Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Indie Games: The Floor Hits a New Low

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 10, 2017

I went to the nickle arcade a couple of weeks ago with my family. We had a great time, playing a bunch of classic arcade games. Some of the more popular games required two, three, or even four nickles to play. Which is still a lot less than the $0.25 they were originally slotted for (which, for the older machines, was worth closer to $0.50 in today’s money.)  The arcade pretty much made it’s money on the entrance fee… I imagine the money earned by the machines pretty much covers maintenance and not much else.

But although I have many of these games – in many cases in their fully emulated splendor – at home, there’s something different about playing Dance Dance Revolution at the arcade, or shooting aliens in Galaga with the actual controls. So… it’s fun. I definitely enjoyed it.

Even that pittance that I plunked into the machines that day is way more than any of these games in this bundle…  it’s 46 indie games for $1. The “Dollar Ultra Bundle” at BundleStars.com. So, we’re talking a little over $0.02 a game. After Bundle and the publisher take their cut, we’re probably talking maybe $0.01 per sale going to the developers per game.

Now, I like cheap games as much as the next person, but I really have to scratch my head at this one. I mean, I totally see the value of bundles, and of deep discounts for marketing efforts, and all that good stuff. But I can’t figure this one out. Marketing-wise… with 45 competing games, how do you even make sure you game gets noticed here? With so many sequels included in the list, it’s not like giving a game away for free to encourage sales of the sequels. Even if the bundle sells amazingly well, the income for the developers is tiny.

All I can think (especially given the $0.99 base price of the games) is that this is shovelware in the extreme. Or that the publisher is going out of business and is shooting for one last hurrah to squeeze out a few extra hundred dollars… if they are very lucky.

So yeah, I’m baffled. And I’m amazed that the “race to the bottom” in indie games has not yet hit rock bottom. They just pulled out a shovel and dug a hole to go deeper, I guess. Maybe there’s a strategy here I don’t understand. Or maybe the developers are FREAKING AWESOME and each of these games took 1 guy only 1 day to make them, and this is a low-pressure way to  pay for the small pizza for the next game-in-a-day competition. Or maybe they all have malware or spyware in them and are making their money that way. I don’t know.


Filed Under: Indie Evangelism - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

  • Darius said,

    I saw this too and had similar thoughts. It reminds me of those cds they used to sell in the nineties that advertised ‘100! games!’ or something. It was all shovelware and if there were any good games it was just the limited shareware version.

    There’s a point where more is not better, and this has definitely gone way past that point.

  • Esa said,

    Yeah, bundles and constant Steam sales are driving the market prices down fast. It’s not exactly new, but it’s getting a bit worst (and Steam does absolutely nothing to keep the market healthy, i have my doubts about steam direct, tbh) each year.

    However this particular bundle is probably a bad example to drive your point home.

    I’ve skimmed over its content, and I noticed a bunch of 2+ years old games that were very cheap to begin with, even more have been already bundles 2+ times elsewhere (if not much, much more), and for the vast majority of them were made with some game engine in less than 2 months of sporadic work at the most generous estimate. Many of them are all of that at once.

    Bundles are mostly a thing for the 0.99-4.99 amateurish games, for end of life products (>1yo) or when you’re trying to gather awareness about a sequel by bundling its first installment.

    More to the point, some ‘devs’ are more interested in the % they get on steam card sales than on the sales (or quality) of their products. If Steam was really interested in cutting down on the garbage, they’d demonetize cards.

    What i’ll say however, is that customers are more and more wary of those $0.99 titles. There is an old study explaining that the vast majority of customers are less likely to pay for a product when it looks way too cheap for what it is. I still think that as long as you make a decent product (semi cohesive art, good controls, feature complete, and with a length that’s not counted in minutes), marketed to a specific audience, and price it accordingly, you can make a decent return.

  • Cuthalion said,

    I got Exile III off one of those “1,000 Bets Games for Windows” or similar CDs. Just the shareware version, but even that was pretty big and had an oddly huge impact on my tastes and design approach.

    But yeah, I don’t see how the devs are getting anything out of this deal.

  • Cuthalion said,

    Ahhh, looks like many (all?) of these are the same publisher. That makes a bit more sense. If it’s all going to the same person or small group, I could see why they’d offer this kind of deal.

  • MalcolmM said,

    When I see these huge, really cheap bundles I quickly scan through them to see if there are any games that are on my watch list.

    If there is, I will probably buy the bundle. However, if there is only one game I want to buy in the bundle and the bundle price is about the same as the cost of buying that one game, I will buy the single game at full price. That way the developer of the game I want to play gets all my money and I don’t have to wade through tons of junk.

    I’m much more interested in higher quality bundles at moderate prices, like the bundles on Humble Bundle.