I recently saw a couple of blog posts discussing the price point of indie games. Here’s a good writeup by Dave Gilbert, author of games like The Shivah and The Blackwell Legacy. Another good piece is the How to Afford that $15 Indie Game comic. Be sure to read the comments there for a variety of opinions.
Like so many other indie developers I’m finding myself on the fence regarding this. $15 and $19.99 is often a lot of money for an indie game, but I think that a price point of below $5 is ridiculous. That’s pocket change. That’s also one of the reasons I’m not considering porting my games to iPhone or iPad or i-whatever – it’s impossible to charge anything worthwhile there, and the amount of sales required to make any kind of money is ridiculously high.
All in all, I think that $15 is a good price for a decently long indie game. Maybe $10, if it’s just a couple of hours’ worth of gameplay. But that means a proper game of course – not just a cute single-screen timewaster with a clever innovative game mechanic. It’s a little like calling the kettle black, but in my own mind there’s a difference between simple flash games and a game that’s crafted to deliver a story or provide a progression of sorts.
“Wait a second,” says the observant reader. “If you’re so bleedin’ keen on selling games for $10-$15, how come your newest game Wildhollow is priced at $19.99?!”
Good question! The answer is that I don’t want to charge $20 for a game, but due to simple economics I’m pretty much forced to do so. My business model dictates that if I want to continue to make games, each game must make more than it costs to produce. This is so that I can afford higher production values for each new game – which in turn (in theory at least) will generate higher profits for the newer games. My ultimate goal is to produce very good games with very good production values.
With Wildhollow I made a couple of bad design decisions, and the end result isn’t perfect by any means. But the game has sold more than it cost to make, which means that it’s good enough for quite a few people to buy at a price of $19.99. My guess, before launching the game, was that the amount of extra people that would have bought the game at $10 or $15 would not have resulted in a higher profit than what I’m getting right now. And I firmly believe that that assessment was correct.
For my next game, working title Spandex Force: Superhero U, I have high hopes for a larger potential customer base which might mean a lower price. However, I’m also increasing the production budget, so nothing is set in stone…