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Opinion: Is One Dollar Enough?

Opinion: Is One Dollar Enough?

April 20, 2011 | By Colleen Delzer

[Adversary Games co-founder Colleen Delzer discusses the viability of the one dollar price point for indie titles, in this #altdevblogaday-reprinted opinion piece.]

Is one dollar enough to make a living off of video games? There have been many failures and few hits. I believe that you can sell your game for five to ten dollars, but is that a smart thing to do, given how competitive the game industry is and the huge expectations that gamers have nowadays?

The problem I see is that many games sell for one dollar that are worth a great deal more due to the complexity, originality and artistic detail that the developers have put into them.

The sad thing to me is that gamers expect a lot out of games. If the game is not created by a large brand, they complain about the game being too expensive if it’s over $1.99.

Being an indie dev myself, I realize the extreme time and effort that these games need in order to be developed, and it just doesn’t seem fair to make games that low in price.

Many indie games have made a good chunk of money recently though, such as FortressCraft (on the Xbox Live Indie Games platform). The graphics aren’t amazing and it definitely does not have the greatest physics in the world, but the developers were able to make several thousand dollars in the first day.

Was it luck, marketing, or were they smart about shipping close to Minecraft’s launch? If Minecraft never existed, would this game still have done as well?

Some games have played it smart, like Oozi: Earth Adventure (also on the Xbox Live Indie Games platform) by shipping each episode for one dollar. FortressCraft is doing this as well. I think that’s a great way to make some good income, as long as gamers don’t think about it being a $4+ game.

I’ve heard great things about mobile games as far as revenue, and it seems like a good way to go. Maybe one dollar isn’t so bad when there are very few places to go to find games, such as the App Store on the iPhone. Millions of people go to that every day to look for new and entertaining titles.

What about game portals on PC? I don’t know too much about the success rate for those, but it doesn’t seem like a very good deal to the developer. If your game costs one dollar, you only get 30% of that dollar. Seems like a total rip-off to me, and you are competing with yourself when the portals create bundle packs dirt cheap and your game is included. If anyone has had good success with these portals, I would love to hear about them!

I suppose that if you have your game on iOS, Android, or XBLIG for a dollar, it could possibly get thousands or millions of people that could purchase your game in a short amount of time, but is that just an illusion to assume that you will actually make that much? It seems to be, considering all the games that can’t make enough money off a one dollar price point despite this possibility.

As much as I would love to see good games cost more than a dollar, I do not see the gaming community being lenient on this any time soon, and perhaps never, unfortunately.

It is sad to realize that someone wouldn’t think twice about spending two to five dollars on a quick snack, but they themselves cannot see spending over one dollar on a game that will give them hours, or perhaps even weeks of entertainment.

[This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]

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