Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Pricing games

Derek Smart is a game developer who achieved the unlikely feat of being more famous for the flame wars he produced over the years on the internet than for the games he made. His latest game Line of Defense Tactics - Tactical Advantage just came out on Steam and iOS / Android. On Steam the game costs $24.99 with 25% off for a limited time. On iOS and Android the exactly same game is Free2Play: Download for free, play the first three missions, then buy the rest of the campaign for $4.99, plus there are other options in the shop. This difference in pricing has made some people very upset. And Derek Smart being Derek Smart replied to that with a sarcastic calculation on how you get from the mobile game price to the Steam price:
Base game campaign on mobile: $4.99
Skirmish NightBridge mode: $1.99
1000 CEP: $3.99
Advanced Weapons Pack: $4.99
All the above bundled into the Steam release: $15.96
+ PC forums (like this) pain and suffering rider: $4.99
+ because it's PC and we don't care about Linux: $2.00
+ just because we can (due to the inevitable Gold rush): $2.04
Grand Total (without tax): $24.99
And, get this, for a limited time only, you get it for 25% off!!! So what on Earth are you complaining about?
Sarcasm doesn't travel well on the internet. So now there is another flame war ongoing about this.

What I found most interesting is that apart from the snarky remarks the story proves that you just can't please people. If you release a game with a Free2Play business model, you will get attacked for that display of greed, and everybody says that the game should have a single price. But if they hear that single price, they all are even more unhappy.

"What I found most interesting is that apart from the snarky remarks the story proves that you just can't please people"

No, this only proves that people will post to complain, and pay to show they're ok with it. Whether Derek Smart has pleased people with his actions here will be determined by how much money he makes on this game, not by taking a sampling of comments on any forum.

"everybody says that the game should have a single price. But if they hear that single price, they all are even more unhappy."

No, everybody doesn't say that, and they're not unhappy to hear it. Most people have no idea this game even exists. I certainly didn't until I read about it here.

My take on it is that his pricing model is a little weird, it seems like this game is probably much easier to pirate on PC than on mobile; so he prices the PC version higher to punish those honest PC players who don't pirate? Perhaps my assumptions there are wrong?
Heh, the sarcasm worked for me this time.

I can see the point, though, there is a very weird disconnect at the moment between the way you can sell stuff on the PC and the way you can sell stuff on mobiles. And devs can't really do anything about this, even though as the technical capability of mobiles ramps up it starts to look sillier and sillier.
Uh oh! You said His name thrice, and like Bloody Mary, he will soon be here. Prepare yourself!
I don't think he has much of a chance to get past my comment moderation policy.
When I saw this yesterday, I couldn't believe the dev was responding the way he was to some of the comments on the forum. Then I took a look at the avatar and screen name. I should have known when "I" was every other word of each post who it was from the get-go. For a man who leads teams, he sure does only care about tooting his own horn a lot.
The internet is a stupid place.

1% of a group bothers to get on a forum in the first place, and 1% of that group is throwing a fit about something at any given moment. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.
I think you're letting Smart off easy in this case. It's obvious these prices differ because the two ecosystems of PC and Mobile have very different expectations when it comes to price.
Of course you'll try to make your Mobile version free-to-play, otherwise a lot of potential customers on iOS/Android might not even bother to check it out (esspecially if you'd ask for $10+ up front). But instead of explaining this necessity to his PC customers he just insults them by cobbling together some random numbers to 'justify' a higher price on the PC (even considering the discount). And effectively calling them a pain in the a**.
This isn't a matter of F2P vs. fixed pricing, it's a problem of a product having two wildly different prices for no apparent reason.
It's not even F2P vs PC, it's PC/console vs mobile. Mobile customers expect lower prices. That's why titles like the Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition, Telltale, and Spiderweb games are cheaper on mobile than desktop, even when they are the exact same game. A $9.99 game is a very tough sell on mobile.

And yeah, saying DS is a jerk is kinda unnecessary. He's a /legendary/ jackass. He revels in it.
The first release sets the expectation and the most expensive version has to come first.

If a PC version is $25 and the mobile is $5...

Releasing PC then mobile means the PC version is standard and the mobile version is a $25 game that only costs $5 (Great bargin).

Releasing the mobile version first means that is the standard and the PC release is a $5 game that you're trying to sell for $25 (rip-off).

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