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Examining Indie Game Pricing 188

Posted by Soulskill
from the in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-fivespot dept.
As the second Humble Indie Bundle flourishes, having taken in over $1.5 million in pay-what-you-want sales, the Opposable Thumbs blog has taken a look at indie game pricing in general, trying to determine how low price points and frequent sales affect their popularity in an ocean of $60 blockbusters. Quoting: "... in the short term these sales are a good thing. They bring in more sales, more revenue, and expand the reach of games that frequently have very little marketing support behind them, if any. For those games, getting on the front page of Steam is a huge boost, putting it in front of a huge audience of gamers. But what are the long-term effects? If most players are buying these games at a severely reduced price, how does that influence the perception of indie games at large? It's not an easy question to answer, especially considering how relatively new these sales are, making it difficult to judge their long-term effects. But it's clear they're somewhat of a double-edged sword. Exposure is good, but price erosion isn't. 'When it comes to perception, a deep discount gets people playing the game that [they] wouldn't play otherwise, and I think that has both positive and negative effects,' [2D Boy co-founder Ron Carmel] told Ars. 'The negative is that if I'm willing to pay $5 but not $20, I probably don't want to play that game very much, so maybe I'm not as excited about it after I play it and maybe I drive down the average appreciation of the game.'"
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Examining Indie Game Pricing

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  • IMO (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Personally, I wouldn't have bought those games at larger price. Gish and World of Goo maybe, but others are so so and not that interesting. You will find lots of more fun from Steam sales or Good Old Games. But since I could get them cheaply (I paid $5 so I'm not a total jackass), could as well get them to fill up my Steam games list.

    • don't have the huge burden of marketing costs associated with major developers, you don't have to pay a huge team, you don't have to box and ship your product.

      In short, there is no price erosion when your profit margin is actually higher per unit than the big publishers, even at 10% of the ticket price.

      • don't have the huge burden of marketing costs associated with major developers

        But for games in genres not traditionally associated with PCs, indie game developers still have the cost of leasing a secure office in which to put the console devkit.

    • Re:IMO (Score:5, Informative)

      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @06:15AM (#34650382) Journal

      Exactly. One of the nice things about PC gaming is there is NO shortage of good cheap games, which means you can't royally screw PC gamers on price unless you are talking a just released AAA game, and even then it better be good or word of mouth will kill sales quick.

      For an example of cheap games for the PC look no further than the Good Old Games Xmas sale [gog.com] where there is 290 GAMES ON SALE with most of them half off! I just picked up Unreal 2 SE, Spellforce Platinum Edition, and Evil Genius, all for just $16 and change. This let me snatch up some games I missed the first time around and at dirt cheap. Oh and ALL work on X64 as well as x86 and NO DRM!!!

      So I have to agree that it isn't so much about the "perception" that the low price brings as much as it is we PC gamers have an abundance of choices, which means you have to offer better prices if you are an indie. Of course the flip side of that is the low barrier to entry, as the consoles can be quite high when it comes to SDKs, and then there is securing a deal, which Nintendo doesn't even allow garage outfits, do they? With PC gamers we frankly don't care where a game company resides, hell make it in your basement. Make it good, give us a good (preferably cheap) price, and as in TFA you CAN make good money. Sure you probably won't become the next EA, but you don't have to act like asses like EA either.

      • by sgtrock (191182)

        'nuff said. :)

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by morari (1080535)

        Maybe we should be looking at the real problem? Video games, all video games, are laughably over priced. $60 isn't the kind of price point that a ten hour long FPS should garner.

      • One of the nice things about PC gaming is there is NO shortage of good cheap games

        There is if you're looking for games for your home theater PC. Most PC gamers don't have a home theater PC, so they mostly play single-player and online games that fit in with the model of one mouse, one keyboard, one monitor, and one desk. This causes PC game developers to concentrate on desktop PCs to the exclusion of home theater PCs, and some genres have only token offerings on the PC platform. Instead of developing HTPC games, indie developers feel they have to release an unrelated single-player or onl

  • more demos (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bakamorgan (1854434) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:10AM (#34649794)
    Need more demos for games. Sometimes a game looks like shit but may play really well or vice versa. I'm more willing to download a demo or a game with limited features then I am just to plunk down some cash after only seeing only a handful of screen shots and no video.
    • by Bert64 (520050)

      Some of the demos are fairly poor tho...
      A few years ago, there was a platform game called "the lion king"... The demo of which, was the first level.
      I played that first level on the demo, it was pretty good, well thought out level, reasonable level of difficulty, nice graphics and sound.
      So i bought the full game, turns out subsequent levels were very half assed, too difficult and there was no way to save your progress so you were stuck repeatedly going through the early levels only to die in the later ones.

      • by g4b (956118)

        lion king demo - funny i played that too. A lot.

        but I went with descent, as it came to whishes. Now in descent full game was as exciting as the demo levels. :)

    • by dangitman (862676)

      I'm more willing to download a demo or a game with limited features then I am just to plunk down some cash after only seeing only a handful of screen shots and no video.

      But are you more likely to buy the game? I doubt that most people would. Somebody is excited about a game - downloads the demo, and it doesn't measure up to their excitement, so they don't purchase it.

      Contrast with games that don't have a demo available - person gets excited about a game, can't download demo, so purchases game. Person is disappointed in game, but tough shit - their money is already spent. So they'll probably keep playing the game to try and get some 'value' out of the money they have spent.

      • by g4b (956118)

        If this is how it is supposed to work then, no wonder, that obtaining illegal copies of the game is still the number one strategy of many game classics to get major attention. (did even work for operating systems)

        I think on the PC market, selling many games is still based very much on the quality of the game - especially in multiplayer. But PC gaming sector is mainly hardcore gamers anyway. Most revenues are created through console titles. Not sure, how it is with demos there.

      • Person is disappointed in game, but tough shit - their money is already spent.

        You mean tough shit for the publisher as the end user doesn't buy more games from that publisher. After the disappointment of Animal Crossing 3 for Wii, which brought next to no significant new features compared to Animal Crossing: Wild World for DS other than a strip mall and voice chat and specifically lacked 2-player split screen or multiple towns on one console, I haven't bought any more Wii games.

    • Most if not all the game in the bundle have a demo.
    • And as well as being a demo, it has to be a representative demo. I was quite excited about Brutal Legend, but when I played the demo it didn't seem that special. I waited until it was around half of the retail price before buying it.

      Then I found out that it was actually an open world sandbox style game, and the demo only included a linear section that was meant as a kind of tutorial. I was annoyed that I hadn't just bought the game sooner, it was well worth full price.

      if I'm willing to pay $5 but not $20, I probably don't want to play that game very much, so maybe I'm not as excited about it after I play it and maybe I drive down the average appreciation of the game.'

      Bullshit. You're obviously not very exc

    • If the price point is low enough and the concept blurb sounds interesting, I'll sometimes buy a game sight unseen on steam. Sure, this has gotten me a couple stinkers, but then I'm just out the two dollars that I might have easily have blown on a disgusting energy drink in a shiny new can (I'm a sucker for those too).

      The difference is that, while my kidneys will turn the energy drink into a fruity scented memory in just a couple hours, the developer has the potential to fix the issues with their game later

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:11AM (#34649798) Homepage Journal

    But it's clear they're somewhat of a double-edged sword.

    Does it give a strength bonus, an extra attack, or +D3 hit points?

  • by RsG (809189) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:14AM (#34649806)

    I've bought quite a few indie games off of steam and a couple of older titles off of GOG, all of them for less than twenty bucks a pop, and in most cases I feel I got my money's worth. I don't think I'd have bought most of them at triple-A retail prices, not because I'm a cheapskate, but because the games in question aren't valuable enough to me to justify the higher price tag.

    I should also point out that most high profile games don't meet my criteria for the higher price tag either. Of the games I've bought this year, I can only think of two that were worth paying sixty at launch. For everything else, I've waited until the price dropped, or it went on sale. I don't think that the average gamer decides what a fair price ought to be based on what the average price is; we balance how many hours of entertainment we're going to get out of a game, and then decide what we think of as a good price for those hours. I've certainly felt ripped off in the past, buying a game at launch only to find it's only good for a few hours of play, hence my current purchasing habits.

    Worrying about price erosion seems like looking at the problem backwards. Make a game worth charging sixty bucks for, and you'll sell it for sixty. Make it worth forty, and you might sell copies at sixty, but many gamers will wait for the price to come down before they buy. And the days of a game only being on the store shelves for a month before being taken down are rapidly vanishing, along with the shelves and the brick-and-mortar stores that house them.

    • I should also point out that most high profile games don't meet my criteria for the higher price tag either. Of the games I've bought this year, I can only think of two that were worth paying sixty at launch. For everything else, I've waited until the price dropped, or it went on sale. I don't think that the average gamer decides what a fair price ought to be based on what the average price is; we balance how many hours of entertainment we're going to get out of a game, and then decide what we think of as a

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>because the games in question aren't valuable enough to me to justify the higher price tag.

      It's true. I felt ripped off by Halo: Reach's $60 price tag, but then again I got a $20 gift certificate to Best Buy when I bought it, so I felt that price was more fair.

      Likewise, I waited for Front Mission Evolved to drop to $20 new (which took all of a month... the game sold so badly they still had preorder cards to give out with it) - which was a fair price for a game that was all "Pro: giant robot combat,

    • Your post reminds me of an Obligatory bash [bash.org] Quote.

  • Blah blah blah (Score:5, Informative)

    by RocketRabbit (830691) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:15AM (#34649808)

    An indie developer studio can charge $5-15 per game and most of the cash goes to the people who made it. A traditional big studio game sells for $50 and maybe ten cents goes to the developers. The rest goes to a faceless corp that is manned by MBas who hate games anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Opportunist (166417)

      Guess the message to devs is "cut the slack, keep the dough".

      Now only musicians have to catch on.

      • Not really (Score:5, Informative)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @05:29AM (#34650198)

        Captain anti-corporate there doesn't know what he's talking about.

        First off, almost all games for big companies are works for hire. What that means is that the company employs the developers, designers, producers, artists, and so on to make the game. It can be as a full time or contract employee. Sometimes it is a regular salaried job (often the case for developers), sometimes it is a hourly contract (like $X/hour spent testing or something), sometimes it is a specified contract (like $Y to produce a musical score for the game). At any rate it is a very up front sort of arrangement, much of it very normal "employee works full time for employer" sort of thing.

        The next thing is that these AAA titles are MASSIVE in terms of the teams that work on them. It isn't a developer, it is a team. Take Mass Effect 2. It credits 1 lead programmer, 1 assistant lead, 26 programmers, 3 localization programmers, and 6 additional programmers. So just on the pure "coding" part of development, there were 37 people. There were also all sorts of designers, testers, artists, voice actors, and so on. So, that no one person got a millions of dollars, even though the game had a multi-million dollar budget, is unsurprising. All those salaries and contracts add up to a lot.

        Finally, as this all implies, the financial risk is assumed by the publisher. They pay people for their work, as the game is being developed. If it tanks, well the publisher is out their investment. If it succeeds, they make money. This isn't like an indy title where you put in work and hope to make money in the future and if it bombs, you get nothing for it. The people who made the game are compensated regardless of success.

        Now I'm not saying all developers are paid what they ought to be (part of the problem is there is a bit of over supply since so many people want to make games) or that the publishers don't often make a lot of money (though many of them have gone through tough times, Atari has been bleeding red ink as of late). What I am saying is it is nothing like the music industry "We pay you a tiny royalty and deduct everything from it," system. It is very much a normal "pay for work" system as most of us have for jobs.

    • The rest goes to a faceless corp that is manned by MBas who hate games anyway.

      Oh no, they love games because they can make a lot of money off of them. Just look at the relatively recent DLC trend which is massively overpriced. Oh perhaps dedicated server binaries for PC games which as far as I've read (feel free to correct me) must be licensed by game server providers. The binaries aren't released publicly (CoD, BFBC2). Or even things you only get if you buy the game first hand but if you buy it second hand you have to pay extra to get those things (if you want them).

      Let's see what

    • That's not really true. The $50 pays the wages and rents for the shop, publisher and developer. It pays to manufacture the game, to ship it and to advertise it.

      This idea that the lowly developer gets virtually nothing and everything else goes to a guy that looks like the monopoly guy is past its due date.

      That and a lot of developers certainly aren't starving. If it's so bad they can man up and do it on their own like others.
    • by brit74 (831798)

      An indie developer studio can charge $5-15 per game and most of the cash goes to the people who made it. A traditional big studio game sells for $50 and maybe ten cents goes to the developers. The rest goes to a faceless corp that is manned by MBas who hate games anyway.

      Do you have a source for that? I'm just thinking the "maybe ten cents goes to the developers" is more of a rash assumption based on lack of knowledge and the belief that the suits always take 99%. It's been a while since I examined big-bu

  • Intangible product (Score:4, Interesting)

    by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:16AM (#34649818) Homepage

    We need to keep in mind that online game sales are intangible products. Sure, as a publisher you're paying a few pennies for the download, but the difference is quite negligible, whether you sell 10 copies at $50, or 100 copies at $5. People are already used to "community support", i.e. forums, so if a lower price results in a greater net profit, there's no reason not to aim for such.

    Indie games have such small user bases that the growth potential is tremendous. By selling the game at a very low price, you're effectively buying customers. If you do a good job of entertaining them, they will buy your next game. It's nearly-free publicity, which is good because at that level, the game house probably can't justify the expense of a real marketing campaign. Realistically, if you're bringing in less than six figures with your product, be it a game or app, you're better off lowering the price and considering that discount your "marketing cost", rather than paying up-front for promotion which may or may not recoup the investment. Why gamble the company when you can get rich slowly ?

    • by Skuto (171945)

      you're better off lowering the price and considering that discount your "marketing cost"

      I think this is the key point in the article. The developers lower their games' price because it increases sales and gets them into the top x charts, which further increases sales. The lower sales price costs money to the developer. If you have more people competing for this marketing/top x position, the price gets driven down, and revenues too.

      You can compare this to traditional marketing, and I guess it's a similar proposition, with AAA titles having huge marketing budgets. There prices get driven up, so

  • Problem is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blahplusplus (757119) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:20AM (#34649830)

    ... indies are competing with discounted AAA games from years prior. It's hard to charge ~$20+ dollars for an indie game when you can get yesteryears hit games for the same or less.

    • Re:Problem is... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @04:34AM (#34650044)

      Not quite.

      You'll notice two things in indie games:

      First, the quality is going up. Way up. It gets easier and easier every day to make good content in little time. Free engines are by no means inferior to commercial ones anymore. And a fair lot of ambitioned young artists are very willing to work for little to no money on a game project so they finally have something to tack to their resume.

      And second, they cater to a completely different market. You will not find a lot of indie FPS or indie MMOs. They exist, actually, but few can go toe to toe with AAA titles. But you get a lot of puzzle games, strategy games, simulations. A market almost left bare by the main studios. Maybe it's not sought after enough for them, but that's where indies shine. These games also incidentally don't need killer graphics to be a hit. Simply because the game idea behind it makes or breaks the game, not flashy effects.

      And, bluntly, those flashy effects wear off very, very quickly. To give you an example, I still play Civ 3 and Patrician II from time to time. But when did I pick up that Battlefield 2142 the last time? I can't remember.

      • And a fair lot of ambitioned young artists are very willing to work for little to no money on a game project so they finally have something to tack to their resume.

        That is what keeps salaries down - there is always someone willing to work cheap to gain "resume points." which means the ones building their resumes get caught in the "I can get someone cheaper" trap and eventually bemoan the amount of people willing to work for next to nothing to gain experience.

        • I "suffer" from the same, you have no idea how many people want to try their hand at IT security. Hey, it's cool to "hack stuff".

          But just as with everything, you get what you pay for. And with artists, that experience means mostly that they know how to work to specs. I've had my share of "intern artists" during my time in game dev. They are usually not any "worse" than experienced artists when it comes to their ability to create graphics. But with experience comes the ability to work well to specs. A good g

      • by Whorhay (1319089)

        The flashy graphics thing is dead on in my opinion.

        Look at the success of Minecraft as an extreme example. Laughably bad graphics but superb gameplay so far as a giant sandbox game goes.

        WoW is/was a more moderate example. The graphics were never really great, but the art and style it delivers along with the quality of gameplay has hooked millions into subscribing.

    • by bazorg (911295)

      Discounted games of yesteryear may or may not work on your current hardware+OS combination. These Indie games are getting current support from developers and feedback from other users. I say the Humble Bundle initiative has an outstanding merit in terms of consumer "education".

    • by CrazyJim1 (809850)
      Yes. There are discounted used games, and free indie games. The market says if you can get a substitute good for a lot less, you might go with it.

      When there was nothing that compared to Super Mario Bros 1, people were willing to pay 50$ for it. If Super Mario Bros 1 debuted in 2011, it wouldn't make as much money as it did in 1985. People expect more now for less money. It is just how the market works.

      I'm a video game developer myself, and I don't see anything wrong with this. I think it is a g
  • by Winckle (870180)

    Seriously, that's the price. So many indie games try to push for $15 or $20 and there's just something in my mind that refuses to even consider it, or considers it far too steep.

    Even though rationally I can say "well it's just $5 difference" for some reason I baulk at the price.

    • I have to agree. I had serious trouble deciding to pay $12 for an indie game the other day. I was absolutely addicted to the demo and had run out of stuff to do there. But that extra $2.00 made it a much tougher decision. It's a mental game, when something is only $10.00 it's almost like not spending money to me. When it's more, I have to put it in the budget.
    • It depends on the game, if you ask me. The next version of castle defense certainly does not warrant a price tag of 20 bucks. But a well done strategy game that is on par with the old Might&Magic series, why not?

      What it comes down to is simply, how many hours of enjoyment will I get out of it?

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        A good castle defense game is harder to do well than a knockoff of HoMM.

        What it comes down to is simply, how many hours of enjoyment will I get out of it?

        What it comes down to for me is how many hours went into it. Or more to the point, how many hours should have gone into it.

        • Well, bluntly, as a customer I don't care how many hours went into it. By that logic, Duke Nukem Forever (should it ever see the light of day) would probably cost more than my current machine. I doubt that I'll get a hundred times more enjoyment out of it than any other AAA title, though.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            If more hours went into it, provided competence it will have more resale value. So both are relevant... But I expect to pay more for something that takes more to produce. I won't unless I expect to enjoy it that much more, as you say, as well.

    • by Legion303 (97901)

      $20-25 is actually my price point for games. But I won't pay that for some cheap Flash-based puzzler that the developer wrote over the weekend. I've spent about that much on Darwinia, Multiwinia and the truly amazing Defcon from Introversion, and I believe another $15 for the XBLA version of Darwinia. I do rarely go above this, but only for something I feel is really worth the extra outlay (e.g., X-Plane 9 with its 6 DL DVDs of Satellite imagery covering nearly the entire planet).

      For more casual games, like

  • by mykos (1627575) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @03:21AM (#34649840)
    If someone decided that Mass Effect 2 was worth $30 to them, but the publisher of Mass Effect wouldn't sell it for less than $50, then the publisher will get $0 because the customer will wait for it to come up cheap & used, not buy it at all, or pirate it.

    Publishers who suffer massively from piracy should re-think their product pricing. A customer will only pay what they want anyway.
    • I agree with you, but for sake of argument and as a former software pirate I would say most who do pirate AAA games can reason their decision at any price point.
      • by tepples (727027)

        as a former software pirate I would say most who do pirate AAA games can reason their decision at any price point.

        For example, people living outside Japan pirate Mother and Mother 3 because they were never officially published outside Japan, and most gamers don't have $22 billion to buy a controlling interest in Nintendo.

  • by unity100 (970058)
    where are they ? i havent seen once since late 90s.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cjnichol (1349831)

      where are they ? i havent seen once since late 90s.

      Starcraft 2 came out this year and I think it was $60.

    • You haven't bought game in awhile then have you?
    • by radish (98371)

      I assume you're trying to make some kind of clever point which is way above my head, but in case you're actually being serious, I point you to basically every major game of the last 5 years. The biggest blockbuster of them all is Call of Duty : Black Ops which sold at least (depending on which source you use) 5.6m copies on it's first day, and cost $60 in the US on all platforms.

  • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@slashd[ ]fi ... m ['ot.' in gap]> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @04:01AM (#34649960) Homepage

    Low prices are exactly what the gaming industry needs...
    The production costs of a game are a one-off cost, the actual media/distribution cost is trivial which means that even priced at $1 the game can be profitable with enough sales. Now if the price is low enough, more people will buy it - look at iphone games, i know plenty of people who would never bother buying full priced games but are quite happy to pay $5 or less for an iphone game.
    And of course, when the prices are low enough you squeeze the for-profit pirates out of the market (writable media costs a lot more than having thousands of copies pressed).

    At $5 it becomes a casual purchase, but at $60 it's a purchase seriously worth thinking about for most people..

    • It's the insane production price that forces them to charge insane per copy prices. If you have production costs that rivals that of movies, and you know that you can only sensibly sell so many copies, you have to charge enough per copy to cover that cost. And let's not forget that the CEO wants his bonus.

      Maybe the solution is rather to cut the production costs. Come to think of it, the same applies to movies. Care to tell me what warrants a multi million wage for some actor?

      • by dangitman (862676)

        Care to tell me what warrants a multi million wage for some actor?

        That they can pull millions of people to a movie that would otherwise be a flop?

        • Oh yeah, definitly, Matrix would not have worked with any other actors. I mean, who can say "whoa" like Keanu. It was by no means the FX or the gimmicks.

          Gimme a break...

      • by Whorhay (1319089)

        I believe the post you are responding to directly addressed the idea that a specific game can only sell a specific number of copies regardless of price.

        My budgeted monthly free spending allowance comes to $40. That's for me to use however I see fit, eating out for lunch, buying a snack at work, buying a book for entertainment, buying a video game etc etc. Do you see how making the starting point for a game $60 puts me out of the market for a new copy. If I ever do get that game it'll likely be a second hand

  • Bungie's Pathways into darkness on the Mac. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathways_into_Darkness [wikipedia.org]
    Nothing "up front pricing", "MS", "Sony", "closed systems" "DRM" ect. is holding people back anymore.
    People have the websites, codebooks, bandwidth, forums, art work, cpu, gpu, ram ect ie start making something wonderful.
    The floppy, boxes, shelf space deals, pressing cd's, magazine reviews, stalls, closed print only game press ... what are todays 'young' developers worried about?
    Find an engine with the right
    • Re:Think back to (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Confusador (1783468) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @04:15AM (#34650000)

      This. We've even recently pointed out [slashdot.org] how possible it is. You absolutely must be creative, though, and come up with novel gameplay that a lot of people (not necessarily including yourself) will enjoy. You will never be able to compete with the big houses on the quality of your art, but if you provide compelling gameplay people will beat a path to your door.

    • Re:Think back to (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Skuto (171945) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @04:27AM (#34650024) Homepage

      >Find an engine with the right contract (free), code it up (free) art it up (free), add sounds (free/low cost bulk deals), music (free if skilled/a
      >band friend?), spin up a really good press release with a few (many) thousands of US$ to get your brand out.

      Unless you found a place for cheap slave labor, it won't be that easy. You might some people who want to do some of this for free, but getting all of them aligned and agreeing on a game is no small feat. Or maybe you're a superstar who can do all of this by him or herself. In that case, kudos.

      I'm sure the path to good indie games is filled with unfinished, directionless projects and games severely lacking in one area or another.

      • by Legion303 (97901)

        "Unless you found a place for cheap slave labor, it won't be that easy. [...] Or maybe you're a superstar who can do all of this by him or herself."

        This is no longer the case. If you can make music and script a little, you can churn out games quite easily with something like Unity 3D. Whether they're any good will probably depend on how creative you are, but it really isn't hard these days at all.

        • by brit74 (831798)

          If you can make music and script a little, you can churn out games quite easily with something like Unity 3D. Whether they're any good will probably depend on how creative you are, but it really isn't hard these days at all.

          If it were really that easy, I'm sure there would be an avalanche of great indie games - which, of course, would increase competition, driving down sales again. The reality is that you have to be head and shoulders over what other indie developers are doing. Also, there's something ab

      • by Legion303 (97901)

        Addendum: and if you can't make music, you can bring a recorder into an empty field and record ambient sound loops for your game. Still 100% free assuming you already have something that can record.

  • The submitter of this summary tacked the humble bundle on this news piece horribly. In actual fact the opposable thumbs piece makes no mention of it and for good reason. It doesn't make sense within the context of lowering prices and users expectations.

    The humble bundle was pay what you want hence there is no influence from the developer putting a cheap price tag on their produce thereby cheapening other indy games. In fact the humble bundle mentions that if you bought all the games then you'd normally be p

  • by imunfair (877689) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @04:29AM (#34650030) Homepage

    "When it comes to perception, a deep discount gets people playing the game that [they] wouldn't play otherwise, and I think that has both positive and negative effects," Carmel told Ars. "The negative is that if I'm willing to pay $5 but not $20, I probably don't want to play that game very much, so maybe I'm not as excited about it after I play it and maybe I drive down the average appreciation of the game.

    I very much disagree with this sentiment. Maybe he's referring to reviewer scores, but appreciation itself is not a zero sum game. If person A loves a game, and person B only enjoys it slightly - there was still more enjoyment derived than if only person A had played it...

    I love buying games at $5-10 - not only do I get ~7 for the price of a new retail game, but there isn't any urge to "get my moneys worth". If I enjoy it great - and if not I don't feel bad because it was only a couple bucks - on to the next one. That's how it should be - getting something you enjoy, not feeling pressured to play something you really don't because you paid a lot for it.

    Also from a marketing perspective I would expect to see more glowing reviews this way - people who don't care probably won't talk about your game - but there will be a few that picked it up on a whim and loved it. Those are the people who will tell their friends about the great deal/gem they found.

    • by Xgamer4 (970709)
      Even more than this. I actually read the article (surprise!) and, while the article calls sales a double-edged sword, nothing in there seemed to actually support that claim. The biggest claim seemed to be that lowering the price drives the average price per game down. Which is... bad, supposedly? It didn't explain how. The rest of the article talked about how lowering the price attracted more eyes and more sales, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's taken a basic econ course. It also talks bri
      • by mrsmiggs (1013037)
        Steam and mainstream publishers often engage in classic skimming pricing, start and work their way down to nearly free. We're currently at the point where so many games are at pocket money prices that there seems to be little incentive for gamers to actually buy at the top end of the price range, indie games aren't driving this the mainstream publishers and distributors are, but the indie developers have very little choice but to participate else they face being priced out the market. The problem as far as
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      On the other hand, making a release that doesn't actually work (i.e. Machinarium) or which is troublesome and pisses users off (i.e. Mouse handling for Revenge of the Titans under Compiz... you have to use Window Rules to make it work right) will get you some press right away...

      (I thought Revenge of the Titans was the only game in this bundle worth playing, if you don't count Osmos, which was in the last one, so I don't count it, since I bought it in the last bundle. And then they just added the first bundl

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      I was going to say the same thing. It strikes me as hipster bullshit. "I'd rather have 1 person absolutely fanatically devoted to my game, than 10,000 who thought it was OK, even though I'd still have that same one person fanatically devoted!" That's just absurd. OK, if that one person is a hipster too, maybe they wouldn't still have them "Man, I liked this game when nobody liked it. Now it's too mainstream, SELLOUTS"
  • They are the app provider for the pc world. Apps take less money and commitment, but provide satisfaction none-the-less.

    I see and era emerging of apps and blockbusters...quality existing on both sides when necessary.

    Argue with me, tell me there isn't a niche for both?

  • Still has some interesting things to offer.
    I was interested in Machinarium anyway.
    Although World of Goo is unplayable (graphics error causes my displays to flash like strobe lamps). Disappointing, considering dual-monitor setups are common enough to warrant including it during the test phase.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I use a program called "disper" to toggle between single and dual-monitor. Amusingly, after I have toggled to single and back to dual again some programs seem to know I have two monitors and will start up full screen even if I forget to toggle. Some games, like Simcity 4 in Wine, will keep running happily (even back and forth to the map/menu screen) in "fullscreen" mode and will let you alt-tab out once you have them started from a single screen.

      I have this script bound to the "display properties" button on

  • by Tei (520358) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @05:45AM (#34650258) Journal

    All the games in the bundle are "old" in indie terms (even some that are unfinished!). And the bundle will have more reach than normally these games can get. So the net result is that you are selling old indie games to people that normally would have never even know these games exist (so for these people, the games are new).

    And is a lot of money!,.. for indie devs. Is very few money for a game studio, laugdable at, but for 1 dude, or 2 dudes, is a lot.

    And is not the only way to sell indie games. is a complement. So these bundles what have created is a oportunity to reach more people, and sell old indie titles *again*, and at the same time make a lot of money. So is Win-Win-Win-Win for the indie dev's.

  • um... they just cost less to make? 2-3 devs over less than a year can dish out a decent quality indie game. We dont have huge content teams, we dont spend a huge amount on marketing, we dont pay huge royalties to engine devs, we dont have a publisher to swallow up a huge %. That is just how much it costs to make.
    Proportions wise, it costs $23 mil to make a AAA title today and the average indie game costs lets say 120k to make (3 devs working for 6 months maybe) so its about what 1/200th of the cost? 1/200th

    • by Skuto (171945)

      Proportions wise, it costs $23 mil to make a AAA title today and the average indie game costs lets say 120k to make (3 devs working for 6 months maybe) so its about what 1/200th of the cost? 1/200th of 60 is a lot less than $10 but that is because a lot of indie games simply sell a lot less.

      If you calculate an average effective sales price of something like 4 dollars, that means you have to sell 30k units just to recoup the costs. I'd like to see some real sales numbers but not many will reach that.

      For some real experiences, this is a nice read: http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2010/03/q-pc-indie-game-sales-numbers.html [blogspot.com]

  • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @06:14AM (#34650376)

    I just bought "Defence Grid" for $2 on steam. It's not much money, but I wouldn't have paid any more, and wouldn't have even bothered to pirate it. I probably won't even play, but my brother uses my steam account and he might check it out.

    My point is that $2 is a good impulse-buy price. I won't even bother to check a demo or reviews at that price. So that's $2 more than they would have gotten.

    I'd be interested in seeing their total profit binned by price.

    • You should definitely play Defense Grid, it is one of the premiere games of the genre. This is one game you'd regret putting on the back-burner.
      • I agree. I've logged around 84 hours of gameplay into that game (plus the DLC), which is kind of messed up when you consider that it's "just" a tower defense game. Ahhh, raspberries....

    • by Binestar (28861)
      I've noticed that I've been taking serious looks at any game that goes on sale for 75% off (don't buy them all, but a good chunk I will) and I have serious impulse buy problems when games start hitting the $5 range. All those $5 indie bundles in steam right now are calling my name. If I hadn't bought $25 worth when steam did them one a day for a week (And thus own a good portion of the games in each bundle) I would already have plunked down a good $20/$30. I suppose when it hits $1/game it is better for
  • I don't think they're ruining the value of the games. I ended up only paying something like $10.00 for the humble indie bundle but considering I've bought quite a chunk of the games already for other formats (this time I'm buying for OSX) through Steam or directly from the developers I don't feel bad about being a bit of a tight wad.

    That and I gave nothing to the charities so it all went to the developers aside form a tiny sliver to help pay for the bandwidth.
  • Demand goes up as price decreases. There is a point where the profit is maximized by the revenue generated by the volume and the cost to produce.

    Lower prices are not necessarily bad in the long run if you can generate enough volume. By finding the right mix of pricing low enough to get the impulse buy bit not so low that the lower price doesn't generate enough incremental volume. If you can hit a sweet spot you can be quite profitable as long as you control costs. Steam gives indies a way to test the deman

  • 2D Boy co-founder Ron Carmel told Ars. 'The negative is that if I'm willing to pay $5 but not $20, I probably don't want to play that game very much, so maybe I'm not as excited about it after I play it and maybe I drive down the average appreciation of the game.'"

    I expect to hear this kind of argument from the music industry ("iTunes is devaluing my music by selling for only $0.49 per song!") but I would have hoped that programmers would have a better grasp on reality. Price has little or nothing to do wi

  • I can't understand this way of thinking:

    "The negative is that if I'm willing to pay $5 but not $20, I probably don't want to play that game very much, so maybe I'm not as excited about it after I play it and maybe I drive down the average appreciation of the game.'"

    I have never not wanted to play a game as much, or enjoyed something less because I paid a lesser price for it. The less something costs me, the better.

    A thing is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. If you can find everyone who'll

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I think you slightly misunderstood the argument. If I'm only willing to pay $5 for a game then I'm probably less excited about it than someone who will pay $60. A bunch of reviews which say "I don't feel like I got ripped off paying $5" are arguably worth less than a few reviews saying "The best $60 I ever spent". Of course, there's a lot of territory in between a $5 game and a $60 game...

  • The problem with reducing pricing in general, any product or service, doesn't matter which, is that the lower you reduce a price and the more often companies do it, the perceived value of that item drops and won't recover for years. (it can take up to seven years for prices to return to what consumers perceive as “normal.” - Martin Lindstrom, Neuromarketer)

    There are two downsides and one upside to this:

    The downside: Indy developers continually discounting their product means they will ne
  • I think that's pretty much the nub of that argument. Devs don't sell games at $5 because they want to - it's because they've got no other choice.

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