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Are cheap games devaluing consumers?

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The debate keeps taking new forms, but in the end it boils down to one thing – indies are worried about the state of gaming. With so many indies making so many games that are available on Steam, is this devaluing gaming or are people just whining about the awesomeness?

Over on Games Industry, Puppy Games co-founder said that price erosion is going to catch up with the industry. According to Caspian Prince, as players pay less for games, their value as customers is also decreasing. This means that the indie developers are actually incentivized to ignore customer support – players just aren’t worth the effort.

People turn up and buy stuff whether we promote them or not. It doesn’t seem like we’ve got much effect on it. We don’t really have a lot of control over who’s buying our games anymore… It doesn’t matter how much money we spend on trying to advertise or market [our games]. It’s nothing compared to what Valve can do on a whim.

Sure, I’ve heard plenty of times how Valve is oh so evil and decides which games will sell well and which ones won’t. Just like I’ve heard how YouTubers determine indie game successes. Maybe it’s all just a broken system, but I’m really tired of hearing people blame the sales and bundles. Sales and bundles still bring in developers a ridiculous amount of money – our local developers have raved about making a million Rand or more during the Steam Sales when their games are dramatically reduced in price.

Does buying a game for next to nothing cheapen it for us, though? Well, I’d argue no. I picked up some of my favorite indie games of the past few years in Humble Bundles and Steam Sales. I’m such a fan of Thomas was Alone that I will happily buy Volume at full price at launch. The same goes for anything that Klei make thanks to the glories that were Mark of the Ninja and Don’t Starve. When developers do a good job at making games, and interacting with their communities, they earn a ton of goodwill, and a higher chance of being even more successful with future releases.

Yes, gamers are demanding. However, we are also particularly loyal – buying games from developers we love or franchises we still believe in, even years down the line. Of course, if developers burn us or don’t offer the expected levels of support, we will also avoid them for years. As a result, I’m not sure that I can agree with Prince’s argument. Developers now, more than ever, need to ensure that they deliver excellent player support so that people don’t rage on the internet. If they get it right, though, people will rave about the excellent game that they bought for almost nothing.

Finally, in a related note, I have decided not to feel guilty about my backlog anymore. It is a gift I’m continually giving to my future self. It’s like insurance against ever running out of games. I don’t feel bad about buying plenty of books for my library, even if I’m not sure when I’ll get around to reading them, and this is pretty much the same thing.

Last Updated: August 25, 2014

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