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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessCreating a pricing strategy
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jrjellybeans
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« on: February 19, 2010, 01:32:52 AM »

Hey all,

So, The Good Apprentice is just about finished.  You can download the demo HERE.

Camilla and I have been wrestling with exactly what we want to do with the selling of this game for some time.  At first, we were going to sell it.  Then, we were going to release it for free.  Now, we're back to selling it.

So, now that the game is FINALLY about to released, we just decided to stick with selling it.  The problem... we don't know what price to sell it at...

If you've checked out our blog (Jr. Jellybeans Blog), you'd know that we're pretty familiar with what's been WRITTEN about selling games and designing games.  In addition, we tried to sell our last game pretty unsuccessfully...

But, with The Good Apprentice, we're feeling pretty confident that there is a market for the game.  There are a couple of Flash games like it, but nothing with the slow and easy pace that is in The Good Apprentice.  We specifically designed it to be casually and, well, I feel confident that it is more casual than most games of this type.  In addition, we feel it's got a kick ass story in it Smiley

The point is that we're wondering what price we should set it at.  Basing our decision on other indie games isn't really helping as there are so many indie games out there and all at a different price.

Obviously, the game isn't any where near Aquaria.  But, it's also not as bad as several other indie games we've seen Smiley

So, we're wondering if other people have any advice on what exactly to price a game at.  Again, we're not really trying to go with the indie crowd with the game... we WERE actually trying to go after the casual game market (though I would admit that this game ISN'T very much casual though it is pretty easy).

Essentially, we're trying to choose between pricing the game at $20 or pricing it at around $10.  It wouldn't feel comfortable to us to sell it at less than that, and if it came to that, we'd probably just release the game free...

Any advice would help!
« Last Edit: February 19, 2010, 10:18:49 AM by jrjellybean » Logged

Mipe
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2010, 01:49:06 AM »

The first link doesn't work. Also, if you are serious about hitting the greater market, you may want to hire an artist for polished graphics.
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hyperduck
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2010, 01:49:26 AM »

http://jrjellybeansgames.com/files/demo_theGoodApprentice.zip

You need adjust your link mate, not coded properly, just [url ] (without space) and then [/url ] And you put http// in so it did it twice.

With the url in them middle and no need for "  " marks! Anyway, not being patronising at all! Just wanted to chime in and talk on this topic. Has me interested.

Have you looked at how other developers are pricing their game? Where they sell their games from, networks like steam and (name lots of other game selling websites)?  


EDIT: Ok, after playing about 5 minutes into the demo. I think I can offer some advice on how to improve the game but I do not think it is ready to sell, even for $10. I do not mean to offend I just think you have something here that runs well, and has a nice concept, it just needs things to improve its image.

I think you should consider hiring an artist. In the long run, if the game looks great, you could see more sales (much more sales I would be confident to say) with a better looking game. Yes indie games do sometimes take a stance to be true to themselves, but games that aren't aesthetically pleasing, do not compete well against ones that are great looking, basically.

Also, I would get somebody to redo your sound effects, I hear a lot of male grunting and general voice effects in there. I tried doing voice effects in games before, I does not pan out as you want it to, if you want sound effects with conviction, do it right. All the small details count. Not saying they're all necessary.. but anyway, try http://freesound.org/ I used to use it when I first started . It is royalty free and you can probably find some great stuff on there.

Not sure who did your music but I didn't really notice anything wrong there. I hope you see this as help and not me bashing you, I understand you're trying to set a price for your game, but at the moment you could see it being released for little to nothing in the state the art and sound effects are in. It seems that you have put heart and effort into it and I did enjoy playing it, but not enough to sustain my attention very long, because of those issues.

Again, helping (trying to) not hurting.
Chris.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2010, 02:03:36 AM by HyperDuck » Logged

Alex May
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2010, 02:47:36 AM »

If you want to sell it at $20 but feel you might get more sales at $10, why not do both?

Here's an idea: be up front about when you will drop the price to $10 (let's say in six months' time). Users can decide if they want to pay $20 now, or get an email in 6 months when the price drops to $10. You could have a dropdown that has a variety of prices and time periods on it, or another idea I had was to have a graph of price vs time done in flash that lets users pick the price they want and then find out how long they'd have to wait for the game to drop to that price.
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Christian Knudsen
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« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2010, 04:19:46 AM »

I downloaded the demo, but the game hang my system. It was putting a big load on my CPU and RAM usage and mouse movement didn't seem to register. I only managed to quit from the main menu after clicking blindly and my system showing the "busy" mouse cursor for a long time. What did you program this in?

My system specs:

Windows XP
1.86 GHz Intel Celeron
1 GB RAM
DirectX 9
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« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2010, 04:46:28 AM »

jrjellybean, I can't try the demo right now so I can't make specific comments regarding your case. However, I can tell you my experience with pricing - maybe you could find it useful somehow.

Pricing, to me, has been (and still is) a nightmare. Here's why.
To start with, the bare data: the boxed version of my game costs EUR 12.50, the digital version costs EUR 10.00 (VAT 20% has to be added for countries in the VAT area).
Some said the game is overpriced. Some said it's good value for money. Some said my game shouldn't be a commercial product at all. Some said it's way too cheap (a developer even kind of complained that the price was too low for him to beat with his own title). Some said that the low price would make people think that maybe the product isn't of good quality and therefore suggested to raise it. In other words, the feedback didn't help much. So, for now I stick to the original criteria that the prices were based on - namely, I wanted the price to be affordable and honest, especially considering that the physical product requires shipping (i.e. additional costs).
However, during the Christmas period, I did try to see how the public would react to a substantial price drop: so, for a whole month, I sold both the physical and the digital versions at just EUR 7.50 (+VAT). Considering the extra-publicity coming from the promotion and considering that in that period people is more willing to spend money, the discount - I must say, surprisingly - didn't affect sales much.

Just food for thought. I hope it helps.
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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2010, 12:31:27 PM »

for those of you who can't download or play the game, here's a video of the game:





i gave him my feedback on the price and the game on the gmc so won't repeat myself here, but i just wanted to throw in that video link so that you guys know what the game plays like etc.
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Christian Knudsen
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« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2010, 12:48:33 PM »

Thanks for posting that link, Paul. I agree with what others have said that the graphics need some work. My main issue is that everything looks flat. This is of course partly due to the top-down view, but stuff like parallax scrolling and shadows can do a lot to create a sense of depth. Hyperduck mentioned sound effects, so I'm guessing the game has sound effects even though there weren't any in the YouTube video. The music, however... Is this the music that plays in the game? If so, you also need to get some proper music. There's a lot of good music available for free under Creative Commons out there, so maybe that's an option? Or maybe try to find a musician to collaborate with?
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« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2010, 03:43:06 PM »

I would not buy the game as it is for anything.

I'd work on making more polished graphics and sound. After spending some time contemplating on what makes your game so much less appealing than most of what is out there, I figured out that it's basically just the graphics and sound. I initially thought that your gameplay sucked too, but when I imagine the game with better graphics, cute music and satisfying sound effects, I can see myself enjoying it and even finding it addicting. It's funny how the looks of a game affect the gameplay of it.

The easy way out that many indie game developers take is to just use low resolution pixel art and chiptunes. The typical indie gamer appreciates retro-style games. The cool thing about art is that the mind fills in the missing details, and with pixel art you can make the player fill in almost all of the details. However, if you're aiming for the casual game market, having gorgeous, high-resolution graphics and beautiful music is pretty much a necessity. If you don't have the will to learn how to make those, then I suggest hiring someone who can! Or just stick to the indie game market.  Smiley
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jrjellybeans
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« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2010, 05:02:45 PM »

Hey all!

Thanks for the suggestions.  It's great to have had so many people have taken a bit of an interest in the game (finally). 

So a couple of things, we're probably going to redo the game with better art.  Also, as for the sound effects and music we can get someone else to redo them.  It's just a matter of finding the right people, so we'll post something about that in the help wanted section in a bit.

Skofo, you make an interesting point that I've been thinking about.  The thing is that I'm confident that the game isn't THAT bad. 

Um... put a different way, have any of you guys played Cute Knight?  The art in that game is horrendous (in my opinion) and yet has been a huge seller.  I don't think art is as important as everyone here is making it out to be.

Now, there's obviously no way I'm going to sell this just because it's important to me to make the indie community proud, but I do think it's sell able. 

Again, if the art in Cute Knight can be that bad then this game should get a pass, I think (that is assuming it's bug free which atm it isn't).  I could be wrong, though...

In any case, we'll just reup the graphics and update the sound effects.  Again, I think the gameplay, although boring, ain't so bad.

Hmm... thanks for the feedback all!  We're keeping track of all of the suggestions and working with them.

* This thread is getting a bit off topic, no? 
** Maybe it should be moved?
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Christian Knudsen
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« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2010, 05:26:33 PM »

You're right that this is probably going a bit off topic, but I just wanted to also comment on the layout of the HUD as I see it on the screenshots and in the YouTube video:



I think you need to visually separate the HUD information from the action in the game a lot more. It looks very messy and chaotic to me. And the white "you picked up 5 armor" text is barely readable. I'd suggest you either make a decorative border and place the HUD elements on this border, or have a dark gradient under these elements to separate them.
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« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2010, 05:27:05 PM »

cute knight was released in 2004. times have changed since then. it was a best-seller then but sells only moderately now. have you seen cute knight kingdoms, its 2009 sequel? much improved graphically. besides, the original cute knight still has (imo) better graphics than your game at this point in its development. it looks like it was drawn by anime fanartists, but even anime fanart are better than ultra saturated ms paint art. and again, there's a *huge* difference between the quality of commercial games in 2004 and the quality in 2010, i can't emphsaize this enough, standards have risen astronomically. this game may have sold tens of thousands of copies in 2000 or even 2004, but would only sell a few dozen today (as is). it's kinda sad that indie games went through this graphical arms race the way the mainstream games industry did, but it's irreversible at this point.
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« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2010, 05:54:33 PM »

have you seen cute knight kingdoms, its 2009 sequel? much improved graphically.
Not really, from the screenshots I see. http://www.hanakogames.com/ckk.shtml I think that the reason Cute Knight succeeded is because of good marketing. There were (and still are) very few games targeted for females above the age of 12. Hanako saw the potential value in that niche market and went for it, much to her success.

Also, I would definitely not say that standards have risen astronomically. Karoshi and Time Fcuk are pretty damn ugly, and yet they are a couple of the most-recognized and highly acclaimed modern indie games.

And I've gotta say: the game looks quite a bit better in the screenshot than in the video.
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« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2010, 07:17:09 PM »

karoshi and time fcuk are not commercial games, though -- i'm talking of commercial casual and commercial indie games. i can't recall one that looked as bad as jrjellybean's being released in the last five years or so.

and cute knight kingdoms is still kind of ugly, yeah, but still there's a big difference between the screenshot above and this:



at the very least, compare the GUIs. ckk's is readable, the text is clear and outlined in black and not a boring font, there's a dark bg behind it so you can see what info the gui is conveying, etc.

look at the healthbars: the one above is just a red rectangle with no shading and a thin gold outline, something that can be done with two draw_rectangle commands in gml, whereas the one in cute knight is rounded, outlined, shaded, and much prettier. little things like that matter a lot, even though both are red health bars with gold borders.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2010, 07:22:08 PM by Paul Eres » Logged

jrjellybeans
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« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2010, 11:39:44 PM »

You know it's funny that you mention that this game would have made a lot of money BACK IN THE DAY.  That was actually our goal when we started out - to make an old school Gauntlet type of clone.  While there's no doubt about it needing more polish, I can say that our goal was met of finishing a game that we like completely in two months.

As for that picture, that looks HORRENDOUS to me.  I don't think that it's a fair argument to say that Cute Knight is a better looking game than The Good Apprentice.  At the very least, aside from a complete overhaul of the graphics, the kinds of changes that you're talking about could be accomplished fairly easily (ie the text can be changed easily.  The HUD can as well.  Etc.)

Time Fuck is a completely different game in a completely different market (as in, it's a Flash game).  I don't think they would be relevant to this discussion.  I'm guessing karoshi is as well (never heard of it).

Then again, I could be wrong again Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: February 20, 2010, 03:53:27 AM »

i put this in the right feedback post too, but the biggest cheap-factor i see at this time with your game is the repetitive tileset.

the commercial successes look like crap too, but atleast there is some cutesy illustrative background, that fits the characters.

your game looks very flimsy, maybe you could make the black borders around everything alot bigger, maybe you could add some huds with colors transparancy etc.  or.. maybe some particles Smiley. i'd make the life bar a bit more interresting then simple rectangle too.

Now i think of it, your art looks like it had to be pixelart, but you couldn't handle the size of it. just too many pixels to do something with...

i had to think of this as an example (or a impossible goal..):


i don't want to be rude, but i wouldn't pay a cent for your game atm. (i suppose i'm not the targetgroup, but you know what i mean..)
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« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2010, 06:00:59 AM »

Quote
I think that the reason Cute Knight succeeded is because of good marketing. There were (and still are) very few games targeted for females above the age of 12. Hanako saw the potential value in that niche market and went for it, much to her success.

I wish I could take credit for being able to do good marketing; unfortunately I am completely crap at that to this day. Cute Knight succeeded because people who played it got really addicted to it, and a couple of those deeply addicted players had connections and bullied the game into portals for me, and then THOSE customers played and got deeply addicted. All I did was make the game I wanted to make/play.

It's not impossible for an ugly game to be a success if the gameplay is great. But in that case, you don't want to be using the video to advertise it. Bury that. Don't let people see it. Make them find out what the game is like by playing it. You at least then have a chance to win them over instead of driving them away.

See Also: Knights of the Chalice. It doesn't look like much (although it addresses the specific problems of readable HUD and depth that have been pointed out). But the people who play it are SERIOUSLY INTO IT. I have no idea how well it sells, but I do know it has crazy supporters.

That said, this is not a promise of success. Just because a few games that look crap managed to find eager audiences doesn't mean that every game will, and just because it might have been easier to win over a less-jaded audience in years past doesn't mean you were guaranteed to have been a big hit then.

(You should also take a look at Deadly Rooms of Death, a topdown game series which has graphics that are not amazing. What do they do differently from you and why? What might you learn from them?)
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« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2010, 11:15:58 AM »

Now i think of it, your art looks like it had to be pixelart, but you couldn't handle the size of it. just too many pixels to do something with...

that's another big issue that i haven't yet mentioned to jrjellybean but should have: the sprites are way too small for the screen size. the screen looks to be about 800x600 or so, right? yet the sprites look like they're 40x40 or something -- extremely tiny for the amount of screen space.

typically you want the length of sprites to be between one sixteenth and one tenth of the screen size's length: that's the formula used on both the nes/snes and game boy/ds. in this game, it's more like one-twentieth, or less. that's too small to see the details of individual objects.

i should know, my game alphasix suffered from the same major flaw. here's a few pictures of it.





the art is pretty okay, yeah? it's done by orchard-l. but the small sprite/tile size kind of ruins it. the second screenshot isn't as bad as the first and would even be okay if zoomed in or something, but the first screenshot looks a lot like the good apprentice's: a few tiny sprites in a wide open field of floor.

just pointing this out so that if/when you re-do the graphics, you keep that in mind and ask the artist for larger sprite sizes.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2010, 11:39:33 AM by Paul Eres » Logged

moi
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« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2010, 01:09:53 PM »

I kind of like the small sprites, it enables a much bigger play aera, so it's good if you can fill this playing area with interesting scenery.
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« Reply #19 on: February 20, 2010, 02:18:01 PM »

What moi said. You shouldn't decide how large your sprites according to some subjective formula, do it according to your game. I can't even imagine playing N with the character size of Rayman.
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