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Old April 30th, 2015, 03:02 PM

Ixltixl Ixltixl is offline
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Default Re: What makes this game worth $40 more than any other roguelike?


I stumbled upon Approaching Infinity a few days ago and tried the demo. I wanted to give my opinion on this whole matter and why I think putting this particular game up for 40$ is bad idea. It's quite a long read.

First of all, from what I can see, you (Shrapnel Games) mostly publish hardcore wargames. Overpricing those is something I can understand, as this is a very niche genre and the people playing games like this are probably fine paying this much, as there isn't really a market for it. It's probably not even overpricing considering how much coding work must go into it. I also understand, why you have trouble getting games like this to sell on Steam. If the average gamer sees screenshots from a game like this, he will immediately think “with graphics like this, it's never worth more than 5 bucks” or simply “turn-based wargame, meh.”

But that's pretty much where my understanding ends. Why don't you even bother to put the release date on the store page? To find that out, I need to go to the forums and look for the first review.
When I checked your game “Bronze”, I honestly thought this was released in 2000 due to the spec-requirements and graphics, but it's actually from 2010. This also applies to AI, anybody stumbling upon its storepage will think, this game was made in the early 90s . You might say, graphics aren't important and you would be correct, but first impressions are and one that is “They are charging 40$ for a 20 year old game??” is not good. You might also say, anybody interested will do a search for it, again true, but that's still no reason to hide the release date. Besides, anybody searching for AI will also find the Kickstarter, discover you could get it for 10$ there and scoff at the fact he is now supposed to pay four times as much.
You also seem to never reduce prices, Bronze is 5 years old and costs 30$, Scallywag turns 8 this year and is also still 30$. I doubt there is any support, upgrade or bugfix around for those games, considering the last posts on their respective forums were 3-4 years ago. So, where is the value, which supposedly justifies this high price for these games?
By the way, why do you count something as simple as a forum as added value? Or how about the possibility of a physical product? That's not added value to me, I don't care about getting a box and a CD, why should I have to pay for it? The digital version should simply be cheaper than the boxed version.
While we are on the topic of added value. Am I seeing this right, that unless I pay 4$ extra I can only download my purchases for 10 days? And even then it's limited to two years. On top of that, I have to deal with limited activation drm (doesn't matter, that I can just write an e-mail to get another activation, it's unnecessary hassle). Compare that to gog, I can download games how often I want, regardless of when I bought them, I can even still download games I purchased, but have been removed from gog in the meantime and it's all drm-free.
And supporting indie-devs? They will probably make more money by selling it cheaper, because significantly more people buy it. Increasing the price in the name of supporting the dev is oxymoronic. You could also add a donation option. Look at the success of FTL or Grimrock. Neither game was very expensive but a huge hit. The former even providing a bigcontent update for free last year. Look at Spiderweb Software, they move along nicely by asking a reasonable price for their new games and continously reduce prices on their older ones.

Now, after establishing how I don't think your “added value” justifies the pricepoint at all and that your main forte are hardcore wargames, let's get on with the main point. AI (as well as Bronze and Scallywag) are not hardcore wargames. Seriously, you cannot apply your business strategy to games, which may appeal to a wider market.
This should be fairly obvious actually. The most prolific forums here are those of the most well known games: Dominions and Space Empires. The developers of each of those games left you. My two example games Bronze and Scallywag appear to be complete flops, considering there was barely any forum activity at all. I think AI will suffer a similar fate, it got a bit of press from RPS a few weeks ago and then it will disappear quietly into the night, despite it having the potential of becoming the next ToME (100k steam owners) or even FTL (2 million steam owners). At this pricepoint most people will look at it and say “it looks cool, but 40$ for that? Never.” You could buy Pillars of Eternity for this or maybe FTL and ToME and still have 20$ left. Whereas at 8-10$ the potential audience increases massively. This whole problem is compounded by the fact, that you COULD buy AI for 10$ in the Kickstarter. Asking for four times the money is just ridiculous. This fact alone will cause people to never buy it at 40$, even if the reason was simply missing the Kickstarter or being unable to support it and rightly so, as that markup is simply incomprehensible.

All that assumes people actually FIND the game. Considering, you do pretty much no marketing and PR at all (at least, I've never heared of any of your games before). Again in the wargame space, this is fine, as the clientele for games like this know where to look or will find you, when searching. There is no need to do any PR there, but this doesn't apply to games of other genres.

You have to look at the market here. Where do people go, if they want a wargame from somebody else? Probably Matrix or Slitherine, both of which follow the same high price strategy as you. You are competitive in this particular genre. You may also notice, that both employ a different pricing strategy for games of other genres, e.g. Qvadriga costs 20$, Warhammer Armageddon 5$, Sovreignty is 25$. They know, these games appeal to a bigger audience than the wargamer crowd and they need to be sold for less to be successful.
Where do people go, if they want an alternative to Approaching Infinity? FTL costs 10$, Starsector and VoidExpanse cost 15$. There is also Prospector, which is free. You certainly are not competitive in this genre.
Let's not get into how AI is different from those games, what matters is, that you can buy all three for the same price as AI and guess what most consumers will decide? They'd rather buy 3 games than one or buy one and have 30$ left to spend on something else.
Don't be fooled by some people defending the price point. People can and will justify paying anything for anything, I'm sure you'll find somebody defending their 60$ purchase of a digital monocle in EVE as a good deal, heck there are people willing to spend thousands on f2p-p2w browsergames and I'm sure, they have a justification for that as well. But what really matters is the market and I highly doubt AIs sales numbers have even broken the 4-digit mark so far, whereas I'm fairly certain, that with a bit of youtube exposure and a reasonable price point on Steam, it would have cracked 10000 sales by now.
AI should cost 8-12$, 15$ the absolute maximum; anything above simply is not reasonable given the market situation as well the Kickstarter pricing problem AI has.
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