Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 25, 2011
So how much SHOULD an indie game cost?
There’s a fun interview interview with the indie dude who’s made perhaps the biggest splash on the indie scene since a bunch of guys released a game called Doom on the unsuspecting public 17 years ago. You can check it out at Gamasutra:
He comments on a number of ideas – including adding achievements to Minecraft, and the possibility of moving it to the XBox. But I was particularly interested on his point about the price change. He notes, “We thought that when we moved the price up from 10 to 15 euros, we thought sales would decline by a third. But it was like the opposite — it went up from four to five thousand sales a day to ten thousand sales a day. It kind of went against everything that I’d be told by other developers.”
Which developers? As counter-intuitive as it might seem, what I’ve heard from the veteran developers in the scene – the ones that actually, you know, produce and sell games – pretty much match this observation. As a customer, of course, I like to see prices come down. And temporary sale pricing – that works wonders. I bought an insane number of indie games in November & December because of the holiday sales.
But for permanent pricing — within a certain “indie” range, it’s been demonstrated time and time again that lower prices often don’t often yield anything close to proportionally equivalent sales numbers. In general, after an initial flurry of new purchases, things often settle down to being just a little higher than they had been before. And some developers have reported similar results to Persson’s … price increases astonishingly yielded higher sales.
But this is really murky territory. I know people selling higher-quality, higher-priced games on the iPhone usually found themselves clobbered on sales. Terry Cavenagh of Distractionware has expressed his regrets over the initial, overly-high price point of $15 for VVVVVV, and seems to feel it cost him sales in the long run. And I’ve known some indie RPGs (besides Vogels) that seemed to get mired because they charged too much, in spite of having pretty high production values and targeting a niche audience.
So what accounts for the difference? I wish I had the answer, but I doubt anyone does – at least not the complete answer. I think to some degree, there may be something like the sale price idea here. A game that is undergoing changes and improvements, and receives an increase in price, may be perceived similarly to a game that has gone on sale. Get it now before the price goes up again, right?
There’s also a psychological effect people have based on price – it sends signals as to quality. If you see two games that appear similar, but one is $25 and the other is $5, what is your assumption on quality? We tend to make assumptions that there is a very good reason one game costs 1/5th as much as the other. I think that way too, and I should know better! I’ve worked for a “network marketing” company that sold a nutritional supplement that was – in my opinion – a quality product but WAY overpriced.
I guess in the end, suggesting the best price for an indie game is about like suggesting the best length for a piece of string. It really depends on the type and quality of the game, the size of the audience, type of distribution (and monetization, for that matter), and the market realities. While $15 might be too much for a retro-8-bit styled game like VVVVVV, it’d be a major bargain for a role-playing game like Eschalon: Book 2. But even though it’d be a tremendous bargain as low as $10, Eschalon: Book 2 probably wouldn’t sell on the iPhone at that price. At least not yet.
But as for me — well, I jumped in and bought Minecraft right before beta, because I heard that the price (and terms) were about to change. It often takes a time-limited bargain to get me to take action, too.
Filed Under: Biz - Comments: 8 Comments to Read