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'We fight the urge to just completely drop the price'
'We fight the urge to just completely drop the price'
April 10, 2014 | By Kris Graft




It’s difficult to deny the “race to the bottom” when it comes to pricing video games today. Free-to-play, 99 cent apps, subscriptions like PS Plus, game bundles, and deep discounts encourage consumers to expect something for next-to-nothing.

Justin Bailey, COO at Broken Age developer Double Fine, is acutely aware of the trend. Asked by USGamer about fears of an indie “bubble” popping, he replied, “Indies are approaching [game development] as an artform and they're trying to be innovative, but what's happening in the marketplace is indies are being pushed more and more to have a lower price or have a bunch of games bundled together."

"I'd like to fight that," he said. "Double Fine wants to keep indies premium. You see that in our own games and how we're positioning them. We fight the urge to just completely drop the price. That's one of the things we want to encourage in this program. Getting people to stick to a premium price point and to the platforms that allow you to do that."

Though Bailey said Double Fine fights the urge to enact deep sales and discounts, the studio has partaken in Humble Bundle deals, where players could buy multiple catalog Double Fine games for as little as $1.

Double Fine's stance on game pricing will also influence games developed externally, as the studio announced a new indie publishing initiative last month.


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Comments


Chris Book
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He's right and its the price that indies are now paying for their race to gain market share. You don't have to look very hard to see the attitude that indie games are only worth $1-10 just because they're indie, regardless of the amount of content they have. I don't think everyone should start charging $60 for their pixel platformer, but we're definitely pricing ourselves out of business. It's going to be hard to change that perception.

Michael Joseph
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Double Fine has basically said that their not interested in changing the general perception only the perception by customers of the titles DF publishes. That's not so hard when you're Double Fine as opposed to Team N00b #80,499.

If you are Team N00b #80,499, you can accomplish what DF is doing by going that extra mile when it comes to polishing your game. How many more postmortems will we see around here by indie developers who rushed their game out the door praying that it wouldn't impact sales? It's embarrassing.

Duvelle Jones
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There is that, and an earlier concern that gamers are simply waiting on sales to get a game at a value that they think is warranted.

Which at this point is something to keep an eye on.

Kaze Kai
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As an artist I can appreciate his stance.

As a consumer I can safely say that I rely on sales because I'm almost always broke and can't afford games at a premium and for me one of the perks of indie games is they're cheap and don't cost $40-$60 which is a lot of money to me at once. Personally, I think any game distributed digitally is never worth more than $30 regardless of how big a team developed it but you'll never convince the greedy bastards at EA of that.

Although when I have money I'm also more likely to crowdfund projects, pre-order indie games I want, or buy soundtracks. I genuinely like funding indie games and I make it a point to not pirate them. I think asking $15 for Broken Age is fine, or will be fine when act 2 is out and I'm not exactly opposed to the default price tags on steam, it's just that getting 3 games for $5 during a sale is more economical than getting one for $15 normally.

One thing I can't stand is the attitude some people throw at others when they request a sale. It's pretty common to look on the Steam boards for Starbound, find someone asking when/if the game will be in the closest big sale, and see at least 3 users telling them not to be cheap and pay the $15 as if $15 is just something everyone has laying around in their house. The attitude about games not being worth the price if they're not on sale irritates me far less than the opposite side of the coin it's generated.

Amir Barak
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"is never worth more than $30 regardless of how big a team "
yet even at 15$ (ie: "pay the $15 ") you're still waiting for the sale.

Hey you know what, save up 15$ for a month or so and buy the game at full price and play it. Instead of buying 20 games in a bundle and never playing them at all...

"I'm almost always broke and can't afford games at a premium"
You know you only need one or two games to play at a time, right? there's no need to BUY EVERY GODDAMN GAME MADE EVER!

Do what I do, save up, purchase one or two games at full prices and play the shit out of them then rinse repeat. (A sale every once in a while is alright but we're having them wayyyy too much). In fact I'm at this very moment waiting for some money to clear up so I can purchase the new Tex Murphy game on GOG.com and then I'll be able can play it for the next month. I've even started playing Mean Streets and Martian Memorandum again to gear up... Have you finished every game in your collection? Do you seriously need more than one or two games a month to play?

SD Marlow
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I think premium value has a lot to do with platform (and related to that, perceived game "quality"). $60 for a PC game is the norm (but still a bit high), but an outrageous amount to ask for an iPhone game (even if you hide the cost as free-2-play). $5-$8 for a tablet game seems fair, with $12-$15 for a micro-console version. Handheld games in the $20-$35 range, with console ideally in the $30-$45 range.

I'd also like to mention that checkers is relatively low-cost compared to a nice chess set, but offers greater playability to more people.

Kyle Redd
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I think Gamasutra is due for an article/editorial by a game developer explaining why selling 20 copies of your premium game at $1 is somehow worse than selling a single copy at $20.

I've heard the basic argument that selling games for pennies "cheapens the artform" and such, but since it's pretty clear at this point that being a part of a Steam sale or bundle promotion does not result in reduced revenue (I believe that every single post-mortem posted on Gamasutra has shown increased sales as a result of such offers), is there anything beyond that? Is it a matter of pride - that someone purchasing your game for less than what you feel it is worth is hurtful to you?

James Coote
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For starters, you've got to support 20 users, instead of 1. It may be you can target your marketing budget (or marketing time if you have no cash budget) more efficiently if you go for a small number of high-value customers than going mass market.

Kyle Redd
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Fair enough, although I would think that at least one of those 20 customers will act as a community support member for the others. So ultimately the number of customers you need to support could be zero.

Duvelle Jones
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As much as I agree with you, that would depend on factors that you are not in complete control of. That assume that within that group of 20, there is enough interaction about your game to merit forming a community over with someone to lead it... it would also assume that the group of 20 value your game (which is a hard argument at the price of a dollar)... among other factors.

I think that the biggest concern that I would have is this, you can't price the game to the point where you are disposable, but you can't overvalue the game that you limit potential consumers. It's a balance and a choice that you will have to live by.

Robert Green
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"I think Gamasutra is due for an article/editorial by a game developer explaining why selling 20 copies of your premium game at $1 is somehow worse than selling a single copy at $20."
Not sure it'll take an entire article. The simplest answer is that for an individual developer it isn't any worse. But for developers as a group, unless every one of those other 19 customers wouldn't have spent any money on other games at all, then the total spend across all developers might have gone down. It's not quite that simple of course, but you have only to look at the situation on mobile, where the upfront price has gone so low that it's very difficult to make any money at all on a game that isn't f2p.

Amir Barak
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The guy who saved up 20$ to buy your game is actually going to play your game. Out of the 20 people buying your 1$ game in a bundle or something how many are going to be invested enough to play the game, remember it later or have enough care to actually act as a customer?

Michael Pianta
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I think this is at least somewhat related to the fact that indie games exist almost entirely in a digital environment. Without a physical copy to base prices on, nor any history of any thing like that, it's a free for all and everyone winds up competing on price. It will move to the very limits of profitability. Ultimately I fear very few people will be able to make a living producing indie games.

Greg Scheel
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What about the Minecraft model?

Sell an early, low polish version of your game, and give free updates to early customers as an incentive to buy. Then, use that money to polish up the game, and then announce a price rise ... in 3 weeks or so. These price hikes have been shown, if I do recall, to have the same effect as a sale, only you get more money. Wash rinse repeat, and it has been shown to work. I do intend to try this.

Amir Barak
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I think it's worth it to read Cliff Harris' posts on pricing and sales for an interesting perspective.


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