Indie game pricing rambles

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DaFool
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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#16 Post by DaFool » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:24 am

Wintermoon wrote:I still go to great lengths to avoid spending more than $20 on a single Japanese visual novel.
I'm curious what sort of JVN sells for $20 or less when new. Only Planetarian and Higurashi comes to mind.

Somewhat relevant, since the hentai market is sort of niche like JVNs... here's an old article from an old site (HD):
Dire straits for the eroanime industry?
May 10th 2008 at 2:33 PM, by Shingo

Eroanime production company Anime Antenna employee Murakami Kouichi (村上恒一: producer - Mahou Shoujo Ai, The Guts!, Taimanin Asagi, other Pixy titles) made a post on the official Ani-An company blog on May 6th relating the news that Lilith Soft affiliate brand Pixy is in danger of financial collapse within the year, and that other major brands may soon follow.

He describes how Pixy was established with the goal of setting a revolutionary low price point for the OVAs it produced while retaining a high standard of quality, to make legitimate purchase of the product an option for all consumers. As a result profit margins on each sale became razor thin, but for Pixy’s first year of operation they were selling well enough that it seemed they could squeak by. Now, however, according to Murakami Pixy titles are being so widely pirated that their low-cost sales model is proving untenable. He makes the claim that if the current status quo continues, not only Pixy but adult anime as a whole may cease production within the year. Continued below:

Without solid numbers to back it up this seems to be an extravagant statement, but on the other hand I’ve often wondered how these companies do survive. If it were anyone other than Pixy saying this I’d tell them to try lowering their prices, but Pixy has already done what the industry had thought impossible in that regard.

I haven’t bought much eroanime in the past, but in the light of this post I’m going to start trying to put my money where my mouth is. Regardless of whether Murakami’s claim is true or not, I think companies like Lilith and Pixy who go out of their way to make their products economically accessible to fans deserve to be supported.

Pixy anime can be legally purchased via download at English DLsite.
Currently even the pirate site Hongfire does not allow uploads of Lilith / Pixy games (along with JAST/Mangagamer licenses)... I'm assuming as a form of respect. I'm not well versed in the current situation of the hentai market, but I think it's not yet totally collapsed (despite lack of R1 licenses), it's on life support but will probably rebound after a while.
Strum wrote: Consumers don't care how much work or how much money has gone into making a game, they only care about the end product and the price.
This reminded me of an email that has the utmost relevance to what I'm doing today:
mikey wrote: The expectations, as you said in one of your posts, are really high now. It seems that casual games are going to go the way of hardcore games where you'll actually have to have very high production values. I don't know how much one can rely on a low-cost game going viral (and thus make money, like Angry Birds), it's much too random. In fact, for 20 USD I expect a perfect 2D game with as much eyecandy as the eye can see.
...
In many ways this is kind of saddening, because in the end it only comes down to how the casual game looks. If it doesn't look good, most people will not even touch it
Plants vs Zombies had a budget of one million dollars. In contrast, I (and the commercial EVN creators here) have a budget of $5,000 or even less. Ideally, I would crowdsource with a popular idea. But I am a virtual unknown, so I must pay people to help me in my game. And the game requires lots of art assets. I still know that I cannot compete, but at least I want to create something that will net me more than just a pat on the back and an "A for effort"

The gaming (and to some extent, the animation) industry is well on its way to collapsing... the recent news proclaiming that Warner Brothers canned This is Vegas which put $50 million down the drain. In a few years the only remaining players might be Blizzard, Valve, and Nintendo. We have the following factors that do not help mitigate the situation:
*consumers have excessively high expectations but excessively low budgets (or so they claim)
*studios being risk-averse and not making games that will not sell because they were so expensive to produce with the polish that consumers expect.
*studios and projects dying left and right (not to mention the passing of creative people like Satoshi Kon who treated anime as a medium, not a genre -- and it is hoped we'll have more people who will treat games so it can finally have its Citizen Kane equivalent)

In summary it's the worst of times, but also the best of times, since only during major upheavals will smaller players get a chance to slip through the cracks and make their statements before the giants gobble everything up and more firmly entrench their monopolies.

It's really tough to reconcile a niche where 1,000 copies sold is considered a major success with a multi-million behemoth industry where they sell millions of copies just to break even, all competing for the attention of people within the $5-$60 price points.
...

(O-kay, that's about the gist of my recent brain-fart.)

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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#17 Post by Wintermoon » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:35 am

DaFool wrote:
Wintermoon wrote:I still go to great lengths to avoid spending more than $20 on a single Japanese visual novel.
I'm curious what sort of JVN sells for $20 or less when new. Only Planetarian and Higurashi comes to mind.
That's why I avoid buying new.

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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#18 Post by Aleema » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:38 am

Penny Arcade is currently holding a discussion on the buying new vs used.
http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/8/25/

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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#19 Post by Strum » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:47 am

DaFool wrote:
Wintermoon wrote:I still go to great lengths to avoid spending more than $20 on a single Japanese visual novel.
I'm curious what sort of JVN sells for $20 or less when new. Only Planetarian and Higurashi comes to mind.
Games being sold on DL Site comes to my mind but they are mostly doujins. However, some games made by the Japanese company Norn are under $20 (Okitsune Nakadeshi Ongaeshi is 1500 yen or 1300 yen if paying for download version). Their games in general are cheap, and are nowhere near the usual 9000 yen price tag most companies charge.

For those who are too poor to buy JVN or just don't want to spend money altogether there are some that are free and they are by no means crap in quality. Probably the most well known free visual novel is Narcissu http://vndb.org/v10 Another less known free game is Se-kirara http://vndb.org/v1446 These are professional quality games with the price tag of absolute $0 and 0 cents
Last edited by Strum on Thu Aug 26, 2010 11:04 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#20 Post by papillon » Thu Aug 26, 2010 6:14 am

If you manage to address these concerns by providing a EVN that's as good as the best Japanese VN, and you manage to convince me that's it's that good before I have to spend any money - keeping in mind that I don't even download demos to commercial EVNs - then you might be able to convince me to spend $20 on it.
Which is a factor in why most of the indies selling games here are NOT attempting to make anything that competes with the absolute top Japanese games - if most customers were like Wintermoon, we'd literally end up homeless. :)

Can it be done? It's theoretically possible, but it's one hell of a gamble.

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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#21 Post by kinougames » Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:15 am

Wintermoon wrote:I wouldn't pay anything close to $50 for a book, and many books have better writing than any visual novel I have seen.
I wouldn't pay anything close to $50 for an animated movie, and many animated movies have higher production values than any animated visual novel I have seen.
If a book or visual novel tries to reach $50 value by sheer length, it becomes so long that I'm not even going to bother. I have more tolerance for long films, but I still wouldn't spend $50 on one.
Quality makes me more likely to pick one book/movie/VN over another, but it won't make me spend $50.
You give a lot of good advice at times, but in this case, you're making the same mistake as you did in the "When to release" thread; a running assumption that because you think and do something, one should expect the market to follow. I daresay that there will be SOME people like yourself who will absolutely refuse, since people do not work in a void, but somehow these indie EVNs that sell for your absolute limit for the bestity best JVN out there manage to sell at prices you would personally never pay.
$20 is about my upper limit for games. I'm unlikely to buy an EVN at all for these reasons:

* I still have a long backlog of free EVNs that I haven't played yet.
* Japanese VNs have greater variety, are longer on average, and have better production values on average - but I still go to great lengths to avoid spending more than $20 on a single Japanese visual novel.
* Japanese VNs help me practice my Japanese. My English is good enough that I don't to practice it.

If you manage to address these concerns by providing a EVN that's as good as the best Japanese VN, and you manage to convince me that's it's that good before I have to spend any money - keeping in mind that I don't even download demos to commercial EVNs - then you might be able to convince me to spend $20 on it. But never $50, because that's outside my entertainment budget.

Or you might try the casual market, which seems to have lower standards. But they're not going to spend $50 on a visual novel either.
Which is why I keep repeating to everyone not to just cater games to the casual broke gamer, because they're more likely have a predisposed attitude about the worth of something, whereas it's proven that even just the feeling of having more money will make people spend it in larger chunks.

Not to mention, the average VN price in Japan is pretty damn steep. Some of the more popular (and not even MOST popular) companies sell their new stuff REGULARLY for 8500 yen, and have been in business for 6-7 years. I doubt you're buying anything new or fresh if you're not spending more than $20. Maybe 5 year old games.
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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#22 Post by PyTom » Thu Aug 26, 2010 11:45 am

The pricing models adopted by the Japanese otaku market may not be the best thing for us to try to emulate.

Take region 2 DVDs. Amazon.jp shows the 11th volume of Lucky star for ¥ 5880, for two episodes. I can buy the same content here in the US for $36.98 - and that includes 24 episodes. In Japan, it goes for 2940 yen ($34.76) an episode, versus $1.54 an episode here in the US. That's a huge difference, one that I suspect is caused by competition - when I can but a season of pretty much any series I want for under $40, it's hard to justify spending as much per episode.

Japan is the wrong place to look at, when trying to figure out how much to sell a product for in the west. The culture is different enough that I don't think the experience there is comparable. If you're trying to sell VNs or life simulations, your best bet is to look to the various games markets here, and see how much the direct competition is charging.
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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#23 Post by Glazed Donuts » Thu Aug 26, 2010 11:59 am

I definitely agree with this. The Japanese economy is a lot different from the US, and thus they are able to price their products like that. Right now, the Yen is way stronger then the Dollar, so we are going to expect to see crazy prices for Japanese imported games like that.

I'd say to stick with what you know. Price your products accordingly. If you're trying to make your money back on the production costs of your game, then I would look at that instead of trying to emulate Japanese pricing standards. In the US, brand new PC videogames don't sell for more than $50 (with the exception of special editions, etc), so people aren't going to expect to pay more than this for a PC game.

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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#24 Post by Wintermoon » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:12 pm

kinougames wrote:You give a lot of good advice at times, but in this case, you're making the same mistake as you did in the "When to release" thread; a running assumption that because you think and do something, one should expect the market to follow.
No, I am providing a single data point. But I have yet to see a single person speak out and say that they are willing to pay $50 for an EVN. (I know there are people willing to pay $50 or more for Japanese visual novels because that's how these companies stay in business, but the Japanese market is different.)
kinougames wrote:Which is why I keep repeating to everyone not to just cater games to the casual broke gamer, because they're more likely have a predisposed attitude about the worth of something, whereas it's proven that even just the feeling of having more money will make people spend it in larger chunks.
Actually I'm constantly surprised by how much money the casual gamer is willing to blow. They don't pay much per game, but they buy short games that are expensive for their length, and they buy lots of them. Not at all like my spending habits.

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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#25 Post by kinougames » Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:04 pm

Wintermoon wrote:No, I am providing a single data point. But I have yet to see a single person speak out and say that they are willing to pay $50 for an EVN. (I know there are people willing to pay $50 or more for Japanese visual novels because that's how these companies stay in business, but the Japanese market is different.)
I would pay $50 for an EVN if it was the equivalent of a JVN that I would pay $50 for. There are currently no EVNs that are that level, and considering cultural differences, it might be a while before it comes along.
kinougames wrote:Actually I'm constantly surprised by how much money the casual gamer is willing to blow. They don't pay much per game, but they buy short games that are expensive for their length, and they buy lots of them. Not at all like my spending habits.
xD Those buying habits don't help a single company much, but I'd be interesting in seeing a study on making small series that cost way too much for their length and seeing how they sell. xD
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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#26 Post by Strum » Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:28 pm

In my opinion, EVN should be no more than $40. Why? Because its the price Jast USA and Peach Princess are selling their wares for. Those two of the oldest names in the EVN business (I could be wrong but they're really old).

For my $40 (excluding postage & packaging, and also shipping) I'd be expecting an actual physical medium and not a download. That's another thing consumers whine about. They want something they can actually hold, rather than just electronic data.

If you want to make more money I suppose you could do what Japanese companies do and throw in an artbook, and maybe some stickers and repackage it as a "premium" edition.

That's just my view though, it'd be interesting to see how much other people would pay.
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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#27 Post by kinougames » Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:59 pm

Strum wrote:In my opinion, EVN should be no more than $40. Why? Because its the price Jast USA and Peach Princess are selling their wares for. Those two of the oldest names in the EVN business (I could be wrong but they're really old).

For my $40 (excluding postage & packaging, and also shipping) I'd be expecting an actual physical medium and not a download. That's another thing consumers whine about. They want something they can actually hold, rather than just electronic data.

If you want to make more money I suppose you could do what Japanese companies do and throw in an artbook, and maybe some stickers and repackage it as a "premium" edition.

That's just my view though, it'd be interesting to see how much other people would pay.
Video games are not a commodity. If you see a not-that-awesome game on JAST for $40, and a super-frigging-awesome game on an indie site for $50, you're not going to think to yourself "mmmwell, the $40 one is not as good, but I'll buy it anyway instead of spending the extra dough, or at least waiting for it to come down."

(At the same time, I would personally never sell a single game by itself for more than $40 without some kind of extra something.)
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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#28 Post by Aashtarsrain » Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:54 pm

That's just my view though, it'd be interesting to see how much other people would pay.
Personally, I wouldn't pay more than $30 for a simple downloadable VN, Japanese or not, and art, length and gameplay would matter greatly.

:lol: I would pay a hundred or more to play Shenmue 3 though. Guess it depends on what you're addicted to. :wink:

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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#29 Post by Strum » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:07 pm

You're right, I won't buy a game for $40 even one by a professional company if I thought it was crap. I don't need to see an awesome indie game to compare it with to come to that conclusion. I'd be very interested to see a super amazing indie VN. Maybe something like an amazing story line told in Key games as well as their wonderful mood setting music, plus the graphical excellence of Etude games. If they do make such a game, I might have to think twice about my view of not paying much for one.

However, that will never happen. Simpily because indie VN developers don't have the kind of cash to throw around as the pros which are backed by a publisher. This is clear when you see a gap in the quality between an indie game and a professional game. So I'm not saying indie developers suck, I'm saying they just don't have the money to go all out. Its due to that gap in quality is why I won't pay much for an indie VN.

A dream scenario would be someone won the lottery multiple times :lol: . That person is also close friends with people who can write quality stories, draw amazing art, and can compose wonderful music. That person would then invest their lottery money into making a VN. In such a scenario I admit its possible for an indie VN to match or even exceed a professional company. I might even be willing to pay $50 for their game, even if it had no gameplay elements besides the standard choose your route type. However, being a dream scenario it just won't happen so there will always be a gap between an indie developer and a professional developer.

Once again, I'd like to make clear that indie developers aren't bad. They just don't have the budget to push their games further. I know I'm rambling on a bit but thankfully its a ramble thread as stated in the title :lol:

If anyone comes across an indie VN that's worth $50 I want to know.

There you have it, the above poster and fellow consumer won't even pay more than $30 nevermind $40 that I'd pay. I guess this is becoming a debate between developers and consumers over price :mrgreen:
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Re: Indie game pricing rambles

#30 Post by jack_norton » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:47 pm

As an indie dev, I would never ATTEMPT to make a game worth $50. It's totally foolish, because you increase investment (and associated risks) enormously without any real way to know if you'll really make more money because of extra game quality (most likely, not). Better make 2 or 3 games worth $20.
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