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The Slippery Slope of Video Game Sales

Passage and The Castle Doctrine designer Jason Rohrer believes our newfound culture of video game sales is hurting players and developers at the same time.

(UPDATE: You can now listen to our whole interview on the Interview Dumptruck.)

Can you remember the last time there wasn't a video game sale going on? This only happened recently, but the culture of perpetual sales caught fire quickly, and it's only getting bigger. The upside of sales are clear: cheaper games. But Passage, Inside a Star-filled Sky, and and Diamond Trust of London developer Jason Rohrer has a new game, and isn't so sure sales always benefit for developers and players.

Rohrer has been independently making games for years. In 2013, he had a Kickstarter to produce a set of DS cartridges.

Rohrer recently published an essay on the website called "Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players" for his next release, The Castle Doctrine. When the game is released later this month, the current price, $8, will have a temporary launch price of $12. After a week, however, the price will become $16--forever. There will be no sales for The Castle Doctrine. Period. Basically, Rohrer wants to reward early adopters, not punish them with having to pay more money.

The Castle Doctrine has already seen its fair share of controversies over its development, ranging from its very premise (a man, not a woman, protecting their family) to Rohrer's reaction to his life experiences that have informed the game's development (being attacked by dogs).

Rohrer's stance on the game's relationship with sales is the latest development, albeit one with somewhat less moral messiness alongside it. Nonetheless, broaching the topic resulted in the most web traffic Rohrer has seen on his website since the game was announced last year.

Clearly, Rohrer has touched a sensitive subject for all parties involved.

"There’s a rush among game developers," he told me. "All of my friends that I know that are multimillionaires, they made more than half of their money in these Steam sales. Over the past couple of years, I’ve just been hearing all these stories from people. 'Oh, yeah, the sales are where you’re going to make your money, man! I did a midweek madness, and that doubled my money right there!” [laughs] 'I was deal of the day a few weeks later--and again! I doubled!' And they just act like this is the way it is and this is amazing. If you stop and ask one of them, 'you realize that most of those people who bought it, when it was midweek madness or whatever, don’t actually play it?' And they just shrug. 'Who cares, as long as I get their money, right?'"

To be clear, Rohrer doesn't really begrudge his friends for cashing in on what seems to make sense. But he does wonder if there's unintended consequences to this movement, as is the case with any "rush." On the App Store, the rush resulted in a race to the bottom on price, as more games decided the best way to make money was to charge less, hoping to make up for the lack of initial investment with volume.

(If you'll remember, this is what Nintendo president Satoru Iwata famously criticized in his keynote at the Game Developers Conference in 2011. He felt it devalued the quality of games.)

And furthermore, it's not like Rohrer hasn't benefited from the very practice he's now questioning. His last game, Inside a Star-filled Sky, was the benefit of many Steam sales before Rohrer pulled the plug. Rohrer said he made a "substantial amount of money" from these Steam sales.

But he started to notice a pattern when Inside a Star-filled Sky wasn't on sale: no one bought it. Almost no one, anyway. Sales were flat in-between sales, and garnering a new level of interest on the next sale meant offering deeper and deeper discounts. As other developers offered bigger discounts, he felt compelled to do the same thing. In his essay, Rohrer offered this sales graph to illustrate the point:

There was a surprising counterpoint within Rohrer's own library of work, too. Another one of his games, Sleep Is Death, was simultaneously available on his website during the same period. During the times when Inside a Star-filled Sky wasn't on sale and Sleep Is Death was full price, Sleep Is Death was making more money. What Rohrer discovered was that our new culture of games sales, something he’d benefited from and supported himself, had conditioned people to avoid full price.

"A lot of people use the term 'trained.' [laughs]" he said. "[It's uncomfortable] having any of these kinds of discussions about marketing and 'should you price your game at $1 or $0.99? Or should it be $9.99 or $10?' All these psychological tricks that marketers have learned over the years. 'Have the price high, so you can discount it later!' All these kinds of things [are] because of psychology. I feel a little slimy dealing with it and thinking in these terms. I especially feel a little slimy about thinking about how we’ve 'trained' our customers. They’re just clapping their fins together and throwing money at us!"

"As a developer, being turned from a millionaire into a multi-millionaire, by effectively tricking a bunch of people into wasting money on something they’ll never use? I, personally, don’t feel good about that."

There's a reason Rohrer titled his essay "Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players." The culture of sales seems to be eroding his ability to sell games over the longterm, and it impacts early adopters. Rohrer hypothesized the poor soul who purchased one of his games a few minutes before an unannounced sale kicks in. What does that person think? Do they feel okay having spent anywhere from 50-to-75% more than the next person?

This situation wasn't a hypothetical when it came to a Sleep Is Death customer, though. For a period, Sleep Is Death adopted a pay-what-you-want pricing model. The game had been $12, but pay-what-you-want means you pay the developer whatever you think the game is worth. Not long after the change, he received an email from a player purchased the game just prior to the pay-what-you-want change, and he was upset.

"This person’s argument was [that] 'I only have $12 in my bank account, and I just spent it on your game and I won’t be able to buy another game.'" he said. "Some of these people are kids. They get allowance or have a birthday present [where] they get $20 from their grandma or something. 'It’s a game we’re all playing with money' is not true for a lot of people. A lot of people really have to think very hard about what game they spend their money on."

Rohrer asked the player what he wanted to pay. The player's response? $3. So Rohrer refunded him $9.

It's not entirely about the money, either. It's also about how he design games. Rohrer said The Castle Doctrine is not a game that takes five minutes to "click." He suspects it will take players a week before the systems really make sense. That's quite a bit of time, but Rohrer doesn't have a way of making the big payoff in the opening moments--it's not that type of game. He needs players willing to invest.

When Inside Star-filled Sky went on sale, Rohrer searched through the comments and reviews from players. Steam profiles list the time someone has spent playing a game, and Rohrer noticed a crucial detail with players who didn't like Inside a Star-filled Sky: they weren't spending much time with it.

"Every single person who’s giving it a negative review played it for less than an hour, which means they didn’t even get through the tutorial, the part where the cool stuff is explained," he said. "The people who paid full price for it, whatever the full price was at the time that they bought it, gave it a chance. Some of them played it for hundreds of hours. I really think that if you want to make a more subtle game, one that’s not necessarily going to beat you over the head with what’s cool about it right from the first screen. [If] you want to make a game that takes longer and lingers more and is more about the long term experience, then, yeah, pricing the game higher really will help you have almost all the players who come in be willing to get to that point."

Rohrer's suggestion that the larger investment we have in something, the more we're willing to give it a chance, doesn't sound too crazy, if a bit counterintuitive. Look at it a different way. When you were a kid, did your parents ever buy you a totally crappy game? I remember getting some awful licensed games as a kid, and while I would have preferred Chrono Trigger, I didn't have a choice, so I sucked it up and played through what was in front of me and tried to find enjoyment in that. If I spent $20 on a game, I want to know what it's about. If I spend $2 on a game, I might be inclined to turn it off after my initial reaction.

As he researched his essay, Rohrer came across the idea of a "shame list." Players were posting all of the games picked up in a Steam sale, games they knew they would never have time to play. But when a potentially interesting game is available for $2, why not buy it? Isn't it a win-win? The developer is being rewarded with money and the player suddenly has cheap access to a game.

The days and weeks leading up to a season Steam sale often pushes players into a fever pitch of anticipation.

"When a player comes along and does a shame list," he said, "where they have 300 games in the library, of which they’ve only played 30--that’s bad for players! They wasted their money. And people say 'they don’t need to be babysat, they’re adults or people who can make their own choices, we don’t need to hold their hands as developers and make sure they don’t make bad choice.' But at the same time, me, as a developer, being turned from a millionaire into a multimillionaire, by effectively tricking a bunch of people into wasting money on something they’ll never use? I, personally, don’t feel good about that. I don’t think that’s good for those people. I don’t necessarily think it’s McDonalds’ job to make sure we all eat healthy, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to be running a fast food restaurant myself."

Right now, the plan is for The Castle Doctrine to never have a sale. Rohrer believes it make sense right now, but it's hard to anticipate the future, and nothing applies to every developer's situation. But it's started an interesting conversation.

When asked, he didn't have a good answer as to why The Castle Doctrine will be priced at $16. He just sort of settled on it. It's certainly more expensive than games his friends have made, though.

"It was kind of scary saying 'The Castle Doctrine will be $16 dollars,'" he said. " [...] Should it only be $6 and then go up to $12? Should it be $5 and go up to $10? You don’t know what effect this is going to have. It’s scary to make your price higher than everybody else. The Castle Doctrine will be more than Fez. [laughs] The Castle Doctrine will be more than Braid ever was. The Castle Doctrine will be more than Super Meat Boy. Yeah, I don’t know. It seems scary, but on the other hand, it very well may be the right thing to do, and maybe even got it set too low."

Patrick Klepek on Google+
455 Comments
Posted by Morningstar

But I got Blackguards at 50%!

Edited by SomeJerk

Still cannot believe the amount of people who say and believe in

" I'll wait until it appears on PS+/SteamSale/HumbleBundle "

Still cannot believe those people are intelligent enough to post on the internet either.

e: I am however not using adblock on certified safe sites with reliable ad providers. And yes I believe the people who sit and wait for sales are pretty fucking special. And yes I use anything, even clothes, in real life until it breaks, because I believe in getting the most out of something. And yes, I'm back to collecting arcade games, triple digits per game and enjoying every credit and then some. There is value in not waiting for a sale. There is value in not crying about spoilers due to waiting ten months before buying a game.

Posted by codynewill

This seems strangely similar to game press writers saying that you should turn off ad-block so they get paid for the ads they sell on their website. Do something completely inconvenient so we get paid more. Nonsense.

Posted by Pudge

I buy a lot of games on sale (close to 1,400 and counting on my Steam profile alone), and for this guy to assume that more gamers getting access to more games is somehow a bad thing is pretentious and snooty even for an indie developer. I like having a huge library of titles to choose from, and I don't care if I never get to some of them, that's not the point. If a game comes in a bundle, or if I bought it for trading cards, or because its licensing deal was going to take it off of Steam, I still had a reason to buy it. I'm not some mindless cretin who just buys games to buy them, and I certainly won't be wasting any time with this guy's games in the future.

Posted by nycnewyork

While his idea sound logical, it ignores price elasticity. X people pay at full price y people pays at a lower price Z people pay at an even lower price and so on. if he thinks giving up the long tail is good for him grats, but study after study show that not to be true.

Posted by planetfunksquad

I was thinking the other day about how Steam sales had kinda ruined games for me... I buy games I don't really want and then get daunted looking at my huge ass library, and it kinda puts me off. My personal solution was to download the DRM free versions of my favourites I got via Humble Bundle and uninstall Steam. I've actually been playing games more, in terms of hours spent. Steam has a weird psychological effect on me and I don't like it. GOG and Humble from now on I think. I still have Steam on my Bootcamp partition, for games that don't exist outside that eco system, but I'll be mostly staying away.

Posted by nycnewyork

@codynewill: sadly most people in the gaming press don't realize most people use ad blocker as a security tool. the majority of malware is delivered through ads. even Google ads were once compromised by one awhile ago.

Posted by Mumrik

Is Patrick just 75% of Giant Bomb for people who don't bite on the premium bait? I feel like GB does a lot of what they hate about the DLC culture in games these days...

Posted by Luddite

@nycnewyork: I know what you meant, but fyi long tail refers to the niche product market. When a smaller audience will pay premiums for more specifically targeted products.

Edited by alwaysbebombing

This is such crap. Like, seriously. All this dude is complaining about is the ideals of consumerism that have been going on since the Industrial Revolution. Buying to many things is never "bad for consumers" it's how Capitalism works. The only time you can "buy to many games" is if you are unable to afford rent that month. Agghhh, the logic was actually frustratingly wrong to read. No offense to Patrick, cause he's just reporting, I like Patrick. Anyone who took extensive amounts of Economics classes in Uni like I did will be frustrated too.

"being turned from a millionaire into a multimillionaire, by effectively tricking a bunch of people into wasting money on something they’ll never use? I, personally, don’t feel good about that."

Then you should sell your game at cost and not make any money. That's consumerism


EDIT: Also great article Patrick. You defs get important scoops.

Posted by HippocraticOaf

@pudge said:

and for this guy to assume that more gamers getting access to more games is somehow a bad thing is pretentious and snooty even for an indie developer.

This IS Jason Rohrer we're talking about. He made a game and put one copy of it on a flash drive.

Posted by Atepsflame

"But at the same time, me, as a developer, being turned from a millionaire into a multimillionaire, by effectively tricking a bunch of people into wasting money on something they’ll never use? I, personally, don’t feel good about that."

No one whines more about having money than a millionaire. Its just such a burden.

Posted by Brendan

@pudge: The ending of your comment is unfair. You may disagree with his opinion but nothing he said was rude or incendiary. In fact he went out of his way to be diplomatic to those who may feel differently. Choosing to never buy his games in the future, even if they look like game you may enjoy, sounds immature.

Posted by Illuminosopher

I don't agree with this at all if I were making games I would rather sell a million copies at a $2 each rather than 10 to 15000 at $16 each.

I have to think that it's the minority of people that are buying and not playing, and even if it isn't whose to say they wont pick up and play the game 5 years down the line.

I do think however that some game developers put way to much money into their games and often have little to show for it. (except a huge price tag)

Edited by Roxasthirteen

I think his graph illustrates another point; without sales, maybe that game would not have sold at all. I think this guy is thinking that more people will buy his and others' games at full price than they actually will. In fact, Steam sales seem to lead most people to buy games they may never even play. Isn't that better than no revenue at all?

And the reason games are more expensive at launch is because it would ideally be a better experience (especially for multiplayer games). More players online, less chance of spoilers, and a generally more eager audience. If sales didn't eventually come along in a game's life the game would just die quicker.

Articles like this are important and should be written. I just don't happen to agree with the point Rohrer is making.

Posted by The_Nubster

His entire argument is based on the idea that people would have bought his games months and months after release at full price anyway, which I doubt. Sorry, dude, but your ideas make absolutely zero sense. When games go on sale, people buy a shit-ton of them. The reviews where people have only spent ten minutes are the people who wouldn't have put up with difficult games anyway, you're just getting more of them because they're more consumers.

I use sales to buy games I'm interested in, but unsure of. If your game is going to be $20 and it's never going on sale, I'll take my chances elsewhere.

Posted by paulunga

Rohrer is pretty quickly becoming someone whose opinion I don't value at all. Though I never thought Passage was all that great as far as artsy indie titles with a message go, either. So I suppose I never put much value in it to begin with?

Posted by ELpork

I buy games on sales because they didn't seem interesting at the original price. If they don't seem appealing at 60, maybe they'll be more my size at 40 or 30. If you don't wan't to be a part of sales, don't be. It must be working to a degree if they keep popping off.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if I think the games worth full price, I'll pay full price. Otherwise they're lucky to get any money out of me.

Edited by Crembaw

@somejerk said:

Still cannot believe the amount of people who say and believe in

" I'll wait until it appears on PS+/SteamSale/HumbleBundle "

Still cannot believe those people are intelligent enough to post on the internet either.

Why? It is perfectly sensible to make the absolute most of your dollar, posited by the hypothetical playtime value you may derive from it. That you end up with a product you may not even play today, or tomorrow, or in two hundred tomorrows, does not eliminate that new hypothetical value you could derive from the product.

I do not like this idea that consumers are automatically wasting their money by buying games they may not have bought at higher prices, but I am more distressed by someone who tries to appear to take the moral high ground by claiming that their product is more expensive and that is good for We The Consumer. There is no moral high ground here, merely an inverted marketing strategy that pressures interested parties to buy sooner rather than later (and one that might increase the tenacity with which parties preorder games).

I think it's also worth adding that this premise that one is more inclined to give higher-priced games a chance feels fallacious. Every single person that I know - which yes, is personal anecdote, but in my lizard mind holds meaning when it is actually 100% of my sample size - have bought full-priced games which they played once and never once returned to, and a handful of low-or-sale-point-priced games which we have played for countless hours on end. The unfortunate truth is that not every single game is intriguing to every single player regardless of time spent, and while I understand that it must have struck Rohrer as odd that they played only a few hours of his game, in this case it seems possible it speaks more to his game's design than anything.

Edited by Hassun

The sales didn't condition people to not buy games at full price and wait for sales, someone with a limited budget will always do this, for almost any product.

I'm not sure he actually understands this or did his research properly to be honest.

Edited by Pudge

@brendan said:

@pudge: The ending of your comment is unfair. You may disagree with his opinion but nothing he said was rude or incendiary. In fact he went out of his way to be diplomatic to those who may feel differently. Choosing to never buy his games in the future, even if they look like game you may enjoy, sounds immature.

It was incendiary to me just from its tone. He's talking down to me as someone who buys A LOT of games on sale. The fact that he isn't sure in his convictions isn't comforting to me when he's already indirectly called me a child who needs his hand held.

@hippocraticoaf said:

@pudge said:

and for this guy to assume that more gamers getting access to more games is somehow a bad thing is pretentious and snooty even for an indie developer.

This IS Jason Rohrer we're talking about. He made a game and put one copy of it on a flash drive.

I was not aware of that, and now I'm laughing my ass off. Thanks duder :p

Posted by BeachThunder

I don't necessarily agree with his main point, but 99 cent pricing is definitely slimy.

Posted by Maajin

I love sales and I got a lot of games that I absolutely loved on them.

On the other hand, rewarding early adopters making them pay less seems like a really cool idea.

Posted by davidwitten22

@somejerk said:

Still cannot believe the amount of people who say and believe in

" I'll wait until it appears on PS+/SteamSale/HumbleBundle "

Still cannot believe those people are intelligent enough to post on the internet either.

Yeah I can't believe these idiots who try to save money on games, what a bunch of jackasses!

Gaming is an expensive hobby. If you only buy games at full price on the day of release you're either going to spend a whole lot more money or buy a whole lot less games. Is it wrong to wait for a sale to buy jeans from J. C. Penney? Is it wrong to buy used cars? Is it bad to order off the dollar menu? I'd rather buy deeply discounted sales and have no debt then join the majority of my American counterparts living off of credit cards and abusing bankruptcy.

Posted by Mafuchi

He presents an interesting counter argument for sales, but he doesn't actually back up his argument with any empirical data, everything is anecdotal (i.e. doesn't prove anything). We should be looking at overall trends, rather than how one game does. It also ignores how this trend in games relates to overall consumer trends. Almost everything goes down in value over time: books, music, movies, cars.

I was hoping for a well constructed argument backed up by real data, but instead the argument is myopic at best (why should games be different from anything else you consume?).

Edited by FoolishChaos

I understand the sentiment. I too have plenty of steam games that I've bought and not played. But its hardly 30/300. Its probably more like 50/200, a vast majority of those being humble bundle games that I had no intention of playing anyway, they just came with this other game I wanted. I'm sure some people have the income to actually buy every game they see for $2-5, but I don't think those are the consumers you should be worried about.

Your scenario with the guy who only had $12 in the bank account? He won't be able to play your game.

edit: Also, inferring that most people who have steam sales are already millionaires, becoming multi-millionaires. How true is this?

Posted by Illuminosopher

I also bet there is a cross over with the type of people who pirate games and don't play them and those that buy mass amounts on sale and don't play them some people just like to collect and own things, and I have to think of those two scenarios you would rather have the money from the person buying it on sale.

Posted by rahulricky

"(a man, not a woman, protecting their family)"

I don't like that this is suggested as the thing wrong with the premise as though there isn't a bunch of other stuff to criticise too.

Posted by sodapop7

Can't agree with this much at all. I've exposed myself to so many more games and types than I would have if these sales weren't around. There's a good number I haven't gotten to yet but I still plan to give most of them a try.

Posted by alwaysbebombing

I'm so proud of everyone for seeing this argument has no merit and is completely backed up with empirical nonsense.

Posted by iragequit

I get what he's saying but, people get satisfaction from buying a game on sale and the makers clearly benefit.

Posted by Ltwood12

@codynewill: If everyone were like you, there wouldn't be any good content.

Online
Posted by Mafuchi

@somejerk: So you've never uttered the words "I'll wait till it's on netflix/DVD," or "I'll wait till it's in paperback."

Posted by FoxMulder

I always do get a bit upset when I buy a game the first week when I know that it will be released a year later with all the DLC and be half price. I've started to even wait for games I don't need to play as soon as they come out. Bioshock and Saints Row were the only 2 games I bought first week this year. Everything else I've gotten for $15-$25 as early as 6 months after release.

Edited by Daneian

There are so many points that i take issue with here.

Not every player is the same, so treating the broad spectrum of players as if there is one mentality is myopic. I have a balance of time and money, so i can play long games if i chose and buy moderately priced games if i want. Saying a business model is problematic because it benefits X person but not Y is kinda limiting. The one way Rohrer has chosen to go is very restricting, not only for his bottom line but to potential customers that might be interested in his product.

Time investment is a factor in anything, not just games. Can we reasonably expect people to invest attention to something when there are so many other things coming out at any one moment? Games don't have to only complete with games but with movies, books, music, hiking, cooking, eating, going to school, going to work, seeing friends, having sex, bathing, taking the dog for a walk or any of the million other things there are to do with your life.

And as far as feeling guilty about 'tricking' people into buying a game, how is having a reduced price up front- asking people to buy a product at a time when they will know far less about a game than they will after its releases- somehow morally superior to providing a sale after?

The word 'culture' was used 4 times in the first half of this. Ugh.

Posted by JamesBoyce

If Rohrer feels bad about people who buy games but never play them, I'm curious what he feels about pirates then, the polar-opposite of his dilemma: instead of players with too much money and not enough time, you have people with too much time and not enough money.

Edited by Ares42

This just reminds me that there are way too many games made these days, WAY too many. Videogames is the "gold rush" entertainment industry these days, and what he's talking about is just a minor part of a much bigger issue. It sorta falls flat when a large chunk of the games out there actually are made just to make a bunch of money. All it comes off as is an idealist waving his "fight the system" flag.

Posted by Hailinel

@pudge: How many of those games have you actually played for a substantial amount of time? Are you buying games on the cheap just to have them regardless of your interest in them?

Online
Posted by Fuwano

@somejerk said:

Still cannot believe the amount of people who say and believe in

" I'll wait until it appears on PS+/SteamSale/HumbleBundle "

Still cannot believe those people are intelligent enough to post on the internet either.

I think you are going too far in judging people over something so inane. Chances are some of those people have PhDs in something you'll never understand. It's not any worse than waiting for anything else that you don't need to go on sale. If you wanted a new mattress why not wait until Presidents' Day?

Posted by angus_lafroy

It is troubling to see the bad eggs in the gaming community ruining this for the lot of us with legitimate budget concerns. I enjoy the big sales because it usually gives me an opportunity to pick up games at a substantially reduced price that I had to pass over in months prior in order to get the one game I could afford that I really had to have. The incoming games from sales do impact my "productive play time," certainly, but it is a function of not having enough time and having too many games. Will I get around to all of them? I like to try to get to everything because I spent my money on it, and after a couple weeks, I can't even tell you which games in my library I purchased at sale price. All that said, without such sales, I may never have picked up such weird and wonderful games as Long Live the Queen, Shelter, and The Stanley Parable. A more useful function might be, in the interest of quality games production and customer satisfaction, a post-play pay-what-you-want where you pay what you think the game was worth as a value to you. Of course this is a romanticized idea, but I would much rather have given what I paid for The Force Unleashed 2 ($60 and the worst game purchase I have ever made) to something like Shelter.

Posted by officer_falcon

@mafuchi: To be fair on the data statement I doubt he, or most of the public, would have access to the appropriate amount of sales data that Steam keeps in order to make a good argument one way or another.

Edited by Dezztroy

This whole thing just sounds like he's bitter because all of his dev buddies got rich off their games.

Rohrer, why don't you tell Introversion that what they're doing is immoral? That instead of "tricking" people into buying their games by putting them in a sale, they should simply go bankrupt and never make any more games?

If he does not realize why products in all industries go on sale, he's not going to make it very far.

Posted by Duncecap

I regularly buy games in steam sales I have no intention of playing, but I appreciate the value in their title and hope they make more games. Who knows, some day I might even play the games. My money is worth whatever I value it with regards to my purchasing decisions, not some developer.

Posted by GERALTITUDE

I'm so proud of everyone for seeing this argument has no merit and is completely backed up with empirical nonsense.

Yeah it's a little befuddling that anyone bothered to take it seriously in the first place. I buy games on sale and full price. Play them all at some point. Conversation over.

Online
Edited by pyrodactyl

@alwaysbebombing: You mean make it free? You can't sell a digital video game at cost. All the cost is in the devellopment of the game and not the product that comes out.

Besides, you skipped over his whole point: people who buy game on the cheap tend to not give those game a fair shot/ not even play them at all. Or How about the fact that the sales train people to never buy games at full price? If the expectation becomes ''games should be less than 10 bucks'' and then ''games should be 99 cents'' and then ''games should be free'' we'll only get a bunch of Skinner boxes and micro-transaction ridden garbage.

Like iOS, an ocean of crap with the rare gem hiding way down the list. Or android, an universe of garbage with a handful of iOS ports worth a damn

Posted by spraynardtatum

Definitely makes me think about what I buy, I know I buy games that I don't play, but I reaaaaalllly like that there are sales and that the sales are actually good.

There was a thread on the forums earlier and I thought this guy was ridiculous for even suggesting it but not I can see where he's coming from.

I still have more of a problem with his friends than I do with the actual sales. They sound like multimillionaire scumbags. It sucks that they're getting peoples money so easily.

"There’s a rush among game developers," he told me. "All of my friends that I know that are multimillionaires, they made more than half of their money in these Steam sales. Over the past couple of years, I’ve just been hearing all these stories from people. 'Oh, yeah, the sales are where you’re going to make your money, man! I did a midweek madness, and that doubled my money right there!” [laughs] 'I was deal of the day a few weeks later--and again! I doubled!' And they just act like this is the way it is and this is amazing. If you stop and ask one of them, 'you realize that most of those people who bought it, when it was midweek madness or whatever, don’t actually play it?' And they just shrug. 'Who cares, as long as I get their money, right?'"

Posted by joshwent

Scoops got scooped! (worth a look. there are some good arguments in that thread.)

I feel like this is getting a lot of attention because it's easy to spin Rohrer's argument as an indie battling for quality against the behemoth system that only cares about maximum profits with no regard for their art or the consumer. But when you analyze his points outside of any heroic struggle context, they just don't make any sense.

To put it simply, prices are an indicator of two things. The cost of making the product, and the amount that people are willing to pay. When Rohrer saw those spikes in sales during Steam events, the message from the consumers was clear. His game was simply priced higher than many were willing to pay.

Consuming art, especially games due to their interactivity, is a risk because there's always a chance that the experience won't grab you. You've spent money which could have been spent on a game you'll love (or anything else you might like, really), instead on a product which you'll never use again, and on Steam, it's not possible to resell that thing you'll get no use out of. So when it comes to games that are more experimental like Rorher's, it makes perfect sense that gamers are more hesitant to make that initial investment, because the risk of them and the game not connecting is greater. Sales are a great motivator for those people because that risk is diminished, so, as he saw, his game sold like crazy when it was on sale and not much when it wasn't.

His other point, that getting games for cheap makes you less invested, just seems obviously wrong. No matter what you spend on a game, if you dislike it, that's all that matters. And if you spent more money on a game, it only follows that you'll dislike it... more.

Giving something a chance is important in any experience (ex. I give every new TV show I watch 4 episodes before I bail), but blaming players that stopped playing his game after an hour because they didn't get to the cool stuff, only means two things; they maybe wouldn't have liked it even after whatever mind-blowing thing happened, and maybe there doesn't need to be an hour of waiting before his game actually expresses itself. It's especially weird when this argument gets flipped around to support investing in shitty games.

"I remember getting some awful licensed games as a kid, and while I would have preferred Chrono Trigger, I didn't have a choice, so I sucked it up and played through what was in front of me and tried to find enjoyment in that."

Maybe you played the hell out of E.T. for the 2600 because that's all you had. That still doesn't make it a good game, and it doesn't mean that your time wasn't wasted. The goal shouldn't be to force people to spend time with games, it should be to expose people to as many games as possible, and Steam sales help to accomplish that.

Also, it's easy to raise alarms and imply that this is endemic about the industry as a whole, but we just haven't seen that to be the reality. This isn't a situation of nobody buying a AAA game at launch because they've been brainwashed by Steam sales and F2P games on their phones. It's a case of a small developer who makes niche games pricing many of his potential consumers out.

Basically, these sales are great for all involved, and especially for his kind of "risky" games, and I hope they continue to flourish and are able to expose people to things they otherwise would never see.

Edited by AbeTheGreatest

So he is attempting to convince gamers to accept and welcome higher game prices. Also a man protecting his family being seen as controversial sounds pretty ridiculous

Posted by alwaysbebombing

@alwaysbebombing: You mean make it free? You can't sell a digital video game at cost. All the cost is in the devellopment of the game and not the product that comes out.

Besides, you skipped over his whole point: people who buy game on the cheap tend to not give those game a fair shot/ not even play them at all. Or How about the fact that the sales train people to never buy games at full price? If the expectation becomes ''games should be less than 10 bucks'' and then ''games should be 99 cents'' and then ''games should be free'' we'll only get a bunch of Skinner boxes and micro-transaction ridden garbage

"people who buy game on the cheap tend to not give those game a fair shot/ not even play them at all."

It doesn't matter. That's the consumer's choice

" If the expectation becomes ''games should be less than 10 bucks'' and then ''games should be 99 cents'' and then ''games should be free'"

Welcome to ever other item that is for sale ever. Do people think movies shouldn't be $12 a ticket, yes, do they still go to the movies? Hell yeah.