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Thoughts on game pricing, based on the recent stories of Medusa's Labyrinth, Firewartch and Brigador and with a touch of The Witness.

Originally posted on by blog at www.laurabularca.com

First there was this. Then came this, and lastly, it was this.

The first is a link to the Greenlight page for Medusa’s Labyrinth. This is a short game done by my friends at Guru Games, who had this as a pet project for a while, were unsuccessful in raising cash or finding a publisher for it, so instead of tossing away their (wonderful, if I may!) work, they decided to give it away for free on Steam. Instead of a sea of happy people who got their much desired free game, they were met with suspicion – what’s the catch?

My reaction: Free can devalue both your product and your intentions.

The second is a link to a controversial debate spawned by  Firewatch‘s artist Jane Ng’s response to a player who finished the game in under 2 hours and was considering to refund it, despite the fact that he really enjoyed his 2 hours of playtime. This link is posted for the comments, so scroll down and have popcorn nearby. Its a great debate that actually made me chance my stance from absolutely backing Ng’s position to backing up our right to refund, even if we shouldn’t. A free market means that we kinda have to give everyone the freedom to be bad people, gamedevs and players alike.

My reaction: I really, really don’t want to shame people into buying games.

The third is yet another Steam conversation where the developer responded to a player who complained that $20 dollars is too much to ask.  The developer explains that he spent 5 years making this game, he details his own and his team’s experience and lists a bunch of items one can buy for 20 bucks, including a Justin Bieber poster. He is right, but in a world of Unity and Unreal, and with a bit of experience in project planning, I am sceptical and wonder how much of those 5 years of work were wasted. I wonder this because I have been in gamedev for a while now. For someone who hasn’t, how can they get to decide how much should a game 5 years in development worth, compared to one 2 years in dev, compared to an almost 8 years one? Didn’t know gamedev can be like vintage wine.

My reaction: Scared! Do we really want to empower our players to evaluate our gamedev?

So what’s the solution? Price your game at 10 bucks? That’s a nice compromise, but a bad one nonetheless. I personally think that money and value are notions that are drifting apart. Because, YOU KNOW WHY!!!

Then there’s this.

And also this.

Folks, we are privileged. We are privileged because we have the very real power of building an ideal market. I do believe that game developers have an almost unfair advantage of understanding the world in a unique way, which might allow us to shape the future for everyone.

That is because we made games in a fast shifting environment, and we were forced into being early adopters of technologies that now shape the world. When did you make your first Facebook or Twitter account? Now that you are facing the dreaded idea of selling our game, your mom might just have her very first socially connected steps. I dare you to get her on Steam! 

Yeah I know it’s hard, but if we give our egos a break, and just step back, try to grasp the whole picture, we are in control of the way we make and sell our games. We are much more in control than most other industries. For most people that play our games, there is no escape. They cannot invent new ways to price their work, or promote it, or of simply of being generous. We can.

We define our value.

So here's my idea: let’s set Very High Prices, and be generous. Do you think we can be trusted with that?

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