Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Avadon Is Out On Steam!


Today, Avadon: The Black Fortress goes live on Steam.

Unsurprisingly, I'm pretty excited about it. After 16 years of being a tiny, invisible, basement-dwelling bottom feeder, for a few precious weeks, I get to act like I'm a real developer. With a real distributor, a nice trailer video, and everything. Yes, there will be money, and that's always nice, but it's the recognition I'm sort of focused on now.

Writing Indie games has provided me with a very good living, and I don't have the right to complain about anything. I wrote games. I sold 8-10 thousand games a year. (Having a big back catalog is awesome.) I was content.

But then the Indie boom took off. Indie devs were getting famous. Many could make a living, and some got rich. Amazingly, people stopped acting like I wasn't a total loser for doing what I do. (This change happened about the time the word 'shareware' disappeared.) After all these years, it was impossible to watch all of this excitement and not want to be a part of it.

And now, thanks to Valve, I'm going to be visible. I'm getting a shot at the spotlight. Avadon: The Black Fortress is a very good game. It's got a great story, interesting, epic battles, and a lot of cool stuff. It's simply a fun game. Will its retro old-school action take the world by storm? Maybe a lot. Maybe a little. And I'll do all I can to be content with what comes.

The Steam Thing does mean that we are embarking on a great experiment, something that we never planning on doing. But, the way the online games market is moving, something that seems like the right choice.

Avadon: The Black Fortress Is $9.99 On Steam

I've written a lot about how I think it's important to not price niche games too cheaply, and I stand by that. However, at the same time, Avadon will be only ten bucks on Steam, the cheapest we've ever made our newest game for PC/Mac. Why?

1. Steam felt it was the best price. I went into this trusting their judgment, because they know a lot more about selling Indie games than I do. When you're an Indie and Steam comes knocking, you don't say no.

2. The whole game industry is shifting. These days, a huge proportion of games online are sold for a low price without demos. People buy games on impulse, sight unseen. That way, if they don't like it they aren't out a lot of money.

In these markets, charging $15 or $20 for games, like I want to, isn't feasible. It's too much money to pay for a game you aren't sure about. If someone buys my game for $10 and hates it, I'm a little unhappy. But $20? I don't want to take kids' allowance money that way.

So I'm charging $10 on Steam and for the iPad. By the standards of that market, it's a hefty price, enough for me to earn my living. It's cheap enough to work as an impluse buy. It isn't the $1 or $2 price that I'm still sure would put me out of business.

This means I need to adjust the prices I charge on my own web site. I have changed the price of Avadon to $20, and in the future we will very likely reduce the prices of our earlier games as well. Our next game, Avernum: Escape From the Pit will start out at $20. If this grand experiment works well, we may make future games cheaper still, though I doubt any new game on our own web site will ever go below $15.

I'm expecting that some of our users who paid $25 on our site will be angry. I can totally understand this. However, all computer games get cheaper as they get older, even games that have only been to a few months. (Check out Best Buy of any other decently sized electronics store if you don't believe me.) Also, until we had access to mass-market outlets like iTunes, we were never going to generate enough sales to survive at a lower price.

I don't like making my fans angry, but, again, when Steam comes knocking, you don't say no. And our future games will be cheaper, so everyone is getting something out of it.

Now I'll sit on my edge of chair and wait to see how Avadon does. Fortunately, there's not much suspense. We're being released opposite Bastion, so hope may not be warranted at this point.

A Question a Lot of People Asked Below:

Why is the game still $20 on our web site?

Short answer: Charging this little is an experiment. I believe that Indie devs who write niche products need to charge more for their work than the more mass market, casual, $0.99 app market. The question is whether a $10 price works. If going onto Steam for ten bucks turns out to not be a good idea (or if they don't want any more of our games), we need to maintain a higher baseline price on our site.

I know this seems odd, but I assure you that it makes sense from where I sit. And, by the way, we are FAR from the only developer who does this. For example, World of Goo is $20 on their site but $10 on Steam. And they are far smarter than we are.

62 comments:

  1. And then there are the morons like me who not only bought your game when it came out via your website, but will probably buy a Steam copy as well.

    Some people seem to really hate Steam. I, however, love having all my digital downloads in one place (okay, 2 places... I also have a healthy library of games on GOG.com), and it's worth your sale price of $9 to me to buy the game again just for that.

    I suspect that while I'm in the small minority, I'm not alone.

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  2. That's great. You're now in cool kids' club and sure will be able to get coolest artists and maybe even musicians. Good reviews, decent metascore. And hopefuly I'd be getting great classic RPG's cheaper and, err, greater. And maybe you'd even get enough resources for some experimenting and produce even more great and more classic games.

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  3. Great reading. I haven't come across your games before until I saw this title on Steam. Needless to say I bought it since it's great to show support for indie developers that really care about their playerbase and try to make it in the big gaming market.

    On a side note if you want some popularity for your games you should advertise it on some of the major gaming news sites and perhaps set up own Steam game forum for it.

    Best of luck to you sir and off to play the game now!

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  4. Congrats on making Steam! Looking forward to the day when I see your whole catalogue there. Any chance that the good folks who have already purchased Avadon at full price can get a Steam key for the game? Or at least a price reduction coupon?

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  5. Jeff, I have followed your website for a long time but today on Steam's release day is the first time I have actually bought one of your games.

    Thanks for trusting in Steam and I hope the investment of your time and trust pays off. I am an old school gamer but I like new world delivery of software. Now I have only one hope left for my checklist of "I hope Spidweb does x"...and that is to release future games on Android tablets...

    I fully realize this last step is going to be your most cautious yet as you are waiting to see what is happening in the world of android and i can't blame you...i can only hope :)

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  6. "Avadon to $20"
    ???
    So potential buyers get a choice, either pay $10 or $20 dollars? Is this some sort of weird restricted PWYW sale?

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  7. Perfect price. You're really shooting yourself in the foot by insisting on charging more on your own website, but I suppose sabotaging yourself is your right. Consider this bought now that it's at a reasonable price point.

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  8. I was always excited when a new Spiderweb Software game came out and I could play a new demo, but the price kept my purchases few and far between. (I finally bought the Geneforge games when the series was both complete and on sale...quite a wait!) At a $10 price point I expect to buy every one of them on release. Hopefully this works out for you as well as it does for me!

    Unsolicited advice: have you considered contacting RockPaperShotgun.com for an interview? They're indie-friendly, have a lot of readers like me, have already posted positively about Avadon...and are one of the sites whose articles show up automatically in Steam, which seems relevant.

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  9. Thing is, I normally buy indie games on their dev's website after hearing about them on Steam since the devs get more money this way. In this case, you've screwed yourself out of some money because now Steam gets a cut. It makes absolutely no sense to price like this. It's mind-boggling. I guess you hate money.

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  10. lordperrin, how would you have heard about his game on Steam if he hadn't been selling it on Steam?

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  11. perrin isn't arguing that the game shouldn't be on Steam. He's arguing that the price at Spiderweb Software should be the same as the Steam price. For comparison:

    lordperrin's usual process:
    a) see indie game on Steam
    b) buy indie game from developer
    result: developer receives full purchase price

    lordperrin's process for Avadon:
    a) see indie game on Steam
    b) buy indie game from Steam (because it's cheaper)
    result: developer receives purchase price minus Steam's cut

    So, at least in lordperrin's case, Jeff is losing money by having the game more expensive to purchase through Spiderweb Software than through Steam.

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  12. @Dav, @lordperrin

    I get your reasoning, but I think it's flawed; that is, I think lordperrin's situation is a rare one. People who find out about Avadon via Steam are probably going to buy the game via Steam. People who find out about Avadon via the publisher's site are probably going to buy the game via the publisher's site. I doubt people often use Steam to find games and then go to the publisher's site to buy the game (thus negating all the benefits Steam offers to the gamer).

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  13. @ean533-EEG

    You must have missed my post above then...im someone who didn't buy the game after first seeing it on the website but did purchase it as soon as it was released on Steam.

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  14. @ean5533-EEG
    Hey, there's nothing flawed about my reasoning! You take that back or we'll have to have an internet fight!

    More seriously, yes, whether this is an overall bad decision depends on how many lordperrin types there are versus how many people pay the higher price at Spiderweb Software.

    Unsurprisingly, I don't have enough information to prove anything about the relative quantities, which is why my previous comment ended with "at least in lordperrin's case, Jeff is losing money by having the game more expensive to purchase through Spiderweb Software than through Steam" which was something I *did* have enough information to conclude.


    Now, if we're going to speculate, I suspect that *percentage-wise* you're correct, most buyers will probably purchase it wherever they find it first, but because the Steam audience is so ridiculously large, even a very small percentage of it adds up awfully fast!

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  15. I have added an explanation of the price differential to the blog post above. You might not agree with my reasoning, but I'm sure you can see how a reasonable person might come to this conclusion. And we're far from the only company who does pricing this way.

    - Jeff Vogel

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  16. Oh, no offense intended of course! Speaking for myself, at least, I have no illusions that I was doing more than speculating idly on the matter. And I can certainly see how it'd be tricky to raise the price back up if you didn't like the results of a price drop.

    I was rather more serious about the idea to get an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun--it seems like a pretty ideal place to get a bit more exposure--but, again, that's just unsolicited advice.

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  17. Bastion was fun (got it on X-Box live), but Avadon is a better value at price per hour of fun.

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  18. Is the Steam version locked to a specific platform (Mac or PC)? Because one of the advantages of the non-Steam version is that the codes work on either platform allowing us to have a copy on each. Clearly Steam retains the modability advantage over the iPad.

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  19. Adding an anecdotal data point, I just bought Avadon on Steam. I did so because $9 really is a complete impulse purchase price for me, whereas $20 is still enough to make me pause and think about it. Also, Steam knows my credit card number, so buying something there is pretty much just a matter of pushing a button.

    (I had actually downloaded the demo a while ago, with the intention of trying it out to see whether I liked it enough to buy it. Just hadn't gotten around to actually doing that yet...)

    @Walker: The steam version is for mac and windows.

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  20. I've been meaning to buy one of you games for a while now, and $10 if the perfect price point for me. You will get at least one sale tonight

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  21. Hey dude,

    Just got turned onto your games recently by RPS. Your sites been bookmarked on my browser for a while now but when I saw Avadon released on steam it pushed me over the purchasing edge. Good choice! If the game continues to be as good as the brief part I've played so far I'll put it in my steam recommendations and definitely buy any future titles from you.

    Anyway, I hope you get an influx of new fans (Also: MONEY!)and it empowers you to release more stuff on steam.

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  22. Hi Jeff,

    When Avadon showed up on the Steam store tonight, my interest was piqued. I'm an old-school RPG fan (started with the classic Gold Box games), but I don't generally go looking for indie games on the web (due to limited gaming time and money). In the end I figured I would go for it and bought the game.

    $10 was the perfect price point to tempt my purchase. Part of the reason is the industry shift you mentioned, but also the fact that I'm a savvy shopper and normally get full retail PS3 and X360 games for $20 or less, so I'm less inclined to pay that same price for a digital download. I'm happy to pay up to $10 on a whim for basically anything that looks promising, but even at $15 I tend to wait for sales.

    I'll be spreading word of mouth about this one, and I hope the experiment works out for you.

    -J|T|J-

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  23. Hey Jeff.
    Your works have been more inspiring than is fair for one developer. I'm happy for you that after having spent so many years carving out a place for yourself, you've finally received the recognition you've always deserved.
    Congratulations!

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  24. The problem with still charging $20 on your site is that I want to give 100% of the money to you and avoid DRM, but I am not paying $10 more for the privilege. It just turns me off the game altogether honestly.

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  25. Devils advocate, but the closest approximation to your games on steam are Eschalon book 1 and 2 which sell well at $15 and $20 respectively. :-/

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  26. Love the Blog and love your games. Although I don't get to play them as often as I'd like. Will be picking this one up on Steam this evening.

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  27. astrobia said "Devils advocate, but the closest approximation to your games on steam are Eschalon book 1 and 2 which sell well at $15 and $20 respectively. :-/ "

    Which is EXACTLY why I have NOT bought Eschalon book 1 and 2. And I'm entirely sure I'm not the only one.

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  28. First videogame I ever bought was Exile 3. I can't even run it anymore, which is tragic.


    Bought Avadon on Steam, told all my friends to as well. Interested to see how much you make off of this, and also if you're planning to put newer (or older) games up as well.


    A trilogy pack of the Avernum games would sell very well, I think.

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  29. Just bought the game for the second time on steam, Jeff! Just to support you. Well, that and it had achievements.

    Hope this experiment work out for you in the best possible way.

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  30. Hey Jeff, congrats on getting on Steam. I haven't been keeping up with your blog lately, but I saw the Steam news post about the game without knowing it was yours, and decided from the description that I'd probably get it.

    Then I visited the forums, and upon seeing the trusty old Spiderweb Software logo, "probably" became "definitely, and now." I'm looking forward to the weekend... (=


    Also, thank you so very much for being one of the good guys with regards to regional pricing. It's nice to not have to pay an extra 30% just so the Euros digits are the same as the Dollars digits.

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  31. Great game. Bought it again on steam. Giving my support to these great indies. Nice how the game picks up my save files and achievements from the previous non-steam install.

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  32. I just want to second someone's earlier comment of soliciting Rock, Paper, Shotgun for a review of the game if you haven't already.

    Site and community there are both indie friendly and could generate a lot of intrigued sales on Steam.

    In any case, shall be picking up Avadon on steam today. I hope to see your back catalog make it there also at the same price point, or even better, with bundle options! <3

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  33. I was one of those fans who bought your games because I wanted to support you, even though I knew I could pirate them. But charging 9 bucks on steam and 20 on your site is nothing short of unethical, not to mention disrespectful of fans like myself. With regard to the price I bought it at on release ($32 with the hint book, again because I'm a fan and not because I needed it), most games don't discount themselves to 36% of what they started as so quickly unless they are truly terrible. I also don't get the benefit of Steam's superior download service and the convenience it entails.

    You've lost a fan today by showing you're just another sell out. Oh I'll still be playing your games, but I won't be paying for them. Later.

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  34. A lot of different opinions. Very enlightening indeed.

    Going on Steam with price tag of ~$10 might seem reckless decision for some. I see some even got offended.

    Steam gives another very strong, long term benefit.

    Exposure.

    Starting highly accessible (with the price) will get Jeff known. Happy new players will follow him and next time his releases hits a launch, he will receive a lot more recognition. "Oh, I know that guy/game/studio".

    With exposure, doors open.

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  35. I'll echo what's been said - I've been following your blog, off and on, for years and tried some demos but never bought anything off the website. I just saw you up on Steam and it was an instant purchase. I hope you get some great numbers out of this.

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  36. @Papa

    I'm having difficulty understanding your view on ethics and respect. On the one hand, you find it unethical and disrespectful for Spiderweb to decide for itself what it wants to sell its games for through different channels, but on the other hand, you don't see any issues with ethics and respect in basically announcing that you will pirate future games? And Jeff Vogel is the sell-out?

    One wonders whether there is any difference at all between your "ethics" and what you personally find the most self-serving.

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  37. I'm really excited for this game to be on steam. I've followed your blog for a while and wanted to buy your games, but they were just too expensive compared to other games in the indie space. Now that Avadon is priced similarly to other games it's an instant buy.

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  38. :) Purchased. Now I just have to find some time to play it.

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  39. @Phinehas +1

    If you're unhappy with Jeff's pricing and distribution model, fine. Don't buy his product. But how do you get from "I'm unhappy" to "It's OK for me to steal the product that Jeff put so much time, effort and money into creating"? Respecting the property rights of creators is not a favor or a kindness; it's a minimal standard of civilized behavior.

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  40. I, too, bought Avadon at full price when it was released. I'm not crazy enough to buy another copy on Steam... but I'm not upset either.

    Upset at a retailer for changing his prices? Am I living in the year 1877? I bought Avadon because I played the demo, liked it, and said (as I've said for every Spiderweb Software title since I had enough money to buy video games) "I like this and am willing to pay $25 both to finish this game and keep this guy in business." That sentiment has not changed.

    Given that Jeff is one of the most customer-friendly guys in the universe and has a one-year money-back guarantee, I could always try to weasel a refund out of him, buy the game on Steam for tenbux, then act all superior. But that would make me a douchebag.

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  41. I first got an exile 2 shareware copy on a disc somewhere around 97/98, I would have only been 13 so paying for a game over the internet and not getting something I could physically hold would have been hard to convince my parents to do. But I loved the game a whole lot, and a few years later I discovered the website and found avernum, I still didn't have a way to buy the games but they were fantastic! I bought a second hand pc while on a work contract in the countryside just so I could try avernum 3. Now that I have a card that works online I can buy the games, and I mostly do that through steam, as it is easier to have my digital downloads managed by one system as opposed to signing up for accounts on variosu websites to purchase them.

    As for your price, I've bought avadon on steam, and it's a great return to this style of gaming (although I'm peeved my lockpicking shadowwalker can't use a bow!). But I'm in two minds, on the one hand, I want you to have more money because the effort you put into your games far surpasses that of most AAA titles not to mention the amount of hours I spend enjoying your games as opposed to the AAAs. On the other hand, the dated graphics and simpler mechanics can be a bit of a let down for a higher price point, and even at $20 I would hesitate to purchase the games, like you said it's that barrier of what's a disposable amount. Going to steam and selling for the steam prices I think is a good move, you ought to pick up a lot of sales and I'm hoping they'll continue enough to convince you to put your back catalogue up as well (i'd be particularly interested in snatching up the avernum series)

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  42. It's awesome that you're on Steam now, Jeff! :D

    I can't say that I'll buy it again, although the achievements are very, very tempting.. >.>;;

    That said, I just recently got burned on Apple App Store buying Eschalon Book 2 and the complete inability to move the game around on my computer. It's.. more hoops to jump through with Steam and the App Store that I'd rather pay $10 not to jump through.

    --

    On pricing: I really don't see a problem with charging two different prices in two different places. Steam's discount comes with being tied to Steam and the innate exposure/commitment that comes with that attachment. For some people it's a blessing and for others it's a bane.

    I am, however, kinda blinking at the idea that Steam thinks Eschalon Book 2 is worth $20 and Avadon is only $10. Having played both, Avadon is more approachable, longer, and worlds more fun. It only punishes you a little for making bad decisions, and then only if you ask very nicely! :D

    It'd be silly to get upset at having paid full price earlier and now it's cheaper. I made the decision back then to buy the game as soon as it was released. Yeah, maybe I could have waited for the price to come down, but why punish myself like that just to save a few bucks? o.O It's not like amazing cRPGs are all that common these days.

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  43. The problem with pricing

    I see no problem with having two different prices. But I think it is mean of you to take more money from people that don't use steam or know what steam is. Unless a customer goes to Steam and your site they will never know that that two pricve points exist.

    So Jeff, if you want to be nice to people that value $10.00 you should place a disclaimer on your website stating "this game can be purchased for 50% less on steam".

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  44. And no, it's not the same as buying a TV at Futureshop then finding it cheaper at Bestbuy. In that case one knows that multiple retailers selling identical products exist.

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  45. Thanks Jeff. I bought it on steam for $10 and definitely wouldn't have otherwise.

    Very interested to hear how this experiment turns out.

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  46. Actually, this decision changes everything for me - but it's not about me and Spiderweb, from whom I have purchased at least $200 worth of games. Instead, it signals a startup for me and Steam. Seeing this as a possibility to get future Spidweb games for just $10 each, it's a no brainer. It's a small miracle that I haven't yet registered my demo of Avadon: Black Fortress; but I certainly will now just get the game via Steam and pay half the price for it. I would still pay $25 (or $20) for it, like I have many other Spidweb games. But this Steam+Spidweb deal is, for me, all about options. Over the years I have had to email Jeff and (I think, more to his wife, ala Games Adminstrator Central) several times as I have moved to various new machines and needed to get new activation codes for old games purchased. Now I won't need to gather lists of games I have previously purchased, or search emails to figure out which games I bought and which I didn't. At least for future games, it'll all be right there on Steam. And, OK, I admit it, I'll probably bug Jeff and his wife at least one more time to port my past purchases onto a machine. The reason is that the games are so enjoyable, any "new" machine just doesn't feel complete without this "old" loveline. Thanks for options!

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  47. Awesome. I really, really hope this boosts your recognition and sales. I bought it when it originally when it was $25, but I didn't have any hesitancy to buy it again on Steam. And whenever you get Avernum/Geneforge/Nethergate on there, I'll buy those again too.

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  48. Congrats on a great game and on very appropriate pricing. See, I wanted a retro-ish RPG and I browsed around Steam. Then I saw Eschalon and Avadon. Then I bought Avadon because, frankly, no matter how awesome your game mechanics are, you just can't charge 20 EUR for a game that has such extremely humble production values.

    This is my first Spiderweb game, I hope it won't be the last. Keep your Steam releases in the sub-10 EUR zone and I'm sure you will be a lot more successful, commercially. Good luck in the future!

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  49. I can't buy a video game from Steam because of the DRMs. So it really is nice of you to lower the price in your website. $20 seems really cheap for a Spiderweb game.

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  50. Portal 2 costs $20. Portal 2 is a game that is of superb quality, had a TON of people work on it and has production values of a current-day product. It's well worth $20. Spiderweb games on the other hand, while well-made and fun, simply cannot measure up to the visuals and production values of a game made by a full team of people. So please don't encourage Mr Vogel to keep up with those high prices, I believe a lower price will be financially much more profitable in the long run. I for one would have never bought Avadon for 20.

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  51. I purchased Avadon for $25 + CD, and it was worth every penny. I would not pay $20 for Portal 2. Production value has very little to do with the enjoyment I derive from video games, and I suspect this holds true for many people, regardless of their initial reactions.

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  52. I've been a long time fan of spiderweb software and still have some old exile save games from the 1990's.

    The only problem back then is being in my early teens, with no credit card and living in another country, I had to get the game via less than "honourable" means.

    Now I've come of age, seeing this on steam has reminded me of all those good times with Jenneke and crew :p, I'll dish the dough. I probably would have paid more. Having steam to keep track of game licenses and files is infinitely superior to having scattered cds, emails and serial codes all over the place.

    If I see exile or avernum trilogies pop up on steam, I'll definitely be getting them.

    Hope this is paying off Jeff, you deserve it! :)

    espie

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  53. Here's a new Spiderweb convert through the Steam route. I generally only purchase new stuff through that outlet now, since it's just handy having everything in one place. AND I only buy indie(ish) games (sample purchases: Torchlight, Defense Grid, Solar 2, etc.).

    I'm absolutely loving Avadon - it's just so intelligently put together, above all - and I'll definitely be in the market for more games.

    Keep up the sterling work!

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  54. As indie dev myself I am not sure this will be a great strategy in the long run.
    You know what will happen? that your most loyal fan will still buy from you, but a VERY GOOD percentage of people will say "I'll wait the game to be on Steam".
    And not for $10, but for one of their regular sales when Avadon will be on sale for $0.99 (they do it for all the games).
    I see so many parallels with what happened in casual games just a few years ago... and now that market is dominated by cheap games and is almost impossible for single indie to make a living.
    Maybe I'm just a pessimist, knowing none of my games will ever be on Steam ;)

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  55. Be sure to produce a whole bunch of DLCs to monetize your hardcore users ;)

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  57. Well, the Steam move is a good choice i guess. Although I did read the WIT for Avadon on RockPaperShotgun in May and got quite interested, I didn't buy the game at that time. So when it came up as a daily deal on Steam a few days ago, bam, I remembered "Oh that game looked so good, it's cheap, instant buy".
    Since then I've been playing and absolutely loving Avadon, and I will make sure to recommend it to every person that could be interested. So yup, the Steam bigassaudience effect does definitely work.

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  58. I bought this when Steam discounted it to half price (about £3 sterling).

    For me this is the right price point - played a bit and don't think I'd have been happy to pay any more, would just as rather dig out an old copy of Serpent Isle or similar.

    Seeing as I got Civ IV and Borderlands for about three times that price, each of which has occupied several days worth of playing time, I think it has found its level.

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  59. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  60. Thanks for the new but I didn't know that worked in that game. I will give it a try to the demo. but I am not really in that kind of RPG but at least it is cheaper than Buy cialis

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