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

Democracy 4 DLC now available to add to wishlist!

All the cool kids these days are trying to get people to add their upcoming games to their wishlist. Its literally the coolest game in town. You wouldn’t want to not be cool right?

In all seriousness, the reason indie devs do all that is because its widely believed that steams algorithm internally keeps track of what new games are ‘hot’ by how many people are following them or adding them to their wishlists, and this helps to determine how much visibility those games get at launch. I suspect the effect is much reduced with DLC because it sells to a smaller audience anyway, and perhaps steam prioritizes new IP over expansions and DLC anyway. We have no way of knowing.

But you DO get notified by steam when a pre-release game you wishlist has been released, so if nothing else, its just a handy reminder to people that they were interested in X a while back, and its out now…

So here is the store page for the new expansion so you can do this right now:

This DLC has actually been really hard to make, and in many ways was tons harder than doing the voting systems expansion. I can imagine many people might think it is the other way around, given that the voting systems DLC added some new core functionality to the base game whereas this expansion ‘is just a few new countries’. There are two reasons why this was not the case…

Firstly its SIX new countries, which was a bit silly of me. It should have been 4 max. I had totally blanked out that part of my memory where we did all the research and balancing for all the countries in the base game, and also forgotten that many of the base game countries had been modelled before, so we already had a lot of the data. Secondly, I massively forgot how much research is needed to do a proper job of just ONE country. The game has all of its usual policies, plus a bunch of new ones, plus all the content that used to be in 3 expansion packs for D3, plus some new stuff that is specific to the previous expansion pack on voting systems.

Because no economic/political model can EVER really model the reality of a single country in all possible states, let alone model 10, and certainly not 16, there are bound to be a bunch of weird anomalies and inaccuracies in any new countries that get added to the game. Perhaps its REALLY easy if you play Poland as a super-religious libertarian who loves carbon taxes? Maybe Greece is unwinnable for people who want to play Environmentalist-Capitalists if you start with a global economic boom? The problem is…there are too many permutations to test.

I did actually code some AI that plays the game automatically, but the trouble is in extracting any useful data from it. The game does a lot of processing, and even if I get each turn down to under a second (I can get it below 2 seconds already, and thats without multithreading), that means a 5 year term with 5 terms is around 2 minutes of AI-modelling. This might sound quick, but if I can only do 30 playthroughs an hour (720 a day) then thats nowhere close to the number of playthroughs needed to accurately build up a statistical model of imbalance…

I’m not saying that I will not revisit that experiment later…just that the sheer number of combinations of decision in the game mean you really need several million games to be played and analyzed to detect any issues. In other words several years of dedicated processing…

Anyway… I do have a bunch of time set aside between now and release which is basically just me playing each country a LOT, and tweaking all the numbers so they are playable. Democracy 4 is more of a sandbox than a conventional game, so I’m not aiming to get every permutation perfectly balanced anyway. Thats an impossible dream. I do have to ensure nothing crashes or goes super weird in a normal playthrough on each of these six countries though…

That brings me to the price. I’ve set it at $9.99. I did a lot of agonizing about this, and talked to some fellow devs a lot about pricing. Both urged me to price it higher than this. One urged me to double that. Its a really difficult thing to get right, and a decision that I find really interesting.

We all know that the marginal cost of each copy is zero, so in a way, it doesn’t matter if I charge $0.01 or $100, its just a matter of picking the number that maximizes total revenue. This depends a lot on who I think the target market is, what they can afford, and how much value I think the DLC represents… All very difficult things to be exact on. Eventually I figured that given that the base game is $26.99 and has 10 countries….6 countries for $9.99 is a good deal. Its also worth considering that anybody even considering buying some DLC clearly already likes the base game, and has played it enough that they want some extra content. That implies that their play hours are high enough that their cost-per-hour for Democracy 4 is low, and thus are willing to consider any new content favorably with regards to expected play time.

I see this a lot in my daily multiplayer Battlefield V games with friends. I am a serious Battlefield V addict. I have over 1,200 hours in BFV and thousand more in the earlier games. My cost per hour for BFV is about £0.05. Thats insane for something I enjoy that much. Its like going to see a new Hollywood movie and paying £0.15 for it. Madness.

The irony is, that as your perceived playtime cost per hour falls, the value proposition of new content shoots up. If they added one new map to Battlefield V, thats maybe a 5% playtime bonus for me, or 60 hours of entertainment. Even if I will only pay £0.50 an hour, that map should be a good deal to me for £30. A 3-map pack should be £99.

Obviously not all Battlefield players are so obsessed, but with DLC *you are selling to the hardcore*, so the value proposition is way better than it seems to the casual player. This is why it makes sense in F2P games to have some really expensive stuff. There are definitely people who will not only buy a lot of it, but they will consider it a good deal. Thats assuming you aren’t tricking/exploiting people with dark patterns and other horrible business practices obviously…

So…Yup, this DLC will be $9.99 and I think its actually a pretty good deal for people who have played at least all of the maps in the base game once. Its also probably an attractive proposition for anybody who is actually living in one of those six new countries (Ireland, Poland, Switzerland, Turkey, Brazil and Greece). I guess I’ll find out if people agree with me on that in about a months time :D

2 thoughts on Democracy 4 DLC now available to add to wishlist!

  1. For many games, quite a lot of the upside in DLC is by making ‘Deluxe’ versions of the game (base game and DLC) and then bundling them together at a slight discount – and making the discount larger during sales. Especially if you have multiple bits of DLC, a lot of people will be tempted to buy the game for the first time with the DLC bundled it.

    (So I def. agree with your pricing, because I feel like the true upside is in new players buying it with the base game, not existing players, and now you can have a 3-item Deluxe version with $15 of upside, discounted.)

  2. Listed!

    As a Brazillian, I’m inclined to buy it.
    As a Democracy fan (owned all 3 previous titles), I’m also inclined to buy it.

    I totally agree about the logic of pricing for hard core fans. It’s the same model Paradox do for all their games. Tons of extra content for those that enjoy and play it a LOT. Regardless their prices, fans think they are great deal.

    HoweverI had some trouble in a previous game of mine that offered a country/region DLC. For people that live in these regions, is a “required” DLC. For an American, playing Turkey is an extra, but Turkish may feel it is a must and get pissed by Turkey to not be included in the main game or the DLC not priced very low, close-not-none. It’s a psychological phenomena, but real nonetheless. I think there is also a GDC talk about it, coz some other developers suffered similar situations.

Comments are currently closed.