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The Slippery Slope of Video Game Sales
January 23, 2014 8:30 PM   Subscribe

When Jason Rohrer's Castle Doctrine hits Steam later this month, it will be on release sale for 12 dollars. After that, it will be 16 dollars. Forever. Rohrer talks to Giant Bomb about why he thinks constant sales are bad for games. (previously)
posted by graventy (100 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
We should also note that Rohrer's essay was published on Gamasutra, and that Nathan Grayson at Rockpapershotgun posted a critical response: Rohrer isn't wrong about sales, but he also isn't right.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:36 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


"As a developer, being turned from a millionaire into a multi-millionaire, by effectively tricking a bunch of people into wasting money on something they’ll never use? I, personally, don’t feel good about that."
Thank you noble developer from protecting me from myself with your high prices. I shop the sales because I already dump a fuckton of money into my gaming habit and sometime I'm looking for a thrill on the cheap or I might play it some day or I just want to stuff it into my inventory so I can send it to a friend for their birthday.

What I do after I give you money is neither your business nor your god damn concern. My reasons are my own. Don't fuck me and then blame me for being fucked.
posted by Talez at 8:39 PM on January 23 [31 favorites]


It's a deeply silly idea, since it relies on game publishers getting together as a cartel to agree not to compete against each other on price, ever, once the initial pricing has been agreed. Which is both illegal and bad business practice.
posted by sweet mister at 8:43 PM on January 23 [13 favorites]


Well, I for one am grateful for Rohrer's principled stand. I have so many games sitting in my Steam account that I haven't got time to play properly. So, it's like he's giving me extra time to finish XCOM and to get ready for the new CKII expansion (Rajas of India!!!) when he convinces me not to buy his game.
posted by R. Schlock at 8:48 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


It's probably worth noting that I don't agree with his opinion at all. It's an interesting opinion, however, and one of the few anti-sale developer voices I've heard. Thanks for the links, GtM, I hadn't seen his original essay.
posted by graventy at 8:51 PM on January 23


Hell, buying games on steam for sale prices has almost become a game unto itself.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:53 PM on January 23 [15 favorites]


Price the game higher so that players are willing to sit through the tutorial longer because they paid so much for it? I need to invest a *week* to really enjoy the game?

I'm glad I only play with the ball-and-cup nowadays.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:53 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Part of me hopes that Steam and courts interpret his statements as legally binding him to never reduce the price, even when its three years later and nobody buys the game because for $16 they can get all the Falloutses, all the Bioshockses, all the Mass Effectses, and a coffee.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:55 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


I wonder what it feels like to be that wrong.
posted by kafziel at 8:56 PM on January 23 [6 favorites]


There are plenty of people I know who only started buying games due to the Steam sales and humble bundles. Yes, perhaps there is a rush to buy games at sale prices due to the fear of missing out. But since we're already dealing in hypotheticals: maybe these sales are working because these are the correct prices for games? Players are buying and playing more games, devs are making more money. Sounds like market efficiency to me.
posted by vanar sena at 8:58 PM on January 23 [13 favorites]


As a counterpoint, here's a blog post by the developer of Cook, Serve, Delicious whose message is basically "Steam sales are awesome". He made multiples of his usual daily income during the sales.

Prices are weird. Basically all the "supply hits demand curve here" stuff you read in Econ 101 is wrong. There's no such thing at the right price. You want to figure out how to get more from the people who are willing to pay more, while accepting less from the people who won't buy at regular price.

Plus, there's the appetizer effect. There's not a few games where I bought an old game on sale, and liked it so much I bought the sequel at full price.
posted by zompist at 9:05 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


I hope he's considered the idea that "No-one bought the game when it wasn't on sale" might mean something besides "We've trained consumers not to buy games except on sale". There's no shortage of high-concept retro-pixellated graphics indie games out there vying for gamers attention and time. Still, best of luck to him with the experiment.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:06 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


I have bought a lot of games on Steam sales. Many of them I played for 20 minutes, and then quit forever. Some of them I haven't ever played. A lot of them I've played for a handful of hours, until I complete the main campaign or get bored, and then I set it aside.

And a handful of them, I have played for dozens of hours and keep coming back. The majority of those I would not have bought at full price. Obviously, in retrospect, knowing now how much I would enjoy them, I would have paid full price, but I didn't know that ahead of time.

My point is that game sales allow you to play a greater variety of games than you would otherwise be able to. Many of them will miss the mark, even if you try to read reviews and carefully vet the games you buy. But some of them will be really great, and they might not be the ones you would have bought if every game was at its full "retail" price all the time.

That said, I never pay full prices for games. Even if it's a AAA game that I really want, I'll wait for at least one price drop. (eg, I paid about $30 each for Portal 2 and X-COM a few months after their release dates.) But that's because a game generally isn't worth $60 to me. I want to play Starcraft 2, but Blizzard basically never drops their prices. So you know what? I haven't bought it, and I'm just gonna play these other video games I have over here, thank you very much.
posted by jcreigh at 9:07 PM on January 23 [12 favorites]


As someone who grew up in Australia, where getting a less than 3 year old game on special for $50 was an incredible bargain, I LOVE Steam sales. So what if I've spent a few bucks on games I might not play? I've also spent $90+ on games I didn't end up liking, many times - never again.
posted by Diag at 9:12 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Honestly, if it works fine for him, Godspeed. (& it probably will: Rohrer's life style is very low cost and he's a distinctive brand with a dedicated audience.) The best parallel might be Dwarf Fortress, which has always cost what it costs, &, as of this 2011 NY Times magazine article, is bringing the developer enough money to continue living in his current style as well. Most mainstream, big-budget games simply aren't worth their initial asking price.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:13 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I especially feel a little slimy about thinking about how we’ve 'trained' our customers. They’re just clapping their fins together and throwing money at us!"
*weeps softly*
*signs cheque*

Rohrer asked the player what he wanted to pay. The player's response? $3. So Rohrer refunded him $9.
Ok, yeah, that is pretty cool.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:15 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Artw and I were discussing this in the Eldritch thread, and now that there's a proper thread I'll just c/p what I said there:

Oh my god, Castle Doctrine dude, Minecraft's price was able to rise and stay where it is because Minecraft sells incredibly well and people keep paying it. Mojang doesn't cut the price because Mojang has no reason to- they're already doing the sale volume of Eldritch or Castle Doctrine every single day.

I get that you want to keep making that full price money forever, but the idea that new things cost more and old things cost less isn't some quirk of video games, it's how everything in the world (other than things with vintage qualities, like certain kinds of audio gear, instruments, and clothing) works.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:21 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


I guess the only way to win is not to pay.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:22 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


I kinda think selling games is obsolete, the new hotness is going to be designing free games that engender real-money/Bitcoin-linked player economies of which you take a cut, like the government will not charge you for being born, but just takes a cut of everything after.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:27 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


The RPS guy makes a good point when he said that Minecraft and Gmod are bad examples for this practice because they're both content creation engines, which most games are not. You could spend the rest of your life just playing Minecraft or Gmod and never get bored.

Also, the Castle Doctrine has some unusual gender and social commentary issues. I'll probably watch some LPs of it but that's it.
posted by clockworkjoe at 9:32 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


If a game is never going to have a sale, they sure better have a quality demo. I'm done with the days that I drop significant cash on a game to find out that it wasn't worth it, and I didn't have a good way to find out before hand. (And a Let's Play doesn't always cover what you need to know.)

In my mind, having a cheap entry point for a game allows me to take more risks in my purchases in the hope that I'll find something good in an industry that can be a bit opaque with what you are actually getting, and I'm okay with that. It increases my chances of finding games that I'll stick with, even if it means the resultant damage is some unplayed games in my Steam account.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:33 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Prices are weird. Basically all the "supply hits demand curve here" stuff you read in Econ 101 is wrong. There's no such thing at the right price. You want to figure out how to get more from the people who are willing to pay more, while accepting less from the people who won't buy at regular price.

Getting more from people willing to pay more is called price discrimination, and it is indeed something you learn about in (Micro) Economics 101.
posted by Pyry at 9:34 PM on January 23 [12 favorites]


I'm done with the days that I drop significant cash on a game to find out that it wasn't worth it, and I didn't have a good way to find out before hand.

Yep. Made this mistake with Towns on Steam. Asked for reimbursement and none was given. Haven't bought a Greenlighted game since, and won't in the future.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:35 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Opinions I have them:

The theory is based on the idea that I'm going to regret failing to get in at a lower-priced tier instead of a higher-priced tier. My reaction is that I regret paying full price (on the basis of relatively good demos) for Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3. So no, they're not going to get my sale at $60. They might get my sale at $30. I might pay $15 just to kick the tires for the weekend on something I'm unlikely to repeat.

There's many games selling right now at above what I'm willing to pay, I'm losing no sleep in not paying for them or playing them.

There's only one game I'm considering buying sight-unseen in the next year. And that's likely to be closer to a $30 release.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:42 PM on January 23


Haven't bought a Greenlighted game since, and won't in the future.

One time I bit into an orange and the orange was moldy and the store wouldn't refund my orange and that's why I don't eat fruits anymore.
posted by Pyry at 9:44 PM on January 23 [10 favorites]


But surely it's reasonable to avoid that particular orange vendor?
posted by ODiV at 10:05 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


The man is a horse's ass who gets way more attention than his games deserve. I honestly never understood why he became such an indie darling. Yes, he created a super pretentious art game early on the at game scene when people were so enthralled by the idea of art games that there wasn't a real high bar set for actual, you know, art. Can people please stop acting like he's newsworthy?
posted by aspo at 10:05 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


This smells like marketing.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:22 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


His theory is interesting, but pretty much every developer who has participated in a Steam Sale or Bundle has a experience that contradicts it.
posted by Artw at 10:26 PM on January 23


There will be no sales for The Castle Doctrine. Period.

This could be read a couple of ways...
posted by Sys Rq at 10:41 PM on January 23 [12 favorites]


Normally when the FTC wants to pursue a cartel for price fixing collusion, they have to at least go to the effort of getting subpoenas for emails and other incriminating documents. How nice it must be for the agent assigned to Rohrer's case!
posted by pwnguin at 10:48 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


For seven years I had one game on my steam account, Half Life 2, simply because that was the only way to play it. I now own, hold on lemme check this, 266 games. I think my total cash output on those games was less than fifty bucks. Over the past year. Seriously. Steam sales and bundles are the best thing to happen to gaming since the golden age of PC gaming. Some of those games were clunkers, sure, that's to be expected. But for every McPixel I've found two great titles I'd never have looked at twice, like FTL or King's Bounty. And with the increasing trend towards the no demos ever model I am far less likely to spend full price on a new IP than ever.
posted by gideonswann at 10:48 PM on January 23 [9 favorites]


Because the marginal cost of games approaches zero as total sales increase it's natural that prices drop the more copies one sells. Especially for a durable good.

I've bought a few dozen games on GoodOldGames. The list price of most of their old stuff is less than a fancy Starbucks beverage. When they have sale bundles the price per game is practically free (often less than $3). I really have to restrain myself from buying those bundles just to accumulate games I "might" play because the retail price is crazy cheap anyways. But when there is one game I've always wanted to play in a bundle I often buy the whole bundle on the theory that I might enjoy the other games and doing a bunch of research on each of the bundle titles just isn't worth the time when they are a couple bucks a piece. I think the last bundle I bought was Never Winter Nights Iⅈ Balders gate Iⅈ Icewind Dale Complete Iⅈ Planescape: Torment; Temple of Element Evil; Demon stone; and Dragon shard for like $25. I haven't worked through half of them and I might never play them all but basically two of those titles would be worth the $25.

GOG keeps tossing me free games too at least one of which I'll eventually play (Ultima IV). If I like it I'll buy the rest when they get bundled together.
posted by Mitheral at 10:55 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


As a developer, being turned from a millionaire into a multi-millionaire, by effectively tricking a bunch of people into wasting money on something they’ll never use? I, personally, don’t feel good about that.

Wait, so his problem isn't selling more, but that he might sell to people who'll never play it? That's a terrible justification.

I probably haven't played half the titles in my Steam library, but they're there if I should want to play them. They're options. Because it feels a lot better to have something and not play it, than want to play something and have to go through the rigamarole of buying it, especially if I'm at one of those frequent times when I have $5 or less in the bank.
posted by JHarris at 10:58 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


I really don't understand the argument that people feel bad when they buy a game at full price, and then it goes on sale later. I buy some games full price when they come out, and if they're good, I don't feel at all ripped off when they drop in price later. It's not like it's a huge shock or anything.

The existing reality of sales and steam backlogs means that the only games that we need to drop everything and play right away are the ones we're REALLY EXCITED about. And his plan is to charge us less if we were going to buy it anyway, and more if we are vaguely interested in playing at it some point when we're bored - I just don't see it.
posted by xiw at 11:05 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Without weighing in on either side of sale or no sale, it's amazing how the convenience provided by vendors like Steam has made labour-centered discussion impossible. And not just Steam, as Google, Apple and Amazon all represent vending platforms that conceal a system of labour exploitation by posturing as service providers when they're primarily rentier value-sucking systems. They even utilize traditional tactics such as spotlighting outliers as products of virtue instead of recipients of fortune and obscure the fortunes of typical workers.
posted by mobunited at 11:13 PM on January 23 [8 favorites]


the new CKII expansion (Rajas of India!!!)

Wait what?! Man, all this job and personal life and other people nonsense are making me neglect the important things in life.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:25 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


mobunited: "convenience provided by vendors like Steam.. when they're primarily rentier value-sucking systems."

These two statements seem contradictory to my economically-untrained ears. At this moment, Steam provides value both to customers and vendors. Isn't that the opposite of rent-seeking?
posted by vanar sena at 11:49 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


Verily, Milord adds value by defending the market with force of arms, providing one convenient place where the King's peace governs trade and merchants know to go, but he sure doesn't grow any fucking millet.
posted by mobunited at 12:26 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Valve certainly grows millet/games, but I suppose that's not the point. I guess what I'm suggesting is, the only way this makes sense is if all distribution, logistics, retail and marketing is rent-seeking. That's a fairly extreme position.
posted by vanar sena at 12:33 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


I find it amazing that taking a chunk of labour you put zero investment in (people buy games, not Steam) is not seen as rent seeking because . . . I don't know, because you don't have to go to the mall. Don't worry, I'm sure buying a game from Steam is among the less exploitation-enabling purchases customers make, including me. It just doesn't make it pure because you like it. It's just not novel. It's new efficiencies applied to old power imbalances.

Anyway, marketing and all that jazz are rent seeking when used to support rent seeking, not when used to support the specific thing people buy, which is not Steam. Sure, the company is involved in production. This is smart, because rentier systems tend toward these dodgy collapse scenarios.
posted by mobunited at 1:14 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Control freak seeks limits of control. News (about scary poor people) at 11.
posted by fullerine at 1:22 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Yes, Valve asks for a cut of the proceeds of the sales on their platform in return for these benefits - which I believe is how every sort of exchange works. Valve, through their constant monitoring of their Steam middleware, provides a great degree of expertise, effort and resources, and in return they ask to be paid for their efforts commiserate to the degree of effort that they have put in - and if you ask many indie game developers, Valve (save the $100 fee for Greenlight submissions, something that some people have opined about before being not particularly fair) actually undercharges for many of the benefits they provide. Valve provides what they have, and are compensated in return. Basic exchange of services for pay. It's only labor exploitation if you consider bartering for services exploitative.
posted by Punkey at 1:27 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


mobunited: "Anyway, marketing and all that jazz are rent seeking when used to support rent seeking, not when used to support the specific thing people buy, which is not Steam."

Okay, I'm really confused now. Is the brick-and-mortar bookshop down the street rent-seeking because I'm not looking to purchase bookshops?
posted by vanar sena at 1:33 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Actually, further expounding on Greenlight - if you want to lower an exploitation charge against Steam, Greenlight's a much better place to point. $100 up front, per attempt, and with a bar that changes based on the relative popularity of all the games up for Greenlight submissions at any given time? It's a system that financially depends on many very small unknown developers submitting games (which is ostensibly what the system was supposed to give a leg up on promotion and entry to the Steam store for) but is systemically biased towards "larger" or more well-known indie developers that can leverage their communities for votes on Greenlight that blow the curve out for everyone else.
posted by Punkey at 1:35 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


That said, I don't think Greenlight's unbalanced nature is by design - Valve themselves have said they're phasing it out in favor of something a bit more equal - but it's certainly more problematic than the fact that Valve is asking to be paid for acting as a virtual retailer and adding value to the developer via multiplayer server middleware, DRM support, and auto-updating, just to name the big three things that Steam does.
posted by Punkey at 1:39 AM on January 24


It just smacks of pretentious "don't commodify my art!" wankery. Sorry, you might think what you make is art, but the people paying for it consider it a commodity, and they're paying the bills. It reminds me a little of the bands who have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of digital music. Pink Floyd. The Beatles. The ususal suspects.

"Oh we'll never put our music on iTunes, this is ART people need to get the whole product or they aren't appreciating it properly. Hang on, what's this, why isn't the money coming in anymore? What's that? People don't actually buy CDs anymore? When did that happen?! Okay okay we'll put it on iTunes, but full albums only because this is our art, man, you can't mess with our albums. What's that? People aren't dropping $15 on the album? People just want the single to add to a playlist? How could people possibly want just the single, don't they understand that this album is our BABY! Okay okay, they can buy the single tracks. At a premium. But we'll never be on Spotify!...."
posted by Jimbob at 1:41 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I get that you want to keep making that full price money forever, but the idea that new things cost more and old things cost less isn't some quirk of video games, it's how everything in the world (other than things with vintage qualities, like certain kinds of audio gear, instruments, and clothing) works.

And the justification for "everything else" working that way is because while a production line is ramping up, supplies are limited. There's literally no reason for him to apply that logic.

Besides, I think a lot of people are missing the point here: if you would only ever buy a game on a price drop, he just doesn't want you as a customer. That's all. It's not personal. Just don't buy it. Either his experiment works, in which case yay, more games on the market in the future, or it doesn't, in which case he slinks into a hole and you have lost nothing.
posted by regularfry at 1:48 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


I think the $100 fee for Greenlight actually goes to charity (that's what it says here, anyway). It's more a deliberate speedbump to reduce the flow of submissions than a moneyspinner for Valve.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:54 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


The problem isn't that Valve is profiteering off of tiny indie games, but that the charge is there at all. Valve is already being inundated with Greenlight submissions as is, even with the $100 fee. If it was actually acting like a gatekeeper, that would be one thing, but it's not. Instead, it's an unnecessary (and for a small or one-person team, potentially a large) cost on the small developer.
posted by Punkey at 2:00 AM on January 24


Valve provides what they have, and are compensated in return. Basic exchange of services for pay. It's only labor exploitation if you consider bartering for services exploitative.

As demonstrated by the vigorous power of the union's Steam bargaining unit, right?

Oh wait, wrong, because that sentence was just as fictional as one that implies there is any meaningful bartering going on.
posted by mobunited at 2:14 AM on January 24


"Oh we'll never put our music on iTunes, this is ART people need to get the whole product or they aren't appreciating it properly. Hang on, what's this, why isn't the money coming in anymore? What's that? People don't actually buy CDs anymore? When did that happen?! Okay okay we'll put it on iTunes, but full albums only because this is our art, man, you can't mess with our albums. What's that? People aren't dropping $15 on the album? People just want the single to add to a playlist? How could people possibly want just the single, don't they understand that this album is our BABY! Okay okay, they can buy the single tracks. At a premium. But we'll never be on Spotify!...."

Why is the opinion parodied here contemptible, while the market forces that discourage it are considered value neutral or even virtuous?
posted by mobunited at 2:18 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


So, you're saying that no union, even when Valve says right in their "How Do I Do Steam" FAQ that rates are negotiated on an individual basis, with this being backed up by multiple individual accounts, it's not bargaining?
posted by Punkey at 2:20 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Why is the opinion parodied here contemptible, while the market forces that discourage it are considered value neutral or even virtuous?


Because 'market forces' are an emergent phenomenon without agency, and so cannot be ascribed moral qualities?
posted by sweet mister at 3:43 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


So back when Gone Home was talked about on MetaFilter, I bought the game on Steam, and did a Tumblr post about how great it was.

I paid full price, and I was happy to pay full price, because it really is a lovely thing to support.

That post has gotten distressingly popular over the past month or so (for reals, 9269 notes? what the hell), and a lot of the comments are "it's on sale, I was finally able to buy it, and I wanted to so much, and I played it and I love it. You should buy it too."

So a game sale means that people who wouldn't normally be able to afford indie games like this (and we're talking kids who are actually living something like Sam's life and need to have that representation) can not only buy it, but also tell other people about it.

I get what he's saying, but I also think about these kids who are furiously reblogging that Tumblr post, who can't afford 20 bucks, but can occasionally afford 10.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:43 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I'm very surprised by how hostile a lot of people here are. He may be entirely wrong (and certainly is on many of his arguments), but if so then he will lose out on money he could earn by discounting the game. If you're so confident that's the case that should satisfy you enough, no shitty name-calling needed.

And while I tend to disagree with his premise, especially for small single player games like Inside a Star-filled Sky, he has a point that The Castle Doctrine is an MMO and has an ongoing developer cost most small indie games don't.
posted by edeezy at 3:50 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


I give this about 8 months before he sees that his sales have tanked and that he's got nobody playing his indie MMO (since when did "indie" become the new black?) before he stops with this notion that he's saving the world.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 4:31 AM on January 24


If it was actually acting like a gatekeeper

Steam doesn't gatekeep anything (as you suggest). It literally lets any terrible shit through, does no quality testing whatsoever, but presents the product as though it is just another Steam game, which have historically been AT LEAST reliable and supported even if they were pieces of trash gameplay-wise.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:31 AM on January 24


As a player, I’d rather pay $5 each for ten games than $50 for one game. Even if I never play nine of the ten now, I might in the future.

If I developed games I’d rather have them in ten hands than in one. Nine of the players might never touch it, but there’s always the potential they will.
posted by Fongotskilernie at 4:34 AM on January 24


So a game sale means that people who wouldn't normally be able to afford indie games like this (and we're talking kids who are actually living something like Sam's life and need to have that representation) can not only buy it, but also tell other people about it.

But the other way to look at it is, a game that's discounted at launch is on sale during the time when it's being most talked about and anticipated. So those kids who wouldn't be able to pay full price -- who would normally be resigned to waiting months for the game to go on sale -- can get in on the fun immediately, when the game is at its hottest.

The current system works great for (a) gamers who have the means to buy games at full price at launch, and (b) gamers who are fine with waiting months for a sale. The group that it doesn't work that well for is gamers who really want to play a hot new game, but can't afford to drop $60 on day one.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 4:39 AM on January 24


mobubited, you don't seem to understand how rent-seeking works. Maybe read economics from the 20th Century alongside your Proudhon.

If you want to call Steam exploitative, you might have a case, although you should look into their governance and compensation schemes. They have workplace democracy and profit-sharing out the wazoo! But it still might be reasonable to say that while they don't exploit themselves, that do exploit others, i.e. developers. My only point is that not all exploitation is rent-seeking.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:46 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


The interesting thing about game (and ebook and mp3) pricing is that there is no (or very close to no) cost to selling them anymore. A sale of a digital copy of a game is nothing but profit for the maker of that game. The problem comes that they have to recoup costs. Game development is not a free process, and is extremely expensive for AAA games. Ideally, if 100,000 people are going to buy your games, you want to sell it to them all for the highest possilbe price. However, in practice many of those 100,000 simply won't buy your game for £40, but might for 10, so after you give everyone a chance to buy it at 40, you drop the price.

Consumers don't seem to be annoyed about this practice in general, so Rorher's fears here seem unfounded. The worry is that consumers will wait for a sale. Well there I have a certain amount of sympathy, but it ignores the more pressing concern, which is the market is massively saturated. With the exception of a very few games, most games simply don't have the profile to encourage people to spend more money on them rather than buying 10, cheaper games.

Honestly, sales are good because with so many games being sold, most games only chance is to sell themselves cheaply.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 4:54 AM on January 24


This pricing scheme has already been implemented by the indie developer who runs Pinboard. It works for him and has kept him fed and independent by his account.
posted by ignignokt at 5:09 AM on January 24


This pricing scheme has already been implemented by the indie developer who runs Pinboard. It works for him and has kept him fed and independent by his account.

Another system where the payment is primarily to access user-created content. Interesting.
posted by YAMWAK at 5:14 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Jeff Vogel is pro-sale but anti-constant-sale:

RPS: That’s extraordinarily disciplined! You’ve taken a variety of different approaches to pricing your games, with quite high fixed prices on your own website, and cheaper options on outlets like Steam. Has taking part in a pay-what-you-want sale changed how you might approach pricing things in future?

Vogel: Nope. This is how indie games (well, all computer games) are sold these days: Full price for a couple months. Then ratchet the price down fast. First 50% off, then 75% off, then bundle pricing. It’s how we use every part of the buffalo. I believe that letting your game be in a bundle on the first day of release would be a colossal mistake, but not as big as never dropping the price at all. But this is key: The low prices are always for temporary sales. The low prices are never ever permanent. That is how you maintain the value of your back catalog.

posted by ignignokt at 5:16 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


As a player, I’d rather pay $5 each for ten games than $50 for one game. Even if I never play nine of the ten now, I might in the future.

This seems to be the crux (or one of the cruces?) of Rohrer's argument -- to him, you're not getting good value. Instead, you're wasting $45 on games you're never going to play, or will only partially play.

I think he has a point. A lot of us are game hoarders. We like the fact that we have dozens or hundreds of games stockpiled. We like choice and potential. It definitely scratches an itch for me -- the pleasure of acquisition, the satisfaction of having a lot of games to choose from. But I don't know if having hundreds of games in my collection makes me any happier than having three or four.

As a content hoarder, Rohrer saying that it's a better experience overall to have a few games and actually play them, than to have hundreds of games that I never play, makes my head hurt and I want to punch him to make the pain go away. But he's probably right.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 5:18 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


If I spend $50 on games and only play three or four of them to completion, versus $50 on one game that I don't finish, or don't like, I think it's clear which one has better value. Unless I'm very very sure I'll like a game, there's pretty much no reason to pay full price for one anymore.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:21 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I liked Passage, but I don't find his arguments well-supported.

If just half of the players who buy the game during a 50%-off sale would have bought the game at full price if that was their only option, we'd already have a wash. What fraction of sale-waiting players fall into this category? I suspect way more than half. The picture gets even worse for 75%-off sales.


Now he suspects, but anecdotal evidence from publishers and users suggests that sales revenue is significantly higher than usual revenue i.e. if RP=Reduced Price and FP=Full price that [RPbuyers*RP]>[FPbuyers*FP], which basically shows that the original FP of games is not optimal. Valve has suggested that this is usually the case and then there are examples like that studio that doubled their annual revenue in one sale.

sales screw your fans

Only if you measure a fan's love for the game in dollars. Early birds get to play the game earlier; fans who buy the game later don't get to participate in the initial buzz, but this doesn't mean when they play the game they'll love it any less.

Sales cheapen games (implied)

Coincidentally, I was considering yesterday if I should buy Binding of Isaac a third time in a bundle and I'll be getting the demake when it comes out. DayZ was a top seller during the winter sale and then you got evergreen games like Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, etc. The thing is that these games have attracted a following because they are great games, not because it's the birthright of every game. Terraria costs 6 pounds nowadays, but does it make it any 'cheaper' metaphorically than Starbound that goes for 12 pounds for alpha access? I'd send Rohrer a couple of pounds for Passage, though I played it for free, because I liked it. I wouldn't play Castle Doctrine because I dislike its theme.

Steam profiles list the time someone has spent playing a game, and Rohrer noticed a crucial detail with players who didn't like Inside a Star-filled Sky: they weren't spending much time with it.

"Every single person who’s giving it a negative review played it for less than an hour, which means they didn’t even get through the tutorial, the part where the cool stuff is explained," he said. "The people who paid full price for it, whatever the full price was at the time that they bought it, gave it a chance.


Now the first time I played Europa Universalis III (bought at a deep discount), I played the the tutorial, fooled around and in general had no clue what I was doing for the first 5 hours before I finally started doing things subtly wrong. The thing is that the promise of the game was in front of me: learn to play and you get to conquer the world with Flanders. Sounds like the tutorial of his game was equally bad, but the game couldn't hold the players' attention while they were learning the ropes; compare this to Crusader Kings II where when your psychotic half brother rebels, kills your character and leaves you playing as your son ruling a county is still fun.

Sales take advantage of players who never play these games


Haha no, nice try.

All in all, it looks like he's starting from his conclusion and trying to work his way back into justifying it. I'm off to play one of these games I bought on sale and forgive any typos, I should get back to work.
posted by ersatz at 5:39 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


it's a better experience overall to have a few games and actually play them, than to have hundreds of games that I never play

I constitute a counterexample.

I switched pretty recently from that first type of gamer to approaching the second type, and can say that the main thing Steam sales have done for me is let me feel okay about quitting a shitty game halfway through, or even quitting a decent enough game that I just wasn't enjoying very much, instead of feeling like I had to slog my way to 100% completion every time.
posted by ook at 5:56 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


I switched pretty recently from that first type of gamer to approaching the second type, and can say that the main thing Steam sales have done for me is let me feel okay about quitting a shitty game halfway through, or even quitting a decent enough game that I just wasn't enjoying very much, instead of feeling like I had to slog my way to 100% completion every time.

Me too. I'd also add they've made me be okay with putting a game I really like and am enjoying aside to play something else and come back to it which I'm finding keeps me from burning out on just one game. For years I've been a one game at a time person mostly because of finances and habit. Now I'm finding that I'm really enjoying having so much more of a choice of what I'm going to play depending on my mood. I've also found that having more ability to play decent but not super exciting games in spurts makes them a lot better. Some games are good but not straight hours and hours of continuous playing good.
posted by Jalliah at 6:10 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


This reminds me I was going to pick up OlliOlli for Vita, and TxK when it comes out in a couple weeks and get the rebate thingy.

Game sales are awesome, on Steam or otherwise.
posted by Foosnark at 6:12 AM on January 24


Other than Starbound, 100% of my game purchases for the last 24+ months have been through bundles. 90% of these games where the developers would never have gotten a penny -- never, ever Dime One -- from me other than via these bundles.

I've played maybe 50% of them, maybe 10% of them for more than a few minutes. Some, like Saints Row III, I've surprised myself by getting hooked on; others were ones that were kind of on my radar that I was a bit dismayed to discover I didn't actually like (Arkham Asylum and Braid both spring to mind).

I love having a "deep bench" of games that are heretofore untouched, so if I'm up early on a weekend morning, I can give something a shot and see if I like it.

I don't view the unplayed games as "wasted" money, but potential experiences with exceedingly low opportunity costs: with the bundles, I've essentially bought at a price where I can install something and give it 15 minutes of my life, then never touch it again without ever feeling the pang of guilt I get from spending $30+ on a game and discovering I really dislike it, then slogging through to feel like I've got my "money's worth" (Ghostbusters on the Wii, I'm looking at you).
posted by Shepherd at 6:21 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


One of the interesting things about Steam sales is that Valve takes that temptation, when pirating, to download more games than you'll ever actually play -- you're on the fence about games X Y Z, but hey, you've heard good things so you might as well grab them -- and makes money off of it.

I don't think this is a bad thing, really, but it does sort of change what you're actually paying for when you buy a game; you're giving the devs a few bucks to keep future possibilities open, because it's so easy and cheap to do so.
posted by postcommunism at 6:29 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Shepherd: " I've essentially bought at a price where I can install something and give it 15 minutes of my life, then never touch it again without ever feeling the pang of guilt I get from spending $30+ on a game and discovering I really dislike it"

Sure, but be certain to play it long enough to get all the card drops! Otherwise you're just throwing money away.
posted by vanar sena at 6:36 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Sure, but be certain to play it long enough to get all the card drops! Otherwise you're just throwing money away.

Card drops + not caring about badges + marketplace = ¢¢¢. Which can be sufficient for steam sales.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:38 AM on January 24


I have invested far more time trying to figure out how to completely deactivate those stupid notifications that "X items have been added to your inventory!" than I have spent playing many of these games.

Without success.

I understand and appreciate the gamification of tasks, but I really hate the gamification of games. Go figure.
posted by Shepherd at 6:41 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Rohrer argues that early adopters should pay less than others. If early adopters in the gaming industry are like early adopters in other tech industries, then they have more money to burn than the average person. If that's true, then why shouldn't they pay more?
posted by tybeet at 6:48 AM on January 24


Two things:

Early adoptors are not being punished with higher prices for playing they game earlier. They are being rewarded for paying more by being allowed to play the game earlier. When I pay more for a game to play it earlier, I pay more because I don't want to wait. I don't feel bad about the price going down later. Why would I? I knew what I was getting into.

I stopped buying any games at all for about a year until the first humble bundle. Bundles and sales got me back into gaming, and that got me back into paying full price (but only if I was sure the game was worth it/Or the developer deserved it). Example: I got the Saints Row bundle and enjoyed the hell out of SR3. I heared mixed reviews about SR4, but decided to pay full price for it because that price reflected my enjoyment of SR3. I didn't enjoy SR4 as much as I payed for it, but still feel good about the purchase, because it was my way of paying more for SR3. I got Starbound at full price for basically the same reason. Other games I get at full price on their own merit, but at least 70% of my gaming budget is still bundles. Since reviews can't be trusted, thats and important part of identifying developers who click with me.

(standard ipad typo disclaimer)
posted by yeolcoatl at 7:04 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Surely early adopters should pay less because they're beta testing an unfinished piece of rubbish that's going to need a year's worth of patches and balancing and DLC to actually approach playable state?
posted by davros42 at 7:21 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I think the question is what sort of 'early adopters' we're talking about here. An 'early adopter' of an AAA title is someone who bought it on launch day. An 'early adopter' of a Kickstarter game or a Steam 'Early Access' title is someone buying an alpha.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:24 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


"As a developer, being turned from a millionaire into a multi-millionaire, by effectively tricking a bunch of people into wasting money on something they’ll never use? I, personally, don’t feel good about that."

I'd rather be disappointed at spending $3 to $10 then be disappointed at spending $40 - $70.

Back when DVDs were a thing I remember strolling through the Pacific Mall seeing lots and lots of purchasing of illegal DVDs for $3 to $5 each which showed that there was a willingness to buy but not at the price for a legitimate DVD. I wondered if the legit DVDs were priced at the same level would that make up for the sales lost to piracy?

I see people dropping traditional cable for HD antennas and computers or devices that can run Netflix, Hulu, iPlayer and the like. People deciding that $80/month + for Game of Thrones or Mad Men or the Walking Dead, etc. now just isn't worth it.

In Toronto we finally have an alternate cable provider that is considerably cheaper than Rogers or Bell.

I see people, when they get an opportunity in their local market, ditching the use of the traditional carriers for independent carriers for their phone plans because they can often be 50% cheaper per month.

The same is true for independent ISPs, where you can pay a lower monthly fee, with a higher monthly limit (if any), higher speed, and no throttling.

On Steam I see people buying and enjoying games they would have never bought under the old model of pricing.

I see the general economic structure shifting to people with less income, much more people with less income in general, and less disposable, and that trend continuing into the future. These millions and millions of people who know they'll have to work until they die might feel better spending $5 for a game that proves not be to their liking than $60, etc.
posted by juiceCake at 7:43 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


the new CKII expansion (Rajas of India!!!)

Why would you do this to me? Why?
posted by corb at 7:46 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I think it is interesting that the price advocated is just slightly above the $15 point that many sales hit.

With a book, I can browse the first chapter at a bookstore or through Amazon. With a TV show, I can stream a few episodes an make a choice to commit to the season. With cinema, the cost of entry is much lower for a shorter product.

But I can't make that decision about a game unless I play it. For me, the price of an AAA title is too much to pay sight unseen for something that might be glitchy, badly optimized for my hardware, or just isn't my thing. Bioshock isn't my thing. I don't mind since I got it on sale.

Now, I do go back and play some games again and again. Which leads to the problem of value. Why should I pay the same price as a current game to replace my battered and missing disks for a game that was designed for an earlier generation of graphics cards and algorithms?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:51 AM on January 24


The gender politics of The Castle Doctrine are... yeah. Interestingly, it was tweaked so that the wife, rather than being a passive potential victim, can pick up and use a shotgun, but that had an unexpected impact. Previously killing the wife was basically optional, whereas now she is a danger to your success, so intruders find and kill her as a matter of priority...

Anyway. Rohrer's right about sales being flat during non-sale periods, but I think he's missing the point, which is that sales are normal during non-sale periods. The number of people who are willing to pay full price for a game might go up slightly if there are no sales, but not hugely - there are people who will specifically wait for a sale, but they are usually people who have no interest in buying at the full price point.

This does indeed mean that games are priced above the point of comfort, because you monetize the small group who are prepared to pay $whatever (within reason) for the game. It's why a major publisher will sell one super duper limited edition game which comes with an SUV, and then several hundred $250 collector's editions, and several thousand $99 collector's editions, and so on. There are price points up there that some people will match. The $60 cost of a full-price video game is put there in the knowledge that it will drop very quickly. People will buy it and then trade it in. The availability of second hand copies at $40 pushes the first-hand price down to $50, and so on. You keep cutting the price to make the game available to new audiences as you earn out your production costs. And of course digital distribution has a very low distribution cost, especially if you are using a third party to store and distribute your game.

(Which of course is why there is pressure on publishers from players to lower the price of their digital games - because they understand the costs of distribution to be lower, because you can't resell a digital games, and the ability to resell is built into the selling cost of boxed product. And there is pressure on publishers from retailers _not_ to lower the price of their digital games, at least until late in their life cycle, because it harms the retail chain to do so...)

At the $3 level, you are not necessarily selling a game people will play - you're selling the opportunity for them to play it when they feel like it. Of _course_ people who buy eight games for $5 in a bundle sale aren't going to feel obliged to play every one - but it's spreading the benefits of the desirability of maybe one or two games in the bundle to each buyer across all the creators.

This article asks some relatively well-established indie studios (Tale of Tales and The Chinese Room) about the effect of Steam, and Steam sales, on their game, and the impact of early access on the new studio making Maia. On one level, there's Rohrer's still relatively rarefied world of multi-millionaires. But there's also a Belgian art game studio making a defiantly non-commercial product being able to pay off its loans.

I mean, Rohrer is free to price his games however he likes, but there is already an economy functioning here, which he is free to participate in or not. I'll be interested to see how it works out for him.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:23 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I'd actually have the opposite problem with his scheme. I just don't have the time for gaming that I used to. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I'd eagerly await the launch of the next big game. Have stuff pre-ordered and try to figure out how to make sure that it was in my hands as soon as possible. But now the games that I would want to play come out faster than I can play them. It's great for me because it means that I usually don't have to upgrade my PC to latest and greatest graphics card to get the most out of the games that I'm playing, I bought a PS3 after it got cheap and I might still be playing games on that when the PS5 comes out so I'll be able to pick up a PS4 cheap too, and that the next game I play will be determined by what's cheapest of the games I want to play when I'm ready to pick up a new game.

I'm playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution right now because it was really cheap during some steam sale. I still haven't played Fallout: New Vegas. I'm on the lookout for a cheap copy of Assassin's Creed 3 and Batman: Arkham Origins. The list of games I want to play keeps getting longer and longer.

I don't ever buy games unless I'm ready to play them right now. I didn't do that with New Vegas and I keep forgetting about it so I'm afraid that if I don't play them right away I'll forget about them entirely. So, I won't buy his game at launch if that's when it's going to be cheap and I won't buy it later because something else will be cheaper.

I realize that I pretty much only play AAA titles so he isn't really losing me as a customer either way but I'm extrapolating his pricing model out to the stuff that I DO play.
posted by VTX at 8:31 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I understand and appreciate the gamification of tasks, but I really hate the gamification of games. Go figure.

One positive thing I can say about it is that it's given be a total of about $4 of Steam credit from selling all the trading cards it has given me over the months.
posted by JHarris at 8:33 AM on January 24


davros42: "Surely early adopters should pay less because they're beta testing an unfinished piece of rubbish that's going to need a year's worth of patches and balancing and DLC to actually approach playable state?"

This is a bit of a strawman, since most alpha-stage games aren't "unfinished pieces of rubbish". I reckon for a lot of people bugs (even when they are bugs) are features; part-and-parcel of the early adopter experience. Playing an alpha game and seeing it evolve, and also (in many cases) being a part of that process -- by way of submitting bug notes and suggestions -- can certainly be a rewarding experience.
posted by tybeet at 8:41 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


tybeet: "This is a bit of a strawman, since most alpha-stage games aren't "unfinished pieces of rubbish"."

The only game I've ever preordered was X: Rebirth.

:(

I mean I agree with you but FML
posted by vanar sena at 8:55 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


If a game is released at an early-adopter price of $8, and a short time later bumps up to an early-ish adopter price of $12, and later still moves up to its "regular" price of $16, how is that depriving anyone of a sale price? It's just moving the sale period to the beginning of its release rather than the tail end. Sure, it means the sale period is finite and comparatively brief, but it's not as if Rohrer's advocating the end of discounting. Under his model, games would still be offered for sale.

It does mean that the culture and psychology of game purchasing would change significantly, but that's the point.

I've been conditioned to not even consider buying most games on or near release, but that's just because the current pricing model discourages the interested but not committed buyer from buying now rather than later. If the model got flipped around, I'd be more likely to buy new games.

Under Rohrer's model, games could still be released at steeply discounted introductory prices or in pay-what-you-want bundles and the like. It doesn't eliminate bargains. It just moves them to where they're more advantageous to the early adopter, or even more importantly, the gaming enthusiast who would be an early adopter but can't or won't buy the game at full price. It changes the focus of selling games in a way that I think benefits enthusiasts over the more casual consumer. You lose sales from those less committed buyers, but you draw more of the kind of customers that are more likely to support your work.

I also don't have a problem with bringing the price back up after the intro period. If it's a good game, by that point the consensus will be solid, the hype will have faded, and you'll know as much as you ever will whether or not you want to buy in. It's more of a known quantity and less of a risk than at the time it's released. I have never bought a Call of Duty game on release day, for instance, because I've enjoyed those games in the past, but they've also been extremely uneven (for me) in terms of play value. Some are great, others meh. So, a CoD installment that people continue to rave about and hold in high regard after the initial furor has passed, for me that is a much more tempting investment. On the other hand, if that CoD installment comes out at an early-adopter discount price, I'm also more likely to take a leap of faith since it's costing me less to do so.

I guess that's what it comes down to for me. I tend not to buy new games for two reasons: I have no idea if I'll really like it, and the entry price is too high given that I have no idea if I'll really like it. Lower the price, and my willingness to take a chance increases. On the other hand, if I've seen and heard enough about a video game to be pretty sure that I'd enjoy it, I should further expect to get that game at a discount price? I mean, that's great and all, but the question to me is who should benefit from sale prices -- the enthusiast, or the uncommitted? Given the glut of games nowadays, it seems like the preferable approach to cultivate your loyal customers who will be there on day one, than join the race to the bottom for buyers who will just file your game away.

Having said all that, I think the major flaw of Rohrer's position is that it doesn't take into account that games become obsolete eventually. Most age extremely poorly. I can't remember what I paid for the original Railroad Tycoon back in the 90s, but it would be ludicrous to charge the same price for it today. So clearly there's some point at which the price would have to start coming back down.

I dunno, I pretty much agree with all perspectives I've seen on this issue, as they're all pretty true as far as they go, but individual mileage varies wildly depending on where you're coming from. I doubt any solution would please everybody. Personally, the pricing model that I'd prefer is for a game to be steeply discounted at launch -- anywhere from 50% to pay-what-you-want -- and ramp up in steps to its full price, and then after a couple of years come back down to launch price or lower. Or alternatively, just release the game for free or a nominal price, but you "pay as you go" to unlock the game in stages, one price to go past a brief demo period, and another a bit later for those who know they're committed. (I don't love this idea because it's almost like daring me to stop playing, but if the payment method was easy I'd do it.)
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:19 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


One of his prime examples - Garry's Mod - is on sale every god damn month.
posted by absalom at 10:01 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


tybeet: "Rohrer argues that early adopters should pay less than others. If early adopters in the gaming industry are like early adopters in other tech industries, then they have more money to burn than the average person. If that's true, then why shouldn't they pay more?"

Bit of a chicken and the egg thing here; the only people who can afford to be early adopters are people with money.
posted by Mitheral at 10:25 AM on January 24


sweet mister: "Why is the opinion parodied here contemptible, while the market forces that discourage it are considered value neutral or even virtuous?


Because 'market forces' are an emergent phenomenon without agency, and so cannot be ascribed moral qualities?
"

HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA.

Oh, god, my stomach hurts from laughing so hard.
posted by symbioid at 11:23 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


One positive thing I can say about it is that it's given be a total of about $4 of Steam credit from selling all the trading cards it has given me over the months.

In other words, we've (I do it too) teamed up with Valve to take money from the suckers collecting badges.
posted by straight at 12:25 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


To me this logic is similar to the guy who laments that the internet has taken all the thrill out of finding new music. When you only had the time, money, and opportunity to track down a cool album every once-in-a-while, you really appreciated it, y'know?

I say screw that. I'm happy to trade the utopian cornucopia of music I'm currently enjoying for the scarcity of my youth, all that time wasted listening to music I sort-of liked because it was all I had. And I'm very happy to have a nice big backlog of great games I haven't played yet. Most of which I paid less than 10% (in inflation-adjusted dollars) of what I paid for some really mediocre games when I was a kid that I kept playing because that's all I had.

When I look at that backlog, I don't feel guilty or like I've wasted money. I feel confident that the next game I play is going to be great fun, and if it isn't, I'll feel fine about putting it aside and moving on to one that is. I feel content that even though my hardware is already getting too old to play cutting edge games, I've got more than enough great games to keep me going until this computer straight-up dies.
posted by straight at 12:37 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


The RPS guy makes a good point when he said that Minecraft and Gmod are bad examples for this practice because they're both content creation engines, which most games are not. You could spend the rest of your life just playing Minecraft or Gmod and never get bored.

They're also multiplayer. I'm pretty sure I bought both Minecraft and Garry's Mod because I had a gaming friend who was like "Come on! Join my server!".
posted by jcreigh at 12:42 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


My purchasing strategy is to put games that review well on my wishlist and wait until they're discounted to what I'm willing to pay. The bottom line for me is that while I might pay $16 for a strongly reviewed game sight unseen, I'm not going to pay $60 on a game. First, I don't have a budget that permits dropping that much on a game. And even if I have a holiday windfall I have an even bigger wishlist of necessities and books.

Especially given the number of opening-day glitches, bugs, and shortcomings that have plagued AAA titles on PC, release-day purchases strike me as a big risk. (short list: server problems for Diablo III and SimCity, limited rollout for Starcraft, bad boss fights for DX:HR, bad level design and last-act writing for DA2, bad writing throughout ME3)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:05 PM on January 24


Speaking only for myself, if the proposed system were enacted and I missed the early adopter price I just wouldn't buy the game. Ever.

This probably says a lot more about me than I intended to reveal.
posted by Gin and Comics at 2:27 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Because 'market forces' are an emergent phenomenon without agency, and so cannot be ascribed moral qualities?

This opinion is . . . I must admit, I don't even know how to address this except to say that it represents a tragedy that this is where the centrist position has shifted--or fallen.
posted by mobunited at 3:00 PM on January 24


I really don't understand the argument that people feel bad when they buy a game at full price, and then it goes on sale later. I buy some games full price when they come out, and if they're good, I don't feel at all ripped off when they drop in price later.

The problem is when you buy games at full prices or even on discount, don't actually play them and then the prices drop again. Then you feel a bit of a mug.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:47 AM on January 25


Yeah, I paid like something like $2 for Bit Trip Runner 2 in a Steam Sale and then just a couple weeks later I could have got it in the Humble Bundle for only $1! Boy did I feel like I'd made a terrible mistake.
posted by straight at 11:15 AM on January 25


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