Recently it seems people are increasingly becoming unsure about the pricing of independently-released games. The most recent case of this was a thread on the Steam forums for Firewatch where over the weekend one of the game’s developers stepped into the conversation when the thread starter suggested they might refund the game. The developer’s response get’s at the heart of what I think is a discrepancy between how customers see the value of a game and how developers and publishers see the value of a game.
Of course we also saw this conversation creep up when The Witness, which I haven’t played, launched at $40, but I’ve been thinking about this at least since Gone Home launched for $20. As indie developers get more experienced and the tools at their disposal get more powerful, we’re starting to enter a new stage where the perceived value behind their games is markedly increasing, but that perceived value comes from a lot of different factors involved in making games.
A lot of people seem to think of just one thing when talking about game pricing: the length and amount of entertainment in the package. I think we need to remember that when pricing games developers and publishers are also probably factoring in things like production budget, the man hours spent making the game, and sales expectations, all coming together to create a target they need to hit to break even or make a profit. I say this without any real knowledge of the business or economics or whatever, but I think there’s some common sense in looking at those factors compared to what the enc consumer sees. Continue reading