The ”pay what you want” strategy

Discussion in 'Commercial Games Discussion' started by Parallax Panda, Jun 5, 2019.

  1. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    You can either release your game(s) with a obligatory price, for totally free or with a flexible/voluntary price. Here I’d like us to talk about the third option.

    First things first, let’s recognize that there are several different ways of doing this and they are probably not equal in strategy or success.
    One way would be to release a project for free and crowdfound the cost of upkeep and development through a site such as Patreon. This seems to be done with moderate success for several, let’s call them ”grown-up RM games”. But that might be because they CAN’T sell those games on STEAM in the first place. So their success might not carry over to your average RM game.

    Another way of doing it would be to put your game on Itch.io with a flexible price. Maybe suggesting the player pays, I dunno, let’s say 3$ but if they’re savvy enough press the ”pay nothing” button. Then they can download it for free. Here you’re giving the person downloading the game the insentive to pay, litterally spelling it out for them, and as a consumer they have to make the active choice not to.

    Which brings me to the third and final strategy, releasing the game for free and providong a seperate link where people can give you money, maybe through a Paypal donation button or the like. It’s kind of similar to a crowdfunding effort, except there is not much of an effort put into it.

    There is no doubt in my mind that you’ll probably make more money straight up selling a game. But are any of these options worth it for someone who don’t want to put their game behind a paywall, but still would like to see some small return (some pocket cash) from their hobby?
    As a dev, releasing something for free is less of a hassle and some might prefer this as you don’t have the same pressure to perfect and update something that does not have a hard pricetag on it. Thus you’re also less likely to recive complaints from players who felt cheated by your product. And if you’re doing this casualty, this might be prefarably.

    Then again, I can’t remember who said it but I have heard that ”pay what you want” gives you the worst of two worlds. Less downloads than a free game and less money than a commercial game - However if it’s true or not, I don’t know.
     
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  2. Finnuval

    Finnuval World (his)story builder and barrel of ideas Veteran

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    From a gamers standpoint (not a dev pov) the second option is the worst as I personally will always choose the pay nothing option because in general I don't know what I'm getting so I don't know what it's going to be worth.

    With a separate link to donate I might actually do so after playing the game if I found it worth my money, though I do prefer it if the amounts donated are either in small increments or totally up to me and not skip from a $5 donation to a $20 donation taking away my choice in the matter.

    As for payed games, well they'll need to be good as I will be much more critical about them and a lot more hesitant to buy them to begin with especially if they lack any real information out there.

    Anyway those are my two cents and as usual I'm probably either weird or wrong :D
     
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  3. Meike

    Meike ||Telling Stories Through Games|| Veteran

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    So far, I do the 'pay want you want' itch.io model for my free games, and I'll say this...I recognize ALL the...3 or 4 emails who actually paid for my game.

    I don't know if that will change in the future as I build reputation, but I imagine if you make it free, you won't earn much.
     
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  4. Finnuval

    Finnuval World (his)story builder and barrel of ideas Veteran

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    of course that shouldn't come as a surprise ;)
     
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  5. MushroomCake28

    MushroomCake28 KAMO Studio Veteran

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    I honestly prefer the simple price tag. If a game had a "pay what you want" price, I would probably pay nothing, or the lowest possible amount. Of course, I'd also judge the game based on the price I paid, and not the suggested price. So either make it free (I'll be more forgiving when judging it), or put a price tag (I'll be more critical).

    Both ways are still fine and way better than the free to play with DLC and in-game currencies to make money.
     
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  6. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    No one has brought up the Patreon/Crowdfunding model yet. What about devs, who like YouTubers, makes free content (in this case games I guess) and asks their fans to continuously support development and upkeep of their projects (new and old)? Is that something you think could work for someone developing in RPG maker? (I've actually not seen it done myself except with those previously mentioned naughty games).

    @Finnuval
    I get what you're saying although I'm not sure the second option is much worse than the third option. I actually think the third option might be the worst since it requires a effort. The player has to care enough not only to give you money but to go out of their way to go back to the download site and do it without being asked or promped to do so. I'd say that most people probably won't.

    Most people problably will click the "pay nothing" button too (I know I do), but I imagine there are a few rare personalities who has some money and goes "eh, okay I'll give him the 3$, whatever", when asked to do so.

    @Meike
    So you've actually tried the "pay what you want" route? What about downloads? Do you think they suffer because of your model or do you think you'd be getting about as much.

    If your downloads do not suffer, there is no reason not to have a "pay what you want" model instead of a simple "this is free" since the only thing that would differ is that you might get a few dollars (for a game that you chose not to put a hard price tag on).
     
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  7. Finnuval

    Finnuval World (his)story builder and barrel of ideas Veteran

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    It does require effort yes but personally if I think a game deserves it it is effort I will put into it. Of course that's just me and I'm probably not the best example of the average gamer :D
     
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  8. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    @Finnuval
    Most people here probably aren't the best example of your "average" gamer, because the the very least we're all hobby developers.

    But putting that aside, I get what you're saying. If your experience was fantastic then you might be inclined to go the extra mile - but I think it's super rare. The number of time I've done something similar myself I'd be able to count one hand (even if I had lost one or two fingers in an accident). And those games were all above and beyond my expectations, and if you make something that good you probably should put a price tag on it and be done with it.

    ---

    My personal interest in this topic, not necessarily what the discussion must focus on, is what the best model is for your smaller and less ambitious projects. Maybe something you did as an learning experience, or something you whipped together in 3 months? Maybe it's a generic game you made for fun that is full o RTP and tropes and you feel that releasing it on STEAM might not be "worth the hassle". Or you might not think it deserves a hard price tag.

    Yet, it is a complete game. And if there's something to gain (money, reputation, community goodwill, whatever), why pass it up? Basically, how to release those half-assed projects that you still managed to finish? I guess you could just throw it out for free and be done with it without thinking about it but that seems like a potentially wasted opportunity for you as a dev... is my opinion. :kaopride:
     
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  9. Finnuval

    Finnuval World (his)story builder and barrel of ideas Veteran

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    True

    Well in my opinion if you make something for fun without the intent of making money from it then why try to after the fact? If your game is good you will always gain something from it (reputation, good will, etc). If that goes well enough then you could put a price-tag on your next release and plan to from the start.
    I guess what I'm trying to say is if you want to make money from your project you should have that intent from the start, hold yourself to the standards that come with it and put a fixed price on it. If you don't then don't and gain the good-will, etc. and (re)consider the option with your next project.

    I don't think putting a game out there for free is a waste in any event so yeah, difference of opinion on that I guess lol
     
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  10. Shaz

    Shaz Veteran Veteran

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    I did this a long time ago. My game was downloaded by thousands. One person paid. And they knew me.
     
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  11. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    @Shaz
    That actually says a lot.

    @Finnuval
    I wouldn't say it's a waste, but not thinking things through could mean you're wasting a better opportunity.

    And yes, it's good to think about whether a game should be a commercial one from the start. But that's not always how development goes. I guess you can make a parallel to an imaginary artist who doodles and sketches all day long. Then one day, without planning to do so he finishes a painting. It's not a masterpiece, he's still somewhat of an amateur, but it's not that bad. And it is a finished painting. Now what to do with it? He could give it to a friend or donate it to charity to gain some goodwill, or, try to sell it for some pocket change to someone. Which is the better option? I dunno.

    Also I'm not sure about "standards for commercial games" (games with a fixed price). In my humble opinion there are none, just vague and biased guidelines. The lower quality the game, the less I'd be willing to pay for it but how much and where to draw the lines are different for everyone. There are some real crap games on STEAM for example that some people have paid for, but I sure wouldn't.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that almost nothing is below being able to be sold or monetized, especially not if there's not a hard price tag on it. But I'm aware that sometimes building a reputation or fan base would be the better long term investment. And I guess that's why I wanted to compare the three publishing models in the original post to see what everyone's opinions and experiences were.
     
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  12. Finnuval

    Finnuval World (his)story builder and barrel of ideas Veteran

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    Well as someone who makes 'art' (cough cough) from time to time...

    The donate/give to friend option is exactly what i do haha It's why more then one person on this forum has fan-art made by me, or a profile pic, or something haha

    Back on topic though, I feel that if your goal is to make money it should be your goal from the start if that's not the case getting the long-term investment of rep./goodwill is the better bet and it's not like you lost something if you hadn't planned on gaining anything anyway.

    Of course by no means is what i say truth or anything, it's just my view on the matter is all :D
     
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  13. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    @Finnuval
    Point taken! I guess, if all I wanted was money then RPG maker would be a very bad way to spend my time. The reason I've been hooked on RM since 2014 is because I genuinely love the intuitive and creative work process the engine gives you. And I like making games and stuff.

    But that's not to say I'm not looking out for money. I'm a money hungry rat, willing to take cents and dollars wherever the opportunity presents itself - unless I have to do something immoral or criminal. But that's the mentality that comes with relative poverty I guess. I'm not in a position where I can afford to pass up a chance to make money, even if that was not my intent from the get go. So yeah, I guess my intent with RPG maker is not to make money... but if I can, I still want to.
     
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  14. Finnuval

    Finnuval World (his)story builder and barrel of ideas Veteran

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    I'm Dutch... notorious money pinchers lol
    and I don't have money like water either haha

    But yeah I get what you're saying ;)
     
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  15. VisitorsFromDreams

    VisitorsFromDreams Veteran Veteran

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    I have released all of my games totally free with the option for donations through itch and while I have only released 3 small games I have made several hundred dollars thanks to generous donations. I dont think its a model anyone could make a living through but if you make games that resonate with people they will generally treat you well for it in my experience.
     
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  16. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    @VisitorsFromDreams
    That is, actually pretty surprising I must say. Are your games very well polished may-hap? I wouldn't be able to tell since you're not linking them in your signature.
     
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  17. VisitorsFromDreams

    VisitorsFromDreams Veteran Veteran

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    I dont know that I would say that my games are super polished, they are always a little rough around the edges (to me anyway but thats part of my aesthetic too) but they seem to strike a core with people, from feedback mostly due to the themes and tone of my work, so I must be doing something right. I have added in a link to my itch page for you, thanks for the good idea!
     
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  18. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    @VisitorsFromDreams
    I noticed right away that you make your own graphics and your game doesn't come across as typical RPG maker games - probably helps a lot. And your games look great too by the way.
     
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  19. Faye Valentine

    Faye Valentine The Mapgician Veteran

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    In the end, giving a person the choice to pay or not, will most of the times end up in not paying. Simple as that. Though I am of the opinion that, if a game truly deserves it, I'd donate money.

    Thing with this is that we're talking about indie games, and, even if there are some -way really good indie games-, reality is, the majority aren't as good. That said, risking one's money into an unknown product, well, it's not wise. Now to say, that is why "crowdfunding" strategy works: because people get to see what they're paying. The devs create *expectative* through teasing, be it videos or pics, and (future) players can also see progress. Not to mention that in crowdfunding, they generally give rewards for donating. So, yeah, build up expectative, hype or whatever, is the best way (IMO) to make people donate for you. Even if your game will be released for free.

    In short, you can't expect people to pay for an experience yet unknown. And when experienced, let's say the chances of it being impactful are low.
     
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  20. dulsi

    dulsi Veteran Veteran

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    I can't talk about it in the video game context but I do use it on some tabletop role-playing game products. Specifically my Brick Monsters line has one available as pay what you want. Some people download tabletop RPG products for free and then come back and buy those they like again for some value. I think the online tabletop RPG market is probably more mature than the steam/itch.io market so that may not be the case for video games. But it also helps you sell other products. If you have a line of games that are either sequels or similar in style, one free sample might convince someone to try the rest. RPG Maker games may not be the best for that sort of marketing depending on how quickly you make games. You might also not want to do it for the first game without more to sell. Of course you need the game to make the person want to see more of your work.
     
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