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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+
442 Comments Refresh
Posted by Mafuchi

@officer_falcon: There are any number of places he could pull data from and try to make an analogous claim (e.g. The japanese market has lots of data). If his point it to say "sales hurt overall profitability", he could pull from different sectors to make that point. Theses require data, if you make a claim you gotta back it up.

Posted by Immunity

I can see where Rohrer is coming from. I have found myself avoiding buying games in the hopes of a Steam sale and also buying games on sale that I've put little to no time into. Not sure if sales are necessarily a bad thing though. It will be interesting to see how it works out for him. Unfortunately he's going to get a lot of personal attacks, as is evidenced by some of the comments here. Which is kind of depressing to see. People just like getting pissed off I guess. Weird.

Online
Posted by NeoAthanasius

I can't even count all the times that I bought a game on a Steam sale only to have it become a favorite of mine. Chivalry, Gunpoint, Spelunky, Terraria, and Saints Row the third, are just a few of the games that I would have never bought without a sale. Now whenever these developers release a new game, I most likely will buy it at launch. I hope his plan works for him. I'm not sure that it will.

Posted by systemsready

Personally, I really like the sales. I can't buy console games very often because the damn things are expensive, so as a result, I have a lot of smaller games on my PC that are some of the best games I've ever played. Like Bastion. God I love Bastion, and I can't wait till Transistor comes out (which I'll very gleefully buy right away when it comes out, because Supergiant has earned my undying "I will save up every penny I can for this new game" loyalty).

And because of the way I play games (a very long "cycle" where each game I play gets randomly chosen and played through until they've all been played, and then it starts anew), I have no problems having an expansive library. People don't bat an eye at people having shelves and shelves of books, or stacks of movies, so why should games be any different?

Posted by Pierre42

Hmm I'm not saying everything he says is right but he made me think up a few points. Patrick's right when he talks about having less games but valuing them more as a kid because we didn't have many options. I look over too many games that I don't have all the time to finish these days (in hard copies and Virtual copies) and I think it's probably a fair point that I'm wasting some money.

It's not like I'll never indulge in sales or never wait until something drops from full price again but I'll definitely tighten up what I want to spend my money on. Focus on games I REALLY want to play.

Posted by tomatoartillery

Doesn't Mojang do this with their games where those who buy early get the deepest discount and then the price of it stays the same like with Minecraft?

Posted by codynewill

@ltwood12: I'm sorry that gaming is expensive and I like to get a good deal. Do I expect everything to be on sale all the time? No. But am I going to take advantage of sales to get access to great games? Yes.

Posted by gaminghooligan

I have a hard time seeing his point on how this hurts the user currently. I guess that it's because they have all these games they'll never play, but I feel like that falls almost entirely on the individual to want to play them. I bought Spelunky over a year ago and never touched it. Then Patrick started his daily runs and I got into it. That being said the article raises some questions about the way people will buy games in the "digital future" if the only time people care about a game is when it's discounted. It could force developers to take the same approach that a lot of chain retailers where they price a game at 40 dollars but always have it on sale for 50% off somewhere so people are fooled into thinking they're getting a "deal". Certainly I think his idea of rewarding the earlier adopters with the lower price is good, it's why I was an early adopter with minecraft. Stuff to think about, good article.

Posted by Asberg

I have been thinking along the same lines and agree on most of his points. Then again i am disgusted by commercialism and a lot of peoples views on consumerism that turn into profit-hysteria on both parts and not sustainable markets and consumer rights.

Edited by pyrodactyl

@alwaysbebombing said:

@pyrodactyl said:

@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

" 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.

That's a dumb false equivalency. There is no sales on movie tickets or any precedent in other creative mediums showing that a race to the lowest price results in good things. In gaming we got 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. Both the result of people trained to not spend more than 2 bucks on a game.

Posted by ChrisTaran

Not sure I agree with all his points, but it's an interesting train of thought that made for a good read. Thanks, Patrick.

Posted by OreoSpeedwagon

An interesting look in to the thoughts of the mentally divergent. Good scoop.

Less snarky, this guy definitely isn't an economist. Unless you get a "bump", the majority of your sales will be in the opening weeks. After that, the demand drops off sharply. Look at Hollywood movies; the major portion of the take is opening weekend. After a while, to continue to gain revenue "bumps", theaters (Used to, at least) release a films to the drive-in, dollar discount theaters, etc. Then, they would have the film rights sold to HBO and other premium channels. Finally, they would release the film for a high MSRP, that would drop over time.

FOX isn't trying to demand that no one can ever see The Empire Strikes Back for less than the price of a movie ticket each viewing, because they realize that's incredibly stupid. They'd also slap you if you suggested "early viewers" on opening night should get some sort of discount.

The benefit to seeing a film early, or playing a game near release, is the cultural zeitgeist. People are excited to discuss it, there are things to discover that haven't been blown up on the internet, you have interesting stories to tell about your experience with the game.

Edited by ThatFrood

It's just a form of price discrimination.

Posted by NeoCalypso

So is this dude essentially saying it's better that people not pay you OR play your game rather than not play your game but you still get paid something for your effort? Because I don't think more expensive games is exactly the solution to getting people to try out your game.

Posted by alwaysbebombing

@alwaysbebombing said:

@pyrodactyl said:

@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

" 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.

That's a dumb false equivalency. There is no sales on movie tickets or any precedent in other creative mediums showing that a race to the lowest price results in good things. In gaming we got 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. Both the result of people trained to not spend more than 2 bucks on a game.

Take books then. You've got an ocean of shit books at grocery stores and online, you have people waiting for things to come out in paperback. Also, your argument is only applying to phone games. During the steam sale some of the games I bought were still 19.99 (Sims collections) "Sale" doesn't mean .99. It just means sold for less then its original price.

Edited by heatDrive88

@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.

You're forgetting that waiting until the price of the game is cheaper also dictates the actual desire/demand for immediacy of the experience. Not everyone needs to play the game right away (or even at all), so a lower price point is meant to properly equate the perceived value of the game to the consumer at that point in time, not the actual value of the suggested retail price as dictated by the publisher or developer.

Yes, lots of people are selfish of the sales, to the point they act begrudgingly against publishers or developers who don't put their games on sale or at lower price points, as if they "deserve" the sale. I'm not saying that isn't being bred out of the sale mentality either.

But some people don't bathe in cash or own golden shitters either, so you could have a little more empathetic thoughtfulness with your broad strokes.

Edited by Deathpooky

I disagree overall, since I think generally getting more games at lower prices to consumers is an unalloyed good, and I have found lots of games that I've loved and put tons of hours into after getting them for rock bottom Steam or PS+ prices. I've had the opposite happen too, where I've picked up and immediately dropped a free PS+ game or never played a $1.50 Steam game, but the good outweighs the bad. And I was doing a lot of that before the Steam sale craze. Before Steam and PS+, I still had 10+ games in my Amazon wishlist waiting for them to drop below $30 or $20. Before Amazon and online ordering, I would wait for discounts at Best Buy or Gamestop for some games. People are going to go for the best value.

I can see where he's coming from. The sale/free game culture leads me to buying fewer games up front, since I know I can get it for cheap or free later on. And it creates a race to the bottom on prices that was less prevalent before. It's rare that I'll be convinced to buy a game for full price, usually for something highly anticipated that I want to play at launch, or a developer I want to support. And if I don't buy day one, I'm definitely waiting on sales, since I've been burned several times on games going free or cheap less than a month or two after I bought them. Overall though, it's just a better pricing scheme for everyone.

But my biggest reaction is finding it strange that he feels guilty if a person bought their game for cheap and didn't get a ton out of it. Buying a game for $1.50, trying it, and deciding you don't like it still sounds like a fair deal. People find value in building a collection and trying out games, even if they don't get dozens of hours out of them. What does it matter to you if someone spends an hour or a hundred hours with the game? Even among those who buy a game for full price, the same could happen. You might be pushed to spend more time with a game if you spent $15+ on it, but that doesn't guarantee you'll ever like it. All you can do as a developer is put out your game and get it in as many people's hands as possible at maximum return value to you. For ever 10 people who played an hour or dropped it after buying it cheap, you still might reach one more person that wouldn't have otherwise bought it. And Steam Sales seem a far better mechanism for getting the game out to more people post-launch than word of mouth or becoming a sleeper hit.

Posted by OreoSpeedwagon

@ltwood12 said:

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

Absolute nonsense. Creative people want to create. Would there be much less? Would it be less polished? Most definitely. If a person couldn't make a living from doing what they loved, they'd have less time to devote to it, but they would still do it. Plenty of people spend hundreds to thousands of hours with music, with absolutely no intent to profit from it. Similarly with art or silly videos and .gifs shared all over the internet.

Is it better that creators are able to make a living out of it? Definitely. But I absolutely do not buy that the ONLY way art or content is created is through capitalism. That sells people short.

Edited by Ares42

@pyrodactyl said:

@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

But that's what "people" want. As with everything else it's a supply/demand-issue, and the current state of videogames is that there's an almost endless demand for quick and easy interactive entertainment. At the core, what he's really arguing here is the good old "casual games are ruining videogames". Just look at what he's saying. People buy games on sale looking for something immediately engaging and when it's not that they are disappointed. The expectation is that they spend a few bucks and get something to waste a few hours with.

Edited by Pudge

@hailinel said:

@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?

A lot more than you'd think. However, I'll also activate whatever I get in a bundle if I don't have it, and I buy games that are going to be taken off of Steam if the price is reasonable, just so I have them. There is some of that, I'm a collector at heart. However, that's not really the point, the point is that I know what I'm doing, I'm not a mindless puppet that needs to be SAVED by the end of sales.

Games are my main passion, so of course I'd buy a lot of them, and of course since I do that, I'd want to get them as cheaply as possible. I don't feel any obligation to play everything I have, I think of it more as an arcade. I've had Dead Space 3 for 6 months, just got into it yesterday, and I'm having a blast. When I want to play something, I don't want to have to spend money, I just want to launch something and go, and I think I'll safely be able to do that for some time.

Edited by alwaysbebombing

@ares42 said:

@pyrodactyl said:

@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

But that's what "people" want. As with everything else it's a supply/demand-issue, and the current state of videogames is that there's an almost endless demand for quick and easy interactive entertainment. At the core, what he's really arguing here is the good old "casual games are ruining videogames". Just look at what he's saying. People buy games on sale looking for something immediately engaging and when it's not that they are disappointed.

Do you have any way to substantiate your claim? You're speaking as if you have talked to everyone on earth and know what they want and why they buy sales. Which I'm sure you have not. I know that this is so not true for me, and I can bet that a bunch of people in this thread think like I do.

Posted by Jayzilla

This is the same for anything. How many times have you heard someone say about a movie, "I'll see it when it hits Netflix/dvd/bluray"? Not all games are worth full price to consumers. Those kinds of games I get on sale when previously I WOULDN'T HAVE PURCHASED THEM at all.

Edited by Coreus

"Download everything, play nothing"

That was the case before Steam.

"Buy everything, play nothing"

The mantra today.

Posted by Schnoo
Posted by AssInAss

It's only £5, bought!

Posted by singateco

OH NO I HAVE CHOICES TO PLAY ALL THIS GAMES I AM LITERALLY HURTING MYSELF!!

IT'S NOT LIKE WE HAVE A WEBSITE OR SOMETHING TO TELL ME WHAT GAMES ARE ACTUALLY WORTH CHECKING OUT OVER ANOTHER OR SOMETHING, HUH

Posted by Jack_Lafayette

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.

Thought I'd level that statement out for you. Journalists aren't exactly sitting pretty.

Posted by InspectorFowler

By coming out with a potentially controversial opinion, this guy has generated more publicity for a super-niche game than the gaming press would have ever given it. Every article I've seen about this guy's attitude on sales mentions "The Castle Doctrine" several times. Above is a video of a game, the content of which is not video game sales.

I don't even care about his opinion on sales. Some developers love them, some hate them, they aren't going away anytime soon, so it seems pretty moot to me.

But this little "story" has made the rounds on quite a few gaming sights over the last few days, and it seems like it's probably a lot more effective then him just calling various media outlets and asking for a blurb about his game.

Posted by MetalBaofu

Sales help me save money and expose me to games I would never buy at their normal price point. I don't see how that is a bad thing for me.

Posted by EpicSteve

@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.

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.

Why? That's a totally viable way to live as a consumer. This goes beyond videogames with folks buying something like a cereal they kind like because it's on sale or waiting till an afternoon show to see a movie.

Posted by monkeystick

I like cargo shorts. I generally don't buy them until they go on sale.

Posted by Ares42

@ares42 said:

@pyrodactyl said:

@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

But that's what "people" want. As with everything else it's a supply/demand-issue, and the current state of videogames is that there's an almost endless demand for quick and easy interactive entertainment. At the core, what he's really arguing here is the good old "casual games are ruining videogames". Just look at what he's saying. People buy games on sale looking for something immediately engaging and when it's not that they are disappointed.

Do you have any way to substantiate your claim? You're speaking as if you have talked to everyone on earth and know what they want and why they buy sales. Which I'm sure you have not. I know that this is so not true for me, and I can bet that a bunch of people in this thread think like I do.

I'm not making that claim... He is. Did you read the article ?

Posted by jarowdowsky

This feels like a fascinating decision to take with The Castle Doctrine. As the article makes clear, it's overly-fiddly with little to make a new player feel welcome. Choosing this game to experiment with a slowly increasing, then locked-in price seems destined to encourage lower and lower sales.

Taking aside the ethics, the creators reasoning and the wider implications - can anyone imagine people buying The Castle Doctrine at $16 in the future? Anyone else who has played it think this will encourage anything other than quick sales, because of a sale, on launch then increasing animosity then disinterest once the price goes up?

I mean, it's a nice enough idea but it's a stretch to call it accomplished now, let alone expecting someone to be searching it out in 2020 to pay full price.

Posted by alwaysbebombing

@ares42 said:

@alwaysbebombing said:

@ares42 said:

@pyrodactyl said:

@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

But that's what "people" want. As with everything else it's a supply/demand-issue, and the current state of videogames is that there's an almost endless demand for quick and easy interactive entertainment. At the core, what he's really arguing here is the good old "casual games are ruining videogames". Just look at what he's saying. People buy games on sale looking for something immediately engaging and when it's not that they are disappointed.

Do you have any way to substantiate your claim? You're speaking as if you have talked to everyone on earth and know what they want and why they buy sales. Which I'm sure you have not. I know that this is so not true for me, and I can bet that a bunch of people in this thread think like I do.

I'm not making that claim... He is. Did you read the article ?

Why are you continuing to back up a claim with absolutely no evidence?

Posted by afterburner1978

Welcome to consumerism. Just because it's video games doesn't exclude it from the rules of business. While I totally agree with most Jason's points, maybe he should stick to making games and leave the business side to the professionals.

Edited by TMThomsen

I don't really get his logic. If you announce up front that "Game X is launching at 66% off, and will never be this cheap again!", aren't you still trying to trick people into buying it? A reverse sale of some sort.

Posted by jarowdowsky

By coming out with a potentially controversial opinion, this guy has generated more publicity for a super-niche game than the gaming press would have ever given it. Every article I've seen about this guy's attitude on sales mentions "The Castle Doctrine" several times. Above is a video of a game, the content of which is not video game sales.

I don't even care about his opinion on sales. Some developers love them, some hate them, they aren't going away anytime soon, so it seems pretty moot to me.

But this little "story" has made the rounds on quite a few gaming sights over the last few days, and it seems like it's probably a lot more effective then him just calling various media outlets and asking for a blurb about his game.

Yeah, he's also following it with a contest that includes the chance to win vouchers for his local gun-shop. It does start to sound like a pretty intense marketing campaign to get his game as much publicity as possible in the launch window.

Posted by w1n5t0n

This feels like a fascinating decision to take with The Castle Doctrine. As the article makes clear, it's overly-fiddly with little to make a new player feel welcome. Choosing this game to experiment with a slowly increasing, then locked-in price seems destined to encourage lower and lower sales.

Taking aside the ethics, the creators reasoning and the wider implications - can anyone imagine people buying The Castle Doctrine at $16 in the future? Anyone else who has played it think this will encourage anything other than quick sales, because of a sale, on launch then increasing animosity then disinterest once the price goes up?

I mean, it's a nice enough idea but it's a stretch to call it accomplished now, let alone expecting someone to be searching it out in 2020 to pay full price.

Yeah, It's not COD or BF4. People will be much more willing to not buy this game if they feel it's too expensive.

Posted by Ares42

@alwaysbebombing: What are you talking about ? All I'm claiming is that there's a huge demand for cheap and easily accessible videogames. Do you disagree with that ?

Posted by Psychohead

The idea that people didn't like Inside a Star-Filled Sky because they didn't spend much time with it seems woefully backwards to me. It presupposes the idea that the game is inherently good and it's the player who is at fault for just not "getting it."

Now, I know this is gonna sound crazy, but maybe I value my time? Maybe if your game doesn't present something worthwhile up front, I will pass on it? Maybe your game just isn't very good? (Or, perhaps more kindly, just isn't a very good fit for what I enjoy?)

Look, Rohrer, I appreciate that you want to Fight the Good Fight for the Betterment of Mankind and all, but don't act like you're throwing yourself up on a cross for my sins. You want the bottom line? Here it is. Games are luxury items. People don't need them to live, and they certainly weren't getting any cheaper for a while there. We're living in an age where pricing barriers are coming down, allowing more people access to a much wider array of quality titles. That's not a bad thing.

Yes, the Steam Backlog has become something of a legend at this point. No, it is not always fiscally responsible. People should still be discerning in their purchases. But come on. If it's making games affordable and making game producers money, I have a really hard time thinking of regular game sales as some kind of boogeyman that spells the endtimes for video games.

And finally... Look, if you think asking full price up front and then discounting later is going to make people upset, you do realize that it works in the other direction, right? Offering it cheaper up front and declaring that it will be more expensive after launch is also going to annoy people. Anytime people find out they could have gotten a better deal, they will be annoyed. They are the minority of your customers. There is precious little you can do about this. And further, don't think for a second that it's any less manipulative to put your game on sale at launch. Because it absolutely is.

Posted by ildon

I read the article earlier. He makes the false assumption that he is losing initial sales, and that the sales disrupt the multiplayer environment for games. Evidence has shown this is not the case. Most of the people "waiting for a sale" were never going to buy the game at all at full price. They were never going to be early adopters and they were never going to enter the pool of available multiplayer players. The multiplayer on these games that spike during sales does not have a long tail because it's not good enough to hold players for more than a week or a few days, or because it's simply not the kind of multiplayer that sustains. If anything, the sales are helpful to those early adopters because it lets them get some multiplayer games in during or just after the sales, whereas before they wouldn't be finding any matches at all.

He's looking at every game sold during a sale as a customer that he lost revenue on, when in reality those customers are "free" revenue because they were not going to buy at all at the higher price point, even before Steam sales became a regular occurrence. These people weren't going to save their $15 for two weeks to buy his theoretical $30 game, they were going to go out to the movies twice or go to the bar something. They weren't going to have that $15 saved up for the sale. This isn't like gasoline or milk, a purchase you have to make to get by, it's disposable income on an entertainment product.

Not only that, but often times people never even hear about a game's existence until it appears on the front page during a sale. Again, those people are not buyers who held out for a sale, they're non-buyers who became buyers due to the sale.

Posted by alwaysbebombing

@ares42 said:

@alwaysbebombing: What are you talking about ? All I'm claiming is that there's a huge demand for cheap and easily accessible videogames. Do you disagree with that ?

Now you're just starting a straw man argument, and I know better then to be a part of that. Also, no. You're claiming way way more than that. Anyone interested to know can read through our previous conversations.

Edited by Chrystolis

While he has a lot of interesting ideas, much of it seems to revolve around the idea that people that buy the game on sale would have bought the game at full price, but were deliberately waiting for a sale. There are many games that I have only a passing interest in that I only invest in because they're available on sale. If the barrier to entry lowers, I'll often say "hey, I guess I'll check that out and see if it's for me." If I don't end up caring for it, I'm not out a ton of cash, but if I find myself unexpectedly hooked, you can bet I'll be buying their next title day one at full price. They've made a new fan.

In a similar fashion, I often take advantage of sales for games that are favorites of mine so that I can market them to friends. These are games that I really think my friends should play, but they weren't interested in diving in at full price. It's also not uncommon for me to pick up 2-3 extra copies of a 4 player coop game to try and get my friends to get into it. If I can do that at the cost of what would normally be 1 copy of the game, that makes it far more affordable for me to try and make some new fans of the game.

Basically, while I agree that frequent, deep-cutting sales have conditioned a lot of us in unhealthy ways, there are a lot of wholesome, positive things that can come out of games going on sale, or reducing their price permanently, aside from developers making a fat profit. By sticking firmly to a set price forever, you cut off a lot of potential players of your game who simply don't think your product is worth your asking price.

Posted by sarahsdad

I would be interested to see this if his strategy also included a virtual price cliff where after 12 - 18 months or something, the price just plummets. That would reward early adopters, get the people who sit on the fence for a bit, and also be a boon to those who are super price conscious.

Edited by hxcaleb

@pudge said:

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.

and I thought I had a problem with only 430 games on my steam profile! You must buy every game available on the steam sales!

Posted by AlexanderSheen

I don't really get his logic. If you announce up front that "Game X is launching at 66% off, and will never be this cheap again!", aren't you still trying to trick people into buying it? A reverse sale of some sort.

No way! It's to reward people who buy the game at a specific time unlike a sale where people get rewarded for buying the game... at a specific time- Fuck! We need to think about this argument a little more!

Posted by EpicSteve

He has no research presented to suggest the people buying those games on sale would've still ever bought them. Yes, some gamers just waste there money. If a developer cares about that, work for free. However, even is 99% of those sale buyers never download the game, that's still an incredible amount of people playing the game and even more people being happy that you charged a fair price and that might come back for your later titles.

Posted by Foggen

Here's the thing. I give roughly half a shit about The Castle Doctrine. I've heard about it, it sounds vaguely interesting, there is no way in the world I'm ever going to pay $16 for it. Sorry, not ever. If I see it on a Steam sale for like $5 I might give it a shot, or perhaps, as noted, buy it and never play it. That's variable pricing, and it's the same idea that drives grocery store coupons and haggling over car prices.

Different consumers are willing to pay different amounts for things, and it's in a seller's best interest to be cognizant of that fact and find a way to hit both the upper end and the lower end of the viable price range for a product. For a product like a video game, the marginal cost of selling a unit is virtually zero, so it's a viable strategy to reduce your prices all the way to the floor so long as you can pick up different layers of purchasers along the way.

I may waste my $5 on a theoretical sale copy of The Castle Doctrine, but that's my business. Rohrer loses nothing by selling it to me at that price, and I'm not going to pay more, so he is in effect flushing that money down the toilet on a principle that runs counter to functional economics.

Posted by JimmySmiths

"(a man, not a woman, protecting their family)" Patrick pls, I thought there were people legitimately concerned that the games themes are so dark (Or just dealing with the idea of protecting family and trying to kill someone else), not that Jason Roher is a man and makes a game about one.

Edited by ProfessorEss

It's his decision to make and I don't begrudge him for it but developers have to stop attaching this ridiculous moral dilemma nonsense to them. This article has only served to lower my interest in The Castle Doctrine, but I imagine I'm in the minority so his plan is probably working as intended for the most part.

On the bright side, at least I don't have to worry about any pesky Steam sales tempting me to try it out.