Joost van Dongen, creator of abstract indie racer Proun, has revealed his frustration at the 'pay what you want' model which he distributed his game under, believing that he could have made 5-10 times as much money from a full-priced steam release.
In an extensive post on his game's development blog, van Dongen analyses the figures from the downloads of Proun, coming to the conclusion that whilst his game was successful, the payment model was not.
"For small indie companies, knowing where to release your game and for what price is incredibly valuable information," writes van Dongen. "Contracts forbid telling what you sell on XBLA, PSN or Steam, but since Proun is only sold on my own website, I can actually give you this information for Proun!"
Proun made around $20,000 in real terms under the unregulated model, with purchasers paying an average of $5.23. However, when people who downloaded the game for free were included, the average price paid plummets to $0.09.
47,379 people downloaded the game for free, with an estimated 200,000 people pirating the game via torrents.
Van Dongen says that he has learned that whilst pay what you want is a "tremendous marketing tool", it doesn't necessarily translate into healthy revenue.
However, the developer doesn't see the problem as being inherent to the model itself, merely the barrier between downloading for free and paying a small amount: the action of entering card details.
"People are lazy," he writes. "Systems that remember your payment details and thus don't require you to fill in anything each time you buy something are tremendously successful. Think Amazon, think Steam.
"So I think if I had set a minimum price of $1, way more people would have decided to pay a couple of dollars for Proun. Simply because they already had their Credit Card out for the $1 and figured the game was actually worth a bit more.
"Fewer people would have played Proun, but I think more people would have paid, making Proun a bigger success financially. Note the emphasis on financially: my main goal was to get as many people as possible to play my game, and the scheme I used was definitely a good choice for that! "
Following the analysis, van Drongen has decided to remove the free option and make the minimum price $1 instead, hoping that people will pay more once they cross the psychological threshold of entering card details.