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Was 400 Points for Nasty the Wrong Price Point?
Date 8/28/2009    Tags Nasty, XBLIG    (0)

A few days ago, Nasty went on sale for 400 Microsoft Points (roughly $5). This might be a knee-jerk reaction, but what I've seen from sales and gamer comments has me seriously questioning my decision to sell the game at 400 points (from a profitability standpoint and also from a standpoint of how many gamers are playing the game).

Nasty is a big game and well worth anyone's $5. There are 100 levels in the game, 4 player battle mode, and probably more gameplay than you'll get out of any of the 80 point games on the service and as much as just about any other game (or at least my biased self believes there is). If you consider how much time I personally invested (my time at my pay rate) and the money I spent on art/music assets, the cost to produce Nasty is over $20,000. This thinking factored very heavily into my 400 point decision. It's hard to look at how much time I spent, how many sleep deprived days I experienced, how many times I banged my head on my desk because I couldn't get something in the game to work right, and how much of my personal money I invested and say that the final profit isn't worth $5.

Initially when I determined the 400 point price, Indie games were selling at 200, 400, or 800 points. 400 seems like an attractive middle ground, not to high and not to low, just right. That thinking went out the window when the price points were revamped to be 80, 240, and 400, now making 400 the high point (this occurred just before Nasty was released). Couple this with the fact that many XBLA games (several very good classic games included) are now dipping down to 400 points makes 400 points for an Indie game seem even worse.

I knew many games would drop down to 80 points and increase sales, but would they have 5 times as many sales (which is about what would be required to get the same profits as a 400 point game)? My inclination was no. The runaway success of "I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1" seems to indicate the correct answer is resounding yes.

From the sales data thread on the XNA.com forums, I've seen several 80 point games with conversion rates (sales per download) in the 4% to 6% range. This is rather good compared to the 1% conversion rate Nasty is experiencing (despite the fact that several gamers have already proclaimed Nasty's greatness), yet my overall profits are still about the same because of the 400 point price.

So my profits are the same... but less gamers are buying and playing Nasty. I'd rather more people were playing and enjoying my game than less people (I think that's a goal of all game developers, especially when the money to be made is identical). Because less people are buying the game, it hurts Nasty's placement on the Top Downloads and Most Popular listings. Nasty is in the new release section now, but what happens when it gets pushed off of that? It'll probably drop off the Top Downloads list at that point too. Without being on one of the "Top" lists, Nasty is going to be buried among 400 other XBLIGs, the download amounts will go down, and my profits are going to shrink to nothing right along with my hopes of being a full-time Indie developer.

I believe the 400 price point is also hurting the ratings of Nasty. I hadn't considered that people would take into consideration the value of a game when putting a rating on it (little old me votes on how good a game and nothing else), but after seeing Nasty and comparing it to other games on the service (especially those priced at 80 points), I truly believe that consumers are voting with their wallets in many instances. This has effectively killed my chances to make the Top Rated list, which again hurts Nasty's long-term visibility and profitability.

The nature of XBLIGs prevents me from changing price points for 90 days... even as I can see now after a few days that Nasty isn't priced right.<


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