Wednesday, October 28, 2009

World of Goo's Big Sale

2D Boy put their awesome indie hit World of Goo on sale. They charged whatever people wanted to pay. Then they put the results up on their blog. The sale got a ton of PR. They sold a lot of copies. A top of copies sold for the minimum: a penny. The vast majority went for $1.99 or less. A bunch more went for $4.99. Very few paid for more than that.

This was pretty cool, but I've seen a lot of people making conclusions based on these results that I don't think are justified. Like, say, that Indie games are too expensive. Which I feel is the opposite of true.

And what can we conclude about this? Well, if you have a really popular and good game that's been out for a while, you can goose sales a lot by having a big sale. Of course. (My company is taking advantage of this basic truth by having a big sale right now.)

But that is the only thing you can conclude.

Some people have suggested that these results are proof that Indie games are too expensive and that these results show that games should be five bucks. Or cheaper. Do not believe this! You can't make a living in the long term selling your game for $4.99. When the PR boost fades away, you will find yourself making no money. Don't price your games based on what the customer wants to pay. He or she does not have your best interests at heart.

On the other hand, the huge number of people buying the game for a penny might make you think a lot of people are horrible cheapskates. But 2D Boy put up a poll to figure out why people paid what they did. A lot of buyers had already bought the game on one platform and just wanted it for another. And, in this case, yeah, I can see paying a penny. When someone buys one of our games for the Mac, we give the Windows version for free (and vice versa).

So the only real moral of the story is that people like sales. Not a shock. And World of Goo is still worth buying at the regular price.


  1. Yeah, people trying to draw conclusions about the value of a game need to keep in mind that World of Goo is now over a year old. So, they probably got a whole bunch of PR attention for having this sale, and some sales they probably didn't expect otherwise. I certainly don't take it to mean that I should give away my games for almost nothing. ;)

  2. One interesting thing about this sale is that Steam sales of World of Goo went up by 40% during it. How can that be? You are told that you can pay whatever you want for the game and then decide to buy it at full price?
    I mean, I know it's not a significant amount of people that chose to do this (I'm gonna guess that a 40% increase by now doesn't amount to much), but seeing things like these every once in a while restores my faith in humanity. By a little bit.

    And another interesting thing about this sale is that when the guys said they didn't make a cent if people chose to pay 30 cents or less, suddenly the average amount paid rose from one day to the other. (Granted, it's not a proven correlation but it's still a curious observation)

  3. @indigostatic: "One interesting thing about this sale is that Steam sales of World of Goo went up by 40% during it. How can that be? "

    Not a big mystery. There were a million blog/news/slashdot posts about the sale. That sort of massive PR wave lifts all boats.

    - Jeff Vogel

  4. *Thank you* Jeff Vogel. You put into words what I've been thinking but couldn't quite voice. I had a sale recently where I gave away my first game for free, and the resulting PR blitz gave a nice boost to my existing games. Of course, that was a game that came out three years ago so I had nothing to lose by temporarily giving it away. Now, of course, people ask me to keep giving the game away for free. Which I won't do. :)

    Love this blog, Jeff. It's a source of great inspiration.


  5. The modern American consumer does not understand price determination. Look at what happened to housing (if you compare rents to purchase price where I live, they are still to high). You have people who think an $8k tax credit helps purchasers when all it does is raise prices (because your competitors have the credit too).

    Getting people to understand pricing is a losing battle. But keep up the good fight Jeff.

  6. This is what I call a lost leader strategy, you may sell most copies at 1 cent to 1 dollar, but the PR, new customers (and their wonderful email / contact info) is priceless, especially when it becomes time to sell the next game that will 'not' be pay what you want ;)

    Anyway, always good to see devs like 2dboy doing the business :)

  7. Another thing not really taken into account in some "conclusions" is probably that people who would have paid full price had also most likely already done so.

  8. Whoa! You give us the other platform version for free? I did not know that. I'm totally buying more now.

  9. I agree completely. Indie games are too cheap right now, not too expensive. A lot of people want to play, but everyone also wants to save money. You have to make people pay, and they should have to pay.

    I remember in economics there's this nice curve of total profits from sales of an item at different prices. So, at a penny, you might sell way more than you normally would. But you'll make way, way more money at a dollar, even though you're selling fewer. Total sales is not the same as total profit. The key if I remember correctly is to plot the curve of price vs sales and find the middle. This is where the most people are willing to buy for the most profit.

  10. Good points. I really love donationware, but as much as I like the idea of a free game society where we all get to play before we pay, it is a very unstable and risky business model. However, I think that Jeff has refined the art of the demo, and therefore you have everything you need set before you when deciding whether or not you want to commit to the purchase. If everyone else made demos as good as Jeff's then there would be much less complains in the area of "This game wasn't worth the $X I payed for it, I want my money back, etc."

    P.S. Lemonade Stand (on the Apple II) taught me everything I needed to know about supply and demand.

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