Pricing Is Hard

15 Jul
July 15, 2014

System Crash is going to be priced at $15. Because I’m indecisive, mainly.

I mulled on it for ages and just couldn’t reach a decision. I basically hovered between 2 price points, $10 and $20. But for the life of me, I couldn’t settle on which was a better option. Some days I’d lean more toward $10, others I was almost certain that $20 was the better decision. Doesn’t help that I have no first-hand knowledge to go by, no past sales figures to compare. In the end, I just got tired of thinking about it. So I shrugged, said “ah, fuck it” and split the difference. $15 it will be!

Thinking about pricing is tricky. Especially since, as developers, I think we all have 2 viewpoints on the matter. Viewpoints that pull in two opposite directions. Our developer side and our gamer/consumer side. We’ve all had experience as gamers purchasing games, and we all know that offering a game cheaply can convince us to take a chance on a game.

So there’s the temptation to just set the price low and hope to cast the net wide. That’s where the lean toward pricing SC at $10 comes from.

But you’ve got to be careful with that. Humans have a tendency to only remember the hits and forget about the misses when trawling through our memories of the past for data to confirm impressions. That’s how John Edwards makes his living. You don’t remember the times a low price failed to persuade you to buy a game. So you don’t really, objectively know that price was the deciding factor, or even how much price weighs against other factors when you make decisions. It might just be that the price is easy to recall and compare objectively, so you it sticks in your memory. The more fuzzy parts of your decision-making might remaing hidden from you.

There’s also plenty of advice from people selling their games, that you shouldn’t price your title too low, that cutting your price in half won’t result in a more than double increase in units sold. And that the optimal price point is often higher than you imagine.

And I know that I, personally, am a pretty shit haggler. I tend to lowball myself. Based on advice I’ve read/heard about freelance work and so on, I suspect I’m not alone in that regard. So I know that I can’t really trust my instincts, that I should probably take whatever figure my gut thinks is reasonable and raise it by 30-50%. That’s where the urge to price SC at $20 comes from. Maybe even $25! Daring!

As an aside, it’s funny (and scary) to think about how the regular Steam sales have affected perception of $20-$25. There was a time when that was for the low end of (new) games. Now that’s like premium indie or slightly discounted mainstream. For the Natural Selection 2’s of the world.

It doesn’t help that there are many great games priced at $10. Some of which, if I’m honest, I think are better than System Crash. Which makes me feel presumptuous and nervous, pricing SC higher than those titles!

But maybe those games are priced too low, or are in later parts of the sales tail, or have alternate monetization, or some other factor. I don’t know! It’s one of those things where you just have to try not to panic and go with what you know is a good value proposition, if you’ll excuse the biz speak. I spend more than $20 just for a casual night out with friends for a few hours. System Crash is looking like it will have close to 80 missions at this stage! Overall, it’s good value!

I have to hold onto that, use it to steady my nerves. I’m not trying to gouge anyone here, but I also want to trade my output for what it’s worth, a fair price, traded honestly, for good value. And hopefully at least cover my expenses!

So fuck it. 15 bucks is what it will be.

3 replies
  1. Jay says:

    Shut up and take my money.


  2. KrankyBoy says:

    I would think, since this is your first title, it would better to cast the net wide. My thinking being that it is more important that people learn who you are (customers and news outlets) so that people will trust that next great title by you that might then be $20.

    Just a thought.


  3. gareth says:

    Well, they can learn who I am by playing the generous 1/3rd of the campaign demo. 😉

    I get what you’re saying, but that logic can be applied all the way to just releasing it for free. The problem is, I invested a huge amount of time and money into this, and unless I earn at least a significant portion of that back, I won’t be able to release another game at this level for many years. By which time they would probably have forgotten my one indie release, unless I stumble onto a mega-viral hit.

    So the balance is trying to pick a price point that maximizes my reach + chances of being able to do this again sooner rather than later. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *