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World of Goo Creators Try Pick-Your-Price Experiment 216

2D Boy, the independent game studio behind World of Goo, recently celebrated the game's one-year anniversary by offering it at whatever price buyers cared to pay. They've now released some sales statistics about how people responded to the opportunity. The average price during the sale was $2.03; the game normally retails for $20. According to a survey of why people paid what they did, 22.4% said it was all they could afford at the time, and 12.4% said they already owned World of Goo and were buying it for a different platform. (Yes, there is a Linux version.) Over 57,000 people took advantage of the offer, which was enough for 2D Boy to term it "a huge success." Interestingly, they also saw a significant increase in sales through Steam, and a smaller increase through Wiiware. They've decided to extend the experiment until October 25th.
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World of Goo Creators Try Pick-Your-Price Experiment

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  • thanks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bencoder ( 1197139 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:45AM (#29820369)
    Thanks for the slashvertisment :) Didn't know about this. Just grabbed my copy for $5.
    • Re:thanks (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bencoder ( 1197139 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:55AM (#29820419)
      On that topic, I wonder if the fact that I knew the average was about $2 affected my price point. I didn't want to go below the average, but if the average was $1 I imagine I would have paid less.

      I wonder if it would be improved by having an updating average price display showing the current average price, or if it would mean that the average would stay down low because seeing that other people are paying $2 or $1 makes it OK for anyone else to pay that low.
      • For precisely that reason I think any information about its final resulting benefit should be held "secret" for a while.

        On the other hand, the number of sales does seem interesting to publish. But, as soon as anyone sees "52012 sales! And counting!" he'll naturally ask about the average price.

        So, I'd recommend not giving any information about the results of this last sale campaign until it's considered finished.

      • by symes ( 835608 )
        My guess is that you would probably be affected by the range rather than the mean. We know the lower limit is 0.01 and publishing the mean as 2.00 would probably suggest a range that you would want to place yourself in depending on your perceived place in the world. If they'd put, rather than the mean, the most and least people had payed then I'd expect that this would predict your choice more strongly. It would be an interesting experiment to do if there's anyone out there planning on doing something simi
      • Re:thanks (Score:5, Interesting)

        by halfhaggis ( 639074 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @04:38AM (#29820611) Homepage

        An option would be to provide the customer with 3 figures at the pay point: Retail price ($20); Recommended price (say $10); Average price so far ($X).

        I can't speak for everyone, but I certainly don't like to be perceived as stingy -- so I wouldn't want to pay below the average if the average is much less than the recommended price. By showing the average the buyer gets the sense of being watched, even though that isn't really the case. Result: the buyer is more inclined to pay above average.

        Assuming everyone behaves similarly to me, the average price is slowly pushed up towards the recommended price limit. As it gets closer, buyers will start paying less than the average, and it will reach an equilibrium -- I'm guessing in the range $6-$8.

        The key, I think, is to provide a reasonable discounted recommended price so that people are less inclined to think a low average price is "ok".

        • by erlando ( 88533 )


          Unless my math fails me then the average price would never drop below $10 if you only present the three options $20, $average and $10

          • I think the idea was to show the purchaser those price points, not limit the customer to those pay points.
        • I can't speak for everyone, but I certainly don't like to be perceived as stingy

          Who's gonna know? In public, you have to deal with the cashier, your companions, and any other customers nearby. Online it'll all be handled by computers unless someone with permission specifically looks at your purchase. Otherwise they'll just track statistics of everybody's purchases.

          It might be wise to post a scrolling list of recent purchases with real names. Pay the retail price and get the game anonymously. Or pay a lower

        • by sponga ( 739683 )

          I paid $1 and its a good game, I pirated it earlier and it was just sitting in a folder waiting to be extracted. I don't know why I never unzipped it to install, but as soon as I bought it I got into it. Although got bored after level 3.

          You have to pay more than 30cents so that the company gets some of the money rather than Paypal getting it all.

  • Rather than imagining an eternal life for their products, more developers could find ways (not necessarily this one) of selling their obsolete products to pay for the newer ones.

    For example, l4d costs now about 15$ if bought together with the still unreleased l4d2. As they are almost equal and not very distant in time, the developers could wait another year or so and then release l4d for 2$. Make a little cash and go on.

    Instead, they get so attached to IP they end up owning games that nobody wants to buy.


    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ZXDunny ( 1376265 )

      And, as today's pointless bad analogy, it's like trying and failing to sell the last apples at half the original price after they've started rotting, when they could be sold as fertilizer and use the money to buy more land, even if just a little.

      What, iPhones?

    • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      For example, l4d costs now about 15$ if bought together with the still unreleased l4d2.

      I already have l4d, I don't want to purchase it again and I am not buying l4d2 because I spent a pretty penny already for l4d and got a underwhelming experience.

      In my opinion the l4d2 stuff hasn't really worked out as well as VALVe planned with some of their hardcore players.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by T Murphy ( 1054674 )
      I forgot the exact amount but I recently bought Halflife 1 for under a dollar off of Steam during a sale. They do sell their old games at low prices, you just have to catch when they do it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bjorniac ( 836863 )

        IIRC it was 0.99, the same price for Opposing Force and Blue Shift. Since they have the technology in place this seems like an awesome way to make a few thousand out of games that don't sell anymore. They had Bioshock for $5 a while back, and Assassin's Creed is $5 right now. I just bought it :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jaysyn ( 203771 )

  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[evaned] [at] []> on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:47AM (#29820375)

    How does the absolute intake compare to what it was before the experiment though?

    I'm reminded of a sale Valve had for L4D a few months after it was released; Jeff Atwood relayed the results []. In short, Valve cut the price of L4D in half, and the result brought in more money (not just more sales!) than the launch day.

    So how did World of Goo's experiment do in absolute numbers? Did the revenue increase or decrease from before the experiment? Certainly sales increased, but that's a far cry from revenue increasing.

    • by goldcd ( 587052 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @04:35AM (#29820597) Homepage
      Commercially published game sales tend to spike when they're released - and then tail off afterwards. For Indie games I assume the 'spike' is a bit further down the line as people have to find it first - but sales will trail off once everybody is aware of it and has decided whether or not to buy it.
      "Back in the day" the game ended up as a budget release (if it were lucky), maybe first at £10, then £5 - and you know only a teensy proportion of that shelf price ever made it back to the developer.
      The "name your own price" strategy seems designed to mop up anybody who had an interest in the game, yet never got around to buying it for whatever reason.
      Basically if somebody doesn't buy it - they were NEVER going to buy it under any circumstance at all.
      So - nice idea for games in the 'tail' of their lives.

      What I'd like to see a publisher try (just to satisfy my idle curiosity :) is to raise the price of games from release up to a point.
      i.e. We are going to sell this game for $25. We are launching it at $10 and every day for the next 2 weeks, we're adding a dollar to the price - seems an ideal way to get your headlines, and convert those waverers (the vast majority who will never buy) into purchasers.

      I guess in summary, the general rule is that when you get somebody looking at the purchase page, there should always be a reason for them to buy now, rather than next week.
      I for one have been hearing about WOG for aages - have I got around to even playing it - no - I had something 'else' to do. I now see the name your own price is about to finish so in my head I can heat "It's now or never time for me to buy it." *wanders off to purchase*
      • It's a sales tactic, to be sure, but enough people claim it doesn't work that actually implementing it is also an experiment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I doubt very much they made more with this experiment than before.

      Based on the charts / average price paid from the article, they made about $115,129 (probably about a hundred more, I skipped really low data points) on 56,714 sales. They admitted that they lost money on every sale below $0.30, and they had to pay up to 13% to PayPal in fees even when they made money.

      I think for any game to have made 56,000 sales (which implies as many as 56,000 new customers to support), but only bring in a little over $10

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Trepidity ( 597 )

        It wouldn't have made 56,000 sales in a week without this experiment, though, so comparing to what revenue a game could've made on 56,000 sales at a higher price point is kind of irrelevant. A better question might be: is $100,000 in a week (implying $5.2 million/year) rate of revenues a good one, or could they do better with another model?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SkunkPussy ( 85271 )

          although you can't extrapolate to 5.2 million/year because its unlikely that they could achieve this level of publicity for more than a week or two

  • My own experience (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Random Walk ( 252043 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:51AM (#29820393)
    I offer some of my software for 'pick your price'. I recommend a price, but clearly state that any price is ok. Most buyers buy at the recommended price. Very few pay significantly less (pay is through Paypal, which I think imposes a minimum price of $1). And - not quite unexpectedly - almost nobody ever pays more :-)
    • Re:My own experience (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @05:49AM (#29820929) Journal
      It's worth noting that this is not unique to software. A few restaurants have started doing this in the last few years. I read about one in London a few years ago that removed prices from their menu, and found that their guests were paying more than they had done previously for their meals. A couple of years ago I was taken to a hippy cafe in Salt Lake City that has the same policy. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet, and when you leave, you drop a poker chip and some money into a bucket. At the end, they can divide the money by the number of poker chips and find out how much people paid on average. My grant was paying for food, so I dropped in $20, but the recommended price was $10, which was quite cheap for the amount and quality of food that I ate.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chelloveck ( 14643 )

        Back when I was in college some 20-some years ago, one of the organisations I was in occasionally had bake sales to raise funds. We invariably collected much more money when the items were left unpriced and the buyer just donated some amount. It's interesting to see this model being experimented with in the real world.

    • by Twinbee ( 767046 )

      I also have been offering software at "choose your price" for quite a while. Interestingly, a good number of people pay twice as much as the 'recommended' price. I suppose it depends on the market.

  • i don't know how many people know about this but if you've bought the game once directly from their website you have access to versions of the game for diffrent platforms. just revisit the download link you got in your mail after your original purchase.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ZXDunny ( 1376265 )
      Quite a few people that I know bought this multiple times for multiple platforms - bought originally for $20, then for $10 for Mac/Linux versions, simply because they felt it was right to do that. It's kind of odd, as I doubt many people would buy a AAA title more than once but folks don't seem to mind doing it for a small indie studio. The price could well be a factor in that one though...
  • by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @04:14AM (#29820499) Journal

    This is a game that should *definitely* be available in Ubuntu Software Store for next release.

  • I downloaded the demo a couple of weeks ago and when I went back to buy the full game, the sale had started. I still paid full price though, because it's quite easily $20 worth of fun.

  • for $10. I had considered buying WoG in the past but always hesitated because I wasn't sure it was worth $20 to me.

    Sure, I could have got it for $1 or $0.10 or $0.01, but the site says "Pay whatever you think it is worth" which isn't quite the same as "name the amount you want to spend". Considering the game is fairly simple but a lot of fun, Linux native, and DRM free; I think it's definitely worth what I paid.
    • Before this sale, the cheapest I'd seen World of Goo was when it was a Steam Weekend Deal for $5. Incidentally, that's when I bought it.

  • same experiment (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @04:45AM (#29820647) Homepage Journal

    I did the same experiment with some Unity3D tools/scripts [] of my own, offering them at four different prices with a suggestion as to what I think they equate to, but a very obvious statement that no matter which price you pay, the download will be the same.

    Interestingly, the distribution is 6-2-1-1 over the prices, showing that people do not always pick the lowest price, even if they can. Like the World of Goo makers, I consider the experiment a success and may use the model in the future.

    It even checks out economically. I made ~180 US$ this way. If I had offered the scripts for $20 (2nd price), even assuming that half of the $10 buyers would have bought it at that higher price, I would've made only $140.

  • Who bought this not knowing anything about the game, solely supporting this pricing model?

    *slowly raises hand*
  • what bugs me is that 16,852 people paid $0.01 for the game. Which is nothing but legally pirating the game.

    If you were doing it for an OS port of the game thats fine, but otherwise at least throw in a dollar.
    The bandwidth and credit processing would cost them more then the cent provided.

    At least they got the marketing, and my business, which is some good from the cheapskates
    Thats my $2.00 cents.

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @05:46AM (#29820905) Homepage

      Why is that at all surprising?

      I would expect more, to be honest, out of 57,000 and you have to take account of that when you run any such event. Personally, I'd have said any *dollar* amount, so it would have gone for at least $1 and made the maths a little easier but if it was *possible* to buy at 1c, I quite expect to see a hefty percentage of people pay that.

      The so-called "honesty box" system works on the basis that *enough* people are honest (not that all of them are, or even most of them), whether you've put bunches of flowers in a tub by the side of the road, with a tin for collecting payment, or you're selling a game on the Internet. (The flowers thing is quite common the rural UK - a few pennies and you can take as many flowers as you like because they are effectively surplus, and very few people run off with the tin full of change, either).

      I've personally purchased two World of Goo's, one for me, one for a friend, and think it's a great game. On reading this article, I emailled a couple of friends that might be interested. I don't really care if they pay $10, or $1, or 1c, so long as they get the game - it's not "costing" the authors anything that they aren't already paying, and it is with their blessing, and the publicity etc. they are getting more than makes up for it.

      The fact is that most games are too expensive, and I've often thought "If that was a little cheaper, I'd buy it" but rarely tell the author. The feedback from knowing what/why people are spending what they do if a phenomenal statistic to have. And I don't think they did bad out of a game that most people already have and most people already paid full-price for, and for which sales are sloping:

      (57,000 times $2.03) - 13% (Paypal small-transaction fees) = just over $100,000, before they even make the front page of Slashdot. IN A WEEK. I don't think the authors have suffered. I think a lot of people who couldn't justify the expense now get a great piece of entertainment. The authors get a shedload of easy money from an "old" game, tons of free advertising and lots of useful feedback, a few pirates make themselves legit, some people get that warm glow of supporting and author, some cheapskate people get a "free" game and Paypal make a shedload of money too. I think that's pretty much win-win.

      • (accidentally posted anonymously)

        and I’ve often thought...but rarely tell the author.

        As if you could.

        I mean, there are notable exceptions, but for a lot of games, getting somebody's email address will generally involve more than creative Google-ing.

        Like I played that Plants Vs. Zombies game and I wanted to email the lead dev. and say, "Hey man, your bonus rewards are far too time-expensive. Your game is good, but not 100 hours after I finished it already good."

        And I couldn't find anything resembling a contact that would go anywhere near where I wanted it to.

      • It is costing the authors something. It is costing them server space, hosting fees, electricity and bandwidth. I have no problem paying a minimum fee to cover those costs of distribution. I don't like the myth of free internet content. I also don't like the idea of paying $1 for an iTunes song since those distribution costs are probably closer to $.05. iTunes songs at $0.25 and you've got a new customer and I'm sure other people would join at a $0.10 price point.

        Currently digital publishers are pushi
    • Why does this annoy you? Did you lose money from it? Did the authors of the game? I'm not really sure how you accept payments for $0.01 without losing money, but if they had a good micropayment system in place and were paying something close to a flat rate for bandwidth, then that works out at $168.52 from these people. Maybe $100 after they've covered the costs. Assuming that these people would otherwise have either pirated or not got the game at all, then that's $100 that they would not have otherwis
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        No, they actually got no money at all from those people. From their site -

        "For all purchases of around 30 cents and under, we actually saw no money, PayPal took it all, but they probably ended up losing money on most of those transactions ($0.01) as well, they’re not the bad guy."

        • That makes a bit more sense, but makes you wonder why they didn't just make $0.50 (or whatever the minimum you can accept is) a minimum.
          • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

            Because it was an experiment. While I'm sure they hoped to make money by it, it's pretty clear that they decided to throw caution to the wind and just see what happened.

            • So give an option of $0 as well, but selling at an amount that doesn't even cover the cost of processing makes no sense.
    • Fuck off. They permitted it, it was a huge success, and you're bitching just because some people (essentially) got their way paid by the folks who paid more.

  • Pricing Models (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Swanktastic ( 109747 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @05:07AM (#29820739)

    There's all sorts of interesting pricing models an indie developer with zero retail distribution could try if they're controlling the sales.

    I think an interesting experiment would be to auction say X copies a day, with the price being set at the lowest winning bid. Folks who MUST have the product on day one can pay more, those who wait can pay less. Obviously there are some challenges, but it's at least an interesting intellectual exercise.

    It would be fascinating to see what folks would pay for, say, a week of exclusive access to WoW: Cataclysm. Sort of ruins the spirit of the game, but interesting nonetheless.


    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There's all sorts of interesting pricing models an indie developer with zero retail distribution [costs] could try if they're controlling the sales.

      Running a server that is reliable and can handle ./ is not free. Its not even a close approximation of free. Its real money and its an expense that is incurred every single month. Decent bandwidth for a larger game is also a long way from free, and even if you don't get many sales you still have to pay.

  • Add another price category where you'd want half to go the indie developer's preferred charity? Now THAT would really make things quite interesting imo, in a social experiment kind of way.

  • ... I notice a lot of people complaining that people paid so little. But that is irrelevant.

    World of goo is for all intent's and purposes a small indie game. It is competing against all other older AAA games with many million dollar budgets that have now hit the bargain bin, for the same or similar prices (5$-10$).

    I think people forget that the value of a game is what people are prepared to pay for it against all other games. Let's not also forget that games are massively overly produced.

  • by Devistater ( 593822 ) <devistater@hotma ... m minus math_god> on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @06:59AM (#29821277)

    Anything less than around 33 or so cents goes to to paypal from fees. So just keep in mind that you are donating to paypal not the indy game developer if you do that. There's a lot of people who donated 1 cent to paypal. On the other hand, if you WANT to cost paypal money, donating 1 cent with visa card probably costs paypal money.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *

      On the other hand, if you WANT to cost paypal money, donating 1 cent with visa card probably costs paypal money.

      Ah ha! So the best idea is to buy the game once for $20, then a whole bunch more times for $0.01 each! MUAH HA HA HA HA!!!

  • I picked up WoG for US$2. I'd never played it before and had never been bothered enough to even download the demo. Effectively, I was happy to pay US$2 to take a chance on something which I might not like or play at all, or I might love and play relentlessly. I wouldn't have regretted that US$2 if I played it once and never bothered again.

    I should add that I'm not a big gamer; I get all my games used for £1-4 for PSX, original XBox and PC and generally stick to recognised AAA titles. I pay similar pri

    • Ye i also paid 2$ for it on the basis that I hadn't heard of the game and may or may not play it. I'd have probably paid more if i'd found out beforehand that they had a linux build.

  • Over 57,000 people took advantage of the offer, which was enough for 2D Boy to term it "a huge success."


    But everyone knows pick-your-price is infeasible! The music industry proved it! Didn't they?

    More seriously, though, let's do some straight math and see how this turned out.
    57,000 x $2.03 = $115,710

    Anybody care to guess how much they'd have made off the same 57,000 people if they hadn't held this promotion?

    All in all, they netted over $115 grand in this. Not bad for their one-year anniversary promotion (in fact, I'd almost call it a "huge success" — oh wait, they already did).

  • glad it worked out, at least a little bit.
  • by ErikZ ( 55491 ) *

    How about a "Getting it running under Windows 7" experiment?

    Downloaded it off of Steam, and it doesn't work. :P

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      An OS that's been available for customers for a whole day (and that's special pre-orders for certain customers in certain countries)? Why should 2DBoy sign up on MSDN just to get advanced previews of whether their software will work? That's a serious question for a small business. Either give them time, wait for a patch, patch it yourself, try it in every compatibility mode or bitch about how a program that's never seen an operating system that's been out for one day doesn't work.

  • I see the figure of 17k as a particularly effective way of rebutting many of the so-called, inflated "lost revenue" figures we read/ hear.

    Nothing quite says "you were never getting the money, anyway" better than offering them the chance to pay 2c, and having them pay the absolute minimum.

    If you read this report and have trouble / get angry at the 17k, you're missed the point. The point is, some will NEVER pay for it. But hey, many will. They're the ones we're selling to. They're the ones suffering whe
  • It's this simple (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dmorelli ( 615543 )

    The game is well-made. It's fun and interesting to me. I have not found any bugginess so far. They produce a native Linux version. They don't harrass us with DRM.

    I paid them US$20. That was my pick-a-price. Because, you know what?, the developers felt it was worth that much originally and I agree.

    This isn't some contest where I have to make sure I win over the other tens of thousands of customers.

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam