How much would you pay for games in a "choose your own price" world?

Hey all! I'm new to Giant Bomb and I'm gonna try my hand at blogging. Let's see how this goes.

Here's a question I think we can have fun with:

What if we decided on the amount we wanted to pay games?

Let me give you a brief explanation of my way of thinking before yelling "Off with his head!" and banishing me as a heretic. You may remember a few years back the band Radiohead offered their newest album (In Rainbows) free of charge and allowed their fans to pay what they want. This move was considered as extremely bold and the opinions generated were on complete opposites of the spectrum. Of course I would never go so far as to suggest the video game industry as a whole follow suit. I am merely musing about what the effects this dramatic change would generate. True, offers such as the Humble Bundle exist, but I'm hypothesizing for all video games.

If you were to decide the amount to pay a game, what would be your most important factors to consider? Would it be games with the best graphics? The longest development time? The best multiplayer? The most addictive gameplay? Or the best story? I think, at least for me, that the most important component of a game is the fun factor. Of course you can't simply create a 30 second game, fun as it may be, and sell it at full retail price. Other elements inevitably come into play such as the company that releases the game, your preferences in genres and the amount of time you are ready to invest. I believe games need to be engaging and make you want to care about its characters. They do not necessarily have to be completely out of the box. The best example of this is The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. All in all, except maybe the horseback riding and Z-targetting, nothing was really innovative about this game. Nonetheless, everything was just so perfect that you could not put the controller down. You wanted to know what happened to Link next. You just HAD to obtain the next gem or new weapon. I was just completely blown away by this game. The graphics were unbelievable (at the time), the sound was spectacular (the ocarina tunes among others) and the gameplay was spot-on. This is but one example. Portal actually made me care about a cube! A single cube with hearts on it and no personality whatsoever. Now THAT is game design taken to the next level.

You will be missed.

Naturally, I can't be so naive as to think there wouldn't be any downsides to such an experiment. How many gamers would be honest in an honor system? Many would definitely not even deem games worthy of spending a single penny! It is my understanding even so that this would constitute only a minor percentage of the overall gaming community. I am quite certain that the majority of you fine men and women would give a reasonable amount of your hard-earned money to the companies who in turn try to offer the best product possible. But how much would you be willing to spend on games of the current generation? 20$? 50$? 60$? 100$? Would you pay more for a game published by a big company? Or does that not even matter in your equation in buying games?

Another dilemma would be the great fear of developers in creating new intellectual properties. Aspiring Miyamotos would face the same problem. Anxiety concerning the results of new franchises could be a step back to the amount of innovative games released each year (not that there are that many new IPs anyways!). I dare hope visionaries would be compensated for their hard work and people would not only buy generic sequels, good as they may be. Would you pay less for a new IP? Probably. But would you stoop so low as to download the game without giving away any sort of compensation? I don't think so.

This brings me to my next point. I am confident that such a process would inescapably weed out most of the lower quality games. By lower quality I do not refer to indie games of course.

They could also profit from such a system. Games such as the original Doom, Geometry Wars and Everyday Shooter would be breakout successes not matter the way they were developed. In a different world we might not have had as many of the crappy clones these games gave birth to however. Indie game companies as well as triple-A companies would be much more fearful of the outcome of a subpar game. They would really give it their all in order to ensure themselves of massive amounts of sales as well as acceptable prices on the games they release. No more movie-related games (second-rate ones at least), shoddy sequels and embarassing ripoffs.

The horror...

I also believe previews and reviews would have a much greater impact. Sites such as Giant Bomb and IGN could basically tell you how much to pay for a game. I don't think they would actually use prices as review scores, but then again you never know. Since they would get their copies before you got yours, the significance of their opinions would be tremendous. It is entirely possible that reviewers would have much more power than they have now. Game companies pretty much live or die with aggregator sites already. Metacritic scores offer them concrete numbers with which to work. Although I can't really agree with such scores, I can't deny the influence they have. They do not reflect the overall experience, but they do reflect how much reviewers liked a game. This leaves much to the imagination, I know. One crucial flaw can effectively cripple a game. Even though the game might be a masterpiece in all other aspects, this could be a game breaker. Aggregator site scores do not offer such nuances. That is why they probably would have a much greater relevance in a charity game world. Word-to-mouth would positively play a role as well but most people will check Metacritic first.

Finally, my opinions are purely hypothetical of course. Nothing I said has to be taken as an absolute. I encourage you to offer your arguments on whether or not such a system might or might not work and why.

38 Comments
38 Comments
Edited by Vestigial_Man

Steam would lose a lot of its power over people. Most people have a set price they are willing to pay for a game in mind and will wait until it goes on sale at that price before buying, introducing this model would just skip the waiting. The system is far to open to abuse for anyone to go for it properly though.

Posted by Pandakid

@vestigial_man: Yeah, you're probably right. I'd like to think most people would pay a reasonable amount. Although, "reasonable amount" differs from person to person of course.

Edited by Oscar__Explosion

$.01

I like how the humble indie bundles entice people to pay more that just a penny by giving away another game if you give the average amount donated per person. I highly doubt that could be a profitable business model though.

Also welcome to the site.

Posted by Bollard

I would pay $60, because that's what I've been trained to pay, and I know is at least somewhat fair to the developer.

It might persuade me to try more games I wouldn't otherwise, at say $15 or so. But most people would just abuse the system. Most people barely understand why games are $60 as it is (and why that probably isn't enough anymore), and would just screw the people making them.

Edited by believer258

What if we decided on the amount we wanted to pay games

I do. "Is this game worth $60? No? I'll wait until it drops to a price I'm willing to pay to play it, then, or not play it at all".

With your idea, most games wouldn't make back what they cost to develop, especially AAA games.

Posted by Pandakid

@believer258: True. Then the triple-A market would disappear altogether. Which would pretty much leave the smaller and indie developers. Would the EAs and S-Es of this world then use crowdfunding as a way to compensate? Maybe. Although, to play devil's advocate, one might say obtaining money beforehand doesn't guarantee a good game either.

Posted by Morningstar

What if we decided on the amount we wanted to pay games

I do. "Is this game worth $60? No? I'll wait until it drops to a price I'm willing to pay to play it, then, or not play it at all".

With your idea, most games wouldn't make back what they cost to develop, especially AAA games.

I do this also. Is it worth it I buy it first week, if not I'll wait a month or three.

Posted by phantomzxro

Smaller games $20-$30 bigger games $40 would be my ideal price range.

Posted by expensiveham

I very, very rarely pay more then 40$. Even if they are new. I purchased DmC, Borderlands 2 and Bioshock infinite all on day 1 for less then 35$. I love the PC platform.

Posted by ajamafalous

I'd just pay what I pay now: $5-15 depending on the game; $20 if I'm really impatient (I'm usually not). I have so many games to occupy my time that I'm more than willing to wait over a year for games to drop in price. I honestly cannot remember the last time I paid over $20 for a game.

Posted by JZ

Well if you gave the choice to anyone, they would alway pick free.

That's a nice fairy tale about people saying "hey I like your stuff heres a bunch of money."

Reality is like this "oh I can get this for free? Fuck paying."

Posted by MikkaQ

I'd pay $60 with $10 deducted for every piece of DLC announced before the game's release, as well as $15 deducted for any DLC released within the game's first month.

Posted by Veektarius

What would I readily pay? $50. What would I actually pay? Probably like $25. You see, there's an element of responsibility in paying the full value of what a game is worth. But there's also an element of responsibility in saving money where you can for the future (and for some, for feeding their families and so on.)

Posted by Cameron

I think this would be great. I tend to wait until games are between $15-$20, because I never play multiplayer and I think that's about what most singleplayer portions are worth. That said, I'm willing to pay full price for something like Skyrim or Borderlands 2 because I know I will enjoy them for a really long time. $60 dollars for a 6-8 hour single player experience is insane and I'll wait rather than pay that price. The only difference for the company is that they have to wait to get my money. I'm sure the publishers make more money with the current system because there are more people out there who will just throw money at them than there are people like me. That's fine, but I'll just keep waiting for most games.

Posted by Jimbo

I think the 'Pay What You Want' model is bullshit, so I always pay the minimum possible in the hope that people eventually cut that shit out.

This model ONLY works as long as it has the novelty of being a gimmick. It's that novelty which makes it worth reporting individual cases, and it's that coverage which generates the sales and makes it successful. If everybody used it, it would no longer warrant special coverage, and without that coverage it would fail as a business model ~100% of the time. The industry would collapse.

Let's face it, Humble Bundle is really about selling charity and taking a cut. Most of those games are dead in terms of sales potential by the time they end up on Humble Bundle.

Posted by hawkinson76

I already do this, and really, doesn't everyone? I'll pay $25 if I'm feeling flush and a game is relatively new, but $15 is my typical upper limit, and even at $10 I think twice. I am fully aware that I am not supporting the budgets of modern games, I am being subsidies by the people who buy at $40-$60.

Edited by Kidavenger

New games, If it's something I know I'll like I'd go up to $80, that would be maybe 0-2 games a year.

Something interesting that is getting good buzz but not normally something I'd play $50.

I'l buy pretty much anything I have even the slightest interest in once it hits $20.

I think pricing is pretty good the way it is now, If prices go up, I won't stop buying but I will be more selective on what I spend money on and what games I wait for sales for.

Posted by Clonedzero

i dont think i should be given that responsibility

Posted by tunaburn

$40

Posted by PenguinDust

I almost never buy full price as it is. The problem is I never know ahead of time what a "reasonable" price is or if I'm going to enjoy the game at all. With Steam sales, I'm willing to take a chance on iffy titles just because they're so cheap. If I could set my own price, I'd probably do that more often, but on the same note, I'd likely apply that rule to the AAA titles as well. That would be bad for the developers, publishers and future of gaming.

Now, I do think it would be kind of cool if you could haggle a bit on every game purchase?

"Bioshock Infinite? Ah don't know, the last one was kind of crappy...I'll give you 30 bucks for it. The cover is cliched, too. $28.50."

Posted by thebunnyhunter

I miss the nice number we had last gen, 50 seems like a good number. Doesnt seem like too much or too little to me

Posted by DarthOrange

I would honestly pay between $5-$10 for all games if given that kind of freedom. It would probably be very bad for the industry.

Edited by Pandakid

I really hope that the 10$ spike for the next generation is just a rumor. I mean, how many generation cycles will it take until we just can't afford new games?

Edited by Discoman

Depends on the game. There's alot of games that are really short but still sell for $60 because of gilt and flash. If I had my say they wouldn't be getting that from me. $50 is decent for most games.

Posted by AlexW00d

$.01

I like how the humble indie bundles entice people to pay more that just a penny by giving away another game if you give the average amount donated per person. I highly doubt that could be a profitable business model though.

Also welcome to the site.

In the long run it's not profitable, but as a 'one off' I am pretty sure it is (for the games the humble bundle sells). A lot of people who wouldn't have bought those games will buy them just 'cause they are part of a humble bundle. That's a lot of gained sales where they would otherwise have been none.

Either way, my post is kinda off topic.

Edited by Gruebacca

Humble Indie Bundle works because of charities and incentives to pay more for those who want more games in the bundle. If this approach was applied to just a single AAA game with no hooks, I wouldn't trust myself to pay more than a cent. I'm human; I'm going to take advantage of situations like these for my own gain.

I wonder how Panera Bread is doing with their similar pay-what-you-want promotion on certain items in certain stores. It must be doing well if they plan on expanding it. Then again, food doesn't equal video games.

Edited by mosespippy

It depends on the game. I've spent over $150 on games before and I'm sure I'll do it again. Some games are worth that much to me. I can see where Garnett Lee is coming from when he says he'd pay $200 for Flower. On the other side of that extreme is $0. There are lots of free to play games but almost every single one of them isn't even worth the time to play a tutorial level. I have better things to do with my time.

Posted by Pandakid

I'm glad my post generated some debate. I look forward to making more posts similar to this one. Nothing makes my day like having a lively video game discussion with knowledgeable people. :D I won't hide it, I migrated from 1up, though I always visited Giant Bomb as well. I just couldn't invest myself fully into 2 sites lol.

Posted by crusader8463

I would buy them for $0, then after playing them if I found I enjoyed my time I would go back and donate or buy a copy based on how I felt I enjoyed the time with it.

Posted by Ares42

I don't pay for things because I want to, I pay for things because I have to. That's not to say that I'm some greedy bastard that squeezes every penny (far from), more that I still have some respect for the value of money.

Edited by Sparky_Buzzsaw

I think the next generation needs to implement a less strict pricing structure, with a maximum of $60. I hope we see more of an emphasis on "budget" titles like Nuts and Bolts or Sly Cooper, with proper ad campaigns and promos to back them up. It'd be nice to have games that range from $30-60, with a much looser $1-15 price range on XBLA and PSN games.

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Posted by Mrsignerman44

$45 is a good day 1 price for me

Edited by Hector

$39.99. I'm buying most of my games at this price these anyways.

Posted by IrrelevantJohn

I would pay $40 max for most games but if it's from a company/person I like, I would pay $60.

Posted by Funkydupe

Very rarely do we get the full game at launch/release day these days. There's always a catch, content reserved for later, or content held back for DLC/Expansions. It isn't as straight forward as it used to be. 60 dollars for a PC game is out of the question for me now. I do however feel 40 bucks is fair for a lot of titles.

I have to say I agree with what you guys said. We do control our own prices already by simply holding out. We're addicts and a new game is "O'shiny!" to most of us I'm sure, so to battle the urges to buy a new thing is always ongoing, but I think that especially when we get burnt by new games because they're simply not finished, servers aren't working or whatnot else didn't answer to our expectations, waiting might just be what we need to do for more reasons than just to see lower prices.

Edited by EVO

What if games were free, and upon completion you pay what you want?

Posted by lebkin

I would pay between $30-40 for a new game. $20 for one that's over six months old.

To those who say they'd just take advantage of the system, you can do that already - just pirate stuff. I have a good PC and good internet, I don't need to pay for any games right now. Popular stuff don't even take a long time to get.

I pay for games because I want more of those kinds of games. Same as why I pay for books, movies, and TV. If you don't pay (or pay so little as to not matter), then your opinion on what games are good has no impact in the marketplace. Unless you only follow popular trends, there is a strong chance that the games you like may decrease in number.

Posted by Slag

@pandakid: people are too big of jerks on the internet to make this work. Anonymity + plus social experiments like this don't seem to go well unfortunately. This would get horribly abused I'd be afraid by arbitraging resellers and cheapskates and there would be artificial tremendous downward pricing pressure. "Name your price" kind of things usually end up going that way. I think what you'd end up with is a lot less titles than there are now. Maybe your call of duties and such would be fine, but the mid tier and indie games would get slaughtered.

There also is the base assumption that people even know what fair price for a game would be. I don't think they do. Look at the Skull Girls kickstarter thing. People have no idea what games cost to make. If you don't what know what something costs to make, it's hard to know a fair price to offer for it.

What I think console should do though is loosen up some price tiers.And maybe even allow some dynamic pricing. Not everything should be a 60 dollar game and many will make more money at lower price points, and that's probably true in reverse as well (maybe a game like Skyrim should be higher than 60).