Games nowadays are being given away free

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by Jason Chong, May 30, 2014.

  1. Jason Chong

    Original Member

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    I've been observing the trend of games nowadays. Practically everyone is giving the game away and if not, the selling prices are so low it isn't possible to recoup money with AAA titles anymore.

    Business model has changed but customer expectations are rising and competition as well for non-AAA titles.


    With everyone practically giving the game away, and a crowded marketplace of non-AAA titles, what is the motivation anymore to continue making games other than doing it for fun ?

    One option is developing games for corporate clients to promote their brand.
    The other is being a contract mobile game developer for others.

    Trying to develop your own game with unknown IP is getting much harder when you have to give your game away free, no matter how good it is.
     
  2. Desktop Gaming

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    I don't understand. You've said "practically everyone is giving their games away", then "Everyone practically giving their game away" - This may just be a typo one way or the other, but one statement contradicts the other.

    I don't see where developers are giving their games away for free, or practically for free. I see numerous indies making a very good living from what they do. I also see a bazillion "free" games (most notably for iOS and Android), which, despite what the marketplace spiel is telling you, are not free at all - those developers are monetizing via IAPs.

    So what's the motivation, you ask? Just because there are scores of other people doing it, that doesn't mean you have to stop. You have to compete - potential success is your motivation. And you don't need to give games away for free in order to do that - you need a playable game, and then put it under the noses of the right people.
     
  3. NO9

    NO9
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    Not much difference than the other branches of the showbusiness. Like music. There are people who are good, bad, making money, not making money etc... Big commercial brands, middle class, people just having fun. Not everyone is motivated by money only. Gamedev seems to evolve(d) into similar shape. Making games becomes so easy and accessible to everyone, so you need really unique and addictive gameplay, which is not only bulletpoint in Appstore/Google Play (or anything else's) description. There is also no guarantee of the success, but sometimes the risk is worth an effort. And pays out.
    That's my two cents :rolleyes:
     
  4. bantamcitygames

    Administrator Original Member Indie Author Greenlit

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    I agree with Desktop. Even the 'free' games are not really being given away. You have ad monitization, micro-transactions, referral programs, etc. The current game I'm working on is a Free-to-play game, which despite the name means that people pay money for in game items. The game itself is free and I guess you could say I'm giving it away in that sense, but I have every intention of generating revenue from the game.
     
  5. Macro

    Macro New Member

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    I would disagree with the point which implies most AAA games are given away for free. There are lots of day one sales on new releases, but considering how many AAA games there are out there then its not surprising. As a developer (well dev, publisher, etc) it is a tough choice as day one sales make up a very large percentage of your profit for the game so you want to sell as many high priced copies as possible to the rabid fans or those who just have cash to burn. However you may want to reduce your selling price to make your game get more attention and bring in people who would not normally pay the default day one price tag. So its a risk of do you want less high priced sales, or more low priced sales.

    As a consumer I am VERY much on the Steam Sales band wagon, I do not buy many games day one unless they are heavily discounted and I really want them. An example was Dark Souls 2, which I knew some friends would want to come round and spend the night dying on it so I picked it up for about £20 where everywhere else was selling it for £40 (ish). Then my 3 friends picked it up for the same sort of price, and we told other people about it on sale at that price and got them to buy it. So that was probably about 10 sales of the game day one (on PC) that they would not have gotten until it went down to about £10-15 later on in the year. So its swings and roundabouts as far as the pricing point goes, and it is a very competitive market place out there.

    Digital distribution changes the landscape a bit, as historically a game would be out on some shelf in a store, and then after 6 months or so it gets thrown into some lesser seen shelf and discounted just to get rid and make way for the newer stuff, however after about another 6 months to a year that game will end up in some bargain bin or sold at a cheap price just to get rid of it, and if that doesn't go then it may just get binned as a store only has finite space. Now if you look at steam for example in there they can have an endless catalogue of games at at any point they can make an old game front page with a discount and sell it by the dozen. So quarterly discounts can boost a forgotten game back into the public eye and get some more money for it, and it will be a much more long term selling plan as your game is not destined for some bin after 18 months, its just always on the shelf waiting to be taken.

    Anyway I realise I went a bit off topic there, as far as Free To Play games go I am not a huge fan as *MOST* (I use the term loosely) FTP games are repetitive grinding games or puzzle games, which do not really cover AAA games anyway. So if someone was to offer you Candy Crush Saga (I hope they don't sue me for using their name) for £5 then chances are they would never have 90% of their customer base, as most people will just DL it because its free and is colourful. However when they start playing and get invested BOOM! you have them by the balls (or other appendages for other genders). So it is more of a fish baiting scheme with the dividends being paid later once they invest in the game which is an almost endless cycle to just buy more chaff. There are some unique ones like Neverwinter the MMO where it at least has a story or something for the player to invest in other than shiny trophies or new puzzle levels. However I still feel more FTP games are sub-par game concepts which would not make it as single payment games.

    Anyway realise thats a load of waffle, I am sure there are some points in there somewhere...
     
  6. lennard

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Jason I think you are asking a good question. There are so many games out there right now, discovery is hard, the bar is higher than ever and people expect a game to be cheap or free because so much good stuff is, well, cheap or free!

    Janwinnicki makes good points. I'd add to his unique game play that you need to think about new business models.

    For me? I love making games and I've set my life up so that my ability to make games doesn't hinge on selling X units of each release and that allows me to focus on iterating on a few games for a long time.
     
  7. Azrile

    Azrile New Member

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    They aren´t free, there are just new ways to earn money from making a game.

    The problem is this. There are now so many tools to make games, and so much free knowledge that you can get from the internet, that it is very easy for a hobbyist to create a game. So for consumers, it becomes impossible... very few people are willing to throw out $30 to buy a game that hasn´t been reviewed by a professional reviewer and was built by a first time developer.

    As an indie developer, you have to find a way to get players engaged with your product before they have to spend any money otherwise you will just never get traction. Back in the day, consumers basically either trusted development houses based on their past products ( Blizzard went from Lost Vikings, to WC, to WOW, each game added more trust to the consumers that anything else they made would be great), or back in the day, we trusted magazine reviews much more. I know probably the first 10 games I bought for my computer all were bought because of magazine articles. But that has gone away since Mag reviews are usually bought, and certainly reviews on gaming sites or fan reviews are fairly tainted as well. You can easily ´buy´ reviewers for a couple dollars.

    Lower barrier to entry + no way for players to get honest feedback about a game prelaunch = play now, pay later business models.
     
  8. Son of Bryce

    Son of Bryce New Member

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    I feel what Jason's saying about this. The game market's totally saturated. Everything's digital and easily copied, much like movies and music these days, so the consumers don't necessarily even think about the value of the products. As as developers, driving prices down isn't necessarily helping much.

    This can be combated by techniques mentioned by previous posters. Making quality games, building value and trust with games. This can be hard to do if all you're doing is churning out disposable games. If all the market is churning out disposable games.

    It's almost before my time, but I imagine that the shareware world was similar. For every Doom, there were 100's of low budget games you never heard of. Maybe a few rise to the top. And as a consumer why buy anything if you've got so many games that you could never play if you had all the time in the world.

    Personally I've become more picky and finicky with my tastes. Maybe I'm just old school, but I'll pay $40-60 for a game that I know that I'm going to genuinely enjoy. I'd rather do that than try my chances being nickel and dimed. But at the same time, there's tons of people that'll never spend a cent on a game.

    I think the important thing to realize is that the market isn't one-size-fits all. If you don't want to make games that cost $0 to play, find an audience that's will to pay more. Say an RPG audience, that can appreciate the work put into art and a story. Are people playing your game for an experience or to kill time at the bus stop?

    I read a Jeff Vogel blog post a ways back about niche games (might be this one http://jeff-vogel.blogspot.com/2009/04/indie-games-should-cost-more-pt-1.html ). And what I remember getting out of it was that the games he made satisfied a niche where people were willing to pay higher than market standard and he could also survive on less than stellar sales because he had a small team.

    It might be a path to failure or ruin, but it's easily as risky as dumping all your time into a free to play game, in my opinion.
     
  9. audiogeek1

    audiogeek1 New Member

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    I would just add that most games I see for free are generating in APP purchases and linked to advertisement revenues. This if your game can be widely distributed can create an amazing amount of money for the indie game developer. It is my love of games and this that gives me hope while developing the few games I am currently working on.
     
  10. SLotman

    Original Member Indie Author

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    Interesting enough, Sony yesterday announced "free to play" games on PS4... what will this mean for the console market? A new "race to the bottom" like it was on iOS?
     
  11. Crichton333

    Crichton333 New Member

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    Actually you make way more money with a free game with ads and in-app purchases than you would with a paid app.
     
  12. Kodakami

    Kodakami New Member

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    At the potential expense of gameplay...

    But I digress, I would disagree with the implication that games are being given away for free, or that there is a 'race to the bottom'. I think flexible pricing is just one of many advantages of making indie games. Its all a giant exercise in long-tail economics. As games get older their prices will naturally lower in order to both seek maximum profit and reach as wide of an audience as others.

    Some people do this wrong, like devs that add themselves to an indie bundle right after their release, but even that 'mistake' has its advantages. It exposes you to a MASSIVE audience, increases you brand awareness, and assuming your game was compelling, gives you a much larger base than you started off with when you develop your eventual sequel.

    The only people racing to the bottom are the people who:
    A.) Don't know how to manage their product.
    B.) Aren't confident in their own products merits.

    We go to school to be programmers, designers, artists, musicians... not to run a business but sometimes managing your own indie studio is very much like that. Many people make mistakes, managing price may be one for certain devs, but I challenge the assertion that games are just being given away for 'free' especially anything of AAA caliber as OP implies.
     
  13. pjeigh

    pjeigh New Member

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    So has anyone here actually made money (i.e. more than break even) on a game in the last 2 years? And, if so, how?

    MY experience has been that the bulk of money being made by charging publishers to develop games for them, not releasing my/their own games.
     
  14. jlv

    jlv New Member

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    I've had good sales with an expensive game over the last couple of years. You need to find a niche and do a good job of satisfying it.
     
  15. eggheadgames

    eggheadgames New Member

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    The flip side of this is the audience. Expectations on mobile are pretty insane right now, imnsho. Everyone expects everything for free, all the time. And they'll ding you with 1-star reviews if you don't provide it. If you have a niche app, then ads are never going to make up the difference.

    I've been dabbling with freemium with my games. Over that time, I've changed the names to include the word "Preview" in it, to ward off the 1-star "Only has X free puzzles" reviews. That worked for a while. However, lately even that isn't enough. People download an app and expect that they can play forever for free. This is despite clear callouts in the description (which few people read) and the name itself ".... - Preview". The game of mine that does the best on Google Play is the one that never went free. Despite it being the exact same game (different content), ratings are higher, revenue is higher. However, until now, I haven't released more "paid only" because the search discovery process is v slow. On Play, it took > 6 months for that non-free game to get into the top 20 search results for a specific query (despite good keywords and little competition) and 18 months before it hit top 5. (And iOS is proving slower, though overall bigger numbers.)

    I'm starting to reconsider freemium for new releases in favour of going back to paid only. It may take longer to ramp up, but my current thesis is that it will go further over time.
     
  16. Son of Bryce

    Son of Bryce New Member

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    Nice post, egghead. I think you're thinking what we're all thinking right now. The numbers don't add up, right? But nobody wants to risk having 0 downloads, so make it free and hopefully 1 in a thousand will generate a few pennies.

    The free to play system is something that supports select styles of gameplay. If you don't have a game with a simple and great hook, a massive marketing budget, multiplayer, and/or grindy gameplay -- you're pretty much shit out of luck. Usually these kinds of games are just too big to develop on an "indie" budget. You need King, Zynga, EA kinda budgets.

    The opposite side of the spectrum is the more "indie" mobile game releases, where the teams make a game with a new and unique feel. And they're bold enough to actually charge something for it up front. But I feel success with this route is down to how well the marketing works out in your favor. Will all the game sites cover your game? Will people make YouTube vids and spread the word? If you can manage that, the sky is the limit.

    I think it's worth going the paid only route, at least for split comparison. The game of course has to feel worth that price. It could be short and sweet with an interesting experience. Or maybe a fun game that never gets old with 100 levels. With a paid game, the problem is that people don't get a chance to play the game before they purchase it. And that's sort of an expectation these days. Although, I wasn't given the option of playing Destiny before I bought it to be clearly understand if it was a game I liked. Maybe that's a misconception that people need to play it before deciding to spend money.
     
  17. AMAXANG-GAMES

    AMAXANG-GAMES New Member

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    I guess there are some developers giving away their games for free in order to promote their games. They find this to be a great way of promoting their games and hence, they have started giving offers. The price of the game depends upon its quality and arrangement. If a game is good enough then it will definitely be sold at higher prices. Most users love freebies. So, if you create a demo version or freeware version of a game and if the demo version is good enough, the full version will be purchased by them no matter what.
    I personally don't think that many users could give away their games for free, since the time and energy required for creating the game is not free.
     
  18. adamsanndy

    adamsanndy New Member

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    Games are given more entertainment for any age group of people. As per our interest, We have to select the best one. In gaming technology, A wide range of gaming classification is there such as comedy, horrible, friendship like that much more. At online, Some instruction also is there such certain games are watched by particular age group only. Based upon that information, We have to select the games.
     

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