So, there's been some interesting news in the Indie game scene lately. The controversy, such as it is, got kickstarted with the release of a game by Distractionware entitled VVVVVV (that's 6 V's, all in a row). The game looks unabashedly old-skool with blocky Atari 2600-like graphics. The game mechanic is interesting (you get around by flipping gravity), the levels are very challenging, and the soundtrack is this awesome pumping techno music that puts you just in the right mood. It's hecka fun. The issue? The game is made in Flash, it lasts around 3-4 hours, and costs $15.
Nobody is denying that the game is interesting, but there are wildly differing opinions on the price. An article on the Escapist says that it's way too expensive, and an on-the-spot sarcastic comic offers tips on how to afford it. The argument seems to be that Distractionware is hurting themselves by pricing the game too high, and that a lot more people would buy the game if it were $5 instead of $15. The opposing argument is that $15 is not really that much and indie games are too cheap in general.
As someone who has been on the brunt-end of this argument before, I thought I'd offer my perspective. I've always had a lot of difficulty knowing what to charge. With a film, it's easy. It could be a multi-million dollar blockbuster or a ten-thousand dollar indie film, but you'll still plunk down the same amount of cash to see both in the cinema (FYI: movies cost $12 in New York) . Games are different. There are so many different kinds of games that no set price could ever be agreed on.
So, I experimented. My first game, The Shivah, was only $5. My second game, Blackwell Legacy, was $15. When I released Blackwell Unbound, I decided to sell it for $10. Mostly I was just experimenting to see what worked, but some thought also went into how much money I spent producing them (Unbound cost significantly less to make than Legacy). When the time came to set the price for Convergence, I took a look at how well my previous games sold at certain prices and tried to reach some conclusions.
The argument about cheaper prices is usually that "if the game is cheaper, more people will buy it." This is definitely true. Unbound definitely sold more than Legacy. But while Unbound cost 1/3 less, it certainly did not sell 1/3 more in order to make up for the drop in price. The lower price was earning me less money. So based on that, I decided that $15 was the "sweet spot" for my new games, and $10 was a good price for the older ones.
Of course, I don't know much about business and I could be completely wrong. There are probably many factors I have not considered, but it's been working out pretty well so far. As for VVVVVV (and other games like it), if $15 works well for you, then resist lowering it by all means! We want you to stay fed and happy so you can make more awesome games.
Anyone else have their own thoughts on this issue? Agree? Disagree? Comment and let me know!
Till next time,