Hey there, Gamers and Game Makers!
Today, I'm going to talk about an area that tends to be a sore spot for some folks. The race to the bottom with game prices and how we as game developers are no longer valuing our work properly.
"Why are some of your games paid?" This was the subject line of an email I received recently. Upon seeing this, my first concern was that it's someone who purchased one of my games and didn't like it and perhaps wanted a refund. No. In fact, this person had purchased one of my games and really enjoyed it. The said the story was one of the best they had experienced in a small indie game in along time.
"Why are some of your games paid?"
Curious as to why this person, who really enjoyed the game they had purchased felt it strange that the game cost money, I asked their opinion on this. I should also point out the game in question costs $1.20.
Now the interesting thing is they had no answer beyond "Indie Games should be free" Now, this is where you start to open up a real can of worms. While not everyone feels this way, It's undeniable that a large number of gamers now come to expect certain games to be free. Depending on who you ask, the reason for why this is will vary. Who do I think is to blame for some gamers expecting games to be free? Well, me.
When I say I'm to blame, I mean any Game Developer who undervalues their work and either releases it for free or undercharges for it. But why do so many Game Developers do this now? and why is it becoming the norm? This comes down to a number of reasons.
There are a lot of games out there now with more and more being released each year. With so much to choose from, sometimes the easiest way to stand out to a gamer browsing through the new releases section of a marketplace is to appeal to their wallet. A game that costs something like $1-2 or even be completely free will stand out that little bit more to a gamer. While this may work in the short term, it's ultimately ruining developers long term.
Never Ending Sales:
I've seen it so many times. A game will release and withing a week or two it's already on sale 50% off. Now, I've been guilty of doing this myself because I felt the pressure of people will only but a game when it's on sale. Now, why did I feel that pressure? Because I've been that gamer who has only bought games when they've been on sale. With STEAM and Humble among others running sales on games so frequently with up to 90% off of a game, it's hard to not just wait that short amount of time to get the game for practically nothing.
Free To Play:
Now, the Free To Play model won't apply to all Game Developers. It'll depend on the type of game you're making. That said, it's hard to deny that because some games run purely on a Free To Play business model that it makes it harder for other developers to charge for their games because not every gamer understands that not all games fit this model. So, you're left with those "Your game should be free like X game" comments. I'm personally not a fan of the Free To Play model. Primarily because it's used so much to exploit players. That said, there are some games that use it very well and fairly.
We Don't Value Our Work:
This is the most important thing wrong with why games are expected to be free. We as game Developers have allowed ourselves to devalue our work in the hopes of getting people to actually play our games. Out of all the games I've made, the vast majority are free. I have gotten lots of people playing them but you can't make a living that way. And by charging low prices for other games, I'm contributing to the problem. The solution for this problem is pretty simple. We need to just take a hard look at the effort we're putting into the games we make and value those games accordingly. When more developers start respecting their own work and the value of it, we'll slowly start to see things improve.
While this post certainly doesn't cover all the areas that impact this topic, I hope this has given some food for thought. If you care to share your opinion on the matter, please leave a comment below or feel free to get in touch.
Until next time!