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Responding to the Sale Debate
by jasonrohrerFriday, January 17, 2014 [3:48 pm]

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 elsewhere, 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.


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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