Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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Editorial Vogel: Single-player RPGs are scarce, should sell for more

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by DarkUnderlord, Apr 15, 2009.

  1. Make America Great Again DarkUnderlordgender: ⚧ Bringing that old Raptor magic. Dumbfuck

    DarkUnderlord
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    Tags: Jeff Vogel

    Vogel's <a href="http://jeff-vogel.blogspot.com/2009/04/indie-games-should-cost-more-pt-1.html">continuing to blog about setting price-points</a> for games:
    <br>
    <blockquote>There is an increasing attitude that Indie games should be cheap. Super cheap. Like, pennies on the dollar, "How can a developer make a living that way?" cheap. XBox Live gave the trend a big push by charging $5 or $10 for most titles. That was still enough to get rich on when the gold rush was going. It isn't going anymore.
    <br>
    [...]
    <br>
    Back then, new games sold for $50. So Exile was $25, which was a very common price for shareware games back then. A few years later, I started sending the registered version on a CD (instead of E-mailing a registration code). I charged $30 for a CD. Sales changed very little.
    <br>
    [...]
    <br>
    The difference between an amateur and a professional is that the professional knows how much to charge for his or her work. When people argue about how much an Indie game should sell for, they tend to ignore several important factors that should go into the decision:
    <br>
    <br>
    * How Big is the Game? - Braid lasts about 6 hours, or about $2.50 an hour. A little on the pricey side, but the game gets away with it by being so fun. Our newest game, Geneforge 5: Overthrow, lasts about 30 hours, or less than a buck an hour (not counting considerable replay value). $28 seems very fair.
    <br>
    <br>
    * How Niche Is the Game? - Economics says that scarcer things should sell for more. A Bejeweled clone is common and thus should be cheap. Good single-player RPGs are scarce. They should sell for more.
    <br>
    <br>
    * How Much Do I Need To Earn To Live? - Suppose your game takes a year to write and thus, counting salaries, needs to earn about $100K to break even. If you sell it on iTunes for $.99, after Apple's cut, you need to sell around 130000 copies to break even. That is a LOT of copies. A spiffy and addictive puzzle game (which is harder to write than you think) might sell that many. A plot-heavy niche RPG? No.</blockquote>
    <br>
    The only problem I have with that is it ignores the fact you can now buy the professional games for $20.00. Just check out your local bargain bin. Even Amazon has games like <a href="http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=knights+of+the+old+republic&x=0&y=0">KOTOR2 for $20 USD</a>. Indie's are now no longer competing with professional titles sold at professional prices, they're competing with those games at bargain bin prices (and they'll actually work on your PC without having to upgrade again) and a growing second-hand market.
    <br>
    <br>
    Why spend $28 on Vogel's cheap home-made graphics when for almost half that price I can get a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=morrowind&x=25&y=17">bloom-filled title with expansions like Morrowind: GOTY</a>? You can even pick up a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=fallout+3&x=0&y=0">used copy of the recently released Fallout 3</a> for as little as $19.99 or a new copy for just $2 more than the $28 price tag Vogel likes so much.
    <br>
    <br>
    Next week: Why the reasons selling games for cheap are all wrong.
    <br>
    <br>
    Spotted @ <a href="http://www.gamebanshee.com">GameBanshee</a>
     
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  2. Multiple Sarcasmgender: ⚧ Arcane

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    Re: Vogel: Single-player RPGs are scarce, should sell for mo

    Don't make them big, then. Make them more enjoyable, inspiring and memorable, instead.

    No, it doesn't. Economics says "Demand > Supply" should sell for more. Few people want your game = tough noogies.

    Is your own problem.

    Can't survive as indie? Don't. Biting more than you can chew has never been healthy.
    Am I being rude? So is "you owe me more money, because I can't make it" routine. Bleh!
     
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  3. Tigranesgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    You are now diagnosed with Volournitis.

    In this case, there appears to be a stick up your arse that compels you to see the world in antagonistic zero-sum terms, with an extremely limited view of causality that neglects concepts of sustainability or long-term development.

    When the industry standard prices things so low that returns are not sufficient for producers to hit a stable point, the industry is bound to collapse. It is the job of the producers to do what they can to manage customer expectations and make the prices palatable. i.e. trying to make customers understand the situation and accept the price tag of $28 is just as important and effective as utilising best practices to cut down overhead costs.

    The 'big' argument is pretty silly though, for obvious reasons.
     
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  4. Zomggender: ⚧ Arbiter

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    That's a silly way to formulate the niche concept, like his games are a fungible commodity. It's just that the audience for Vogellian games is both fairly committed to the subgenre and has nowhere else to go unless they can convince the Natuk guy to make more shit, therefore his price point only has to do with them and is somewhat protected from the wider game market. So, he has some leverage with which to chisel them, and it's a fairly unique case where he's supplying a market created and then discarded by mainstream production. It's like he's like the only guy making new rear view mirrors for the '83 Ford Escort; it's not a situation that's generalizable to all indies.
     
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  5. thesheeepgender: ⚧ Arcane

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    Re: Vogel: Single-player RPGs are scarce, should sell for mo

    Can't exactly agree with that. Neither size nor memorability alone make a game worth its price. A huge game that just lacks the fun sucks, since it will most likely bore or frustrate you, and a very great game that just lasts 5 hours or so also sucks (if there is no replayability, and I don't talk about "achievements"), will simply make you wonder why you spent so much money on mere 5 hours.
    This is for games that cost > 25$, IMHO.

    For games with lower prices, you don't demand those extremely good conditions. For your 15$, it is okay if that great game just lasted 5 hours. For 20$, it is okay that this huuuge game has empty spaces and some awkward glitches.

    But for 28$, a game will have to compete (both in size AND quality) with low budget games form professional studios. In Germany, quite a lot adventures with really good quality and length come out for the price of ~30€. Would they be sold outside of Germany, and most are, I guess, the price would be ~30$.
    This is just one example, but it already shows that in this price class, games like Geneforge have to compete with games of a quality they will never be able to reach. Which is okay, but not for that price.

    The magic limit IMHO is at 20 - 25$....
    A lot of psychology is involved here. My guess is that 8$ less would sell the game quite a lot more.

    Harsh words, but yeah, exactly.
     
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  6. Wyrmlordgender: ⚧ Self-Ejected

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    Re: Vogel: Single-player RPGs are scarce, should sell for mo

    You are assuming that videogames are perfect substitutes for each other.

    They are not.

    People buy games for specific features, which are differentiated across different games, and they are what determines the price tag for the game.

    If there was another exact game with exact same features for a lower price, then yes, it makes sense for Vogel to lower his costs. But there isn't.

    Dammit, didn't you pay attention to your economics classes in school?
     
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  7. winterraptorgender: ⚧ Savant

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    Doesn't anyone realize these are all fantasy games we're talking about? You're paying with your soul already, whats a couple bucks here or there?!

    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Make America Great Again DarkUnderlordgender: ⚧ Bringing that old Raptor magic. Dumbfuck

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    Re: Vogel: Single-player RPGs are scarce, should sell for mo

    Which is interesting given Vogel's own pricing theory of "new game = $50, therefore Vogel game = $25".

    They are when it comes to entertainment though. I ultimately have a choice between buying a fairly new title with AAA grade production values with shiney graphics and possibly being entertained for a while, versus spending the same amount on a Spiderweb Software game where production values are some-what less but where I'd likewise be entertained for a while.

    If my gaming budget is $50 and I can get that awesome new Fallout 3 game as well as KOTOR 2 - both games I might've had on my buy list for a while but haven't bought due to funds - and then there's this other game, I start weighing up which one I want the most. Yes, if I absolutely have a hard-on for some turn-based excitement (in a game where combat is only an "annoyance" seen as a means to an end) in an RPG setting where I don't care what the game looks like, then I'd be more likely to consider the indie game however (assuming I hadn't heard about TOEE)...

    ... basic Supply and Demand dictate that the lower the price, the more people are willing to buy. Generally only a small portion of customers are willing (and able) to purchase "at any price". Vogel is likely to have a number of customers who want to buy but can't (or won't) due to the price and others who wouldn't even consider the products based on the price alone - and yet might enjoy them immensely should they give them a try.

    If I look at his games purely as a game purchaser who's stumbled across his site looking for a fun game, see the price tag (which is a little bit buried in his online payment system to be honest) I'll be looking at the game and thinking "what other game can I buy for this price? If I buy it and don't like it, is that a price I'd be happy with?". I'm now less likely to make the purchase so I'll try the demo. That demo is hopefully going to make me want to buy it at which point I will again weigh up the price versus the enjoyment I got out of it and how much I want to pay to have that enjoyment continue.

    I'm now at the point where I'm evaluating the product and saying "Did I only like it enough that I'd throw $15 at it or am I willing to pay $28?". If I'm not willing to pay $28, I don't buy even if I did enjoy the game (which was ultimately my decision when I seriously looked at a Vogel game a few years ago. It was fun and for $15 or maybe even $20 US he'd have me but at $30 I had better things to spend money on).

    I'll even add that price points imply a certain mindset. A purchasing decision of $5 or $10 is made a lot quicker than decisions at triple or more times those amounts. $30 is a new CD (or two) or a desktop microphone. $5 is a burger and fries - 5 minutes later you're done. Ultimately I think Vogel's method of "half price of new game" is misplaced simply because his graphics are now seriously out-dated (I enjoy Doom 2 but I wouldn't pay more than $20 for it today) and he's cutting off a lot of customers who I think would buy but won't because for that price of admission, they're expecting some higher production values.

    What I'm saying is that $28 these days buys you some pretty high production values and if I see a product that doesn't meet those standards, I seriously question why it's that price and I'd REALLY, REALLY, REALLY have to like it in order to buy it. Meaning if I merely enjoyed it I wouldn't even consider it. Vogel's only selling to his hard-core "buy at any price" crowd and if that's the case, he may as well charge $40.
     
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  9. Wyrmlordgender: ⚧ Self-Ejected

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    Those are good arguments, and I can concede to them.

    However, I think Vogel's pricing has worked for HIM, because he has managed to make good money on it.

    Geneforge IV was supposed to cost $120,000, but that includes imputed value of his self-produced inputs and his own labour, so in terms of cash flows, he has probably made good money. Because his revenues from guidebooks and copies of his games are all at roughly $120,000 as well.

    I think businessmen like Vogel know how to work the indie gaming fan mindset, because those people rage against mainstream, and willingly throw away money on indie games to "support the starving artists". Seriously, those people have strong inclinations towards anything indie - just look at all the dedicated Eschalon fans. It's very easy to make money out of such people.

    I personally will never buy a Vogel game, because like you, I also think there's just better stuff for better price (alot of good turn-based games are freeware), and I don't think I will ever feel any incentive to buy those games - their first 10 levels are more than enough.
     
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  10. DraQgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Re: Vogel: Single-player RPGs are scarce, should sell for mo

    Epic fail detected.
     
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  11. It Is All A Liesgender: ⚧ Scholar

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    My spunk is scarce. After all, I'm the only producer. It should sell for more than regular spunk.
     
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  12. Multiple Sarcasmgender: ⚧ Arcane

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    So, basically, your argument is: "have pity, the market is harsh on them"? Will it come as a surprise to you that the market is harsh on everybody? Yet others survive.
    You have your sympathies - that's admirable. Just don't ask me to have them for those who fail to make ends meet and make it an argument to demand more for their work. Because that's just asking for hand-outs.
    You think your work is worth more, you charge more. You charge more - it has to be worth more to consumers, because it's for them to decide whether they agree on its worth, or they go elsewhere.
    Sure, a one-time extra $10-15 on good cause or great entertainment won't make me broke. But making it a business model to charge for crying on your consumers' shoulders - that's not a trend I'll encourage with the money I've worked for.

    And that's all you had to say worth of attenton.

    True, I guess I should've elaborated on that. Wasn't going for extremes (no Bio pun intended), of course. I was going for the compromise a dev could (/should) make in cutting down on the length of time we spend experiencing more of the same in favour of creativity with which the game is made. Under the basic idea that a 20-25 hour-long game done with a spark of imagination and uniqueness in its setting/characters/events/role-playing opportunities (role-playing opportunities != C&C) takes less time to make than 40-50 game hours overwhelmed by generic.
    The catch is, the developer needs to have that imagination. Which is hard to come by, these days.
     
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  13. Blackaddergender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Magister

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    While I do not agree with the "production values" argument (indeed, the graphics, etc may be lovely in the new games. A turd in a tiffany box is, still, a turd) I have seen the "must buy indy" crowd at work. At the same moment I see others who take a perverse pleasure in NOT buying said product because of the "low" production values, and then playing the pirated version to completion.
     
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  14. Fenrilgender: ⚧ Scholar

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    Spiderweb software (which in practice is mostly just Jeff Vogel) has carved up a niche for itself since the early shareware days when the exile series was released.
    He/They HAVE NOT gone under after all these years.

    I think this fact alone justifies Jeff Vogel's approach, his pricing policies and any theories regarding indie rpg gaming he might have.

    Quite simply, he has cut it and is still cutting it in the role hes chosen. Despite what you may think of his games and his game development approach he is in a very special position, a position he earned for himself with his work and competence.

    Indie rpg makers wannabes rise up out of the water here and there only to go back down and drown shortly afterwards without releasing shite or after releasing shite whose potential is terminally ruined by crap programming and bugs. He never announced vaporware.

    Regarding the pricing policy arguments I think the one that stated he is the only one effectively catering to a certain small niche is the only valid and logical one.

    If all of a sudden several other relatively competent micro studios, like basilisk games for example, started appearing out of nowhere and charging 15 bucks for oldschool rpgs with low production values that they actually managed to release in a stable state, then yeah, Jeff Vogel should reconsider his position and posture. Until then its business as usual for him.

    The rest is just making meaningless judgements.
     
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  15. Castanovagender: ⚧ Prophet

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    Thing is, $5 for a burger is very much different than $5 for a video game. I'd spend $5 on a burger in a heartbeat. Reason being, you gotta eat anyway and $5 is a good price for a meal. You don't NEED to play a brand new video game so that $5 video game is a much harder sell.

    From THAT regard, I do think $5 is too cheap for anything but a short, trivial game. $28 for a full-fledged RPG, even with poor graphics, is not even remotely too much money. If I'm ready to drop some money on a new game, I don't really care whether it's $15 or $30 bucks.

    The more important decision, really, is how much of my TIME I'm willing to dispense with. That's where it's tough for Vogel, I think, because he's asking you to devote 30+ hours to a random indie game. If you don't do your research, you might very well have no idea whether these games are good or whether they're stable. So, for the RPG player who doesn't spend all his time on internet forums, $28 suddenly becomes a pretty huge asking price... would you rather drop $15 to buy some drugs from the guy on the corner or $25 to buy some drugs from your friend?
     
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  16. nomask7gender: ⚧ Arcane

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    Re: Vogel: Single-player RPGs are scarce, should sell for mo

    Was that his theory? If so, why did you mention GOTY Morrowind or alluded to games that are more than five years old? Remember? You asked something to the effect that why would anyone buy Geneforge 5 for $28 when he could buy Morrowind for less than that? LOL! What a stupid thing to ask. LOL! What if I already HAVE Morrowind, cuz it's six years old? LOL! Dumbass! :D

    I'd give the same treatment to the rest of your blundering fluff, but I just got bored (and as we know from history, you, being the master of selective misreading, would not benefit). See ya.
     
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  17. Hümmelgümpfgender: ⚧ Arbiter

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    Re: Vogel: Single-player RPGs are scarce, should sell for mo

    That doesn't explain why Vogel's games should sell for more.

    R00fles!
     
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  18. Shota Shernokavichgender: ⚧ Scholar

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    geneforge 5 was super awesome at the beginning but the truly depressing visuals fail to keep me captivated. i have to force myself to play, in other words.
     
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  19. Micormicgender: ⚧ Educated

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    I think that vogels games suck, mainsztream dev's suck too, i never buy any 6 hour games for more then $15
     
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  20. Azrael the catgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    It's worth remembering that in most fields, niche and indie producers do not market themselvse on being cheaper than the mainstream. Often the are considerably more expensive, as they lack the economies of scale available to larger players. It is implausible to think that the indie market could support a steady stream of moderate-quality games, let alone high-quality, at a price substantially cheaper than the mainstream.

    Given the enormous financial/time investment required to make even a Vogel-style rpg, their only source of plausible sustainability is to make like indie film, finding an audience that will pay much more than they will for mainstream films, despite receiving much much lower techical quality (I'm including in that crappier actors, less experienced directors etc). Why on earth would anyone do that? Because they are getting something that they can't get from the mainstream.

    Whether gamers like it or not, I can't see any other way that indie rpgs could be consistently viable. In that sense, Vogel has got the formula exactly right. Provide rpgs for the same price, or considerably higher price, than the major titles (well, he could afford to raise his price a lot there). Don't even attempt to match the major titles for tech quality. But then sell to a market that the major companies aren't servicing.

    You're right, there is no reason why someone who wants to buy Morrowind should buy Geneforge instead. And that will remain the case even if Vogel halves the price of Geneforge, or doubles the amount he spends on graphics. The reason to buy Geneforge, instead of a cheaper and technically superior Morrowind, is that Geneforge provides a totally different gaming experience to that provided by Morrowind. In that sense, consumers don't really have much choice - if they want a game that plays like Geneforge, they have to go MUCH older than Morrowind. And as most of us here know, you can run out of those old games pretty quickly. Especially if you're talking about isometric turn-based, rather than even older-style dungeon-crawlers. Basically Geneforge is competing against Fallout, FO2, Jagged Alliance and Hammer and Sickle. All of which are better buys than Geneforge. But once you've played those, and want some more, you're pretty much stuck shovelling out whatever Vogel wants to ask for it.
     
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  21. Thrashergender: ⚧ Arbiter

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  22. Zomggender: ⚧ Arbiter

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    I agree with this and said pretty much the same thing previously, but it's important to remember that in this way Vogel is unlike a more typical indie. The audience he's serving was hooked by mainstream products, and now it's uneconomical for the mainstream to bother with those hooked customers. Therefore you can do well to make cottage industry games to satisfy that audience. That's not at what most indies are doing and his pricing theories are mostly inapplicable.
     
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  23. Pantheragender: ⚧ Scholar

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    Re: Vogel: Single-player RPGs are scarce, should sell for mo

    Yeah, no kidding.
     
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  24. Elwrogender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

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    By the way, really niche indie strategy games are sometimes very expensive.
     
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  25. nomask7gender: ⚧ Arcane

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    So I can't play Morrowind if I like Fallout? And what is the Morrowind guy left with after Morrowind?

    They are all rather good buys, including Geneforge 5. Nothing stops you from buying all of them, the question is "in which order?"... But is anyone interested in such questions? Either way, your assertion is bullshit—doesn't matter how you look at it. You mean at bargain prices they are better buys? No, generally speaking it's not wise to buy a game you've already bought once before. You mean they are better games? I fail to see how they are better. JA and H&S are very different, but better? Better as simple tb tactics games? In the case of JA, sure. Better as RPGs? Nope. Better as games? Nope. As for FO2, it's FO without the grace and atmosphere. 'Better' is not a word that comes to mind spontaneously when thinking about FO2. Both Fallouts have very weak combat—clearly weaker than GF5, which doesn't have a weak combat unless you're looking for a game that focuses on tb tactics, in which case you're looking in the wrong place. GF5 is a game that does most things a little better, and only a few things 'worse' in some sense than the best of its competition, which includes Morrowind, too.
     
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