In defence of Indie pricing

4 min read

Nidhogg can and will eat you..

The impetus to write this came from the reactions to the score I gave Indie fighter “Nidhogg”. I gave it a nine out of ten because I enjoyed it a whole bunch and a lot of people didn’t think it was worth it due to the 15 dollar price tag. So it got me thinking; What metric should people price games? Is 15 dollars (USD) too much for a content-light indie game? What makes a AAA game worth $60  in comparison?

Mass production be expensive

If we are going to give the real answer, games are priced based on how much they cost to make. Physical copies tend to be dearer due to the added overhead costs of printing disks, game cases and manuals (or nowadays promotional material and day one DLC codes). Games made by AAA developers and publishers usually have a lot of people working on it and tend to spend a lot of money on their game, meaning they have a lot of people to pay and a lot of profit to make. In the case of say, massive blockbusters like GTA5 they spent 200 million and 5 years on making that game sell like everyone needed a copy to live. They sold the standard edition of the game worldwide for the normal AAA price of $100 (AUD) here, keeping in mind we get a pretty big markup due to tariffs.

Nidhogg can and will eat you..

In the case of Nidhogg, it was made by one guy; Mark ‘Messhof’ Essen and was first showcased in 2011 as a prototype and again at EVO 2013. It is only available digitally and I would imagine development costs were much lower and took less time to make. He charges $15 (USD) for Nidhogg and apparently nowadays, $15 for an indie game counts as exorbitant. I know that it’s comparing apples to oranges, but the idea is that other Indie games with their lower cost and lower overheads are priced similarly to Nidhogg.

Indie games are different in that it’s really up to the developer as to how much they charge. If you look at Divekick; an indie game in the same genre, it’s priced at 10 dollars, which I would argue is more limited in scope. 

It even has a similar art style to Nidhogg!

I’ve found that many people’s metric for pricing games is the amount of content available and how many hours they got out of it. This was one of the arguments against the price of Nidhogg due to only having 4 stages and one character by design. I would argue that the amount of content in a fighting game is limited by the genre. Sure you can have multiplayer, varied stages, more characters, perhaps some modifiers for changing gameplay, but unless it adds to the game in some real tangible way, those things are seen as add-ons in the grand scheme. The kind of stuff that could be DLC.

Action 52 had a tonne of content; 52 games in one cartridge! Ignoring the fact that it was $200 dollars (USD) on release, say if it came out today on Steam for 15 bucks. Would you give it a better score because of the amount of content? Would 52 crappy games that took hours to play through justify the price? At least Nidhogg is a polished experience you can go back and play again and again and continue to have fun with. It’s a short game, no doubt about that, but it didn’t stop me clocking over 20 hours in it so far. That’s almost a whole day of fun. It’s not chock full of content because it doesn’t need to be.

Speaking of fun; the most important metric, why isn’t it about fun? If you didn’t have fun with Nidhogg at the very least I could understand that. Fun is a weird one because it’s the most subjective when it comes to games. You certainly couldn’t price a game on fun, which is why  I guess it’s overlooked a little. The important thing to take away from this is that I felt that Nidhogg was worth it because it delivered a unique take on the fighting genre and wasn’t priced outside of the normal range for indie games. Its overall design and polish is top-notch and my only hope for it is that it catches on and is run at EVO.            

Last Updated: January 30, 2014

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