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

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

Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Wed 15 April 2009, 04:15:08

Tags: Jeff Vogel

Vogel's continuing to blog about setting price-points for games:
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.
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.
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:

* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

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 KOTOR2 for $20 USD. 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.

Why spend $28 on Vogel's cheap home-made graphics when for almost half that price I can get a bloom-filled title with expansions like Morrowind: GOTY? You can even pick up a used copy of the recently released Fallout 3 for as little as $19.99 or a new copy for just $2 more than the $28 price tag Vogel likes so much.

Next week: Why the reasons selling games for cheap are all wrong.

Spotted @ GameBanshee

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