"Sales screw your fans" says indie dev

Castle Doctrine creator Jason Rohrer says sales are bad for players and developers alike; plans to employ an "ever rising" model for his new game.

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Independent developer Jason Rohrer believes game sales are bad for players and developers alike. In a lengthy and detailed blog post concerning his new game The Castle Doctrine, Rohrer outlined his thinking and explained why he plans to increasingly charge more for his latest game.

"To put it bluntly: sales screw your fans," Rohrer said. "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."

Rohrer explained that sales can create a scenario where players who just paid full price for a game might feel like they've been taken for a ride. He further argues that because sales have become so commonplace (Valve itself runs five sales annually), the gaming community is now encouraged to hold off on their purchase until a sale pops up.

"This waiting game is likely decimating your player base and critical mass at launch by spreading new players out over time," Rohrer said. "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."

In addition, a culture of frequent sales can lead to a no-win situation for developers, he argued. Although developers can choose whether or not to put their game on sale, when so many other creators discount their games, you have to do the same to compete, he said.

Rohrer's own game, The Castle Doctrine, will employ an "ever rising" pricing model inspired by Minecraft, which increased in price throughout its transition from beta to full game. You can buy the game today, in its alpha state, for $8. During launch week on Steam you can get the game for $12, and after that, you'll pay the full $16 for the game.

"The rising price model is really just an inversion of the sales model," Rohrer said. "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."

"Anyone feel burned by that plan?"

Discussion

597 comments
SnoppyDude
SnoppyDude

Sales are not screwing gamers. If a game is great, many people will eagerly anticipate it, purchase it full price, inform their friends, enjoy the game and be done by the next big release. If you love a franchise or game idea, you'll buy into it. Gamers understand that their purchase is a hobby. Hobbies sometimes cost more money than we'd like to spend, but we do them because it excites us and fulfills a need in some way. We won't quibble about details like price for too long if our excitement gets high enough. We can all wait for sales but if a game isn't good enough to NOT wait for a sale, then why would someone complain that people want to pay what they feel something is worth to them? Any advertising is good advertising. I'll take a real 12 million to a projected 20 million when zero is the alternative.

 The digital platform reaches too many eyes to be that difficult to profit on a good idea no matter what price you're willing to let it go for. If making sure you can secure capitol to pursue bigger and better projects is important then ensure you have a power team ready to discover other ways in which you can profit from your intellectual property.

xsonicchaos
xsonicchaos

This is so f**king idiotic. You pay full price for a game that has just been released and enjoy it earlier and as much as you want, no matter if the game will be on sale later. The guys who waited for a sale have the benefit of low price, while you have the benefit of early access, which no longer has the same meaning thanks to Steam. Talking about Steam, not only do they have sales 5 times a year, they have sales every day, most notably the pre-purchase sales. Are you that dumb as to come up with this stupid idea just to justify your overpriced junk? I pitty the bloke who buys your game.

rarson
rarson

1. Valve runs sales all the time. They have midweek specials and weekend specials, in addition to the big sales (which are where the really good deals are).

2. I buy games on sale because I know I don't want to pay initial retail price. That is, whether it takes 6 months or 4 years, I'm going to wait for the price to drop. I'm often far behind the console cycle when it comes to hardware, as well. The sale just makes the game accessible to me more quickly.

3. If I find the right game at the right price, I don't care if it's on sale or not. I'm more than happy to pay $10 for a game that goes on sale for $3.99 as long as the game is good. The problem is that the majority of games that I see don't warrant their regular price, or at the very least, aren't so good that I can't wait a year or so to play them for significantly less.


THE ONLY THING YOU HAVE TO DO TO SELL YOUR GAME IS TO MAKE A GOOD GAME. If it's really good, then people will pay for it. No, I don't feel burned by your plan, but you might when I don't buy your game.

tightwad34
tightwad34

Did he take into consideration how much it costs devs to make a AAA title? I didn't see that in the article. I look at it like there are plenty of games that give you your $60 worth and then some(looking at you Fallout 3 and Dark Souls out of many). And there are those that aren't worth the case they come in. I would never pay $60 for COD with a 5 hour campaign and MP I wouldn't ever play. That's why reviews are so helpful, and word of mouth is often more helpful than just reviews. You can see how much content a game has and get a good grasp of gameplay and then determine if you think you can get your moneys worth. Also, they didn't even raise the prices on games for the PS4 and Xbone which hasn't been the case as long as I can remember.  

Hurvl
Hurvl

Games shouldn't be discounted heavily within the first year, but after 2-3 years the industry and the gamers have mostly moved on and there's no reason why stragglers like myself shouldn't be rewarded for their "patience" by getting the game at 75 % off.

Lausanna
Lausanna

A lot of good points, but I like my sales. Personally I rarely buy games at launch, with a few fangirl exceptions. And in those cases, I never feel ripped off because if it's a fangirl situation I'm happy to pay for the privilege of playing it from day one. For other games I often do feel like I'm missing out by not grabbing a game right away, but would rather save the money and be able to buy more games in the long run. I also tend to wait for player reviews to start rolling in before I decide how much I'm willing to pay versus how long I'm willing to wait (or if I'll buy at all). I'm still not comfortable with paying for early access, but I suppose I would be more likely to buy a game at launch if I knew the price would go up later...and if the people who did pay for early access gave positive reviews.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

His pricing plan makes sense. Why should anyone pay full-price for something isn't even finished and has no guarantee to be what the buyer thinks or the maker claims it will be? I find it ludicrous. Once it's out and it's good, paying full price is logical.

He's also right that sales hurt the fans, but he's wrong that it hurts consumers at large. I love gaming and, despite having hundreds of games, I am fan of only a handful, which have changed over time. When I am a fan, I pay at least full price, sometimes more for CE, perhaps even soundtracks or tie-in novels or videos. I don't feel shortchanged after the price drops because I supported my favorite devs. I would never have even played most of my games if they weren't on sale. In fairness, many games I got on sale, I barely played to the point I have to think twice to buy a unfamiliar game even on sale. I am not paying to support these unknown devs. If I like them, I will support them in the future.

The problem is not with the sales model; it's that there are so many games coming out so fast that the vast majority are dispensable to most gamers. They don't need to play it. They may not even want to play, like many games I buy on sale. If Mr. Rohrer is willing to accept that and devote himself only to those who truly appreciate him. Power to him.

Germaximus
Germaximus

I think he's spot on. The problem for me is that I want to own pretty much every game ever made and I can't afford to. I always buy games on sale. I'm not rich.


I like what he's doing with the pricing of his game. There's nothing wrong with it and it's actually kind of normal. You're "backing" him for the lowest price, paying at a discount during it's early release, and then paying full price after that. 

This is pretty normal for a lot of indie games nowadays, just with different discount prices.

A lot of indie games are launching on Steam at 10% off. This guy is offering a bigger discount.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Paying full price when a game comes out has a benefit - you get to play the game at launch.


This guy is out of his mind and his game will fail.  Raising the price of your product after release?  Yeah just discard decades of economic sense


This guy is basically CHARGING FOR PATCHES.  Get the fuck out of here.

Hybridos
Hybridos

Sales are an idicator of how much consumers are willing to pay for a certain product, games are an expensive hobbie so I take sales as much as possible and Steam has spoiled me in that regard, I can not see myself getting a AAA game at $60, for me that is a WAY overpriced product.

fibaglassmonkey
fibaglassmonkey

I guess i'll wait for his game to inevitably be on sale for less than $8

shreddyz
shreddyz

Meh. sales happen all the time. I bought shadow warrior for 30$ and the next day a sale for 9.99. Am I pissed? you damn right. I could have gotten loaded with that 20 bucks

Gomtor
Gomtor

I use the sales, thank you.

meatz666
meatz666

Cool, this dev just discovered what capitalism means.

Almost everything works like this: released at full price, enters in sale after sales drop. 

Now that digital is killing some middle mans, we'll have to listen to devs whining...

Mr_Mark_Legion
Mr_Mark_Legion

this will teach me to read the whole title to an article. read sales and screw and clicked article asap.

SEEDman_X
SEEDman_X

For sure!  Speaking from my own purchasing behavior, I have to agree with Jason.  Seeing major price cuts after my purchases gradually changed my behavior.  If I can add something to the list, I think games shouldn't hit the pay-as-you-want bundle stores within 18 months of the release!

ExtremePhobia
ExtremePhobia

I like it when my games compete for my attention. I buy stuff when I feel like buying it. I'll pay extra to buy a game when it releases so that I don't have to wait to play it and nothing about that sounds unfair to me. Games that I don't find to be worth that price, I wait to pick up and get it for less... for a price that's more appropriate. And if I don't get around to it because I was playing things that I was more interested in, then I don't get around to it and I've lost less enjoyment for that system.

So what you are suggesting is that if I'm less interested in a game... I should buy it sooner to get the lower price?

I see where this idea benefits the Developer. But it benefits me by... rewarding my loyalty with a lower price for an... unfinished game? A game that is quite possibly unplayable. A game which may never actually get finished.

There's a system for this. It's called Kickstarter. Except that Kickstarter is square with you about the fact that you are gambling. You sir, are twisting logic for marketing purposes and I don't suspect I'll be buying your game for it.


Logic of my own. Competition benefits customers. If sales cause developers to compete then sales cause something that benefits Customers. You disapprove of sales, therefore you disapprove of something that benefits customers. Maybe the basis "benefits customers" is wrong but I'd argue that the Smart Phone market is very good proof to the opposite.

AviticusDSS
AviticusDSS

People forget that Mount & Blade started with this same exact pricing model back in 2005 way before minecraft.

Rennik_Repotsir
Rennik_Repotsir

Sales are bad for gaming in a way that 5m gives you a sequel, and 2m gives you cancellation...

kujel
kujel

I've been saying this for years, it's nice to see others finally catching up.

kerrman
kerrman

During the Steam Winter Sale in December I bought two games: DayZ and Starbound. Neither of which were on sale.


I realize I'm in the minority, but I'm definitely the counter point to this guy.

realguitarhero5
realguitarhero5

I'm waiting for a later sale to play Assassin's Creed IV.  I like the Assassin's Creed games, but not a ton.  Dark Souls II is right around the corner.  I will be playing it at launch.


If a company wants me to play a game at launch, the solution is to make their game bigger, better, more original.

franzito
franzito

He's got a point if you think "outside of the box". Sales just push more installments of the same game, which may affect the overall quality in the years to come (even if the game doesn't have a good story to tell), which becomes a generic product...

whocaresrly
whocaresrly

I bought this game; played it under an hour in total.


It's just bland, boring and a total mess; if you're a new starter you will never a mass any money and be able to pull of what the higher ones can do. Essentially the only way to stop your house getting robbed is create a mass of switches that pets run over off screen, encryptions ect ... so unenjoyable, you offer some advice on the forums about making it interesting but it gets shot down.


Let this piece of crap die, it's already on life support.

PSdual_wielder
PSdual_wielder

As long as your game is good you shouldn't have to worry about sales.

Flamerdragon
Flamerdragon

If I am fan I will buy the game on release date, the collectible too if its a favourite.

If I am not a fan I will wait for a price drop, yes, and I will eventually buy the game.


Now with his reasoning, if I do not buy the game on release, and there is a price increase hell, I will not buy it at all.

That chance the price drop has, for buying the game in the future, is lost with his reasoning of price increase.



Zombrex
Zombrex

1.) Read the title. Thought Phil Fish had made a comeback.

2.) When a game goes on sale after I bought it, I chalk it up to bad timing.

Bellum_Sacrum
Bellum_Sacrum

Valve doesn't care, they still make money and keep their monkey fanbase happy.

ThrashMatt26
ThrashMatt26

He says until they start making money and realize that they care about that more than their fans

ecurl143
ecurl143

Well, that's a misleading title for an article.

At first I thought this dude actually thought 'purchasing' a game was bad for a developer and I was like, WTF?

After reading a little more, we're actually talking about a reduced item sale, not a normal recommended price sale.

so_hai
so_hai

Well, the fans get to play the game earlier, right? It always cost more to play a game earlier. Always.

Kunasha
Kunasha

Someone doesn't understand economics. :D


People just aren't going to buy the game past a certain point. The reason why people didn't already buy the game was because they thought it was too expensive.


Oh well, have fun being poor, mr. Rohrer.

charliezard
charliezard

 Yeah, I don't wait for sales unless I don't feel adequately motivated to pay stock price on a game. I paid full price on several games this year, and I will continue to do so. I also bought a lot of games on sale. Those are usually the ones I'm unsure of. However, when people buy games on sale and they like them, they're likely to pay full price on the next game by that developer. it's simple, dude. Make good games, people will buy them.

PS2fweak
PS2fweak

I enjoy paying full price for the games I really want. I love sales just as much as the next bargain gamer, but when I'm a fan of a developer, I don't mind paying full price. I don't think it's fair to call people foolish because they're willing to pay more for something they love. 


I'm interested to see how this new model works for him, but it sounds much more foolish to charge more to the people who clearly don't care as much about your game. I'm not paying more for a game that I don't care enough about to purchase at launch. "I missed it on release day, so I guess I'll just pay more!". I'll just wait until it get's cheaper, and if it never does, I'll buy something else.

megakick
megakick

Well they do and it hurts the developer. If you know it is going on sale why pay full price. That is why a lot of AAA games are sequels they are more likely to succeed because they already have a player base. AAA Games cost as much as MOVIES so spending loads of money in NEW ORIGINAL AAA game is very a big GAMBLE for PUBLISHRS. Look at all the safe games so much shovel ware and sequels.

Have fun playing sequels and games that could have been made 20 years ago....

rarson
rarson

@Unfallen_Satan 

What's ludicrous is paying for a game that isn't finished. All of these early access titles are using the allure of a promised finish product and the draw of trying an early beta to entice customers. So of course early adopters shouldn't have to pay full price when they're getting a beta product. People who are willing to fund an unfinished product deserve to pay less!


I've actually done it. I'm not entirely against it, but it's obvious that developers are starting to take advantage of the willingness of gamers to fund early projects. It's great that lesser-known projects can get funding, but there are so many now that I won't be giving my money to any but the best of them.

Germaximus
Germaximus

@Gatts1978 There are tons of games I want on release date but can't afford right away. I think that makes you wrong. =p

Germaximus
Germaximus

@shreddyz That does suck, but if you enjoy the game you should be frustrated but still okay with it. =)

kujel
kujel

At least with this pricing model a dev rewards loyal fans instead of bitting them with a sale later on.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

@kujel What reward to fans? If this is how it goes I won't be buying the game full stop. I mean the reason people buy games on sales is because buying games is a gamble. There is only so much a screenshot, or gameplay video can tell you. You don't know whether it will be good for you until you play it. But if you have to pay considerable cash for that risk, it isn't appealing. Gambling with a game on 75% sale on the other hand is much better.

If the game gets more expensive over time, I won't buy it at launch and I won't buy it in sale either.

richten71
richten71

@OrgeLambart@Dannystaples14@kujelThey may sell more copies at a sale price, but they won't make more profit off of it. If a game sells for $60 per unit and the first $40 goes towards expenses (development, marketing, etc.), that leaves $20 profit (only for this example). If 1,000 units are sold, that would be $20,000 profit. Now if they put the game on sale for $40 per unit and the first $40 goes towards expenses, that leaves $0 profit. If 100,000 units are sold, that would be $0 profit. Even though a lot more units are sold, a lot less profit is made which may mean less money going towards the development of the next game. Ultimately, this results in developers being closed down.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@Dannystaples14 @kujel Exactly If I pay 2 dollars for a game and it sucks, BFD. It;s 2 dollars. 2 dollars is meaningless in 2014, you can barely buy a candy bar with that shit.

OrgeLambart
OrgeLambart

@Dannystaples14@kujel Developers complain about piracy, then complain about sales...  I mean in all honesty it comes down to a basic principle, you give people a product at a price that they love and people will buy the product.


Sure it sucks developers won't get full price from sales, but ultimately they will sell far more copies at the sale price than the full price.  Least we forget PC developers not only have to compete with other games for sales, but with pirates who pay nothing and play everything.


This type of logic and thinking only drives people toward piracy.