Coffee Talk #417: Developers Setting Their Own Game Pricing
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.
Epic 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?