Xpovos' Blog - Apr to Jun 17 (104 followers)

PermalinkClicker Heroes Disaster
I know I am really pushing out the content right now, but the iron is hot. Things will slow down to their normal pace soon, but I have a few more ideas I want to get out and they are all fairly time sensitive. To make up for the quantity of posts, they will be short (for me).

Today I want to talk about Clicker Heroes if you have not played it you almost certainly know what it is. As a F2P idle game it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of almost everything. Yet these idle games are surprisingly entertaining. This is not the first I have played, but having achievements tied to it means it is likely going to be one that I carry further than most.

What surprises me a bit about Clicker Heroes has been how the optimal strategy changes at different stages. Early on it is a pretty straight-forward earn more gold to buy more and better heroes to help you kill stuff faster so you can earn even more gold mechanic. Then, of course, you hit the standard ascension mechanic. After about 3-5 ascensions (maybe more if you are a more active player) even that starts to slow down and you start to build back up from the bottom. Early heroes are given exponential bonuses that catch them up with late heroes and surpass them substantially, at least for a while. In the meantime, you are leveling up a second set of heroes, "ancients," for extra power as well.

That is largely where I am. After about two months of playing the game basically once or twice a day I am getting ready to move out of that small stage onto the next stage which is all about making sure your "gilds" are on the right hero. Gilds are rewards for beating certain levels and they increase a hero's damage. They land randomly on a hero, but you can move them around, and doing so is a good way to ensure you have maximum damage.

My current gildsMy current gilds

I have about 20 gilds. Ideally, I would get them all to move over to The Masked Samurai based on my current progress. There are two ways to move gilds, and in that screenshot you can see them.

Press cn_X to de-gild the "selected" hero by one and add one gild to a different random hero. Costs 2 Hero Souls.
Press cn_A to remove a gild from a different random hero and add it to this hero. Costs 80 Hero Souls.

With 19 gilds to move, transfering all the gilds to Masked Samurai this way would cost 1520 Hero Souls, which is still a lot for me.

The disaster which I want to talk about, per my title, is what the screenshot is failing to capture. Clicker Heroes' "help" menu is that if you click the RS it will toggle tool tips. In the screen shot they are toggled on. If I click RS, that tool tip goes away.

This is very obvious with the heroes. The tooltip helps you determine how much damage each is doing, their percentage of your total damage, etc. But they can get in the way, so it is common to turn them off and on a lot. When I started buying Ancients I was dumbfounded that there were no descriptions at all. I looked them all up on the internet, matched by the picture and read their descriptions there. Crazy! Then I clicked the RS on a later trip and all the data was there in the tool tips. Of course!

Well, it came back to bite me with the gilding as well. I went into the menu and had the tool tips turned off. So it was just a table of heroes and gilds. What button do I press? If this were a normal game I would press cn_A on this hero with a couple of gilds that are not doing me maximum good, and then maybe I can press cn_X to move it off.

External image

Good-bye, 80 Hero Souls.

Wait, you mean there was no confirmation screen? Well, yes, actually. If you press cn_X it will ask you to confirm, but if you press cn_A it just takes the 80 Hero Souls and scampers. Even worse, the hero that ended up with that new gild did not need it--I was trying to remove them from him--and it may well have taken it from a hero who was in better shape to use it.

Worse yet, Hero Souls in the bank are worth multiplicative damage bonus. So this one misclick has set me back tremendously. My damage is decreased by about 50%, my goals are set-back and to earn the 80 Hero Souls back again is going to take about a week of solid play.

Clicker Heroes, the game where a misclick can cost you a week. That is a winning slogan.

Of course, the reality of idle games is that a week is nothing. I will still be playing this game, off and on, months from now. If this had happened a few weeks from now (or happens again) it would almost be a non-issue, because my hero soul totals should be increasing exponentially as well. 80 is a lot when you have ~140. Not so much when you have a hundred thousand. This just hit me at the absolute worst time.

But, hey, at least my save file did not corrupt.
Posted by Xpovos on 25 May 17 at 14:05 | There are 12 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Just in case anyone missed it, I was the subject of the most recent TA Community Interview - Xpovos.

I have naturally picked up several new blog followers due to that interview. Welcome to all of you. Thank you for coming and I hope you will stick around and enjoy the content. I also got quite a few friend requests. Some from folks I have never interacted with or heard of on the site before. I made a decision to accept all of them. Normally I prefer to interact with people a bit before adding them as a friend, but right after the interview I figure at this point you know me better than I know you, and if you think I am an interesting person and want to be friends with me, I will take you at your word.

Once again, a big thank you to Eurydace for handling the interview and getting it published and for doing all the work to double check my code, edit my content and all the rest.

And edit, he did. A few things I included got cut, as was appropriate, both for content and for length. But reading the final product I thought about that and figured I could try to do something more on my own. Also, in the interest of time, he was only able to ask a couple of follow-up questions, but I know there are hooks in some of my answers that people may be curious about.

So here is the opportunity. Post a question in a comment below or send me a message and I will follow-up in about a week's time with another set of answers. Do you want more book/movie/music recommendations? Do you have something short (watch a movie, play a game, or read a short piece) I can do in the next week that you want my opinion on? Did something in my story interest you and you want to know more? Or is there anything that was not covered that you are curious about? I will also cover anything left over from the comments in the forum.

I do not currently have another currency code to hide in the answers, but if I get some good questions that spark an interesting discussion I could be convinced to go get one. So bring your A-game, or at least bring a question. I promise I will try to be not quite as long-winded as I was with Jblacq's question... unless it is really necessary.
Posted by Xpovos on 24 May 17 at 14:19 | There are 3 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkUsed Game Economics
My last blog I had a throw-away comment indicating that the publisher complaint of used games being equivalent to a lost sale is fictitious. My first commenter questioned that assertion.

Jblaq said:
I love reading your blogs. There's always a bunch of data/facts to backup your opinions. That is why I'm curious about this, "For publishers afraid of lost sales revenue due to used game sales, which is a fiction, by the way..."

I don't have facts either way, but if Gamestop sells the same game 3+ times and they only paid the publisher once, wouldn't that be lost revenue?
First of all, thanks for the kind words. I enjoy writing these, but it is always better when people enjoy reading them. I want to make sure I have high-quality stuff so thanks for calling me out on a point where I did not give enough background. In my defense, it was a long post already, but this is a worthy topic. Today, then, as I have more space, let us dig in deeper to the economics. Are the publishers complaining about GameStop right? If not, time for me to show my work.

To start I am going to build from the ground up and spend some time covering some economic theory.

Supply and Demand CurveSupply and Demand Curve

There are a few things to note about a supply/demand curve. The simplest concept is that where supply and demand intersect is the transactional price. The price moves if the curves move. The second thing to note is that the curves are, in fact, curved, despite my image above being simplified into straight lines. Demand is never a straight line, and supply rarely is either. In order to talk about this it will help to have a real world example.

Today I am founding a company: Electronic Widgets. Widgets are the wave of the future and I know how to make them. I set up a production plant and start cranking out widgets as fast as I can. How much should I charge? How much can I charge?

Here we get to start making assumptions. Assumption #1. As founder of Electronic Widgets, I want to make money; lots of money. Most of the science of economics is based on assumptions like this. We assume that consumers are rational, that companies want to maximize profits, and that, a widget is a widget. Real life is never that tidy, but we make these assumptions anyway because we have to and because they are a good starting point.

If I want to maximize profits, I should sell my first widget off the line for $1,000,000,000,000,000,[...]000,000,000.00. Or something like that. It is unique in the world, the first widget ever. The price may be ludicrous, but remember this widget is a life changer. Is there one person in the world willing to pay that much? If yes, then that is what I should charge. My supply is 1, far to the left of the graph. That demand line is curving upwards. As quantity available goes down, the price people are willing to pay can increase exponentially.

Electronic Widgets have sold our first widget, and we are rolling in the cash. I can take a little dive in my money bin.

DuckTales RemasteredSecret AchievementXpovosThe Secret Achievement achievement in DuckTales Remastered worth 16 pointsContinue playing to unlock this secret achievement

Three cubic acres of money. But we want more because we want to maximize profits. And there are more people out there who still want widgets. Time to make more.

This time the price is not going to be so high. There already is one, so the uniqueness factor goes away. And we already soaked the richest man in the world for all of his money. But it is still worth it to make the widget because even if it only sells for half as much as the first one did, that is still a ton of money and most of it profit.

Eventually, we keep rolling out the widgets, and following an S-curve of adaptation our revenues start to drop. We remain profitable, but it is not as ridiculous as it once was. There just are not enough people that far on the demand curve to support the price--so the price falls.

But wait, there is a problem. One of the reasons why our profitability is taking hit is not just the lack of consumer demand, but also our competition. UbiWidget saw how we soaked the richest man in the world and they want a piece of that action. They know how to make widgets too, and because widgets in simple economics are indistinguishable, when they start making them, we are competing with each other for market share. We each are pushing supply along the curve faster and trying to reach the end point faster so that more of our widgets get bought than the other guy's.

Eventually, this reaches an equilibrium point. Most of the demand is met and there is enough slack in the system that both my Electronic Widgets and UbiWidgets get to make what is called normal profits. It is enough that everyone stays in business, but no one is really happy about it.

One place that this breaks down as an analogy is that widgets are not always widgets. My Electronic Widgets might well be superior. Or more commonly, UbiWidget is selling a substantially similar, but functionally different product that we can call a Wodget. Because we are selling different products our supply curves do not interact with each other in the manner noted, at least not as much.

Another, larger, place that games break the model when it comes to classic supply and demand economics is that widgets are physical things that we create in a factory. Software is ethereal. It does not exist in the physical world, except through how it interacts with it. It is also theoretically infinitely reproducible. That may not be precisely true for a disc print in a box on a shelf at GameStop, but it definitely is for a digital copy.

The economics of a product with infinite supply are not well understood. What is the price of air?
Economics ascribes zero value to priceless things, on either end of the spectrum. Developers work hard to make the software and deserve to charge money to recoup their investment. Coders and artists deserve wages. The product that they create is not valueless (air) because it can be made over infinitely at no additional cost. This is a problem with post-scarcity economics. For what it is worth, this is a very important question for the next 50 years because as more and more of our economy and economic activity, particularly in the “first-world” is dependent on the production of and use of software, portions of our economy are going post-scarcity. It is likely to be a disruption to the economics of our time as profound, or more, as the Industrial Revolution. This disruption will likely continue until we can get to a fully post-scarcity society, which seems a pipe dream still, or until we define a new paradigm of an economic system. Something like Whuffie, perhaps. But a legal band-aid, like copyright, is not going to fix this one.

Wait a minute, did he just say Whuppie?Wait a minute, did he just say "Whuppie?"

Software breaks the supply/demand curve, but not necessarily the entire thought process behind it. Time to go back to the top. I have a new company: Electronic Games and we know that games are the wave of the future. We make a game. Why not put our first copy out for auction so that we can find the very top of the demand curve and collect that absurd number from before? Do you want to be the first to play Electronic Games’ latest title? Pay for the privilege. That has not happened yet, but I could see it happening at some point. Instead, game companies settle for a less egregious option: the collector’s edition. If you want the biggest and best Day-One package, you will pay more for it. Skipping the auction could also be a defensive technique because watching someone play a game can be a substitute for playing the game itself for some. So Electronic Games might be failing to maximize profits by not getting enough copies of the game out fast enough. If the early release window offered at auction is measured in minutes instead of days or weeks or months, it is worth a lot less. This can compress the demand curve, but it still exists.

The purpose of having a collector's edition and a regular edition is ultimately the same as an auction, just less precise. The supplier is meeting people on the demand curve at different locations. This is called stratification (or segmentation) of the market. It allows sellers to find ways for consumers who can and want to pay more for additional features to do so. This is why DLC exists as well, of course, but that is more a post hoc answer. Some games have taken this to the extreme. You can have collector’s editions, supreme editions, extra editions, regular editions, and then for the bargain customer, the slimed down edition. Or the one that they supplement with advertising. Then finally they can sell a “Game of the Year” edition and add in all the DLC.

Time for another example. Electronic Games has had a successful launch day. Our new game, Mudden2020, was a huge hit. But that does not mean we do not still have our UbiGames rival. They saw that Mudden2020 was a hit and they say, just as before, “We can do that too!” So they set up shop and a few months later they release their new game CSN-FL ‘20 which is clearly a rip-off. Lawsuits ensue because economics never works quite so well as when there are politics involved too, but at the end of the day consumers have a choice.

The difference between Widgets and Wodgets was not as profound as the difference between Mudden and CSN-FL. Despite massive similarities, both because of laws and those lawsuits, or potential lawsuits, and because of the sheer amount of room for differences in software, the games are fundamentally different. There are gamers who love Mudden and hate CSN-FL and vice-versa. And there are even gamers who love them both and want to buy both. The supply is potentially infinite for both, and yet there is still very little direct competition because the products are sufficiently differentiated. But that does not stop me; as CEO of Electronic Games, any potential competition is too much, so I seal up an exclusive deal with the league so that Mudden will be the only official product.

Mudden2020 has been out for a few months now. Everyone who wanted it at $60 for the regular edition or $80 for the CE has bought one. They have played it to death as they watched the current season of sports-ball play out. Sales have slowed down to a trickle. It is time for a sale. Why have a sale? Because it meets that next level on the demand curve. There are still lots of people out there who might want a copy of Mudden2020 but did not have or did not want to pay $60. But they might pay $40. So for a special occasion, we can sell a copy for $40 now. We do not make as much money this way, but as with the widgets, any extra money is good, as long as it is more than it cost to make; and since our product is largely digital, it costs almost nothing to make extra copies. Everything is the sunk cost of development. In order to sell more copies we had to meet the market, nothing we do is going to make the market come to us.

One sale at Christmas was good. Two months later for the “Big Game” is around the corner, sales have been near zero since the sale, though. If they did not buy it at $80 or $60 at the beginning of the season, or on sale at $40 they really are not going to be buying it for $60 now. So it is time to have a deeper sale. Let's take it down to $30 and when the sale is done it can be permanently reduced to $40. We are almost done with production of Mudden2021 anyway and that is where we are focused. The diminishing returns from Mudden2020 are not too much of a concern. This is actually irrational from an economic perspective. If the goal is to maximize profits, then those diminishing returns should be of concern. But Electronic Games only has so much brain power to put to these questions and the few extra dollars of profit lost do not warrant as much attention as making sure the next product succeeds.

Fear my MS Paint skillsFear my MS Paint skills

This is the status quo of gaming economics. This is why sales and discounts and then more sales are the methodologies for extracting maximum profits for a non-scarce good.

  • That took long enough. Now to answer the question.

Physical software brings with it a “copy” problem. It is basically the same as the piracy problem, except that physical software resale is legal and piracy is not. Jblacq is spot on in the initial analysis. And we here at Electronic Games hate resale. Someone is playing our game and we made no money on that transaction at all. That is not maximizing my profits.

It might seem like the problem is that it is not illegal to do, like piracy. As a heartless money-grubbing corporation intent on maximizing profits, I do not see the difference between a reseller and a pirate, even if the law does. To Jblaq’s point, though, are they? The end result is that someone who gave no money to the creator is enjoying the fruits of the creation.

Dressing the part, GameStop finally shows their true colors.Dressing the part, GameStop finally shows their true colors.

The answer is, of course, no. There are two reasons why they are factually not the same, even in economic terms. The first is that in this day and age intellectual piracy is generally a zero-money thing. If I want a pirated version of a game, I do not pay anyone for it. However, resale does involve a financial transaction, from the new owner to the previous owner, with perhaps a fee for a middleman, like Gamestop. The second reason is that the first owner no longer has the game. In the sale of the physical disc (unless this is also piracy) he forfeits his right to play the game again in the future. Those are two critical distinctions that will matter a lot to our next level of economics discussion.

If Supply is theoretically infinite, does that mean that the demand curve ceases to exist? It does not. If Supply were truly infinite, everyone would just line up at the “pay $0” side of the equation and be satisfied, because if the product is infinite, in financial terms--that is in the terms of determine who gets how much of a scarce resource--the product is valueless (air). Video games, and other infinitely reproduceable products (and yes, even air) clearly have value even when they are not scarce. The demand curve is still there because consumers want the value of the game, and they want it at differing levels based on their own situations.

Individuals, still making their own theoretically rational decisions, can value identical products differently because they have different needs and different “purchasing power.” This could be a good time to run a segue about inferior goods substitution purchases, pricing sensitivity and price elasticity, but this is already getting to be quite long, so I’ll skip it. If you are interested, be sure to let me know and I will write it up as yet another blog in a little bit.

The main point is that as gamers, we each are in our own situation and have different desires for different games at different price points. I was happy to buy Armello at launch, something I almost never do. Similarly, even though it was not at launch as soon as I discovered that they had made Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf Console Edition, I bought it sight-unseen. At full price. Even though it has at least one unobtainable achievement. All of those are things that would have slowed me down or stopped me from purchasing most other games with those issues. I desired these games strongly, whereas the whole point of Xpovos' blog post - Backward Compatible Sale was that I was tempted to buy and play games I had written off before because they were too expensive. The sale comes along and lowers the price, and suddenly I am willing to drop $120 (combined). For each of those, my own position on the demand curve was lower than the price was set. Therefore no transaction occurred. In between those examples is a whole spectrum of positions I have for other games. It is actually pretty rare for people to be at exactly the same point on a demand curve. We may arrive at the same transactional point, but our reasons for doing so could be completely different.

There are a lot of things that can shift that demand curve, but they are largely external to the actual product. Maybe I win the lottery. Suddenly money itself is worth less to me than before, so it is a bit like everything goes on sale. Or maybe I play a game and love it so now I want the sequel a lot more than I had considered previously, or just another game by the developer. The game itself hasn’t changed; just my perception of it making it more or less valuable to me in my own unique situation. One of the factors that should be reducing how much I value ant new game purchase is my existing backlog. I do not think of myself as a collector of video games so the purchase does me no good until I play it; and there is not really enough time to play the ones I have anyway. But that does not seem to be a factor for my non-rational brain.

Since the demand curve still exists even for non-scarce products, the process for maximizing profits is to steadily work down the demand curve. But publishers don't do this perfectly, if at all. And that is the reason why GameStop exists.

We have the ground rules set for if the developer is selling to us, directly or through a middle-man. But we need to talk about the individuals on the demand curve. Buyer A who buys on Day 1 and keeps it forever has the highest demand for the product. Buyer B who buys on Day 1 and then sells it to GameStop later is lower on the demand curve. He is willing to buy the game at an “inflated” price because he can get his enjoyment which he only wants for a period of time, and then sell it to recoup the portion of the price he was felt was inflated. If he could not sell the game he would not be willing to pay as much. Buyer C, who buys from B is even further down the demand curve. He was never willing to pay full price, but he still has a desire to play the game so he gets an inferior substitute good in the form of a used game at a reduced price. He subsidizes Buyer B’s demand curve with his own. Buyer D is a little lower spot on the demand curve as Buyer C, and values the substitute good differently. He waits for the first sale, because that gets him a new copy which is worth more to him, but not enough to pay full price for. Buyer D, despite being lower on the demand curve has actually given the company more money than Buyer C did. That is a failure on the part of Electronic Games.

The problem is not that the used game sale happened, it is that the developer failed to meet a potential consumer at a mutually agreeable price point. They let someone else do it, through a process known as arbitrage and as a result, they potentially lost out on revenue. If the game developer and publisher could meet our used-game buyers at their demand curve spot they could get that sale themselves and cut out Buyer B.

They do not do this. Both because it is hard to do in practice, particularly without alienating customers, and because at the end of the day if they found some way to take Buyer B’s arbitrage margin back to themselves it just moves Buyer B further down the demand curve himself. At best they cannibalize an early sale transaction for a later sale transaction, and the publishers would rather have early sales for marketing reasons if nothing else.

Individuals partaking in the arbitrage process tend not to take significant profits away from the initial seller (Electronic Games) because if pricing is properly done initially then the arbitrage value is baked into the initial purchase decision. Therefore, GameStops profitability is not coming directly at the expense of Electronic Games, or any other publisher or developer. It might be a lost sale unit, but not any lost revenue.

That is not always the case. If the game is horribly mispriced relative to market demand, then the opportunity for arbitrage is tremendous, and profit can be lost. That can also happen if somehow there is a supply hangup. If you get a Collector's Edition of a popular game it is possible that you can sell that for a profit yourself. If you can, it means the initial pricing was probably too low. But there is also a tremendous market force of stability. "Games cost $60." So even if the game is worth more to consumers, if the company tries to charge more, they get accused of gouging and that bad PR is not worth the extra profit on one game, thus opening the door for yet more arbitrage.
Posted by Xpovos on 23 May 17 at 17:28 | There are 2 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkBackward Compatible Sale
I love this sale.

I don't care if it feeds my worst habits. I love that the platform is finally getting off its ass when it comes to the concept of sales on digital content. Maximize your profits, guys!

That said, there's still a lot of failure in a sale even as good as this one. In part that could be corrected with a commitment to more productive sales going forward, but this is far more likely to be a one-off, or at best, perhaps the start of a perhaps yearly thing.

The Xbox 360 Backward Compatible games sale boasts 271 different titles on sale this week. That's amazing! I bet Rich and co. feel particularly good about getting all of that automatic store parsing code written before this one went live. Imagine poor ChewieOnIce trying to get all of that done in any kind of sense of timeliness.

Big sales bring big decisions. Which games do I buy? Even before spending a penny I have spent far too much time parsing the list. I have "narrowed" my target list down to 42 titles from the same sale. Two more on the Xbox One side are interesting as well. If I were to buy all 44 titles, I'd be spending $124.21. On the one hand, that is a lot of money, even for an expensive hobby such as ours. On the other, that is a ton of games for not very much per title. The average is under $3 per game. Will an average game on this list bring me $3 worth of entertainment? Almost certainly, if I play it.

It is highly unlikely that I will buy all 44. The list will be further weeded until I've got a good selection of the best of the best. But that filtration process will be a challenge, and I'll cover some of the aspects that make the decisions hard in a moment. But before I do that, let me remember for a moment that it is absolutely insane to consider buying anything close to 44 more games. Sure most of them are fairly short completions, but even at 2-4 hours per game, or a couple of 6-8 hour games, each of these still take hours to beat. Those are hours of gaming time that I have less and less of. And yes, these are all Backward Compatible, which is fantastic. Play it on the One? Why not? But at the end of the day, I have newer games to play too. If I were to buy 44 new games, how many would I play more than just to Bean Dive them? And when? Before another Backward Compatible big sale? That depends a lot on when that sale is, doesn't it?

So, let me talk about just a few of the titles I'm contemplating buying from this sale and perhaps some of the reasons I should hesitate.

  • DLC and Other "Required" Content

While Arcade games, which is where a lot of my target games are, tend not to have DLC, they are allowed and several of them do, including some of my targets. The most compelling two new for me are:

Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds with $11 in DLC available to purchase and Stacking with a single DLC at $5. While some games in the sale had their DLC go on sale as well, most did not. Notably, the DLC that is on sale now is content that goes on sale frequently. In addition, there are several games I own from this list that I've been hoping to buy the DLC for in some form of sale for a while. None of that went on sale.

DLC is notoriously bad about going on sale, unless it's one of the ones that is almost constantly on sale. There seems to be no happy medium. To repeat myself from above, publishers need to learn how to maximize profits. As far as I can tell, every economist agrees that the way to do that with this type of content is to steadily reduce prices over time. Offer a sale, and then a short while later do a full price drop. Then another sale from the reduced price, etc. Keep doing that until you reach a bottom price point which is sufficiently above the transaction cost as to make a profit and then leave it there forever. That process could take years, and that is fine.

But a DLC pack like Europe for Ticket to Ride which has NEVER gone on sale is a great example of the marketers of this game not playing by that strategy. The DLC is a game-changer, quite literally. It offers new rules and mechanics which adapt the game significantly, and it's on a new map, which is about the only other thing in the game that can change. But it is still fundamentally Ticket to Ride; it's not actually a brand new game even if it seems like it could be. This is a big content DLC and is worth a good price, but it is 75% of the cost of the base game. For achievement hunters, it is even worse because it comes with a total of two achievements worth 30 GS. Why bother? With this BC sale on the main game bringing it down to $2.50, the DLC is now 3x as expensive as the game itself. That is absolutely insane.

For publishers afraid of lost sales revenue due to used game sales, which is a fiction, by the way, DLC and never lowering the price on that DLC made a certain bit of sense. It was the path to the promised land, as fictitious as it might be, where they can soak the gamer consumer for those few dollars of guaranteed profit. But games like most of the ones I'm looking at in this sale were never released on disc. These are all digital only titles. There are no used-game sales digging into their profits. There are just profits that they are failing to realize by having their product priced in a manner that is inconsistent with the customer's desire to pay for content.

  • Questionable Publishing Deals

Occasionally sales like this can help to highlight a rift in the gaming marketplace. I've spilled some digital ink talking about what appeared to be a significant rift between SuperGiant games and Microsoft. I was surprised this past December when Bastion was re-released then. Was I wrong, or was this a thawing of relationships? But even if I was wrong there in that case, sometimes feelings get hurt and business decisions are made because of those hurt feelings. Looking at the Deathspank series, I think that there's a point to be made that there is little love lost between the developer, HotHead Games, and EA Publishing. Hothead went with a different publisher for the third title in the series. There are lots of additional points that indicate some real friction between players as Thong of Virtue, the second Deathspank title, is the only one to be Backward compatible, therefore it is also the only one in this sale. Interestingly, it is also the only one with DLC, a $3 for a single achievement speck of DLC.

Then there's also this weird content dispute nugget. HotHead was involved in another content dispute with their other big Xbox titles: the Penny Arcade series. Though Mike Krahulik never said anything too untoward, which is fairly impressive given his tendencies, it was clear that the experience of making the game with HotHead had left him remarkably unsatisfied. Jerry Holkins' work as the author and story guy wasn't as impacted so he continued to work with other developers to make the following games in the series, but they were far more independent and never showed up on the Xbox platform.

  • A Genre Fascination

I'd actually written off many of the titles I'm now contemplating buying because they were Arcade titles in my genre wheelhouses, but they were simply too expensive and the prices were never going to move. Seven of the 42 titles in the BC target list are "Card & Board". Five more are puzzle and four are RPGs. There was no way I was ever going to pay $10 for FunTown Mahjong just because it was a Card & Board title and I'd enjoy getting more Card & Board points. But $2.50? Sure, I can do that.

  • Back From the Dead

Card and Board games weren't the only ones that never seemed to move in price. I want to look at a couple more games that have always appealed to me, but never moved in price--and therefore neither did I. I'm too price sensitive. If I'm going to buy a game for it to sit on my shelf (physical or digital) unplayed, I need to pay less.

TellTale is hardly known for being price insensitive. They throw their content on half-price sale frequently. They've been known to sell a Season Pass at half price before the full content offered by that Season Pass is even released. Being episodic seems to give them some freedom. But it wasn't always like this.

Sam & Max Save the World was TellTale's goal since inception if the founders are to be believed. They loved Sam & Max from Lucas Arts and their inability to finish a Sam & Max project was what led them to create their own studio. Lots of other gamers, including myself, loved Sam & Max too. I played the daylights out of Sam & Max Hit the Road. It was my introduction into Point and Click adventure games. At the same time I was trying Day of the Tentacle and not getting interested, and loving Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (which I would love to see ported). But Sam & Max did it uniquely. The humor was so off-color and engaging and both Max and Sam were fun characters that it makes the whole thing work. So when I saw a Sam & Max game coming to the Xbox 360, I was stoked.

And then I saw the price tag. $20. For a 200 GS game. I wasn't an achievement hunter yet, but it seemed wrong. And as much as I loved Sam & Max, I felt... it could wait. I hadn't been right on top of Hit the Road. It was years after it was released before I played it. It took three years to get a sale. And by then, it was too late. I had two kids, a third on the way, no time and really no money even at half price. Plus the reviews hadn't been kind. While the overall rating here at TA is 3.9 stars, the actual reviews are less kind.

My love of Sam & Max hasn't waned but there had never been a good reason for me to go back and get these games. I'm perfectly fine playing a less than perfect game, particularly when it is with some great characters, but the price had to be right. At $2.50 each, a savings of $35.00 off list price for both, it is time to go. Max, you crack me up, little buddy. Now, let's go crack up some bad guys.

  • Some Final Thoughts

A lot of these decisions are complicated because there may be competing interests. Who sets that price or the price expectations? The developer, the publisher or the marketplace? Sometimes there are contracts that dictate some of these terms and that can further complicate the matter. Microsoft itself has stepped in as the publisher for a lot of these titles, so it could have done some of these things earlier.

Look at Sam & Max again for a moment. The first, Save the World, was published by a wing of Microsoft. The second, Beyond Space and Time, was published by TellTale themselves, even though it was released just a matter of months later. That kind of fluidity and lack of consistency can make things a mess when trying to work out a deal to decide when to put something on sale, or who gets what cut of a new price. It seems easy to me, as a layman, that those kinds of things would've been worked out in the initial contracts, but clearly business is a lot more complicated than I would think it should be.

Finally, I already see some folks playing games from this sale for the first time on my friends-list. I'm really happy to see that because it means I'm not the only one excited by this sale. Some of these games work far better when there's a big community of players, I'm looking at you FunTown Mahjong. But at $10.00 it just never got the community it needed. At $2.50, maybe it will. At least for a few months.

If you've picked up anything this sale that you thought was really good and had overlooked or just been waiting on a price drop, let me know. Similarly, if there's anything in the sale that reminds you that your time is the most valuable thing and the game isn't worth even a deeply discounted price, let me know that too. I have had to make hard choices already to let a few interesting titles drop to even get my list to 42. If you can help me shrink that list further, it would be appreciated.
Posted by Xpovos on 17 May 17 at 14:42 | Last edited on 17 May 17 at 14:43 | There are 6 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkGwent Beta Codes
I was given a few Closed Beta codes for Gwent to hand out to "friends." Well, if you're following my blog, I consider you a friend.

I've also been playing around with Beam and I even streamed playing the tutorial of Gwent: The Witcher Card Game a few weeks back. This seems like a good reason to stream the game again as I start up the main campaign.

I believe the Closed Beta codes I have are good for PC only.

If you haven't got your Closed Beta invite yet and want one, let me know. I've got three, so I'll give out two to followers who comment here (if I get more than two I'll choose randomly) and I'll give the third to someone who stops in and watches the stream(s).

I'll stream Gwent: The Witcher Card Game tonight (Friday, April 21st) from 2200 to 2300 (Eastern, 0200-0300 Saturday UTC) tonight and if no one shows to claim the code, again tomorrow (Saturday, April 22nd) at the same time (Sunday morning UTC).

Comment to win has to be made by 2300 Saturday (0300 UTC Sunday April 23rd), that way all of my codes are being sent out by that point.
Posted by Xpovos on 21 April 17 at 13:32 | Last edited on 21 April 17 at 13:56 | There is 1 comment on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.