Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

The Indie Strategy Game Bundle

Check this out:

It’s five games being sold as a bundle. Gratuitous Space Battles + Expansion, Solium Infernum, AI War + expansion. It’s a bundle of strategy games by like-minded indie strategy developers, being sold at a discount. In effect, buy two and get one free. Hurrah! Go blog it, tweet it, digg it, whatever it!

On a serious note, this is something I really like doing, because it shows the true potential of the internet, in a way that was much discussed in the 1990s, and now lost, which is the democratisation of access to customers for small businesses.

In theory, as a small indie dev, I have a shopfront every bit as big as EA or Activision or Ubisoft. Its just as easy (I’d argue WAY easier) for you to buy my games than it is to buy the latest AAA game from the big studios. In practice you don’t do that, on the whole…

In practice, not only do you still buy the AAA games, but if you *do* buy the indie games, you tend to buy them from someone else. I just got my stardock check for last month, and it’s not bad, quite a few sales, much appreciated. I genuinely appreciate every sale. However, isn’t it *slightly* a cause for a wistful sigh that the majority of semi-succesful indie games are sucessful through third parties? Wouldn’t it be nicer if there were as few parties between the gamer and the creator of a game as possible?

I really think so. I like services like impulse and steam, they are very developer friendly and give a good deal, but I also like a direct contact with my buyers. This strategy bundle is a step in that direction. There is nobody administrating this deal (except the card payment company as usual – BMT). It’s run by Me, Vic and Chris. We all contributed a little bit of time to make it happen. I *really* want it to be a success, because I’d love to do more things like it, with other developers, and other games. Maybe one day will be quite a fully-featured site. Who knows?

Anyway, it only lasts till monday. Tell everyone!

21 thoughts on The Indie Strategy Game Bundle

  1. Hi Cliff,

    This is really a great move. I already own these three games, so I can’t say that the deal pushes me off the fence. However, I like seeing indie strategy developers get together. The very nice games sold in this bundle are niche — we might even say that they cater to different niches, making the market for each very narrow. I can effectively see as a first step to a sane and healthy confederation effort, to which I’d like to see others join. Come forth, Oxeye and Data Realms and CodeForce and ntronium and you other indie strategy devs. Come forth, indie strategy players. Let’s start a community. I’ll join to play and buy what comes next.

  2. Would get this but i’ve got solium inferno and GSB. anyone who has not got either of these games needs them urgently or you lose your PC gamer license.

  3. Just to play devil’s advocate here. :)

    I bought GSB through your initial pre-order offering. What that means to me is that I need to keep track of a separate download link whenever I need to reinstall my machine in the future. I reinstalled my laptop a couple of months ago, and I still haven’t taken the time to look up my information to set up GSB again.In contrast, Impulse is usually one of the first things I set up, because I can get a large number of games installed very quickly.

    Aggregation of downloads into one or two clients (I also have Steam) is very convenient for me as a consumer. I’m not sure I see how directly interacting with customers to process credit cards helps you — for contact with customers, you’ve got your blog and forums.

    TL;DR: In a perfect world, I could install the OS, and ONE aggregate client, and it would reconfigure all the software I’ve purchased with little user interaction. Instead, I’ve got a gigantic mail folder filled with links and serial numbers, and stuff gets reinstalled as I need it or want it.

  4. In that perfect world of yours there is ONE place that sells PC games, where ONE guy decides what games can or cannot be listed (notice democracy 2 is still not on steam, nor ever will be)
    And after EVERY developer has to sell through that ONE place, because thats were 90% of gamers buy their games…
    They just drop the royalty rate. And then they drop it again, and then again. to maybe 10% for the developer, 90% for the portal.

    And thats the point where most peopel like me go back to working as boatbuilders…

    Monopolies are ALWAYS bad.

  5. also I’ve been selling games longer than steam, gamers gate, impulse or direct2drive. People who bought asteroid miner from me in 1997 can get their reg code again within hours of emailing me. Sometiems within minutes. Even if they have chanegd their email address.

  6. Not exactly — you are conflating my interests for distribution with an interest in a single point-of-sale.

    I’m looking at this primarily from the convenience of getting software onto my machine, particularly when I reinstall a machine or purchase a new one. I end up doing that sort of thing about twice a year. Reinstalling machines is a complete pain in the ass. I have to find a lot of CDs, download every net-based purchase (or back up their installers), and keep track of dozens of activation codes, when there’s no standardized way that those codes get distributed. (e.g. some businesses send it in email, some put it on the box, some put it in the manual, some put it on a separate card,….).

    For purposes of distribution and distribution alone, I want the convenience of being able to track all the software I own online, and have it reinstalled on a machine with as little manual labor on my end as possible. Color me lazy, but it takes at least 15-20 hours of downloading and 10+ hours of swapping CDs to get a machine back into the state I want it in (OS + Dev Tools + Productivity Apps + Games).

    WRT to monopoly on distribution, there is certainly the risk of single point of failure. For a long time, I bought boxed copies of games and avoided Steam and similar services because I didn’t have confidence that services would be around in 1, 3 or 10 years. If I bought game xxx on service yyy, and yyy goes out of business, what’s the migration path to allow me to continue to install the game? That’s an interesting problem to solve.

    But really, my original post wasn’t about sales at all. I’m looking at this as a distribution problem. Downloading apps from 30 different sites is far less convenient for me than setting up a few applications (steam, impulse) and letting them keep track of my serial numbers and do all the installs. I agree with you that from a sales perspective, a monopoly allows the portal to throw their weight around. In the real world, I always expect to have a few portals, if only for competition.

    I’m not sure what the business model would be for the portal, but if I could buy the software anywhere and choose which portal(s) to associate it with for aggregate downloads, that’d work too. *grin*

    From your reply, it sounds like what you are saying is that you want to run your own sales so that you have more control over the return you get on sales as well as control of the promotions you get to offer. Is that accurate? The main reason I commented is because it wasn’t clear to me from your original post what your reasons for running your own sales portal were. What does “direct contact with the buyer” actually mean to you?

  7. Direct contact for me means that its easy to talk to the gamers and vice versa. That only really happens if its a direct process, not mediated by a third party. Almost all publishing contracts dictate that the publisher needs approval on any communication about the game. That sucks.

    I’m just fiercely independent :D

    I also don’t ever reformat my machine, so its less of a hassle for me :D I only need worry abiut it when I buy a enw PC every 3 years or so.

  8. Screw you Cliff. I’ve already dropped thirty bucks this week on games, and you drop this? Now, both GSB and AI War have been on “round tuit” status forever, and while I’ve only been tangentially interested in SI, I have been following VJD’s blog. So what am I going to do here, say no?

    No, I’m going to break out the card and pay the vig on my three new games.

    So, this week, I’ve purchased more games than I have time to play.

    the frugal gamer

  9. Fantastic! I’ve been following your awesome blog for a while now but I wasn’t a customer (I typically follow developer blogs), but I think I will be now.

    Question, though, is it at all possible to enter GSB and AI War keys into Steam? Just for convenience sake. I completely understand your reasoning and I’m more than willing to buy through you directly, but Steam would personally be more convenient, on TOP of this pack.


  10. I’m wondering the same thing as above. I’d love to buy directly from you but I would like the game being tied to my steam account. I thought I had heard of developers directly selling steam keys but I don’t know the specifics.

  11. That’s an awesome bundle!

    I’d just wish it had been around 3 weeks earlier, because now I already have GSB + Tribe and I don’t need a second set of keys for myself if those can’t be gifted. :/
    But those other two games sure look good. They made it onto my “Buy them soon”-list.

  12. I buy my (indie) games through Steam, because that makes buying, accessing, patching and playing so much more comfortable.

  13. Nice move on the bundle – three excellently aligned games there.

    I’d suggest putting the bundle price & call to action at the top of the page though so it’s more obvious.

  14. I bought GSB direct through the pre-order, and love it. But I have to agree with several other people here in that the primary reason I buy things through Steam is the convenience. It’s all right there in one spot, on any of my computers I want, it auto patches, and they have fabulous deals every now and again.

    So in this case, purely as a consumer, Steam is offering me something you can’t through your website. Though I also do agree with your stance on monopolies, we need several fiercely competing online distribution aggregators to keep things honest.

    You mention some of the onerous restrictions is publishing contracts, which admittedly suck and there is a huge and undeserved skew in power balance towards publishers today, but that would seem a separate issue than online distribution channel. Steam or Stardock don’t make you sign anything saying you need their permission for customer interaction do they?

  15. To answer Jay Kim and Adam, the license keys for AI War and its expansion can be entered into Steam to unlock the Steam version of those games, so you can buy the game here while still getting the benefits of having it on Steam. There’s a Steam support page that shows the various games for which they accept retail CD keys. It doesn’t list GSB, so I imagine it won’t work for that, but I can’t say for certain.

    Hopefully that’s of some help!

  16. Noticed this by accident, followed a link to the most recent blog entry. A great bargain, not really interested in AI WAR, but Solium was a must buy for me, and GSB a should buy. Now I only need to find time to play any of these, as I still haven’t finished Dragon Age nor Knights of the Chalice.

    I share Codrus’ view on the distribution issue. I’ve bought games from Gamersgate, Steam and Impulse, and I recently abandoned Gamersgate thanks to the poor support I got from them. And honestly, even though I’m very fond of Paradox’s games, I was only too happy to dismiss Gamersgate as a choice. Even three portals felt like too much for me.

    From a convenience point of view, I too would love to have a single point of access for all the digitally distributed games I own. Or have access to. Or whatever you should call it in this day of intangible ownership.

    I hate having an absurdly large number of different accounts to this and that website/online thingy. For me, the customer, it’s just a huge hassle, and if I could get rid of it, I would. I hate having a Games for Windows login and Rockstart whogivesacrap login, just to play GTA IV. Sure, I get why the companies all want that stuff. But I don’t. I’ve honestly seriously considered not buying any more GfW games because it irks me.

    I’m getting old and grumpy:-)

    While it’s not going to happen, what I’d really want is a single access point that would provide access and access control for all the different distributors. In a manner invisible to me. Preferably independent from the distribution points.

    And since that’s not possible, I prefer to favor Steam, since I have the most games bought from there. Which I guess came to be thanks to their sales. (I’ve used impulse, or the stardock central precursor longer than steam, I believe) Also Steam’s popularity reduces the number of hassles I have to encounter and solve, since a horde of people will probably encounter them before me.

  17. I know what you mean. I make a big point of telling people they don’t need to remember an order number or ID or password to re-grab their games from me. I can always find their order.
    Really, all customer databases are searchable by any item of data. Companies who refuse to find your details unelss you have an account / order number are just being useless gits…

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