rojimboo Jan 16 @ 3:32am
Eurogamer article: For this developer, Steam sales "screw your fans"
For this developer, Steam sales "screw your fans"[www.eurogamer.net]

Based on the blog post titled "Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players."[thecastledoctrine.net]

In brief, the article is about an indie developer questioning the short-term benefits of increased profits during sales against the long-term detrimental effects of harming the gamers who bought the game full price and were stuck with a smaller community during that initial period before the sale. Also he mentions that the overall revenue might drop too with rampant sales. He seems to believe in this model quite a lot, as he is publishing his game "Castle Doctrine" at a set price of 16 bucks on Steam, never to be increased or discounted.

But you all know how to read and critically think. What do you think? Discuss please.

Personally, I am undecided simply because we do not know if the total revenue increases or decreases with rampant sales. If it increased, one could then argue that product quality, innovation and social welfare increases due to rampant sales. Or viceversa.
Showing 1-15 of 54 comments
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XDM00 Jan 16 @ 4:41am 
I think the developers are thinking too short term. Getting millions of extra people playing your game (and consequently getting hooked on your game/franchise) is a great way to add far more people who will not wait for a sale to buy your next release. FAR more than just keeping your prices high forever.

Especially since, here on Steam, the extra sale doesn't cost them anything in distribution, shipping, disk presses, plastic materials, paper materials, etc. and extra sale is pure profit once they've broke even with your costs. They don't even have to pay people to wait on the sales desk, process orders, or package the boxes.
GenPattonBR Jan 16 @ 4:42am 
That is a very good article, with some very good points and a few wrong ones.

Minecraft's price model worked... for Minecraft. The reason is that Minecraft had a very creative approach to its gameplay, it was innovative, it was a fresh idea. People bought into that. Lots of people bought Minecraft not because it was getting more expensive everyweek, but because it was something new. Lots of copycats followed, but none had the success Minecraft did, obviously. Plus, the was so much fuzz about it, that playing Minecraft became a fad.

My clan mates on BF:BC2 would talk forever and ever about Minecraft on our Ventrillo server, and some simply gave BC2 some time so they could go and play Minecraft.

I may be wrong, but hardly any game will be able to follow the same steps Minecraft did. There was so much word-of-mouth about it that some people felt they were missing on something big if they weren't playing Minecraft (not for me, 'though!)

Although the writer of the article had some very good points, I had never heard about his game until reading these articles a few minutes ago. Searching for "Castle Doctrine" on Steam returned zero results. So, where is the fuzz that feeds motivation in this case?

Sometimes these sales are really an annoyance for both the player who paid retail for the game, and for the developer - in case of online games - who'll have to invest in infrastructure to provide these players with the same quality of service of those who paid retail. It is quite unfair for both sides.

OTOH, and this the article fails to admit, the overal quality of games has been getting worse and worse. Unfinished and buggy games have always exist, but they seem to be on an all time high, specially now that Steam has been selling "early access" games at full retail price (which isn't the case of Castle Doctrine, BTW, and I admire the developer for that). With that in mind, it is expected for people to want to not pay retail, since we've been too disapointed too many times with these in a very recent past. In other words, since the guarantees are out of the window, why should we pay full price?

That is, however, one very nice article, with many good points to be discussed. I'll just leave my 2 cents. Thanks for sharing.

Nikusui Jan 16 @ 6:11am 
I do understand it's in every game developer to maximise their profit.
Jason Rohrer mentioned that such sales would reduce 'loyal fans' and of 'impulse buying' are really nothing more than fancy words which indirectly says "Steam sales are making people not paying the full price for my game". There nothing wrong with maximising profit, but steam have allowed them to reduce much of their costs (be it storage costs, packaging costs, etc). They will be earning gains from the sales of their games, which will be probahly be divided with valve, and assuming they do not have to pay any other costs, they are simply taking cash in random intervals. In the long run, they will definitely be better off.
Hence, instead of blaming your reduction of profits on steam sales, why not just be contended with the cash that is coming in.
Mr. Tooduloo Jan 16 @ 7:01am 
That's a very good article, and I can see the point of view of the developer, but I think he is missing some basic understanding of economics. He has every right to attempt to sell his game at the price he considers fair, but the harsh reality is that the market will assign it's own value to the game. There are many games that I have personally bought at sale prices not for the purpose of "saving a buck" but for the fact that I didn't feel the game was worth $20. I only felt it was worth $10, and I bought it at that value. The idea that sales hurt games in the long run is ironically short sighted. There are many games in my inventory that I would not have pruchased if not for the sale. That's money that the developer would never get had it not been for the discounted price.
On the other side though, I think this argument could do well with a change in focus. The idea that discounts hurt overall profits will have intelligent people on both sides arguing the points and I doubt there will ever be a resolution. But perhaps the point that he (Jason Rohrer) was trying to make was not the absolute presence or absence of discount events, but the culture of expectation of them. I will personally claim to be guilty of it. I know that Steam will have Daily Deals, Midweek Madnesses, Weekend Deals, Weeklong Deals, Summer Sales, Winter Sales, Autumn Sales and all of the other events that will give me the opportunity to a) save money and b) buy games I had previously ignored because of a significantly lower price point. So I very rarely buy a game at full price anymore. From that perpective, I can see his argument as valid. Maybe we are simply too innundated with sale events that regular price no longer means anything except "wait for the sale, this is too high."
Naota Jan 16 @ 7:09am 
Speaking for myself, and very probably millions of others - Without these sales - I wouldn't have bought most of the games I have . . . . EVER.



That is all.
Satoru Jan 16 @ 7:30am 
The article isn't too bad. But there is a few things that from his perpective that aren't visible that he is making quite a few conjectures on, and is flat out wrong given his own data.

The 'sales culture' argument simply doesn't hold water. If it did, that means NO ONE would buy games at full price. Yet this is totally not the case. Valve has clearly indicated that aggregate sales data shows that

http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/07/16/steam-deals-dont-cannibalise-sales-says-valves-director-of-business-management/

We also have a clear example of how this culture isn't happening ofr a game that it should. The Civ5 BNW fiasco. For those unaware, Brave New World (BNW), the 2nd and last expansion for Civ5 was released during a major Steam sale. Due to an ERROR (I want to be clear this was a mistake) BNW was discounted 25% mere HOURS after being released in the EU. Thus negating the paltry 10% pre-order discount and infuriating fans.

But this only works if tons of people are PRE ORDERING YOUR GAME. ANd people are only doing that if your game is AMAZING and they want this content. And again we are talking about Civ5 here. A game that goes on sale at the drop of a hat for 75%. And has done so for the ENTIRE game cycle from vanilla, to GOTY, to "Gold" and to the inevitable "Platnium" or whatever they'll call it when BNW gets lumped in.

I think that's the rub of the entire artcle. Even the gmod 'example' shows this. If you have an AWESOME game people will buy it, at full price, just because.

Now not to say that the author doesn't have good points. Obvisouly the BNW fiasco shows that sales can have a negative impact on your fans depending on the 'temporal' aspect of when they happen. And obviously we're in a time where the long tail is a viable business model. Ergo how is the best way to exploit that? Even CoD has shown that you don't need to massively discount your game into oblivion to drive sales as long as you provide compelling content over time.

Persoanlly I find that the Humble Bundles have done far more 'damage' from a devaluation stand point than sales

Also while there are many people that are 'super ultra hyper' savings sensitive they hardly make up the vast majority of gamers. Any more than the people who are 'extreme couponers' would in the real world. They exist. But you have to put them in perspective.
Last edited by Satoru; Jan 16 @ 7:43am
RayeGunn Jan 16 @ 8:09am 
I can see where he is coming from, but, as has been pointed out already, using Minecraft as a model is not a viable option for the vast majority of developers, that was something that can not be recreated, at least not intentionally. But the quote that really stuck out at me was this:

It makes more sense to wait, unless they love you and your work so much that they're willing to throw economic reason out the window. It's nice to have fans that love your work that much. And these are the fans that you kick in the teeth when you put your game on sale.

And to that, I think he is missing the bigger picture. These loyal fans who buy at release probably know EXACTLY what they are doing. Most of them, anyway. Like, I wait for sales, cus I do not have a ton of money, and I like to make my gaming budget go as far as it can. I know games will be discounted at some point or another, and I tend to wait for it for a lot of the games I own. But with certain games, I will pay full price. I think what CDPR did with the Witcher series illustrates the right way to go about things. I bought The Witcher 1 heavily discounted on Steam, and loved it. It was rough around the edges, sure, but I could see the seeds of greatness there, as long as the devs got the support they needed. I would not have bought it if it wasn't discounted though, because that was their first game, and i didn't quite know what to expect, so, you know... The sale got them a new fan in me that they would not have had otherwise. After having played it, I knew I wanted the second installment. So, I pre-ordered The Witcher 2 at full price knowing full well that eventually it would be on sale for dirt cheap. Recently, I bought it AGAIN for $5 so that I would have it on Steam as well as on GOG. I don't feel screwed over by this, because I WANTED them to have as much of my money as possible because i know that making games takes money, and i wanted them to have the resources to be able to make The Witcher 3 spectacular (and it looks like that has happened). They were making a game that fit my tastes, and their way of doing things as a company was something that I thought should be supported, so I paid full price, and did so on GOG so they got the most of it (CDPR and GOG are part of the same company). I also bought Portal 2 at full price here on Steam for similar reasons (well, a friend and I split the cost of a 2 pack, but still), and pre-ordered Starbound, knowing full well that it is going to drop in price. Not every developer will be able to do this, you need to make a REALLY good game, preferably more, and treat your fans with respect to win that sort of loyalty. But as long as you put out good games that fans feel passionate about, they will not feel screwed if they pay full price most of the time. If you put out shovelware and someone buys full price, yeah they will feel screwed, but that's the fault of a bad game, not the sales.
Last edited by RayeGunn; Jan 16 @ 8:19am
khellus Jan 16 @ 8:25am 
The sales also get people who never would have bought the game in the first place to buy them, try them , and then talk about them. Would i buy this guys game as is or even if on sale? nope. I'm not into the indie game scene. I'm also not a big AAA gamer right now because the developers seem more worried about poly count or player driven content (pvp) than good Adversarial A.I.
Rzep Jan 16 @ 8:28am 
His game in an online only experiance. A great one, but saying that there will not be any sales after the game is released is just a disservice to gamers who like the game. People will leave and go play other stuff as people tend to do and then what? Without sales there won't be any fresh blood, the game will either die off or have a tiny community of vets that present an impenetrable skill wall for new players.
Power of Seven Jan 16 @ 10:47am 
The article comes down to what I think are two points. I'm trying to become a game journalist, so tell me if this is correct:

His first point is that sales hurt developers in the end. He explains this by saying that Steam has numerous sales every year. By having constant sales, fans will eventually get smart enough to not buy games for full price and wait for sales, thus lowering profits and this mostly hurts indie developers. He's got some validity as some gamers are getting smart about their purchases, myself included.

However, I think that this isn't entirely true. Steam sales, especially flash sales, tend to bring indie games to the forefront and this becomes a form of advertisement for your game. You can tell that there's potential customers that don't know about your game but heard about it specifically because of the sale. You'll see in the official forums the ever-present thread, "Is this game worth it?" as soon as a sale shows up. Forum activity also gets pushed up very rapidly if your game is featured on the front page of Steam.

Also, gamers don't seem to care about sales when it comes to things that they REALLY want. Both DayZ and Rust are early access games with plenty of bugs in them and very little discount when they launched. Regardless, they have been selling like crazy because it's part of a current meta.

The second point is that sales tend to hurt gamers also, because sales just make people get impulsive and buy stuff that they don't really want. There's dozens of games in most people's profiles that they'll never play. This is absolutely true for many people, and they just waste their money.

The only problem with this is that you can't just stop impulse buying by stopping sales. I'd say that it's just a facet of our culture. The hard reality is that most Americans live in debt, and most of our corporate advertising and marketing seems to favor this model. There are so many car advertisements that mention about no money down, low APR, or small monthly payments rather than talk about the total price of the vehicle. It's also true that banks make a majority of their money on service charges and interest on credit card debt.
rojimboo Jan 16 @ 11:00am 
Originally posted by Power of Seven:
The article comes down to what I think are two points. I'm trying to become a game journalist, so tell me if this is correct:

His first point is that sales hurt developers in the end. He explains this by saying that Steam has numerous sales every year. By having constant sales, fans will eventually get smart enough to not buy games for full price and wait for sales, thus lowering profits and this mostly hurts indie developers. He's got some validity as some gamers are getting smart about their purchases, myself included.

However, I think that this isn't entirely true. Steam sales, especially flash sales, tend to bring indie games to the forefront and this becomes a form of advertisement for your game. You can tell that there's potential customers that don't know about your game but heard about it specifically because of the sale. You'll see in the official forums the ever-present thread, "Is this game worth it?" as soon as a sale shows up. Forum activity also gets pushed up very rapidly if your game is featured on the front page of Steam.

Also, gamers don't seem to care about sales when it comes to things that they REALLY want. Both DayZ and Rust are early access games with plenty of bugs in them and very little discount when they launched. Regardless, they have been selling like crazy because it's part of a current meta.

The second point is that sales tend to hurt gamers also, because sales just make people get impulsive and buy stuff that they don't really want. There's dozens of games in most people's profiles that they'll never play. This is absolutely true for many people, and they just waste their money.

The only problem with this is that you can't just stop impulse buying by stopping sales. I'd say that it's just a facet of our culture. The hard reality is that most Americans live in debt, and most of our corporate advertising and marketing seems to favor this model. There are so many car advertisements that mention about no money down, low APR, or small monthly payments rather than talk about the total price of the vehicle. It's also true that banks make a majority of their money on service charges and interest on credit card debt.

That looks about right and is quite clear.

One of his points is missing and this is difficult to clarify for me. It is the detrimental effect that the early buyers who bought at full price, experience due to the massive sale at a later date. I suppose this is 'consumer inconvenience' or 'consumer grief' due to the opportunity cost of there being the possibility or certainty, of a sale later. From what I got reading his blog was that this was personally the swaying factor - he did not want to kick his most loyal fans in the teeth, as he puts it I believe.

Personally, I think this reason should not be sufficient in an indie developer following a revolutionary pricing model on Steam. Rather it should be based on whether total revenue actually increases or decreases due to sales. Something, that is still unknown to my knowledge, so he is taking a big risk that might well back-fire. Also consider publicity - this is actually bad publicity I would say, because let's face it most users on Steam are on it due to the sales, and if you attempt to take that away they might not appreciate it too much. I see some people just boycotting out of principle due to it, you know how fickle us PC gamers are.

On the other hand, any publicity is good publicity, and I for one had never heard of his game before this article.
Ganger Jan 16 @ 11:35am 
I can understand were Jason Rohrer is coming from saying 'steam sales screw your fans' but I disagree with him too.

I have over 300+ games on steam so far, If I had to pay full price for every game I own then I would only own less than 30 games and most would only be AAA+ titles. And I guess most steam users would be same as me.

If I want a game so badly, I will pay full price for it, otherwise I won't buy it until its at least 50%. But I do need to point out that I won't buy a game over £35 period.

I have games on my account I have never played and don't intend playing ever. Did I waste my money; yes I did but the dev still got that £2 from me, £2 he would never ever of got if the game wasn't on a 75% sale.
Last edited by Ganger; Jan 16 @ 11:35am
howlin' wolf Jan 16 @ 12:43pm 
If I had a game I'd prefer to have 1000 customers to whom I had sold the game for 10$ rather than 100 for 100$.
GenPattonBR Jan 16 @ 4:13pm 
Originally posted by howlin' wolf:
If I had a game I'd prefer to have 1000 customers to whom I had sold the game for 10$ rather than 100 for 100$.

Actually, in case of online games, it is preferable to have 100 x $100 than 1000 x $10, although in terms of revenue it seems to be the same.

That is because 1000 users will cost you 10x as much to support, you'll have to have 10x more server power and 10x more internet bandwidth (well, not exactly, but you get the picture).

OTOH, having 10x more users will give you more word-of-mouth publicity, and if you have a good product, that means free publicity, which is great and always welcome. However, if your product is flawed, you'll have 10x more people to diss your game on all the social medias, in which case you`ll lose sales.
Valeriaan Jan 16 @ 6:23pm 
The blog's author touches upon game pricing in 'economic terms' but completely ignores one of the core tenets involved: price diversification strategies. By offering incremental discounts over time, publishers hope to entice those people to buy their game that would otherwise not have bought it - not at the previous price brackets, anyway.

He raises a fair point about consumer behaviour patterns and the effect Steam sales have on them, but I can't ascribe to his logic, I'm afraid. He appears to assume that most people who purchase a game at any given time are already certain of their future purchase, and that sales encourage them to wait so they can save money.

As several people in this thread have already attested, however, most consumers have a reasonable (if subjective) estimate of what they are willing to pay for a certain game, which in combination with their level of interest is exactly what price diversification strategies are all about.

Most of the people who are really 'sold' on the game will pick it up on release at (close to) full price, because their level of interest and subjective value ascribed to the game are high enough. Some people might go as far as to wait for a discount to save money, yes, but I doubt they'd be a majority. Most people who are really interested, conscious about their purchasing behaviour and looking to save a few dollars will shop around, compare prices and pick the best option.

You can entice the people who aren't completely convinced on a purchase by offering discounts. Even better are discounts that vary over time. Depending on their level of interest and subjective estimation of the game's value they might bite at low discounts (say 10 to 25%) or medium to large discounts (for example 35 to 50 or even 66%). At discounts of 75% and higher just about everyone who is remotely interested will go for it, and additionally people who aren't really interested but can't resist a good sale will pick it up as well.

Now, the author has a point in that the knowledge and anticipation of sales reinforces this kind of behaviour - people know sales are coming at an unspecified point in the future, and are more likely to wait for them if they don't absolutely need to have the game right now.

However, this does not at all mean that all those people who bought the game during a sale were already convinced on their purchase and were just waiting for a discount to save some money. Nor would they necessarily have purchased the game anyway if discounts hadn't been involved.

The author's suggestion (in his blog) that much more than half of the people who pick up a game at a discount of 50% would have bought it at full price if they knew (or speculated) that no discount was forthcoming is just wishful thinking, I'm afraid.
Last edited by Valeriaan; Jan 17 @ 4:28am
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Date Posted: Jan 16 @ 3:32am
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