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The Almighty Buck Games

Letting Customers Decide Pricing On Game DLC 156

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-map-and-a-hat-are-not-worth-ten-bucks dept.
An anonymous reader writes "How much should game developers be charging for DLC? It seems that one indie dev has decided to carry out a unique experiment. The latest expansion pack for Gratuitous Space Battles is priced at $5.99 — or is it? It turns out there is both a standard ($5.99) version and a discount version ($2.99). And the difference between them is... nothing. The buyers have been left to make their own decisions on whether or not they should pay full price, and send more money to the developer, or treat themselves to a deserved discount. The buy page even lists comparisons of national incomes, average salaries and even the price of sausages to help buyers make up their minds. Will this catch on? Will Microsoft start asking us whether or not we should get a discount and trust us to answer honestly?"
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Letting Customers Decide Pricing On Game DLC

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    If it's possible, they'll ask YOU for the $5.99 and get your game with it.
    • I for one would like to see a "pay what you feel is fair" for shipping to Canada from Thinkgeek.com...

      $15 shipping for a t-shirt? Talk about assholes lol
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        You realize they charge you what they get charged by USPS/DHL/UPS/whoever, plus a little for packaging etc., right?

        If they let people choose "pay what you feel is fair" for shipping, especially international shipping, 99% of customers would choose "free", and they'd have to compensate by raising product prices. I don't think that's the outcome you desire.

        (I am of course not talking about the jerks on eBay or Amazon who sell things for dirt cheap and then charge absurd amounts for shipping, I'm talking spec

        • No way, they over price it, or they only ship with DHL/UPS/whatever when USPS would be a third the price. If you Google around you can see that it's a common complaint. I don't know why Thinkgeek doesn't address it they would get more sales.
          • I paid $9 shipping for the last set of items I ordered from Thinkgeek (one of which was larger than a t-shirt). I do not consider that unreasonable.

            International shipping, even "just" to Canada, is more expensive than domestic shipping. I do not consider $15 unreasonable for international shipping. For international postage, USPS charges $10 for a 1-pound large envelope, or $13.50 for a small flat-rate box. If you think $1.50 is an unreasonable amount for Thinkgeek to charge to cover the cost of locatin

            • When I buy shirts from other places in the US, like Woot or someone on eBay, most often shipping is $5 or less. If others can offer lower shipping prices then I think Thinkgeek should be able to offer lower prices as well.
              • How do the packing materials and shipping speed compare between Thinkgeek and the others?

                There are more factors than "can it possibly be done cheaper"...

    • No, publishers and developers are assholes. We want games, not a cash shop. You can keep your crummy DLC and stuff it up where the sun don't shine. It's bad enough that companies rehash the same crappy game over and over (yes, EA... concept of fun obviously escape you knuckle heads.) But now, cash shop disguised as "DLC". What's even worse, they got the gulls to put ads into games we already paid for. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

  • Umm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by neonmonk (467567)

    It'll catch on just as much as Radiohead's experiment caught on.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Only because most of the DLC has been worthless. Mass Effect II, ALL of the DLC has been 100% useless and or worthless. What would I pay for it? 0.00 and if I had prior knowlege not even waste the time downloading it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Thats because most DLC is stuff they didn't include in the original game because of laziness, time or greed.

      • by N1AK (864906)
        It's getting really worrying watching the slow extension of DLC and how it is protected.

        I don't buy DLC. This is because I dislike the hassle, I want to encourage a competitive games market (which DLC isn't) and I don't want to buy something I can arbitrarily lose access to. The idea of paying to extend games is not, however, something I have a problem with.

        I own Fallout 3, and the Fallout 3(goty?) edition with all expansions. I waited until prices dropped before buying both new. It was cheaper to wai
        • by nschubach (922175)

          So like Gamefly [wikipedia.org], but digital download version?

          Theoretically, it makes sense but without that disc and the lovely anti-copy measures they put in it would mean that any download service would have to have a peerless copy protection... and we know that doesn't happen or last long.

      • by grumbel (592662)

        Exactly, the thing with DLC is that it comes in so small packages that it is practically impossible for it to do anything meaningful. I don't care if it costs $3, $5 or $10, give me back the old $30 add-ons that actually felt like proper extension of the game and where long enough to actually do something. Most DLC just feels like an additional level, instead of an additional small story arc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You do realise that Radiohead's experiment granted them more income than if they had released through a RIAA inspired distributor? Even if the bulk of people pay nothing, the average income per copy sold is still higher.
      • You do realize that all you've done is try to deflect the point, right? How many other bands followed what Radiohead did? Are they more than you can count on one hand?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Mister Whirly (964219)
          There always has to be someone to do it first. Just becasue nobody immediately followed their strategy doesn't mean nobody else ever will. And now other bands can point to their example and say "See, it is possible".
  • How is this unique? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hadlock (143607) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @06:42AM (#33571392) Homepage Journal

    There have been multiple cases of "pay what you want" in the last year alone.
     
    Hell, even Slashdot ran an article about this back in march: http://games.slashdot.org/story/10/05/11/1932233/Indie-Pay-What-You-Want-Bundle-Reaches-1-Million [slashdot.org]
     
    They concluded that after removing those that paid less than five cents, the average price was around $9.20 [wolfire.com]. Hell, they even break it down by OS for you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Xest (935314)

      It's not unique, you see the people behind these types of schemes aren't doing it with the goal of groundbreaking news stories, they're doing it because generating a news story on sites like Slashdot, no matter how dull or inane simply by changing ever so slightly the method of selling means that they have increased their potential customer base by several orders of magnitude.

      Indies aren't trying to do something groundbreaking here, they're cashing in on the fact that editors are sites like Slashdot are stu

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Well, thanks for saving me the time of posting that.

        Further, GSB isn't even a particularly interesting "News For Nerds" project: it's not open source, it's not even cross platform, it's just written by a guy who likes to blog about the process, and who is (demonstrably) good at grabbing free publicity for his commercial games.

        Given the many (many) free and open source space combat games out there that Slashdot readers might be interested in reading about and playing, it's pretty sad and pathetic that th

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Cederic (9623)

          Thing is, GSB worked out at less than 10p/hour for me, and that's assuming I never play it again.

          I plan to play it again.

          Compare that to most free and open source space combat games that cost me precious time without entertaining me, and I'd rather give cash to the non-open but independent and well supported game that's fun to play.

          (On the flipside I hate DLC and so he's not getting a sale from me on this race. But I'll buy the campaign expansion when that's ready..)

  • by Mazca (1851182) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @06:46AM (#33571426)
    This experiment has been done before in some form, but it generally gives an option of paying nothing, and that's invariably the most popular option. I suspect this may give more interesting results - the main reason I'd often choose to pay nothing when given the option is because I can't be bothered to find my credit card for a tiny purchase. In this particular situation, users are forced to actually figure out a payment method, then make an objective decision about how much to pay. For a small indie developer with a loyal fanbase, I can see a fair proportion choosing the higher figure.
  • by Rix (54095) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @06:48AM (#33571436)

    Horse armor, or a quest that's obviously supposed to be in the game because you run into someone trying to give it to you, I will not.

    If I then have to pirate the whole game just to get around the DLC DRM, I will.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Horse armor (which didn't have an actual effect) is the kind of "I won't be buying it, but lol if you want to..." DLC and doesn't bother me at all. Regarding your other point, I'm guessing you played Dragon Age? What bothered me there was not that they had side-arcs for sale - there was quite many side quests to do anyway, I finished it at lvl 20 without getting any DLC - but that the damn salesmen were covert. Wasn't enough to piss me off into pirating it and still bought Awakening and will buy DA2, but se

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RobotRunAmok (595286)

      If I then have to pirate the whole game just to get around the DLC DRM, I will.

      Because the developers owe you entertainment?

      • by skine (1524819)

        Let's say three authors each write a book.

        The first writes his book. After it's finished, he decides to publish a short story which goes along with the book, but sells it separately. Perhaps it's about a secondary character, possibly building on a chapter that didn't make it into the final book, maybe a way of pulling together some of the loose ties at the end of the story, or even as the first in a series to build on the end of the book. However, the book is able to stand on its own.

        The second, seeing how

      • by Rix (54095)

        No more than I owe them patronage.

    • If I then have to pirate the whole game just to get around the DLC DRM, I will.

      Then all the essential components of your next game will become accessible only when you are on-line and only when your account is marked "paid in full."

      The moment the indie producer hears the word piracy is the moment he begins looking for a more secure platform - first on the console and then - maybe - on the Mac or Windows PC.

       

    • by Rayonic (462789) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @10:53AM (#33574052) Homepage Journal

      My personal pet peeve is games with a dozen little pieces of DLC, which get released but never get reduced in price (aside from the odd sale once in a blue moon.) My personal policy has been to wait for the "ultimate" or "game of the year" edition which has all the DLC bundled in. Because unless I'm playing with other people, there's no pressure on me to play a game right away. It's not like there's a shortage of games to play in the meantime.

      As for specific types of DLC, I'll give my takes on them:

      1. Expansion Pack - Great! A full-length or half-length expansion of the regular game is usually welcome.
      2. Mini Expansion - Good! The ones that act as an extension of the main game are better than the ones that are like side quests.
      3. Micro Expansion - Bad. By "micro", I mean a single extra quest or average dungeon, tacked on somewhere in the game world.
      4. Song Tracks - Fair game, as long as the original Guitar Hero/Rock Band game came with a good song selection.
      5. Extra Cars - Also fair, as long as they're not unbalanced in online play.
      6. Map Packs - Lame. Plus it divides the community between the people who bought it and those who haven't.
      7. Extra Items - Usually lame. Like a special weapon or armor that you're given early in the game. Often unbalanced.
      8. Cheats/Unlocks - Terrible. Paying for stuff that really should be free. Like paying to unlock all the fighting game's characters.
      9. Cosmetic Enhancements - Mixed bag. Harmless or cool in multiplayer games, pointless in single player games.
      10. New character - Wildly mixed. Maybe it means you can play through the game again in a whole new way. Or maybe he/she makes little difference. Or maybe they suck, like a really cheap or bad character in an online game.
      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        The best DLC I have seen is the stuff a lot of Korean games go with - purely superficial stuff.

        Killing Floor releases DLC character model packs every time they crank out a free update. You don't have to buy the DLC, but it supports the next update and it's only $2 so a lot of people go with it. That's the way to go with DLC IMO.

      • by Altrag (195300)

        5. Extra Cars - Also fair, as long as they're not unbalanced in online play.
        8. Cheats/Unlocks - Terrible. Paying for stuff that really should be free. Like paying to unlock all the fighting game's characters.

        Really? Why is a car in a racing game somehow a better DLC than a fighter in a fighting game? Just because they call it an "extra" instead of an "unlock" doesn't change that you have to pay more to get it. I suppose calling it an "unlock" implies that its already built into the game and specifically disabled until paid, whereas an "extra" sounds more like it gets downloaded when you pay.. but does it really make that much difference whether the locked bits came from the DVD or from the net?

        The same argum

  • No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lyinhart (1352173) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @06:49AM (#33571444)

    Will Microsoft start asking us whether or not we should get a discount and trust us to answer honestly?"

    Um... no. Not as long they control the distribution platform (i.e. Xbox Live). Also, they've already shown that they believe in the guilty until proven innocent by using product activation features in Windows.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      There's a way of proving you're innocent?

      • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jimicus (737525) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @08:18AM (#33572090)

        Yes, run Linux.

        (Please don't mod me funny. I'm serious - I've seen lots of people pirating Windows and Windows apps, I've seen lots of people running Linux for all sorts of reasons but I have never yet seen anyone run Linux because they can't pirate software. Because they don't want to pirate software (and perhaps can't afford to purchase legitimately), sure.)

        • by dbcad7 (771464)
          Pirating aside.. arrrgh .. I actually run Linux because I prefer the user experience I get. I tried the free trial of Windows 7.. and it was ok, I think it's acceptable.. but for the year I had it, I still spent well over 98 percent of my computer time in Linux.. So free trial, and name my own price, I still would not purchase it.. and truth be known, being "forced" to pay for either the MS product or Linux I would pay for Linux.. thank god I'm not forced.
  • Will Microsoft start asking us whether or not we should get a discount and trust us to answer honestly?

    It's definitely not say that we shouldn't be paying 1/30th the price of a game just to get a new character skin. Maps packs.. well after being brought up downloading 3rd party maps for free for Quake, Counter-Strike etc, it's pretty grating to have to pay for extra maps on a console. These days consoles are perfectly capable of downloading and storing extra maps, mods etc. Thankfully some games such as LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers are starting to let you do this, but I wish it would catch on with co

    • Is there an actual way to actually save maps in LBP, or can you only play them online? I've never seen the option, but then again it took four of us about 10 minutes to find where they'd decided to put my "favorites" planet in that so-bad-it-should-have-won-anti-awards interface of theirs, so...

      I'm worried that when they pull the servers the game will lose the huge value added by the community. The base game's pretty good, but the quirky community maps are why it still comes out sometimes when people are

      • I'm pretty sure you can copy maps locally to edit yourself, if the author has allowed it at least. Yes if they pull the servers things will suck, but I don't think that will happen for a while. Any maps for LBP 1 will work for 2 and so on. 2 looks seriously amazing with it's "platform for games" concept - can't wait to have a play around with it :)

  • It's not a $3 discount on the cheaper one, it's 100% profit on the more expensive.

    Preempting the altruistic "I'm funding future development" crowd with "I have bills to pay. I know he does to. Obviously $2.99 covers the cost, so his bills are paid. That $3 goes towards paying mine." More power to you if you have disposable income, you can spend it on his 100% markup if you choose, but you're a mug if you do.
    • by ctid (449118)

      Have you read what he wrote on the page? On what basis do you conclude that he is not being honest?

      • by schn (1795404)
        It all becomes clear with the motive "to make a buck".
        • by WhitetailKitten (866108) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @07:34AM (#33571704)
          Well, he's basically tesseracting the gap in time between when the DLC is released and the point where it goes on sale on Steam for half price (which is where it sells the most, according to him) by offering the DLC at the sale price, while also offering people who are willing to pay full price the option of paying what he feels his work on the content is actually worth.

          The fact that he expects to make money on his work should be no surprise. He's experimenting with different ways of doing it instead of trying the tried-and-tested-to-be-shit method of throwing your loyal paying fans under the DRM bus.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nedlohs (1335013)

            the steam bit is unsurprising I buy random stuff on steam when it goes on the 75% off, and stuff I'm pretty sure I'll like when it is on 50% off.

            That and the twice a year new game at full price covers my gaming completely - given how little time I have for gaming these days.

            In fact I get more enjoyment from the random steam stuff since there's no regret when I only play the game for a few hours and then give up on it when it only cost $7.50. Whereas to this day I still manage to buy the occasional complete

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Kilrah_il (1692978)

          I'm not sure if you meant it as a joke or not, but there is a trend going on that if someone is doing something to "make a buck" then he is evil (use spooky voice for last word). Hey, I am now at work and here to "make a buck", does that make me evil? Companies exist to make a buck, that's their purpose. Making a buck, in and of itself, is not evil. It is only bad when the things you do in order to make a buck are bad. To paraphrase: "Evil is as evil does". /rant

          • by mattack2 (1165421)

            Hey, I am now at work and here to "make a buck", does that make me evil?

            No, you're evil because you're posting to Slashdot on company time. Get back to work!

                                                    -Your Boss

            • You're not my boss. My boss doesn't read Slashdot. I'm not even sure he knows too much about the "ways of the computer".
              Shame on you.

              P.S.
              If you are my boss: Sorry.

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          What other motivation is there to sell something, especially something digital (so copies can be made for free)?

          And why do you imply that that's a bad motivation?

        • by westlake (615356)

          It all becomes clear with the motive "to make a buck".

          Should I assume you make your home in a Benedictine monastery?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kilrah_il (1692978)

      When I buy something I don't care if what I pay is enough to cover the costs of the developer/supplier/maker/etc. I buy something because I think the price is fair compared to what I get in return. Maybe 3$ is enough for the developer to pay the rent, maybe 5$ or maybe 0.10$. I don't know, but OTOH, I don't care! If I want to buy this expansion pack, the question, for me, is "Is this pack worth 6$ or 3$, considering where I come from and what I earn?". Maybe for a middle-class guy from the US the answer wil

    • by Derkec (463377) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @07:48AM (#33571824)

      Oh come on. No shit $2.99 covers the cost. It's digital. The incremental cost to the developer to ship another unit for a piece of software is tiny, tiny, tiny. Most of the $2.99 goes to profit, R&D and fixed costs.

      Now, he still needs to pay those developers who made the software, buy computers, rent office space, etc. I'm sure he's done the math and knows he can achieve that by selling X at $6 or 2X at $3. Of course, he could go open source, set the price at 0 and make it up on volume [/stupid slashdot joke]. In Econ 101 he would have read about the price curve that suggests that fewer people will buy at $6 but maybe not so much fewer that it isn't the better price for his business. For a businessman, the ideal scenerio is to charge everyone the most their willing to pay - price stratification. This is why you have coupons at the grocery store. People with little money and lots of time can clip coupons and pay less. People who have more money will not and will pay a higher price.

      The play here is not that he's trying to sell the 2X number with some paying $3 and some paying $6. He wants to first make sure he is able to break even by selling something like .5 X @ $6 and X @ $3. The $6 price helps him break even the same way the $3 price does. Plus, after Econ 101, you learn the price curve is somewhat BS in the first place. Part of what he's doing is stating "We think the product is worth $6, but are offering a 50% discount to poor people and assholes (distinct groups)." Now, regardless of why I look at the $3 price, I am much less likely to think, "Is $3 too much for this expansion?" because it's already a half off discount and be more likely to purchase. He may actually sell more units at $3 than he would have without the $6 option.

      These guys are just remarkably (for better or worse) upfront about the price stratification. He's also a freak'n brilliant marketer. Free publicity on Slashdot is a win.

      All software pricing is arbitrary. Always. It's up to a vendor to ask for what they think the product is worth, offer discounts / sales / etc to those who think it's worth less, and for the consumer to either purchase or not. The vendor needs to deliver a product that delivers a fair enough value that consumers will purchase their products again / not leave angry messages on forums or app stores.

      • In Econ 101 he would have read about the price curve that suggests that fewer people will buy at $6 but maybe not so much fewer that it isn't the better price for his business.

        But he's beaten your Spaniard, so he must have studied and in studying he would have learned that man is mortal, so you can clearly not choose the cup in front of him.

      • Econ 101 is pure junk. You can't even start to apply it to real world situations. Consider this, why do you think goods often have a high starting price mark and gradually reduce in price in the real world? Yes, you guessed it, this is calculus at work, specifically integration. In real world's case, you hit all price marks at all profit margins. The Econ 101 supply and demand curve meeting is nothing but horribly dumbed down to algebra version of what you see as reality. Actually I dare to say that we got

        • by Derkec (463377)

          Paragraph 3 - "Plus after Econ 101, you learn the price curve is somewhat BS".

          The real problem is that he seems to be thinking that if $3 covers the costs, $6 is greedy. He's ignoring anything fixed costs. And the real problem with price curve isn't it's degree of complexity but that for most of us not selling to huge numbers in various markets with massive research arms, we're blind to where demand comes in at various prices.

          Worse yet, we know that humans aren't rational. People who would never buy your pr

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770)

      I have bills to pay. I know he does to. Obviously $2.99 covers the cost, so his bills are paid.

      It seems you make the assumption that just because I'm selling it, I'm making money on it. That's quite naive, obviously I'm looking to make money overall but any particular sale might not be and even if I do make a margin on all sales the lower margin may not be enough to cover my fixed costs. I'll ignore the actual losses like loss leaders, promotional offers, clearance sales and so on since they're not very relevant to software, as the marginal cost is so low.

      But to return to games, just because all game

      • Bargain bin doesn't apply to digital software distribution. There is no stock to clear. There may well be promotions which reduce the cost, but the actual price of software sold through digital distribution is storage of one copy + bandwidth. So, when L4D went on sale at an 80% price reduction, it sold 1600% more than at the higher price. More profit from the lower price, if you can believe that.

        You've already stated, as others have, that the per unit cost is negligible as it is a digital reproduction of t
    • by mcvos (645701)

      If I played this game, liked it, and thought the DLC added anything of value, I'd happily pay $6. I like to support people who do stuff that I like. Besides, I clearly fall into the category that can afford $6, and I waste more than that on the silliest trivialities.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @07:19AM (#33571618)

    At least for me "DLC" reads as "Stuff we took out from the main release or would give out in a free update but now sell as extra to squeeze more money out of the customers", 'cause that's exactly what has been done by most publishers.

    Call it "expansion pack" or "small expansion pack".

    Next give some sort of no-monetary-value reward for people who pay the larger amount. Maybe easier access to the developer and the ability to suggest improvements for the next version.

    That said, is the "expansion pack" even worth the small amount? For all we know the two amounts listed are "more money than it's worth" and "way much more money than it's worth" and this is all a poor-man's advertising gimmick. Certainly getting the game to Slashdot will bring more sales.
    (Disclaimer: I have no idea if it's so or not. Maybe the use of the word "DLC" has put me in a overly-negative mind-set with regards to this and even the large amount is great value. Take my opinion with a pinch of salt).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      It's a content pack with a new race and 10 new ships for that new race, and the ships apparently have a different loadout configuration compared to the existing ships. Whether this is worth paying anything for is subjective. However, consider: This is an indie developer, not a major game studio with a multi-million-dollar budget. He doesn't just have a vault of cash sitting around to lay on after he's done tweaking the textures and packing them up for a free release.

      I think the idea of giving the choice o
      • by ledow (319597) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @08:06AM (#33571974) Homepage

        "Positech Games is an indie video game developer from the UK. Owned by ex-Lionhead Studios programmer Cliff Harris, the company was formed in 1997..."

        This is not a "guy in the backroom" kind of indie. This is a "breakaway from the large publisher's" indie. This guy used to work on The Sims and things like that. There is, incidentally, no such thing as a one-man company in the UK (as it claims on the website). You must, by law, have at least a Company Secretary as well - and they can't be the same person. It's probably his wife or something but still, it's misleading to claim a "one-man company", especially when he's hired people to do all sorts of work on those games.

        "Cliffski, of Positech Games, made $189,423 in 2008 from direct sales."

        That means he is way within the professional games league, and way within the scope of hiring, say, accountants, artists, programmers, and anything else, even if they don't work for his "company" (which is actually just a liability-sink for anything he does wrong).

        "As with many indie video game projects, development cost was a significant issue. After an initial experiment spending several hundred dollars to purchase stock spaceship models, Harris eventually solicited quotes from 3 different artists and selected the most expensive one. The user interface was constructed by Chris Hildenbrand, a UI expert, leaving Harris to do his own special effect and user module graphics."

        Thus, it's still not a one-man operation and actually he *did* hire texture artists to do all these things way before he even made a penny on it. So I'd personally expect a DLC to be a bit more than a couple of textures and some datafiles.

        I played GSB. It was a little bit like Critical Mass (http://www.windowsgames.co.uk/ - another indie developer) but with fancy graphics that killed my laptop, and a very boring, very un-interactive, main game. I'm not sure the DLC would be worth anything at all, considering the game barely qualified its purchase price for me.

        This is really just a PR stunt - I noticed Steam deals on the same things only the other day. This is just a way to get free publicity and, to be honest, this guy can afford to buy his own. I don't begrudge him a successful game, or a wage from paying customers, but to claim it's a one-man operation is a BIG stretch of the definition and there are thousands of others like him out there that don't need free advertising posing as a "unique event" that's happened many times in the past, especially for a very, very basic DLC add-on that could probably be knocked up in a matter of hours.

        As a former subscriber who has disabled adverts on this site, I'm more pissed off with Slashdot for posting this "event" than I am the developer trying to get some free press for his game, even if I don't like his game.

        • by Tacvek (948259)

          $189,423 is enough to qualify as a professional programmer, but is still very much indie professional development. It is also hardly enough to be hiring more than one or two employees full time.

          I will agree that if he is contracting out large portions of the work, like UI design and graphics, then the claim of a one-man company

          Also a one man "company" is very possible even in the UK. They are known as sole proprietorship. I'm not sure about UK law, but perhaps sole proprietorship are full liability there. I

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rogerborg (306625)

          "Cliffski, of Positech Games, made $189,423 in 2008 from direct sales." That means he is way within the professional games league,

          Pop quiz: how much did he make in 2006, 2007 and 2009?

          Multi-year development cycles result in feast-and-famine: it's an endemic problem in the industry. You've looked at peak earnings and assumed it was an average. Tsk, tsk: -1, Uninsightful.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Aceticon (140883)

          You must, by law, have at least a Company Secretary as well - and they can't be the same person

          Not anymore: the law was changed and since the beginning of this year a company secretary is not needed for small companies (revenue below £250,000 per-annum if I remember correctly).

          Even before that, it was possible (and common) to just pay a small amount to the guys that handled company formation or to some accountants and they would then do the company Secretary bit.

          I should know since I've had a one man

    • by martyb (196687)

      That said, is the "expansion pack" even worth the small amount? For all we know the two amounts listed are "more money than it's worth" and "way much more money than it's worth" and this is all a poor-man's advertising gimmick.

      You raise an interesting point: how do I know, beforehand, what the DLC is worth TO ME? It's like buying the proverbial "pig in a poke". Caveat emptor and all that.

      I'm not sure how to fix that, though. Nagware has been tried, to varying degrees of effectiveness. (If it were REALLY effective, it seems to me that it would have become the overriding norm and I've not seen that happen.)

      Ask for full payment up front and then after a particularly interesting/rewarding point in the game, ask if they want

    • I believe it is called an expansion pack, they just wanted to reduce the number of characters in the /. title I think.

      And I believe this is the third expansion, so their is little chance that any of the stuff in it was going to be in the original game.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @07:24AM (#33571644)

    ...but then I decided to buy the discount version, just to stick it to the developer.

    :-)

    Actually I disagree with his statement "Won't everyone just get the discount version? Possibly. I hope not. If they do, this experiment failed!" If the free publicity doubles the sales of the discount version, the experiment is a success.

  • DLC is tricky (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @07:34AM (#33571710) Homepage

    I'm all for DLC, don't get me wrong; I love the fact that new areas and items can be implemented after a game is released. I understand that releasing new content after a game's initial release isn't free; it costs developers and publishers money, but people really need to look at how much some DLC packs cost. That being said, sometimes publishers and/or developers do some really cool things. DLC that is available for free on launch day? Totally awesome...there was stuff that they really wanted to get into the game, and obviously ran out of time before the discs had to be pressed; I really appreciate it on the rare occasion when it occurs.

    But what's with DLC you have to pay for being released not even a week or two after a game is released? Couldn't you have just delayed the freakin' game for two weeks if it was that awesome?!? Seriously, publishers...if there is an amazing dungeon or a few great items that just absolutely HAVE to be in a game, give the developers the extra couple of weeks to implement them into the release version. Don't make us pay extra money because the game had to be released NOW NOW NOW, and there isn't time to include things that you should. Can you imagine if you had to pay for DLC to get the Spear in Secret of Mana, or if you had to pay for DLC to unlock secret ingredients in Secret of Evermore?

    Developers/publishers walk a fine line with DLC. [livingwithanerd.com] They need to be careful.

    • by Aladrin (926209)

      "Couldn't you have just delayed the freakin' game for two weeks if it was that awesome?!?"

      No. That would mean changing the dates they need the factories pressing the discs, and changing distribution dates... There's a ton of logistics that go into getting a product from Gold to Sold. Change it by 2 weeks and you incur a LOT of extra expenses.

      And don't forget how rabid fans get when you tell them something is delayed at the last minute. Nothing could be so cool to be worth delaying for 2 weeks.

      As for cha

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pojut (1027544)

        No. That would mean changing the dates they need the factories pressing the discs, and changing distribution dates... There's a ton of logistics that go into getting a product from Gold to Sold. Change it by 2 weeks and you incur a LOT of extra expenses.

        My point was meant to be theory rather than actuality, intended to focus on including features that you should have included from the beginning rather than released as paid DLC. If you can't include it in the disc because you ran out of time to include it in the original game, it should be released for free...which is something else I touched on in my post.

        All that being said, I realize no one is going to delay a product by a couple of weeks for DLC-sized content. Again, it was used just to get a point ac

    • The DLC is done when the game is released. They're purposefully taking it out to wring a couple extra bucks out of you on the purchase price. Also note that some publishers have upped their price by $10 in the first place, yet still gouge for DLC. I don't know what they're thinking, other than "hey, these dumb fucks are willing to spend a couple bucks on horse armor and a couple shitty maps, we need to get in on this goldmine!".
  • by McGiraf (196030)

    lol, the buttons background, maggots for discount, tropical island for normal price.

    Wonder if that made a difference on ratios of discounted/normal price clicks.

    • I came here to say this, but I think it's ramen noodles on the left, tropical island on the right. Definitely made me laugh.
  • can work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @08:05AM (#33571968) Homepage Journal

    I sell a bit of stuff online - skyboxes and tools for indie game developers. With one of my tools I made a similar "experiment". I offer the very same product at four different prices, from 10 to 50 bucks. I'm very upfront about it and basically say "you know what the time you save with these tools is worth to you, pay what you find fair".

    Turns out that my most optimistic estimates were about spot on. About half of the buyers pick the lowest price, the rest pays more. And yes I've sold several for the highest price.

    My lesson from that is that people will treat you fairly if you treat them fairly - be honest about what you offer, tell them up front what the deal is, give them your trust and let them do the right thing. You'll be surprised at how often they will.

    Meanwhile, with computer games we're pretty much back where we were in the early 90s when we all traded floppy discs on the school yard and didn't think anything off it. Since you are continuously being treated like a criminal by the software companies, even if you are a perfectly honest customer, with all their limited activations, and DRM and invasive copy protection and key and so on, heck, if you treat me like a criminal anyways, give me one reason to not become one.

  • But at least in the Android Marketplace, this is common. Applications often come in a free (as in beer) version, and a "donate" version (as in, buy the developer a beer). Both versions are the same, only one you don't make a transaction. By all accounts it works rather well, but I have a feeling it is because users feel closer to developers then what is typical in more traditional distribution channels.
  • by smallja (885350) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @08:24AM (#33572134)

    For those who don't know, it's a small game, well executed on a small budget. Thirty years ago, it is the kind of thing that made me want to enter the business of writing programs. Now most games (phone Apps aside) are multi-multi-million dollar productions, and just like Hollywood, once they start they can't seem to pull the plug once they realize they're off the mark, "I mean somebody will buy this steaming pile and pay top dollar, we're (fill in the blank studio)".

    I have found their business model to be fair: free trials, previews at reduced price at late beta (like a week or two before shipping), all the kinds of things you'd want from a small developer trying to make it in a tough business environment against all odds at the same time treating the customer right; I don't resent them finding incremental revenue in an almost predictably fair way.

    We all know it's about market segmentation: buy coffee at McD's, buy it at Starbucks, make it at home, run a sale, use a coupon. These guys are just pretty transparent about it.

    The game even supports modding, so if you don't want to pay them ever again, you can go in and edit everything yourself.

  • This sounds a little like comcast pricing many different prices for the same thing.

  • They're creations of GREEDY game publishers, pure and simple, and I won't buy into either one. Unfortunately, enough people do, so more and more stuff is withheld from the game in favor of extra-cost expansions and DLC.

    Sims 3 is banned here at home because of that, and EA's great success at getting kids to beg (read as: annoy) their parents until they give-in (if you have a pile of Sims boxes at home, I dare you to add up the release-day prices of all of them).

    • I dare you to add up the costs of your newspapers. Magazine subscription. Phone line.

      And I just keep buy clothes after clothes and what have I got to show for it? Rags! Must have spend thousands on them over my life.

      Stuff costs money.

      How "complete" should a game be?

      Is a car complete because I can buy add-ons for it? Is Ford to blame that I need to replace to mats after a couple of years? Why does the car not come with a lifetime supply of fuel?

      A game has X amount of content. If more content is created

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        The problem is there's been no shortage of developers in the last while, and publishing houses that push them so that content is already in the game but in order to get it you have to pay 'extra'. Which would be the same as having AC in the car, but having to spend an extra $300 to get the button to unlock it. Or having remote locks and starter. But then charging you an extra $1k for the remote.

        Fun stuff about cars: Most have extended warranties on plenty of things. Interior items that are factor are u

    • by mjwx (966435)
      Expansions and DLC are complteley different things. Keep in mind I'm talking about PC expansions.

      Expansion packs are like half a game at half the cost, they provide a lot of new content and allow a developer to make more money whilst reusing a lot of code and assets whilst adding some new content. A good example is StarCraft BroodWar. Recently the idea of Expandalones which are based on the same principal but do not require the purchase of the original game, a good example is ARMA II Operation Arrowhead.
  • Will Microsoft start asking us whether or not we should get a discount and trust us to answer honestly?

    No.

  • In my opinion, there's two types of DLC. DLC that should've been in the game to begin with but wasn't because they wanted to squeeze a few extra bucks out of the game. And then there's DLC developed a few months to a year after the game has been released. Obviously, I hate the idea of crippling games so I'm clearly not in favor of the first type of DLC. The second type seems great, but when I buy a game new and beat it, I'm rarely that into a game to go back and figure out exactly how to play it a year late
  • You used to get these sequels for games, which later on turned into expansions and then developed into this DLC thing. These days atleast the major companies plan a lot ahead. They tell the developers what to do in advance. Developers accept the terms because they need money to make the games. In these contracts, the developer is required to do updates to the game for period of time or even a sequel - or DLC, which is propably more cost free to do.

    If the developer is owned by larger company, then they ev

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