"I think it’s in line with other games that cost 20 bucks, but there was no way to convince someone of that if they hadn’t played it yet.”
- Asymmetric founder Zack Johnson shares one factor devs have to consider when pricing their games
Deciding on a price for an indie game can be a make or break moment for many developers, especially when that game is launching onto a notoriously crowded marketplace like Steam.
In a casual Q&A published to Campo Santo’s Quarterly Review, Asymmetric founder Zack Johnson recalled what that decision was like for his studio’s comedic stick-man RPG West of Loathing, and shared how adopting a modest price likely affected the success of the game.
Johnson said that, for a long time, West of Loathing was planned to launch as a $20 game. He was eventually persuaded to chop the price in half by Campo Santo’s Sean Vanaman, who pointed out that a higher price tag risks cutting out players that might pick up the game after seeing it on Steam’s charts.
“We were urged by a lot of people, like Sean [Vanaman] the most vehemently, he was the one who was the most willing to yell at me about it. ‘If you think you can sell a couple thousand copies of the game on launch day, you will chart on Steam, and if you chart on Steam and your game costs $20, no one will buy it as an impulse purchase, and if it costs $10, tens of thousands of people will buy it as an impulse purchase,’” recalled Johnson. “He turned out to be right.”
Johnson notes that the game beat his own lifetime sales expectation of 50,000 copies in a matter of weeks. While he himself still believes that the game packs enough value to compete with other $20 games on Steam, he admits that the value he sees in the game comes from his own intimate knowledge of its content and that a player’s initial perception would likely be very different.
“We’re better off selling more copies at a modest price, [but] I think the game is worth $20,” said Johnson. “If you knew what it was going to be, and the amount of satisfaction you were going to derive from it, I think it’s in line with other games that cost 20 bucks, but there was no way to convince someone of that if they hadn’t played it yet.”
The full interview digs deeper into the development days of West of Loathing, exploring why the team opted to make the Kingdom of Loathing followup a premium game rather than free-to-play and more.