Up For Debate - Are Indie Games too Cheap?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Aug 27, 2017 4:00 PM

For us, the customer, there is a common school of thought that the cheaper something is, the better. But this isn't always the case. Numerous tests from retail industries across the world have found that when customers buy something for less they form less of an attachment. They’re less invested and in turn less inclined to give the game a chance. This can be shown with the PlayStation Plus games given away, with high attach rates and yet often 90% of players don’t even make it through the tutorials.

It all boils down to the psychology of consumption. People are complex and we aren’t merely herded around by cheap prices. The more we spend on a game, the more driven we will be to get our money’s worth, known as the sunk-cost effect. We are more likely to consume a product when we are more intensely aware of the cost, of the work we had to put in to purchase it.

In particular, if an indie dev or publisher wants to build a following and be known for its quality products, it’s important that customers don’t just buy their games but also consume them. Developers rely on satisfaction to drive further sales, spread word-of-mouth, or to have a successful sequel. It means nothing to pick up one their games for 90% off in a sale, never play it and thus ignore their next game.

There’s also the matter of quality to consider. A dirt cheap price point doesn’t inspire confidence. Quality is worth paying for. It’s part of why we’ve seen a general trend towards the bigger indie games adopting higher price points. The Witness launched at £30. Hellblade was £25. Back in the Xbox Arcade games, £15 was seen as the absolute upper ceiling. Having played and finished The Witness though, there’s no doubt in mind that it’s a game worth £30. All told it took me about 25 hours to finish. Yet it attracted widespread criticism for its pricing. No one batted an eyelid at Resident Evil 7, a £40 game that can be finished in eight hours.

Gamers have historically had quite a narrow focus when it comes to indie games; that they aren’t worth as much because they didn’t cost as much to develop. That’s counterintuitive. Destiny may have cost $500 million to make, but it also sold 18 million copies plus a metric ton of expansion packs. The Witness would have still cost millions to make, yet even with its expensive pricing the million or so copies sold would have only brought in around £20 million. Should you have to pay $50 for a cinema ticket to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and $25 for Dunkirk, just because Guardians' production costs were double Dunkirk’s? Regardless of their development cost, indie game pricing has to be more on par with AAA in order to succeed. You get the occasional indie gem that does it all on a shoestring and a £5 asking price, but the vast majority are charging little and selling few.

I would argue there’s a case to be that made that indie games should cost more, rather than less. It’s a method that could foster even greater quality in the indie scene. The best indie games are worth every penny as much as their AAA counterparts, and yet we have a collective brainfart when trying to draw parallels between Call of Duty and Rocket League. In all my years spending £50 on Call of Duty, I have never got anywhere near the value I’ve got from spending £15 on Rocket League. To my mind Psyonix would be totally justified in charging £50 for Rocket League. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t regret my purchase one bit.

Looking at the flood of cut-rate games on Steam these days, I believe there’s an argument to be made that quality indie devs should be able to confidently price their games much higher, and that there’s no need to disparagingly say something’s not worth $40 because it’s an indie product.

What are your thoughts on this, does a higher price for a game inspire confidence in you? Are you more likely to play a game if you spend more on it? Let us know!

Should indie games be able to price nearer to AAA titles?

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22:32 Aug-29-2017

The real question should be "are AAA games too expensive?"

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09:44 Aug-30-2017

if they were, there wouldn't be any DLCs, micro-transactions and so on and so forth, if they were getting as much money as they needed(and some of them wanted), then they wouldn't have even though of ways of making even more money, knowing this will piss off a big chunk of their player base.

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10:28 Aug-30-2017

Your mistake is assuming companies pass off their savings to the customers.

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12:26 Aug-30-2017

I said nothing about customers... -_-

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09:48 Aug-28-2017

The last guardian collectors edition was 150€ (did not got it though) game was 12h silence lagg stupidcatdragon could had been so much better imo. My version was 25€ which felt expensive afterwards. My copy of dragon age inquisition was 5€ now that is cheap fun on ps4

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10:34 Aug-28-2017

I think today's games are measured via the hype-o-meter and with a game that has 6 year + of hype invested into it, you are lucky if it's 150 only! Ha, sarcasm aside, I hope these guys burn and fail as a business and in the end, the bank cuts their throats

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07:35 Aug-28-2017

Isn't any question, that includes the words "...[Price of something] ... too cheap", considered a trigger word combo for undercover sleeper agents / assassins?!


Please care, when using these words in that order!

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05:17 Aug-28-2017

i will pay 1000$+ if the game is really polish like No Mans Sky cough sarcasm dont kill me plis

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06:21 Aug-28-2017

Good one. XD

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09:49 Aug-28-2017

Well i paid 20 for madmax

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09:11 Aug-31-2017

Did you like the game?

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03:28 Aug-28-2017

Perhaps AAA games are priced too high, and indie games just seem so much cheaper when compared to "normal" titles?

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04:33 Aug-28-2017

Agree!!

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09:51 Aug-28-2017

And some "indie games" are way deeper and feel better that some of those 70€ aaa titles that come with lagg as a feature

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11:47 Aug-29-2017

True that!!

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01:37 Aug-28-2017

why should it cost as much as a AAA title? Actually, why should triple A titles cost so much? I realize that it takes a lot of money and time to develop them, but most titles always recoup costs to profiting well, there is no reason why indy games should cost that much as they (usually) don't have as much weight behind them in development, a lot of AAA titles use bones and bits and pieces from other titles help drive down dev costs but still cost $60

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01:27 Aug-28-2017

Indie games aren't too cheap.
Indie games are priced that way because they want consumers to try the game out and once they see it's good for its price, they'll keep an eye on the developers.
Also, since most indie games aren't really graphically intensive, a lot of PCs will be running these games no problem resulting in a higher chance to sell.
This is just what I think.

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20:09 Aug-27-2017

An interesting question.
For the most par I agree, the indie games aren't priced appropriately to the effort that the developers put in them. Most games that people buy nowadays have less attachment then when I started playing. Having said that, it isn't easy to put a price on something that you can't hold in your hand. The vast majority of people that I have meet value things that they can...

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20:13 Aug-27-2017

hold in their hands. That is a mental barrier that isn't easy to overcome. Think of it another way if you will. Imagine that a car mechanic is working on your car, he doesn't have to put something new in it for the car to work as it was intended to (regular maintenance). How much do you value his work & knowledge?

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18:45 Aug-27-2017

I think people wouldn't have given games like No man sky and the order 1886 such a bad rating if they were cheaper, maybe if it was $30 at launch people wouldn't have complained so much and they would probably known what they were getting theirselves into.


The $60 for unfinished/short story games with no multiplayer compared to the big games with Good story and good multiplayer for the same price probably isn't the best ideal

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18:42 Aug-27-2017

Now problem with too cheap? Too cheap, too expensive. Problems and problems...

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18:35 Aug-27-2017

From what I can tell when a Indie game is really top quality and cheap it sells more. Giving bigger community and soon passing the Team's budget. Once you overprice the game you will have to be really well known already and practically be AAA just to sell your game. As of now Indie games should be cheaper in price the Developers sooner or later will get their money back and more including a bigger fan base if the game was done well

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18:29 Aug-27-2017

Indie games are priced just right, they have much less content than AAA games (Most are still fun to play), so you basically get what you pay for.

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18:22 Aug-27-2017

No, indie games are doing it right. Developers used to create custom game engines from scratch including the graphics, physics, and scripting. Now days engines are handled by dedicated teams which shift the vast majority of the work off of the game devs. I have had games made by two people look and play better than triple A games on a consistent basis. The fact of the matter is triple A games do not warrant their price or their development time. Really they should be 40 dollars or below.

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17:27 Aug-27-2017

No, they are just too many. Price most of the time doesn't include any marketing plan and that's another good reason to buy them: you get what you pay for.

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17:20 Aug-27-2017

How about AAA developers start delivering us their full product for full price instead of making us pay twice as much in DLC costs? If indie games should follow the same trend then the pricing would have to be even higher because indie games rarely have much DLC.

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18:26 Aug-27-2017

well too bad that developers and companies do NOT 60$ as full price anymore and rightly so.

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17:19 Aug-27-2017

Are AAA games too expensive?

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18:25 Aug-27-2017

No, it's the exact opposite.

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22:38 Aug-27-2017

Looks like it is the same with the up and down votes

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11:50 Aug-28-2017

Well I'm sorry, because I'm realistic and NOT just selfish.

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17:11 Aug-27-2017

I didn't see anybody complain about the witcher 3 costing 60$ and that is an indie AAA game.

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18:10 Aug-27-2017

hmmm why the hate? O_O

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18:19 Aug-27-2017

Who knows, there always seems to be some salty person.

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18:25 Aug-27-2017

it seems I've pissed a couple guys so bad that they dislike everything I say :D
oopsss.. :D

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19:14 Aug-27-2017

It's not indie... The publisher is CD Projekt and developer is CD Projekt RED... Big difference...

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21:19 Aug-27-2017

but CD Project are CD project RED, I mean they just have two divisions... I mean when were CD project(RED), bought or given money by anybody else for the witcher 3?

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16:47 Aug-27-2017

Multiplayer Indie games like Rocket League and PUGB need to have lower prices to have a wider playerbase.

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20:18 Aug-27-2017

True. I think that they have a better understanding of the people that play the games than other companies.

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16:43 Aug-27-2017

Are AAA companies charging too much for unfinished microtransaction riddled games with cut content and season passes while not paying their taxes?!

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16:44 Aug-27-2017

Indie games aren't the problem, they are the solution to these greedy AAA companies and their lying scheming BS.

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16:46 Aug-27-2017
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20:24 Aug-27-2017

Thank you 4 the link. Good info.

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16:17 Aug-27-2017

I would say it depends on the game.
If it's an extremely enjoyable game which you can sink 100s of hours into, I'd be willing to pay upto 30 Dollars (or if it's high quality content like Oxenfree or Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice etc)
But for games like Firewatch, Hollow Knight etc, 15-20 Dollars is the sweet spot

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