You and me don’t charge enough for our games
On March 22 here’s the top sellers list of indie games on Steam: https://twitter.com/Over00/status/447447417265201154
Beside Papers, Please with a 50% discount and Garry’s Mod which has been on the top sellers list since the Big Bang it seems all games are priced $15 or more. What’s the point? Well there are a tons of indie games with discounts on Steam and yet the top sellers are mostly game with no discount at all sold for $15 or more … That’s the point.
When you get your game on Steam I really don’t understand why you’d want to sell it for peanuts. People already expect that your game will have some discount one day (Christmas sales, summer sales, whatever day sales, etc.) so there’s really no point to set your basic price to the same amount people would be ready to buy it with a discount.
Discovery by price
Discovery by price seems to be a popular belief and a tempting one. There’s always someone telling you that you charge too much for your game and when a game doesn’t sell we’re always tempted to blame it on the price. Maybe there’s a limit at which price can influence things ($40, $50, $100?) but I think most of us just got the wrong value in mind and we’re just hurting ourselves. There are tons of cheap games on Steam that nobody heard about. If discovery by price was valid then all those cheap games would be very well-known.
To make the same revenue as selling 1,000 units at $15 but at a price of $10 you have to sell 500 more units. That’s half of what is required for a $15 title. The question you must ask here is how many of these 500 units you’d have sold anyway at a $15 price. Of course it’s hard to figure the answer but my point is that the price we put on our games is often related to fear and not business decisions.
Pricing by comparison
The first thing strangers on the Web will do is to compare your game to some other top seller. “FTL only cost $9.99 so you can’t possibly charge more than that for your game!”. You’re lucky if they don’t compare it to Trine or Trine 2 which seem to constantly have some ridiculous discounts and are beautiful games most of us can’t dream to match.
While other games can give an idea of what kind of price range can be appropriate we must be careful not to make direct comparisons. Chances are that you didn’t release the next FTL and that you’ll sell a lot less copies. It doesn’t mean however that you can’t make a nice revenue but if you price it too low you won’t.
We must price our games based on our reality. It must be a business decision and not an emotional one involving what others did. FTL might make a ton of money but it doesn’t do so because it’s $9.99. It performs well because it’s an acclaimed game. I’m sure it would have done very well even at $14.99 but that’s the tricky part. We will never know what difference it could have done. You can tell me it would have sold less copies and I can tell you that the devs would still have made more money.
Price can go down but can never go up. With that said what are your expectations? Do you need to sell 100,000 copies to make a profit or only 3,000? If you really believe that you won’t sell 3,000 copies because of a high price then the problem might not be the price at all. Not all indies are after the smashing success of some very well-known titles. I mean we all secretly hope for it but it’s not a requirement to still be successful.
Since few of us will release a smashing hit putting a price too low just hinder our capacity to keep working on games. We must do our best to get out of our head the idea that the number of copies sold is more important than the money we actually make. If you got something interesting it’s not a $15-20 price that will scare people. Sure, some will complain but that comes with the job. You could still sell something for $5 that some would still find a way to tell you it’s too pricey.
So we must cut the noise and look at our business. It’s way easier to sell your game for $5 more than having to sell 500 more copies …