uh ? if you write an xbla game, you know where your customers are, same with wiiware and iphone you know where the people are going to be looking for games. with PC you don't, how can you compare them ?.
Also, who says XBLA, WiiWare, and iPhone are such great archetypes for developers? XBLA was great for the first wave of developers, but now it's getting crowded and royalty percentages are going down. I've heard a lot of grumblings from developers who've tried to launch XBLA games in the past year. iPhone is still in its honeymoon stage, but it's likely to go down the path of becoming over-saturated with cheap games. I'm not sure any of them are good long term models for developers. They're basically, try to make good money early on, then get out.
EDIT: Beaten by Nikster who said it in far less words.
I can't imagine BigFish, Iwin and others to go on direct price wars against Amazon. Amazon can drop the prices to 1 dollar if they want, they still get revenue from everything else they sell there. Other portals can't drop prices like this, it would kill them.
If i were the other portals, i would simply reject any game that would be on sale at Reflexive or Amazon.
But, let's see what will happen.
Closed platform or not, customers see the sames game on many or all of those systems and compair the prices.
You can buy Jewel Quest II...
- ...for $12.99 as a boxed copy from Amazon.com (or about the same from Target or Walmart). This is a typical price for a casual game in retail
- ...for $2.99 as an iPhone app. This is a typical price for most iPhone games
- ...for $10 as an XBLA game for 360. Typical for playform
- ...for $5.99 as a subscription download from Big Fish
- ...for $9.99 as a digital download from Reflexive.com
- ...for $9.99 as a digital download from Steam (they don't actually have Jewel Quest II but most casual games on Steam are $9.99)
When people are used to paying $10 or less for download games on Wii, XBLA, iPhone, and retail they are going to hesitate to spend more for a PC download. I really don't see this as a portal price war. It is portals catching up with mass market expectations.
The long and broad term effects and audience growth upsides are not something that are well established and not well tested, but I believe the short term test results serve as a nice estimate of the "worst case".
Btw, a lot of new released casual games still go for $19.95 in retail:
Well, I have to say that this move has prompted me to reconsider releasing my other games through Reflexive (or any other portal). Keeping my game sales exclusive to my own web site is how I've managed to grow my business to this point. The old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", seems to apply in my opinion.
I understand part of what is happening here. The casual game space is so oversaturated with match-3s, hidden object games, time management, and other clones of clones of clones that this cutting of prices was inevitable. I mean, really, how many times can you get a customer to purchase the same game over and over again (just with different theme/graphics/whatever)?
Speaking for myself, I think the key to success going forward is going to be to develop fresh, original games that people can't find anywhere else. If something is new and fun, customers will pay the full price for it. Fashion Cents proves that point to me - my Fashion Cents sales are still strong and steady, even after 5 years.
Lower pricing is usually used in marketing to gain bigger market share. I was only thinking PC (/MAC) & downloadable games, but you raised this very good point that there are other competitors as well. Wii, Playstation, Non-downloadable PC games, XBLA, PSP and other platforms are OUR competitors (here "our" means "we who make downloadable games").
Now the portals are switching the "industry average" price to $10 (or lower), which means we might see that CASUAL downloadable games might be going towards a bigger market share.
Even though per sale revenues for developers go down, it can also mean that there will be more customers in the whole casual game market.
New PC games cost like $50 (or something). When people see casual games going around $5-10 price (and if they see that there's wide range of possibilities), they can start considering moving towards the casual game market.
Of course customers benefit... but I'd think there's possibility that this can help developers too.
Of course those who sell directly need to be pretty inventive about it. If people get used to buy games for $5-10, it'll be more difficult to offer them $20 game.
Yay, more customers for the Indie market (who want everything at 10$ from now on). You'd think with Amazon's traffic they would stick with 20$ or something similar limit to profit from those who are there to shop for movies (or whatever).
Last edited by J Fizzle; 06-08-2009 at 02:48 PM.
have casual games become junk food now...? I mean, a fast food meal costs like $5-10. Hopefully casual games won't get an imago problem here
Btw... a small "error" in that James' post. BFG is selling for $6.99 (not $5.99)
"catching up with mass market expectations" sounds good on the surface but doesn't seem to really hold-up when you dig down a bit:
- XBLA's audience is primarily hardcore gamers. There is very little overlap between XBLA gamers and Casual Portal gamers. So even with XBLA games priced at ~$9, it has little bearing on the PC casual market. Casual games don't do very well on XBLA either. To give you an example, here is the top XBLA games of 2008:
1 Castle Crashers
2 Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
4 A Kingdom for Keflings
6 Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
7 Fable II Pub Games
8 Duke Nukem 3D
9 Bionic Commando: Rearmed
12 Portal: Still Alive
14 1942: Joint Strike
15 Bomberman Live
16 MEGA MAN 9
18 Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3
19 Marble Blast Ultra
20 Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Not a single Hidden Object/Time Management casual game that populates the casual portals is in the XBLA top seller list. So XBLA is hardly a threat or even competition for casual portals. If casual portals carried more "indie" or hardcore games, then maybe they would be competing for the same market-share as XBLA, but they don't.
- Wiiware games aren't as hardcore as XBLA but it's also not a hotbed for casual portal games either. This list is from October, but you still get the idea.
1 (4) - Tetris Party
2 (1) - World of Goo
3 (2) - Mega Man 9
4 (3) - My Aquarium
5 (5) - Bomberman Blast
6 (6) - Midnight Bowling
7 (N) - The Incredible Maze
8 (7) - Dr Mario Online Rx
9 (8) - Defend your Castle
10 (10) - Art Style: Cubello
11 (9) - My Pokémon Ranch
12 (N) - Strong Bad Episode 3 - Baddest of the Bands
13 (12) - Wild West Guns
14 (13) - TV Show King
15 (11) - Art Style: Orbient
16 (14) - Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King
17 (16) - Frat Party Games - Pong Toss
18 (15) - Strong Bad Episode 1 - Homestar Ruiner
19 (18) - LostWinds
20 (17) - Strong Bad Episode 2 - Strong Badia the Free
Not a single casual portal game. Again I don't see how the cost of Wiiware games is affecting portals when the audiences don't seem to overlap.
- iPhone has a lot of buzz, but it's not mass-market yet. Remember it's still a niche audience of people who bought a $300-400 phone/iPod. It has a lot growth but currently still makes up only a very small percentage of the overall cellphone user base. Also iPhone games are typically smaller in scope compared to PC downloadable games, so I'm not sure if a 1:1 price parity is really necessary. For example you don't see handheld DS games the same price as console games. Consumers accept that games for smaller devices are generally cheaper than its counterparts. So I don't see how casual portals have to be price competitive with the iPhone.
- Steam also has a hardcore audience. Here are the current top games for Steam:
Left 4 Dead .... $49.99
Grand Theft Auto IV ... $49.99
Counter-Strike: Source ... $19.99
Fallout 3 ... $49.99
Call of Duty: World at War ... $49.99
The Orange Box ... $29.99
Warhammer® II ... $49.99
Counter-Strike .... $9.99
Team Fortress 2 ... $19.99
F.E.A.R.2: Project Origin ... $49.99
Again, not a single casual portal game in the top list. Not only that, but the Steam audience is perfectly fine with paying over $9.99 for a lot of games. Granted, many of them are hardcore games but thats what's popular on Steam. Though Steam does carry quite a few casual and indie games and the price ranges from $9 - 25. They're not set under $9, it just depends on the game. Also clearly Steam isn't pushing a lot of casual game units compared to the casual portals, so I really don't see how portals are lowering their prices because of Steam.
As I said, if casual portals had more diverse catalogs then this would be a valid argument, but they don't. I see very little overlap between the audiences of XBLA, Wiiware, and Steam and with the casual portal's audience.The portals are targeting a large but a very specific audience and portals rarely want to rock the boat with outside titles. So it makes little sense why portals are supposedly trying to be price competitive with those platforms.
I think retail has a bigger intersection with the online casual audience, but as I already showed earlier, there are still a lot of newly released casual games in retail that sell for $19.95. Retail is about as mass market as you can get and those consumers still accept the $19.95 price point for casual games.
It seems like the portals aren't attempting to fall in line with the mass market's expectations for causal games. Instead it appears the portals are changing the expectations of the market with the steady price drops.
We might as well call all downloadable or online casual games as "Fast Games" (Marketing words). It's cheap ( 6.99 ), it's developed fast, it's easy to play and it has always ended fast. It suits the hectic lifestyle of modern men and women who can only afford an hour or so of fast gaming entertainment per day.
Fast Food & Fast Games, That's the way to go..
Note : # of aff sales & conversion have increased after the price change, I'm looking forward to see the result on weekend and Sunday.
Very good points Chris.
Wii games are closer to "casual games". Just recently a 40+ year old dude I chatted with said he "hates games" but after he saw Wii... he was hooked. It didn't take much time for him to buy Wii Fit... and other games too... and he described these games as "casual". He is also a potential player for portal casual games - and don't believe he is the only one.Not a single casual portal game. Again I don't see how the cost of Wiiware games is affecting portals when the audiences don't seem to overlap.
I must add that in Steam you can see €9.99 games when you click "casual" and click "new releases" or "top sellers". There's popular games like Luxor there selling for that price (there's also many games selling for €19.99, such as World of Goo)... so in that sense there's some point to take Steam into comparison.
I do understand your good points though - and no counter arguments here: just wanted to point out couple of these things.
Well a very simple system will be, in 2-3 months, to come back to this thread (or a new one) and developers could share their experience, if they made more or less money with this pricing.
In any case, anyone developing a casual game at this point has the need of portals.
If you are developing niche games instead it's still better to sell directly (by niche I don't mean only RPG, but also sport games since there are none on the major portals). And I think that for niche games this price war won't affect sales. Niche games usually sells very bad on portals, so at this point with this new price cut I hope developers like Basilisk Games, Positech, etc won't ever put their games on portals anymore, this way preserving the niche value and customer price expectation at $20+.
The comparison with the other closed system makes no sense, since they're different market (as Chris Evans said I know no soccer mom with a Xbox or Iphone while most of the market of BFG is older people playing HO games for example).
BRAVO AND CONGRATS, REFLEXIVE AND AMAZON! This indie developer and former publisher thanks you! It's about damn time!!!
Ever since $1 iTunes songs, my friend Jeff Tunnell has been preaching the gospel (or rather predicting the future) of $1 games. The comparison he makes is a good one: a game dev team is not unlike a small band, and a single small game (Flash-sized) is not unlike a song, both in what it offers (a quick enjoyable replayable experience) and what it takes to create (a few people and a few months).
Most casual games are more than Flash-sized / "song-sized" games, but they are also well short of being an "album" worth $20. With casual games it's like you get one song (one level / central game mechanic), then a bunch of "re-mixes" of that song (further levels with small variations, like a euro-mix variation of a song). So $10 is a great price point to go - more than a song, less than an album of unique songs.
To go outside of gaming and compare to other forms of entertainment (a point we sometimes forget!), it seems like DVD's are at about that $10 price-point, and a casual game definitely doesn't have the production value and quality of a multimillion dollar Hollywood movie (even the indie movies are MM's), so it's a good price. Casual games at $20 are selling at a price higher than many Hollywood DVD's!
As for price tests, the problem with those of us who've tested the "reduce prices by half" theory is that it takes massive traffic to work. If you cut prices on your small indie game site to all few-thousand of your visitors for all half-dozen of your games, you're not going to have enough throughput to leverage the benefits of the price cut. But to a huge portal - Amazon (bigger than Reflexive) - with millions of visitors and hundreds of games, all adopting the same below-ten price point, it's a completely different story. This is TNT, and it's about time someone blew up the $20 price point. It needed not just someone brave to do it - anyone can be brave. It needed someone with tons of traffic to pull it off. And that's exactly what Amazon has.
So again I say bravo. The industry has turned a page. Let's all grow with it.
If you have to justify the price drop please use another, more solid, argument.
Incidentally, a day before the whole thing started I interviewed cliffski and just a short excerpt from our interview:
So you don't need one price point to maximise your revenue. Anyway, if you're interested here is the full interview:You sell Democracy 2 for $24.95, but Kudos 2 for just $14.95 and RockLegend for as low as $9.95? Why?
These prices maximise my revenue. Trust me, I tested it
Interview with Cliff Harris (cliffski) from Positech Games
30+ things you can buy with $10 in 2009:
(off the top of my head / prices are approximate)
- A first-run movie
- A dollar-theater movie with popcorn and soda
- A bottle of wine
- A case of beer
- A box of chocolate truffles
- A printed t-shirt
- A CD from Wal-mart
- 10 songs off of iTunes
- A DVD from Wal-mart
- A month of Netflix rentals
- A month's subscription to an MMO
- A year's subscription to a Flash Virtual World
- Two/three movie rentals at Blockbuster
- A couple of coloring / activity books and crayons
- A paperback novel
- A nice lunch
- A trip for ice cream cones for you and friends
- A couple pints of gourmet ice cream
- A couple packs of cigarettes
- A couple of fat joints
- 10 scrunchies at a dollar each
- A pair of sunglasses
- A bunch of gallons of gas to take a day trip somewhere
- Admission to a play, ballet, art gallery, or museum
- Day use fee for a state park or wildlife area
- Two pairs of cute socks
- A cake from a bakery or deli
- A few used console video games
- A used computer monitor or TV
- A basketball or soccer ball
- A quarter-year of issues of your favorite magazine
- Ten bucks worth of virtual goods in a microtransaction game
- A couple of cell phone games
- An XBLA / WiiWare game
- An iPhone game
And now, thanks to Reflexive / Amazon, we can add to the list...
- Any casual download game
Hooray! All the above things are about the same value in my opinion. Casual games were never worth twice the amount of all the other things in the above list. The recession only underscores the need to price things at a point that is competitive with other things that consumers can do with their $10 as they'll be far more choosy how they spend their money now that they have less of it.
Sod it, I'm releasing my games at 100 quid. You'll have to have an invite to buy them and you will get content personally from me.
Doesnt anyone else see all this as a dilution of thier efforts? I mean sure this is great for amazon and reflexive, but is it actually good for developers?
You're all assuming that somehow magically if reflexive/amazon sell more games you will make more money. But is that really true? Isnt it just that we will see a few "blockbuster" games make money and everyone else is going to get even less of a return?
We're talking about making this a mass-market product, when it really actually isnt.
I would never expect my games to make it into the hands of a mass market consumer, much like you wouldnt expect really hardcore wargames do the same. The really niche titles simply cannot stand up at this price point. I'd rather charge a smaller group more money but actually support and be supported by them than have a mass market that doesnt actually care about the title shell over pocket money to blast through my "content" as quickly as possible.
Am I alone in thinking this belittle's the creative process a bit?
Josh: Your point about small shallow games is exactly the kind of thing that flash games are doing, but theyre doing it for free, not $1 or $10 or $20. Sure you could poop out a match-3 in a month, but for anything even remotely complex you have to give it time. Time that you cant afford if your product is being priced at 5.99 to compete with "mainstream" media.
All we're going to get here, is a reduction in quality and a few breakout "blockbuster" games.
At a minimum, let's take a wait and see approach. I'm optimistic, and I'd put my money on Amazon / Reflexive that they've done their homework on this one.
When Microsoft XBLA introduced the $5, $10, $15 game model, they did so after spending millions on market research that basically boiled down to the fact that consumers wanted to buy games at those prices. It's a good study, it's years old, and it's about time this young casual industry has caught up.
The problem I have, is that you're comparing games to films, where as some games you should compare to books. And not just trashy pulp romance either (which is kind of what casual stuff is), but hardcore technical or philosophy books.
My games are far more like a deep technical book, which is only going to attract a niche audience no matter what I put on the front cover. I really wouldnt want to be put on the same shelves as the romantic fiction pulp because I would never attract that audience and I would never want to lower my price to the same level (why would someone expect to sell two entirely different things for the same price?).
And yet, it would be nice to have a store in which to sell my products, alongside all the other books. Because it is after all still a book. Which I hope is what amazon ends up doing.
It really doesnt bother me, because I intend to sell direct. But I've been saying for years that the portals are being far too specific in thier catalogues. Much like you wouldnt expect a book store to only stock romantic fiction, you wouldnt expect a game portal to only stock hidden object games, yet there you are. You also wouldnt expect all books to be the same price, yet here we have the notion that all games should be that same lower price, no matter thier origins or content.
The whole "work smarter not harder" thing doesnt really count here. Some things ARE hard. Its not like we have the game development equivalent of a camera where we can naturally use it without any training (who cant operate a camera?) or a music package that generates actual music rather than loops that other musicians made? Your notion of innovation would basically be embodied by the game-maker community, where they are incredibly prolific, but how many of those games do you really want to play?
Its a moot point, but I for one, do NOT welcome our amazon overlords.
Again, apples and oranges, XBLA is a closed system with decent DRM, helped by being a closed system.
Comparing music is also retarded, while singles maybe cheap, you can also hear them free on air, but wait, airplay costs the station, music peeps also gigg etc etc yadda yadda.
TBH, the people who seem to be pro this idea don't seem to the ones making a living from creating the games themselves full time, or have some other hidden agenda, that's what I see anyways, otherwise they must be stuck in trala land with the magic pixies.
I could go on, but like others say let see how this pans out.. the winners are consumers and distributors I reckon.