How much should games cost

How much should games cost

In the Monday Musings I try to talk about the stuff that’s happening in the world of Game Development, from interesting game releases, to interesting technology, and game business happenings.

Last week’s Playstation reports showed that the higher price point of games ($70) has caused less sales of games, even with PS5 hardware on the rise and breaking records.

There are a lot of things you could say about such reports and conclusions, but a more interesting question from my point of view,  a solo-developer, is: what IS the perfect price for a game?

Perception of value

Defining the price of a game is a difficult thing, obviously if you are a gamer/consumer you will usually want them to be cheaper, and the many (as in : MANY) sale events on all platforms certainly show that we rather buy games when they are heavily discounted than full-price.

The game quality, visuals, and often length/playtime are often indicators for gamers to decide if a price is worth it. Even tho those things are of course very fluid. What is a good quality game? and should it always be a long game? or is a short game better? The answers to these questions will vary depending on who you ask.  – I personally prefer AAA games to be in the ballpark of 8-10 hours of story..  I simply don’t have time for 50+ hour games!

In general the bigger AAA games will go for well over $40 and higher, while most indies will not “dare” to charge over $20. With a lot of smaller indie games going for $10 or less.

What do I base my prices on

For me, when ever I get to that point of releasing a game, setting the price is mostly gut-feeling. It’s a combination of many factors, so let’s make a list!

Amount of content/replay value

Is the game playable for 20-30 minutes and are you then done with it? OR does the game provide an hour or more of gameplay and possibly a lot of replay value – meaning you will go back in for another round and play it over and over again.  This is something that’s relatively easy to measure when working on the game – and also something I always aim for: a good amount of replayability.

Costs of Development

Before we dive into this one, I’m writing this from my point of view, so that’s a west-European game developer doing things full-time and having to pay the bills!  Prices and values can be different depending on where you live!

So something very measurable, but still hard to communicate towards gamers, is the cost of development. With AAA games costing easily $250 million and higher to make, it would be an obvious decision not to sell the game for $20.

With smaller indie games, including my solo-developer projects, taking maybe anywhere between $5k and $40k to make (and then there is AA games in between that costing $100k-$500k), it can be a bit more difficult to charge the same price as those AAA games (with much higher production values and content).

But as mentioned, the problem with this factor is that it’s always hard to communicate towards gamers what the costs are – but it’s also the key aspect for a developer to set a price, because that’s the money that has to be made back and more to make a profit and invest that into the next game’s development.

I try to show the time and work that goes into games every week on the Orangepixel Youtube channel, showing the whole process from idea to a completed release, usually taking well over a year of daily work – with the hopes of showing people the cost of development!

Market place

A much easier factor to take into account is simply the marketplace. What are other similar games doing? Which price points do they stick to, how much content do they include, and are they selling enough copies?

Compared to many other markets, there’s no real competition with other games in the genre. In fact, I would argue that other games will only make players want more and look around for other similar experiences at the same price range. So you don’t have to look to “undercut your competition”, you can actually copy their pricing behavior and use it as a good guideline.

Long tail sales

A final factor that goes into the decision of pricing, is knowing how the market place works. As mentioned up there, a lot of gamers are waiting for good discounts and sales.

With that in mind, you don’t want to price your game on the low-end to begin with, because you will at some point have to do discounts and sales to attract new gamers to your games.

So taking all of these factors in mind, you release your game at a certain price, and then hope enough people will buy it to at least make back your investment, and hopefully with future sales and discounts, allow you to finance your next project!

What’s the perfect game price

I don’t think there’s a “perfect game price” for all games. There are so many factors that go into the decision.

Having AAA games trying out the $70 game price on Playstation is something I totally understand. The cost of development and marketing easily push games to investments of $250-$750 million .. just think about that number, and then figure out how many copies you would have to sell just to break even!

As a consumer of such games, I honestly will just wait for a good sale, because to me paying $70 for a game isn’t really worth it based on how much game time I have available.

Orangepixel’s most expensive game is Residual, sold for $19.99 on PC and Console. It was also the most expensive one to make, having done a kickstarter, receiving publisher funding, getting a voice-actress, various musicians, and a PR company doing, well, whatever they do!

The cheapest game was probably around $4.99 on PC and console? Those games are the smaller games made in shorter development time, so cheaper investments, worth taking a risk of selling it at a cheaper price.

I do think that most of the time my games should sell for a little higher price to make it work on paper, but my gut feeling always has the final decision and I often ask it the same question:

“Would I pay this price for this game myself?”

Let me know what you think about game prices in general over at the discord!


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