On Recent Changes In Indie Game Pricing

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After a Steam sale and the closing of Tales of Tales a few people are talking about sales and pricing on Steam again. As a consumer I’d like to believe the store isn’t facing a mobile-style race to the bottom, but things have certainly been changing ever since Valve started allowing a much higher volume of games in.

First of all I’d like to point out that if you go to the main page on Steam and check the top-selling games, nearly all of them are at full price. The games that become really popular don’t have to have big sales in order to be successful. I don’t know if this means you just have to make good games in order to sell at full price or if your game just has to get lucky. Maybe it just has to be a game that fits what the market is after right now. Ark: Survival Evolved definitely fits that description, and so does Lego WorldsHer Story is probably a good example of an out-there indie game getting the notoriety Tales of Tales’ Sunset didn’t.

I will say though I have started to see changes in the pricing of indie games on PC over the last maybe two or three years. Back in the early Xbox Live Arcade era indie games were usually either $10 or $15, and $10 was typically the impulse buy price for me. If you dig into Steam today — since Valve opened its floodgates, you’ll notice a lot more really small games below $10, usually around the $5 or $6 mark.

I think these games are filling in a lower price space that kind of got left behind when more ambitious and more expensive indie games started showing up a couple years ago. Tools and production values have reached a point where some indies can dare to ask $20 for their games. I think those are the more mature developers who were selling the $10 games almost a decade ago. Maybe the smaller guys today are just another wave that’ll eventually make the same progress. More importantly, I’m not sure many of them would even be on Steam were it not for Valve allowing such a high number of games onto it now.

Some games definitely get ignored. I’ve devoted entire blog posts to ones that do, and I browse Steam’s discoverability que daily to look for hidden gems. I don’t however think it’s headed into iOS-level pricing quite yet. Price-wise, the cheapest games usually aren’t the most popular on Steam. The cheapest games not on sale in the top-selling chart right now are around $10.

For one thing Steam isn’t crowded with downright fraudulent clones. I’m not seeing any games with titles brazenly attempting to hijack search engine results. There are a lot of games inspired by other games going around now, but outside mobile their developers usually own up to what they’re aping. Basically, the people making games on Steam are still trying to make games, not make a quick buck with hastily cloned software.

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