GameDev Thoughts: Have Indie Games Become Practically Worthless?

It seems as though people are willing to pay less and less these days for indie games. Studios that slave for years on their beloved games have been setting their initial price point to somewhere between $1 and $10. Is this even remotely fair? Some might argue in the affirmative, as the market gets what the market wants, but let’s dig a bit deeper.

How does a developer price their games? Sometimes it may seem like we are just picking a number and hoping that some people think it is fair enough for the work that we put in. Is that how it works? No, not at all. The most common and most effective way to figure out how much your game is worth is to simply ask your audience. One way to ask is to leave your fate to the consumer entirely by using a pay-what-you-want model. This is not the best model. The value of your product will never be reflected in your revenue stream. Most people will either pay the minimum or nothing at all. You might be lucky to get a few people who overvalue your time and pay you more than the average, but these are rare. Using this type of payment will not reflect the value of your game, and will leave you feeling like your time was wasted.

What should be done is asking your audience what how much value a service like yours would add to their lives. If you are an indie game studio, how is your game adding value to the customer’s life in the form of entertainment value. Is that value $3 or is it $15? If the value is closer to $15 then you should price it out that way. No one will fault you for pricing out your game higher if they value is there for the customer. If you are pricing your game too low, the expectations will be much much lower.

Developers need to eat, too. Back when video games sold for a bit more money, game developers were better able to offer better customer support. These days, with value of games eroding at an alarming rate, developers have had to make up for the lost revenue by trying to get a price point to attract as many customers as possible. However, the increase in number of players mixed with lower total revenues means that game developers have gotten a bit jaded. It’s increasingly difficult to continue treating customers as individuals rather than just another number.

If what you aren’t pricing the game at the true value to the customer then you will attract a different type of people. Let’s use a logo design studio as an example. They could price it out really cheap to get more customers, but the expectation won’t be the same as one that charges a moderate to a high price point. Would you go for the cheaper option? Maybe. But, what type of customers does that lower price point attract? Are they cheap themselves? Are they rude? Do they try and nickel and dime you? Do they demand the world? Do they want it NOW?! And so of course there’s added benefit to pricing you product at its appropriate value — you’re able to provide a valuable product for customers who actually care about the product, instead of individuals who may want everything for nothing.

Important Takeaways: When pricing your indie game, make sure to do it with the audience in mind. Make sure that you’re sending the right message with your price, rather than just trying to undercut the competition. Value your work. Remember, price is only an issue in the absence of value. Focus on delivering as much value as you can with your game, and charge accordingly.

Set your game’s selling price according to how much you would pay for that game if you were in a customer’s shoes, and not a penny less. You can always drive sales by having discounts, but if you set your game’s initial price too low, you’re doing yourself a disservice by making it seem like your work is worthless.