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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Should Good Indie Games Be More Expensive? 150

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-wonder-what-the-internet-will-say dept.
spidweb writes "Indie gaming blog The Bottom Feeder has an article on why independent games should be more expensive. The enforced low prices on XBox Live, Amazon, and iTunes might feel good now, but they'll kill off the variety and depth gamers are hoping indie developers can provide. From the article: 'Every year, life is getting more and more expensive. Insurance. Rent. Food. And, at the same time, games are getting cheaper and cheaper, sometimes as cheap as a dollar, as we engage in a full speed race to the bottom. This is not going to help developers stay in business. This is not how a healthy industry is maintained.'"
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Should Good Indie Games Be More Expensive?

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  • If your game is really good, then won't it sell more copies, making you more money?

    Is there some hidden cost in producing more copies of a binary file?

    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @07:02AM (#27568043) Journal
      Somehow, I feel that if a game is good enough to make me go through the process of grabbing my credit card, going to the website, checking for traps, entering the number, etc... a price of 1$ or 15$ doesn't really make a difference.

      10-15 is probably the good price range to maximize the number of copies sold. Lower won't make more under our current distribution methods.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by samkass (174571)

        Of course, with iTunes you're already visiting a trusted site and they already have your credit card. It's just a matter of clicking on "Buy" and typing it your password. And getting people to click "Buy" for $10 is a lot harder than $1, assuming they've even found your app in the near-30,000 app marketplace. Thus, I think the iPhone/iTunes is a fundamentally different marketing model than putting up your own website and asking for credit card numbers yourself.

        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          But, and many people fail to see that, iTunes is such a small, small market. To make a 30$ game profitable as a 1$ item, you would have to reach 30x more people. do you really think iTunes achieves this ?

          I agree that the model is good. But the market has to grow if we expect to see Doom 5 as a 3$ game.
      • by MikeFM (12491)

        One of the benefits of the App Store is that you don't have to grab a credit card. You can click and buy without thinking. I'll do that with $1 items but I start to consider it more even at $4 or $5. I'd rather buy half a dozen $1 apps to look at than $5 for a single app that I may or may not like.

        Shareware may be the difference - if I've tried it and liked it a lot then maybe I'll pay more. Usually I don't like it that much though.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      I think the point is that low prices stop the creation of games that might be good, because only large sales cover costs.

      So we have to live just with the games that will surely be good. Thus less variety.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dangitman (862676)

        I think the point is that low prices stop the creation of games that might be good, because only large sales cover costs.

        What do you mean by "large sales"? Wouldn't a higher price lead to less sales?

        Of course, it doesn't exactly work like that. Games with a high price often enjoy massive sales, but usually only when they are accompanied by a massive marketing campaign, or pre-existing expectations.

        "Indie" games are in a different boat altogether. They usually don't enjoy such marketing hype, although some do. Ultimately, linking "good game" with "high price" is an exercise in futility. Sometimes that correlates, sometimes it

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Yes, indeed, advertising and shelf space and maintaining stock gets expensive: so does paying for insurance plans for vice presidents, making fancy PowerPoint presentations to investors, and showing up at trade shows to showcase your games.

          For an example of how modest, "indie" games can work well, take a look at http://www.cheapass.com/ [cheapass.com]. These guys make small, funny as all heck, modest board games that spend their efforts on making the game fun, not on fancy graphics. They're the "Kingdom of Loathing" of th

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @07:06AM (#27568067)

      No, but there is one in selling more copies. It's called marketing and advertising. You can make the best game of all times, if nobody knows it exists you won't sell it.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by bit01 (644603)

        No, but there is one in selling more copies. It's called marketing and advertising. You can make the best game of all times, if nobody knows it exists you won't sell it.

        There is this amazing thing called word-of-mouth. Make a decent product and you know what? People will tell each other about it. Remarkable, isn't it? And no paid "marketers" involved at all.

        ---

        The majority of modern marketing is nothing more than an arms race to get mind share. Everybody loses except the parasitic marketing "industry".

        • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @09:19AM (#27569197)

          Oh yeah, that works great. So far I still didn't see a single case of true grassroots movement that didn't at some sort gain a lot weight either by media coverage (ya know, the kind that the real people out there watch and read, like newspapers or even TV) or by being picked up by someone who has a lot of media presence.

          Word of mouth is fine and nice, if you want to get famous inside a certain circle. It works very well if you're, say, a scientist and want to be known amongst your peers, it works to some degree for underground bands. It fails when your audience does not really "hunt" for what you offer but needs to be told that it's there.

          The average ("casual") gamer doesn't read game mags, and he certainly doesn't dig through blogs and game pages. I have to admit, I turned "casual" not long ago, lacking the time I had during my college days when I did actually spend some time on such pages. You know where casual games get my attention? Steam. Steam offers World of Goo for (IIRC) 15 bucks, I heard somewhere something about it and I dimly remember it was positive for some reason (it was on TV, a show about the indie game market), so I thought what the heck, 15 bucks, no loss, buy. Flock was offered, it looked cute, 10 bucks, what the heck... bought. And so on.

          Word of mouth would have never told me that those games even existed. First, few of my "gamer friends" play indie. There's the FPS crowd that plays CoD and L4D, there's the MMO people with their WoW and EvE, but the people that I'd call my friends and that I'd put in the "casual" or "indie game" area rarely if ever talk about computers. Why? Because computer games aren't an important part of their life. They play them, they don't talk about them.

          So word of mouth, while free and the best kind of ad, does not really work for Indie games IMO. Simply because those that play them the most talk the least about them.

          • by Jaysyn (203771)

            I was going to buy Flock on Stardock's Impulse, but it had SecuROM in it so I passed. The nice thing, is it was out there in big white letters that it had DRM.

            • by mattack2 (1165421)

              If you tell them that's why you didn't buy it, then it might do some good.

              • by Jaysyn (203771)

                I'll do that but, if gamedevs don't realize that SecuROM is poison by now, I really don't think I can help them.

          • by bit01 (644603)

            Oh yeah, that works great.

            Yes it does. Many popular web sites do exactly that. e.g. Google. And there are any number of memes and other things on the net that have become popular. Only shitty or derivative "me too" products require significant marketing.

            So far I still didn't see a single case of true grassroots movement that didn't at some sort gain a lot weight either by media coverage (ya know, the kind that the real people out there watch and read, like newspapers or even TV) or by being picked up by

      • by gr8_phk (621180)
        So these app stores are providing an outlet for you with millions of users. That does more to spread the word than anything the indie developers are doing. If the devs have a marketing budget, they should get off the closed platforms and start marketing - or stay on there but realize your revenue per copy is low. That said, the point of these things isn't to promote independent developers, it to make the platform more interesting to as many people as possible with the least cost. They didn't make the iPhone
        • If the devs have a marketing budget, they should get off the closed platforms and start marketing

          In most homes, the only monitor big enough for several people to fit around is still the CRT SDTV in the living room. Typical PC monitors are too small, and there aren't yet enough HDTVs in homes. But most store-bought PCs lack built-in S-Video and therefore can't output a SDTV signal without a $50 VGA-to-S-Video converter. Major video game consoles have SDTV out, but apart from the fragile "homebrew" jailbreaks used by noncommercial developers, they're closed platforms. So if my company is developing a gam

    • by KDR_11k (778916)

      To some extent a limited price scale can hurt your revenue as you may be locked out of the optimum price. Not sure the optimum price is above the price ceiling for many indie games though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Clearly you didn't read the article or lack comprehension because that was the whole point in that having to worry about selling the maximum number of copies will mean a lack of variety and experimentation which is exactly what's happening with normal disc based games.

      Being a good game does not equal good sales otherwise companies would make good games and not rubbish like baby and cooking sims on the DS.

      But perhaps you're not bothered and eagerly await to but Baby-Momma on the DS.
      • Being a good game does not equal good sales otherwise companies would make good games and not rubbish like baby and cooking sims on the DS.

        What you describe are games which appeal directly to women and girls - 50% of your potential market.

        [and don't think for one moment that there are no males playing "The Sims"]

        • That is true but it doesn't make the good games. In the case of "The Sims", I have no experience with that one. It may be good but I doubt a game aimed at teen girls wanting to raise babies is very good. :P
    • by svendsen (1029716)
      Yes because the ONLY cost to make a game is distribution. There are no other costs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Endo13 (1000782)

      One could just as easily say...

      "If your game is really good, then won't people be willing to pay more money for it, making you more money?"

      The problem is, no matter how little the game is sold for, there is still only a certain number of people that will buy it. Obviously if only 10,000 people will buy your game if you sell it for $1, but 9,000 will still buy it if you sell it for $10, choosing between $1 and $10 is a no-brainer. The hard part is finding the sweet spot that gives you the most profit. If you

    • Exactly.

      Why does Rowling need $8 a book when she makes a billion bucks?
      Why does a successful rock band need $19 a CD when they make hundreds of millions?

      ---

      More to the point of the story.

      If prices are cheap, you can buy other offerings from more publishers.
      If prices are high, purchasing one $50 game, means you are not purchasing 2 to 29 other games.

      If you can make a good game and make $100k a year off it selling it for $1 to 200k users (1/2 going to costs and middlemen) then why do you have to squeeze out l

    • Some games are niche (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cliffski (65094) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @11:13AM (#27570903) Homepage

      It is not at all that simple.

      My best selling game is this one:
      http://www.positech.co.uk/democracy2 [positech.co.uk]
      It's a very complex and in-depth political simulation game based around the idea of the interconnectedness of all aspects of government policy, and modelled using a custom-written neural network. It assumes a decent understanding of modern political issues and a willingness to not be put off by what appears (at first glance ) to be a VERY complex interface (it's actually not that complex).

      In short, the game appeals to politics junkies, political science students, and people who enjoy chaos theory and complexity.

      It doesn't matter HOW good it is, how polished it is, or how well I market it...if your idea of games is Halo, you will NOT enjoy it, and NOT buy it.

      Many games exist in a very small, specific niche, a niche where the developer can make a living selling $22.95 games like that one. A lot of those niches are already on the borderline (mine is). Unless I can actually generate a worldwide greater interest in playing political strategy games, I can't expand my sales. So a drop in prices just means less overall revenue, and thus makes it less viable to make games like that.

      If all you want is 'mainstream' games that appeal to everyone, why bother with indie games anyway? we make games for specific groups of players, not the whole market.

    • by MikeFM (12491)

      I got into iPhone development precisely to take advantage of the concept of getting $1 from a million people. The ease of sale (easy to market, easy to collect) thanks to the App Store and the fact that you can develop a program in a weekend that quite a few people are willing to pay $1 for. Crank out one a week and if it doesn't suck and your marketing doesn't suck then you can bank.

      I buy few programs for $5 let alone the $50 of a PC or console game but I buy $1 iPhone games. I think a lot of other casual

  • by Akzo (1079039)
    Theres lots of indie games released all the time. What makes you think your game is worth $40 more than everyone elses? If your game isn't selling at $5 then it's probably genuinely just not fun.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @07:06AM (#27568063)

    'Every year, life is getting more and more expensive. Insurance. Rent. Food. And, at the same time, software is getting cheaper and cheaper, sometimes as cheap as a dollar, as we engage in a full speed race to the bottom. This is not going to help developers stay in business. This is not how a healthy industry is maintained.'"

    I agree. The race to the bottom for software is not how a healthy industry is maintained. What will we do if software reaches a price point of zero?

    There are no clear examples out there of how free [ubuntu.com] software [firefox.com] or applications [gmail.com] can stay in business. [safer-networking.org]

    *rolls eyes*

    • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @08:16AM (#27568515)
      Hate to break it to you, but those models aren't going to work for gaming. Gamers don't need support contracts, and they'll go nuts if you try to cram advertising down their throats. Just because it works for some, doesn't mean it'll work for anyone else.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Biswalt (1273170)
        Really gamers go nuts with advertising thrown down there throats? Played any EA sports games recently? In those games the ads even ad to the realism. You don't get a half-time report you get the Gillete Razor half-time report, since this is how it's done in the real world, it fits right in, but it's still an ad. An even better example is EA Skate 2. The ads are not only in the game on the in game billboards, they actually rotate out to feature different products or companies because EA is selling that a
        • I agree that they aren't intrusive when implemented correctly and casual gamers won't even notice, but there's been at least one instance where people have had a problem with ads in games. [slashdot.org] I believe it was a fairly popular title, too.

        • by Gr8Apes (679165)

          Really gamers go nuts with advertising thrown down there throats?

          Yes.

          Played any EA sports games recently?

          No.

          An even better example is EA Skate 2.

          No.

          After I explain how they work, most of the people I've asked told me they thought it was cool.

          Sounds very uncool.

          but real ads on the boards in EA NHL 09 only makes sense.

          No.

        • For one, you've chosen games where ads specifically work in terms of realism. Ok so yes, they work then. However there are plenty of games where they don't. Try that sort of thing in, say, The Last Remnant see how well it works. Also you've picked a very specific set of games: sports games made by Electronic Arts. This is not at all representative of gaming overall. EA is known for doing some stupid shit, and sports games are a small subset of the whole gaming market.

      • Gamers don't need support contracts,

        I thought that was how many of the MMORPGS work nowadays. The game client is free, but you enter into a monthly contract to access the resources on the servers.

        For another example, chess is about as copyright and license free as a game can be, but the Internet Chess Club [chessclub.com] charges $60 for a 1-year membership and purports "over 200,000 memberships sold." They don't have exclusive rights over anything inherent to the game of chess, or even internet chess. I don't know if their clients are proprietary, but

        • by tepples (727027)

          I thought that was how many of the MMORPGS work nowadays. The game client is free, but you enter into a monthly contract to access the resources on the servers.

          Except it requires a constant connection to the Internet. Such a model wouldn't work on handheld systems unless they're phones with a really expensive data plan. It also wouldn't work for games that rely on interaction among players in one room, like Smash Bros., or games designed to be played by players old enough to be on the Internet (13 in the USA) but not old enough to have a credit card (18 in the USA).

      • by Narpak (961733)

        Gamers don't need support contracts, and they'll go nuts if you try to cram advertising down their throats.

        With some notable exceptions like quakelive.com [quakelive.com]

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @08:41AM (#27568721) Journal
      None of your examples are of games [alientrap.org]. There are no [wesnoth.org] good [wz2100.net], free [freecol.org], fun [sourceforge.net], games [wormux.org].
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jimicus (737525)

        You know what, I've spent the last week searching for free games that run under OS X and aren't half-assed screwups, crippleware or otherwise about as entertaining as a bodged vasectomy.

        I should have just come on here and announced that there was no such thing.

        • All of the games I listed have OS X binaries (the only machine I have with a decent GPU runs OS X). You could also take a look at the list on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] although it's a bit random. A few others I'd recommend:
          • The Ur-Quan Masters [sourceforge.net], if you missed Star Control 2 before it was open sourced.
          • Globulation 2 [globulation2.org] is still a bit pre-release, but the game is playable and has a lot of potential.
          • Oolite [oolite.org] is a faithful recreation of Elite, but with massively updated graphics. It's certainly not a modern game, but it's a
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BlitzTech (1386589)
        I don't think most of those games turn a profit, or even that much in revenue. For full-time game developers who don't have a day job to pay the bills, they need to earn money with the games they make. Some go with ad revenue [kongregate.com], donations [bay12games.com], or micropayments [puzzlepirates.com] to keep their games free; others, like those from the author of TFA, prefer to charge for their games.

        If you would like to play only completely free games, you're certainly welcome to. I'm willing to pay for games that I want to play, and hopefully th
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Psychochild (64124)

          As a further point, almost all the games given as examples of free games are clones or derivatives of previous games. One of the things that makes a good indie game stand out is interesting, new types of gameplay or new takes on existing gameplay. Not to say that games like FreeCol are bad, but comparing an after-work project cloning an existing commercial game and someone trying to create new types of games from the ground up for a living and then wondering why they both can't be free seems a bit silly.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by KDR_11k (778916)

        Careful pointing at WZ2100, that one was commercial before it got opened up so they had professionals doing the work for money before it was given to the community. Spring's biggest mods operate on pirated content too (yes, there are legal mods but they're getting little attention from the playerbase as the primary sales pitch is still "we stole TA"). Organizing free contributors into anything that can produce a coherent game is extremely difficult and so far the results tend to be mostly coder art or just

  • Enforced low prices? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dangitman (862676) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @07:06AM (#27568065)
    iTunes doesn't set a maximum price for games, neither does Xbox Live, apparently except for those created with the XNA tools. So, the only one enforcing low prices is Amazon. Thus, calling the credibility of the summary into question, and the article for tenuous exaggeration.
  • Wrong question... (Score:5, Informative)

    by denzacar (181829) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @07:07AM (#27568083) Journal

    It should be "Should expensive games be better".

    FYI: Indie =/= Good

    This is also an example of a "indie game". [fugly.com]

    • Also (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)

      Part of the justification of a game's cost both in real and notional terms is the amount of work that went in to it. One of the reasons that big name titles cost a lot is that it takes a lot of people to develop them. It is quite an expensive production, on par with making a movie. Look at the credits for a game like Mass Effect some time to see how many people worked on it (remembering also the people who wrote Unreal Engine 3 on which it's based). Then play it and you can see all the work that went in to

  • Do some research, find out what people have paid for similar titles and work the stats to sort out where your optimum price point is.

    Then launch with a 10% off sale. The perception of savings and a limited time offer will bring buyers out in droves.

    • I agree... Let the marketplace work: If competition and quality are such that games are low cost (e.g., $5) then pretty soon new development will fade for lack of monetary incentive. Eventually, as supply fades and demands remains strong that will bring out new development at higher prices (high demand, low supply). Then as supply begins to exceed demand, the prices drop. It is simply the natural ebb and flow of free-market supply & demand.
  • How Much Do I Need To Earn To Live? - Suppose your game takes a year to write and thus, counting salaries, needs to earn about $100K to break even.

    If that's the case, you really need to find another job. Salaries - plural, plus other expenses for a year (employer's contribution to payroll taxes, health, etc), of $100k a year? I hope, for their sake, it's not more than 2 people ...

    Oh, And a Quick Note For Those Who Disagree With Me ...

    If you don't care about the people who work so hard to entertain you being able to charge a price that enables them to survive, I have no interest in what you have to say.

    That's okay ... what you have to say is pretty much bullshit whining anyway.

    • Flamebait? Only in as much as the original article is. There are an increasing number of fun open source games out there, and an even bigger number of ad-supported fun flash games. These are the competition for indie games, and increasingly for big commercial games. The market price is tending towards zero and fun games are being produced for that price. If you are making a game so fantastically good that people are willing to pay a lot for it when they could get other games for free, then feel free to
  • by TOGSolid (1412915) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @07:41AM (#27568287)
    Have they completely missed Valve's Steam pricing report on what happens when you sell good games for cheap?
    At twenty to twentyfive bucks, an indy game that isn't going to have the exposure a triple A game has is going to alienate shoppers that would have otherwise bought it just for the hell of it. It's going to have to be pretty damn good and get a lot of word of mouth exposure in order to be able to reign back in lost potential customers.
    • by delt0r (999393)
      What are you saying? 20 is too much or too little? I know quite a few people that wont buy for under 20 because "It must be cheap crap".
    • That's a great point. I've bought several games off of Steam more or less on impulse because they were $20. The weekend sales and things can be great too, if you happen to catch something you're interested in but didn't want to spend $50 on.

    • Except they raised their game back up to $50 [steampowered.com] after that experiment. If it was so successful, why did they do it?
    • by cliffski (65094)

      Price is not the only issue in games. There are many other issues. Games are a matter of personal preference. I don't care if you make your new RPG game $0.01, I am not interested. And if Company of heroes 2 is $80, I am still buying it on release day.

      Do the maths, you need to sell a metric fuckload of copies to people on the fence at the 1 cent price point to compensate for the $79.99 you gave away to the people who really wanted the game.

  • by Mike73 (979311)
    It's like that semester of Macroeconomics 101 has been pulled out of my brain and replaced with crazy.
  • Life is tough for a lot of people, in good times or bad. I really don't have solutions to the problems on the developer side. But I do know you really need to have a strong brand and a strong game to charge a premium. I don't know if you can sell a lot of a more expensive product on a sob story. A poster mentioned successes over Steam where half the price sometimes sells 10x the copies. Make a solid game, find legitimate viral ways to promote the product, price it fairly for the market and I think you'

  • Indie games are already a difficult sell due to limitations in production and advertising budgets increasing prices will do nothing but throw them further into obscurity. Take the authors own company as an example, I concider myself a fairly knowledgeable gamer but I have never even heard of anything they have done.

    The author seems a bit confused about XNA as well, the entire purpose of the XNA Creators Club is to give hobbyists and amateur game devs a chance at exposure. Incidently neither of his example

    • The author seems a bit confused about XNA as well, the entire purpose of the XNA Creators Club is to give hobbyists and amateur game devs a chance at exposure. Incidently neither of his examples Braid nor World of Goo were created with XNA.

      /quote> He never implied they were created with XNA and that's clear by reading his article where he states that Braid charged a very reasonable $15 and the max price for XNA games is $10.

  • by castironpigeon (1056188) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @08:40AM (#27568715)
    Does this slashdot even warrant a reply? Apparently, it does, since it was brought up and a few people even seem to agree with it. Let's just hit a couple big points.

    Search for 'indie game' on Google. 19 million hits. Now search for free game. 96 million hits. How much spare time do you have to play these games? Hello Mr Supply and Demand.

    I don't have a clever search term for this one, but I can count on two hands every game in the last 10 years that has held my attention for more than 30 minutes. I'm including big studios here. If you'd like to earn money, earn it. If not, here's a styrofoam cup. There's the street corner.

    Now, let's compare one entertainment medium to another. You can read short stories for free online or you can pay for print magazines or anthologies of known good authors. You can read comics online for free or you can pay for prints or anthologies of known good authors. You can view photos online for free or you can pay for collections from known good photographers. Sense a theme? Indie developers are, by their nature, relatively unknown. If they can peddle their wares for any amount I'd call that a winning situation.

    However, the blogger is right. This is no way to maintain a healthy industry. What we don't need right now is more of these healthy industries. Not every single source of income needs to be neatly packaged and protected as an industry from now until the end of time. It's bad enough we've got ISP monopolies gouging customers, investment companies begging for CEO bonuses, an auto manufacturing industry threatening to blow itself up if it doesn't get bailed out for its screw-ups (so it can screw up some more!), and an airline industry that's beyond reproach. The industrial revolution is over. Let's come up with something better.
  • The author mentions XNA games and a $10 price limit. You know, I've played some of these XNA games, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say I wouldn't play a lot of them for free. That's not an insult against the XNA game developers. I wish I had the skills to create an XNA game. The games just don't compare to what a high-budget team at Electronic Arts or Capcom can do.

    At gamestats.com, the "top sales" chart suggests that there is a big market for high-budget games at full price. Street Fighter 4 is

  • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @08:59AM (#27568901)

    Supply and demand is an economic law. Arguing that prices should be higher than the market will bear, in an attempt to re-write that law, is foolish.

    I recall a little "indie" game company that released, with little advertising, a mindless shoot-em-up by giving away much of the game and selling the full package cheaply. They made a good game, didn't charge much, and did well by it. 17 years later you can _still_ buy Wolfenstein 3D.

    • by Wildclaw (15718)

      No, it isn't. Supply and Demand isn't applicable to software and other IP, because there is an unlimited supply.

      More accurate is to say that it is a matter of Demand & Demand. Which is what drives all monopoly based industries.

      • by Jaeph (710098)

        "...because there is an unlimited supply."

        It's not the copying of the bits that's an issue, it's the development time. People who copy the bits rather than pay for them choose to disrespect that development time.

        • by Wildclaw (15718)

          But it isn't development time that is sold. So my original point stands. It isn't supply & demand.

          I wasn't even meaning to bring up talk about piracy. I just wanted to point out that treating monopoly industries using supply & demand models is incorrect and something which is done way too often.

          • I don't see where you're getting this "monopoly" reasoning from. It's not like there's a DeBeers of computer games, and EA doesn't have a monopoly on games just because nobody else can make/sell EA games.

            Infinite supply does not translate to infinite demand.
            Infinite supply does not mean $0 price.
            Supply happens, even if infinite, only because someone expects to create it.

            Yes, it IS development time that is sold. For most products, development time is merely a tiny fraction of the final price. Only difference

  • Braid (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bFusion (1433853)

    As someone who just purchased (and finished) Braid this weekend, I feel that game was worth FAR more than $15. I agree though that the price point for a lot of "indie" games are about right. I don't think I'd have payed more for Audiosurf, or Peggle, or the Penny-Arcade games.

  • To everyone that keeps wanting to raise prices to fair levels, please consider the R word, yon know, Recession. We are in one, well most of the western world is in one. Most people's disposable income has got rather less, not more and games are not a necessity of life.

    Sure someone may invent some really super game with lots of online content (to reduce piracy) that may end up costing lots more and if people like it, they may buy it. OTOH, they may not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      His argument was very reasonable. He stated that their costs went up so they raised the price of their game form $25 to $28 which no negative effect.

      He states that some games are worth more than others and that his problem has to do with companies like Amazon not caring about that and instead trying to force all indie titles to be cheap.

      He is right. He should be able to test the market and adjust the price as he wants rather than Amazon dictating to him that it has to be cheap.

      The recession isn't a
      • Well he is in a nieche market, and I think Vogels comments are a little bit one sided. He sees that there are other platforms he probably could target, but he cannot see how to justify a port to those platforms because he cannot sell enough copies to make money. All I can say then is that he probably should not touch those platforms at all...
        He has a nieche and the platforms are definitely then wrong for him!
        People are paying him good money for his games and he deserves it, but he has to ask himself does he

  • yet Intel is earning more money now than it did 15 years ago and it's expenses are also a lot higher.

    every big publisher today was an indie developer/publisher 20-30 years ago and grew their business through higher sales.

    these days indie publishers have distribution channels that EA and Activision didn't dream of 30 years ago. they built their business the hard way

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I was going to take issue with the original author on a couple of points here, but let's start with this:

    "When I first founded Spiderweb Software, in 1994. . ."

    Aaaaand I'm going to stop you right there. By 1994 the games industry had been around for well over a decade.

    Going back a little further than 1994 (to 1984 in fact) the majority of the software available for home computers was sold either in specialist computer stores or via mail order.

    A lot of this was created by "bedroom coders" (Indy publishers i

  • Mathematics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zarkonnen (662709) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @09:22AM (#27569229) Homepage

    What most of the commenters seem to be ignoring is the evidence that the author is doing perfectly well selling his game for $28.

    Having played (and paid for) one of them, given it took me dozens of (entertaining) hours to complete, I don't have much of a problem with that price.

    I think what the post really boiled down to was:

    Expect high ($30 - $60) prices for big commercial titles because they cost millions. Huge development costs divided by lots of customers result in high prices.

    Expect low prices ($1 - $10) for indie games in popular genres (puzzle, etc) because there is lots of competition. Low development costs divided by lots of customers result in low prices.

    But expect highish ($10 - $30) prices for indie games in niche genres, because there are simply fewer potential customers. Low(ish) development costs divided by few customers must result in highish prices, or you lose money.

    Yes, there are free flash games, but point me at a free flash game in the same genre and of the depth of the author's games?

  • What is meant by "enforced low prices?" If it is "Microsoft requires you to charge a certain price point for XBox Live games," then, guess what, your game isn't truly indie.

    That shouldn't surprise anyone, since consoles are extremely locked down and loaded with DRM. If you take the King's Penny, you play by his rules or dance a yard arm jig! Yaar!

    Now, if you are trying to get on Steam or Amazon download and play, or something and they are requiring you to charge a certain price point, you have to weight

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @09:30AM (#27569373)

    When I see "used" games for sale for $54, is it time to ask if they're charging too much for new games? Hell, yes. I don't pick them up until they're $20 or less.

    • I completely agree. I think the cost of games is ridiculous. The last full price PC game I bought was Civ IV (back in 2005). The last full price console game I bought was Mario Galaxy. I tend to not buy a lot of games because of both DRM concerns on the PC, and the price on any platform.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cliffski (65094)

      That depends, if you buy a new game for $54 and play it for 54 hours, that $1 an hour. Compare that with going bowling/drinking/skating/movies/anythingelsewhatsoever.

      gaming is a dirt cheap past-time.

  • One of the things the writer overlooks is the ability to release content in episodes. Instead of charging $30 for one game, a single adventure can be broken up and released in episodes or chapters for $10 each.

    Penny Arcade and Strongbad have both successfully used this model and it also gives customers an opportunity to try a game without committing to an entire series.

    This may even be good for independent developers because they would get feedback and money before completing development on the entire seri

  • What do you need to fund a game? Food stamps and enough scratch to pay the electricity bill. [autofish.net]

    Programming a game can be a labor of love. It can be an artistic expression that doesn't require millions of dollars, prima dona rockstar programmers, glossy ads in gaming magazines (if you can find one these days), and gouging your customers.

    We've lost this ethic in computer games. The indies are doing great work, but complaining that you can't charge $60 for their game is lunacy. The primary justification that l

    • The programmers have grown up, just like you. They have families, they have hobbies, they would like to go out and have fun now and then.

      This article is not complaining that he can't charge $60. He's complaining that he can't charge $30 in these new downloadable channels, which is barely above break-even for his sales and his costs.

  • The low price of indie games has caused the developers to focus more on creating unique experiences rather than trying to push the graphics/technology envelope. It's better this way.

    Furthermore, these downloadable console games are basically only available for rent, since there is no way to sell them when you are done. The prices need to be cheap since buyers don't have all the rights of someone who buys a game on disc.

    A new studio game might cost $60 these days. However, not everyone buys new and keeps the

  • Indie developers nowadays have more platforms than ever they can target, a good game done on many platforms can sell 5-6 times the numbers they used to sell...

    Logic... the games are too cheap developers should raise their prices...

    I dont get it fully

  • Yes, they should. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Peganthyrus (713645) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @02:20PM (#27574197) Homepage

    Yes, they should be more.

    I am a long-time fan of Jeff Minter. The other year, he released "Space Giraffe" for the XBox360. As a downloadable game for $5.

    He did not, I believe, make back his development costs.

    (Admittedly, it was a hard game to get into; I'm hoping he learnt from the reactions people who are not wired the same way he and I are, and that his next game will be more approachable.)

    Me, I loved it. And when he ported it to the PC, I leapt at the chance to buy it again. Not because I wanted the extra levels he added, not because I wanted to play it on a PC - but because I wanted to finish paying Jeff for the fun I had. I literally felt guilty because $5 felt like I was ripping him off for the amount of fun his game gave me.

    The race to the bottom, with the $1 games on iPhones, is one that nobody wins - developers abandon their indy dreams and get a job as a minor cog working on "Derivative Safe Game IV", users don't get more cool games. All we get are throwaway pieces of crap that extend brands, and first efforts by newbies living in their parents' basements.

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp

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