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

Even in November 2015, PC games are not commodities.

…although people seem to be pricing them like they are. Which is kinda weird. I’ve seen games listed for $0.10. Thats kinda…desperate, and its either a signal that the game is an absolute botched together clone of something simple and generic, or it shows that the developer isn’t aware that games are not commodities.

About a week ago, Anno 2205 came out, and I bought it right away (in fact I even pre-ordered it, based on my like for 2070). The price of the game is interesting. here is steam spy


So…no launch discount, a price of $60.00, and so far about 40,000 owners (clearly more off-steam as well). So thats $2.4 million, so take 70% and it means 1.68 million. IO don’t know the games dev costs but I’m guessing its not stratospheric. A few million? hard to tell, but I think its safe to say the game will be a decent retrun on investment.

Ubisoft know that Anno is Anno, and other games are not Anno. If I look at the strategy new releases chart on steam…


Ok, so no denying age of empires is cool, but a bit…old, and mini metro might be fun. One of them is DLC and I’ve never heard of the others. This isn’t my point though, my point is, I could buy the entire newly released top ten strategy games for less than the price I paid for Anno, and yet…I bought Anno. Judging my sales charts, so did everyone else.

Games (good ones) are not commodities. I don’t *need* to price Democracy 3 to compete with those 10 games listed there because they are NOT competition. Big Pharma is still priced at full price because it pretty much has no competition. There are *similar* games, sure, but there are *similar* games to Anno, but they are *not* the same.

Stop pricing games like you are selling a generic commodity. You aren’t.

7 thoughts on Even in November 2015, PC games are not commodities.

  1. Only way I can “explain” the $0.10 is that these devs are obeying the logic of some people that cheap leads to more buy and lead to more positive reviews and leads to more sales which leads to more profit.

    Which of course doesn’t work otherwise we’d all be pricing our games $0.10 …

    People need to stop listening to what is being said on Twitter.

  2. Anno 2205 is very new and shiny – I suppose it will stay full price for 2-3 months.
    Look at Banner Saga instead – they just had sales -75% off.

    Jeff Vogel described it very accurately:

    Stage 1 (first couple of months) 100% price (maybe launch discount)
    Stage 2 (till one year) discounts -25% and -50%
    Stage 3 (after that) deep discounts -75% and pay what you want bundles -75%

    I have two games on Steam – I wish it was different, but that’s market nowadays.
    Games have very limited life nowadays (it’s just too many of them).
    Maybe complex strategy games can delay discounts.

  3. Not sure this is the greatest analogy(?)/comparison. (words how do they work, my brain needs more tea)

    Anno is a AAA franchise with 15+ years of games and a hugely recognisable brand with a popular (if still relatively niche compared to other genres) following who will pay a premium price for it – whilst the others are mostly one shot gamemaker creations from someone’s bedroom in a sea of one shot gamemaker creations from someone’s bedroom. (looks around furtively at his bedroom)
    Anno doesn’t really have much to compete against whilst the others do.
    Anyhow, horses for courses, et al.

    1. This is true, but that premium price only exists because of the price signaling on the part of ubisoft. I’ve never seen the anno games in a Pay What you want sale or some huge discount bundle.
      I guess my side point is that those one-shot game-maker games you describe are really not good enough. Unless you *are* making a game with expectations and quality that low, you have to distance yourself from them, and one way of doing that is by having a higher price.

    2. Anno and gamemaker games are extreme examples – there are many shades of grey between.

      I guess Anno has not much alternative thus they can afford to keep full price for long.

      However, with almost all of games you make money on sales. Its simple – no discount, they will buy somewhere else.

      Creating unique product is difficult as it involves also creating market for it – it can be very successful (Minecraft), but most likely it will flop.

      Also, uniqueness will wear itself too in time. Currently there are tons of Minecraft clones.

      That’s why AAA studios stick to sequels – they allow to plan budges, estimate sales and run it as profitable bussiness.

  4. Hey Cliff,

    I have unrelated question – do you think it’s worth to update previous games with all new features that are implemented for next game?

    We are reusing the same engine and we are backporting all new things currently.
    Do you think it’s worth doing that or better save them for new game?


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