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Retail

Indie devs facing "mass extinction event" - Prince

Indie devs facing "mass extinction event" - Prince

Fri 22 Aug 2014 3:02pm GMT / 11:02am EDT / 8:02am PDT
RetailDevelopment

Puppy Games co-founder says price erosion will catch up to the industry, suggests a path to survival

Earlier this week, Puppy Games co-founder Caspian Prince published an intentionally antagonistic blog post on his company's official website, telling customers, "You are worthless to us."

"It has been said that it was a desperate bid for attention disguised as truth," Prince later told GamesIndustry.biz. "But in fact, it was actually the truth disguised as a desperate bid for attention."

Prince said the truth he wanted to bring up and have discussed was that the success of Steam and Humble Bundle-style name-your-price packages have de-valued games. And because players were paying so much less for games than they used to, their value as customers had similarly plummeted. As a result, the industry was incentivizing indie developers to ignore things like customer support, because each individual customer wasn't worth the effort.

"There's the customer, there's Valve, the Humble Bundle, and all of their followers, we've all managed to put ourselves into this spiral of price erosion."

"The post was deliberately written in the most incendiary way possible knowing full well that Angry Internet Man would pick up on the article, read it entirely wrongly, and then try to pick a fight over it, which then means swarms of people who had actually read and understood it would argue back," Prince said.

On that front, he considered the objective achieved. The original blog post drew hundreds of responses and flattened the company's servers for a time. It also went more viral than Prince had expected, spawning numerous tweets, message board threads, and news stories.

However, there were a couple things about the post Prince might change if he had the chance to do it over again. First, he said he would try harder to underscore that the article was not about Puppy Games specifically.

"It's about the industry, all of the other developers as well," Prince said. "We're all in the same boat, and we've all helped ourselves get into this boat. We're one actor amongst many. There's the customer, there's Valve, the Humble Bundle, and all of their followers, we've all managed to put ourselves into this spiral of price erosion."

Second, he would think twice about mentioning Fez developer Phil Fish.

"I didn't realize that you shouldn't invoke Phil Fish, and he's like some kind of boogeyman now," Prince said. "Because it unfortunately did deflect a lot of the discussion away just onto Phil Fish. Maybe I should have picked someone slightly less high profile."

"It doesn't matter how much money we spend on trying to advertise or market [our games]. It's nothing compared to what Valve can do on a whim."

That aside, Prince said the post was "the tip of the iceberg," and that there are a number of interesting developments he wants to tackle on the blog in the future. And while he might have been fearless when it came to potentially alienating customers, there are posts he's considered about Valve and Steam that he doesn't think he'll ever dare publish.

"Our customers may seem like ants to us, but we are the ants to Valve," Prince said. "For every indie developer that turns up, pours their heart and soul into something that's taken them all their lives to achieve and then throws it out onto the merciless shores of Steam's ocean, there's another one going to come along five minutes later that's done exactly the same. They have an effectively infinite supply of suppliers."

Valve are "king-makers," Prince said. He estimated that if Steam featured one of Puppy Games' years-old titles on the top slot of the store, it could bring in $200,000 overnight.

"People turn up and buy stuff whether we promote them or not. It doesn't seem like we've got much effect on it," Prince said. "We don't really have a lot of control over who's buying our games anymore... It doesn't matter how much money we spend on trying to advertise or market [our games]. It's nothing compared to what Valve can do on a whim."

And while Prince doesn't put a lot of stock in his own ability to predict the future--he says Puppy Games would be doing better than just getting by if he could--he has some clear expectations of where this trend is leading.

"I think the next thing that will happen is there will be a mass extinction event, basically," Prince said. "There's got to be a consolidation. I can't see many other developers putting up with the status quo. Another year of this and a whole load of studios are just simply going to give up because it's a waste of time... A lot of people are going to have to stop making games because they can't afford to do it anymore. The dream is burned."

The App Store and Google Play serve as a poster child for the problem, Prince said. Fortunately, the current trend on those storefronts also points the way to a possible solution.

"It is in fact harmless, and I dare say it's done more good than harm to get in massive slinging matches. It's like walking a tightrope. The important thing is just not to look down."

"We've got a solution, which has been shown to be a way out of the situation: the Battledroid free-to-play game we're working on very slowly in the background," Prince said. "That's been shown to be a workable alternative model to the race to zero. Well, we'll start at zero and work upwards, rather than start at $20 and work down. But it's a totally different world out there with free-to-play. We've no idea whether it will be successful or not, but you've got to try."

Getting back to his blog post, Prince acknowledged it as an example of the changing dynamic between developers and players. Recent years have seen an abundance of new channels for direct communication between the two parties, but it's been something of a two-edged sword.

"On balance, I'm not sure whether it's really worked out any better at all," Prince said. "It feels like it does, but I think it's actually a waste of everybody's time at the end of the day if developers engage fans too much. On the other hand, that's one of the things I've really enjoyed about making games, the occasional email we get from someone who will just write to us and say, 'I love your games, I'm so happy I got them.' And that absolutely makes your day, because in every other computing job I've ever had, you just sat there while people complained about how shit your code was and how nothing worked."

Obviously, Prince still gets complaints in his current role, but he's found the recent approach of dealing with them to be its own form of entertainment.

"It is in fact harmless, and I dare say it's done more good than harm to get in massive slinging matches," Prince said. "It's like walking a tightrope. The important thing is just not to look down. Nothing dangerous is going to happen, nothing bad's going to happen. Just keep walking on the tightrope. Many people make the mistake of taking the insults and so on personally. But there comes a point where you realize, 'I don't care what you think.' And as soon as you realize that, you can ignore everything if you feel like it and just say what the hell you like."

When asked about developers who have had their personal information stolen and publicized online, Prince said, "There's a difference between mob attacks and just arguing with individuals," and noted that Puppy Games' own site had been the subject of attacks.

"On a personal level, I'd like to tell anyone who read my incendiary article to understand that I'm not being a dick to you the listener, you the reader," Prince said. "I'm not deliberately trolling you; I'm trying to tell people what's actually going on here. Because I'm quite personable in real life. I'll even buy you a drink if you say hello."

36 Comments

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer

582 322 0.6
Popular Comment
This is what happens when you run an entertainment industry thinking like a store manager.

You compete on price - which is bullshit. You should be competing on your content and your artists. You should be thinking like an entertainment executive - more arts patron, less retail accountant.

The box office ticket price (in a different entertainment industry) is stable for a reason.

Edited 7 times. Last edit by Tim Carter on 23rd August 2014 2:08am

Posted:3 months ago

#1

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

925 1,569 1.7
I agree with Cas's position just for the record, but there is also a third way. Adware gets people free games whilst divorcing the expectation of good quality support to go alongside it. And you can even earn a decent living from it.

But that's not a final destination either. If ALL games were adware then there'd be nothing to advertise.

It's all gone to cock.

Posted:3 months ago

#2
@Tim - Don't start going down the price fixing route. You'll upset a lot of people. I know I've tried :-)

Posted:3 months ago

#3
Great stuff, well said. Thought his original post was a great read.

Posted:3 months ago

#4

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

207 1,123 5.4
Popular Comment
I didn't comment on the original article, because it would have to be something like "this guy is reading my mind" and seeing how much hate he got, I didn't bother.

But now, I will go as far as saying that customers are the cause of the current problem. You got people who are excited about games and they start making their games, because it is so easy now and they release their games, because it is so easy now and they race to the bottom, because they don't really need the money - they are living their dreams. You don't see many bookworms writing their own books that sit next to Tolkien or Rowling, and you don't see music fans ripping off the tunes of Rolling Stones and selling their rip-off albums right next to Rolling Stones. You don't struggle to find Scorsese's next film in your movie theater schedule because of all the "Look ma, I maed a film!" flicks. But you see exactly that in our industry.

There is a certain corrosion in the industry. There's too much. On one side you got people who don't care how much they make and on the other hand you got people who run a business and they desperately try to get sales in this overcrowded market, so they lower the price.

When F2P stared to get big, you only needed some solid IAPs, or banners. Now you need several different systems in place, analysts, heatmaps and what not to make the same level of revenue and in one years' time you will need even more, because more and more people will be doing this, because it is so easy.

"Indie" certainly is a bubble. It will burst and it will put many "professional" indies out of the business.

Posted:3 months ago

#5

James Berg Games User Researcher, EA Canada

185 240 1.3
I see it somewhat differently - it's a bubble that's constantly bursting and being recreated. Indie studios have been dying on the sword of non-exposure for years, and it's going to continue. At the same time, making games has never been easier, and it's going to keep getting easier, which lowers the barrier to entry further and further. I don't think we're seeing a "mass extinction event", I think we're just seeing the AppStore race to zero price point. I think within a few years, customers and distributors of content will be familiar enough with this whole setup that we'll start to see more solid, serious, premium-indie efforts. Indies that survived the race to zero, whether via going F2P, Early Access, Kickstarter, good exposure, whatever - I think they'll help lead the way in recreating the AA space. We're already seeing that happening with Early Access on Steam - lots of $20-30 games, and Kickstarted games are another good source.

Posted:3 months ago

#6

Lewis Pulsipher Game Designer, Author, Teacher

32 42 1.3
@Tim There's that most-slippery word, "should". True, but that's not how it's actually done, and the original blog post was about reality, not should-be.

It's also related to the misfortune that it costs nothing to copy a video game. There's little price-pressure-to-zero in tabletop games because it costs significantly to make a copy of the game.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Lewis Pulsipher on 22nd August 2014 5:49pm

Posted:3 months ago

#7

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,195 1,169 0.5
I's begin and has been going on for some time. Message boards are PACKED to the gills with people bitching that they missed a Steam sale or bundle somewhere with games that cost ton of money to make selling for little over a quarter to maybe a buck or so each and the actual price of one game in that bundle might be maybe five or ten bucks (which is now considered "too much" by a great deal of gamers who have been baited in and refuse to budge into higher price points).

Granted, AAA will still rake in the big bucks for certain titles. But the mentality now is to wait out some of those games until they drop by half or end up tossed into the bundle backlog blender machine. This isn't good and can't last if people actually want to make a living doing this. Sure, some buck or under games make it huge and sell a few thousand to hundred thousand units or more. But for the most part, I find myself asking who makes money on these indie games that don't get hyped up as the "next" whatever big hit came down the pike that made a mint for some small studio.

Posted:3 months ago

#8

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

420 1,000 2.4
Popular Comment
For what its worth, as I have mentioned many times, I agree this race for the bottom with regard to pricing and the schemes currently favored by much of the industry is a recipe for disaster. Games shouldn't be priced the same as crappy toys in gumball machines outside of supermarkets. Developers also shouldnt have to spike their games with all sorts of crappy designs in order to extort money from gamers if they wish to void the design nonsense. These are recipes for disaster.

The way to make money in software is pretty much been proven to be reoccurring revenue, so why is the game industry trying so hard to reinvent the wheel? Sell software as a service, sell software episodically, sell it with subscriptions, this all allows devs to make the best possibly games and experiences they can, while expanding the game and fun.
DEvs needn't have to beg or scheme to sell games, how did it come to this?

I do see one wild card coming which more than likely is going to shake up everything. The credit currency crisis of 2008 has not been fixed, and the next big crash is coming, is not an if but a when. That is also going to shake this and many industries to its core. Larger leverage companies are going to find the going very rough. I just hope the companies that come through it, are smart enough to reset the gaming price point back to a more reasonable and workable level.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 22nd August 2014 6:23pm

Posted:3 months ago

#9
Hmm the thing about the credit situation is that entertainment - particularly video games - seems to do remarkably well during them, on account of the outrageously good value for money games represent...

Posted:3 months ago

#10

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

925 1,569 1.7
Please stop referring to this "race to the bottom", as if it's a current thing, a developing problem.

The actual fact is this race was staged a couple of years ago, and we've been languishing on the bottom ever since. The race itself is loooong over.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 22nd August 2014 8:24pm

Posted:3 months ago

#11

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,613 1,476 0.9
A couple of random thoughts:

The industry is old, and there's an element of "nothing new under the sun". How many Spectrum developers regarded Crash/Your Sinclair as Kingmakers? There are always such things in this industry - whether that's good or not is another question.

The other thing is, the assumption that consumers regard games as worthless/cheap may be unjustified. The industry is broadening its appeal, and alongside that means accepting different economics models. Parents, home-owners, students, unemployed, professionals with little free-time. These people may not think your product is worth little, they may just think of the economics of games differently to you.

More thoughts when I escape the exile of Digital-Region-less South Yorkshire. :p

Posted:3 months ago

#12

Justin Shuard J - E translator

47 180 3.8
Popular Comment
Have to disagree with this current wave of opinion that the fault for this trend lies with the customer.

The core issue is that with the ease of digital distribution the supply of games massively outweighs demand. Some developers that market themselves and make great content will succeed, a lot of others will fail as is the natural order of things. There's a reason why Nintendo games never drop in price despite this "race to the bottom."

Customers don't owe you a living. Video games are a luxury, not a necessity. As such most customers will only have a limited amount of money/time to spend on/play games. If a customer is willing to wait six months to a year for a price drop the brutal truth of the matter is that they just aren't THAT interested in your game. If there were no price drop, they wouldn't be buying your game at all. Look at all the people buying up a massive library of Steam games and never playing them.

Looking at the Puppy Games website they make simplistic up-rezzed space invader and tower defense clones. If you honestly think that would sell for 20 bucks a pop with this amount of (better) competition out there I don't know what to tell you.

Posted:3 months ago

#13

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,161 1,228 1.1
When games started out at arcades, you inserted a dime and played for a limited amount of time. This radically changed to paying $60 and owning the game, playing for as long as you wanted. This model was then inflated to death with DLC and subscription schemes. Then all of a sudden people played the game first and were monetized later. Or they were monetized before the game existed, or before it was even half-finished. Today PSN+ and XBL challenge the notion of buying many games by having a subscription type deal. EA is the first third party to join.

Video game monetization has always been a fickle beast and subject to change across generations. From triple A to indie, the pressure is felt, but considering all the innovations in terms of payment processing the last few years introduced, there has never been more choice on how to earn money with games. There are crazier monetization methods out there still. This mobility when creating a monetization scheme is what will counter-act the mass extinction. Somebody will crack the code and suddenly there will be people paying money, where nobody thought money was ever going to be spent and in the end growth will have been achieved.

Posted:3 months ago

#14

Ruben Monteiro Engineer

82 197 2.4
Looking at the Puppy Games website they make simplistic up-rezzed space invader and tower defense clones. If you honestly think that would sell for 20 bucks a pop with this amount of (better) competition out there I don't know what to tell you.
But that's precisely the problem: they did sell at that price at one point. Not anymore.
Since then, competition went up and demand went down: the world and his dog can now make increasingly better games and Joe The Game Buyer is increasingly akin to the idea that $0 is the correct price for a video game. This really is supply outweighing demand.

Posted:3 months ago

#15
They still do sell pretty well, actually. I think what really irks me is the perceived value of game entertainment versus the costs of other ways of wasting money eg. 1 bottle of wine = 5, gone in 1 hour, never to return. 1 coffee = 3, gone in 20 minutes, doesn't even get you drunk. Game = 1, what! How dare you charge a pound for six and a half hours' entertainment! (Our games are actually played for about the same length of time as other games on Steam - and that includes AAA hits like Borderlands, Half Life, etc)

Gaming represents - even at full price - one of the very very best values for money of all forms of entertainment, surpassed only by reading I think, and yet when it comes to the priority in which customers allocate funds to value, games are ranked at the very bottom (just above reading, I expect, ahahaa).

So what really the problem is, is not that there are too many games at all, but that customers just don't want to pay money for them. Period.

There are, what, 40,000,000 customers on Steam, and only a couple of thousand games. You can't seriously be suggesting there are too many games (although too many games of the same genre... now that's a different story)

Posted:3 months ago

#16

Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship

215 440 2.0
Popular Comment
It seems to me that attempts to rationalise this situation by blaming customers, or Valve, are misguided. Customers are behaving rationally given the choices put before them. It's not their fault. It is largely a supply and demand problem. The supply of games has shot up in recent years, for a variety of reasons. Demand has gone up, too, but not as much.

Making games has become easier. Technological and other barriers to entry have lowered or disappeared completely. There are more high quality cheap engines or frameworks available, allowing smart people to make games on almost any platform. Platform owners have liberalised their entry criteria. Just about the only thing a person needs, now, to make a game is some very affordable equipment, some cheap or free software, and the knowledge and time / money to do so. The internet has made this knowledge reachable for millions, falling computer and software prices put the tools in people's hands, and the internet and mobile app stores are all the distribution and sales platform you could ever need. Cue thousands of new games a year.

The pool of people who desire to make their living this way has grown with the number of people who identify games as their primary medium of entertainment. Universities the world over are pumping out games graduates. Large development studios are shedding staff and many of these take up independent development.

Platform owners, meanwhile, are behaving rationally in a world where the number of quality games being made is rising, the diversity of content is rising and the number and tastes of customers is diversifying - they're adopting Amazon style long-tail strategies, and instead of making lots of money from fewer games, they want to make even more money from huge numbers of small-selling games.

To me it seems utterly unproductive to speculate on an environment where these two facts are not the case, because it can't happen, the forces in play are fundamental and not under any one actor's control. Steam is becoming the app store, if it wasn't already.

Which begs the question, how do small developers navigate this maelstrom? I have no idea, but I know what I would do were I to go solo. I would stay a million miles away from mobile. If you're not massive, then putting a game on there is more akin to buying a lottery ticket. Mobile audiences are not that engaged with gaming as a hobby, guerilla marketing is almost completely ineffective, and you're competing with 400 games a day on that new game list.

Too many prospective indies are, for whatever reason, entering hugely competitive genres, or making relatively shallow games where you are going up against very polished competition. If you're making a tower defence game, or a physics based puzzler, you're immediately up against 100 other excellent games - how are you going to stand out?

Personally, I think indies would have more success if they chased more niche markets. Make high quality, deep games in genres that are not being catered to by the big guys. Guys like Positech and Spiderweb Software look, to me, to have strategies that are well suited to this new world - make something that a few thousand people would be willing to pay $20 for, and you have a very viable small business. Making political simulations or old-style isometric RPGs is perhaps more difficult, the audiences are smaller, and you won't likely make millions, but they are very engaged, can be found and marketed to directly, and best of all they will pay good money for products which cater to their tastes.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 25th August 2014 1:12pm

Posted:3 months ago

#17

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,613 1,476 0.9
competition went up and demand went down: the world and his dog can now make increasingly better games and Joe The Game Buyer is increasingly akin to the idea that $0 is the correct price for a video game.
Whoa whoa whoa. :)

There's two fundamentally different arguments here, so let's split the paragraph up:
competition went up and demand went down: the world and his dog can now make increasingly better games.
The customer base is growing, but not at the same rate that the current base matures and acquires knowledge. That is, someone who bought a Bethesda RPG last year and has tried out other titles since then may not be as satisfied with their first Puppygames title as someone entirely new to gaming.

Which isn't to say Puppygames titles are bad, they may just not be what gamers who have spent a long time in the medium want. Charging 20 buck to people entering gaming is one thing, but you can't expect to "sell coals to Newcastle".
and Joe The Game Buyer is increasingly akin to the idea that $0 is the correct price for a video game.
It's all relative. Divinity:Original Sin released late June as a full price title, and it's not been out of the Top 10 Sellers on Steam since. Ask a wargamer if they'd pay top-dollar for a Slitherine title, and you get a "Hell yeah!" People have to learn that this industry is not this OR that. It's everything that the customer is happy with - Yes to pricing tiers, full-price games, f2p, subscriptions. Everything. Because, by God, if the customer weren't happy, you'd know.

Edit: People assume that, just because titles aren't selling for as much as they used to, the consumer is telling them to lower the price. Whilst this may be correct for some games/consumer, it's certainly not correct for all. Let's try and be rational here.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 23rd August 2014 9:16am

Posted:3 months ago

#18

Ruben Monteiro Engineer

82 197 2.4
@Caspian Prince
So what really the problem is, is not that there are too many games at all, but that customers just don't want to pay money for them. Period.
Fine, but for me that means lower demand, unless you want to be picky with language. 10 buyers willing to pay $1 is not the same as 10 buyers willing to pay $20. I don't know if it's because of Steam sales or $0.99 mobile games, but I'll honestly say that I'd feel like an idiot if I'm paying $60 for a game these days, while I happily did that in the past.
There are, what, 40,000,000 customers on Steam, and only a couple of thousand games
Valve claims 75M active users, but what's their definition of active? As for the number of games, one word: Greenlight. 2000 currently in the queue, plus an average of 5 games greenlit per day for the past few months.

@Morville

You're handpicking games with an hardcore following that's willing to pay top dollar. That's the exception, not the rule.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ruben Monteiro on 23rd August 2014 1:05pm

Posted:3 months ago

#19

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,613 1,476 0.9
You're handpicking games with an hardcore following that's willing to pay top dollar. That's the exception, not the rule.
And that was my point. Honestly, how many "exceptions to the rule" are needed before we stop talking as though all consumers are alike? Why does there have to be a "path" (singular)? "Oh, race-to-bottom has started... Except for X, Y and Z. Oh, single-platform console games don't sell... Except for X and Y. Oh, First-Party Nintendo games don't sell consoles... Except for when they do." Consumers come in all forms.

This industry desperately needs some solid economics professors working in it, simply to counter-balance the willingness of some in the industry who only see one way forward. It's telling that Valve hired an economics professor (Yanis Varoufakis) part-time a few years back, when Valve is also one of the few companies who have driven the industry forward down multiple paths in terms of sales-models, and tiered pricing structures.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 23rd August 2014 5:45pm

Posted:3 months ago

#20
I'm less worried about indys, and more worried about bigger publishers and developers. Over the last 10 years developers and publishers have been falling like flies (and being replaced by hundreds of mobile devs, or indys).

This has almost reached its final stage - now the manufacturers (and big traditional publishers) are the last ones standing, and companies like Nintendo are facing the reality of virtually no 3rd-party publisher games on their platform.

The revenue base has fallen out of this industry, and taken all the middle-sized players with it.

Posted:3 months ago

#21
Actually, bigger publishers are even more up shit creek than indies are. Their risks are 10-100x greater, and there are 10-100x more people's jobs on the line. But can they charge 10-100x more? Do they sell 10-100x more units? The answer is more often "no" than "yes".

What's telling to me is just how much Valve are pushing free-to-play.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Caspian Prince on 24th August 2014 12:05am

Posted:3 months ago

#22

Ruben Monteiro Engineer

82 197 2.4
Big publishers are hitting the breaks at this point. The market won't sustain higher production values, quite the contrary. Costs will need to come down. Streamlining is going to be the mantra for the big publishers.

Posted:3 months ago

#23

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

420 1,000 2.4
Hmm the thing about the credit situation is that entertainment particularly video games - seems to do remarkably well during them
not true at all. In 2008 the game industry got smashed just like so many others and felt it the following years. And when the next crisis hits all these leveraged large companies ( ie all of them) are gonna feel it bad.. and this time with no more bail outs for their banking buddies, These corps living on funny money are gonna be out of luck.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 24th August 2014 5:51am

Posted:3 months ago

#24

Nick Wofford Hobbyist

180 190 1.1
Big publishers aren't in any danger at all. Everyone stating that seems to be of the opinion that publishers can't just change the business plan. If costs are too high in AAA, then they'll bring back the AA market from 10 years ago, and slowly build up to AAA again.

Indies, on the other hand, seem reluctant to change even if it's just as possible for them. It's like a restaurant that serves champagne for $1.50/bottle. At some point, a "good deal" morphs into a "bad product." Indie developers who think that they're doing a good thing by cutting price should be offered lobster rolls from the dollar stores because it's essentially the same offer that they're making.

Posted:3 months ago

#25

Christopher Ingram Editor-at-Large, Digitally Downloaded

52 45 0.9
I think a lot of indies have forgotten what it meant to be "indie," to be perfectly honest.

Posted:3 months ago

#26

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
I think a lot of indies have forgotten what it meant to be "indie," to be perfectly honest.
Well, because some achieved successes beyond status. Also Nick McCrea sort of mentioned it his post: "Personally, I think indies would have more success if they chased more niche markets. " which is pretty much like saying "Know your place".
From triple A to indie, the pressure is felt, but considering all the innovations in terms of payment processing the last few years introduced, there has never been more choice on how to earn money with games
Very much agreed. But obviously this also applies to marketing techniques. Ah Ah.
It seems to that attempts to rationalise this situation by blaming customers, or Valve, is misguided. Customers are behaving rationally given the choices put before them.
They are, most of them who really care about how they spend their hard earned bucks and on what to. Knowing that, most the people who paid for your game, even on 75% Steam Sale, did it by choice and are still supporting you.
Customers don't owe you a living. Video games are a luxury, not a necessity. As such most customers will only have a limited amount of money/time to spend on/play games. If a customer is willing to wait six months to a year for a price drop the brutal truth of the matter is that they just aren't THAT interested in your game. If there were no price drop, they wouldn't be buying your game at all. Look at all the people buying up a massive library of Steam games and never playing them.
Well I have a backlog of games on steam, but that is more because I don't have the machine to either run or fully enjoy them. That put aside:
Looking at the Puppy Games website they make simplistic up-rezzed space invader and tower defense clones. If you honestly think that would sell for 20 bucks a pop with this amount of (better) competition out there I don't know what to tell you.
Well, that "simplistic" is definitely not true overall. There is a pretty high level of gameplay depth in in the tower defense (or RTS as Mr Prince qualifies "Revenge of the Titans") having played it quite a few hours I can assure you that. Now for the second part of the quoted sentences, it is clear that you can get some random UBISOFT triple A for the (full) price of 3 Puppy Games games, very though choice I guess for the mainstream audience indeed. And that is probably WHERE and WHEN existing customers could start to be worth a lot more than a a couple of pennies to a Studio.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 24th August 2014 10:54pm

Posted:3 months ago

#27

Dan Wood Visual Effects Artist

36 59 1.6
Err... is there some sort of auto-censoring going on? I made a post where the first paragraph gets automatically blanked out (and rather confuses the meaning of the post in the process)... it doesn't contain expletives, or anything inflamatory... so I can't work out what's tripping it off.

(I've deleted the comment for now)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dan Wood on 24th August 2014 4:30pm

Posted:3 months ago

#28

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,613 1,476 0.9
@ Caspian
What's telling to me is just how much Valve are pushing free-to-play.
In what way? Whilst TF2 and Dota are F2P, CS:GO is definitely not, with the initial purchase price, plus community map pack costs. Certainly I've heard of Valve edging pubs/devs towards making some games f2p, but that may be an off-shoot of their economics knowledge?

Posted:3 months ago

#29
Yeah, I think they've looked at the figures and their eyes have just boggled at the potential for free-to-play gaming. Nicolas Lovell will fill you in on all the details ;) but I don't think they even need particularly deep knowledge of the economics to simply see the vast tides of cash rolling in from their free-to-play library. But that's all speculation as I don't have any more facts and figures than anyone else is privy to.

Posted:3 months ago

#30

Sandy Lobban Founder and Creative Director, Noise Me Up

315 208 0.7
IMO, the psychology of why people buy things is misunderstood and completely overlooked by a lot of developers. It seems to me that this is where his rather evident frustration is coming from, and indeed may well lead to other devs giving up. Developers would do themselves a favour by spending a bit of time looking at this area of psychology and understanding the steps people take to making a purchase. Sexy? No. Essential? Yes!

Just because you make something fantastic, it doesnt mean people will automatically be interested. This can lead to people giving up at the wrong time, and when they should be modifying the strategy.

Sometimes sustainable sales of products in a given market comes down to who is left standing after the others drop out. This is generally why bigger companies win out as they can sustain the business for longer periods. It's a battle of will. This is obviously the future he proposes....

It doesnt have to be that way if developers understand why they are doing what they are doing, what people want and what makes a customer click the purchase button on someone elses game and not their one.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 25th August 2014 10:49am

Posted:3 months ago

#31

Rogier Voet Editor / Content Manager

72 31 0.4
The answer is simple but not easy to do. To stop price erosion game makers should stop aggressively discounting your games only a few weeks after release. Focus on the experience not only the price. I love the Steam Sale and the Humble Bundle as an consumer, but those sales should happen long after you sold your games to your core audience, not cannibalize your first sales.

Posted:3 months ago

#32

Lewis Pulsipher Game Designer, Author, Teacher

32 42 1.3
The industry is suffering from the "tragedy of the commons":

The tragedy of the commons is an economics theory by Garrett Hardin, according to which individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one's self-interest, behave contrary to the whole group's long-term best interests by depleting some common resource.
Tragedy of the commons - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

Game producers see that they can make a little more money in the short run by big sales of their games. They can do this because it costs them nothing to "make" more copies of their digital-format game. It's in their short-term self-interest.

Game buyers see that game sales are common, and become accustomed to buying nothing at full price. It's in their self-interest.

Valve and bundles make it easy to put games on sale. But they found that when games were on sale at big discounts, they made more money (for the publisher and for Valve). It was in their short-term self-interest to run lots of sales.

Easy to see the result of rational (though short-term) behavior by all involved.

(IIRC, the name of this comes from the common-use land of a village, which would get overused by individuals pursuing their self-interest until the land could no longer provide pasture for the animals. One of Jared Diamond's books (Collapse) describes how this has happened again and again in history.)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Lewis Pulsipher on 26th August 2014 5:32pm

Posted:3 months ago

#33
@Rogier - indeed that is exactly what needs to be done. Unfortunately first sales are not being cannibalised when developers put games on sale - there is literally a 1 week window at launch on Steam during which a game mades the vast majority of its revenue. Beyond that... it's basically dead.

Rarely does that first week actually cover development costs. Usually a developer is massively in the red by the time the game launches and desperately needs to get back in the black but it won't happen at launch. So we now have to schedule a sale as little as three months after launch.

Then x100, with all the other developers in the same situation.

The only people consistently in the black and making money hand over fist here are Valve whilst we haplessly carry on supplying them with effectively free products (how money work do we think Valve puts in to a game release? The answer is almost nothing, relative to how much they cost to produce). And we're grateful they take "only" 30%.

Posted:3 months ago

#34

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany

837 671 0.8
Is this the guy that said that "costumers are worthless"? yes; you kinda go extinct that way. I must say: although I see his point I'm not sure if he is speaking out of honesty or if he is trying to compete with Phil Fish on over-the-top declarations...

Posted:2 months ago

#35

Graham Bromley Lead Level Designer, Codemasters

10 2 0.2
"I'll even buy you a drink if you say hello" Really? That could get very expensive.

Posted:2 months ago

#36

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