Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Blips: No Sale

Source: Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players
Author: Jason Rohrer
Site: The Castle Doctrine blog

I have to admit, part of the reason I started playing a lot of indie games on the PC is because of pay-what-you-want sales on games that were previously only available on platforms I did not own. Humble Indie Bundle V contained Braid, Limbo, Super Meat Boy, Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery EP, Bastion, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Psychonauts, and Lone Survivor, and I got them all for $15. What a steal. It was a deal that seemed too good to be true, but there was no "catch" to be found. Since them I've been introduced to regular Steam sales where game prices dip down so low, they're practically free. I've held out on buying games for 50% off, just in case they're 75% off at some point during the course of a 2 week sale period. I don't buy computer games at full price, and I never pirate them. I just try to be a smart, informed consumer.

That said, I agree with a lot of what The Castle Doctrine designer Jason Rohrer has to say with regard to the detrimental consequences of a discount video game marketplace culture. The crux of Rohrer's stance is that when you launch a game at full retail price, then slice it in half the next time a Steam sale rolls around, you're throwing the dedication of your most ardent fans, the ones who bought your game at launch, back in their faces. You're telling them, "you should have waited," and the rub is that next time, maybe they will. Rohrer plans to counteract this with The Castle Doctrine by offering the game for 50% off as a pre-order/alpha, raising to 25% off for launch, and eventually raising back to full price a few weeks down the line. Rohrer claims he will not put the game on sale thereafter.

I'm curious to see how this goes for Rohrer (as if his game didn't have enough critical chatter as is) because the tidal wave of discounted games just seems so strong. In some ways, sales are all about the increased visibility as much as the lower prices. Even a 10% off sale can beget a ton of new players if it means the game shows up on Steam's front page. I think Rohrer's concerns about people buying games just to take advantage of sales is valid (the "pile of shame" is proof), but I'd also be concerned about interesting games living out their days in the shadows because no one remembers they exist two weeks after launch. I don't know that there's a right answer here, but I'm happy to see Rohrer exploring new options.

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