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Bigdeadbug

Pay what you want! Does it have a serious future in gaming?

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Well first let me explain what pay what you want actually means. Essentially a developer puts a game out and asks the perspective player how much money they deserve to give for it. Now this has been done a few times in the music industry (not sure if it was a success there though) but has now moved into the games industry with the most prominent being the [url="http://www.humblebundle.com/"]Humble Indie Bundle[/url]. Now so far as i know it has been a success in that case since there on their 3rd (?) instalment of the promotion. I would almost certainly put down to the quality of the games they use and the fact it's for charity.

What I am asking specifically is if such a system can or should be used in gaming in general, not just in these "special" cases. Why would I ask this? Well I happened across [url="http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/10/05/pay-what-you-want-sadface-for-proun/#comment-page-2"]this RPS[/url] article which lead to [url="http://joostdevblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/proun-is-big-success-pay-what-you-want.html"]this article[/url] by an "indie developer" (I use quotes because he implies he's more of a hobbyist than a full time developer). It's an interesting read although I don't agree with his conclusion, I feel it's more down to the lack of content and niche style of the game that I didn't do better, and some of his working is just down right confusing, for instance he talks about piracy although he seems to made it legally possible to get the game for free.

So back on topic. Do you think such a system has a place in gaming say for indie developers or even larger studios either in its original form or in the form now used by Joost "Oogst" van Dongen?

Personally, although It would be nice to rely on peoples good will, I think the original version works a lot better in specific cases like that of the HIB. On the other hand the one now used by Joost could be a good way for an indie developer to sell at a reasonable price (say $5) but also have optional tips.

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From what I understood on the piracy issue, the game was available legally for free but people still downloaded it via a non-official route. I imagine what's [i]implied[/i] in that statement is the people downloaded the game without even looking at the price.

I think the system has huge potential for indie developers. Both in the individual sense and in the indie bundle sense. I'm less convinced that people would be as generous towards an EA or Activision released game.

It'll be interesting to see what the data says in the future as he is changing it to a $1 minimum pay what you want system. My instinct is to think that selling at $1 or $5 and then soliciting tips on top of that price is going to be less fruitful than truly being pwyw. But it's cool to hear that someone is putting that plan into action rather than it just being theoretical.

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[quote name='j-locke' timestamp='1317855303' post='4869588']
From what I understood on the piracy issue, the game was available legally for free but people still downloaded it via a non-official route. I imagine what's [i]implied[/i] in that statement is the people downloaded the game without even looking at the price.

I think the system has huge potential for indie developers. Both in the individual sense and in the indie bundle sense. I'm less convinced that people would be as generous towards an EA or Activision released game.

It'll be interesting to see what the data says in the future as he is changing it to a $1 minimum pay what you want system. My instinct is to think that selling at $1 or $5 and then soliciting tips on top of that price is going to be less fruitful than truly being pwyw. But it's cool to hear that someone is putting that plan into action rather than it just being theoretical.


[/quote]

Setting the minimum payment to $1 might raise the number of paying customers slightly, but the vast majority of $0 customers were probably unable or unwilling to go through the hassle of paying anyway which would only result in them either going the piracy route or not playing the game, I think getting the game onto a service such as steam where a large number of users allready have all the details necessary for a purchase stored would have a far greater impact on revenue even if the price was fixed at $4.99 or even higher. (I found myself buying far more games online since my bank started generated short duration VISA numbers for me with fixed amount of money) (I can basically log onto my bank, generate a new visa number with a $x limit on it and set its expiry date and then use that for the transaction which means that i: 1) Don't have to trust the online store with more than the amount needed for that specific purchase and 2) I don't have to lift my ass to grab my real creditcard), it is however still far more of a hassle than it is to buy a game on steam (Which has my real CC number stored so i just have to click on the game i want), The other thing i think more online stores should do is to support payment via SMS (Most kids have a mobile phone, most don't have a credit or debit card, if you want them to buy your game its probably a good idea to provide a payment method they can actually use, i know it can be quite a hassle to set it up to work in most major countries and the transaction fees can be a bit silly but its probably still worth trying, especially if you're targeting a younger crowd)

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[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1317853425' post='4869582']
1) What I am asking specifically is if such a system can or should be used in gaming in general, not just in these "special" cases.
2) Do you think such a system has a place in gaming say for indie developers
3) or even larger studios
[/quote]
You need to undersand that this is not a new business model.

At it's core this is a barter method where the merchant and buyer negotiate a price. In this case it is the extreme where the seller only sets a minimal bound and lets the buyer negotiate with his conscience. In the modern world it is much less frequent. Historically there were always people involved in the transactions. When people dealt with each other face-to-face you could negotiate a cost easily. When ordering from catalogs (including older software catalogs) you could buy through mail order and write a check; attach a note with the check saying "I love you guys, here is a big tip because I think you are worth it. Keep being awesome!" Or you could send in insufficiant funds and a note explaining why that should be enough and asking for the goods at the reduced cost.

It wasn't until companies grew into international conglomerates that we saw the current form of standardized pricing, and it wasn't until automated money transactions that the human-to-human appeals and tips (extra money because it is awesome) started to go away.Even that is a negotiated price, but at the opposite end of the spectrum where the seller sets a price and the buyer decides to take it or leave it.

1) The terms "can" and "should" are very subjective. Can they be? Obviously the answer is yes. Should they be? That is a bigger issue of a policy debate that is going to vary based on the specifics. What may be good for one may be bad for another.

2) Yes, this is a better model for hobbyists and small indie studios. It can (through some implementations) give the customer a better chance to look at the software and determine the value to them personally. It was used extensively in the shareware days when people would be able to try the software for a while, and then based on what kind of user they were (corporate user, home user with minimal use, or enthusiast who used it extensively) could pay different amounts. Businesses would be told to pay a higher standard rate. Home users were on the honor system to send what they felt it was worth. For quite a few programs this was a very successful model.

3) No, this is not a good model for large developers, and a very bad model for publishers. You would have a difficult time convincing the major brick-and-mortar retailers (gamestop, walmart, target, toys r us, etc) to keep your game on the shelves when consumers can get a legal copy for $0.01 on the Internet. It would be difficult for many existing contracts through Valve or Amazon or other online distributors. It would seriously complicate issues of billing and bookkeeping. It would require an even more complex audit trail for any business to ensure compliance with tax laws and money laundering laws in every country they do business. It would directly result in many more audits for publishers by their sources; that would drive up costs, although the extra audits would likely be a good thing overall.


You can do a little more homework on how it worked in the Shareware world back in its heyday. The major shareware organizations still exist and have extensive libraries and market research that can help explain what works, what doesn't, and why.

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[quote]
I believe this is more of a Business question than a Design question. So that's why I'm moving this.[/quote]

I sat there for a few minutes before I posted wondering if it would be better suited in another forum. Thought better of it in the end. Silly me :rolleyes:.

[quote]
From what I understood on the piracy issue, the game was available legally for free but people still downloaded it via a non-official route. I imagine what's implied in that statement is the people downloaded the game without even looking at the price.[/quote]

My problem was that if you can get a version of the game for free the word piracy (a somewhat loaded word anyway) seems out of place and frankly wrong. To me piracy implies a person acquired a game for free which they should have paid for. Yes there may be cases of people getting it for free without realising you could pay for it but that feels more like the game went viral (can't think of a better work at the moment) especially considering part of the buzz around the game was the PWYW method so I would bet most people who played if where aware you [i]could[/i] pay.

@frob, thanks for all the information I'll be sure to have a look at the Shareware models. I agree that I can't see a big publisher/designer using this sort of method (outside of a charity stunt anyway).

It wasn't so much that I thought it was a something revolutionary or new more that it's somewhat topical given the fact there are two more recent examples of the successful and not so successful use of the business model. Although I'll admit I didn't realise how much such a system has in common with barter methods. Not to sure why seems too obvious now.

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You also have to take into consideration the average economy of the targeted audience of a given product. When you have a huge financial problem(such as here in the US and in the UK), generally people will spend less on products they don't need, especially if given the option to name their price. This presents a problem, as it changes the way people value things. A person might spend $2 on something because they weren't sure about it, then came to realize that they really liked it, but already allocated funds for it so they may feel nothing as they were given the option to name their price. In some ways "you get what you pay for", but this doesn't necessarily apply to a complete product without some kind of structured payment system, so tread carefully.

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