Why cheap games are hurting gaming

This has been discussed on thousands of forums and people way smarter than me have given reasons why selling games at $0.99 on the App Store is the future and others why it will hurt gaming and developers.

I’m giving my opinion as both a developer and a consumer.

As a consumer

As a consumer I feel like having thousands of games at that price and/or free makes me not appreciate any of them, there’s way too many and I usually get bothered easily. Now, note that this is a personal problem of mine since most people can still play hours and hours of those games even though they have dozens of them, but I’m pretty sure more feel the same.

Usually the games I play longer and have more fun with are the ones I buy via PC, either mainstream like Portal 2 or indie games like Super Meat Boy, why? Not because they are better or worse games, but because I spent €30 on Portal 2 and €10 on Super Meat Boy. Play them for a couple of weeks and felt rewarded. The feeling was even better back when I was a kid, it was way hard to buy those SNES cartridges but when enough money was gathered I played them for months.

So what makes me feel more compelled to play these games? Probably the fact that I had to hand picked them since I’m not swimming in money. I had to work hard for that money, decided to spend it on some digital entertainment and got rewarded, that is all part of the process. Games are supposed to entertain you and give you a sense of achievement. I think now days they replaced that with actual “Achievements” and “GamerScore”‘s

As a developer

Applying the same rules as above, people have access to way too many games, and they feel like for $0.99 they have the right to a 10+ hours game, monthly updates with new free content so they feel compelled to play your game. If not you app is a crap even though most of the games on the App Store are worth much more than $0.99. But they don’t see it that way.
Surviving in that ecosystem is hard and although you may (on a long shot of pure luck) make a couple of millions, for me it’s sad to sell this kind of software this cheap.

Take a look at this example. If you don’t know the Broken Sword series I suggest you grab a copy at any digital publisher. The first 2 games are awesome, both of them are pretty long since it’s a point ‘n click adventure, a lot of thinking, puzzles and cut-scenes.

Now look at this comment on the Mac App Store:

He feels like the game has a “lite” feel? For $7.99 it’s a great game, doesn’t feel lite to me, but this user is too spoiled.
He doesn’t comment anything else. Now imagine the next customer who walks by, doesn’t know the game and reads that, “oh, a pretty game but this other buyer complains that it may be a sort of rip-off, a lite version in disguise”.

I just woke up a couple of minutes ago so most of this may not make any sense.

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  • 100% on the nose…. Just one nit-pick: “Why cheap games are hurt gaming” should be “Why cheap games are hurting gaming”…

    The main problem in my opinion is that $0.99 games either have to sell thousands of units to make a profit, or be amateur by definition… which makes an increased pressure on the game developer… and in the middle of the “amateur” ones, there’s some games that aren’t like that, that break the mould and that should be played… of course, market dictates that those will usually rise up to the top, but that doesn’t always happens…

    But I’m not sure if the problem is the $0.99 game, or the $100 registration fee on the iTunes store…

  • I was going for the reversed argument on the $100 fee…

    My point is that the fact that it is so low will generate lots of “noise” in the app stores… Games that have no place there will obscure the good ones…

    Of course, that might not be a problem, depends on the individual mindset, but for me it doesn’t even make me want to go into the app store… either I hear about a specific game/app somewhere, or I don’t go looking for it… too much crap to dig through… 🙂

  • My point is, if low-end games were a bit pricier (above $3 or so), and the fee was a bit higher (above $200), that would probably reduce noise in the stores and make it more viable for “serious” developers to be profitable…

    Of course, I have absolutely no “scientific” data to support this claim, just a gut feeling… 🙂

  • Well, doesn’t it apply to all types of games, regardless of the price? Let’s see for instance, the last C&C 4 was a total rip off, but for the same price Mass Effect was amazing. Everyone is free to put the price tag they want on their stuff, either is 0.99 or 99.99. What the apple store lacks (among other things) is a way to comment and filter comments. That comment is an example of someone just trolling, but I don’t think it should be a reason to think that cheap games hurt the industry.
    Sure games are cheap, but we must not forget where we are playing them. Is just a phone. It does not give the same experience as a PC or console does. Not in a long shot.
    Actually for me I would consider 8 dolars a rip off for broken sword as its way cheaper and a overall better experience to get them on pc.

    Just my 2 cents.

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