Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
arrowPress Releases
April 17, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb sites:


 Proun  Creator Disappointed With 'Pay What You Want' Results
Proun Creator Disappointed With 'Pay What You Want' Results
October 4, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

October 4, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
Comments
    24 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing



Though Proun creator Joost van Dongen has made nearly $20,000 off of his artistic, indie racing title, overall he says he's been disappointed by the results of the game's "pay what you want" distribution model.

Though over 4,400 people paid an average of $5.23 each to buy the game, Van Dongen says over 47,000 people downloaded the game for free from his site, with an estimated 200,000 more downloading the game from torrents and other sources, according to a post on his development blog.

The prevalence of free players means the game has averaged just 9 cents of revenue per download, Van Dongen said, well below what he thinks a successful game with a traditional sales model would have made.

"If I would not have done the Pay What You Want model and would have done a fixed price on Steam instead, I think I may have made 5 to 10 times as much money," Van Dongen wrote, even after taking into account the reduced buzz and smaller player base that would likely come from removing the free version.

"I dare claim that for the amount of success Proun had, it made a very meagre amount of money," he wrote of the title, which he estimates took the equivalent of nine months of full time work to complete.

Van Dongen suspects that the free version may have been more successful because it didn't require users to go through the cumbersome process of entering credit card information.

Going forward, Van Dongen will be testing this hypothesis by setting a $1 minimum on the "pay what you want" download for the title, which currently brings in roughly $10 a day over three months after its release.

"I am glad that the unique and innovative graphical style of Proun really worked for a lot of people. ... However, purely financially, I think Proun could have made way more money if it had been sold in a different way," he wrote.


Related Jobs

2K
2K — Novato, California, United States
[04.17.14]

Senior Video Editor & Animator – Temp
WB Games
WB Games — San Francisco, California, United States
[04.17.14]

Lead Engineer
Digital Extremes
Digital Extremes — LONDON, Ontario, Canada
[04.17.14]

UI ARTIST/DESIGNER
Digital Extremes
Digital Extremes — LONDON, Ontario, Canada
[04.17.14]

UI ARTIST/DESIGNER










Comments


Markus Ewald
profile image
I am one of those people that downloaded the game and decided not to pay.



Here's my story: I discovered the game somewhere around the Ogre 3D website and the screenshots showed a nice-looking lighting model, which indicated to me that a lot of polish might have gone into the game. I downloaded it with the intention to pay either $5 or $10 after having some fun with it.



Well, after attempting the first race 3 or 4 times I simply stopped. The game felt incredibly dry: rolled a few loops and there was nothing left at all that piqued my interest. Memorize track, evade obstacles. The appeal was gone so quickly I didn't even have the nerve to finish the first race - if only to see what would happen.



I thought about what to do now that I had downloaded the game because just taking and leaving felt bad -- but having failed to provide me with even the slightest entertainment value, I decided to just delete it and forget about it.



If the game's author reads this, please don't feel offended. Maybe this game is just no for me. On the other hand, I think it would be better to compare earnings against the number of players who actually launched the game, played up to race n / finished the game if such metrics are available. That would go a long way showing whether people are really cheap bastards or whether the game maybe just isn't that attractive.



@Rog Heddon: Way to go insulting people and expecting the worst of society. FYI, the same experiment was undertaken by the Humble Indie Bundle (google it) -- with great success.

Tom Baird
profile image
Unless I'm mistaken the Humble Indie Bundle didn't have a free option.



One thing I could see arising from having that free option, is that it's just plain easier not to have to go and get a credit card. The fact that you can skip the bulk of the checkout work and not spend any money is adding even more benefits to not paying.



It'd be interesting to see how many people chose free over even 1 cent just because it was the path of least resistance.

Dustin Mellen
profile image
Tom:



But it does allow any amount above $0.00. 1 cent is really not that much different than free.

Tom Baird
profile image
But the important difference is not $0.01, it's having to get out your credit card and do the checkout process vs. A simple hit OK and start downloading. If you give someone an easy way and a hard way(well harder way), don't expect them to go and choose the hard way.

Dave Smith
profile image
i agree, though if you offer me something for free i'm gonna take it. still the added benefit of not having to go through credit card info/registering just makes i even more obvious what choice the consumer should take.

Ron Alpert
profile image
Surprised to hear such whining about making 20k off of a game! Plenty of indies make much much less than that (probably ~$500 in total or thereabout from what I have heard, on the lower end these days) Not to take away from the creator's accomplishment, and it looks like he got some nice press out of the whole scheme (writeup on Gamasutra!) Now go do something with that attention and make something else to put in front of all of those eyeballs :)

sean lindskog
profile image
The developer of Proun is a professional game developer. This isn't a game by a hobbyist indie, although he did make this game in his spare time.



Regardless, 20k for ~9 months full time work, especially for a surprise hit is not a particularly impressive profit.



Joost van Dongen gave a very frank discussion about his business model, which is an immensely valuable thing for other game devs. There was certainly no whining. Did you even bother to read anything he said before you called him that?



Probably not.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Sean,



If that were $20k for 9 months of *fulltime* work, then I would agree with you. However, this game was developed in his spare time. If that means about 10 hours a week, then it would come out to a little over 2 months of full time work and thus not bee too bad.

sean lindskog
profile image
Hey Ephriam,

Joost estimates it took him 9 months of full time work.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
My mistake, I read that wrong. So yeah, that isn't as good as I thought.

Ron Alpert
profile image
I'm not saying whether or not his game was professional or without merit. I'm just saying in a time when many indies (professional, hobbyist, or what-have-you) are putting out product every which way from Wednesday, by comparison he ought to consider himself fortunate with what he has got from this experience (which, nevermind the $$, isn't bad). Maybe not fortunate enough given the time/energy he spent, but that is up to personal opinion I suppose.

Dave Smith
profile image
that just sounds like most indie developers are wasting even more time than this guy. 20k in 9 months of fulltime work (if thats what this was) is a pretty bad investment, and making 500$ seems absolutely broken.

Marwane KA
profile image
Well, the success of the "pay what you want" system relies on lots of various factors... It's too simple to say people don't value the developers work. I'd rather say that this distribution model implies that players are attached to the game and its developers, and here Proun failed at that.



Here are in my opinion a few of the reasons:

- Proun is one of those little games that you enjoy playing once on twice, but most people won't play more than a few times. I uninstalled the game after 2 days myself, despite having enjoyed it a lot.

- Even if the game design looks quite polished, in this particular case most people won't see its real value in terms of work. The main reason is that there are only 4 levels. Make it 20 and add a few gameplay changes throughout the game, then way more people will feel like this is worth paying for.

- I might be wrong, but it doesn't seem like the game gathered that much attention throughout its development. Minecraft developers can talk about new game items or creatures every week, Overgrowth's guys can entertain people on a regular basis by showing vids of bunnies bleeding to death, but regarding Proun it's understandable that talking about shader models stuff and abstract art is rather a niche.



My point is that you can't blame the customers here. In this interview, Van Dongen only says he chose the wrong way to sell the game, nothing more, and I totally agree with that.

Luis Guimaraes
profile image
That's probably the truth here. I might be wrong too, but still decided to launch our title with 150 (small) levels and as many gameplay changes in the course of it as possible. If that will make the game really be seen as worth it, I'm yet to see next month, but only 4 levels and repetitive core gameplay is more akin to a prototype than to a full featured title.

Joshua King
profile image
I swear, I would have paid more than nothing had I liked the game and played more than one level. That is less than I would have required from a free demo version to determine that I'm not interested in paying nor playing. Next time make a cool game then maybe you can be disappointed by folks opting not to kick in for your efforts.

james sadler
profile image
I remember a music band, I think it was Cold Play or Radiohead, did something similar right when the whole mp3 thing was becoming big. They were shocked to find that giving the public an option as to what to pay for the album, something like 70-80% (figures could be off there) paid nothing for it. Its the same thing here. People generally don't want to pay for a product if they don't have to, especially for something they don't feel any attachment to like someone else' indie game. People generally don't look at indie games as holding as much value as a AAA title and so they don't feel like paying the same money for it. Just look at how the iOS market has done with game charges. There are plenty of games on there that should sell for $10-20 but are being given away for free. I'd be curious to see how charging even the minimum $1 he proposes will affect his downloads.

Timo Naskali
profile image
Although it is true that most people downloaded the Radiohead album (In Rainbows) without paying anything for it, still even just its pre-release sales alone made them more money than the total sales of their previous album!



So I'm not sure how "shocked" they were about that.



Also, one should keep in mind that not all of those free downloads of the album were lost sales; many of those who downloaded it would have never paid anything for the album even if it wasn't available for free. Some of them were probably even converted into fans and became future paying customers because of the opportunity to get a taste of the band's music for free. Not to mention even the people that never ended up giving a dime to the band directly still could have helped a lot with viral marketing.

Dave Smith
profile image
the Radiohead experiment should have tipped him off that this wouldnt work. customers shouldnt feel obligated to pay anything if the developer is giving it away for free. they dont care how hard you worked on it.



the whole thing amounts to "give me money out of pity for how hard i worked". it doesnt work that way.

Dustin Mellen
profile image
"If I would not have done the Pay What You Want model and would have done a fixed price on Steam instead, I think I may have made 5 to 10 times as much money"



Really? How can anyone qualify that? It's foolish to think that if you make the pay option the only option, people will just buy it. That's a huge assumption and it's false. Had this game only been available for a fixed price, it probably wouldn't have made nearly as much money. This is because by giving the game away, it's publicity for the game. If you could only buy it, most of those people wouldn't have even looked at it. What good is it to encourage people to ignore your game? You're asking people to take a risk with their money when you try to sell them a game. If it sucks, they can't get a refund and they'll be even less likely to give the next one a try. Give away free copies, then everybody who plays it and likes it is going to tell others about it which snowballs from there. So now you have all these new eyes looking at you. So take advantage of it.



I can tell from this article and some of the comments that many developers don't understand their customers and they don't understand their motivations. You don't bother to understand why they do what they do, you just throw up your hands and say, "They're greedy freeloaders. Slap a price and some DRM on it so we can be sure we'll make money".

sean lindskog
profile image
> by giving the game away, it's publicity for the game



Joost agrees.

He says, "Pay What You Want is a tremendous marketing tool. The number of sites that wrote about it is incredible."



> It's foolish to think that if you make the pay option the only option, people will just buy it.



Nobody is saying they know for sure - Joost says "Of course, this is a What if scenario, so I can never know for sure". But it's still fascinating to look at the numbers, and I'm thankful he was kind enough to post them.



Proun made 9 cents per downloaded copy.

With a minimum price, it could have sold a LOT less copies, and still been more profitable.

Dustin Mellen
profile image
"Proun made 9 cents per downloaded copy.

With a minimum price, it could have sold a LOT less copies, and still been more profitable. "



That's an improper way to look at it and it's doubtful that it would have made more had he set a minimum price. Those extra copies didn't cost him anything. The game made an average of $5.23 per copy from those who bought it. Saying he made 9 cents per download is dishonest. The people who bought it were likely the only people who would have bought it and had there been a set price and no free version, it's more likely that he would have had fewer sales. Like I keep saying, buying a game is a risk to consumers. People will take free over pay on anything they view as a risk.

Doug Poston
profile image
I'd like to thank Van Dongen for sharing this information with us. Lots to think about.



I'm also very interested on how the $1 minimum works out for him. I can see this going either way. If I already have to enter my info to pay a $1, I might as well pay him $5 or $10. On the other hand, many more people are going to just pirate the game to avoid the hassle.



Hope to see many more games and articles from Van Dongen.

Joseph Cook
profile image
I'm glad that multiple people here have already pointed out the obvious that the developer of Proun obviously doesn't get - the game's quality matters far more than the business model.



Not only will a better game convince more people to pay for it, but quite simply it'll convince those who have it to tell their friends, and then they'll tell their friends, and so on. I follow independent developers pretty closely and had heard of Proun in the past, but I never heard of this pay-what-you-want scheme, and none of my likeminded friends had heard of it either, let alone download and play it.



It sucks to spend a full-time 9 months on something and not see the revenue you think you deserve, but I'm skeptical that this guy would have been as successful as he thinks if he just released it for $5 on Steam. Maybe in the short term, he would get more sales, but in the long term? You'd have a whole lot of disappointed customers who were even less interested to try the next game.

Jen Hamilton
profile image
Well at least he tried, and learnt from his mistakes. My hat is off to him.


none
 
Comment: