Should you make a game about X? is it worth pricing your game at $Y or $Z. Should you do a mobile port? Should you develop in unity? How many people will buy the game if we spend an extra $35k on art?
Most of the answers to these questions are useless, partly because the correct answers are truly unknowable, partly because most people you ask will lack the experience to have any real insight into the topic (for example asking me if your mobile game will sell is pointless. I have ZERO insight), and also partly because people generally tell you what you want to hear.
The first 2 problems can be solved by taking *all* answers with a pinch of salt along with only asking people who actually know about the topic. For example if you want to know what makes a political strategy game, you could ask 100 random developers, or you could just ask me & brad wardell. The latter would be a much better idea.
The last problem, has an actual technical solution, but it wont work with everyone. its worth discussion though. The solution is called a decision market, or a prediction market (same thing).
Basically with a prediction market, instead of saying ‘cliff, do you think my game will make sales of $50,000 dollars’, you say ‘cliff, if I was prepared to sell all the income from my game to you, what would you pay?’. Obviously that assumes I have $50k I’m willing to risk, so a more nuanced version would be ‘What would you pay me for 1% of my sales revenue?’ to which you presumably want me to say ‘$500’ or maybe more.
Because such markets include an actual financial incentive, it skirts immediately around the ‘not wanting to hurt your feelings’ problem. I’m happy to tell you that your game is a sure fire hit, to make you feel good, and not be mr doom-and-gloom. I’m less happy for that politeness to cost me $100.
I definitely think that the whole idea of markets, predictions, shared equity, and kickstarter / down-payments is something under-utilized by creative industries. Kickstarter gets close with the whole ‘would you buy this thing now? before I make it?’ idea. Greenlight surprisingly uses no incentives whatsoever. I would LOVE to see the discrepancy between current greenlight votes versus a system where voting on greenlight costs you $1, recoup-able against the cost of the actual game. I’d also like to see that at $0.10. (I suspect the difference between them would be negligible.)
To some extent, I am doing this with production line. It’s in alpha now. Will the finished game be worth more than $11? About 8,000 people so far have said yes, and not with mouseclicks, but with actual proper money. That information is not just good, its a whole order of magnitude better that any opinion poll or greenlight style system.
The problem with all this, is that kickstarter (the best public decision market) has become perceived (helped in no small part by its name) as a way for ‘people without money to get a project off the ground’. Ideally it would be perceived as ‘A way for anyone to test the market value of a proposal.’ For example, say I went to kickstarter for ‘Democracy 4’, I’m sure I’d get grief along the lines of ‘he doesn’t need the money that way…kickstarter isn’t for people in his position’. And that’s nuts, because we already have decision markets for REALLY wealthy companies, and we call them futures markets, options and to an extent shares themselves. All a share price really represents is the public consensus on the market success of a companies projects in future. This is REALLY helpful information.
Positech shares will not dip (or jump) if I tease Democracy 4 tomorrow. Nobody is able to short-sell (or buy options in) my stock. Somehow, there is an opportunity to ‘fix’ this with clever tools. In practice, legal hassle involved with gambling makes actually doing it probably nonviable.
Probably the nearest we can get is something like this site.