Games and game developers seem to be caught in a price war these days. I hear a lot of developers expressing despair over the fact that games are always on sale, or discounted, or sold in bundles, and that ‘big name publisher X’ has just released its new game for 10 dollars, or 1 dollar, or 99 cents, or free!
Understandably, indie devs sometimes worry about how they can possibly compete with this. They worry wrongly, because they are misunderstanding what it is they sell. You might think knowing what you sell is flipping obvious, but it’s not. My favourite quote from ‘what they never teach you at harvard business school’ is from the guy who ran rolex. He was asked about the watch business, and he replied “I have no idea about the watch business. I’m not in the watch business. I’m in the luxury business’. he is absolutely darned right.
Most people making indie games don’t get that. They think their games are commodities, competing against identical other ones, like a potato. But they aren’t. games aren’t potatoes, they are rock bands.
Check this out:
As a clue, the first one a potato. Unless you are some sort of potato fetishist, you don’t know the variety. It might be maris piper, but who the hell cares? It’s a potato, and we buy them as cheap as we can find them. Now look at the next one. Your reaction is likely
“What a bunch of dorks” or…
“Behold the kings of metal! Real men play on ten!”
But your reaction will NOT be ‘well they are a rock band, and depending on the price of their music I may purchase it, or a Dire Straits / Killers / Police / Whoever album instead”
In fact, it would seem weird to feel that way about music. And this is how people feel about GOOD, ORIGINAL games. Generic Match-3 games are potatoes, and they will inevitably get sold for the price of spuds. But decent games (look at the premium pricing for COD:MW 2) and original games can charge what they think they are truly worth. They are rock bands. The existence of other bands is irrelevant. There is only one Manowar and there is only one Little Big Planet.
Try to make less potato-like games.