Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Game pricing and individual utility

What is the right price for an indie game?

$22.95? $19.95? $9.95?

maybe it depends on the game? A simple shooter is maybe cheaper than a Civ IV style game?

I don't think that matters at all. The genre, the budget, the production values are all irrelevant. What matters is the customer. the INDIVIDUAL customer.

I know people who would rather stick razor blade in their eyes than listen to Yngwie J Malmsteen, but I'll pay money to hear him. I know people who would rather gnaw their own legs off than watch a BBC costume drama, but I love em. What am I trying to say?

PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT.

but WAY more than that, peoples perceived value in a piece of entertainment varies massively. In an ideal market, you would extract the exact amount from each customer that matches the utility they get from the product. Some people LOVE democracy, and I'd like them to pay me $100. Others think its pretty cool and I want $22.95 from them. Some think its fun for 20 minutes and I want $1 from them.
A lot of companies do this, by having 'collectors editions' and 'value' versions and 'gold' versions. It's just an elaborate way of segmenting the market and preventing the real fans getting the casual browsers price. Cheap afternoon cinema tickets are a classic example.

I sometimes see people panic about games prices because "There are tons of cheaper games and some of them are really good". This will not work as a pricing strategy. The value of a game is unique to each buyer. it doesn't matter that Halo 3 looks better and cost more and lasts longer than Cute Knight. I got more fun out of Cute Knight, so it's 'worth' more to me.

Indie game devs should not try to compete on price, but on gameplay, quality and innovation.

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