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Examining Indie Game Pricing

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-fivespot dept.

Businesses 188

As the second Humble Indie Bundle flourishes, having taken in over $1.5 million in pay-what-you-want sales, the Opposable Thumbs blog has taken a look at indie game pricing in general, trying to determine how low price points and frequent sales affect their popularity in an ocean of $60 blockbusters. Quoting: "... in the short term these sales are a good thing. They bring in more sales, more revenue, and expand the reach of games that frequently have very little marketing support behind them, if any. For those games, getting on the front page of Steam is a huge boost, putting it in front of a huge audience of gamers. But what are the long-term effects? If most players are buying these games at a severely reduced price, how does that influence the perception of indie games at large? It's not an easy question to answer, especially considering how relatively new these sales are, making it difficult to judge their long-term effects. But it's clear they're somewhat of a double-edged sword. Exposure is good, but price erosion isn't. 'When it comes to perception, a deep discount gets people playing the game that [they] wouldn't play otherwise, and I think that has both positive and negative effects,' [2D Boy co-founder Ron Carmel] told Ars. 'The negative is that if I'm willing to pay $5 but not $20, I probably don't want to play that game very much, so maybe I'm not as excited about it after I play it and maybe I drive down the average appreciation of the game.'"

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IMO (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34649764)

Personally, I wouldn't have bought those games at larger price. Gish and World of Goo maybe, but others are so so and not that interesting. You will find lots of more fun from Steam sales or Good Old Games. But since I could get them cheaply (I paid $5 so I'm not a total jackass), could as well get them to fill up my Steam games list.

Other costs. (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649918)

don't have the huge burden of marketing costs associated with major developers, you don't have to pay a huge team, you don't have to box and ship your product.

In short, there is no price erosion when your profit margin is actually higher per unit than the big publishers, even at 10% of the ticket price.

Re:IMO (4, Informative)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650382)

Exactly. One of the nice things about PC gaming is there is NO shortage of good cheap games, which means you can't royally screw PC gamers on price unless you are talking a just released AAA game, and even then it better be good or word of mouth will kill sales quick.

For an example of cheap games for the PC look no further than the Good Old Games Xmas sale [gog.com] where there is 290 GAMES ON SALE with most of them half off! I just picked up Unreal 2 SE, Spellforce Platinum Edition, and Evil Genius, all for just $16 and change. This let me snatch up some games I missed the first time around and at dirt cheap. Oh and ALL work on X64 as well as x86 and NO DRM!!!

So I have to agree that it isn't so much about the "perception" that the low price brings as much as it is we PC gamers have an abundance of choices, which means you have to offer better prices if you are an indie. Of course the flip side of that is the low barrier to entry, as the consoles can be quite high when it comes to SDKs, and then there is securing a deal, which Nintendo doesn't even allow garage outfits, do they? With PC gamers we frankly don't care where a game company resides, hell make it in your basement. Make it good, give us a good (preferably cheap) price, and as in TFA you CAN make good money. Sure you probably won't become the next EA, but you don't have to act like asses like EA either.

+1! (1)

sgtrock (191182) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651440)

'nuff said. :)

Re:IMO (1)

disi (1465053) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650472)

I have no Steam account or will ever have. I would never buy any Apple stuff. I also stopped buying those big names, because I know I will get bored after 2-3 days playing(experience from EQ2, LOTRO, WoW, Warhammer, NWN2, D2, Torchlight and many other RPG). Very rarely I play a module in NWN1 on Linux...

The only reason I bought those both bundles over the last year was the support for Linux.

The games I play ~5 hours a week are Sudoku, Einstein or other puzzle games I can play while watching a movie or read something. Best game: Osmos and Samorost2 :)

That means those guys would have never reached me as a customer...

Solution: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34649774)

You know what the main cause of pedophilia is?

Sexy kids.

Frosty (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34649790)

Piss! Frosting

more demos (5, Insightful)

bakamorgan (1854434) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649794)

Need more demos for games. Sometimes a game looks like shit but may play really well or vice versa. I'm more willing to download a demo or a game with limited features then I am just to plunk down some cash after only seeing only a handful of screen shots and no video.

Re:more demos (1)

Sparrow1492 (1962256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649826)

I agree with this entirely. Every non-blockbuster game that I have bought for the past several years has been driven by whether or not I enjoyed the demo. I'm not willing to shell out $ on a game I've never heard of unless I can play it first.

Re:more demos (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649978)

Some of the demos are fairly poor tho...
A few years ago, there was a platform game called "the lion king"... The demo of which, was the first level.
I played that first level on the demo, it was pretty good, well thought out level, reasonable level of difficulty, nice graphics and sound.
So i bought the full game, turns out subsequent levels were very half assed, too difficult and there was no way to save your progress so you were stuck repeatedly going through the early levels only to die in the later ones. I think i made it to about the third level before i got absolutely sick of playing the first and second levels repeatedly, only to die in the third and have to start again.

Re:more demos (1)

devxo (1963088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650004)

Heh, one of the games I've completely forgotten ever playing. I remember it was actually pretty good (I was really young tho), but not so much about the levels.

This was also back when you could borrow games from video rental stores for a week or so. It was a good way to test the whole games and got me nagging my parents to buy a few I really liked too.

Re:more demos (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650816)

And there's an interesting point: first the industry slowly killed off most demos. For the pc market demos got bloatier and fewer in number, I don't know if there's a lot of demo to be had these days. For the console market, well, you probably get some with gamer magazines, but even on the PS store or the Wii shopping channel demos aren't exactly legion.

Then they killed off rentals. Given that that happened even here in Belgium last year, I suspect that's the case in most of the world by now.

So, how are you supposed to try a game before buying it ? Not, I guess - this is another instance of "be a good consumer and fork over the money". Mindless automatons are so much easier to deal with, after all.

Re:more demos (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651104)

Then they killed off rentals. Given that that happened even here in Belgium last year, I suspect that's the case in most of the world by now.

Why would you assume that?

I started a LoveFilm subscription recently, mostly for the unlimited movie streaming to PS3, but I also can rent games through it. I'm in the UK.

Re:more demos (1)

g4b (956118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650774)

lion king demo - funny i played that too. A lot.

but I went with descent, as it came to whishes. Now in descent full game was as exciting as the demo levels. :)

Re:more demos (2)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650156)

I'm more willing to download a demo or a game with limited features then I am just to plunk down some cash after only seeing only a handful of screen shots and no video.

But are you more likely to buy the game? I doubt that most people would. Somebody is excited about a game - downloads the demo, and it doesn't measure up to their excitement, so they don't purchase it.

Contrast with games that don't have a demo available - person gets excited about a game, can't download demo, so purchases game. Person is disappointed in game, but tough shit - their money is already spent. So they'll probably keep playing the game to try and get some 'value' out of the money they have spent.

Re:more demos (1)

bakamorgan (1854434) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650328)

For me yes, for others it's a toss up. When I was a kid I would always rent a game before I owned it. A good example is the free weekends on steam. They are awesome and with the free weekend trial of whatever game they throw up sometimes it has gotten a lot of my friends to buy the games they wouldn't have necessarily looked at. Like you said if someone who is excited for the game thinks the demo sucks they might pass it up, but then they should check out reviews, forums and see whatever else on the game. Sometimes the demos just suck compared to the full game too.

Re:more demos (1)

g4b (956118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650758)

If this is how it is supposed to work then, no wonder, that obtaining illegal copies of the game is still the number one strategy of many game classics to get major attention. (did even work for operating systems)

I think on the PC market, selling many games is still based very much on the quality of the game - especially in multiplayer. But PC gaming sector is mainly hardcore gamers anyway. Most revenues are created through console titles. Not sure, how it is with demos there.

Re:more demos (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651128)

But PC gaming sector is mainly Farmville anyway

FTFY :)

Re:more demos (1)

slyrat (1143997) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651224)

But are you more likely to buy the game? I doubt that most people would. Somebody is excited about a game - downloads the demo, and it doesn't measure up to their excitement, so they don't purchase it.

For me if the game is good, and the demo only shows you just enough to play the game I will usually grab it if it is an indie game. If the demo gives too much then I'm less likely to buy it since playing the demo may give me enough entertainment. Hard to balance the amount of stuff to put in the demo.

Re:more demos (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651230)

True. A lot of it depends on how excited the developers can get their prospective customers without a demo. On a sequel to an already successful franchise (a few examples from over the years are Unreal, Myst, Civilization, Half Life, MOH, Descent, some of the EA Sports games), you're almost guaranteed some sales as long as you can get a working copy into the hands of a few respected reviewers before release date. And sometimes you don't even need that.

With a totally new franchise, or a major change to an existing one (Myst3D), you really need a demo out there to get people trying it. With a new franchise usually comes a new engine, new controls, a new look, new types of gameplay, etc. There's nothing like getting your fingers on a controller to see if the game is "right" for you. And there are a lot of people who won't drop $60 on a game without knowing how it feels. I think with a new franchise you'll get more sales from the demo than you'll lose.

Re:more demos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34650268)

I agree,
I looked at about a dozen games on steam recently, looking to empty my wallet, and of all of them, the only oen that was both reasonably priced AND had a decent demo was Gratuitous Space Battles. http://store.steampowered.com/app/41800/
End result: A sale, and a further sale for the campaign xpansion DLC. There was little chance of me buying it without a demo, and it's just easy money for the dev that way.

*also just noticed the game is in the christmas sale right now for even less than I paid for it. Typical :D

Re:more demos (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650580)

Most if not all the game in the bundle have a demo.

Re:more demos (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651088)

And as well as being a demo, it has to be a representative demo. I was quite excited about Brutal Legend, but when I played the demo it didn't seem that special. I waited until it was around half of the retail price before buying it.

Then I found out that it was actually an open world sandbox style game, and the demo only included a linear section that was meant as a kind of tutorial. I was annoyed that I hadn't just bought the game sooner, it was well worth full price.

if I'm willing to pay $5 but not $20, I probably don't want to play that game very much, so maybe I'm not as excited about it after I play it and maybe I drive down the average appreciation of the game.'

Bullshit. You're obviously not very excited about it before you play it, but your level of excitement after playing is entirely dependent on the game itself. I bought Brutal Legend cheap and I loved it. I actually possibly appreciated it more because I'd got it at a great price.

Re:more demos (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651188)

True.

The nice thing about the Humble Bundle is that you can buy it for some really low amount then try the games out. If you think they are worth it, you can buy it again for a more reasonable price. If you don't, you delete it and you're out a buck or two. And, let's face it, paying $8 and getting both bundles makes it pretty likely you'll enjoy at least one of the games for a few hours.

But, yeah, I miss demos. Especially of games that are asking me to drop $60 or more. For that, I want a very well-crafted game that will give me at least a few weeks of quality play. But I've gone through a lot of demos where the demo represented too much of the effort that went into the game. Demo is Level One, and it's awesome, but the developers gave up after that and the other levels blow steaming monkey chunks, are incomplete, etc.

Ob (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649798)

But it's clear they're somewhat of a double-edged sword.

Does it give a strength bonus, an extra attack, or +D3 hit points?

Well, from personal experience... (5, Interesting)

RsG (809189) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649806)

I've bought quite a few indie games off of steam and a couple of older titles off of GOG, all of them for less than twenty bucks a pop, and in most cases I feel I got my money's worth. I don't think I'd have bought most of them at triple-A retail prices, not because I'm a cheapskate, but because the games in question aren't valuable enough to me to justify the higher price tag.

I should also point out that most high profile games don't meet my criteria for the higher price tag either. Of the games I've bought this year, I can only think of two that were worth paying sixty at launch. For everything else, I've waited until the price dropped, or it went on sale. I don't think that the average gamer decides what a fair price ought to be based on what the average price is; we balance how many hours of entertainment we're going to get out of a game, and then decide what we think of as a good price for those hours. I've certainly felt ripped off in the past, buying a game at launch only to find it's only good for a few hours of play, hence my current purchasing habits.

Worrying about price erosion seems like looking at the problem backwards. Make a game worth charging sixty bucks for, and you'll sell it for sixty. Make it worth forty, and you might sell copies at sixty, but many gamers will wait for the price to come down before they buy. And the days of a game only being on the store shelves for a month before being taken down are rapidly vanishing, along with the shelves and the brick-and-mortar stores that house them.

Re:Well, from personal experience... (2)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649860)

I should also point out that most high profile games don't meet my criteria for the higher price tag either. Of the games I've bought this year, I can only think of two that were worth paying sixty at launch. For everything else, I've waited until the price dropped, or it went on sale. I don't think that the average gamer decides what a fair price ought to be based on what the average price is; we balance how many hours of entertainment we're going to get out of a game, and then decide what we think of as a good price for those hours. I've certainly felt ripped off in the past, buying a game at launch only to find it's only good for a few hours of play, hence my current purchasing habits.

I quite have to agree with you. I personally wait for games to be on sale in Steam, then I check Gamespot for reviews of them before I decide whether it looks like it's worth the money or not. If it's short, really buggy, or really shallow I just simply won't buy it, no matter how cheap it is. On the other hand I don't buy games at launch anyways, I always wait for the price to come down to a spot where I feel it's worth it. Like for example I got Batman: Arkham Asylum for 17 euros on Steam when it was on sale; it was a damn good game and one of my favorites now, but even then I still wouldn't have paid much more for it. For me around 20 euros is the max I am willing to pay for a game, no matter what the average is.

Re:Well, from personal experience... (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651032)

>>because the games in question aren't valuable enough to me to justify the higher price tag.

It's true. I felt ripped off by Halo: Reach's $60 price tag, but then again I got a $20 gift certificate to Best Buy when I bought it, so I felt that price was more fair.

Likewise, I waited for Front Mission Evolved to drop to $20 new (which took all of a month... the game sold so badly they still had preorder cards to give out with it) - which was a fair price for a game that was all "Pro: giant robot combat, Con: writing makes you want to stab your ears out so you don't have to listen to it any more."

The thing about the indy games is that I'll take a chance on them at the 5$ price point, but I won't for much larger. I know what I'm getting when I order a Halo or a Front Mission or whatever - I have absolutely no idea if a puzzle game about a mermaid (Aquaria) is even remotely something I'd consider playing.

Blah blah blah (5, Informative)

RocketRabbit (830691) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649808)

An indie developer studio can charge $5-15 per game and most of the cash goes to the people who made it. A traditional big studio game sells for $50 and maybe ten cents goes to the developers. The rest goes to a faceless corp that is manned by MBas who hate games anyway.

Re:Blah blah blah (2, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650010)

Guess the message to devs is "cut the slack, keep the dough".

Now only musicians have to catch on.

Not really (5, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650198)

Captain anti-corporate there doesn't know what he's talking about.

First off, almost all games for big companies are works for hire. What that means is that the company employs the developers, designers, producers, artists, and so on to make the game. It can be as a full time or contract employee. Sometimes it is a regular salaried job (often the case for developers), sometimes it is a hourly contract (like $X/hour spent testing or something), sometimes it is a specified contract (like $Y to produce a musical score for the game). At any rate it is a very up front sort of arrangement, much of it very normal "employee works full time for employer" sort of thing.

The next thing is that these AAA titles are MASSIVE in terms of the teams that work on them. It isn't a developer, it is a team. Take Mass Effect 2. It credits 1 lead programmer, 1 assistant lead, 26 programmers, 3 localization programmers, and 6 additional programmers. So just on the pure "coding" part of development, there were 37 people. There were also all sorts of designers, testers, artists, voice actors, and so on. So, that no one person got a millions of dollars, even though the game had a multi-million dollar budget, is unsurprising. All those salaries and contracts add up to a lot.

Finally, as this all implies, the financial risk is assumed by the publisher. They pay people for their work, as the game is being developed. If it tanks, well the publisher is out their investment. If it succeeds, they make money. This isn't like an indy title where you put in work and hope to make money in the future and if it bombs, you get nothing for it. The people who made the game are compensated regardless of success.

Now I'm not saying all developers are paid what they ought to be (part of the problem is there is a bit of over supply since so many people want to make games) or that the publishers don't often make a lot of money (though many of them have gone through tough times, Atari has been bleeding red ink as of late). What I am saying is it is nothing like the music industry "We pay you a tiny royalty and deduct everything from it," system. It is very much a normal "pay for work" system as most of us have for jobs.

Re:Blah blah blah (1)

AstrumPreliator (708436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650282)

The rest goes to a faceless corp that is manned by MBas who hate games anyway.

Oh no, they love games because they can make a lot of money off of them. Just look at the relatively recent DLC trend which is massively overpriced. Oh perhaps dedicated server binaries for PC games which as far as I've read (feel free to correct me) must be licensed by game server providers. The binaries aren't released publicly (CoD, BFBC2). Or even things you only get if you buy the game first hand but if you buy it second hand you have to pay extra to get those things (if you want them).

Let's see what they come up with next.

Re:Blah blah blah (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650604)

That's not really true. The $50 pays the wages and rents for the shop, publisher and developer. It pays to manufacture the game, to ship it and to advertise it.

This idea that the lowly developer gets virtually nothing and everything else goes to a guy that looks like the monopoly guy is past its due date.

That and a lot of developers certainly aren't starving. If it's so bad they can man up and do it on their own like others.

Very Sad. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34649810)

All you cock-smoking tea baggers who think game companies should give you their products for free should all just go fuck yourselves.

Re:Very Sad. (4, Insightful)

Immostlyharmless (1311531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649922)

Its not about that and you know it. Just today I fired up steam and bought 11 games, one indie bundle,(Pretty much solely for Crayon Physics, which I played the demo of last year where it stuck in my mind), the new monkey island installments and an older game that I wanted to reacquire. Total spent? 24 bucks.

I'd love to play black-ops, but not at 60 bucks. I bought MW2 at that price, the last 1/3rd of the single player campaign sucked, and the multi-player was cheap radar/wall hacky/wonky death from above garbage, and don't even get me started on the console bullshit matchmaking. Just because they throw 30 million bucks into production does not guarantee them my hard earned cash either. Will I buy it and play it? Probably, once it hits 20 bucks on steam in a year or so. Or I can pick it up used at about that price for the xbox.

Too many of us have been burned by buying something that was nothing but over-hyped crap. Apparently it's not just me who is tired of it, I'm no longer bleeding edge, I don't have to have it right when it comes out, specially if I know its something that I'll be able to buy at 1/2 price in 6 months.

Re:Very Sad. (1)

Skuto (171945) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650048)

>Probably, once it hits 20 bucks on steam in a year or so.

Bobby Kotick laughs evilly at your naivety. The biggest discount MW2 ever had on steam was 10% (I think). It's still selling for 60 Euro (79 DOLLARS) even though its successor is out. Compare this to the closest competing product BF:BC2, released 4 months later, which was already discounted to 13 bucks a few days ago. That's also the discounted price for MW1, which is now 3 years old.

Anyway, at that price, of course I picked up BF:BC2 instead, and if I really wanted MW2, 2nd hand is indeed the best option.

You know how many times that gets you 60 bucks Kotick? ZERO.

Re:Very Sad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34650172)

am I the only one who thinks Mech Warrior 2 first, when they see Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 abbreviated as MW2?

Get off my lawn.

Re:Very Sad. (4, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650878)

I do too, and I'm sure many do the same. It must have something to do with the fact that MechWarrior 2 is a far better, more memorable game.

Intangible product (3, Interesting)

billcopc (196330) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649818)

We need to keep in mind that online game sales are intangible products. Sure, as a publisher you're paying a few pennies for the download, but the difference is quite negligible, whether you sell 10 copies at $50, or 100 copies at $5. People are already used to "community support", i.e. forums, so if a lower price results in a greater net profit, there's no reason not to aim for such.

Indie games have such small user bases that the growth potential is tremendous. By selling the game at a very low price, you're effectively buying customers. If you do a good job of entertaining them, they will buy your next game. It's nearly-free publicity, which is good because at that level, the game house probably can't justify the expense of a real marketing campaign. Realistically, if you're bringing in less than six figures with your product, be it a game or app, you're better off lowering the price and considering that discount your "marketing cost", rather than paying up-front for promotion which may or may not recoup the investment. Why gamble the company when you can get rich slowly ?

Re:Intangible product (2)

Skuto (171945) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650090)

you're better off lowering the price and considering that discount your "marketing cost"

I think this is the key point in the article. The developers lower their games' price because it increases sales and gets them into the top x charts, which further increases sales. The lower sales price costs money to the developer. If you have more people competing for this marketing/top x position, the price gets driven down, and revenues too.

You can compare this to traditional marketing, and I guess it's a similar proposition, with AAA titles having huge marketing budgets. There prices get driven up, so working in the other direction, but that also costs money because of less sales.

The conclusion is: marketing games isn't easy nor is it free because it's a competitive market.

Problem is... (4, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649830)

... indies are competing with discounted AAA games from years prior. It's hard to charge ~$20+ dollars for an indie game when you can get yesteryears hit games for the same or less.

Re:Problem is... (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650044)

Not quite.

You'll notice two things in indie games:

First, the quality is going up. Way up. It gets easier and easier every day to make good content in little time. Free engines are by no means inferior to commercial ones anymore. And a fair lot of ambitioned young artists are very willing to work for little to no money on a game project so they finally have something to tack to their resume.

And second, they cater to a completely different market. You will not find a lot of indie FPS or indie MMOs. They exist, actually, but few can go toe to toe with AAA titles. But you get a lot of puzzle games, strategy games, simulations. A market almost left bare by the main studios. Maybe it's not sought after enough for them, but that's where indies shine. These games also incidentally don't need killer graphics to be a hit. Simply because the game idea behind it makes or breaks the game, not flashy effects.

And, bluntly, those flashy effects wear off very, very quickly. To give you an example, I still play Civ 3 and Patrician II from time to time. But when did I pick up that Battlefield 2142 the last time? I can't remember.

Re:Problem is... (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650792)

And a fair lot of ambitioned young artists are very willing to work for little to no money on a game project so they finally have something to tack to their resume.

That is what keeps salaries down - there is always someone willing to work cheap to gain "resume points." which means the ones building their resumes get caught in the "I can get someone cheaper" trap and eventually bemoan the amount of people willing to work for next to nothing to gain experience.

Re:Problem is... (1)

bazorg (911295) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650380)

Discounted games of yesteryear may or may not work on your current hardware+OS combination. These Indie games are getting current support from developers and feedback from other users. I say the Humble Bundle initiative has an outstanding merit in terms of consumer "education".

Re:Problem is... (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650710)

Yes. There are discounted used games, and free indie games. The market says if you can get a substitute good for a lot less, you might go with it.

When there was nothing that compared to Super Mario Bros 1, people were willing to pay 50$ for it. If Super Mario Bros 1 debuted in 2011, it wouldn't make as much money as it did in 1985. People expect more now for less money. It is just how the market works.

I'm a video game developer myself, and I don't see anything wrong with this. I think it is a good thing. If all the games from 5+ years are available for free, the only thing people would buy would be sequels(games with more scope), or new and creative things. If the market saturates, it makes developers have to get more creative to find new genres and such.

$10 (1)

Winckle (870180) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649836)

Seriously, that's the price. So many indie games try to push for $15 or $20 and there's just something in my mind that refuses to even consider it, or considers it far too steep.

Even though rationally I can say "well it's just $5 difference" for some reason I baulk at the price.

Re:$10 (1)

krazytekn0 (1069802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650014)

I have to agree. I had serious trouble deciding to pay $12 for an indie game the other day. I was absolutely addicted to the demo and had run out of stuff to do there. But that extra $2.00 made it a much tougher decision. It's a mental game, when something is only $10.00 it's almost like not spending money to me. When it's more, I have to put it in the budget.

Re:$10 (0)

greylion3 (555507) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650406)

Funnily, almost ironically, your homepage points to Project Payday, "a way to make money for the average Joe".
If you've found such a good way to make money, how come your budget is that tight?
I guess we now know how well that method works.

Re:$10 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34650626)

What a fucking a jew.

Re:$10 (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650046)

It depends on the game, if you ask me. The next version of castle defense certainly does not warrant a price tag of 20 bucks. But a well done strategy game that is on par with the old Might&Magic series, why not?

What it comes down to is simply, how many hours of enjoyment will I get out of it?

Re:$10 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34650370)

More-or-less this, but is varies slightly with different game types.

If it is pretty much just single player, and fairly short, $10, all fine.
If it has multiplayer offline, or is fairly long, $15.
If it has multiplayer online, goes up to $20-25 for me.

A lot of people get this feeling with prices. It is why some foods are so cheap too.
You can sell significantly more things at $1 than you could at $2, way more than double despite the $1 difference, simply because $1 is seen more as throw-away change than $2 is.
Pretty much everyone you meet on a street will have a few dollars in their pockets somewhere, and if they are hungry, might as well grab a bite, after all, it is only a dollar.
Not a lot of people tend to think of this money stacking up over time that much.
You hit the full dollar range, even more sales, it is almost exponentially expanding towards the axis the lower you go.

Re:$10 (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650584)

$20-25 is actually my price point for games. But I won't pay that for some cheap Flash-based puzzler that the developer wrote over the weekend. I've spent about that much on Darwinia, Multiwinia and the truly amazing Defcon from Introversion, and I believe another $15 for the XBLA version of Darwinia. I do rarely go above this, but only for something I feel is really worth the extra outlay (e.g., X-Plane 9 with its 6 DL DVDs of Satellite imagery covering nearly the entire planet).

For more casual games, like anything on the iphone, my price point is more like $2 with the occasional spike for something really special, like Shredder. Which I bought twice (ipod version and ipad version...thanks, broken Apple payment system).

People will always pay exactly what they want (3, Insightful)

mykos (1627575) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649840)

If someone decided that Mass Effect 2 was worth $30 to them, but the publisher of Mass Effect wouldn't sell it for less than $50, then the publisher will get $0 because the customer will wait for it to come up cheap & used, not buy it at all, or pirate it.

Publishers who suffer massively from piracy should re-think their product pricing. A customer will only pay what they want anyway.

Re:People will always pay exactly what they want (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34650206)

Publishers who suffer massively from piracy should re-think their product pricing.
They should also worry about they DRM policies.

I recently bought Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands from Steam for what I thought to be a very nice deal, only to be put heavily down by the game's DRM.

I paid less than 10$ (exaclty 7.49$) for the game, but I regretted it bitterly once I started it and got the "Connection Lost" message. All that while indie game packs I bought in parallel installed seamlessly and were also quite enjoyable, while having the built-in Steam DRM or at worst a 'cd'key (for 'Plain Sight').

The message is, as always: if your game's DRM is going to be cracked anyway (it is always cracked), why make legitimate user's lifes harder than those of who simply pirate it?

Re:People will always pay exactly what they want (2)

theantipop (803016) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651046)

I agree with you, but for sake of argument and as a former software pirate I would say most who do pirate AAA games can reason their decision at any price point.

$60 blockbusters ??? (1, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649842)

where are they ? i havent seen once since late 90s.

Re:$60 blockbusters ??? (3, Informative)

cjnichol (1349831) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649910)

where are they ? i havent seen once since late 90s.

Starcraft 2 came out this year and I think it was $60.

Re:$60 blockbusters ??? (0)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649952)

geee .... rehash of 1998 game. even in that case, it is questionable that it busted any blocks.

Re:$60 blockbusters ??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34650072)

care to list any title that is not a rehash? It's all sequels or shooters (or both)
either way the most hyped games from Activision land are likely to be priced at $60. CoD: Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, Blizzard titles (SC2, D3 when it comes out).

Re:$60 blockbusters ??? (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650158)

You seem determined not to like any answer you get on this. How about Batman Arkham Asylum? That was an A-list title launched at $60.

Re:$60 blockbusters ??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34650236)

Batman? That's obviously just a rehash of the one from 1986 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:$60 blockbusters ??? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650634)

Well clearly that's not just a game. It's half game, half comic and half movie. Buying it means you're only paying $20 for the game.

Re:$60 blockbusters ??? (1, Redundant)

daid303 (843777) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650538)

I spend about the same time playing SC2 as I did playing SuperMeatBoy. Guess which was better value for my money?

About 50% of the titles I own (not pirated titles that is) are indie games. They just seem to bring better value for money, and buying indie games gives me a better warm fuzzy feeling that I give money to people that can use it better then the large studios.

diablo 2: and lord of destruction (1)

chronoss2010 (1825454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650088)

last game i paid 80$ for and it was a huge box loads a manuals and maps and the expansion disc. I tried diablo 2 first pirated.... i still play it.... I also play battle for wesnoth assault cube civilization 3 master of orion 2 and 3 star wars galactic battle grounds empire earth age of mythology heroes of might and magic 3 and 4 to name a few

Re:$60 blockbusters ??? (1)

Sky Cry (872584) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650122)

I'm playing mostly RPGs so I won't comment on the other genres. There are plenty of great games that came out in the last few years: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Oblivion, Fallout 3, Bioshock, etc. I also enjoyed Drakensang personally. Only some of them are reusing the existing worlds or gaming systems, but even then they bring a lot in comparison to the previous version. (Fallout 2 being isometric with turn based combat it's hard to compare it with Fallout 3 - plus the story, NPC, some weapons and almost everything else are new. It certainly beats playing Fallout 1 or 2 a 10th time.)

Fallout New Vegas should be about $60 in US, perhaps even more for the collector's edition.

Re:$60 blockbusters ??? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650628)

You haven't bought game in awhile then have you?

Some people rely on sales for their entertainment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34649886)

I'm a grad student and I make what I will honestly describe as a phenomenally small amount of money. A friend of mine from college, with a real job as a developer, worked out that she pays more in taxes than I make in a year.

I paid $5 for World of Goo when it was pay-what-you-want. Likewise I think for Braid, or I got it on a $5 sale. A couple others too. I'm not much of a gamer anymore -- I don't have the time or the, I don't know, lightness of spirit, for lack of a better term -- but I see these games as important, I paid what I could, and I do play them when I can.

So I guess I represent erosion in both price and "excitement", since I only play games when my rather frantic schedule allows, but on the other hand I probably wouldn't buy these games at $20. I understand that's what they're worth to the developer, but I can't pay that. As far as I go, it's a sale at $5, or maaaaybe $10, or no sale at all. I'd pay more than $20 if I had the money, but I just don't. Hopefully they'd rather sell a copy at $5 than no copy at $20, but maybe that won't wind up mattering to them. Maybe they can make more money pricing at $20 forever -- and that's understandable, they have their own problems and bills to pay, but it's nice for me if they realize that some of us would like to support them but can't pay the going rate.

It's some comfort to me that it seems like 2D Boy is pretty well-established with whatever they do next, and it's the truly up-and-coming but unknown studio that's going to price their game at $5 two or three times a year. Some gifted newcomer will hopefully always be looking to get a toehold -- I feel a bit bad for them, but it's good for my present situation, and I think the innovation is really beneficial for games in general.

Also, didn't we go through this with the iPhone game market, like, a year ago?

HIB disappointment (0)

polymeris (902231) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649916)

I bought both Humble Bundles. I hadn't bought a commercial game in a decade when I paid $20 for the first bundle-- big mistake. Was really unimpressed. Maybe World of Goo was worth $5 or $10, but the others... Boring, no replayability, poor gameplay.
Gish even refused to run, and support was non-existant. I then wished I had stayed with OSS games, some of which are much better, and I could have tried to solve the issue myself, at least.
So for HIB2 I payed only $8... if I am really happy with at least one game I plan to drop more.

If you are looking to buy one of the Bundles, I recommend you either try the demos first (which I was too lazy to do) or just pay the minimum, and later, if you like the games, add more.

Re:HIB disappointment (2)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650438)

The source for the games in the first HIB except for world of goo (last time I checked) was released. So go and fix it :-)

Re:HIB disappointment (1)

polymeris (902231) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651208)

Yes, you are right. But seems the problem is with the datafiles, which aren't open, I think. I tested the version from the git repositories "freegish", which comes with user-made data, and it worked. The graphics don't amount to much more than placeholders, though.

HIB #2 isn't much better, of the 5 games only two work for me so far: precisely the two that are supposed to be in "beta": Cortex Command and Revenge of the Titans. A pity, really wanted to try Osmos.

I guess I'll go back to OSS games and running old DOS games in emulators.

Re:HIB disappointment (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651388)

That's odd. What are you running them on, and what problems do you have?

I have both HIBs, all the games in them work just fine on Linux. There are a couple that don't like nvidia's multimonitor support and go fullscreen across both monitors, but that's the biggest issue I found so far.

I played Osmos yesterday, worked fine. Gish worked for me as well. Cortex Command is very disappointing btw. It looks like it could be really awesome, but it's way too buggy and it seems there's about one developer who releases a new version about once a year.

Overpriced.... underfun. tl:dr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34649938)

$60 blockbusters have what going for them?

The name. Alot of stuff we've had come out in the last 5 years stops here. All they had was the name people know... And after one or two times of finding out that name means nothing anymore, that won't sell for 60 bucks.

Graphics. Ok some of them also had awesome graphics. But graphics alone do not a fun game make. And once you've seen one awesome looking but fairly unfun game. You've seen them all. Again not worth $60

Copy protection out the ass... Well hell that's no fun at all. And sure isn't worth $60.. Why the fuck did i buy this crap again?

Sell now patch later... Fuck my game doesnt work till i patch it.. Great.. I'm stuck. Kinda bored. And out $60... WTF is wrong with me for buying this...

DLC.. Ok i got a new game! And i can get the rest of it after paying more money! Damm... Caught me again..

And it stops there... 99% of the big blockbuster games are no fun anymore. Once you buy them you play them thru just to have 'finished it'. And the next time that big name comes around promising new enhanced super awesome neato shiny graphics... You're alot less likely to fall for it again.

The indy games have something going for them the big blockbusters havent had for a long while.... FUN! While keeping crap like drm, sell now - patch later, DLC ect... To a bare minimum..

Fun is well worth $10... It's not worth $60 anymore given what comes with those $60 games now. And sure the name will keep it moving for awhile. But sooner or later you burn each customer enough times and they say fuck your game.. I'm not paying that. I'll go try this fun little game i heard about.

Mainstream gaming companies seem to have adopted the business model of most other large companies.. The customer is the enemy. We gotta nail them for as much as we can before they figure out how bad we're fucking them over. Eventually they will run out of people to screw over.

The indy companys are in a way far far behind the times. Produce a fun game that people like and sell it for a price that moves.
Yet.. the article seems to bemoan the fact they are not fucking customers over like mainstream gaming.... Without asking themselves if they REALLY want to do that...

I suppose if all they want is the big pile of cash in the short term. Without any long term plans to support the game company...... they're doing it wrong.

But if they want to have a long term customer base and make a modest living the entire time.. They're doing it right.

Low prices... (2)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649960)

Low prices are exactly what the gaming industry needs...
The production costs of a game are a one-off cost, the actual media/distribution cost is trivial which means that even priced at $1 the game can be profitable with enough sales. Now if the price is low enough, more people will buy it - look at iphone games, i know plenty of people who would never bother buying full priced games but are quite happy to pay $5 or less for an iphone game.
And of course, when the prices are low enough you squeeze the for-profit pirates out of the market (writable media costs a lot more than having thousands of copies pressed).

At $5 it becomes a casual purchase, but at $60 it's a purchase seriously worth thinking about for most people..

Re:Low prices... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650062)

It's the insane production price that forces them to charge insane per copy prices. If you have production costs that rivals that of movies, and you know that you can only sensibly sell so many copies, you have to charge enough per copy to cover that cost. And let's not forget that the CEO wants his bonus.

Maybe the solution is rather to cut the production costs. Come to think of it, the same applies to movies. Care to tell me what warrants a multi million wage for some actor?

Re:Low prices... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650190)

Care to tell me what warrants a multi million wage for some actor?

That they can pull millions of people to a movie that would otherwise be a flop?

Think back to (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34649964)

Bungie's Pathways into darkness on the Mac. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathways_into_Darkness [wikipedia.org]
Nothing "up front pricing", "MS", "Sony", "closed systems" "DRM" ect. is holding people back anymore.
People have the websites, codebooks, bandwidth, forums, art work, cpu, gpu, ram ect ie start making something wonderful.
The floppy, boxes, shelf space deals, pressing cd's, magazine reviews, stalls, closed print only game press ... what are todays 'young' developers worried about?
Find an engine with the right contract (free), code it up (free) art it up (free), add sounds (free/low cost bulk deals), music (free if skilled/a band friend?), spin up a really good press release with a few (many) thousands of US$ to get your brand out.
As noted "Do a good job, and you can charge [more} and get [some] sales" ... sure the market is mature and more people can "code" a game now .. its not the "expensive tools" anymore, just be more creative.

Re:Think back to (3, Insightful)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650000)

This. We've even recently pointed out [slashdot.org] how possible it is. You absolutely must be creative, though, and come up with novel gameplay that a lot of people (not necessarily including yourself) will enjoy. You will never be able to compete with the big houses on the quality of your art, but if you provide compelling gameplay people will beat a path to your door.

Re:Think back to (4, Insightful)

Skuto (171945) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650024)

>Find an engine with the right contract (free), code it up (free) art it up (free), add sounds (free/low cost bulk deals), music (free if skilled/a
>band friend?), spin up a really good press release with a few (many) thousands of US$ to get your brand out.

Unless you found a place for cheap slave labor, it won't be that easy. You might some people who want to do some of this for free, but getting all of them aligned and agreeing on a game is no small feat. Or maybe you're a superstar who can do all of this by him or herself. In that case, kudos.

I'm sure the path to good indie games is filled with unfinished, directionless projects and games severely lacking in one area or another.

Re:Think back to (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650536)

"Unless you found a place for cheap slave labor, it won't be that easy. [...] Or maybe you're a superstar who can do all of this by him or herself."

This is no longer the case. If you can make music and script a little, you can churn out games quite easily with something like Unity 3D. Whether they're any good will probably depend on how creative you are, but it really isn't hard these days at all.

Re:Think back to (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650552)

Addendum: and if you can't make music, you can bring a recorder into an empty field and record ambient sound loops for your game. Still 100% free assuming you already have something that can record.

Apples and oranges. (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650022)

The submitter of this summary tacked the humble bundle on this news piece horribly. In actual fact the opposable thumbs piece makes no mention of it and for good reason. It doesn't make sense within the context of lowering prices and users expectations.

The humble bundle was pay what you want hence there is no influence from the developer putting a cheap price tag on their produce thereby cheapening other indy games. In fact the humble bundle mentions that if you bought all the games then you'd normally be paying around $60 for them. The fact that most people only paid $5 to $10 for the humble bundle has nothing to do with raising people's expectations for similarly low prices on other games.

Average appreciation? (3, Interesting)

imunfair (877689) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650030)

"When it comes to perception, a deep discount gets people playing the game that [they] wouldn't play otherwise, and I think that has both positive and negative effects," Carmel told Ars. "The negative is that if I'm willing to pay $5 but not $20, I probably don't want to play that game very much, so maybe I'm not as excited about it after I play it and maybe I drive down the average appreciation of the game.

I very much disagree with this sentiment. Maybe he's referring to reviewer scores, but appreciation itself is not a zero sum game. If person A loves a game, and person B only enjoys it slightly - there was still more enjoyment derived than if only person A had played it...

I love buying games at $5-10 - not only do I get ~7 for the price of a new retail game, but there isn't any urge to "get my moneys worth". If I enjoy it great - and if not I don't feel bad because it was only a couple bucks - on to the next one. That's how it should be - getting something you enjoy, not feeling pressured to play something you really don't because you paid a lot for it.

Also from a marketing perspective I would expect to see more glowing reviews this way - people who don't care probably won't talk about your game - but there will be a few that picked it up on a whim and loved it. Those are the people who will tell their friends about the great deal/gem they found.

Re:Average appreciation? (2)

Xgamer4 (970709) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650102)

Even more than this. I actually read the article (surprise!) and, while the article calls sales a double-edged sword, nothing in there seemed to actually support that claim. The biggest claim seemed to be that lowering the price drives the average price per game down. Which is... bad, supposedly? It didn't explain how. The rest of the article talked about how lowering the price attracted more eyes and more sales, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's taken a basic econ course. It also talks briefly about how a sales chart, such as for the iPhone app store or Xbox live, can be self-sustaining. Which makes sense... but I'm not sure I see the problem. The games gets on the charts, people buy it, the game goes higher, more people buy it, after enough time has passed everyone interested has it and the game sinks off the chart. All that should show up as is a bubble in a chart of revenue.

The other comments were how lower prices can actually generate the same, or even higher, revenue which, once again, shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who's taken a basic econ class.

Honestly, the most interesting thing I got out of there was the comments about just how well Valve knows their market as far as price-points go. The actual argument about sales being double-edged seems... rather vacuous.

Re:Average appreciation? (1)

mrsmiggs (1013037) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650836)

Steam and mainstream publishers often engage in classic skimming pricing, start and work their way down to nearly free. We're currently at the point where so many games are at pocket money prices that there seems to be little incentive for gamers to actually buy at the top end of the price range, indie games aren't driving this the mainstream publishers and distributors are, but the indie developers have very little choice but to participate else they face being priced out the market. The problem as far as I see it is that the race to the bottom starts very quickly; Super Meat Boy for instance was released on the PC at around £12 but within three months had reduced it's price to a quarter in a Steam sale to £3. Anyone who did actually buy at full price did so either because of their anticipation of the title or their good will towards indie developers, much of that goodwill could be eroded by deep discounts so soon after release, some people who purchased at full may have not even played the game yet. It's one thing to gain new customers by deep discount it's another to have people who will pay full price feel cheated.

It is simple. (1)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650212)

They are the app provider for the pc world. Apps take less money and commitment, but provide satisfaction none-the-less.

I see and era emerging of apps and blockbusters...quality existing on both sides when necessary.

Argue with me, tell me there isn't a niche for both?

Worth a try (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650244)

Still has some interesting things to offer.
I was interested in Machinarium anyway.
Although World of Goo is unplayable (graphics error causes my displays to flash like strobe lamps). Disappointing, considering dual-monitor setups are common enough to warrant including it during the test phase.

Is a good thing, of course. (2)

Tei (520358) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650258)

All the games in the bundle are "old" in indie terms (even some that are unfinished!). And the bundle will have more reach than normally these games can get. So the net result is that you are selling old indie games to people that normally would have never even know these games exist (so for these people, the games are new).

And is a lot of money!,.. for indie devs. Is very few money for a game studio, laugdable at, but for 1 dude, or 2 dudes, is a lot.

And is not the only way to sell indie games. is a complement. So these bundles what have created is a oportunity to reach more people, and sell old indie titles *again*, and at the same time make a lot of money. So is Win-Win-Win-Win for the indie dev's.

the article is totally empty (1)

darkeye (199616) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650312)

it doesn't actually examine the pricing of games - it merely lists speculations by game makers & commentators.

what I was hoping for is a proper examination, in terms of how profitable are indie game makers based on sales, how much percentage of their revenue comes from rebates / discount sales like bundles, etc., and how these number compare to bigger companies making games (not the publishers, but the game developer companies themselves)

cost less to make? (2)

mustPushCart (1871520) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650374)

um... they just cost less to make? 2-3 devs over less than a year can dish out a decent quality indie game. We dont have huge content teams, we dont spend a huge amount on marketing, we dont pay huge royalties to engine devs, we dont have a publisher to swallow up a huge %. That is just how much it costs to make.
Proportions wise, it costs $23 mil to make a AAA title today and the average indie game costs lets say 120k to make (3 devs working for 6 months maybe) so its about what 1/200th of the cost? 1/200th of 60 is a lot less than $10 but that is because a lot of indie games simply sell a lot less.

Re:cost less to make? (1)

Skuto (171945) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650506)

Proportions wise, it costs $23 mil to make a AAA title today and the average indie game costs lets say 120k to make (3 devs working for 6 months maybe) so its about what 1/200th of the cost? 1/200th of 60 is a lot less than $10 but that is because a lot of indie games simply sell a lot less.

If you calculate an average effective sales price of something like 4 dollars, that means you have to sell 30k units just to recoup the costs. I'd like to see some real sales numbers but not many will reach that.

For some real experiences, this is a nice read: http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2010/03/q-pc-indie-game-sales-numbers.html [blogspot.com]

Low prices + steam helps (3, Interesting)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650376)

I just bought "Defence Grid" for $2 on steam. It's not much money, but I wouldn't have paid any more, and wouldn't have even bothered to pirate it. I probably won't even play, but my brother uses my steam account and he might check it out.

My point is that $2 is a good impulse-buy price. I won't even bother to check a demo or reviews at that price. So that's $2 more than they would have gotten.

I'd be interested in seeing their total profit binned by price.

Re:Low prices + steam helps (2)

Destructo-Bot (794990) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650546)

You should definitely play Defense Grid, it is one of the premiere games of the genre. This is one game you'd regret putting on the back-burner.

Re:Low prices + steam helps (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650574)

I agree. I've logged around 84 hours of gameplay into that game (plus the DLC), which is kind of messed up when you consider that it's "just" a tower defense game. Ahhh, raspberries....

Re:Low prices + steam helps (1)

Binestar (28861) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651132)

I've noticed that I've been taking serious looks at any game that goes on sale for 75% off (don't buy them all, but a good chunk I will) and I have serious impulse buy problems when games start hitting the $5 range. All those $5 indie bundles in steam right now are calling my name. If I hadn't bought $25 worth when steam did them one a day for a week (And thus own a good portion of the games in each bundle) I would already have plunked down a good $20/$30. I suppose when it hits $1/game it is better for steam to sell than for each individual publisher. I hope this doesn't drive indie developers out of business, but frankly, they wouldn't have gotten my business at any price higher than that!

I don't think so (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650648)

I don't think they're ruining the value of the games. I ended up only paying something like $10.00 for the humble indie bundle but considering I've bought quite a chunk of the games already for other formats (this time I'm buying for OSX) through Steam or directly from the developers I don't feel bad about being a bit of a tight wad.

That and I gave nothing to the charities so it all went to the developers aside form a tiny sliver to help pay for the bandwidth.

Article summary (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650822)

Demand goes up as price decreases. There is a point where the profit is maximized by the revenue generated by the volume and the cost to produce.

Lower prices are not necessarily bad in the long run if you can generate enough volume. By finding the right mix of pricing low enough to get the impulse buy bit not so low that the lower price doesn't generate enough incremental volume. If you can hit a sweet spot you can be quite profitable as long as you control costs. Steam gives indies a way to test the demand elasticity and price to maximize profit. Not a bad model if done right.

Finally, if they put out good games people will be more apt to buy them which supports higher prices in the long run.

Price != Value (1)

Comboman (895500) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650958)

2D Boy co-founder Ron Carmel told Ars. 'The negative is that if I'm willing to pay $5 but not $20, I probably don't want to play that game very much, so maybe I'm not as excited about it after I play it and maybe I drive down the average appreciation of the game.'"

I expect to hear this kind of argument from the music industry ("iTunes is devaluing my music by selling for only $0.49 per song!") but I would have hoped that programmers would have a better grasp on reality. Price has little or nothing to do with the value that people place on things. There are lots of free programs/apps/web services that I value a lot more than the shrink-wrapped crap I paid a lot of money for. Since the copy cost for downloadable games is damn-near zero, the price-point that produces the most sales should be all the developer should worry about. The success of $0.99 games on Apples app store should be proof of that.

HIB pricing is not normal business (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34650964)

I can't understand this way of thinking:

"The negative is that if I'm willing to pay $5 but not $20, I probably don't want to play that game very much, so maybe I'm not as excited about it after I play it and maybe I drive down the average appreciation of the game.'"

I have never not wanted to play a game as much, or enjoyed something less because I paid a lesser price for it. The less something costs me, the better.

A thing is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. If you can find everyone who'll buy your game @$60, good for you. But after you've found all of them, common sense says that you should go back through the market and see who'll bite @45, and then again @20, etc. until you've sold as many copies as you can. Since the copies cost nearly nothing to produce compared to the cost of developing the original, the more people you can sell to, the more money you'll make, even if you are selling at a drastically reduced price toward the end of your product's long tail.

What complicates this is piracy. If a whole lot of people would have really been willing to put down $20 on release day, but you were only selling for $60 at that time, then most of your potential market is not going to buy on release day, and may be tempted to pirate. If you can make your product available to them at a price that they find reasonable, many of them may not elect to pirate your product, and you may end up making more in total revenue than if you do the traditional $60-$40-$20-$5 phases.

Of course, most of the HIB games have been out for a while, and were selling at more normal retail prices. What they're doing with the HIB is promotional. They're using their sale pricing to generate word of mouth interest in a few hit games that have been out for a while and have had an opportunity to make their money. They're clearly not interested in maximizing per-sale profit, but are interested in maximizing distribution. I don't think they're all that concerned about whatever revenue they generate, because they allow the purchaser to donate whatever proportion of the sale price, up to 100%, to charity if they want to. In other words, this is not a normal sale model, it's a special. It has its place, but most likely cannot be a replacement for the usual business model.

Too cheap is the right price. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34651342)

Take the $5 I'll give you, indie developers, and consider yourselves lucky. I don't pay $20 for -any- game, and that's $5 more than any of the big titles see from me. You don't see your full price, but at least I don't pirate your games.

The problem with reducing pricing in general... (1)

Rutefoot (1338385) | more than 3 years ago | (#34651390)

The problem with reducing pricing in general, any product or service, doesn't matter which, is that the lower you reduce a price and the more often companies do it, the perceived value of that item drops and won't recover for years. (it can take up to seven years for prices to return to what consumers perceive as “normal.” - Martin Lindstrom, Neuromarketer)

There are two downsides and one upside to this:

The downside: Indy developers continually discounting their product means they will never be able to get away with selling it at full price after. If they weren't careful with their pricing, ie, the discounted price being below cost (if 'cost' can even easily be determined for a digital copy of a game) they could find themselves in trouble with funding future development.

The upside? Combined with Steam sales for big games, the discounted prices are going to devalue PC Games as a whole. You're going to see many more sales in the future since it's going to be tough to make the same money as they were used to otherwise.

Downside, part two: Publishers that aren't PC exclusive might see this as a liability for producing games for Windows/OSX. Console game sales aren't likely to be affected (or affected very little) by the devaluation of PC game prices. It can be a smaller market, the development is more complicated and the expected price for new games is dropping. The end result is obvious.
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