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

F-I-D-O

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Feb 18, 2010
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Shamanic Rhythm said:
Oh hey, it's this argument again.

They create the perception that games are only worth $5 or $10
To individual consumers, some of them may only be worth that much. Or are you saying you're against free market economics? Funny stance for someone who publishes the game 'Democracy' ;)
That's capitalism ideas. Democracy is a political system, not an economic system ;)
which in turn encourages gamers to ignore them at launch
Is there any reason why that's a problem other than because you'll get less money for them?
A bad first week or month can drive a smaller developer out of business. No one who works on the game cares if the publisher puts it on sale come December if a flop in June shut down the studio. If a company release its game at $30, and few people buy it thinking it'll go on sale in a few months, that can lead to layoffs or just one fewer game maker. That's why its a problem.
and walk away from them the moment they run into difficulty, rather than persevering and finishing them.
This one is bullshit. I paid three dollars for Faster Than Light, a 70% discount, and I persevered. I kept playing despite flying ships that never found extra weapons, got boarded by FIVE mantis at once, had a missile knock out my teleported while all my guys were on the enemy ship, etc... why? Because it's a good game.
This complaint does have some merit, but I know I've stopped playing Humble Bundle games or Steam games because I picked them up for dirt cheap in addition for something I actually wanted, got frustrated, and stopped (see most adventure games, most PC racing games, and specifically VVVVVV). I didn't see a reason to continue, or find some artistic theme or point (adventure games more so than the other examples), as I hadn't spent much on the game. If the developer had something to say, I missed it to move on to my back catalog.
That said, games do need to be worthy of keeping my attention and time. If I'm looking for excuses to get out of a game (more actively than a gradual interest loss as time goes on), the developers failed.
Yet, your FTL example is interesting. Roguelikes are marketing and designed as incredible challenging games. No one complains when Dark Souls is hard, because its expected. By the same token, FTL has a quick single player. If someone bought it expected a huge story driven narrative and complained, they'd be laughed out of the room for buying it for the wrong reasons. Saying FTL lives up to its promises made in advertising doesn't really help the argument here. A better example would be someone who bought Hotline Miami and quit due to the difficulty. They made have expected the visceral combat (which the steam page advertises), but not the quick deaths or TERRIBLE stealth level. I could easily see someone throwing away the game in disgust during a boss fight or the hospital, missing out on the point and message emphasized in the end game.
They also commodify games,
Because we all know right now they're not a commodity. Fascinating.
Well, a developer's a little more likely to rely on the interpretation that games are art more than generic commodities, and could feel a shift of "commodifying" games would only lead to games rolling out like Combo #5, instead of allowing innovation and change in the industry. Part of this could be an over inflated sense of self worth, the other could be trying to legitimize a line of work, and fearing games being turned into commodities just undermines that whole effort.
making purchase decisions about price rather than quality,
Again with this straw man. It's about price to quality ratio.
While he does pull this stance out of his ass with no supporting evidence, I can see his point. A look at TotalBiscuit's recent SaleBoxes sees him make multiple points that he wouldn't recommend game X at the normal price, but its worth it at heavy discount Y. This does emphasize the price over the quality, and TotalBiscuit is just one (big) personality among many who share that opinion.
Personally, I believe that in a price/quality ratio, as I don't even want to spend one dollar on a bad game (cough Hydrophobia cough), but I see the quoted view spreading. Just recently, one of my friends (a massive fan of Dark Souls) was talking about how he didn't want to get Dark Souls II because he knew it would be really good (and worth it to him) at $60, but would be even better at $30 in a few months. He didn't care about how much fun he expected to have with the game, but that its price was at $60.
with the knock-off effect of "handing power" to people who run the sales as opposed to those who actually make the games.
And yet he goes on to admit that, presumably because of his own decision, his game has never been discounted below 50%. Sounds like he retains more than enough power.
I agree with this, especially because Steam's new approach is to give developers/publishers (not sure who controls it, kind of an important distinction) control. However, he still doesn't have enough power to direct his games future, as he is reliant on Steam (or other distributors) giving a spotlight on deals (in featured items or dailies on the front page).

Overall, I see the Positech guy has a point, but it certainly won't be a popular one. Targeting a charitable organization is just bad form, and he neglects people who can't reliably spend even $30 on a game. I've bought into plenty of series and developers off of a steam sale, looking forward to future games I would have never cared about. It seems that he's deciding to expand on only the negative aspects on deep sales, and his lack of solid data hurts his stance. I'd be interesting to see if Valve or GOG ever release stats on how game sales or general purchase statistics have changed as sales become more regular and standard.
 

Amir Kondori

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Andy Chalk said:
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.
I have never said I wouldn't buy a Positech game, as Cliff is clearly a creative type and not an economist and his views on game pricing don't bother me one bit, but it is not silly for people to not want to support someone who has views they don't agree with.
Is it silly to stop buying food at Chic-fil-A if you support gay rights? Is it silly to stop buy products produced by the Koch brothers because of their conservative political activities? While sales on video games are not on the same level of importance as those examples it is a little condescending to say that not financially supporting a company run by someone whose views you disagree with is silly.
Otherwise a thoughtful response. The Walmart thing I won't touch with a 10' pole, but suffice to say I don't think it is evil.
 

Spartan448

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I would be much more inclined to listen to these people if they made a game that was something more than "Point-and-click Unrealistic American Liberal-Democrat Biased Politics Simulator 2013".
 

Cerebrawl

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Eldritch Warlord said:
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
This might be a shocker to you, but: they never were. Not even 20 or 30 years ago.

Piracy was also a response to games being too damn expensive. Another response was people having tiny games libraries and only picking the games with the most longevity, because anything else would be stupid.

But even 20 years ago we had bargain bins with indies and old games, and second hand games, we also had freeware and shareware games. Games like Doom and Quake were big hits in large part because they were shareware games, and the full versions didn't cost much either.

Even as a teenager with a tiny allowance I remember saving up for like 2 months for a big box game occasionally, though mostly I bought a few bargain bin games, second hand games, or blank floppy discs... ah Amiga days *nostalgia*.

Let me run one thing by you again: I bought second hand games for Amiga, and later for PC, in shops. That was a thing. It's one of the things that got killed by DRM, specifically by online activations. (You thought those were to combat piracy? Pfft).

I still have a few old boxed games I bought second hand for $5-10. Of course with a second hand sale the developer gets absolutely nothing.

But here's some numbers from Valve about what kind of revenue on average, sales generate(oldish numbers, 2009s holiday sale):

The massive Steam holiday sale was also a big win for Valve and its partners. The following holiday sales data was released, showing the sales breakdown organized by price reduction:

10% sale = 35% increase in sales (real dollars, not units shipped)
25% sale = 245% increase in sales
50% sale = 320% increase in sales
75% sale = 1470% increase in sales
As noted those numbers are revenue, not units.

We've also had several indies commenting on how massively they've benefited from sales. Both in the huge spikes during the sales, but also experiencing a doubling of normal sales continuing for weeks after the sales. Giving their games "long tails", in other words keep selling after they'd normally had already sold all they would.

We've even had developers saying that an 8 hour sales windows got them as much revenue as everything it had made since its release! (specifically pixeljunk, at a 90% discount!)
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=

It also tends to give them fanbases that buy their next game, often at launch, at full price or minimal launch discounts.
http://indiegames.com/2012/07/steam_sales_how_deep_discounts.html

We've had Introversion(Defcon, Darwinia, etc) say steam sales saved their company!
http://kotaku.com/5620259/steam-sale-saves-developer
 

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
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Amir Kondori said:
I have never said I wouldn't buy a Positech game, as Cliff is clearly a creative type and not an economist and his views on game pricing don't bother me one bit, but it is not silly for people to not want to support someone who has views they don't agree with.
Is it silly to stop buying food at Chic-fil-A if you support gay rights? Is it silly to stop buy products produced by the Koch brothers because of their conservative political activities? While sales on video games are not on the same level of importance as those examples it is a little condescending to say that not financially supporting a company run by someone whose views you disagree with is silly.
I really don't think you can equate Harris' concerns about the long-term impact of deep-discount video games sales with the explicitly anti-gay agenda of Chic-fil-A. Sure, people have the right to do with their money as they please, and if they were saying, "I won't buy a Positech game unless he offers it in a big Steam sale and since he says he won't, that's that," I'd have an easier time with it. But that's not the case. Harris isn't even actively fighting big sales (as if he somehow could), it's really more of an intellectual exercise, but some of the responses has been remarkably venomous.
 

Steve Waltz

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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?
Yes, PC games are straying from that $60.00 price tag, but that's the price of going digital.

I'm willing to pay the $60.00 for a copy that's on a disk; extra money went into publishing that game. However, there's no way I'm going to pay full price for a digital release. When buying a digital game for a full price I feel robbed. There is no way in heck that a PS3 copy of Bioshock Infinite should cost as much as a digital copy. Yes, it's the same game, but far less money was put into publishing and so the money just isn't there when it comes to digital games. Heck, if those digital copies *aren't* bought on sale then the company is getting EXTRA money from digital purchases as far as I'm concerned.

Yes, some indie games are being sold for cheaper than they're worth, but the fact is that digital games don't have the same value as physical copies because less money was put into publishing them. Still, you can't openly start selling digital copies of AAA games for less than $60 at launch because that might deter people from buying consoles and those that do have consoles might switch over to PC for the cheaper prices of games. Currently, these sales are a way for consumers to get digital copies of games at fair prices and, at the same time, keeping the consoles alive and well.
 

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
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Steve Waltz said:
I'm willing to pay the $60.00 for a copy that's on a disk; extra money went into publishing that game. However, there's no way I'm going to pay full price for a digital release. When buying a digital game for a full price I feel robbed.
This is a point I very strongly agree with. A $60 game in a box with a disc, a manual and whatever else (although there's rarely much else these days) should not be a $60 game on Steam. Regardless of the relative stability (or even shrinkage) of game prices over the years, digitally-distributed games should be cheaper - probably substantially cheaper - than boxed.

It's a system you actually see reversed with a some indie games, which are released at regular price on Steam, GamersGate, etc., and then in a higher-priced boxed edition for serious fans. In those cases, the lower-priced digital release doesn't gut retail sales because the boxes aren't available through conventional channels anyway, but it does demonstrate that a game in the box is "worth" more than a game on Steam. (And also that boxed games can make money over and above digital releases if they're handled properly.)
 

UltimatheChosen

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Exterminas said:
Yesterday I went to our basement to pick up some apples we stored there from last fall. If you keep them dry they remain edible well over half a year. Sure, they get a bit wrinkly, but overall we can pretty much each apples from our garden all year long.

Those apples from my garden keep their value longer than the average video game these days. Half a year after a game is released, it'll be 50% off, if not more. My apples don't spoil that fast.

My apples also don't required hundreds of people to work for them or millions of dollars. That makes me think that there is some sort of point to this.
There's actually a very important difference here.

If you're going to grow and sell apples, the labor investment per apple remains roughly the same. By contrast, with videogames (or basically any creative effort), you create it once, then you can make infinite copies at a very low unit cost, particularly with digital distribution.

This means that games have the potential to continue selling indefinitely, because you don't need to put in the same amount of labor for each copy of the game.

At this point, basically everyone that was willing to pay 60 bucks for Elder Scrolls: Oblivion bought it years ago. So they drop the price and get sales from people that want the game, but not THAT much. It's a huge boon to the companies, because if they try the game and like it, they'll probably want to buy later games from that series, possibly even at full price.
 

alj

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Nov 20, 2009
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I usually respect what this guy has to say, and i think the problem is he has far far too much faith in humanity.

Oo take this for example http://store.steampowered.com/app/252230/ that is 82.51 m****r-f*****g dollars in the UK and it is total total garbage. When you see prices like that for utter garbage then you have to wonder why anyone would by any game at the full price. With review embargo until the day its out, overpriced dlc that comes out over a year pre order bonuses that you cannot get all of as they have exclusives at steam gamestop greenman and so on you would be stupid to not wait until the game of the year edition comes out and its on sale.

And now we have the example of the the demo you pay for Metal Gear: Ground Zeros, costing just 39.61 dollars in the UK you can get a whole 90 mins of content with no real story and a few rehashed side mission on the same map.

Why not just put some s**t in a DVD case and sell me that for 30 quid.

I am sorry but until there is a way to return digital goods then i am afraid i will wait until most titles go on sale , i am in no rush.
 
Apr 5, 2008
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Although a lot of the guy's comments are true, I still disagree with the conclusion. The fact is that a game, like a car, does not hold its value forever. Before DDPs, a game would eventually disappear from stores entirely, never to be seen again. Now they stay around forever, but that doesn't mean the price should stay high.

When a game is released, it's full priced and undiscounted. In this stage of its life it will make more money than it will ever thereafter. For 6 months it should stay full priced and undiscounted to maximise this. After that point, it's fair to say that everyone who was going to buy it at full price already has so it's worth dropping it down a bit to a new, lower tier (say from $60 to $40). Here it can stay for another 6-18 months by which point anyone who was going to buy it at this price has already done so. At this point, unless it's still supported with active development it should go in the bargain bin for the remainder of its life.

A game that's two years old will not get its original, full asking price as when it was first released....despite Activision's attempts to try.

From a personal viewpoint, the way publishers handle DLC now is what has put me right off buying releases new. I pay full price for a game, extra for Day 1 DLC and more for all the nickel and diming that goes on after. No, I will not. Now I wait till the game's older and buy everything together in one, without the bullshit and the waiting. Saints Row IV is a perfect example....it's still in the new DLC every month phase. I want to play it quite badly, but I'll wait till I can get a Saints Row IV Complete for one flat price, everything included.
 

Karadalis

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I would also like to point out that with digital goods you can make money of off a game for years after its release for little to no costs for yourselfe. Heck look at all the crap that was piled onto steam from far back as 1998 recently for crying out loud. Or GoGs entire business model.

You simply dont have that with physicall sales.

So even if the games sell for "less" they do so for a way longer time then physicall copies ever will because after the discs are out of print.. thats it. The publisher and indirectly the Devs wont earn any more money no matter how many discs are still being on the market.

With digital distribution the publishers and Devs will earn money for years to come of their games. Sure it might be down to 5 dollars a pop after 2 years but that 5 still beats a 0

Also sales data has shown time and time again that publishers and Devs make boatloads of cash from them.. more so then perhaps in the entirety of the games pre sale live.

Now you might argue they would have made more if everyone bought it at its original price tag.. to wich i say thats nonsense.. its the same school of thought that says every pirated copy is a lost sale. Its not that black and white.

Also Dev studios that work under Publishers usually dont really benefit from the sales numbers directly anyways. It simply comes down to if the publisher thinks the game was a success or not (Resident evil 6 sold like what? Couple million copies and was still deemed a failure? And that had nothing to do with deep sales), if it did they keep their jobs.. if it didnt they will go the way of bullfrog most likely. Sales only help these devs keeping their jobs because profit sky rockets during sales as again the numbers have shown.

So no.. sales do not threaten Devs... just like used sales dont threaten anyones livelyhood (Or else ebay and amazon would be seen as the greatest industry destroying villains of all times)

So where is the question? Everyone profits from these sales.

Should we be forced to pay premium price just simply because? Because waht exactly? Because its suposed to be art? Heck movie DvDs sell for below 10 dollars after a couple of months and i dont hear Disney lamenting that fact. Because it "devalues" the game?

Im sorry but its not the creator of an item that defines the value of an item, its the customers. And in todays market many people just dont feel that games are worth the premium price anymore, to wich i partially blame the simply massive oversaturation of the market.

Any indie dev studio with half a concept seems to be able to make it onto steam nowadays... look at the early access section thats constantly growing. With so much to choose from but a limited budged you expect people to pay top dollar for each and every one of those halfbaked games that maybe someday could turn into a shining jewel or turn into a pile of ash and cinders?

The risks of the modern gaming market + the hostility towards customers are more then enough to say that the games aint worth 60 to 50 dollars/euros a piece
 

coheedswicked

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I'm sorry but the price I pay for the game has nothing to do with how much time I put into it or how much I value the game.

I bought the new Tomb Raider at full price (I really thought it was going to be good) and put 7 hours into it... never finished the game.

I spent $2.50 on Just Cause 2, I played it for 65 hours. Finished the game and them some.

TF2, which i got when it was F2P. 217 hours.

The value of the game is apparent when you play it regardless of what you pay for it
 

Xisin

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Sep 1, 2009
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I haven't bought a game at full price for almost 5 years now. Seems fairly pointless with DLCs, day one launch issues, terrible servers, short playtimes(4hours for $60 is ludicrous) and etc. If I'm interested I always wait until the last DLC comes out and the entire collection is on sale. Sorry Mr. Harris but my gaming budget is about $100 a year and I'd like it to last the entire year, not just 8 hours.
 

jpoon

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I think most games these days are worth only $5 to $10 (barring a very select few). If you pull out your rubber game stamper you shouldn't expect people to want to pay too much.
 

JochemHippie

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Jan 9, 2012
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It's rare for games to be worth the Launch price. Most games I won't even touch without them being on a very, very serious discount.