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Coffee Talk #417: Developers Setting Their Own Game Pricing


Posted on October 27th, by raymond padilla in Coffee Talk, Game Developers, PC Gaming, Today's Specials, Videogames. 34 comments

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, Steve Jobs creating the iPad out of spite, Lindsay Lohan in Playboy, or your favorite streaming television app, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Mike Capps Coffee Talk #417: Developers Setting Their Own Game PricingEpic Games president Mike “Busta” Capps is wise, handsome, and charming. In a recent interview with Develop, he proposed the idea of game developers setting their own prices for games and downloadable content. Capps said, “Right now we’re not even allowed to change the prices of virtual content. We’re not even allowed to set the prices. I just don’t think this protectionist approach is going to be successful in a world where the price of virtual items changes on a day-to-day basis. Double-A games will never come back unless we get rid of this notion of a game being $60 or not released. The console manufacturers need to let this happen.”

It’s an excellent idea that could be fantastic…or terrible. Certainly it’s ridiculous that some crap motion game has the same price as Gears of War 3. One argument is that price should reflect a game’s budget and/or quality. The counter to that argument is the movie business. A ticket to a small-budget indie-film costs the same as one to a mega-million Michael Bay monstrosity.

Then there’s the fact that some developers would find a way to screw up game pricing. Certainly larger companies with a lot of experience or smaller companies with savvy executives would find a way to get the most out of flexible game pricing. However, I expect there would be just as many cases of developers setting unreasonable or unrealistic prices because they’re too attached to their creations. Gaming is still a relatively young business and I think that its immaturity would show up if developers could price their on wares. Publishers are often viewed (sometimes unfairly) as an evil force in the gaming business, but the suits have their uses.

What do you think of Capps’ idea? Can you envision a world where game developers price their own software? Would you prefer flexible game pricing over a rigid system? What benefits and perils do you see with having developers price their own games?





  • http://www.gameseyeview.com/ nightshade386

    Lindsay Lohan in Playboy? I'm not sure what to make of that. She's a total train wreck, and not that cute. Maybe if they put someone else's face on the body….

    • http://rpad.tv raymond padilla

      I'm totally down with Lindsay Lohan in Playboy. She's such a mess that I'm completely into her.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 N8R

        I'll second that.

      • lceman

        You know there's a psychological term for that kind of deviant behavior (falling for a train wreck/ crazy chick)… but I can't think of it right now. I'll have to dig up my psych text book.

        -M

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 N8R

          It's called "Cantmakeaho Ahousewifeitus"

  • http://www.gameseyeview.com/ nightshade386

    And yes, flexible is always good. (also flexible game pricing)

  • Smartguy

    A baseline price is pretty hurtful going forward. (thanks Apple).

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 N8R

    I think we can kill 3 birds with one stone here.

    You give the tax breaks to the rich people with the inclusion that they pay for all of our video games (videogames).

    The teabaggers get their tax breaks, we get all the games we want courtesy of rich bastards., and occupy wall street now has something better to do with their time. Win, win, win.

    • http://rpad.tv raymond padilla

      Send it in to Senator Boxer!

      • lceman

        No, that plan makes sense and is logical. Politicians would never pass it.

        -M

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 N8R

          We're gonna need a debate then because I see it as completely illogical and making little to no sense.

          Which in turn makes it the perfect plan. Especially if it can fool a smart dude like you into thinking it's logical.

          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 N8R

            This reminds me of a funny thing that happened today.

            Today is Parent/Teacher conferences at my son's school. His grades are outstanding and this year his behavior is pretty good.

            When I asked her if she had further suggestions, she said "I'd push him towards being a lawyer because he'll come to me and say 'You know, I don't think what you taught today is right because of such and such reasons'. And then he persists to the point where he either almost convinces her or just just has to say 'Look, this is the answer, just sit back in your seat".

            Meanwhile, I told her straight up that I raise my kids to question all authority, myself included. She commended me for that.

            • http://rpad.tv raymond padilla

              That's excellent parenting!

              • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 N8R

                Thanks… but I'm not gonna lie. It gets annoying as HELL sometimes. I knew exactly what his teacher meant.

                I know it will blow over one day and the end result will be good, but god damn, the kid thinks he knows everything sometimes and he's 9 years old.

          • lceman

            Aside from making my brain dizzy, it makes perfect sense. Video game revenue from both hardware and software was about $20 billion in 2009. In that same year, the top 1% of wealthiest Americans paid $318 billion just on income taxes alone. Therefore, we can cut the tax rate of the top 1% of Americans to say… 10% and have them buy games and consoles for anybody that wants them. This will lower the amount that each wealthy individual pays in taxes (tax break), it will give people with no jobs and a lot of time on their hands something to do (Wall Street Protesters), and it will stimulate the video game industry. Win, win, win.

            -M

            • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 N8R

              But… there would be ALOT more people that want free video games as opposed to the people who are willing to spend money on games now. It will be way more than the videogame industry earns now unless they in turn lower the cost for the t-bags.

              At this point right here… you have the VG industry sort of acting like the IRS for 1% of the country… that's just wrong. Think about how Booby Kocklick would approach that.

              I think it's a funny concept, but totally impractical in the long run. Maybe an industry that's suffering from piracy more like music or movies would be more practical, but still totally unamerican. It would even be more awesome if a guy like Dre was in charge of collecting tax dollars off the t-bags. They'll think a black president is bad right until Compton and Long Beach show up to collect their taxes.

              • lceman

                Way to kill my joke.

                Although; the thought of the NWA showing up to people's houses to "collect taxes" is a novel concept that would both increase the rate of collections (revenue) and lower unemployment.

                Warren Buffet’s idea would be ideal as Nightshade mentions below. It’s simple, elegant, and would actually work. Even if it doesn’t work, it will be successful in getting politicians out of office and replacing them with civil servants.

                -M

            • bsukenyan

              You are making an awfully huge assumption there that everyone only wants to consume, not create, so to speak. Watching television is a sedentary activity, but not everyone wants to simply consume what others create. Some people want to take part in building something or being a part of something. Wikipedia is a great example of this. Occupy Wall Street is another great example of this, as is their use of social media for organization, collaboration, and sharing of stories and pictures. Not everyone involved with Occupy Wall Street is doing so simply because they have nothing better to do. Also, even if that were the case it is still a big assumption that they should only want to consume media of some sort.

              • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 N8R

                Yo… I made the OWS joke originally. I was referring to them in the same comical sense I've literally heard pundits describe them. That joke was for people who look deeper than the surface about people who don't.

                Thinking about it… yeah, it's totally a joke that could read wrong.

                When it comes to those guys and the t-bags, I see their points, but disagree with their methods. It looks like a riot, and/or a civil war in the making to me. If we are going to accomplish the best possible outcome, we all have to work together towards it with open minds. We can't point fingers at each other or else we become divided.

                Once we're divided as a nation, it becomes very easy for another superpower to just walk in and take us over making the whole orignal argument null and void since what we knew as America has ceased to be.

                Now is especially not the time for this stuff with the economy the way it is.

                • http://rpad.tv raymond padilla

                  Not surprisingly, it looks like there will be a big divide in the Bay Area. This is what happens when police officers shoot tear-gas canisters at people's faces.

                  [youtube OZLyUK0t0vQ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZLyUK0t0vQ youtube]

                  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 N8R

                    That's vicious.

                    "There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock
                    news and no pictures of hairy armed women
                    liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
                    The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
                    Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
                    Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
                    The revolution will not be televised."

                    - Gil Scott-Heron

  • bsukenyan

    While I do like the idea of some developers taking control of pricing for their games, it could easily get out of hand. Valve I'm not worried about, because they have shown a lot of common sense in this area. Giving away TF2, knowing that they will easily make tons of sales from in game items and other games, was a great move. Telling people that they would like to charge outrageous amounts of money for people who have a reputation of trolling a game or just acting in an immature or abusive way towards other players.

    That makes me comfortable enough to say Valve should price their own games, but what about Activision? Would I be completely unfounded in saying that I fear they would charge $100+ for the same game every year because it is a big name franchise? Or at least something to that extent. Bobby Kotick has said before (when Guitar Hero was still being made) that he wanted to charge more for the games and instruments.

    So should we allow some developers and publishers to price their own games? Just the publishers? Just the developers? That can be a little tricky when a developer is owned by a publisher… But anyways my thinking is that I would make a trial run with download only games. Anything on PSN or XBL could have pricing determined by the developers and I would be ok with that. Call that a trial run; that might ease my mind about letting big release titles be priced by the developers instead.

    I will agree that too much control in this matter lies with the console manufacturers. It is a little interesting to me that publishers (activision especially) haven't demanded more control in this matter before.

    • lceman

      "You fear they would charge"… as in future tense?

      Welcome to the future! CoD is already at $110 per year if you take the retail price of the game ($59.99) plus the $50 subscription to their Elite service.

      -M

      • bsukenyan

        The Elite plan isn't mandatory though, if Activision had say over the total mandatory price of the game then I'm sure it would be at that price. The fact is that it is not there yet. $50 extra is an optional expense, sort of like DLC.

  • http://www.gameseyeview.com/ nightshade386

    I'm down with the Warren Buffet plan that makes it a Constitional Amendment that anytime the deficit is more than 3 percent of GDP, no members of Congress are eligible for reelection. Also, redraw all the districts in straight lines.

  • Thundercracker

    YO N8r, what alt tunings do you like to mess around with?

    been playing in the open Esus4, but thats getting old..open G is awesome as well, but i prefer the more extreme version GGDGBB

  • lceman

    This is a great topic and I'm glad you brought it up. Developers should have total control of their ability to price their own product.

    First; consider every good or service that is made in this country. The overwhelming majority are priced by the manufacturer or the owner of the service. If you create something, you should be able to price it. This will no doubt lead to a much wider array of pricing for games, but if you think about it, that's how it should be. There may be a brief period where the prices of games are erratic, but that will only be temporary as the market (consumers) will ultimately set the price and serve as a benchmark of what to price future games. This system is already functioning in places like eBay and Amazon where if I wanted to buy X-Men Destiny, it would cost me $40 instead of the MSRP of $60 at Best Buy and GameStop.

    (continued…)

    • lceman

      Second; publishers need developers more than developers need publishers. This statement is true because we've seen a rash of publishers buying up more and more developers than vice versa. Publishers know that without content, they are nothing, so they go out and buy all of the content providers and IPs so they will have a steady stream of games to push. If developers team up or pool their money and buy or create their own publishing company, I think the industry would be much better off. Developers have a product that they can go out and sell on their own without a publisher. This is not easy, but it is possible. Back in the day, this was not true because of lack of resources and the medium for games was limited.

      (continued…)

      • lceman

        Today, however, there are many avenues to push a game through (cost effectively) whether it's Facebook, Yahoo, PC, Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Apple, Android, Onlive, etc. A developer can go to any one of these companies and say "I want to put my game on your system" and there will be a way to do it. If the developer does not like the terms of the deal, they can say "bye" and move to another platform that is more favorable to them.

        Last; consider the implications of the publishers holding all the keys. We get things like day one DLC, monthly/yearly subscriptions to games, stagnant or poor quality yearly game iterations, and nothing for free regardless of what the developers want. Allowing publishers all (or most) of the power assures that the cancer of the gaming industry will only grow bigger over the years.

        (continued…)

        • lceman

          Typically, a publisher's goals are not aligned with a developer’s and the end consumer’s. They are a second or third party that adds little or nothing of value to the end product and can only serve to make it worse. What little they do bring to the table (financing, marketing, and printing copies) is being greatly diminished in this new world of digital delivery and communication. Game publishers should be a dying breed. Unfortunately, they've been able to survive by sucking the blood out of the people who make games and the people who play games. This is something we should not allow.

          -M

          • http://rpad.tv raymond padilla

            Are you using IE? If so, that would explain why you can't post long comments.
            http://support.intensedebate.com/posting-comments

            Mystery solved!

            Thanks for another long and insightful (multi) comment Iceman! You're cool as Ice. *snicker*

            • lceman

              By jove! I think that's it. Now that you mention it, I've never seen the "post too long" bubble when I type something on my MacBook (using Safari) at home.

              Thanks.

              -M

  • Thundercracker

    what a fantastic world series this has been!!

    go rangers!

    american league ftw

  • BigBlak

    I think the indie games on XBL have the pricing just right. I believe there are 4 or 5 pricing options and from that you can tell what your paying for.