10x as safe as my cheap Saturn. Parts are expensive, they are expensive to repair by anybody's estimation.

So for what reason does the BMW continue to demand such a price premium if not the simple fact that it's asserted as a high-priced car?

And this isn't just true for cars. People assert themselves automatically, without thinking it. For example, women dress the part almost uniformly. For some reason, you can spot a cheap tramp a mile away. They dress/act "trampy". Geeks look "geeky". Assholes look rather.... "assholey".

People go to great lengths to look the part of who they are. Nearly all of them.

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (5, Interesting)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148003)

I have this problem as a indie game dev. If I charge too little everyone thinks its cheap and won't even try the demo. If I charge full price everyone is assuming its too expensive since its can't be a real AAA title. Lots of different people have very different ideas of a "right" price for a non big player game.

So at this stage there will be a demo, a "steam" like rental version ($5 per week) and a full version ($20). Rental becomes a full game once you hit $20 bucks.

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (1)

JohnnyBGod (1088549) | more than 4 years ago | (#28150703)

So at this stage there will be a demo, a "steam" like rental version ($5 per week) and a full version ($20). Rental becomes a full game once you hit $20 bucks.

I know this isn't the gist of your post, but this is actually a really interesting model. Hope it works out for you.

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148011)

"definitely not 5-10x as reliable as my cheap Saturn. "

another bad car analogy. Also have a saturn, fairly new model, with 80k miles, suffering from the common power steering problems [fixya.com]. Needs whole new $1000 steering column. Managed to rig it so we can reset the power steering while driving but it's still a huge pain and I will never buy or recommend a Saturn.

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28149423)

Oh wow, so you can buy dozens of new steering columns for the price difference of a beemer, therefore you totally feel ripped off now?

Again, read the subject line: "Value is asserted, not assessed."

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149963)

another bad car analogy

No it's not. It was an anecdotal example about how humans percieve value based on actual experience and relevant to the key point of the original subject ("Expectation of Value"). It just happened to be about a car.

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28150579)

"definitely not 5-10x as reliable as my cheap Saturn. "

another bad car analogy. Also have a saturn, fairly new model, with 80k miles

Nothing wrong with his analogy. I have a Saturn the same age as GP's, 4 doors. Quite reliable.

I bolded the relevant portion of your comment. You don't have the same type of Saturn. Yours is far newer. Things change over time. Not always for the better. Saturn cars are one such thing.

Saturn cars may be going the way of the dodo if no one buys the brand as GM is looking to unload it.

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (5, Interesting)

stevey (64018) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148019)

I had the same experience "selling myself" as a remote Linux administrator.

I'd fix your services, audit your machines, and provide advice for £40 an hour. A few takers, and everybody was very complimentary when talking to me - but when I doubled my hourly rates I got way more business.

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (1)

SpacePunk (17960) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149551)

I noticed the same thing in my service business. When I raised rates, I got more business. People perceive more value in the higher price for some reason.

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (2, Insightful)

Waccoon (1186667) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148593)

I noticed this very quickly when the downloadable game craze started with game consoles. At first, there were many, good games for $5, but now even crap is going into the $15 to $20 area.

Despite my usual cynicism, I would assume the marketeers know what they are doing, and are increasing the prices for obvious reasons: the games sell better.

You're correct. (2, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148977)

So for what reason does the BMW continue to demand such a price premium if not the simple fact that it's asserted as a high-priced car?

BMWs aren't cars. They're billboards to announce how rich you are. There's no point in buying used, or building one to last more than three years, because having an *old* BMW just means that you couldn't afford to buy this year's model. If you're trying to repair an out-of-warranty "beemer", you're doing it wrong. They're a lot like the "i'm rich" app on the iPhone app store.

What I find confusing, though, is that people of average means who will pay $40k for a car will turn around and make fun of YOU for paying $2k for a computer or more than $300 for a bed. It's like they don't even realize that they could get a decent car for half that price, and have enough left over to afford luxury everything else.

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149027)

Get back to me when your Saturn is 20 years old and has at least 250,000 miles on it... you know, about when my $2600 Mercedes reached its break-in point.

Your Saturn is built like every other piece of shit made in this era, and will go away with the rest of them. It's a GM Toyota.

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 4 years ago | (#28160623)

Get back to me when your Saturn is 20 years old and has at least 250,000 miles on it... you know, about when my $2600 Mercedes reached its break-in point.

If he's at ~200k now, he'll be at 250k in just a few years.

Your Saturn is built like every other piece of shit made in this era, and will go away with the rest of them. It's a GM Toyota.

Heh. You do realize Toyotas are known for being exceptionally reliable, don't you?

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28149211)

So for what reason does the BMW continue to demand such a price premium if not the simple fact that it's asserted as a high-priced car?

Status? The illusion of luxury? You're paying for the image. If KIA decided to jack up its prices, no one would buy it. There's no value in that image. There's value in the BMW image. It says to people, even complete strangers, "I have money."

The point is, I think you have it backwards. It's not the price that dictates the illusion of luxury, it's the advertisements. So yes, BMW purchasers are paying for expensive ads and a potentially fake image. But neither of these are created by the price being high. Both of these *allow* the price to be high.

Re:Value is asserted, not assessed. (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 4 years ago | (#28150105)

Reminds me of the story where people replaced their refrigerator and put the old one near the curb with a sign "FREE working refrigerator!" It stood a couple days there. So they changed the sign to "Working refrigerator, $200, inquire within!" and it was gone next morning.

Re:Confused about the value? (2, Insightful)

datajack (17285) | more than 4 years ago | (#28147971)

Exactly, if I bought a coffee for 99c (let's ignore the facts that I live in the UK and don't like coffee for the moment) and the coffee was undrinkable for whatever reason, I would expect a refund or fresh cup.

Re:Confused about the value? (2, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#28152787)

I guess it depends on the level of undrinkable. If it just wasn't very good coffee, I'd shrug, not worry much about the wasted $0.99, and not go to that coffee shop again. I don't see why games should be that much different. If I don't like Bogost's $0.99 game, I won't buy his other games; if I do, I might look to see what else he's selling. Unless it was actively some sort of fraud, like he sold me a broken binary for $0.99 (analogous to a seriously unacceptable cup of coffee), I wouldn't ask for my money back.

Re:Confused about the value? (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#28147985)

"he would have probably asked for a refund even if it was only ten cents. Price paid is kind of irrelevant."

i dunno. I would have agreed with you a few months ago, but after spending $10 on the amazing Plants vs Zombies [escapistmagazine.com] i'm looking at all the other $49.95 games and thinking "why aren't you 5 times better? I did spend 5x more after all".

Re:Confused about the value? (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148597)

The $49,94 games aren't 5x better.
They just have 5x the employees working on it to create 5x more content.
It doesn't say anything whether that extra content translates to extra gameplay.

Re:Confused about the value? (1)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148369)

If I ever put out a game, I am definitely putting you on the blacklist. Seriously, it was a fucking dollar!

Then again, maybe that bitterness thing those shrinks have come up with has veracity after all...

Re:Confused about the value? (1)

unfasten (1335957) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148559)

If the dollar is so insignificant then the game developer shouldn't have a problem refunding it either. The fact they're even bothering to ask for a refund of 99 cents says something about what they thought of the product.

Ask the customer what they didn't like or what they want to see improved. Try to make a better game instead of just bitching that the customer is a cheap idiot and that your game is perfect, unable to be improved upon.

Re:Confused about the value? (1)

True Vox (841523) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149013)

Very true, improvement is always good. But think - everyone's time is worth something. I'm sure even the least of us here MUST value their time at $5 (likely more, but let's assume a school kid for a moment). So, at $5 an hour, let's just say it takes 12 minutes (for the sake of ease of math) to work through what ever hoops are put in place to get a refund (I have no experience with iPhone app refunds, but for other things in life it's often annoying like this). Well, 12 minutes @ $5 an hour... there's a buck right there! So you would have been better off by 1 cent had you simply NOT asked for the refund. Now, if you figure your time is worth SIGNIFICANTLY more like many people quote on here... well, you can see how this escalates quickly.

Re:Confused about the value? (1)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148973)

When I order something in a restaurant that I've never had before, and I don't like it, should I get a refund? If the quality of the food is good, then most certainly not. I gambled, I lost.

When you buy something you've never tried before there is always a chance you might not like it. That is a risk YOU choose to take.

If the game in tfa was not complete crap and the guy who made it did not lie about its contents, then no way should the buyer get a refund. He tried something new, and he lost. Tragic, but if he's not willing to risk 99 cents when trying something new, then maybe he should limit himself to products that he can try before buying.

It's all about the opportunity cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28147859)

The reason game enjoyment is different from coffee/movie/etc enjoyment is that we typically spend much more time playing a game. How long does it take to drink a cup of coffee? 2-10 mins. Go to a movie theater? 2-4 hours. Play a video game? 20-40 hours for most games which don't plan for replay value.. for those games that do, especially popular online games (WoW, Counterstrike, etc), the number can go into hundreds or thousands of hours.

The game has to deliver a constant flow of "funness" for that duration, both in comparison to what playing another game would deliver, and in comparison to doing something other than playing games in that time. If for example your job pays you $20/h, then when you get a video game and after a few hours feel its crappy and not fun to play, you'd treat the hours lost as money you might as well have made working. This expense stacks on top of whatever money you paid for that game. So if you got a 99c game and wasted 4 hours of your life on it in what seemed like work and not fun, you suffered a loss of $80 you otherwise could have made (yes I know not everyone can just "add" paid work hours to their schedule at will, but the general analogy holds). The more long you expected the game to last (such as buying an MMO), the bigger your disappointment would be when you realise it sucks, particularly if you invested a lot of time learning to play or levelling your character only to realize the game is a dead end and the process hasn't been fun in its own right either.

MMOs have already adapted to this kind of consumer rationale by usually shifting their pricing structure from a flat fee to a monthly deposit. If you play an MMO for years, you will pay MUCH more overall than the game's shelf price. But the payments will be gradual and if you keep paying, the idea is that you keep enjoying the game for the duration for which you are billed. If not, then you wasted those hours of your life which you are never going to get back on something that wasn't fun, and regardless of how cheap the game was to buy, you paid too much.

Re:It's all about the opportunity cost (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148521)

Don't agree. When I am fixing your commercial freezer in your restaurant, my time is worth $85.00 dollars an hour (during normal working hours, time and half on week ends/night) But when I am cutting my lawn, my time is not worth $85.00, it is worth less than the $20.00 I could pay the neighbor's kid to mow my lawn. Same with games. When I buy a .99 cent game, i expect .99 cents worth of fun over the time I spend playing. And with a $49.00 game, I expect $49.00 worth of fun, over the life of the game. If it is a subscription type game, and I don't enjoy playing it, then I have wasted my time and money for the time i played. Somehow becoming disillusioned after playing for 1000 hours, does not make all the hours I played prior become wasted.

fuck (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28147861)


Turns out the game was... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28147883)

Waiting for Duke Nukem Forever Forever.

All it was was an infinity symbol spinning while Duke randomly spouted phrases like "Come Get Some!" "It's time to kick ass and chew Bubblegum and I'm all out of Bubblegum" and "Who want some Wang" (The last one slipped in by accident. Really.)

Re:Turns out the game was... (1)

donaldm (919619) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149129)

Waiting for Duke Nukem Forever Forever.

All it was was an infinity symbol spinning while Duke randomly spouted phrases like "Come Get Some!" "It's time to kick ass and chew Bubblegum and I'm all out of Bubblegum" and "Who want some Wang" (The last one slipped in by accident. Really.)

The wait is over, here is someone who has played and reviewed the game [escapistmagazine.com]. You only need the latest XPSWii7000 console with built in holo deck to play it and it's only $10 per level.

Reminds Me of a Joke (5, Funny)

qpawn (1507885) | more than 4 years ago | (#28147891)

A guy goes to a $5 lady of the night, and he gets crabs. So the next day he goes back to complain and the woman says, 'Hey, it was only $5, what did you expect... lobster?'

Re:Reminds Me of a Joke (3, Funny)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148479)

There is the vintage joke often attributed to a socialite and Winston Churchill:

Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill... Well, I suppose... we would have to discuss terms, of course...
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
Churchill: Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

Re:Reminds Me of a Joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28150729)

One day a fellow goes to a whorehouse. He tells the madam "I want a gal with gonorrhea." The madam tries to convince him otherwise but the fellow is insistent. "I want a gal with gonorrhea." The madam realizes she won't convince him otherwise so she takes a girl aside and tells her "This fellow wants a girl with gonorrhea so just play along if he asks." The girl is puzzled but goes along with what the madam asks. Fellow asks the girl "Have you got gonorrhea?" She tells "Yeah. Just like you wanted." Fellow is satisfied with that and they go off and conduct their business. Afterward the girl tells the fellow "I don't really have gonorrhea." The fellow says "You do now."

Games are products like anything else... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 4 years ago | (#28147911)

... games are just cheap entertainment for most people. They are nothing more unless the game is REALLY well made and that is INCREASINGLY rare today.

Confused about the value? (1)

joaquin gray (596589) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148007)

This statement about value seems to be a common observation in my country these days. I figure it's important to note that the rapid expansion of normal society into the l33t world of information systems has destabilized many businesses (and thus valuation systems) in the last ten years. Look at second hand books, for example: once a fairly widespread sort of business. Today, at Amazon you can pick up any well-thumbed paperback for the price of shipping, thus most second-hand bookshops can't afford to have that kind of stuff on the shelf. Then you get the weekend-or-maybe-just-holidays-bibliophile who cruises into my shop expecting to drop a buck for a copy of Steinbeck or Burroughs and finds that the only Modern Library copy in the store is twelve bucks. (It's more detailed than that, really..) Point is, it's destabilizing and many people can't really tell what to pay for something. (Oh yeah, re:China too.. and RIAA... and, etc..) As far as the actual quote from Mr. Lantz: He's right about games being as ancient as man (what is business but a game?) but there is a subtle detail in specifics (re:Plato): A computer game utilizes media as a primary factor in the "playing" behavior of humans. Notice the way that a game like American Football doesn't actually require any visual or aural media, but there is in fact quite a lot of it. The uniforms, the logos, and even the music of which certain select tracks have become the usual sounds at a game. Perhaps computer games are an extension of games like Battleships or Hangman, where the media provides a specific enhancement of the player's imaginations or artistic side. However you cut it, they are art and they are a very young art. The proliferation of Flash games has totally boggled me and I wouldn't have expected it even ten years ago. It will be a rocky road, just like it was for Gutenberg's book... just don't insult me games, Mr. Lantz.

Re:Confused about the value? (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149981)

"A computer game utilizes media as a primary factor in the "playing" behaviour of humans."

DON'T read too much into this statement, which I think you have. All this statement tells me is that, since computers require a display device of some kind, everything the game displays to the player(s) has to involve 'media'.

How that is used and manipulated by the game, however, is entirely up to individual games, and therefore you should not automatically assume too much.

Yes, computer games CAN involve more media than that - (sounds etc.) - but they don't HAVE to. But, since they can, their potential in this regard is obviously a LOT higher...

As an iPhone game developer... (5, Insightful)

Raph57 (1565749) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148015)

As an iPhone game developer myself who recently released a game (some shameless advertising: Tuzzle [apple.com]) at what I think is a very reasonable price: $0.99, I'm amazed by the negative comments I immediately received from people who didn't actually buy the game. Most of them complained about the fact that there are "only" 25 levels. Instead of putting 100 boring levels, I decided to design 25 challenging levels which would provide a few hours of entertainment. For less than the price of a cup of coffee, I still think that this is more than acceptable.
I have the feeling that these days, only quantity matters and people got used to have everything for free with the Internet and expect impressive graphics, hours of gameplay for free...
Is $0.99 for a few hours of fun expensive?
- Raph

Re:As an iPhone game developer... (1)

Madsy (1049678) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148081)

Maybe the price point has nothing to do with it.
Speaking from myself, I know that I expect *some* minimum quality standard for computer, phone and console games, in particular length, replayability and how fun it is. If it doesn't live up to that, the price point is irrelevant. Neither would I fight over the difference between 1 USD or 10 USD. If a game fails to live up to my expectations, it could be free and I would still not waste time on it.

So next time, perhaps you would benefit from making the game a bit longer, and selling it for 10 bucks instead?

Re:As an iPhone game developer... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148261)

Personally I accept different game lengths at different prices, demanding a specific number of levels would be plain stupid (a level is completely arbitrary anyway, 25 levels of Metal Slug are completely different from 25 levels of Dr. Mario or 25 levels of D&D). Some games don't have levels at all and are pure endurance challenges and depending on how the game is designed that may be the best way.

However there's also the perceived content vs physical content thing, a game may have only 5 minutes of actual content but so much replayability that you spend hours on it or it may have enough ideas to fill 3 hours but is stretched to 60.

Re:As an iPhone game developer... (1)

FrostDust (1009075) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148087)

Is $0.99 for a few hours of fun expensive?

Not at all. However, being a puzzle game, there a few downfalls.

-People are impatient nowadays. They'll just look up the solutions online when it gets too hard, or give up and never finish the game.

-It seems like your game doesn't really have any replayablity. Once you solve a level, going back to it isn't going to be any different, and thusly not any more fun. If you had a mode where it generated random (but still solvable) levels, then you would have a reason to play the game once in a while after beating the supplied levels.

-If you included 75 or however many "boring" levels, they may be a breeze for most players, maybe even a waste of time, but they still pad the amount of time needed to beat the game. Even if the "challenging" levels take more time to solve than all "boring" levels, the number of levels passed still makes players feel like they accomplished something.

Don't get me wrong, it looks like a worthwhile game, especially for just a dollar. I also understand that increasing the amount of work on your end would probably necessitate a higher price tag. However, looking at your product from the eyes of a customer, not simply as a player, could help you spot ways to get even more purchases.

Re:As an iPhone game developer... (2, Interesting)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148107)

iPhone dev. community as of late has been struck by recession or something.., lots of pokers arised that try to bash you and drag your app down. Developers are starting to battle themselves, that is a bad trend, not drive-by killings yet, but really the buying of positive comments, bashing competition and cyber-bullying is terrible.

Re:As an iPhone game developer... (1)

broken_chaos (1188549) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149761)

I don't recall seeing a single app that's rated with higher than an average of 3 stars. I think one issue is that, upon uninstalling, the iPod/iPhone requests you to rate an app - but it doesn't request you to rate an app if you keep it installed. There is an opt-out "No Thanks" button when the rating screen pops up, but I'm not sure that would be most people's first reaction - I doubt it, in fact.

That, however, doesn't explain rude reviews left - though I find most reviews are actually more complimentary and have a higher rating average compared to the non-review ratings.

Re:As an iPhone game developer... (1)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148587)

Is $0.99 for a few hours of fun expensive?

Don't waste your time worrying about these people. This sort want everything, twice, yesterday, and they think that you should pay them for the privilege of their attention. No price decrease/increase or change in experience length will change that, you'll never achieve their target value for money of "infinity for nothing".

Of course one major problem with not worrying about people like this, is that such spoilt little children seem to be the majority these days... (or, at very least, a very very vocal minority)

Not quite right... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28149053)

Your ideals are correct, however your approach is all wrong. Let me explain this to your using only recent anecdotal evidence:

I'm not going to cover the AAA titles because they are simple: put together a great game dynamic with a killer team of artists and programmers, and you get your AAA title. Everyone who doesn't dislike the genre will like it, and the only reasons to fathom a refund on these games are "I thought I would like it, but I dind't." Not refundable, I'm afraid. Almost ALL games up until recently were these, so refunds were never an issue.

Now we are getting all these "indie game studios" and people in their basement "publishing" games. Most of these are just "mods" of games which would otherwise be free. Hell, some recent games for sale were free mods before. My point? Lets look at teh good, teh bad, and teh ugly:

I've bought games like Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies. They have very little content (read art/graphics, sound, etc.) They were "cheaper" to make, but they hold just as much value as that $50 Half Life 2 game. They are just as fun and addicting, and I play them for hours, just as I played HL2 and Fallout 3 for hours. It just happens they have about $35 fewer assets put into the game, but they are just as fun. Hell, I just hit 80 hours of gameplay time in Fall Out 3 and I don't see myself putting the game down in the near future... it's addicting. (See the end of the post for a Fall Out 3 rant.)

Sin Episodes: Emergence. Great potential, fun gameplay (albeit the same as HL2), and a good story with great (AMAZING) art, especially for an "indie" studio. They promised the game would be extended slowly over time by the release of additional "episodes." So I bought the first full priced episode only to get "we quit, it's over" right after and to never see the game fully realized. I wanted a refund, but I couldn't justify it because it was a good game despite being incredibly short. So I stand having lost a little bit of money, but I don't feel like I wasted my money (this time).

Killing Floor was a mod for UT, and made me feel completely "used" by having /wasted/ my monies. It consisted of non-animated "zombies" simply respawning in "waves" and trying to kill you. That's it. You kill them and they just drop. Such a horrible game. Not to mention the borken server browser and menu system. If you are going to sell a mod, at least put more effort into it than free mods out there. I got to play for all of 1 minute. I demanded a refund of $15. The first game I ever even thought about wanting a refund for. Just because it was so bad. I was disgusted that someone would try to even sell that garbage. I could have made a similar mod for HL2 with just the level editor, set spawn points for zombies and have made the game myself. It was just not even worth $1 to me. Shit, if I paid $0.05 for the game, I would have demanded a refund. (See "Teh Bad" about about a cheap game I bought that wasn't good but not refund worthy.)

To the guy wanting to do "rental fees" on steam: Lower your rental fee to $1. Trust me. Access to a game (especially if it's not a AAA title) for 1 week is not worth $5. I wouldn't even pay $5 to have access to Halflife 2 for a week. If it's a good game, price it as you see fit and let it be. If it sells, good... If not, don't blame "market place value" for your business failures. Seems to be the "thing to do" lately: "It wasn't my business, it was the market, BAIL ME OUT GOVERNMENT OVERLORDS!" (Same argument given by RIAA. The MPAA is comming back into a good light with me and a lot of people, so don't include the MPAA with the Mafi-RIAA.)

Although I'm a bit upset about only being able to get to a level 20 character, as I'm nowhere near done with the game and am already at level 18, but that's another discussion. This game is ****ing aweesome. I grew up in the D.C. metro area, and they captured the "essence" of the locales in the D.C. metro area amazingly. Fairfax is really hilly, Dupont Circle is as you'd expect, Mount Vernon square is there... I could go on. But the point is that I really feel like I'm living in a post apocalyptic D.C. metro area. Right on: tell a good story, have excellent gameplay mechanics, excellent artist renditions/levels. I could rant all day about the game, this is easily going to be the title of the decade.

Re:As an iPhone game developer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28149511)

Is $0.99 for a few hours of fun expensive?

That's a heck of a good bargain. People buy $60 PS3 games and probably play them for less time.

That said, maybe you should advertise just what you've said to us and remind people of the investment vs. the return. "For less than the price of a cup of coffee or a 20 oz bottle of soda, you can have hours of entertaining fun." It's hard for people to gripe when you put it in such terms.

Child labor laws (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149517)

Is $0.99 for a few hours of fun expensive?

It is if you're young enough that the law prohibits you from having a job.

Re:Child labor laws (1)

murdocj (543661) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149829)

Weird... the kid who mows my lawn for $20 seems awfully young. I'm not sure pre-schoolers are ready to work.

Re:Child labor laws (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#28150019)

the kid who mows my lawn for $20 seems awfully young.

What does the kid do for money when it's not lawn-mowing season?

Re:Child labor laws (1)

murdocj (543661) | more than 4 years ago | (#28150245)

Other odd jobs, I'm sure. Remember, I'm replying to a post about kids too young for full time work. It's not like kids that age need to support their family.

Re:Child labor laws (2, Funny)

Bodrius (191265) | more than 4 years ago | (#28150879)

If the kid you're talking of has an iPhone, I honestly don't think finding $0.99 of disposable income is a problem here.

Re:Child labor laws (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#28152341)

If the kid you're talking of has an iPhone

He doesn't. He has an iPod Touch that he got for Christmas. I've seen kids who get Wii consoles for Christmas run out of things to do in Wii Sports and not have any way to buy Nintendo Points cards.

Re:Child labor laws (1)

Bodrius (191265) | more than 4 years ago | (#28153309)

Same thing applies.

Seriously, if you're getting a US$230+ electronic device for Christmas, getting US$ 0.99 of disposable income is not the problem. If the kid can't get 1 buck for a game, the problem is with getting the expensive electronic device in the first place.

Re:As an iPhone game developer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28149557)

Instead of putting 100 boring levels, I decided to design 25 challenging levels which would provide a few hours of entertainment. For less than the price of a cup of coffee, I still think that this is more than acceptable.

- Raph

This is exactly why I won't buy a Wii. With a Wii the average consumer doesn't look at reviews, doesn't care about quality, and just gets the OOOOOH shiny! item. With the PS3/XBOX360, the public looks at reviews, the quality of the game, and its lasting appeal.

Re:As an iPhone game developer... (1)

catprog (849688) | more than 4 years ago | (#28164951)

The problem is the average customer does not like the same things that reviewers like.

A game that is very good and is 60 hours length that gets a review of 99 would not suit them.

Re:As an iPhone game developer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28149907)

I'm a DS developer, and I've been amazed at how skewed people's ideas of how much a game should cost and what they should get from them. A $20 DS game will probably be 5-10 hours of entertainment. Going to see a movie can cost you $20 for what is hopefully 1.5 hour of entertainment, though movies are getting worse and worse as they run out of ideas. Or if you buy a DVD for $20 you'll watch it once, maybe twice. Some Anime Box sets go for $100 or more for 26 episodes, which is about 11 hours of entertainment, therefor if someone plays a game for 11 hours, you should ask for $100.

iPhone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28150303)

You're an iPhone game developer, and you're complaining about the lack of sophistication of your clientele? Face it, the kind of people who appreciate a well thought-out challenging game are not the kind of people who shop for games on the iPhone app store. Give your audience what they want.

Do the math... (1)

qieurowfhbvdklsj (796402) | more than 4 years ago | (#28153595)

That's 33 cents per hour. Take a game like Sim City 4, which sells now for $15, and ask if 45 hours sounds like the correct amount of fun to receive from it. (I'm probably at 45 hours right now, but I'm not yet done playing it.) Take a classic like DOOM which you probably bought for $20 or so, and played for hundreds and hundreds of hours. It's easy to imagine DOOM being less than 10 cents per hour.

Then there's Super Mario World. I may have played that game for a thousand hours, and I didn't pay anything for it: I found it and its console in the closet when I moved in. That's inifinty hours of fun per dollar.

Clearly your 99 cent game simply doesn't measure up. Just because people are paying less than a dollar doesn't mean they are paying nothing at all. Try 25 cents, which will yeild 12 hours per dollar, at which point I'm sure the only complaint you will hear is that you don't have enough games available for purchase.

Re:As an iPhone game developer... (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 4 years ago | (#28155453)

I'm amazed by the negative comments I immediately received from people who didn't actually buy the game.

Unless there's a lot of people with hacked Apple accounts, it's not possible. To rate an app, you have to have purchased it. The stars when you delete it (which won't work on jailbroken/pirated apps, no worries there), or the comments after you go back to iTunes. iTunes won't let you rate an app you didn't buy (I tried it on an app I beta tested that was released, I had to buy it to leave my comment).

Maybe those 25 "challenging" levels proved to be less challenging to those people? Or maybe they found a fundamental flaw that made the game unexpectedly easy? Or if your game has a difficulty setting, they left it on default easy?

Price is not relevant (2, Interesting)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148133)

I never had the original XBox, but when I saw it was compatible with the X360, I found a used copy of Morrowind for $2. GOTY edition, no less, with the expansion packs. Yes, $2 at my work's monthly swap meet (it's an engineering outfit, so the swap meet has all sorts of computer stuff, test equipment, great for the mad scientist in your house) Must have gotten a couple hundred hours of enjoyment out of it. I wish Bethesda would port Daggerfall and Arena over to XBox Live Arcade.

Re:Price is not relevant (1)

broken_chaos (1188549) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149799)

I've also found that some of the best value-for-money you can get is from older games - either discounted new copies, or used copies. I think I bought the entire NWN+expansions for about $20 a few years ago. I still play it, and I played it for, probably, hundreds and hundreds of hours overall - between the OCs and user-created modules. In the past year, I've also picked up NWN2+expansions, and while I have less time to play games now than I used to, I've still had a good 30+ hours out of those games, and I'm only most of the way through the main game, and not into any expansions or user created modules.

I also have Baldur's Gate II+expansion lying around from a few months ago, waiting to be played, when I picked it up for $10, new.

just anecdotaly... (5, Insightful)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148167)

i have gotten much more enjoyment out of games i have paid for. I spent longer playing them, enjoyed playing them more, got more involved in them etc... when compared to games i have pirated. I put this down (atleast in part) to that having paid for it ill stick with it longer, 'ive paid for it so i better play it...', so i play it a little longer, get through the couple of boring bits and so just enjoy it more. Sure there have been games ive pirated that i got as involved in as ones ive purchased, but as a proportion of the total number of games, its much less.

Re:just anecdotaly... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28148333)

At least you'll admit you pirate some games.. unlike some people around here.

Re:just anecdotaly... (1)

Caboosian (1096069) | more than 4 years ago | (#28150451)

I play games I buy much more than games I pirate simply because I can actually use the multiplayer component, which both extends the joy of the game, and often prevents me from blowing straight through the singleplayer.

Games are Like Coffee (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148509)

Games are very much like a cup of coffee, the race to the bottom is what happens in perfect competition [wikipedia.org]. The net economic profit in such a scenario is zero - which is exactly what Bogost describes:
"That's just about enough to pay for the iPhone and Mac laptop or desktop you'll need to develop for the platform in the first place. Put more plainly, for the average developer the App Store is a financial wash."

The only way for a seller to make an economic profit in such an environmnet is to differentiate their product. In fact, the coffee industry with many suppliers and substitutes is analgous to the iTunes store, and demonstrates different business models for individual companies to turn a profit.

He concludes: "If everyone selling games doubled or tripled their prices, then the average cost of games for iPhone might rise above the threshold of cognitive dissonance."
Not everybody needs to raise their price. Some coffee beans are purchased on the commodity market for your "freeze dried Taster's Choice," while coffee retailers serving $5 lattes pay higher rates for specialty contracts.
The game industry will have similar price stratification catering to different consumer needs. There will be a market for the 99 cent hit-or-miss products and a seperate one for the $15 marketing blockbusters.

Compare them to a movie (1)

DrTrogg (586983) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148739)

Say $10 for a (new release) movie = 2 hours of entertainment. You can argue that movies are overpriced, but I think it's a good starting point. It's in the entertainment 'arena', some are good, some are bad, some are short, but so are games. If a $10 indie game entertains me for 2 hours, I figure it's good value. If a $60 game entertains me for at least 12 hours, then I figure it's good value. If I thought I'd get 48 hours out of Rock Band Beatles ... ok, I still wouldn't consider that. If that doesn't work for me I just pretend I bought it "for the kids". The 6yr old is loving his Killzone 2.

Re:Compare them to a movie (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 4 years ago | (#28150177)

It depends on the level of entertainment too. Take one of the Baldur's Gate or Civilization games, and think how much progress you made after 2 hours. If the game had ended at that point, would it have been worth $10?

This water is terrible! (1)

flerndip (1191125) | more than 4 years ago | (#28148787)

This water is terrible! I want my free back!

(Okay, that was funnier when I was a kid and water was free.)

Re:This water is terrible! (1)

Quantumstate (1295210) | more than 4 years ago | (#28151017)

Tap water still is free here in the UK. I did hear a thing about some stingy place not giving free tap water a while ago in the news but that is an exception. Of course they try and sell you £2 bottled water.

99 cents (2, Insightful)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149143)

Honestly, at that price it's pretty tacky to be asking for a refund. And it certainly wouldn't be worth *my* time to try getting it. It may however be worth my time to get some contact info for the developer and send him a short note about my take on the game. There's at least the chance then that he might take it as constructive criticism and make a better game next time. Asking for a refund tells him nothing other than that you're a cheapskate and didn't think the game was worth $0.99.

Wrong (1)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149215)

Everytime I buy a game, it ends up being the worst pile of shit ever. The last game I ever bought was Warcraft 3, and it was no fun at all.

With free games, I feel no regret if the game is bad (I wasted no money) and I feel very connected to the game if I like it. Favorite games right now are Battle for Wesnoth and Freeciv.

Re:Wrong (1)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 4 years ago | (#28150047)

Wesnoth is okay, but Freeciv I find boring, especially when compared to Civilization IV (which I paid for).

Consumer reaction depends on how you price. (4, Insightful)

Peganthyrus (713645) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149313)

I have seen this exact same phenomenon for years in a completely different online market: artists offering commissions.

When you're young and still unsure of your skills, it's really easy to promise that you'll do a full-color piece of art for something like US$5 - waaaaay too low. After all, all the other beginners are pricing like that; hell, some of the people teetering on the cusp between "fan" and "pro" are still pricing themselves like that.

Now, artists will trade stories about their nightmare commissions; like any specialist group, we share our war stories. And the one thing I've noticed is that almost every story about a picky commissioner who demands ten rounds of changes on an finished piece is also one about a commission that's way below what the artist's time is worth.

I avoided doing commissions for a long time. When I finally did start doing them, I looked around at the going rates and positioned myself well above the bottom, offering very limited numbers of commissions at a time. And you know what? The first set sold out like lightning. I raised my prices for the second set and they still went quick. And everyone's reaction upon getting their art was "wow!" - some people even threw in a bit more money afterwards. Nobody asked for changes, everyone knew they'd be getting my interpretation of their scenario.

A few sets of commissions down the line, I did an experiment: instead of setting a price, I let people pay what they thought it was worth. One person who was quite broke paid about half of my usual price; the other two people in that set of commissions more than made up for her lack of funds.

If you price yourself like a slave, people will treat you like one. Set your rates to something fair and you get treated like the skilled professional you are. All the people writing iPhone games for $.99 are hanging out a sign that says "my hard work is worth next to nothing"; it is not surprising to find consumers treating them badly.

Re:Consumer reaction depends on how you price. (1)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149693)

But Peggy (fancy meeting you here!), you can sell that game a million times. I've bought heaps of 99c games--any higher and I probably wouldn't bother, it feels risky because I'd have expectations.

What do you get for a buck? (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149359)

On this platform, you happen to get a music single you listen to over and over again until you're sick of it for a dollar as well.

Its not as relevant what a dollar gets you in the rest of the world as what this particular market segment sees a dollar being worth.

If your game isn't as entertaining to them as the latest piece of music they downloaded and for at least as long, you should expect them to be annoyed at the price.

this is Marketing 101 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28149445)

A $20 bottle of wine tastes better than a $6 bottle, because it usually is. But, is a $100 bottle better than a $20 bottle?

Usually yes, because the customers factor in the price when they experience the product.

Reminds me of the anecdote of the jewelry store owner who had a bunch of novelty products that weren't moving. She decided to cut their price by half, but the manager misunderstood her over the phone, and wrote instead "All items in this display, Price x 2".

They immediately started jumping out of the case.

Re:this is Marketing 101 (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149533)

Which is funny because a large part of the cost (of any product) is the shipping, even though a wine shipped halfway across the world might not taste better than a wine shipped across your own state. Or made in your backyard.

Re:this is Marketing 101 (1)

SpacePunk (17960) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149601)

It's all in the perception of value. It seems that the majority of people seem to equate price with value. So, the higher the price the more value they place on the object or service. Take Wal-Mart, for example. It usually sells items cheaper than the local competitors, but everyone regards the items sold there as cheap chinese made crap, for the most part. Even though the majority of the items are the exact same thing the competitors sell at a higher price, they are viewed as flawed in some way.

Averages are misleading with a "long tail" (2, Informative)

Zigurd (3528) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149659)

The average of revenues for applications in the iPhone app store might be less than $3000 but this is somewhat misleading. Like any publishing market there are a few winners and many, many also-rans. If you calculated what the average book out of Amazon's 3.5 million books took in, you might conclude you can't make any money at all publishing books. But even a specialized tech book on a current topic is going to rank in the 20,000-40,000 range in sales rank, and that is in the top 2%. There is a lot of obscure stuff that got printed at some time or another that really can't be considered part of the market that real publishing companies participate in.

So, if you put a truly professional effort into a product, you can reasonably expect results that are way above the average, and that seems to be borne out by the tennis application mentioned in the article: It made several times the average. But, due to low prices, that amounts to only a few tens of thousands of dollars over the product lifespan.

The price erosion in the iPhone app store is going to be a real worry to real game publishers. If you can't sell a game for $19.99 you won't get quality studio-produced games, except as an experiment in the market. Good or bad, it sure is different from the DS. At those pricing levels, the number of financial winners will be very small, and since price erosion is hard to undo, new revenue sources will have to be found in order to change the fact that only a very small number of products will make revenue in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The old addage (2, Interesting)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#28149697)

What's that old, but very common, expression? You get what you pay for.

Is a BMW/Benz 5x better than a Honda Civic? It may be a better performance vehicle, but more reliable? Not really. I've got 200k mi on my '97, and while it's reliable it's pricey. How about a Land Rover? Definitely not, yet they are easily twice as expensive as any other SUV.

People commonly associate price with quality. If you go into a store to buy something, and X is $2 while Y is $4, most people will buy the $4 because they assume "There's gotta be something about Y to justify the $2 increase in price.

The worst price? FREE. Why? Because psychologically when someone sees something that is FREE, they assume that it has no value. Have a yard sale? Don't mark anything FREE, otherwise people will look at it and assume it's junk. Would you "buy" FREE food from the supermarket? Doubt it, you'd probably think "there's gotta be something wrong with it."

Bottom line: without doing any research people look at two objects/services of different prices and instinctively think that the higher priced object can justify it's higher price.

Re:The old addage (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 4 years ago | (#28150335)

The worst price? FREE. Why? Because psychologically when someone sees something that is FREE, they assume that it has no value. Have a yard sale? Don't mark anything FREE, otherwise people will look at it and assume it's junk.

You're correct, but the reason you give is perhaps too simplistic. Free or not, it's pretty easy to recognize whether an object is truly junk, so I doubt that's the real reason people find "free" unappealing. It seems to be part of human nature with regard to our sense of "fairness" that a mutually acceptable exchange is regarded a better outcome than a one-sided exchange where one party has all the advantage. An actual exchange also avoids incurring the sense of obligation that comes with the recieving of a gift. And don't discount the appeal of "getting a bargain", which people also enjoy quite a lot.

I think "it's free so it must be junk" is a minor player in the list of reasons for finding free unappealing.

(As an aside, I suspect that the anonymity that comes with online filesharing is a big part of the appeal, since it allows people to avoid incurring obligation. Contrast that with recieving a free album or movie from a smiling salesman at a store, a known member of your community or a family member. Too much free stuff and the sense of obligation starts to build.)

Re:The old addage (1)

bnenning (58349) | more than 4 years ago | (#28154823)

Very interesting theory. It would explain why I feel tacky using a coupon for a free item, but not if it's for 50% off.

The Emotional Cost of Micropayments (1)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 4 years ago | (#28151863)

I've forgotten the technical name for the term, but there's a well proven concept in behavioral theory that people do not proportionally associate the cost of payments with the actual cost of the payment. There's a fixed cost emotionally for any transaction, no matter how small the actual purchase. In simpler terms, people feel much less happy making 100 $1 payments than they do one $100 payment (all things being equal). I actually think this irrational behavior explains the attitude of buyers much better than the article does. I also think it is why micropayments are so hard to make work.

The author of the article is attempting to make the claim that games somehow fall into a special category of consumer behavior. I do not think this is the case at all. We have an irrational "fixed cost" for any transaction, regardless of price. If you buy a nickel gumball and it came out of the machine defective, you'd probably be upset- far more upset than the loss of a nickel actually justifies. Exactly the same way that the disappointment with a .99 game and demanding a refund is out of whack with the loss of a dollar. I personally believe that the disappointment of a failed transaction has to do with a perceived violation of trust (vital to any relationship or trade), which is far more upsetting to a social animal than the loss of an insignificant sum of money.

Not just games... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28152743)

I work at a computer surplus, and people are not just this cheap about games....

          So, we used to sell inkjets for $5 a pop, as-is. We'd make sure it prints a page, and that's it. People kept bringing them back and bitching whenever they ran out of ink or anything.

          We dropped them to $1, put "as-is" stickers on them, and as soon as a customer picked the printer up told them "Hey, this printer is strictly as-is" (Computers etc. have a 1-week warranty against DOA.) People would *say* "OK", but in actuality it'd go right in one ear and out the other -- they'd STILL come back and start bitching and whining "Oh, it only printed like 50 pages" etc.

          So now, guess what? No ink jets for you! People come in "Hey don't you sell ink jets?" "No people kept trying to return them even though they are as-is". "Oh I wouldn't do that". "Well, that's what the people said that returned them too, no I won't sell you an ink jet." Simple as that.

          One person even complained they should be reimbursed for gas! I lipped off a bit at them and pointed out "I didn't make you buy a Suburban, you knew you'd burn a lot of gas when you bought it."

Entertainment Cost-Per-Hour (1)

BlindSpot (512363) | more than 4 years ago | (#28152747)

The question is how much are you willing to pay for entertainment, on an hourly basis? If the cost is <= that value, then the game is a good deal for you.

Of course time is not always the only factor for entertainment. Maybe it's something really spectacular or special so you don't mind paying more if it lives up. Or maybe it's so you can be with friends.. a beer isn't worth $5 but the time in the pub with your buddies is. Or maybe it fills some other need... like porn. :-) Generally, though, with 'commoditized entertainment' like computer games, cost-per-hour is a good measure.

For me I have generally been happy if I pay no more than $1/hr, so a $0.99 game is good enough if I get an hour of entertainment out of it. This has held for almost 20 years, going back to NES cartidges. However, it now seems to be too high. Orange Box kinda blew the curve, as I narrow in on $0.10/hr, and some of the other cheap games I've bought on Steam have been close to that mark too. So despite inflation and higher wages and stuff the acceptable cost-per-hour for computer games actually seems to be dropping... which isn't all that surprising I guess given that gaming is so huge now and there is way more supply.

Misunderstanding of capitalism (1)

dugeen (1224138) | more than 4 years ago | (#28165529)

The state has - rightly or wrongly - decided to use capitalism as the basis for producing and distributing goods such as online games. This differs from the pro-crap games faction's perception of capitalism as a trap for separating suckers from their money. If you represent a product as a game, and charge people actual money for it, it has to function as described; whether it costs 99 cents or $99 billion is completely irrelevant.
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