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

Selling games and selling butter

I went shopping yesterday, bought loads of food. I noticed that butter seemed to range from £1.30 to about £1.60 in the store I went to (an average supermarket). This suddenly jolted my brain because I am pretty sure butter used to be about 90p – £1.00, depending on brand. What the hell has skyrocketed the price of butter? (it’s not like we don’t have enough cows, I can see some from my window :D).

Anyway…. It was quite unusual for me to notice that the price had rocketed up so much, and I started to think about my attitude to food pricing. It’s interesting to note that I didn’t notice the pricing of hardly anything else that I bought. Maybe I’m sensitive to the price of wine, and chicken, but that’s because I buy it a lot (also explains noticing butter), but what price should a pack of crumpets be? No idea. What price should 80 T-bags be? No idea.

When you think about it, the ‘seeing the price’ element of purchasing something physical is actually very minor. Even if you have little money, the price evaluation component of the shopping experience is tiny. With clothes, there is all the trying them on, seeing how they look in the mirror, feeling the lovely material…blah blah. You are aware of the price, for sure, but it appears only briefly when the checkout person mentions it to you as they hand you a big bag full of purchased stuff. If the price is reasonable, you can easily just breeze through the experience and forget what you paid for it, or never even acknowledge it. Like I did with crumpets. I didn’t see the price, I just saw yummy crumpets.

That doesn’t happen with online games purchases. The price is there in big bold letters, right next to the product

Gratuitous Collectors Edition            $24.95

They are given equal weight. The price of the item becomes as important as the item itself. Because we aren’t looking at some big physical thing, the products presence cannot blind us to the price of it. I wonder if having large images of the product, with a small price label under them on an order form generates more sales than having it all as just text? There is also no distraction. I don’t have to physically load my purchase into a bag, and I’m not in a  hurry because people are behind me in the queue. There is this big glowing PRICE in front of me, challenging me to be unhappy with it, and I know I can still back out of the deal at this point without anyone giving me a funny look.


12 thoughts on Selling games and selling butter

  1. Well, consider those goofy toy catalogs from when you were a lad. Pictures, pictures, pictures. Obviously it was something they thought worked.

  2. I think this, indirectly, is what alot of those “token” sites do. Bigfish and Microsoft points, for example. I know I have one point, I can get one game! My wife does this, and I’ve noticed that it is a completely different purchasing scheme. One point becomes a measure of fun, not longevity or graphics or etc. ‘Course I think most of the games are short, simple, and repetative… But GSB is my market, not BigFish. My wife won’t touch GSB :P She thinks its too long, complicated, etc.

    Microsoft points just confuse the issue by making thinks look cheaper. It’s just another form of indirection. 800 is $8.00, right? No, it’s 10, but I think it feels like 8.

    Personally, I think Big Fishes indirection is moral – it changes the context while maintaining some parity. Microsofts is manipulative.

    Also, Bigfish only has to display pictures, 1 game 1 point.

    I’d buy Cliffski points for a dollar a piece :P Don’t know what I’d do with them… I have GSB on Steam and Kudos 2 on Impulse… but Cliffski points sound fun!

  3. I think prices have gone up latley in the UK, in physical shops at least, the internet hasn’t been too affected.

  4. There is also the point that you are more likely to buy something you held in your hand and thus attaching yourself to it. That’s just not the case when shopping online. (I read an article about this a while ago)

  5. Well the % between £1 and £1.40 is a hug amount. the same % difference between £29 and £30 isn’t but most would complain if a game went up in price. Also we are used to games coming down in price so notice if they seem high.

    Lot of marketing here. If the price didn’t include VAT (US sales tax) would we complain most with butter or games when we get the final charge as the tax stays the same % wise).

    If the price came before the item, $24.95 Gratuitous Collectors Edition, does that make a difference? In my opinion yes it does as we are getting the bad news first.

    If you go to most on line shops they have the product name, a description and an image and then lastly is the price. This is to get you attached to the item before you pay for it. Some clever sites also make sure the price has to be scrolled down for common screen resolutions. Or putting the price in a green colour as it has a calming effect. Clever stuff.

  6. The butter is in a different category than the game. Butter is food, and I need food to survive. Sure, honestly I could go without butter if things were really tight, but when you come down to it, it’s pretty easy to justify something that you need anyway.

    The game? Most people won’t say they “need” the game. So price is a much bigger factor. If the butter is $.50 more (I live in The States), I might not like it, but I’m probably going to pay it regardless because it’s butter, and the amount of money is pretty trivial to my finances in the grand scheme of things. The game? I can’t eat it, it doesn’t “do” anything. All it does is entertain, and the pricetag on entertainment items these days is often enough to make you stop. $.50 isn’t a big deal to me, but $50? That’s several meals worth of money. How can I not look at the price tag? I don’t think there’s anything you could do to stop most mature adults from stopping and looking at the price of an entertainment item.

    This is happening for me right now. I like zombie games and am really interested in Dead Rising 2. But not interested enough to pay $40.00 for it. If games were food, or we needed them like we need air, I bet we’d feel different about the price.

    So you show me a bigger picture of GSB. Maybe that makes it seem like I “need” it more. Maybe the small font green lettered price below the crease makes me feel a little better about it? I dunno. I think that showing me the pictures can make me more excited about the game, but I doubt any resizing or coloring of the price will alter my perceptions of how much I’m spending. If you can get me to commit to the game before I see the price(something I’m not likely to do), then I guess this might work. Your pictures at the top better convince me that I need this like I need air though. =D

  7. Nice post. You should set up an alternative page with more images and a smaller font for the price and compare performance with Website Optimizer. I would be really curious to hear the results.

  8. Hi,

    I think butter and other prizes go up here because somehow they use inflation to make you pay for state debts..but it’s just an idea I have.
    If I had to bet, I’d trust the idea for a while, but someone needs to adress this question more seriously.

    I don’t know if you pay a lot of taxes Cliff? I think you don’t.
    That’s a good thing, keep that up, keep investing surpluss money into the ‘competitive game industry.
    If you don’t have surpluss money, states can’t taxe it away.

    It’s a bit like with the romans and the frysians (duch indiginous folk, colonized with the romans ..long …lóng time ago.

    The rest of the roman and frankish empires solld much more crops, this enabled crops to be taxed because people were used to low priced crops, taxing some away didn’t do that much to that industry.
    But the Frysians on the other hand, used their surpluss crops to feed their cows with. Now you may know, that cows aren’t easy to tax.
    The reason for that is obvious, a piece of cow, once dead, rots within days.
    Crops stay good for a longer time, wheet stays good for even longer periods and if you can’t use it to make bread out of, you can allways create beer.
    Cowbeer however, never came into fashion (although chineese farmers are now experimenting with ánt-beer.

    So basically, you need to find youreself a way of ‘herding cows’, it’s going to make it harder to get taxed, and thus, for you to receive pressure increase your prizes to €50,- a game, wich is probably what you’d have to ask if you’d put your game in a shop, wich is what those wheet selling standard game industry lacky’s are doing.

    Huib out-

  9. The problem is that I don’t think price influences your decision about whether or not to buy butter. You’ve decided to buy butter, and price simply is a way of determining which brand of butter you are likely to buy, or how much.

    I don’t think games are all that different in this regard.

  10. I will note however that I do feel better about purchasing items if there is a picture (or cover art) on the order form rather than just text. The price doesn’t disturb me. Actually, more numbers makes it look more official and less like a scam. But having a picture is important, and generally makes me less inclined to change my mind at the pricing screen.

    Your order forms are nice, btw, and don’t scare me away.

    Btw, I hate it when I have to go to an order form or checkout cart just to see the price of something. Other companies seem to do that a lot and it tends to turn me off pretty quick.

    Stragely, one thing I do like, is that I like making choices when ordering something. I don’t usually get to do that a lot with games, other than perhaps choosing a shipping method. But I like those little option buttons where I get to make some kind of choice. I don’t know why. I guess for the same reason you want to make small talk with a customer in a shop rather than just take their cash. Perhaps having a poll of some kind on the order form…? I’m not sure. Something to think about, I suppose… I’ve never thought about it until now.

  11. I think you’re onto something here (and I’m also behind on my RSS feeds, but that’s another matter). I think pushing the images a little more and pushing the price down a little lower is a good idea. It reminds me of those commercials on TV where they’re trying to sell you a juicer or whatever, and delaying the announcement of the price — clearly this works, or those companies wouldn’t be doing it. However, it’s not as sleazy — just good salesmanship. Draw attention to the quality of the product and the fun you’ll have with it, not the filthy lucre.

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