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Asymmetric smashed West of Loathing sales target by halving launch price

Original $20 price tag would have discouraged impulse buys, says founder Zack Johnson

Selling West of Loathing for $10 rather than $20 was key to its commercial success on Steam, according to Asymmetric Games founder Zack Johnson.

In an interview with the Campo Santo Quarterly, Johnson said that Asymmetric saw West of Loathing as, "a $20 game for a long time." However, the studio was advised by numerous peers to lower the price, to encourage impulse purchases on Steam.

The loudest voice was Campo Santo co-founder Sean Vanaman, who insisted that, "'If you think you can sell a couple thousand copies of the game on launch day, you will chart on Steam, and if you chart on Steam and your game costs $20, no one will buy it as an impulse purchase, and if it costs $10, tens of thousands of people will buy it as an impulse purchase.'"

Vanaman "turned out to be right," Johnson admitted. West of Loathing was expected to sell 20,000 units on the strength of Asymmetric's previous game Kingdom of Loathing, with a lifetime target of 50,000 units. Ultimately, the game sold 50,000 units in less than three weeks.

"We're better off selling more copies at a modest price, [but] I think the game is worth $20," Johnson said. "If you knew what it was going to be, and the amount of satisfaction you were going to derive from it, I think it's in line with other games that cost $20, but there was no way to convince someone of that if they hadn't played it yet."

At the start of this week, the indie studio Dimbulb Games released a similarly honest appraisal of its own game, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. In that instance, the studio misjudged the commercial appeal of the project, prompting founder Johnnemann Nordhagen to speculate, "I'm not sure that games like this one can continue to be made in the current market."

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.