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Right way to handle people complaining about price?

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When glancing over Gamasutra today I found this: http://steamcommunity.com/app/274500/discussions/0/405691491102673468/?tscn=1456139312#c405692224242982114

 

For everyone that cannot view Steam, or doesn't want to read it, its basically a guy saying 20 bucks is too much for a game, 15 would be more appropriate, and then someone with a less nice comment saying somethin like 10£ being more appropriate, and questioning the quality of the game.

 

Response by the dev is a longwinding answer about:

  • How long it took them to develop the game (5 years)
  • How many people invested how much time into it (4 guys, number-too-long-to-remember hours)
  • That the game was built from scratch
  • What else costs 20 bucks or more
  • How big the game is (here it gets quite impressive actually, pretty big maps)
  • and then one sentence indicating the dev getting weight and a drinking problem in the process of the development.

All in all a mixed bag. Some useful information (the game is actually quite big), some I am indifferent about (we all know you can waste 20 bucks for 2 hours at the cinema... pears and apples), and some I would rather have left out (Who cares if the game is written from scratch? Its their mistake for not using an existing engine (given that this actually added a lot to the development time)! Who cares about the devs personal problems? Sad for him, but really, his decision to try and develop a big game with 4 guys in 5 years)....

I think he stayed civil, and he was lucky, the original commenter actually came back, congratulated the dev team on their achievement and said that he sees the points made and now is willing to spend 20 bucks.

 

 

But was this really the best way to handle this quite delicate question about perceived value?

 

Personally, I see 2 ways of handling the situation:

 

  1. Compare to similar games: Make a list of games similar to yours. List their prices. If your game falls inside the range, you have made the only point really needed for a customer. Of course only compare features... I wouldn't want to try to gauge quality.
  2. Ask the commenter for more details: see exactly WHY he thinks your game is not worth it. If you have the balls, keep it public. But I personally don't think it would be too much to ask for a private conversation. See why the commenter thinks your game is not worth the asking price. Ask him if he actually bought and played it. If yes, he might have valuable input about your games quality and faults. If not, he might have valuable input about your games marketing and storefront.

 

I would first go with option 2. I don't think as a small dev you can miss any opportunity of user feedback. And the naysayers, as long as they are legitimate and not trolls, are just as valuable as your fans.

Ideally there will be a discussion and the commenter arguments sort themselves out ("game is too small" - "did we mention the 2 squaremile maps?")... if the commenter really has a point, and has not bought the game yet, maybe there is something wrong with your storepage? Maybe you do not communicate the value of your game well enough? How many people thought just as the one vocal naysayer, but didn't go the extra mile and complain about it in the comments?

 

 

What do you think would be the best way to handle this?

Edited by Gian-Reto

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The best way to handle this is to do market research BEFORE you show off the price to customers.

 

Personally I find far too many companies are way over pricing their early access. They put things up which are 'interesting' and I'm tempted to buy, but then they price it at $20-30 before the project is even finished, and I walk right on by.

 

Some will argue that I'm suggesting a 'race to the bottom' pricing and that I'm only buying under priced games... But honestly I find the market is burning itself with a lack of quality control and gate keeping. I paid $20 for a few early access games in the past, which looked like simple but interesting projects, and the developers seemed to be on the level with content out the door already in a playable fashion, and I expected them to be able to carry on their development...

 

And then they dropped the project and left me with a horribly buggy only sort of playable and feature complete application that wasn't nearly as great of a deal as it first looked.

 

So now when i see someone asking for more than a few dollars on a project? ... Meh. I'll spend my money at lower risk points. Far cheaper titles that are relying on bulk sales where I won't feel nearly as burned if it flops, or on mature AAA content well after its release date that still got good reviews. 

 

Ah, fair point... the game linked actually still is in early access.

 

But the problem to me here is more early access than having to pay 20$ for what looks like a game that might be worth the money. I have no idea how feature complete their game is, or how many bugs are left.

And having heard stories about devs abandoning their projects in early access, I would also avoid it as a customer.

 

Early access to me sounds like a paid Beta test... which, really, sounds off. It might be extremly benefical to the dev, but for the customer, its a huge risk. Very similar to crowdfunding actually.

 

 

I am not sure though how well a reduced price during early access, and then a higher price for the release version would go down with customers. Would Steam allow you to set your early access price at 15$, and then go up to 20$ for the final version?

 

That might be a double incentive to the early adopters (get the game with less risk as you paid less for it, get the game while it is still cheaper)...

Edited by Gian-Reto

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I often find that converting something into X Starbucks coffees is a great way to rationalize prices.  Sort of like the Big Mac price index, except it's something you buy even more without thinking about it.  Is this game that I'm going to play for 40-100 hours worth four or five coffees?  

 

Of course, by that metric, most things look like a steal.

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But was this really the best way to handle this quite delicate question about perceived value?

 

Personally, I see 2 ways of handling the situation:

 

  1. Compare to similar games: Make a list of games similar to yours. List their prices. If your game falls inside the range, you have made the only point really needed for a customer. Of course only compare features... I wouldn't want to try to gauge quality.
  2. Ask the commenter for more details: see exactly WHY he thinks your game is not worth it. If you have the balls, keep it public. But I personally don't think it would be too much to ask for a private conversation. See why the commenter thinks your game is not worth the asking price. Ask him if he actually bought and played it. If yes, he might have valuable input about your games quality and faults. If not, he might have valuable input about your games marketing and storefront.

 

I would first go with option 2.

 

Personally I don't think it's a delicate question at all. There are 2 aspects here:

  1. People on the internet are seeing prices for entertainment forced down everywhere as a result of various forces - with games we have piracy, emulators, old games being re-released, bundles, mobile competitors, and increased supply generally.
  2. People now have the ability to comment and debate pricing, in the light of the above - and this adds a further downward pressure.

The first combination of problems, we can't do much about - but it will help if developers resist the urge to 'race to the bottom' and underprice everything.

 

The second problem reflects a fact that always existed - i.e. some group of people X think that product Y is not worth the price - but now they get to voice it out loud. Developers talking about the costs they incurred during development, and the relative value of other products available at a similar price, might sway some opinions here, reminding them that when product prices can't recoup product costs, they cease to be viable.

 

Asking for individual feedback seems pointless to me. Yes, data from users is fine. But individual bits of anecdata from cheapskates is rarely going to be worth much. A developer is rarely short of ideas or feedback on how their game could be better, and there are better sources to obtain it from.

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I consider my entertainment in terms of cost per hour, with a secondary component of how meaningful the entertainment is to me.

 

 

 

Going to a musical at one local venue is about $75/ticket, for about 3 hours of entertainment.  At $25/hr this is one of my most expensive forms of entertainment.  However, since it is very fulfilling and forms big memories, I'm willing to occasionally indulge in it.

 

A movie in a theater may be $5/hr or roughly $10/hr if concessions are purchased. It is very hard for me to justify the cost for the entertainment. I'll only go to the movies for shows I really want to see in the theater environment.

 

I have another entertainment I enjoy, flying quadline kites.  The kites are rather expensive (around $400) but I have a logbook where I record the time I fly them and anything notable like particularly bad crashes. It works out to be slightly under $1/hr and dropping.  

 

My Netflix subscription is $7/month, and across the family we get about 250 viewing hours collectively per month, or about $0.03/hr. Very inexpensive entertainment.

 

 

 

For video games, I like to have around $0.10/hr or less for my cost. Anything more than that and I have a hard time justifying it.

 

I am willing to shell out $60 for a AAA game that I know I'll play for hundreds of hours and will enjoy thoroughly.  For games I can sell back to GameStop and such where the cost after return is around $10 or $15, I'm comfortable with the cost knowing I'll play the game hard for a few months and then return for store credit.  For Steam and Origin, looking over my play history most titles are around $0.10/hr. Some are higher, around $0.30/hr and others are lower around $0.05/hr. 

 

When I first heard about Portal and how it was a 2-hour game, I was very reluctant to buy it. I didn't buy it at first.  The cost per hour was more than I felt comfortable with on a game. Ultimately I did buy it, but only on a Steam sale where I felt the cost was worth the entertainment time.

 

 

 

When I look at smaller games, when I see a game that costs $1, I ask myself if I'll get ten hours of enjoyment out of it.  When I see a game for $15, I'll balk because I don't know if I'll spend 150+ hours of enjoyment.

 

If I think I'll get several hundred hours of quality entertainment out of a game, I'll pay.  If the game is very short with no replay value and no option to resell, I'll pass.

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Actually I see no problem with dev indirectly implying "this game has XXX hours of gameplay value unlike average YY hours and this is not your hey-we-have-Unity-so-why-not-a-game game" but I feel rather insulted when it comes that they made their own engine for no good reason and spend much time for this. It reminds me of a local "joke" saying "The guy weaving this carpet has become blind, so the cost is $ XXXXXX including his hospital expenses"

 

I need to be convinced that it took years because content would took that time.

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