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#1 2014-01-15 12:08:02

jasonrohrer
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Registered: 2013-04-01
Posts: 1,229

Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

First, a bit of news:  the Castle Doctrine has a confirmed Steam release date of January 29, 2014.  The alpha will end at that point, along with the 50% discount.

Over the years that I've worked on this game, I've done a lot of thinking about game pricing.  I've been inspired by the way Minecraft pricing worked.  Essentially, the price just kept rising over time.

Of course, this flies in the face of the modern trends, from the race to the bottom in app stores, to the back-to-back Steam sales, to the super-lucrative bundles.  Games generally start out expensive at release time, then get cheaper when they go on sale, and eventually become effectively free when they are put in a name-your-price bundle.

And I totally get it.  As a Steam developer, I've made much of my Inside a Star-filled Sky money during Steam sales.  Sure, I made 25% of my lifetime Steam revenue during my launch week, but I made an additional 10% during my first sale, which happened only a few weeks after my launch.  After that initial taste of extra, no-effort money, I participated in sale after sale.  I was hooked.  In the long tail, my daily revenue dwindled down to almost nothing, except during the sales, when there would be another big spike.  I mean, making $3K over a few days, and a full year after launch?  Hard to resist.

skyGraph.png

(As you can see in this graph, in 2013, I stopped participating in Steam sales. Oops!)

In 2009, Steam had its first big sale.  I'm guessing that they were blown away by how much money they made, because they followed that sale with three more sales the next year.  These days, they have 5 gigantic sales each year, which means that a sale is pretty much always just around the corner.  And even better, in between the sales, there are publisher sales and weekend sales and deals-of-the-day and so on.  Something is always on sale.

On its face, this seems like an obvious win for game developers:  they get to revive their dwindling long-tail numbers with a big revenue boost, and a sale will bring more latecomer players into their games too.  This also seems like a win for players:  people who can't afford to buy a game at full price get a chance to play it later, for cheaper.  The audience grows, and more people get to experience the game.  Good stuff.

But I suspect that something different is happening.  Something that is arguably bad for players, and possibly bad for developers as well.

To put it bluntly:  sales screw your fans.

Your fans love your games and eagerly await your next release.  They want to get your game as soon as it comes out, at full price.  But they are foolish to do that, because a sale is right around the corner.  Even in economic terms, the extra utility of playing the game early, at release, is not big enough to offset the extra cost for most people .  It makes more sense to wait, unless they love you and your work so much that they're willing to throw economic reason out the window.  It's nice to have fans that love your work that much.  And these are the fans that you kick in the teeth when you put your game on sale.

But forget the fans for a moment.  A culture of rampant sales is a culture of waiting.  "I'll buy it later, during a sale."  Launch weeks become weak, and developers grow to depend on sales for financial survival.  Even in my example from above, 25% is a pretty sad launch week.  In my case, that represented something like $23K.  I made more selling the game through my own website.  Pathetic.  Of course, sale after sale, later on, pumped my revenue up to way more than what I made on my website.

This waiting game is likely decimating your player base and critical mass at launch by spreading new players out over time.  And your fans, who are silly enough to buy the game at launch and waste money, get to participate in a weaker, smaller player community.

Finally, there's the possibility that the culture of sales actually reduces developer revenue over the long term.  If just half of the players who buy the game during a 50%-off sale would have bought the game at full price if that was their only option, we'd already have a wash.  What fraction of sale-waiting players fall into this category?  I suspect way more than half.  The picture gets even worse for 75%-off sales.

To balance this out, we would need a whole lot of people who will buy random games just because they are on sale---games that they had no intention of buying otherwise.  Maybe there are enough of these people, and I've certainly met some of them:  people who have a backlog of 50 unplayed games in their Steam library.  Maybe they'll never play them.  But even if there are enough people doing this, it's not a good thing.  It's just people being tricked into wasting money on stuff they don't want or need.  Better that they spent that money on one full-price game that they really want rather than four 75%-off impulse buys to add to their backlog.

hugeBacklog.png

All that said, I get why a culture of sales has blossomed, and I also get that it's impossible to escape from it now.  To Valve's credit, they never force developers to put their games on sale.  Of course, when most developers are putting their games on sale, it becomes harder for the remaining developers to make sufficient revenue without joining the sales, which means even more developers will put their game on sale, which means that players will know that pretty much every game will be available at a deep discount sooner or later, which means that more players avoid buying games at full price, and so on.

And to be fair, selling older games at a deep discount isn't something that modern developers invented.  It's in our blood from way back:

bargainBin.jpg

But a bargain rack for physical retail makes perfect sense and is actually pretty great for everyone.  Shelf space is limited, as are the number of available copies of a given game, and retailers need to eventually liquidate old games to make room for new ones.  But the temptation for players to wait until it's on sale is weaker, because there's a good chance that an awesome game will sell out before it ever hits the bin.  Just try finding a copy of Rez, Ico, or Rock Band 3 in the bargain bin.  Some games even sell used for more than their original retail price.  Other old games are almost impossible to find.

When we're talking about digital games, the potential full-price lifetime is pretty much eternal.  There is no shelf space.  Even the long tail isn't a hard-and-fast rule anymore.  As the game's audience grows, revenue can actually climb over time, sometimes even making launch week look like an insignificant blip.  Consider Gary's Mod, which has been selling steadily, at an increasing rate, for seven years:

growingSales.png

Yes, there are some big, thin spikes there during the sales, but they are insignificant compared to the day-to-day full price volume.  And how much thicker would that daily volume be if players weren't waiting for sales?

Okay, but what are the alternatives?  More importantly, how am I going to price The Castle Doctrine?  If you buy it at launch, are you going to be screwed a few weeks later by a sale?  Am I going to make you wish that you waited?

Let's consider the implications of the Minecraft pricing model.  What if, instead of inevitable sales as a game ages, the price rises over time instead?

For the fans, this is a great thing, because their die hard fanhood is rewarded with a lower price, almost like a secret deal for those who knew about the game before anyone else.  When the price goes up later, they feel smart.  Most importantly, they don't feel torn between supporting their favorite developer at launch and saving money.  They can do both.

For people who find out about the game later, after the price has gone up a bit, they may regret not buying the game before the increase (a lesson learned for next time), but they can still feel smart buying the game now, before it goes up again.

For the people who buy the game the latest, after the final, permanent price has been reached, they had the chance to wait to hear more about the game before buying.  They had less to lose at that point, because the game has been vetted and the community established.

But in general, people who missed lower prices in the past may not even be aware of what they missed.  They come to buy the game now, and see the current price now.  On the other hand, when your game goes on sale later, everyone who bought it at full price remembers what they paid and feels the sting.  Being unaware of what you're missing has a different psychological impact than having what you missed thrown right in your face.

Indeed, people gripe openly when they buy a game only to see it discounted next week.  They even email developers and ask for refunds.  Who complained when the price of Minecraft went up?

No one, because the Minecraft pricing model also permits total openness about future pricing plans.  You can safely announce, "The price will go up next week.  This is the last week to get the lower price."  This will create a huge revenue spike as people race to get the game---no problem there.

However, if you're planning to put the game on sale next week, you can't announce it, because you will cannibalize this week's full-price revenues.  Even worse, people who would decide to wait upon news of a forthcoming sale may forget to come back and buy the game later.  They're at your website now, and you can't afford to scare them away now.  So, you have to keep the forthcoming sale secret.  You have to surprise people.  And burn people.  The worst case here is pretty awful:  the sorry person who buys the game one minute before the surprise sale price kicks in.  You're going to get an email from that person.

So, the rising price model is really just an inversion of the sales model.  You get revenue spikes later in the life of the game, right before announced price hikes, which are very similar to the spikes induced by putting a game on sale.  But there are no surprises, so no one feels screwed by the process.


In the case of The Castle Doctrine, the "ever rising" price model was a perfect fit for other reasons.  As a massively-multiplayer server-based game, it required extensive testing before launch.  I could reward those early testers with the biggest discount.  Also, as a server-based game, each additional "copy" sold is not without cost to me:  it's one more player logging into the server, and potentially one more player who will need tech support during an outage.  I can't just pepper the ground with cheap or free download codes, because download codes are actually lifetime accounts.

So, here's how it is going to work:

The final price of the game will be $16.  During alpha testing, up through launch, the game has a 50% discount for $8.  During launch week, the game will have a 25% discount for $12.  After launch week, the game will rise to full price.

pricePlan.png

In other words, this is the last two weeks to get the game at 50% off (ending January 28).  If you want to wait until launch on Steam, you can get it for 25% off if you buy it during the first week (ending February 4).  Otherwise, the game will be full price at $16 forever after that.

Anyone feel burned by that plan?

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#2 2014-01-15 13:52:27

CraZed
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Registered: 2014-01-15
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

You'll have to let us all know how that goes for ya.

I think you are up against some powerful psychological forces here and this could end biting ya in the butt if you seriously do decide to not take part in future sales. If someone passes up your game at either of those lower priced periods (and you have to now there will be many who do) you will most likely hamper your ability to sell more copies of your title in the future.

Good luck with that, I truly hope it goes well. Just paint me skeptical.

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#3 2014-01-15 14:28:20

JoeyJungle
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Registered: 2014-01-15
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Hi, Jason, really big fan of your work. As a fan, I really appreciate the consideration you're giving in potentially sacrificing lifetime revenue in favor of benefits for your earliest adopters and biggest fans.

It sounds like this is a both a moral issue for you (not wanting to burn people paying full price right before the game gets a 75% discount) and also an unconventional economic theory (continued consideration for your fans will result in dedicated fans who will support you early and often, and in the long run be potentially more beneficial than regular or semi-regular sales from people who don't care about your games).

I was wondering if you considered any options other than the minecraft model, such as early adopters of your game get permanent discounts for future games? Or if in the future your games will start with an even lower base price and increase more gradually than 50% off, 25% off, 0% off?

Hope this works out for you!

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#4 2014-01-15 14:36:34

jasonrohrer
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Registered: 2013-04-01
Posts: 1,229

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

This is my first go at this model, so we'll see what happens.  I won't back down, though.... I mean, I can't, after being so public about it.

Yes, prices that rise even more slowly, in more steps, are possible.  I was just trying to keep it simple at first.  And yes, there are other ways to reward fans, for sure.  Some of my most loyal fans got The Castle Doctrine for free, by helping me do very early testing before the public alpha opened up.

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#5 2014-01-15 14:48:02

Forge
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Registered: 2014-01-15
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Hi! I'm new here, and hadn't heard about your game before today. It sounds like my kind of thing, and I just might buy a copy tomorrow, when I get paid.

I'm caretaker of a huge and growing Steam library, and I shudder to imagine what I've paid into getting it there. I own pretty much every Humble Bundle from back when they were indie and DRM-free and cross-platform. I love indie games. I bought Minecraft back when it was semi-affordable, and bought Scrolls pre-release based on my enjoyment in Minecraft. I think I've played Scrolls all of twice. I buy all sorts of games that I never ever get around to playing, much less finishing.

I'm Steam's target demographic. Your post here makes me think I'm not yours.

Simply put, the way your plan hits me, on a low level, is something akin to "buy now or F right off". While there's a very good chance I'll be buying, and at the lowest price point, your plan means that if I don't, I will likely *never* buy your game. Years of Steam sales have conditioned me to buy at 75% off if it's even kind of interesting, buy at 50% off or more if it's AAA and I'm sad I missed it, and to otherwise skip it. It feels a lot like those AAA games who offer some shiny trinket unlock if I preorder, and then proudly proclaim that it's not going to be achieveable via gameplay. Never mind that most of those same games roll up all their DLC and exclusive addons into a GOTY edition 6 months later, it's the "now or never" presentation.

I wish you luck with your idea, and if widely adopted, I think it would give you a bigger initial spike and a smoother long tail. However, since not everyone else is following your plan, I think it's going to actually end up chasing away a lot of second-order buyers. People will see me playing, ask what it costs, and I'll have to say "I paid 8$, but you have to pay 16$", and they will decide not to buy. They may even counter with "It looks good, but I'll wait for a sale", and when I point out that you've sworn not to participate in sales, they'll say "Oh, ok, nevermind, I'll skip it" or "I guess I'll wait for 'Inevitable Sequel 2' and get the preorder pricing", which won't work either.

You're fighting something larger than you can handle. I admire your intent, Don Quixote, but I think the windmills are going to be unimpressed.

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#6 2014-01-15 15:52:58

Casmicus
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Registered: 2014-01-15
Posts: 2

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Before I kinda trash the logic in your article, I did read it and I did like the thought and sentiment that exists within it.  I do wish there exists a better way to reward hardcore fans out there and I hear what you're saying, but increased prices won't work because it's the market demand that determines the value assigned to its given product, not any kind of ideal or entitlement.  Here is a few reasons why that model won't work and I'm just looking at demand:

1)  You are assuming that the title is successful.  And when I mean successful, I mean REALLY successful, not successful as in the game turned a modest to decent profit.  Successful in that it's redefining the way people play games.  You used minecraft as an example in your essay.  After minecraft came out, there were a bunch of games that spawned similar game mechanics i.e. terraria, and the games of similar, build things from nothing/survival games. 
2)  Minecraft did NOT initially have an increasing price model.  The way I see minecraft done, the guy kinda saw things as an experiment.  The way he developed the game seemed like a huge social/gameplay/technical experiment of hey look what I could do!  Then he hit upon a system that was really fun.  The reason the pricing was structured that way was because it got REALLY successful and MANY MANY more people wanted to play it.  He could get away with charging more money because the demand for the game increased. 
3)  People pay a premium to get things right away.  I'm sorry fans want things now because they can't wait.  Their demand for the game is high and therefore they pay a higher price for the game.  Other people's desires are not in line with these niche segment of your population and therefore unwilling to pay that premium.  However if the price was reduced, many more are willing to jump on that band wagon.

In closing, pricing is just rudimentary economics... I'm just discussing demand, let alone supply (not touching that with a 10 foot pole in regards to this situation).

If you want to reward your fans, I think the best way to do it is to give them exclusive content that is just for them.  It takes more effort on the developer end but, when it comes down to the money of things, how much of that time is equivalent to a discount?  I really see it as the only way to grant them any kind of special entitlement.  And make new players pay a premium for that exclusivity in dlc, bling, in-game benefits or whatnot.  I think that might be a better model.

Last edited by Casmicus (2014-01-15 15:54:09)

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#7 2014-01-15 16:16:35

gmiller744
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Registered: 2014-01-15
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

I think your article is missing the point of exactly why the Minecraft model worked:  it was sold as an unfinished game, still in development, and the price increased as more content was added to the games.  Those who bought the game later were actually purchasing more content than was available when the game was sold at a lower price.  Minecraft also had the benefit of fitting perfectly into a niche that was unfilled and, as it turned out, in high demand.  As the game was developed, word of mouth spread, and people came in huge numbers to purchase this game that was unlike anything else, and in its simplicity somehow had unlimited possibilities.  It became a brand and a genre unto itself, to the point that any games with similar elements have to say "like Minecraft," to describe themselves.  It was a culmination of the right circumstances, the right timing, and the right product, and that's exactly why the sales model it used does not work on a wider scale.

Chances are, the vast majority of people who purchased your games during a sale would never have bought it otherwise.  This isn't a statement about the quality of your games, it's a reality of your customers having limited resources to spend on games, and by necessity having to be extremely picky about what they spend their money on.  With new games constantly being released, 99% of video games are perceived to have less value over time, and if the concept wasn't enough to interest a player early on, chances are that player will forget all about the game shortly after it's release.  If they do happen upon the game down the road, seeing the game at full price a year after launch is a definite hindrance to convincing them to purchase it.  Why spend your limited money on a year old game when you can get a brand new one instead?  The only thing that counteracts this is in the (extremely rare) case of something like Minecraft, or Gary's Mod, where the game is so popular with it's users that they just keep playing, and telling others about it, and posting videos, and dressing up as characters, etc...  This situation is definitely the exception, however, and not the rule.

The advantage of a sale is that your game actually gets front page coverage again, long after it's been released.  This reminds people it exists, and if they ever had a slight interest in it before, seeing that the price has come down makes it easier for them to "take a chance" on a game that they're interested in, but not 100% sure about.  It also exposes it to people that may have never even heard of the game before.  "What's this?  I've never heard of it, but it's not that much, maybe I should check out the reviews and see what it's about..."  I really can't even tell you how many times I've done this exact thing, and I guarantee you thousands of others have as well.

If you want to stay firm on your price, by all means do so.  You should just know that you're dealing with a strong "perceived value" problem, and your game has to truly be a standout to justify it's firm price tag to gamers with only so much money to spend over time.

Last edited by gmiller744 (2014-01-15 16:47:59)

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#8 2014-01-15 17:41:52

jere
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Registered: 2013-05-31
Posts: 536

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

2)  Minecraft did NOT initially have an increasing price model.  The way I see minecraft done, the guy kinda saw things as an experiment.  The way he developed the game seemed like a huge social/gameplay/technical experiment of hey look what I could do!  Then he hit upon a system that was really fun.  The reason the pricing was structured that way was because it got REALLY successful and MANY MANY more people wanted to play it.  He could get away with charging more money because the demand for the game increased.

Casmicus, I think you're wrong on that one. Notch announced his pricing plan 3 weeks after he first introduced Minecraft on an indie game forum. This was 4.5 years ago. I don't believe he saw that the game was exploding in popularity and then decided to do this unheard of pricing scheme.

I don't know if the model will work here, but the effects of sales are hard to dispute: unplayed and undervalued games. The developer of Democracy 3 posted some similar thoughts on pricing and his game is $25. http://positech.co.uk/cliffsblog/2013/1 … ent-curve/

I'm amused by how many people are coming out of the woodwork to protest a pricing model for a game it sounds like they have no interest in. You can buy the game right now for $8! What's the problem!?!? There are crappy early access games on steam for $60 right now. If people are only going to buy it because it's cheap and not because they're actually interested (and this game certainly isn't for everyone), what's the point of even encouraging those kinds of sales?

One thing I wonder about is the effect that pricing/sales would have on the player base. Without sales, players are going to come in sporadically. Hopefully they each get to join a large community. With sales on the other hand, there would be a burst of activity, which would help guarantee new players have opponents. What happens if someone buys the game 5 years down the line and no one is playing?

Last edited by jere (2014-01-15 17:47:36)


Golden Krone Hotel - a vampire roguelike

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#9 2014-01-15 19:00:47

chunkystyles
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Registered: 2014-01-15
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Got here from the Kotaku post and registered just to respond to this.  One assumption you make that I disagree with is that people are waiting (or will wait more in the future) on sales to buy games.  Gamers are a passionate bunch.  If we are excited about a new game, we can't wait to get our hands on it.  Pre-orders and release parties are common.  I speak from experience that Steam sales, which I participate in often, have not lead me to wait for games that I'm excited about.

Granted, I'm making generalizations, but I really don't think that people are going to stop buying games at full price so they can wait for sales.

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#10 2014-01-15 20:08:25

Dysiode
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Registered: 2014-01-15
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Howdy!

I like many of the others here hadn't heard about the game before now, and joined to comment on it. However, I'm largely a fan of the idea. I've felt the burn of the "I paid full price for this because I appreciate your work but now it's 33% off?" moment (Borderlands and Thirty Flights Of Loving anyone?). I want to see that abolished. Because I've seen a lot of negative feedback of the argument, I want to offer an addition to it.

I've had my eye on Kentucky Route Zero since I saw it in IGF and I fit your example user "It'll go on sale. I'll wait" But after a year it only went on sale for 50% (crazy, I know) and that happened a couple times. At that point, I knew it wasn't going to go to 66% or 75% any time soon so I picked it up. I can see a happy medium with sales where you make it clear that you won't go on sale for a certain period of time and/or for a specific discount. You don't necessarily have to verbalize that either. I don't follow any KRZ news but it was clear that that price point was not going to change quickly. This way you still get the press about sales (I saw a lot of KRZ at 33% and 50%) without having to screw fans over.

I'm sure there are a few ways of strategizing it that would require some experimentation (e.g. a bit before a steam sale, have another 10% type discount like might be seen on launch week but make it clear that it's not going to go below that). There are also more mediums for sales with the Humble Store now you see a lot of shallower discounts on those games.

I will say I don't think this model works as a long term plan however. I like the idea of starting low for pre-orders and then increasing the price over time, but I don't think it would work as expected over a two week period. With Minecraft there was the expectation of more content over a period of a year or so between increases. It may still be viable but that may be a case for early access. Make it clear there that the price will increase when it's finished.

Just my two cents. I hate seeing developers feel like they have to sell out on their baby, and I hope something like this can work.

NOW I'll go check out the game wink

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#11 2014-01-15 21:36:55

zaphos
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Registered: 2014-01-15
Posts: 2

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

I don't think I've actually felt screwed or burned by a game I bought going on sale later.  If I pay a price, it's because having the game was worth at least that much to me.

However, if you're planning to put the game on sale next week, you can't announce it, because you will cannibalize this week's full-price revenues

Have you tried doing this and verified?  I agree it'd be logical if it did, but steam sales are pretty predictable and I do not actually see that showing up in the Gary's Mod data (I'd expect dips preceding the spikes).

An alternative strategy to pre-announcing sales would be to announce a policy of partial refunds to people who buy just before a sale.

And how much thicker would that daily volume be if players weren't waiting for sales?

On the other hand, how much thinner would that daily volume be without the bought-it-because-it-was-on-sale players streaming, let's playing, and generally promoting the game?

You get revenue spikes later in the life of the game, right before announced price hikes, which are very similar to the spikes induced by putting a game on sale

Will valve put news of your upcoming price hikes on the front page of their store?  Steam sales get prominent placement on a store with ~75 million users.  The actual sale is perhaps less important than the millions of new eyeballs.  How can you even come close to that level of publicity?  Remember: http://chrishecker.com/No_One_Knows_About_Your_Game

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#12 2014-01-16 01:06:41

Casmicus
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Registered: 2014-01-15
Posts: 2

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Jere:

Fair enough, Thanks for correcting me however, rereading my second point I see where I went wrong

What I mean to say is this, Mojang isn't planning on selling his game for $59.99 in the foreseeable future as part of this model.  I know it's an exaggeration, but hey.

Technically speaking, the model on your page isn't really an increasing price model either.   From what I see in that web page you linked me it's hey, I don't know if this game is going to be successful, but give me 10 bucks and see where it goes.  As a reward you get the full game, but my real price on the game is $25 but here's a discount for believing in me.  It's like a coupon (badge of cheapness as my economics teacher would say) rather than a planned tiered payment system.  But seeing it this way, I see Jason's point in rewarding the fans and how this is a good way to do it.

I also see this model as more fair than I originally thought, so kudos Jere for giving me a new perspective on it.  I'll take some time to think about it.  However, I still hold what I said to be true -- and that the only way you can successfully pull off that pricing structure is to put out a really successful game.

Cas.

Last edited by Casmicus (2014-01-16 01:08:14)

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#13 2014-01-16 02:37:50

kimo
Member
Registered: 2014-01-16
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Hi,
first sorry for my english wich is not at all my first language, so if I speak like I'm a bit retarded, well, it's just hard to express precise opinions in another language.

First I think you making a really good observation, but I'm still wondering about the conclusion.

There are a lot of different reasons to buy a game at full price or at sales. Money, time or even interest in a game or blunt curiosity or luck. I got AAA or indies first day because I felt invested in the project. When the games get on sales after, I don't feel rob or anything, simply because nothing was taken back from me. On the contrary, when the game is on sale, I tell everybody who wouldn't want to buy that game at full price "come on, only a couple of buck for a fantastic game, no excuses". One of my friend buy Dear Esther and never played it, well, too bad - but another one buy Little Inferno and played it to the end, and that's great.
Because when you speak about people actually playing the game, well, it's not about how much people played it, but how much had the opportunity to play it and would never had otherwise. If Inside a Star-filled Sky was never on sale, I would never have bought it. Would never talk about it with people. There are different way for a game to exist and even if it don't come out as number of player or time played, there is the discussions, the publicity and the way you think about it when playing other games. Well, you don't always have to play to the game to make it exist. I really enjoyed the concept of Star-filled Sky, but never played a lot. Why? because it's not my kind of game. But the opportunity to buy it cheap just to have the taste of it and give some money to the dev appeals to me. Yes sometimes I buy game just to participate or for my curiosity and that's why sales are great too.

So maybe you will gain some fan with your buy early cheaper. But you incite people to buy a game before release, a thing I don't find very fair -and yes 60€ early access seem crazy to me - because there is no opinion yet of the game, no way to know what you are really buying.

Well, that's all, sorry for my clumsy post, but I think thatyour solution only take in consideration the bad of sales, but not the opportunity to make people simply discover the game, even if it's only 1% of the people who bought the game on sales. That's the way to have more people trying to play it. I don't think fans will be mad if the game is on sale, simply because they love the game, and that's not really a matter of money when we are around these prices. I hope the majority of the players are not these guys always counting that you present for whom the value of the game is in the price they payed it.

Last edited by kimo (2014-01-16 02:41:15)

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#14 2014-01-16 04:46:07

joshwithguitar
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Registered: 2013-07-28
Posts: 538

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Jason: The one concern with the guarantee that the game won't drop below $16 is that this removes the potential to get a boost in the player base if it lulls in the future. A lot of people will be turned off paying full price for the game if the player base has dwindled but many might by it during a sale, especially as the sale itself will boost the player base making it a good time to buy the game. This is of course an objection very specific to online games that require an active player base to work.

So a model that might work is: $8 alpha, $12 launch and $16 full price, with a potential (but not inevitable) if the player base dwindles. Early on will still possibly be one of the best times to buy as the player base will be guaranteed to be large (as long as it isn't a flop). As the game is unlikely to have a large active player base for many years to come buying it early means having more time to play it in which there is a decent number of active players.  If I was buying at launch, I would personally like the idea that if in the future the player numbers drop people could buy it on sale for less than I have paid as it will mean that the game will have potentially more longevity.

For instance, just say Primrose was made to be sold, when do you think people would prefer to buy it, at full price when there are lots of active players competing to create higher and higher scores or after everyone has left and no one is putting up new scores any more. It makes sense that after a game has run its course that it is available at a cheaper price.

It may make sense though to avoid sales while the game is still in its prime as this will discourage people buying the game at launch but I think saying the game will never be cheaper is going too far.

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#15 2014-01-16 08:04:04

Serling1979
Member
Registered: 2014-01-16
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

While I can understand that developers think that sales are hurting them, it simply is not true.

First, developers have to accept that their games aren't all blockbusters. Blockbusters sell well because people are eager to play the game for a certain amount of money. The problem is that this only applies to the really good games since gamers have a limited amount of money. Just to give you a quick example: Diablo III - shitty game but I was willing to pay $60 to play that game just to see server issues. My funds are limited and I bet that is the case for the majority of the gamers. Nontheless, a lot of good games are released. I just recently had to decide between Arkham Origins and Assassin's Creed IV. 2 games I would really like to play. But I only got money for one. So, I took Batman and really have a great time with it - since I still have the DLCs of AC III to go on a killing spree. Gamers don't necessarily wait until the price drops. Sometimes they just don't have the funds.

Second, the willingness to pay a price is different for every gamer. While developers think that they have put a lot of work into a game, it has nothing to do with what the gamers is willing to pay. And so they wait until that magic barrier is reached when the game is cheap enough to be bought. To not reduce the price means to miss out on a lot of potential buyers.

Third, while games on Steam do not require shelf space, there is a certain supply and demand thing going on. Gamefly, GreenManGaming, Gamersgate, Amazon.com, Humble Bundle, they all buy Steam keys in advance and paid money for it. They have to sell them, so they don't have a bunch of unused keys floating around. This is the new shelf space. What good is a key for a vendor if no one buys it. Amazon.com sold Aliens: Colonial Marines for $1.99 because nobody will buy it for the retail price and it's not even worth $1.99. But gamers will be like "Ah, what the heck." and put it into the basket. That is one more steam key that is not floating around anymore.

Sales have always been important and always will be.
What you will do is what will ruin gaming in the long run. This is nothing personal. Selling cheap in the beginning and raising the prices will satisfy your fans and will make everyone else uncomfortable. Pay the low price now? Better do that. It just might be worth playing. This will create a big wave of alpha games that have great potential at the first glance and suck when reaching beta or the developer just stops halfway through.

This is not about you. I am just saying that this way of pricing games can be misused and in the end will generate less sales.

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#16 2014-01-16 13:08:02

Merin
Member
Registered: 2014-01-16
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

I disagree on several points of your post.

I don't think it's a good idea to do a sale on a game you just released, and most gamers don't even expect it, Sales are mostly for games that are a few months old, if you do a sale for a game you just released, you are doing it wrong. ( or do a -25% at best, but I never expect a "just released game" to go on sale, and my steam library has 500+ games )

The Sales are there to put YOUR game in front of several millions of people, that are NOT your fans ( like me ), and they didn't know anything about your game prior to release, and if they are not your fan, they will NOT buy your game at full price, nor preorder it, if I buy a game that is several months old at full price, it's either because I want to play "right now" with someone that already own the game, or there was a huge patch that added content and made the game desirable to me. ( Like Minecraft )

your fans won't complain if you do a sale a few months after the launch, and with that sale, you'll probably get more fans, and more money, I don't disagree with selling low at first, and then higher, but not doing any sales isn't going to help you at all.

Best of luck.

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#17 2014-01-16 21:14:06

Goliath
Member
Registered: 2014-01-16
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

The "ever rising" price model does seem fair, but there's an important difference compared to Minecraft. The price for Minecraft was rising over a long time period. That gave people enough time to spread the game and attract a larger audience.

In your "experiment", I think your time window may be too short, particularly step 2 between Jan 29 and Feb 5.

But hey, what do I know? I hope it works out for you. Best wishes!

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#18 2014-01-16 22:08:31

kt3946
Member
Registered: 2014-01-16
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Honestly, I joined this forum just to post a reply to this...

Jason.  You sound like an intelligent individual.  You've thought out your argument on multiple levels and that by itself stands to reason that you've considered quite a few things. 

However, you _must_ realize, that you're attempting to discard over 1000+ years of sound economic theory, human psychology, and experience right?  Right?

Here's what you miss:

A.  A community isn't formed by a bunch of people buying something.  It's formed by the following:

* A shared interest.  You're game is their interest.  The mechanics of play, the engine, the author, all of these aspects about you, and your game establish a set of circumstances, in which forums, groups, and other communities form around.  Sometimes these communities form completely _unrelated_ to your interest (such as groups that hate your games, or just like to play together on multiple games and are friends otherwise, who just happen to play your game too).  The 'community' of your game, is nothing but an architecture of the human condition which compels us to share the excitement we have in regard to a feeling with others.

Fostering a community isn't something that you do by pricing.  It's something that you do by planting seeds of interests in many forms.  You do that by spreading the word about your game, and the community you're trying to form.  You do that by spreading the word about yourself and your ideals.  Otherwise known in the real world as MARKETING.  THAT is what forms a community.  The game itself is nothing but a catalyst.

It has nothing to do what-so-ever regarding pricing.  The game could be _FREE_ and still not form a community if no one knows about it, or no one is interested, or finds nothing compelling about it that they want to share with others.  You have to establish those FEELINGS in people regarding your product for a community to form.

* Tools for connecting players to each other.  These forums for example, are a means for doing so.  They are methods of communication which your players, friends, etc. will use to spread and engage within.  Those tools are essential for people to be able to express themselves.  Without them, a community will whither due to the inability to communicate.

B.  Pricing isn't based on what _YOU_ think.  Pricing in itself, is an economic shuffle.  Money is nothing but a means to do bartering without either side having to establish a set of pre-determined trade parameters.  Instead of establishing customary mechanisms for trading grain, food, hard goods, or other items for your product, both parties can instead establish a 'price' against a common 'currency' which allows for an efficient mechanism of trading value.

On one side you have the seller, who prices their 'product' based upon what they consider a fair trade for the effort that they put into it.  On the OTHER side, you have the customer, who is either willing, or UN-willing to value their time in the same manner as yours.  If the interest they have in the 'product' exceeds their value limit, then you make a sale.  If it does not, then you get nothing.

Pricing is all a matter of 'perception'.  For someone to purchase something, they have to FEEL that your good is worth the amount of value that they have in the money that they have procured.  It must be WORTH something to them, for them to be able to trade their hard-earned time, in trade for your effort in your product.

Pricing 'tiers' are an established mechanism for regulating the perception of value against different groups of purchasers.  Some purchasers make $$$$$$ and as such, price is no object.  Their perception of value can be minimal, and as such you can price your product sky high and they still will purchase, as their purchasing 'power' is immense.  However, this group is very small (the 1%).

Some purchasers make $$$ and as such, pricing is more nuanced.  They require a fair trade of value against their hard-earned cash, because to them, every dollar counts.  Unless they see a great value or interest in your product, they will pass in hopes to find something which more aptly values their definition of their effort and is 'affordable' to them (these are your common purchasers, the 80%).

Then you have your purchasers that make only $ and as such, value is EVERYTHING.  Their purchasing power is extremely limited, and so the value of your product will have to compete against the value of every OTHER thing that they may want and/or NEED and as such the value equation must be tipped quite highly in your favor for them to make a purchase (the rest).

The economics of SALES, is based upon the notion that to maximize the monetary return that you receive is to ensure that every product should be sold to EVERY purchaser. What that product COSTS in trade of value/time, is based upon both their ability to pay and sense of value in your product.  *Selling your product at a high-cost initially is a mechanism for bringing in the most money from those purchasers who have a high-value assignment (interest) or immense purchasing power against your product*.  SALES after that point are a means of balancing the price against different PERCEPTIONS of value of your product against the consumer's purchasing power/ability/sense of worth.

*This basis of economic theory is time-worn, tested, and verified.  Not because the masses are ignorant and brainwashed.  But because individuals value things differently and have different economic purchasing capabilities.*

Steam Sales in particular have multiple aspects associated with them...

1.  There is the discount associated with the sale, which re-balances the value equation in your favor in lieu of monetary return.
2.  There is the MARKETING factor that your product is HIGHLIGHTED FRONT AND CENTER and eyeballed by potential customers who had not previously known or were interested in your product.

As an example, look at the APPLE STORE.  Products which make the front page are almost guaranteed (even though most only cost $0.99) to make an immense profit.  WHY?  Because they suddenly KNOW of your product.  It's MARKETING.  Now you have sown the seed of interest, of which they will then follow with a possible purchase.

Get buried in page 1,432 (exaggeration) of the list of games, and you're guaranteed to make bupkis (not an exaggeration).

* You're problem is your confusing SALES with MARKETING.  The sale price entices purchases which had a lower value proposition against your product in trade for some monetary return.  In other words, you traded $10 off the price, so you could get another 100 sales at $15 instead of 25 at $25 (so you make $1500 dollars in total, versus $625).  You're maximizing total monetary return here.  By reducing the price, you may have a lost a few dollars to those customers who were willing to pay more.  At the same time, you also picked up additional people who were unwilling to pay previously, and now are happy to.

THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR COMMUNITY.  Communities have formed around $0.99 games that have tight-knit and close relationships.  These communities form organically due to interest and shared ideals.  Whether they VALUED the game initially has little do with with anything.  Most of the time, players will value your game HIGHER after playing, than previously (hence why share-ware and free-trials are common, as they provide another mechanism to gain interest in your product).  This value has little to do with pricing.  In fact, in many cases, lower pricing actually can INCREASE the community relationship by tipping the perceived value of your product in the consumer's favor and thus they have a greater interest in SHARING that enthusiasm and fervor with others (providing more sales).

MINECRAFT worked so well because the perceived value was so immensely HIGH.  People saw the possibility, became enthusiastic about the product and purchased regardless of the price that they set, because their value of the product far exceeded the price ratio.

Did that maximize their return (monetary return)?  NO.  The developers of Minecraft and the community CONTINUOUSLY add value to the product.  It is still under active development.  As such, the price remains high because rather than lower the price of the product to maximize return against different purchase power arrangements, they instead add VALUE to the product until that value perception exceeds the purchaser's value limit. 

If it wasn't for that simple fact, Minecraft would have sold initially for a period and then continued sales would have declined as interest waned.

Unless you plan on adding continuous VALUE to your product, pricing high after the initial interest period will only reduce your overall monetary return.

WHY IS THIS SO DIFFERENT FROM OTHER THINGS (like hard-goods, food, etc.).  That is because digital products have negligible production costs.  Initial costs may be high, but it doesn't cost you anything to continue to churn out copies to customers looking to purchase.  As such, the 'limit' of purchase and perception regarding value (e.g. limited-edition, etc.) plummets as both the producer and consumer fully understand that it costs little for you to generate another copy for sale and can be done so indefinitely.  As a result, their value perception plummets unless there is continued interest (added value).

So, in conclusion while your feelings direct you to believe certain things regarding the perceived value and mechanisms for sale of your product, experience, theory, and scientific understanding of the mechanisms of human desire prove otherwise.

Either way, you'll see soon enough...

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#19 2014-01-17 01:06:09

GunFodder
Member
Registered: 2014-01-16
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

jasonrohrer wrote:

As a Steam developer, I've made much of my Inside a Star-filled Sky money during Steam sales.  Sure, I made 25% of my lifetime Steam revenue during my launch week, but I made an additional 10% during my first sale, which happened only a few weeks after my launch.  After that initial taste of extra, no-effort money, I participated in sale after sale.  I was hooked.  In the long tail, my daily revenue dwindled down to almost nothing, except during the sales, when there would be another big spike.  I mean, making $3K over a few days, and a full year after launch?  Hard to resist.

http://thecastledoctrine.net/newsImages … yGraph.png

(As you can see in this graph, in 2013, I stopped participating in Steam sales. Oops!)

On its face, this seems like an obvious win for game developers:  they get to revive their dwindling long-tail numbers with a big revenue boost, and a sale will bring more latecomer players into their games too.  This also seems like a win for players:  people who can't afford to buy a game at full price get a chance to play it later, for cheaper.  The audience grows, and more people get to experience the game.  Good stuff.

I'm sorry to be so blunt, but it seems as though you have years of anecdotal evidence and concrete data that both support the argument for Steam sales, as well as data that damages or (at the very least) fails to support your belief that these sales ultimately harm revenue.

jasonrohrer wrote:

But I suspect that something different is happening.  Something that is arguably bad for players, and possibly bad for developers as well.

To put it bluntly:  sales screw your fans.
Your fans love your games and eagerly await your next release.  They want to get your game as soon as it comes out, at full price.  But they are foolish to do that, because a sale is right around the corner.  Even in economic terms, the extra utility of playing the game early, at release, is not big enough to offset the extra cost for most people .  It makes more sense to wait, unless they love you and your work so much that they're willing to throw economic reason out the window.  It's nice to have fans that love your work that much.  And these are the fans that you kick in the teeth when you put your game on sale.

It seems that this would mean your initial sale of 50% off is also "screwing" your fans that learn of your game at a later point in time. While you may rail against the perceived injustice of fans  being "kicked in the teeth" by recurring sales that make them feel foolish for having bought the game at a higher price, this brings about another concern. You claim that Steam sales are a recurring loss in apparent value for those that purchased a game at full price. Your proposed model would, by that same logic, decrease the apparent value to anyone who bought the game AFTER the initial sale ended, but with this perception of lost value lasting for all of the years to follow.

They would look back and say, "How foolish I was to have paid full-price after the initial sale ended. Alas, I had not even heard of the game until a friend recommended it, and praised it's originality and thought-provoking gameplay, all for the low price of $8!"

Others that would have bought the game when it was on sale, but perhaps had neither knowledge of its existence or disposable funds at the time of the game's release, might also feel that the game is no longer worth their time or money.

It seems as though you offer a false dichotomy;  I don't see why a developer couldn't offer a sale upon the game's release, AND offer recurring sales in the future.  It would reward your longtime fans whom have been waiting for the game's release, and presents an opportunity for future players to find the game when it appears on a sale. This is incredibly valuable because these buyers may have otherwise never even heard of your game had it not received its time in the spotlight on Steam's frontpage during a sale that draws millions of potential players into the store.

Finally, and I say this quite honestly, I have never felt "screwed" by missing a sale. I have both purchased games at full price after having missed a sale, and I have also waited until the next sale and picked up the game at that time.

jasonrohrer wrote:

But forget the fans for a moment.  A culture of rampant sales is a culture of waiting.  "I'll buy it later, during a sale."  Launch weeks become weak, and developers grow to depend on sales for financial survival.  Even in my example from above, 25% is a pretty sad launch week.  In my case, that represented something like $23K.  I made more selling the game through my own website.  Pathetic.  Of course, sale after sale, later on, pumped my revenue up to way more than what I made on my website.

This waiting game is likely decimating your player base and critical mass at launch by spreading new players out over time.  And your fans, who are silly enough to buy the game at launch and waste money, get to participate in a weaker, smaller player community.

I'm afraid that you have yet to provide any evidence that this is the case. It is also possible that much of the gaming market had no knowledge of your game's existence, or had yet to learn of its compelling themes or gameplay. You might have made more money from your own website simply because, if your game already had fans waiting in the wings, then of course they would head there first to buy your product.

Those repeated sales that you besmirch, the same "sale after sale" that gave you more money than if you had simply relied on your own website, seem anything but pathetic. Once again, these sales highlighted your game to millions of potential buyers who may have not heard of your game, and/or believed that the sale represented a valuable purchase for them.

jasonrohrer wrote:

Finally, there's the possibility that the culture of sales actually reduces developer revenue over the long term.  If just half of the players who buy the game during a 50%-off sale would have bought the game at full price if that was their only option, we'd already have a wash.  What fraction of sale-waiting players fall into this category?  I suspect way more than half.  The picture gets even worse for 75%-off sales.

This may sound awfully mean, but let me rephrase your statement:
"Finally, there's the possibility that all of the data I've presented, which actually damages or fails to support any of my arguments, is actually wrong. That would mean that X% of players who buy the game at X% discount, would result in something bad. What fraction of sale-waiting players fall into this category?  I suspect more than half. The picture gets even worse when I increase this to an even larger arbitrary number"

Yes, it's possible. It is also ignoring your own data to pursue an unsupported argument, instituting a straw man fallacy in place of that data, and further stretching that to somehow increase the impact of your claim.

jasonrohrer wrote:

Better that they spent that money on one full-price game that they really want rather than four 75%-off impulse buys to add to their backlog.

That's a personal opinion, not an argument. It is not your place to decide what is best for players, especially when you aren't aware of their circumstances. Perhaps they had a recent influx of cash that may not recur for some time. Or, like me and several of my lan buddies, a sale represents an opportunity for one person to buy copies of a game for several friends as gifts (which happened at the last two of our lan parties).

jasonrohrer wrote:

When we're talking about digital games, the potential full-price lifetime is pretty much eternal.  There is no shelf space.  Even the long tail isn't a hard-and-fast rule anymore.  As the game's audience grows, revenue can actually climb over time, sometimes even making launch week look like an insignificant blip.

In the course of your post, you have simultaneously lamented the "spreading out" of the player population due to gamers buying the product at a later date, and yet here you seem to praise the potential for a game to gain more players than it ever had originally as time goes on.

jasonrohrer wrote:

Consider Gary's Mod, which has been selling steadily, at an increasing rate, for seven years:

http://thecastledoctrine.net/newsImages … gSales.png

Yes, there are some big, thin spikes there during the sales, but they are insignificant compared to the day-to-day full price volume.  And how much thicker would that daily volume be if players weren't waiting for sales?

You have offered no evidence to support the notion that removing sales, with revenue increases that range from 100% to almost 1000%, would somehow "thicken" the daily volume. It is nothing more than supposition that flies in the face of all of your own data.

jasonrohrer wrote:

For the people who buy the game the latest, after the final, permanent price has been reached, they had the chance to wait to hear more about the game before buying.  They had less to lose at that point, because the game has been vetted and the community established.

Having backed Star Citizen at its cheapest during the original kickstarter, I can tell you that I'm seeing individuals on our forums who are paying $5-$10 more for the same game , and are already complaining at "being screwed," even though they have paid $20-$25 less than those who will buy the game upon release.

jasonrohrer wrote:

But in general, people who missed lower prices in the past may not even be aware of what they missed.  They come to buy the game now, and see the current price now.  On the other hand, when your game goes on sale later, everyone who bought it at full price remembers what they paid and feels the sting.  Being unaware of what you're missing has a different psychological impact than having what you missed thrown right in your face.

Once again, I can easily reverse this:
But in general, people who miss lower prices in the future may not even be aware of what they would have missed.  They come to buy the game now, and see the current price now.  On the other hand, when your game goes on sale earlier, everyone who buys it at full price knows what they paid and feels the sting.  Being unaware of what you would have missed has a different psychological impact than having what you missed thrown right in your face.

Yup.

jasonrohrer wrote:

You can safely announce, "The price will go up next week.  This is the last week to get the lower price."  This will create a huge revenue spike as people race to get the game---no problem there.

But what about all of those people who haven't heard of your game yet, or don't know anything about it's gameplay? If you believe your prospective players are so petty as to request refunds for having paid full price, might these also be the same individuals who would spurn your game upon learning that they would never pay the same low price as those before them?

jasonrohrer wrote:

The final price of the game will be $16.  During alpha testing, up through launch, the game has a 50% discount for $8.  During launch week, the game will have a 25% discount for $12.  After launch week, the game will rise to full price.

http://thecastledoctrine.net/newsImages … cePlan.png

In other words, this is the last two weeks to get the game at 50% off (ending January 28).  If you want to wait until launch on Steam, you can get it for 25% off if you buy it during the first week (ending February 4).  Otherwise, the game will be full price at $16 forever after that.

Anyone feel burned by that plan?

Nope! I fully support your pricing, and I am greatly looking forward to your game.

That may sound strange, but I think your game sounds fantastic.  I read an article last summer detailing the origins of your project, and it struck a chilling chord within me. I spent nine years in the Army Reserves, but I'm no hard-bitten combat vet. In fact, by some grace that seems utterly impossible, I was never deployed to a combat zone. My nine years amongst so many soldiers, many of whom saw combat in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, made me realize how difficult it would be for me to defend my wife and our home from a determined assailant. There are simply too many aggressive individuals who are larger, more skilled, better armed, and just plain meaner than I am.

I've spent too many moments wondering what I would do if someone broke into our home, or mugged us while walking the dog. Should I get a knife? A gun? My wife HATES weapons, or any violence for that matter. What if I'm not there to even TRY to protect her? What would I do without my mate? Lie down and die, I suppose.

I'm sorry if my message appears mixed, but it's really not. You sound like an incredibly relatable, thoughtful, and intelligent person, who has created a game that taps into some of the most fundamental terror that anyone can understand. Reading that article about your fears at the prospect of trying to protect your family hit me like a ton of bricks, and I greatly looked forward to your game's eventual release to further explore this idea. But life happened. Funerals, weddings, classes, work, and family. I honestly forgot about this game until your words appeared in a Kotaku article, and brought me here.
I'm glad they did. I question the logic and reasoning that you have presented, but I absolutely support your prerogative to sell the game however you see fit, and I sincerely hope that your game is successful as a work of art and expression, as well as a product.

Good luck with the game, and I'm looking forward to playing it a great deal.

I...I think I need to sleep now. G'night.

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#20 2014-01-17 03:58:32

The Swede
Member
Registered: 2014-01-17
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

It's not nearly as simple as you lay it out. Minecraft was cheaper at start because it was effectively pre-alpha. As it fills up with features, over a long time, the price increased - because the market would bear it. Your game is no Minecraft (which I do not mean disparagingly in any way - there are no other games like Minecraft, it is unique in its success model).

I must counter the "screwed fans" point, because it is completely backwards. As a fan of a few franchises, I will buy the game when released, or even when pre-released, and be happy. If there is a sale the week after, great, that will bring in more people and grow the community! I have certainly not been kicked in the teeth; I have received a game I wanted at a price I was willing to pay.

However, when it comes to games I am not familiar with, I wait out the first full price wave to see reviews, hear from friends and the like. That doesn't mean I always wait for a sale; sometimes I do, but to be honest that is with games I probably will not play, and would never have bought if there was no sale. And when the word is out that the game looks good, that people enjoy it, I go to buy it. And if it then costs more than at launch ... there is your kick in my teeth. I won't buy that game, even if reviews tell me it's the best thing since sliced bread.

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#21 2014-01-17 05:52:04

Acceleratum
Member
Registered: 2014-01-17
Posts: 1

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

You do realize theres people, like me, and most of my country, where a game costs 10-20% of our salary.. and sales are the only way we actually get to buy them ?
The game will have great community and players and popularity if it is really good, like WoW, Minecraft, Mass Effect or skyrim. They even sell alphas online now... (day-z, rust), thats just an example on how popular they are and didn't even launch.
Most of them aren't even online so having people doesn't really matter and doesn't hurt the experience..
The online ones are mostly designed for 2-5 friends and they all buy it on some sale down the line. the MMOs stay up for years and you buy and play with your friends even if the game is 3 years old.. So I don't see your point, most of your arguments are useless and it just feels like you want it that way because it's better for you.
Your advocating buying every game on launch.. even if its cheaper, and later becoming more expensive... that will work completely the other way, since the poor people who cant afford it on launch might not be able to afford it anyway in that windows, and then be forever without the opportunity to buy it... and don't tell me it's gonna have more opportunities with lower price later since thats what sales are...
Im sorry but I can't see your ideas being good in any way except for the rich kids who want to buy everything on launch, don't even play half the games they buy and want to save some cash by buying cheap.
Still it's nice to see someone challenging the common ideas, but good luck next time.

Last edited by Acceleratum (2014-01-17 05:55:24)

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#22 2014-01-17 08:32:11

jasonrohrer
Administrator
Registered: 2013-04-01
Posts: 1,229

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Hey folks!  As you can imagine, the response to this article, both positive and negative, has been enormous and beyond my wildest expectations.  I'm having a bit of trouble keeping up with all of it.

You've all posted some very thoughtful things here, and I'd love to respond to each one of you.  But, given that I'm in my last 12 days before launch and that I'm a one-person show, I simply don't have the time to do that right now.

To summarize a bit of a response:  what I'm proposing DOES clearly fly in the face of psychology.  Marketers have used psychological tricks over the years to convince loads of people to spend money on things that they don't actually want or need.  "SALE!" is a big part of that psychological bag of tricks. 

If you go to Hollywood, you'll find the "$10 store, where everything is on sale for 50% today for $5."  But if you return next week, next month, or next year, you'll find that the same sale is still happening.  And you'll notice that the signs they are holding look a bit worn out.  Still, some people are tricked by this and go into that store, thinking they are getting a deal.

It WORKS.  I get it.

But I want no part of it.  I don't want to trick anyone, not a single person, into buying my game when they really don't want it, at any price.  I don't want a SINGLE person to pay for my game and not play it.

Yesterday, because of all this buzz, 142 people bought my game.  Guess how many new people played the game yesterday?  About 140.

These are people who heard about the game, watched the trailer, and said, "Yeah, that looks like a game I really want to play."  Those are the people that I want spending money on my game.

I know that my game is not for everyone.  It's weird and hard and disturbing.  I have absolutely NO disdain for the people who don't like my game or aren't excited about it when they hear about it or watch the trailer.  But I really want those people to save their money for other things and NOT waste it on my game, at any price.


All that said, the economic argument against rampant sales is stronger than many people claim for one simple reason:  near the bottom, there IS a crossover point where you stop making more money if you keep increasing the discounts.  The existence proof of that point is simple:  if you put your game on sale for a 100% discount, you will make $0.  What about a 99% discount?  Or 95%?  Where is the crossover point?  It lies somewhere between a 0% discount and a 100% discount.

The only way to know for sure is to A/B test prices simultaneously, without your audience being aware that you're doing that.  And as far as I'm aware, no one has done that (and I don't want to do it).  So, we have no idea where the crossover point is, though we are clearly locked into a race to the bottom, as discounts get bigger and bigger, and sales become more frequent.

WHICH MEANS THAT:

We may already be beneath the crossover point without realizing it.


At the end of the day (or year, in this case), I will have my sales data.  But sadly, it will tell me nothing.  Would I have made more or less money if I had put my game on sale? 

Even during the alpha test, I have no idea:  did I gain or lose money by giving a 50% discount during that period?

But that's not the point.  Giving a discount was the right thing to do, because I'm a one-person team, and it took me 10 months and 30 revisions to work through all of the issues that arose in the community.  It was only fair to give people a price break in exchange for them putting up with that process.  If I cut my revenue in half by doing the right thing, so be it.

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#23 2014-01-17 13:01:42

zaphos
Member
Registered: 2014-01-15
Posts: 2

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

The only way to know for sure is to A/B test prices simultaneously

Valve can probably get a pretty good estimate by applying econometrics methods to their massive data set.

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#24 2014-01-19 05:33:50

Dantheman
Member
Registered: 2013-10-13
Posts: 31

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Good response from Jason there I think.

I am in favor of sales, I bought quite a lot of games during the Christmas sale that I wouldn't have bought otherwise. But I also feel that a race to the bottom is going on at Steam. I have bought quite a few indie games that are still in development, and watching them over the years has been quite a lot of fun. Each month I like to check up on how this little stable of indies are coming along. Getting in early is a bit of a gamble. You are often in many ways more of a "supporter" of an idea than a "purchaser" of a game. It makes sense for this to be rewarded with a discount. That said, after the game goes public on steam, I think it is only natural for the price to decrease eventually for most games. I wonder if even Minecraft will be selling for the same price in five years. The question is when. Perhaps Jason would be better to consider a moratorium of a number of years before reconsidering, rather than promising that the price will -never- go down.

Last edited by Dantheman (2014-01-19 05:34:18)


Get out of my house!

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#25 2014-01-19 08:12:42

vahn
Member
Registered: 2013-12-13
Posts: 13

Re: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players

Why dont you raise the price over a longer period of time ?

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