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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

On the Expectation of Value From Inexpensive Games 102

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-washingtons dept.
An article by game designer Ian Bogost takes a look at what type of value we attach to games, and how it relates to price. Inspiration for the article came from the complaint of a user who bought Bogost's latest game and afterward wanted a refund. The price of the game? 99 cents. Quoting: "Games aren't generally like cups of coffee; they don't get used up. They don't provide immediate gratification, but ongoing challenge and reward. This is part of what Frank Lantz means when he claims that games are not media. Yet, when we buy something for a very low price, we are conditioned to see it as expendable. What costs a dollar these days? Hardly anything. A cup of coffee. A pack of sticky notes. A Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. A lottery ticket. Stuff we use up and discard. ... I contend that iPhone players are not so much dissatisfied as they are confused: should one treat a 99-cent game as a piece of ephemera, or as a potentially rich experience?"
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On the Expectation of Value From Inexpensive Games

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  • by fucket (1256188)
    99 cents? What a rip off! On my phone, all the games are .99 cents.
  • Not surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheSambassador (1134253) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @03:34AM (#28147799)
    This makes me think of this [penny-arcade.com]

    There's something about games where people expect to be entertained... no matter the price. It's incredible what people are willing to throw money away on, but games (and sometimes other media) tend to have strange, insanely high expectations.

    Shouldn't people expect the same amount of satisfaction out of a 99 cent cheeseburger as they would get out of a 99 cent game? This is definitely a weird phenomenon.
    • by kalirion (728907)

      I wouldn't mind a $0.99 game that's entertains me for several minutes. What you need to remember is that with games, it's not just the money you spend, but the time you spend on the game as well. A while back Steam was having a sale in which I bought Luxor 2 and Bejeweled Deluxe for $0.99 each. The former provided me more than enough entertainment for my time and money, while the latter ... didn't. I truly wish I had not bought it and had spent that 15 minutes doing something else instead.

    • It doesn't have anything to do with the price.

      People return stuff that they feel is "returnable" and don't return stuff they don't. It's a natural thermodynamic sense: if they feel the transaction is reversible then they will reverse transactions they don't like.

      A cheeseburger doesn't fit that model: if you return it, you will have one less cheeseburger, but the restaurant will not have one more cheeseburger, they will have one more cheeseburger-sized amount of garbage.

      Downloadable stuff does fit the model.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @03:35AM (#28147805)

    Paying for games? That's SO old school!

  • Moreover the value of ones time, which degrades when the game experience is good. If the game sucks, then suddenly we grow impatient and want the buck back out of spite. If the game is good, then hours become years as we trance out like lab rats on the crack feeder button test...na na na na ....be the ball billy....
  • by Toonol (1057698) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @03:47AM (#28147851)
    If the consumer thought it was a bad game, he would have probably asked for a refund even if it was only ten cents. Price paid is kind of irrelevant.

    I think pretending the consumer is 'confused' about how much he values the game may just distract you from what really happened.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Another term for this usage pattern is "being a cheap asshole". The app has screen shots and if those screens shots are in it and the app works, even if it's buggy it's pretty fucking weak to demand your money back for a ninety-nine cent app. From a service perspective, go ahead and give them their money back, but you're better off banning them from making future purchases of your other offerings because they're likely to be repeat offenders (not just with you, but with everyone, though unfortunately you ca
    • by mcrbids (148650) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @04:18AM (#28147957) Journal

      If the consumer thought it was a bad game, he would have probably asked for a refund even if it was only ten cents. Price paid is kind of irrelevant.

      Years ago, my wife and I had a yard sale. A bunch of our shiat parked in the front yard with little signs made with white masking tape and a sharpie. We had a full set of Time-Life books that were fairly recent. We figured they'd go quickly at $0.25 apiece. And while we were asked about them repeatedly, they didn't sell.

      But then we raised the price, from $0.25 to $2 apiece. Suddenly, they weren't "junk" books, they were suddenly valuable! They sold quickly, many of them "worked over" to $1 apiece.

      Most of the value you see in things around you aren't based on your assessment of the value, but rather your acceptance of the assertion of value. You value things not for their relative qualities, but for the value asserted by the salesman.

      I drive a 10-year-old Saturn 4-door car, a very common car in my town. It's very reliable, it's got a good safety record, mine has just shy of 200,000 miles on the original engine/transmission. Parts are widely available, and cheap to obtain. Even with over a decade of heavy driving and lots of miles, the exterior looks quite nice, and the interior is still together.

      By any measure, this car delivers value upon value upon value. Yet it was a cheap car, even when new! Meanwhile, a BMW commands top notch prices even though merely copying a key costs well over $100.

      Why? Well, they are a well-engineered piece of equipment, but it's definitely not 5-10x as reliable as my cheap Saturn. They are perhaps marginally safer, but certainly not 5-10x as safe as my cheap Saturn. Parts are expensive, they are expensive to repair by anybody's estimation.

      So for what reason does the BMW continue to demand such a price premium if not the simple fact that it's asserted as a high-priced car?

      And this isn't just true for cars. People assert themselves automatically, without thinking it. For example, women dress the part almost uniformly. For some reason, you can spot a cheap tramp a mile away. They dress/act "trampy". Geeks look "geeky". Assholes look rather.... "assholey".

      People go to great lengths to look the part of who they are. Nearly all of them.

      • by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @04:32AM (#28148003)
        I have this problem as a indie game dev. If I charge too little everyone thinks its cheap and won't even try the demo. If I charge full price everyone is assuming its too expensive since its can't be a real AAA title. Lots of different people have very different ideas of a "right" price for a non big player game.

        So at this stage there will be a demo, a "steam" like rental version ($5 per week) and a full version ($20). Rental becomes a full game once you hit $20 bucks.
        • So at this stage there will be a demo, a "steam" like rental version ($5 per week) and a full version ($20). Rental becomes a full game once you hit $20 bucks.

          I know this isn't the gist of your post, but this is actually a really interesting model. Hope it works out for you.

      • by iamhassi (659463)
        "definitely not 5-10x as reliable as my cheap Saturn. "

        another bad car analogy. Also have a saturn, fairly new model, with 80k miles, suffering from the common power steering problems [fixya.com]. Needs whole new $1000 steering column. Managed to rig it so we can reset the power steering while driving but it's still a huge pain and I will never buy or recommend a Saturn.
        • by c0d3g33k (102699)

          another bad car analogy

          No it's not. It was an anecdotal example about how humans percieve value based on actual experience and relevant to the key point of the original subject ("Expectation of Value"). It just happened to be about a car.

      • by stevey (64018) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @04:40AM (#28148019) Homepage

        I had the same experience "selling myself" as a remote Linux administrator.

        I'd fix your services, audit your machines, and provide advice for £40 an hour. A few takers, and everybody was very complimentary when talking to me - but when I doubled my hourly rates I got way more business.

        • by SpacePunk (17960)

          I noticed the same thing in my service business. When I raised rates, I got more business. People perceive more value in the higher price for some reason.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Waccoon (1186667)

        I noticed this very quickly when the downloadable game craze started with game consoles. At first, there were many, good games for $5, but now even crap is going into the $15 to $20 area.

        Despite my usual cynicism, I would assume the marketeers know what they are doing, and are increasing the prices for obvious reasons: the games sell better.

      • You're correct. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zippthorne (748122)

        So for what reason does the BMW continue to demand such a price premium if not the simple fact that it's asserted as a high-priced car?

        BMWs aren't cars. They're billboards to announce how rich you are. There's no point in buying used, or building one to last more than three years, because having an *old* BMW just means that you couldn't afford to buy this year's model. If you're trying to repair an out-of-warranty "beemer", you're doing it wrong. They're a lot like the "i'm rich" app on the iPhone app store.

        What I find confusing, though, is that people of average means who will pay $40k for a car will turn around and make fun of YOU fo

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Get back to me when your Saturn is 20 years old and has at least 250,000 miles on it... you know, about when my $2600 Mercedes reached its break-in point.

        Your Saturn is built like every other piece of shit made in this era, and will go away with the rest of them. It's a GM Toyota.

        • by Mr2001 (90979)

          Get back to me when your Saturn is 20 years old and has at least 250,000 miles on it... you know, about when my $2600 Mercedes reached its break-in point.

          If he's at ~200k now, he'll be at 250k in just a few years.

          Your Saturn is built like every other piece of shit made in this era, and will go away with the rest of them. It's a GM Toyota.

          Heh. You do realize Toyotas are known for being exceptionally reliable, don't you?

      • by kalirion (728907)

        Reminds me of the story where people replaced their refrigerator and put the old one near the curb with a sign "FREE working refrigerator!" It stood a couple days there. So they changed the sign to "Working refrigerator, $200, inquire within!" and it was gone next morning.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by datajack (17285)
      Exactly, if I bought a coffee for 99c (let's ignore the facts that I live in the UK and don't like coffee for the moment) and the coffee was undrinkable for whatever reason, I would expect a refund or fresh cup.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Trepidity (597)

        I guess it depends on the level of undrinkable. If it just wasn't very good coffee, I'd shrug, not worry much about the wasted $0.99, and not go to that coffee shop again. I don't see why games should be that much different. If I don't like Bogost's $0.99 game, I won't buy his other games; if I do, I might look to see what else he's selling. Unless it was actively some sort of fraud, like he sold me a broken binary for $0.99 (analogous to a seriously unacceptable cup of coffee), I wouldn't ask for my money

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      "he would have probably asked for a refund even if it was only ten cents. Price paid is kind of irrelevant."

      i dunno. I would have agreed with you a few months ago, but after spending $10 on the amazing Plants vs Zombies [escapistmagazine.com] i'm looking at all the other $49.95 games and thinking "why aren't you 5 times better? I did spend 5x more after all".
      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        The $49,94 games aren't 5x better.
        They just have 5x the employees working on it to create 5x more content.
        It doesn't say anything whether that extra content translates to extra gameplay.

    • If I ever put out a game, I am definitely putting you on the blacklist. Seriously, it was a fucking dollar!

      Then again, maybe that bitterness thing those shrinks have come up with has veracity after all...

      • by unfasten (1335957)
        If the dollar is so insignificant then the game developer shouldn't have a problem refunding it either. The fact they're even bothering to ask for a refund of 99 cents says something about what they thought of the product.

        Ask the customer what they didn't like or what they want to see improved. Try to make a better game instead of just bitching that the customer is a cheap idiot and that your game is perfect, unable to be improved upon.
        • by True Vox (841523)
          Very true, improvement is always good. But think - everyone's time is worth something. I'm sure even the least of us here MUST value their time at $5 (likely more, but let's assume a school kid for a moment). So, at $5 an hour, let's just say it takes 12 minutes (for the sake of ease of math) to work through what ever hoops are put in place to get a refund (I have no experience with iPhone app refunds, but for other things in life it's often annoying like this). Well, 12 minutes @ $5 an hour... there's a bu
        • by Golddess (1361003)

          If the dollar is so insignificant then the game developer shouldn't have a problem refunding it either.

          That's a poor way of looking at it. While it may only be one dollar to the customer, for the developer it may be ten dollars (if ten customers all ask for refunds).

          The fact they're even bothering to ask for a refund of 99 cents says something about what they thought of the product.

          Yes, but what that something is neither you nor I truly know, all we can do is guess. Maybe the game really was crap. Or maybe it was good, but felt too short. Just because a refund was asked for, that doesn't mean the game sucked.

          Imagine it like this. Now I don't know about you, but for 99 cents I'd probably expect something along the lin

    • by Thiez (1281866)

      When I order something in a restaurant that I've never had before, and I don't like it, should I get a refund? If the quality of the food is good, then most certainly not. I gambled, I lost.

      When you buy something you've never tried before there is always a chance you might not like it. That is a risk YOU choose to take.

      If the game in tfa was not complete crap and the guy who made it did not lie about its contents, then no way should the buyer get a refund. He tried something new, and he lost. Tragic, but if

  • by qpawn (1507885) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @03:57AM (#28147891)

    A guy goes to a $5 lady of the night, and he gets crabs. So the next day he goes back to complain and the woman says, 'Hey, it was only $5, what did you expect... lobster?'

    • by mikael (484) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:21AM (#28148479)

      There is the vintage joke often attributed to a socialite and Winston Churchill:

      Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
      Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill... Well, I suppose... we would have to discuss terms, of course...
      Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
      Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
      Churchill: Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

  • ... games are just cheap entertainment for most people. They are nothing more unless the game is REALLY well made and that is INCREASINGLY rare today.

  • This statement about value seems to be a common observation in my country these days. I figure it's important to note that the rapid expansion of normal society into the l33t world of information systems has destabilized many businesses (and thus valuation systems) in the last ten years. Look at second hand books, for example: once a fairly widespread sort of business. Today, at Amazon you can pick up any well-thumbed paperback for the price of shipping, thus most second-hand bookshops can't afford to have
    • by Keill (920526)

      "A computer game utilizes media as a primary factor in the "playing" behaviour of humans."

      DON'T read too much into this statement, which I think you have. All this statement tells me is that, since computers require a display device of some kind, everything the game displays to the player(s) has to involve 'media'.

      How that is used and manipulated by the game, however, is entirely up to individual games, and therefore you should not automatically assume too much.

      Yes, computer games CAN involve more media th

    • Almost stopped reading at l33t......

  • by Raph57 (1565749) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @04:38AM (#28148015)
    As an iPhone game developer myself who recently released a game (some shameless advertising: Tuzzle [apple.com]) at what I think is a very reasonable price: $0.99, I'm amazed by the negative comments I immediately received from people who didn't actually buy the game. Most of them complained about the fact that there are "only" 25 levels. Instead of putting 100 boring levels, I decided to design 25 challenging levels which would provide a few hours of entertainment. For less than the price of a cup of coffee, I still think that this is more than acceptable.
    I have the feeling that these days, only quantity matters and people got used to have everything for free with the Internet and expect impressive graphics, hours of gameplay for free...
    Is $0.99 for a few hours of fun expensive?
    - Raph
    • by Madsy (1049678)

      Maybe the price point has nothing to do with it.
      Speaking from myself, I know that I expect *some* minimum quality standard for computer, phone and console games, in particular length, replayability and how fun it is. If it doesn't live up to that, the price point is irrelevant. Neither would I fight over the difference between 1 USD or 10 USD. If a game fails to live up to my expectations, it could be free and I would still not waste time on it.

      So next time, perhaps you would benefit from making the game a

      • by KDR_11k (778916)

        Personally I accept different game lengths at different prices, demanding a specific number of levels would be plain stupid (a level is completely arbitrary anyway, 25 levels of Metal Slug are completely different from 25 levels of Dr. Mario or 25 levels of D&D). Some games don't have levels at all and are pure endurance challenges and depending on how the game is designed that may be the best way.

        However there's also the perceived content vs physical content thing, a game may have only 5 minutes of act

    • Is $0.99 for a few hours of fun expensive?

      Not at all. However, being a puzzle game, there a few downfalls.

      -People are impatient nowadays. They'll just look up the solutions online when it gets too hard, or give up and never finish the game.

      -It seems like your game doesn't really have any replayablity. Once you solve a level, going back to it isn't going to be any different, and thusly not any more fun. If you had a mode where it generated random (but still solvable) levels, then you would have a reason to play the game once in a while after beating

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by moon3 (1530265)
      iPhone dev. community as of late has been struck by recession or something.., lots of pokers arised that try to bash you and drag your app down. Developers are starting to battle themselves, that is a bad trend, not drive-by killings yet, but really the buying of positive comments, bashing competition and cyber-bullying is terrible.
      • I don't recall seeing a single app that's rated with higher than an average of 3 stars. I think one issue is that, upon uninstalling, the iPod/iPhone requests you to rate an app - but it doesn't request you to rate an app if you keep it installed. There is an opt-out "No Thanks" button when the rating screen pops up, but I'm not sure that would be most people's first reaction - I doubt it, in fact.

        That, however, doesn't explain rude reviews left - though I find most reviews are actually more complimentary a

    • by asdf7890 (1518587)

      Is $0.99 for a few hours of fun expensive?

      Don't waste your time worrying about these people. This sort want everything, twice, yesterday, and they think that you should pay them for the privilege of their attention. No price decrease/increase or change in experience length will change that, you'll never achieve their target value for money of "infinity for nothing".

      Of course one major problem with not worrying about people like this, is that such spoilt little children seem to be the majority these days... (or, at very least, a very very vocal mino

    • Not quite right... (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your ideals are correct, however your approach is all wrong. Let me explain this to your using only recent anecdotal evidence:

      I'm not going to cover the AAA titles because they are simple: put together a great game dynamic with a killer team of artists and programmers, and you get your AAA title. Everyone who doesn't dislike the genre will like it, and the only reasons to fathom a refund on these games are "I thought I would like it, but I dind't." Not refundable, I'm afraid. Almost ALL games up until r

    • Child labor laws (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tepples (727027)

      Is $0.99 for a few hours of fun expensive?

      It is if you're young enough that the law prohibits you from having a job.

      • by murdocj (543661)

        Weird... the kid who mows my lawn for $20 seems awfully young. I'm not sure pre-schoolers are ready to work.

        • by tepples (727027)

          the kid who mows my lawn for $20 seems awfully young.

          What does the kid do for money when it's not lawn-mowing season?

          • by murdocj (543661)

            Other odd jobs, I'm sure. Remember, I'm replying to a post about kids too young for full time work. It's not like kids that age need to support their family.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Bodrius (191265)

            If the kid you're talking of has an iPhone, I honestly don't think finding $0.99 of disposable income is a problem here.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by tepples (727027)

              If the kid you're talking of has an iPhone

              He doesn't. He has an iPod Touch that he got for Christmas. I've seen kids who get Wii consoles for Christmas run out of things to do in Wii Sports and not have any way to buy Nintendo Points cards.

              • by Bodrius (191265)

                Same thing applies.

                Seriously, if you're getting a US$230+ electronic device for Christmas, getting US$ 0.99 of disposable income is not the problem. If the kid can't get 1 buck for a game, the problem is with getting the expensive electronic device in the first place.

    • That's 33 cents per hour. Take a game like Sim City 4, which sells now for $15, and ask if 45 hours sounds like the correct amount of fun to receive from it. (I'm probably at 45 hours right now, but I'm not yet done playing it.) Take a classic like DOOM which you probably bought for $20 or so, and played for hundreds and hundreds of hours. It's easy to imagine DOOM being less than 10 cents per hour.

      Then there's Super Mario World. I may have played that game for a thousand hours, and I didn't pay anythi

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      I'm amazed by the negative comments I immediately received from people who didn't actually buy the game.

      Unless there's a lot of people with hacked Apple accounts, it's not possible. To rate an app, you have to have purchased it. The stars when you delete it (which won't work on jailbroken/pirated apps, no worries there), or the comments after you go back to iTunes. iTunes won't let you rate an app you didn't buy (I tried it on an app I beta tested that was released, I had to buy it to leave my comment).

      May

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:18AM (#28148133)
    I never had the original XBox, but when I saw it was compatible with the X360, I found a used copy of Morrowind for $2. GOTY edition, no less, with the expansion packs. Yes, $2 at my work's monthly swap meet (it's an engineering outfit, so the swap meet has all sorts of computer stuff, test equipment, great for the mad scientist in your house) Must have gotten a couple hundred hours of enjoyment out of it. I wish Bethesda would port Daggerfall and Arena over to XBox Live Arcade.
    • I've also found that some of the best value-for-money you can get is from older games - either discounted new copies, or used copies. I think I bought the entire NWN+expansions for about $20 a few years ago. I still play it, and I played it for, probably, hundreds and hundreds of hours overall - between the OCs and user-created modules. In the past year, I've also picked up NWN2+expansions, and while I have less time to play games now than I used to, I've still had a good 30+ hours out of those games, and I

  • just anecdotaly... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wjh31 (1372867) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:31AM (#28148167) Homepage
    i have gotten much more enjoyment out of games i have paid for. I spent longer playing them, enjoyed playing them more, got more involved in them etc... when compared to games i have pirated. I put this down (atleast in part) to that having paid for it ill stick with it longer, 'ive paid for it so i better play it...', so i play it a little longer, get through the couple of boring bits and so just enjoy it more. Sure there have been games ive pirated that i got as involved in as ones ive purchased, but as a proportion of the total number of games, its much less.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      At least you'll admit you pirate some games.. unlike some people around here.

    • I play games I buy much more than games I pirate simply because I can actually use the multiplayer component, which both extends the joy of the game, and often prevents me from blowing straight through the singleplayer.
  • Media gets used up?

  • Games are very much like a cup of coffee, the race to the bottom is what happens in perfect competition [wikipedia.org]. The net economic profit in such a scenario is zero - which is exactly what Bogost describes:
    "That's just about enough to pay for the iPhone and Mac laptop or desktop you'll need to develop for the platform in the first place. Put more plainly, for the average developer the App Store is a financial wash."

    The only way for a seller to make an economic profit in such an environmnet is to differentiate their
  • Say $10 for a (new release) movie = 2 hours of entertainment. You can argue that movies are overpriced, but I think it's a good starting point. It's in the entertainment 'arena', some are good, some are bad, some are short, but so are games. If a $10 indie game entertains me for 2 hours, I figure it's good value. If a $60 game entertains me for at least 12 hours, then I figure it's good value. If I thought I'd get 48 hours out of Rock Band Beatles ... ok, I still wouldn't consider that. If that doesn't
    • by kalirion (728907)

      It depends on the level of entertainment too. Take one of the Baldur's Gate or Civilization games, and think how much progress you made after 2 hours. If the game had ended at that point, would it have been worth $10?

  • This water is terrible! I want my free back!

    (Okay, that was funnier when I was a kid and water was free.)

    • Tap water still is free here in the UK. I did hear a thing about some stingy place not giving free tap water a while ago in the news but that is an exception. Of course they try and sell you £2 bottled water.

      • Tap water is generally free in the US too (although one time I was in Texas during a local drought and they were selling water at $5 a glass). But there's still lots of bottled water for sale and there are plenty of suckers who buy it.
  • 99 cents (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Endo13 (1000782) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @10:11AM (#28149143)

    Honestly, at that price it's pretty tacky to be asking for a refund. And it certainly wouldn't be worth *my* time to try getting it. It may however be worth my time to get some contact info for the developer and send him a short note about my take on the game. There's at least the chance then that he might take it as constructive criticism and make a better game next time. Asking for a refund tells him nothing other than that you're a cheapskate and didn't think the game was worth $0.99.

  • Everytime I buy a game, it ends up being the worst pile of shit ever. The last game I ever bought was Warcraft 3, and it was no fun at all.

    With free games, I feel no regret if the game is bad (I wasted no money) and I feel very connected to the game if I like it. Favorite games right now are Battle for Wesnoth and Freeciv.

    • by orkysoft (93727)

      Wesnoth is okay, but Freeciv I find boring, especially when compared to Civilization IV (which I paid for).

  • by Peganthyrus (713645) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @10:39AM (#28149313) Homepage
    I have seen this exact same phenomenon for years in a completely different online market: artists offering commissions.

    When you're young and still unsure of your skills, it's really easy to promise that you'll do a full-color piece of art for something like US$5 - waaaaay too low. After all, all the other beginners are pricing like that; hell, some of the people teetering on the cusp between "fan" and "pro" are still pricing themselves like that.

    Now, artists will trade stories about their nightmare commissions; like any specialist group, we share our war stories. And the one thing I've noticed is that almost every story about a picky commissioner who demands ten rounds of changes on an finished piece is also one about a commission that's way below what the artist's time is worth.

    I avoided doing commissions for a long time. When I finally did start doing them, I looked around at the going rates and positioned myself well above the bottom, offering very limited numbers of commissions at a time. And you know what? The first set sold out like lightning. I raised my prices for the second set and they still went quick. And everyone's reaction upon getting their art was "wow!" - some people even threw in a bit more money afterwards. Nobody asked for changes, everyone knew they'd be getting my interpretation of their scenario.

    A few sets of commissions down the line, I did an experiment: instead of setting a price, I let people pay what they thought it was worth. One person who was quite broke paid about half of my usual price; the other two people in that set of commissions more than made up for her lack of funds.

    If you price yourself like a slave, people will treat you like one. Set your rates to something fair and you get treated like the skilled professional you are. All the people writing iPhone games for $.99 are hanging out a sign that says "my hard work is worth next to nothing"; it is not surprising to find consumers treating them badly.

    • But Peggy (fancy meeting you here!), you can sell that game a million times. I've bought heaps of 99c games--any higher and I probably wouldn't bother, it feels risky because I'd have expectations.

  • On this platform, you happen to get a music single you listen to over and over again until you're sick of it for a dollar as well.

    Its not as relevant what a dollar gets you in the rest of the world as what this particular market segment sees a dollar being worth.

    If your game isn't as entertaining to them as the latest piece of music they downloaded and for at least as long, you should expect them to be annoyed at the price.

  • by Zigurd (3528) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @11:34AM (#28149659) Homepage

    The average of revenues for applications in the iPhone app store might be less than $3000 but this is somewhat misleading. Like any publishing market there are a few winners and many, many also-rans. If you calculated what the average book out of Amazon's 3.5 million books took in, you might conclude you can't make any money at all publishing books. But even a specialized tech book on a current topic is going to rank in the 20,000-40,000 range in sales rank, and that is in the top 2%. There is a lot of obscure stuff that got printed at some time or another that really can't be considered part of the market that real publishing companies participate in.

    So, if you put a truly professional effort into a product, you can reasonably expect results that are way above the average, and that seems to be borne out by the tennis application mentioned in the article: It made several times the average. But, due to low prices, that amounts to only a few tens of thousands of dollars over the product lifespan.

    The price erosion in the iPhone app store is going to be a real worry to real game publishers. If you can't sell a game for $19.99 you won't get quality studio-produced games, except as an experiment in the market. Good or bad, it sure is different from the DS. At those pricing levels, the number of financial winners will be very small, and since price erosion is hard to undo, new revenue sources will have to be found in order to change the fact that only a very small number of products will make revenue in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • The old addage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HockeyPuck (141947) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @11:41AM (#28149697)

    What's that old, but very common, expression? You get what you pay for.

    Is a BMW/Benz 5x better than a Honda Civic? It may be a better performance vehicle, but more reliable? Not really. I've got 200k mi on my '97, and while it's reliable it's pricey. How about a Land Rover? Definitely not, yet they are easily twice as expensive as any other SUV.

    People commonly associate price with quality. If you go into a store to buy something, and X is $2 while Y is $4, most people will buy the $4 because they assume "There's gotta be something about Y to justify the $2 increase in price.

    The worst price? FREE. Why? Because psychologically when someone sees something that is FREE, they assume that it has no value. Have a yard sale? Don't mark anything FREE, otherwise people will look at it and assume it's junk. Would you "buy" FREE food from the supermarket? Doubt it, you'd probably think "there's gotta be something wrong with it."

    Bottom line: without doing any research people look at two objects/services of different prices and instinctively think that the higher priced object can justify it's higher price.

    • by c0d3g33k (102699)

      The worst price? FREE. Why? Because psychologically when someone sees something that is FREE, they assume that it has no value. Have a yard sale? Don't mark anything FREE, otherwise people will look at it and assume it's junk.

      You're correct, but the reason you give is perhaps too simplistic. Free or not, it's pretty easy to recognize whether an object is truly junk, so I doubt that's the real reason people find "free" unappealing. It seems to be part of human nature with regard to our sense of "fairness" that a mutually acceptable exchange is regarded a better outcome than a one-sided exchange where one party has all the advantage. An actual exchange also avoids incurring the sense of obligation that comes with the recieving

      • by bnenning (58349)

        Very interesting theory. It would explain why I feel tacky using a coupon for a free item, but not if it's for 50% off.

  • I've forgotten the technical name for the term, but there's a well proven concept in behavioral theory that people do not proportionally associate the cost of payments with the actual cost of the payment. There's a fixed cost emotionally for any transaction, no matter how small the actual purchase. In simpler terms, people feel much less happy making 100 $1 payments than they do one $100 payment (all things being equal). I actually think this irrational behavior explains the attitude of buyers much bette

  • The question is how much are you willing to pay for entertainment, on an hourly basis? If the cost is <= that value, then the game is a good deal for you.

    Of course time is not always the only factor for entertainment. Maybe it's something really spectacular or special so you don't mind paying more if it lives up. Or maybe it's so you can be with friends.. a beer isn't worth $5 but the time in the pub with your buddies is. Or maybe it fills some other need... like porn. :-) Generally, though, with 'c

  • The state has - rightly or wrongly - decided to use capitalism as the basis for producing and distributing goods such as online games. This differs from the pro-crap games faction's perception of capitalism as a trap for separating suckers from their money. If you represent a product as a game, and charge people actual money for it, it has to function as described; whether it costs 99 cents or $99 billion is completely irrelevant.

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