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PC Game Prices — Valve Starts the Race To Zero 212

An anonymous reader writes "Last week Valve made an interesting but seemingly innocuous announcement: they're giving game developers control of their own pricing on Steam. Nicholas Lovell now claims that this has effectively kicked off a race to zero for PC game pricing. He says what's starting to happen now will mirror what's happened to mobile gaming over the past several years. Quoting: 'Free is the dominant price point on mobile platforms. Why? Because the two main players don't care much about making money from the sale of software, or even In-App Purchases. The AppStore is less than 1% of Apple's revenue. Apple has become one of the most valuable companies in the world on the strength of making high-margin, well-designed, highly-desirable hardware. ... Google didn't create Android to sell software. It built Android to create an economic moat. ... In the case of both iOS and Android, keeping prices high for software would have been in direct opposition to the core businesses of Apple (hardware) and Google (search-related advertising). The only reason that ebooks are not yet free is that Amazon's core business is retail, not hardware. ... Which brings me to Steam. The Steambox is a competitor to consoles, created by Valve. It is supposed to provide an out-of-the-box PC gaming experience, although it struggles to compete on either price or on marketing with the consoles. It doesn't seem as if Steam is keen to subsidize the costs of the box, not to the level that Microsoft and Sony are. But what if Steam's [unique selling point] was thousands or tens of thousands of games for free?'"
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PC Game Prices — Valve Starts the Race To Zero

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  • Re:It's not free (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @08:24AM (#46406863)

    Exactly. What we get with most free-to-play games are empty shells that require players to pay more than the price of a normal game title to be able to play without spending countless of hours grinding.

    Damn how I miss games with endless of hours of content, like Jagged Alliance 2 or X-Com Apocalypse. Wasteland 2 seems like a promising title, but even that had to be crowd funded, which is really sad.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @08:32AM (#46406889)

    99% of those 99 cent games are "tap the screen at the right time to watch a cute animation" one-trick ponies. While all right to waste a bit of time while you're waiting in line somewhere, it certainly isn't something I'd willingly pick up when I sit down to play a game.

    Also, TANSTAAFL applies universally, and hence also to gaming. "Free" games are rarely free. One of three things is almost certainly part of the deal:

    1. Handing over your privacy.
    2. Enduring endless streams of ads.
    3. Micropayments to keep playing.

    And usually it's more than one of them. Somehow I doubt I'll be the only one who will not enjoy this kind of gaming on a PC. When you sit down to play at a PC (or console for that matter), you don't want to play a one-trick pony game. You want to be involved, challenged, entertained. It's not just something you do to kill some time waiting, i.e. what mobile games are very often used as.

    What I could see is that we're going to see a lot more low budget games from independent programming teams that want to cut out the studios, either to avoid dependency or to avoid being told what to do (or both), people who want to make the game they make because they themselves want to see it come to life (let's be honest here, does anyone think those "freemium" games are something any developer WANTS to develop? Then whey should they be free?). They might even be inclined to sell it for a low price, somewhere in the vicinity of 10-30 bucks rather than 60+, while not offering any less gaming value and neither suffering from one of the three problems lined out above that "free" games usually have.

    But free, I doubt. Games are not like apples, they're not identical and only differ in price. You can't simply say "Oh, Game A costs 20 bucks and Game B costs 10, so I buy Game B". What if Game A is more what I'm looking for and Game B is nothing but a cheap knockoff of a game idea that has been trampled to death ages ago? Why should I buy Game B in that case?

    Games might get cheaper, and studios will maybe lose their position as kingmakers, but I highly doubt that PC gaming will go the way of mobile gaming. It's a very different market with a very different audience (or, rather, with an audience that has a different "taste" on PC compared to mobile devices, it might even be the same audience).

  • Re:It's not free (Score:4, Interesting)

    by N1AK ( 864906 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @08:32AM (#46406891) Homepage

    It's simply not going to happen. In casual mobile gaming, yes, because the product is essentially interchangable and there's not a lot of specialist interest, but that's a much weaker phenomenon in console gaming and practically nonexistent in the sort of games Steam users tend to play.

    It's already happening on PC and console. There are a crazy number of freemium PC games and they are increasingly popular with younger demographics. Free games on consoles (Xbox at least) exist and even the default for games we buy is that the retail price is subsidised by an endless stream of expansions.

    As a generation who got into gaming without paying for games reaches the age where they would become the typical console market they aren't going to swallow $80 price tags, even if the games charging that are providing excellent value for money.

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @08:41AM (#46406939) Journal

    Steam has for me drastically lowered the value of a game, because while it is ONE thing to see game slowly decrease in price over a number of years, it is another to find prices slashed to 1/4 of the price seemingly at random.

    Well okay then, I won't buy unless there is a deal going on... but I want to play right now, thepiratebay! Always the best deals!

    I kinda like to know that if I pay a premium for a newly released game, that it is "worth" it and that it is not going to be on a sale for the fraction of the price a week later. It ruins the value of a product because it shows the product has no inherit price but is rather just a charge put on the product for the sake of it.

    Same as say a public toilet at a station, they can charge 1 cent, a 100 cent or a 1000 cent and it has nothing to do with the cost of providing the service, it is just an amount someone thought up. If a product can be sold for 1/4 of the price on week, it never had full price value to begin with, that was just a sucker price.

    I don't want to be a sucker. I am one but I don't like my webshop telling me that I am one.

    Because I can tell the game producer they are suckers too by downloading the game for free.

  • No DRM for me. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:36AM (#46407231) Homepage Journal

    I'll pay on [] rather than free with DRM.
  • by YoungManKlaus ( 2773165 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @10:20AM (#46407567)

    Because as a game developer I see two main motivations that are essentially the same as every other artist:
    1) making enough money to live
    2) bring your stuff to as many people as possible

    so if I have the choice of selling 10Mio copies at 5€ or 1Mio copies at 50€ for me the first option would clearly win.

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall