Positech Games Boss Calls For An End To Deep-Discount Sales

Vigormortis

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Hap2 said:
If he's wrong, and you have the evidence, then please show it.
With pleasure:
http://indiegames.com/2012/07/steam_sales_how_deep_discounts.html

http://kotaku.com/the-story-of-an-indie-games-life-and-impending-death-510592527

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2011/07/volume-vs-price-one-indie-dev-describes-steam-sales/

http://www.gameinformer.com/themes/blogs/generic/post.aspx?WeblogApp=features&y=2014&m=01&d=24&WeblogPostName=are-sales-bad-for-sales-these-publishers-and-developers-don-t-think-so&GroupKeys=

http://kotaku.com/5620259/steam-sale-saves-developer

http://www.shacknews.com/article/57308/valve-left-4-dead-half

All I've done is entertain the possibile consequences.
Of which I'm willing to discuss. However, the assertions Mr. Harris and others are making about the 'danger' of sales are patently, provably, undeniably false. And what few points he has that could be true are tenuous at best; not to mention being based entirely on assumptions.

That's what I was getting at. There are plenty of things to discuss about the potential future of the industry and the 'actual' value of a given video game. It's just that the points Mr. Harris brings up aren't among them.

Anecdotes are worthless on their own. The constant 'argument' of "I don't want to pay $60 for a game" from people outraged by his statement isn't useful on any level.
I never said anything of the sort. In fact, I've no issue with paying full price; even $60; for a new game. Provided, of course, the final product is worth the price.

For that matter, most of the posts disagreeing with Mr. Harris' statements aren't saying that either. There are a few, but most aren't.

Again, I, and seemingly several others in this thread, think there are plenty of things to debate over the effect discount sales and bundles can have on consumers and the industry. I just won't waste my nor anyone's time on debating the nonsense from Mr. Harris.
 

Amir Kondori

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Andy Chalk said:
That's not necessarily related directly to Steam sales or Humble Bundles - a lot of developers would no doubt say they're very empowering - but people seem too eager to say "these games aren't worth full price" when the truth is they just don't want to pay that much.
There is no difference between those two statements. Not being willing to pay a given price means that, to that purchaser, the good is not worth "full price".
Pricing is a subject pretty well understood by the people paid to understand it. You price your good at X dollars, you sell Y units. You sell your good at W dollars, you sell Z units. You do that math and now you have a baseline for how best to maximize your revenue from selling your product.
Of course these same people paid to understand that are pretty clever, so they have come up with ways to extract even more money, by selling the product for X dollars to the people willing to pay X dollars but also selling the product to those who will only buy for W dollars. That is where things like sales come in. Sales help maximize revenues for your product. There are tricks, like day one DLC, special editions, and different regional pricing. The people selling games today are VERY sophisticated and have come to the current pricing measures because they maximize revenue.
You seem to be coming from a place where you believe that these sales are being imposed on developers and publishers. They are not. Steam does not say "Your game has to go on sale". They offer publishers the opportunity to partake in sales, and now are even allowing publishers to set the timing on the sales. The publishers are putting their games on sale because they MAKE MORE MONEY that way. You have to understand that. This isn't out of the goodness of their hearts. It helps their bottom line.

You know I think you jumped the gun on your original position, and now you are caught backpedaling. People have already pointed out the different tone presented in this article as opposed to the tone of the article when EA said the same thing. You are now saying nebulous things like "I would like to see a greater appreciation for the value of games" and "We're in a really weird place right now: Guys like Notch and Garry Newman can make millions from indie oddities, while an artist or a coder who worked on BioShock Infinite has virtually no job security."
Personally I don't think there has been a greater appreciation for the value of games ever before. There is more discussion and participation in gaming than ever before, with an explosion of online analysis, conventions celebrating games and the art of creating games, and people entertaining others by playing and commenting on games online.
As far as the disparity between Notch making Fedora hat money on Minecraft and Irrational Games getting shutdown after releasing a well reviewed game, there is no great mystery there and it does not have one thing to do with Steam sales.
The success of Minecraft I could write a thesis paper on, so I won't get into that, but Irrational was closed because their game took too long to make, was too expensive, and didn't make enough money. It is a sign of the ballooning costs of AAA development, not an indictment of sales. This is something that has been facing AAA development for a long time. AAA has always been a hits driven industry, much like big budget Hollywood movies, and if you spend $200 million making your game, as Infinite is rumored to have cost, and take 5 years to develop it, then your game better make $400 million, which is something Bioshock Infinite, despite its relatively healthy sales, was never going to do.
 

goothrie

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Hap2 said:
All I've done is entertain the possibile consequences. Anecdotes are worthless on their own. The constant 'argument' of "I don't want to pay $60 for a game" from people outraged by his statement isn't useful on any level.
But whats the alternative you're suggesting? We should all just... have more money...? Sixty dollars is a lot. In a struggling economy, how do you blame someone for lowering their entertainment budget? Of course this is happening- steam sales are most likely preventing a whole lot of pirating, if anything.

Maybe we're all in a transition of finding out "what are people willing to pay in 2014?" and it takes some experimenting. I don't think things will go constantly downhill, its more of a search for the sweet spot. Never ever will developers and consumers agree completely on prices, so we're just going to find where the two come closest.
 

Spearmaster

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Hap2 said:
Spearmaster said:
Well its to bad that someone buying games is not a charity for game developers. If someone created a product that is not worth the asking price it is not the duty of the consumer to pay asking price just to keep the company above water, its the duty of the developer to go out of business and make way for one of the up and coming developers who may actually be able to make a game worth $60...economics.
Was the point not clear enough? There may be consequences for the deep discounts. Yeah, it's a business, but like I said, it's a two-way street. Buying habits affect the developers, and if people are only going to pay $10 for a game, why should the developer spend countless hours developing something more complex when something simple and cheap will do? Why make something like Mass Effect and lose money when you can make something like Flappy Bird?
Exactly, developers who spend a $60 game's worth of budget on a game that's not worth $60 to enough consumers to stay above water deserve to go out of business or change what they are making unless they embrace sales and price drops to sell more. Even if the same company switched over to make only $10 games I'm sure they would be worth less than $10 to most gamers because they don't have a pricing problem, they have a development problem. Besides they don't have to distribute their games through services that use sales, that is the publishers decision and if it wasn't profitable for them they shouldn't do it, right?
Limited existence cartridges can be priced under supply and demand, low supply, high demand = higher price.

Digital distribution has infinite supply so it can always fill the demand so the price is based purely on the value consumers give the product which varies from person to person from full price to nothing so gradually stepping the price down, by sales or price drops, to meet the value level of more of the people on the scale will ensure more revenue intake. If even then it cant make back its development costs then the developer has no business being in business.
The example was to show that people are terrible at valuing things, not about the differences between digital distribution and physical copies of games.
When a game has unlimited supply the value of the game is based purely on what the consumer thinks its worth. Not a developer whining about how there game is so good why wont people pay $60 for it. There is no set value to be wrong about so people being poor judges of value means nothing when it comes to digital distribution.
 

NuclearKangaroo

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Gorfias said:
Andy Chalk said:
it hollows out the industry: You have major triple-A launches like Titanfall on one end, and low-budget indie stuff on the other, with no sustainable middle ground.
My own personal experience:

I have a backlog of a ton of game I would never have purchased, but for super low prices, I'm thinking, "why not".

The industry must make triple A games if they want me to pay full price, and that does happen. With my huge backlog of games, like "Commando 3, Destination Berlin", I know when something special is coming out and get it at full price. I just paid $60 for Infamous 2nd Son as it is offering me something really new: PS4 dedicated gameplay in an open world.

With my huge backlog of games like "Jason and the Argonauts", that I got for a song, I still paid full price for:

Assissin's Creed 4 for PS4
The Last of Us
Batman Arkham Origins
GTA V
Madden 25

Mostly, these sales simply get me to buy things I might otherwise have ignored, or already own for another system (Saints Row 3, Batman Arkham City), but are so inexpensive, might as well multi-platorm.
commandos 3 is bad and you should feel bad, COMMANDOS 2: MEN OF COURAGE is wheres at!

im serious, its an old but fun RTS/Stealth mix and still holds up relatively well today, it went for a crminally cheap price a few weeks back, i hope you bought it

one of my favorite games of my youth

Major_Tom said:
Dear Cliff Harris, please get Croatia out of economic crisis, then get me a well-paying job and then I will buy your game for full price at launch day. Until then I will buy it 6 months later for 7 euros, thank you very much.
you think thats bad? i live in venezuela, we have the highest inflation in the world, we are only allowed to spend 400 dollars on imports per year, no wait, scratch that, they reduced it to 300 DOLLARS PER FREAKIN' YEAR, im no kidding when i say if it wasnt for these sales i wouldnt be able to buy games legally

and boy do vidya gaems help me deal with the stress created by these nation wide protests because of the motherfucking incompetent government that completely destroyed the economy of the country with the biggest oil reserves in the world, good fucking work
 

Fireaxe

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News flash for Cliff Harris, release prices for games are awful value wise these days. I would never pay 90 dollars for a single player RPG at this point because it's just a poor use of money.
 

Baldr

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fozzy360 said:
Andy Chalk said:
BigTuk said:
Also Sales are always good because in the end.. I may not be able to afford your game at $40 but I can certainly afford it at $10... sure you're getting 30 less than what you wanted but you're getting 10 more than you'd have gotten if I bought nothing at all.
The problem with that perspective is that I *can* afford your game at $40, but I'm not going to pay it because I know that in a month or two it'll be $10.
But devs aren't entitled to money that I'm not willing to fork over for whatever reason I want. As much as you may not like it, consumers aren't going to care for anything short of their concerns over how well they think their money is spent.

Personally, I go for discounts now because of how absurd the industry is for the most part. AAA games get blander and blander, costing $60 for amounts to a mediocre experience. Why pay full price for a game with pre-order DLC and a season pass when I can just wait a year for GOTY version that includes everything released thus far for the game at a much chepaer price? Consumers will always go for what's cheapest, and why shouldn't they?
The less money game publishers make, the less likely they are going to risk money on something that is not proven. It a vicious cycle of more repetitive games that consumers are going to buy at some rate, but make less money for the game publishers. Not buying games at full price hurts everybody.
 

NuclearKangaroo

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goothrie said:
Hap2 said:
All I've done is entertain the possibile consequences. Anecdotes are worthless on their own. The constant 'argument' of "I don't want to pay $60 for a game" from people outraged by his statement isn't useful on any level.
But whats the alternative you're suggesting? We should all just... have more money...? Sixty dollars is a lot. In a struggling economy, how do you blame someone for lowering their entertainment budget? Of course this is happening- steam sales are most likely preventing a whole lot of pirating, if anything.
this, precisely this

i live in a third world country and the highest barrier for acquiring games legally has always been price, sellers have to import the bloody things and therefore they sell em significantly more expensive than say someone in the US, thankfully digital distribution doesnt have to deal with all that importing bullshit, it doesnt seem to stop publishers from locking their games regionally tough, seriously Valve why did you fucking allow that option to those money grabbing publishers

Baldr said:
fozzy360 said:
Andy Chalk said:
BigTuk said:
Also Sales are always good because in the end.. I may not be able to afford your game at $40 but I can certainly afford it at $10... sure you're getting 30 less than what you wanted but you're getting 10 more than you'd have gotten if I bought nothing at all.
The problem with that perspective is that I *can* afford your game at $40, but I'm not going to pay it because I know that in a month or two it'll be $10.
But devs aren't entitled to money that I'm not willing to fork over for whatever reason I want. As much as you may not like it, consumers aren't going to care for anything short of their concerns over how well they think their money is spent.

Personally, I go for discounts now because of how absurd the industry is for the most part. AAA games get blander and blander, costing $60 for amounts to a mediocre experience. Why pay full price for a game with pre-order DLC and a season pass when I can just wait a year for GOTY version that includes everything released thus far for the game at a much chepaer price? Consumers will always go for what's cheapest, and why shouldn't they?
The less money game publishers make, the less likely they are going to risk money on something that is not proven. It a vicious cycle of more repetitive games that consumers are going to buy at some rate, but make less money for the game publishers. Not buying games at full price hurts everybody.
and as a result, more people start getting into the riskier sort of gameplay provided by independent games, which are cheaper, and often longer or more fun than AAA releases, honestly if the AAA industry must milk every single cent from us or release the same repetitive boring games over and over again to stay afloat, its not worth saving

when the lastest entry of a well known and recognized franchise only becomes profitable after 9 months

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-01-17-tomb-raider-finally-achieved-profitability-by-the-end-of-last-year

while a new game made by an unknown small studio was already profitable within the first hour

http://www.destructoid.com/rogue-legacy-became-profitable-within-its-first-hour-on-sale-272074.phtml

you know something is seriously fucking wrong
 

Killclaw Kilrathi

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I don't know if discounts actually hurt launch sales. From my perspective, I will still buy a game at launch if I'm hyped up about it and want to be in on the ground level. If I buy a game that's on discount it's because I was originally never going to buy that game in the first place, so as far as I can tell you either get those customers at a discount or simply lose them as customers.

Does this cause games to be de-valued? Maybe, but perhaps this just means that games are overpriced at launch and this is how the free market regulates the game industry pricing. If a company needs to charge $90AU for a game because of production costs, then maybe that company is being mismanaged and needs to re-tool their business model.

The market will pay what the market will pay, it's up to developers to accommodate that and if they can't work out a way to do it within profit margins, then maybe that game is just not feasible to produce.
 

Rpground

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So what I got is that this guy wants to do away with sales because he thinks they devalue the game somehow thus making less money in the long run...

Is this guy on crack? No, seriously...no sane person would think sales are a bad thing...does this guy fear money or is just so rock hard ignorant that he doesn't understand the basics of marketing...


Hell, some people are just flat broke and absolutely rely on these sales to even get a decent game. Much less alot of games no adays are crap anyway, I would happily pay full price if the game was good and I could afford it...but I'm not going to shell out 60$+ for the next cod or madden! They are not worth the money and never have been for YEARS!

Besides there will always be people that have to have a game on day one, keyword "ALWAYS". Why do you think they even have sales? To ring out a bit more money from those that were either on the fence or just weren't interested or were just to poor to afford it. That's the whole damned point of a sale, TO MAKE MORE MONEY!
 

endtherapture

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Andy Chalk said:
It's a bad thing (and I argue this point primarily as devil's advocate) because it hollows out the industry: You have major triple-A launches like Titanfall on one end, and low-budget indie stuff on the other, with no sustainable middle ground. Indie devs are effectively forced to sell their games at sub-$10 prices almost from the day they launch, and while some of them have done quite well for themselves that way, it's not entirely clear what the long-term effect will be. But it's not unreasonable to suggest that at some point, when these prices become the de facto norm, they'll no longer have the impact they do now. And then what? Free-to-play everything? That's where we're headed already, and it's not a future many people care for. So what's the alternative? What happens to indie devs when gamers finally decide that nobody is worth more than 99 cents?
I think the good point about deep sales is that it can get you invested into a franchise. I had never played TESO until Oblivion came on a deep sale on sale, and I really enjoyed it. Therefore I bought Skyrim, and all it's DLC, for a cheap price.

Same with Bastion. I got Bastion for like a fiver, but when the next game that studio brings out gets released, I'm inclined to pay full price for it. Same with The Witcher. Same with Torchlight, X-COM. etc.

We all have games we are willing to pay full price for - these deep discount sales allows us to get more breadth of playing so we can get invested into games and spend more of them once we know if we will enjoy them or not.
 

gorfias

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NuclearKangaroo said:
commandos 3 is bad and you should feel bad, COMMANDOS 2: MEN OF COURAGE is wheres at!

im serious, its an old but fun RTS/Stealth mix and still holds up relatively well today, it went for a crminally cheap price a few weeks back, i hope you bought it

one of my favorite games of my youth
I got Commandos 2. Doesn't appear to have a sublline (Men of Courage). I'll check it ASAP. EDIT: Yep, it is Men of Courage! Given your enthusiasm, I'll give this a play through ASAP.

I actually started a thread a while back similar to this. I was worried that Humblebundle and Steam sales would ultimately destroy the industry. Someone asked about the last time I spent $60 for a game, given all these sales. I had just bought GTA V. "So," the poster asked, "you can't imagine paying full price except for those times that you do pay full price?"

So, yeah. When I see a game for under $5 and I'm interested, I'll spend $5 I would otherwise not have spent. It's actually all good for the industry because, when a PS4 game comes out, if it's great, I'm going to want it and pay full price (or near. I often spend $20 for new, older console games).
 

Andy Chalk

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Amir Kondori said:
You know I think you jumped the gun on your original position, and now you are caught backpedaling. People have already pointed out the different tone presented in this article as opposed to the tone of the article when EA said the same thing. You are now saying nebulous things like "I would like to see a greater appreciation for the value of games" and "We're in a really weird place right now: Guys like Notch and Garry Newman can make millions from indie oddities, while an artist or a coder who worked on BioShock Infinite has virtually no job security."
I don't think I'm backpedaling. Maybe my positioned has evolved (it has been two years since that EA post, after all) but I think it's more likely a consequence of the inherent complexity of the issue. Clearly the vast majority of gamers in this thread disagree strongly with Cliffski's concerns, and I hope they're right. But I also believe that there are potential long-term effects worthy of discussion beyond "this guy is obviously a greedy, deluded asshole!"

It makes me think of Walmart. We hear so much shit-talk about it and everyone's so anxious to pass around the latest story about how it screws the consumer or its employees, yet the Mart uses its reach and clout to bring a level of affordable affluence to people, helping provide a standard of living that was beyond the reach of previous generations of less-well-off consumers. Why do we hate this and love that?

On a related note: Declaring that you'll never buy a Positech game because the head of the studio expresses an opinion about the future of video games that you don't happen to agree with is pretty silly.
 

Andy Chalk

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I think we're starting to run out of steam on this one ("Steam," ha, I made a funny) but before we wrap it up, here's some interesting commentary from Greg Costikyan, who also doesn't have any answers:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1m17UNDc-nnA6s5LDKFCdehutw9viNFx8p-1CkH6tMws/preview?sle=true [https://docs.google.com/document/d/1m17UNDc-nnA6s5LDKFCdehutw9viNFx8p-1CkH6tMws/preview?sle=true]
 

LeQuack_Is_Back

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TiberiusEsuriens said:
This I think is the heart of the matter. Deep sales, above all else, give a game exposure. Small or indie studios benefit greatly from this, as most of the sale income is pure profit. Bigger AAA publishers have almost absolutely no need for that sort of exposure, and very little of the sale income is profit - most of it gets thrown to licensing and keeping the lights on.

It's healthy to recognize that sales aren't black/white good/bad, but that it all depends. It IS a great short term thing for buyers, but there are too many pieces that too few people are willing to recognize, and that hopefully will change. This knowledge is important, so people should really stop screaming one way or the other, about how holy or evil sales are.
I just need to throw this out there, for the sake of my own sanity. "Pure profit" doesn't bloody exist. Profit is, by definition, a derived value.

Otherwise, I sort of agree with the dev. Some games aren't worth the asking price, fair enough. But plenty of people, myself included, have fallen into 'buying a discount' rather than 'buying a game'.
 

DataSnake

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Andy Chalk said:
Harris cites a number of reasons for his stance but they can be boiled down in general to a belief that big price reductions devalue games in a number of ways. They create the perception that games are only worth $5 or $10, which in turn encourages gamers to ignore them at launch and walk away from them the moment they run into difficulty, rather than persevering and finishing them. They also commodify games, making purchase decisions about price rather than quality, with the knock-off effect of "handing power" to people who run the sales as opposed to those who actually make the games.
No, the fact that I'm on a budget makes that happen, and it doesn't negate the effect of quality. To use a deliberately extreme example, if you give me a choice between Kane & Lynch 2 and Shadow Warrior at $20 each, it's time for some Wang. Jack the price on Shadow Warrior up to $500, and I can't buy it, no matter how great it is[footnote]pretty damn great, incidentally[/footnote], but that doesn't mean I'll be picking up Kane & Lynch 2 either, even if they drop the price to $1. A turd that's on sale is still a turd, after all.

EDIT:
LeQuack_Is_Back said:
I just need to throw this out there, for the sake of my own sanity. "Pure profit" doesn't bloody exist. Profit is, by definition, a derived value.
A more accurate phrase than "pure profit" would be "very high CM ratio". For a digital download, the CM ratio is pretty close to 100%, given the extremely low marginal cost of distributing one more copy.
 

Eldritch Warlord

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It's almost funny the number of people saying: "Well games aren't worth full price anyway!" Do you not realize that this attitude is precisely what the guy from Positech is talking about?

As a consumer I agree with you, in fact I have a personal rule to never buy anything on Steam that is not on sale. It's just not smart when for any given title it's likely only a matter of weeks before it's half-off or more. There's no luxury good on the planet that's entertaining enough for having it a few weeks sooner to be worth paying double. However, I also buy a great many games through Battle.net or Xbox LIVE (also Nintendo games). Deep discounts for these do happen, but not with great frequency and usually it takes the better part of a year after initial release. Because of this I'm more likely to make purchases at full price.

So what I'm saying is that he has a legitimate point. The existence of Steam sales discourages me from buying things at full price, even though I am clearly willing to buy many of the same sorts of games I buy on Steam at full price. What the implications of this shift in my buying habits are I do not know, but I do know that it is not as simple as "But the sales actually generate more revenue, this guy is stupid and greedy!" How do we determine revenue lost from people like me who probably would buy a game at full price (FTL, Endless Space, Crusader Kings II, and Dungeon Defenders are some specific examples) were huge sales not sure to be soon, or people who would purchase at a more modest discount?
 

Andy Chalk

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BigTuk said:
Now let's disregard the simple fact that only an idiot pays launch day prices for a game
Umm.

Listen, I'm all about painting with a broad brush, but that's a bit much. There are perfectly good reasons for buying a game on launch day, and I do it myself - not very often, but when I have enough interest in a game and confidence in the team behind it, I'll take the leap. Hell, I put money into Kickstarters for games that don't even exist yet - what does that make me?