Note that I had to enable moderation for all comments as it seems my blog is the favorite target for spammers trying to sell stuff so given some time I’ll approve all comments. Sorry about that.

I don’t recall ever reading a PC game postmortem in which the price was set as a good or bad point. At no point have I seen a dev saying “our game didn’t make well because it was priced too high”. In fact many will tell you that a lower price results in less revenue so that appeal of selling something for cheap doesn’t compensate for the revenue loss. While a higher price do result in possibly less sales the net revenue in the end is generally higher.

It’s hard to really back this up with numbers as such stats are usually kept private and you can’t expect much from a discussion about money with strangers on the Internet so you have to talk directly with devs about that. All there is to analyze for players is “this game sold X copies and is priced $Y” so from that you can make bogus conclusions all day long. The lack of real information brings the noise in the decision process of pricing and it can be easy to follow that noise when you don’t have much experience in selling games.

The first thing the noise do is to compare games to each other based on the price. It can be as silly as “this game is 3D and cost $15 so that 2D game can’t be sold for more than $10″. A quick visit to indie games Steam’s forums will get you plenty of that. You can’t blame players for wanting to pay as little as possible but just because someone complains it doesn’t mean that you should listen to them. For all we know, someone who publicly claims he won’t buy zombie shooter #354 because it cost too much might as well buy it the next week. Posting on a forum your refusal to buy a game doesn’t create a legal contract that will be enforced …

What the noise does also is to tempt you to use pricing as some marketing/selling point. Statements like “I’d buy it if it was $5 but at $10 I have to pass” shouldn’t put any pressure on devs to promote their game based on its price. There are plenty of games sold for cheap that still don’t meet any success. Trying to remain in the “indie pricing range” doesn’t bring any benefit to devs beside maybe avoiding reading someone complaining about the price of your game. Not much of a benefit I’d say …

It’s similar to what we see or I should say what we used to see about demo. Not releasing a demo had the effect of people threatening to not buy your game and for a long time I guess devs believed the lack of demo would hurt sales. Well guess what! These days it seems you have more chances to be hit by lightning than finding a demo for some game you’d like to buy and devs are still doing just fine. The lack of demo is so common now that you rarely hear any complaints about it. Even I used to complain about that but now I have given up and don’t care anymore. If I’m really on the fence I’ll go watch some YouTube videos and that’s it.

Just like higher prices, devs are now admitting more and more that not releasing a demo is actually better for sales or at least doesn’t have any bad visible effect. In fact there’s no need for a demo in a world full of bundles and Steam sales really … I have my own small experiment about this with Bret Airborne for which a demo is available. While it’s far from a smashing success the number of sales are still gigantic compared to the number of time the demo has been downloaded. You would expect the opposite but the fact is most people who bought the game just went straight to the checkout page without bothering with the demo. It’s not quite an incentive to release a demo for my next game I must say …

At this point the only reason one would want to release a demo would be to be on the front page of the demo page on Steam for several weeks since demo are so rare. If anyone check that page that is …

Some people have already figured that trying to conquer the world PC games with cheap prices just ain’t worth it. Planetary Annihilation is currently sold for $60 and is still in alpha (if I remember well it was even sold for $90 at first). Prison Architect is sold for $30 and is still months from release I guess. Spacebase DF-9 is in early access phase for $25. Democracy 3 released at $25 without any release discount.

Sure people complained and will keep complaining but you don’t see these devs panicking and suddenly dropping the price on their games. All we can guess from that is that people are still buying these games at that price and the devs don’t let the noise distract them from running their business. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more indie games get out of the $5-$15 range and hear that players didn’t desert.

For more on the topic I invite you to check this post: Strategy games, pricing, and the enjoyment curve. Funny enough the first 2 comments so far are exactly what I was talking about when I was saying that devs must be careful to not get lost in the noise. These people may have valid points for their own situation but shouldn’t be the anchor point of any dev when it comes to pricing a game.

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