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.