Because You’re Worthless: The Dark Side Of Indie PR

There are unwritten taboos on the internet. There are things you Don’t Say. There are replies you may not give. There are comments you may not make. There are truths you may not tell, in the world of public relations, for the public are fickle, and behave as a mob. A mob in all its feral, brutal depravity, lacking any and all of the qualities we laud upon humanity that allow us to feel so smug over all of the hapless animals that we raise ourselves over. And we are all, whether we admit it or not in public, under strict censorship of the mob. Even admitting that the mob censors our thoughts and feelings and the expression thereof is risky. Be careful! The mob may notice.

Some parts of the internet glory in the mob. 4chan exists, possibly, only as an outlet for the mob. Even mentioning 4chan is risky. It’s like standing in a city full of ravenous zombies, armed with a lowly fire axe, and shouting “BRAINS! HERE! GET ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT!”. If too many zombies notice, you’re toast. They’ll silence you. So we don’t mention 4chan. For similar reasons we don’t mention /r/Games either.

We’re especially careful in comments sections on the internet. Our own blog is mercilessly and ruthlessly moderated with a low-orbit ion cannon. We’re even more ruthless on the Steam community forums, because we’ve got even less control and they don’t even technically belong to us.

But let me talk to you about the dark side of indie public relations a bit.

There’s a thing on the internet called a “troll”, which everyone is well familiar with. They are easily dealt with on your own bit of the internet. Quite often you let them ramble on, and they spool out more than enough rope to hang themselves, and as often as not, a bunch of fans will come whaling in on them. Even if fans don’t step in, usually they have left a lovely permanent record of how twatty they were for all to read. And if it’s just a bit too rude, you just vape ‘em, and probably ban ‘em for good measure.

Trolls are more problematic elsewhere.

When a troll starts to spout shit on some high-profile and influential site on the internet, you have a problem. It’s a very thorny problem because even discussion about the fact that it is a problem is license for the rest of the internet to start trolling you. It has been said that the best way to deal with trolls is of course, not to bait them, but unfortunately they can leave some fairly high-profile bullshit lying around on the internet referring to you, and that’s pretty difficult to deal with when it’s attached to your permanent and public facing persona as an invidual and/or a business. If it was just some random argument on some random site between a couple of random usernames… who cares? Who gives a crap? No-one. And all is well.

But woe betide you if you actually have to step in and reply and say, “Er… no. That is not true.” Especially when it’s the species of troll which plays computer games all day long.

So here are a few things you can’t say, because it upsets everyone. A lot. And I’m going to say them, in a way that will make you think for a few seconds, before you immediately burst into flames with RAGE and spew vitriol into the moderation queue.

Firstly, gamers aren’t very nice people. Yes, you. You are not a very nice person. Statistically speaking. By which I mean, independent game developers get more nasty shit from gamers than they get praise. Right now you are preparing to lecture me about how I talk to customers, or how I deserve to be broke and unsucessful. If you’re feeling particularly sanctimonious you’ll tell me you’re never going to buy any of our games again. If you’re especially spiteful you’ll also tell me that you were about to buy one of our games (for a dollar! ho ho), but now you’re not going to.

I wonder just how many other creative industries have to deal with customers like this. Then again, maybe all of them do. I just make games, so I happen to know about the games side of things. Maybe a musician can chime in and tell me how shitty people can be. Or an artist.

No matter. What does matter is you’re not allowed to point out when someone is just being a shithead to you because they can. Don’t do that. The internet hates you.

Secondly, there is a school of thought that says, there’s no such thing as bad press. Were I being politically correct right now and toeing the party line I would instantly disagree with myself. “NO! Do not argue with the trolls! You make yourself look bad!” And indeed, the internet will be right there to tell you, directly or snidely and indirectly that you’re making yourself look bad by defending yourself. Look at fucking Phil Fish! LOOK! Look at what happened to him! We all remember Phil Fish in sad, reverential tones, as he were an allegory of How Not To Handle The Internet. Poor Phil, we say. He meant well but he lost his cool. He let the internet bring out his naughty, bad side. The side that spoke what he actually thought and felt. Look what the internet did to him! Now he’s a gibbering bearded recluse used as a cautionary tale in two-bit backwater indie game developer blogs. If only Phil had kept his mouth shut, we say. If only Phil hadn’t fed the trolls, we intone. If only.

If only.

Fuck that! Phil Fish, you fucking told them what you thought. You told them how you felt. You told them the actual score. What was actually going on. The internet however decided it didn’t want to hear it, because the internet is mob and the wisdom of crowds is inversely proportional to the square if its size. But deep down we all know, really, that Phil Fish was right. He said what we were all thinking. He said what we want to say. But you can’t do that. It’s taboo. It’s censored! Not allowed.

But this leads us to another, darker, nastier, unwritten thing, that we all think but we don’t talk about, not ever. In fact the one time I ever did allude to it I was permanently banned from the TIGSource forums for daring to say it. But this is my piece of the internet and I can say what I like. And here it is – the bombshell. The more we argue, the more we bait the trolls, the more we seem to get into a death spiral of internet hate… the better it is for us. There is no such thing as bad publicity. Phil Fish may have turned in to a gibbering bearded recluse but now he’s a famous gibbering bearded recluse. Phil Fish only has to tweet a fart and it’ll be all over the internet. Given that discovery is the #1 problem for an indie developer (and always has been), you can see that the more infamous and terrible we are … the more money we make.

But it’s absolutely, utterly fucking forbidden to ever say so.

Good old Phil is sitting pretty on a giant mound of cash the likes of which you will probably not even be able to comprehend, let alone earn in your lifetime. For every one of you that enjoyed denigrating him and thrilled at insulting him, there are now another thousand people who listen to every word he says. When he walks into the restaurant where you pitifully scrub the floor like a servile wretch in order to pay for DLC in DOTA2, you’ll call him sir.

And lastly, the worst, most hideous truth at all, and there’s a bit of history behind it.

You are worthless to us.

What? Did he just say that? I? Your fucking customer? You just said your customers were worthless! Fuck you!!!!11!1!! I’m never buying anything from you again! I’m even going to uninstall all your games you ignorant self-important cunt! How dare you speak to me, your customer, like that?

Woah there, inflamed of Tunbridge Wells. Let’s just rewind a second and analyse that statement for a moment. How did we get here? Let me count the ways.

Once upon a time, back in the early 2000s or so, games would sell for about $20 or so. Some developers did really well at that price point – I mean really well. Most of us didn’t do that well, and made beer money, but we carried on making games anyway because that’s what we liked to do, even if nobody wanted them. When we got a customer we were able to treat them like royalty. Apart from there not being that many of them, twenty bucks is a pretty reasonable chunk of money and you should damned well expect it to work properly. Of course, 99% of the time, when things didn’t work it was just because the customer had shitty OEM drivers that were simply broken. (Interestingly I don’t ever hear of people taking their laptops back to the shop – which remember cost $500 or more – and yelling at the salesmen for selling them something that didn’t work). So what would happen was we spent a not insignificant proportion of our time – time which we could have been making new games in and thus actually earning a living – fixing customers computers. Note that we weren’t fixing our game. We were fixing customers computers for them. It’s a pretty tedious affair. When the same problem turns up 20 times in a day (or even, during a sale, 200 times), and the answer is always the same, that’s the very definition of tedium. So we jokingly used to say that we sold you a game for a dollar and then $19 of support. That’s actually pretty close to accurate when you work out the time spent fixing someone’s computer for them. We relied on enough sales going through without problems to come out on top slightly, though the reality was that we never actually did.

Then Steam came (and to a lesser extent, Big Fish Games).

Things changed fast. So fast that in other industries it would have been seen as a cataclymically disruptive event. The upshot of it is, within 5 short years, the value of an independent game plummeted from about $20 to approximately $1, with very few exceptions. Steam is great! You can sell loads of games! But only if they’re less than $10. Technically Valve don’t actually dictate the prices we charge. Actually, they do. Utterly. It’s just not talked about. In fact technically, I don’t think anyone’s allowed to talk about it.

Then came the Humble Bundle and all its little imitators.

It was another cataclysmically disruptive event, so soon on the heels of the last. Suddenly you’ve got a massive problem on your hands. You’ve sold 40,000 games! But you’ve only made enough money to survive full-time for two weeks because you’re selling them for 10 cents each. And several hundred new customers suddenly want their computers fixing for free. And when the dust from all the bundles has settled you’re left with a market expectation of games now that means you can only sell them for a dollar. That’s how much we sell our games for. One dollar. They’re meant to be $10, but nobody buys them at $10. They buy them when a 90% discount coupon lands in their Steam inventory. We survive only by the grace of 90% coupon drops, which are of course entirely under Valve’s control. It doesn’t matter how much marketing we do now, because Valve control our drip feed.

Where does this lead us to?

You are worthless to us.

Where once you were worth $20, and then you might have become a fan and bought another 4 games off of us for $20, you were worth $100. We only had to fix your computer for you once, as well, so the next four games amortised the cost of the initial support. If we were lucky you were a gamer and already had drivers and liked our stuff and bought the lot. Sometimes you’d tell your friends and maybe one of them would buy a game from us.

But now?

Now you’re worth $1 to us. If you buy every one of our games, you’re worth $5. After Valve and the tax man and the bank take their cuts, you’re not even worth half a cup of coffee. So, while we’re obsequiously polite and helpful when you do contact us for support, even if it’s just the same old “please install some actual video drivers” response, you really should be aware that you are a dead loss. Even if you buy everything we ever make again. Even if all your friends buy everything we ever make again. You just cost us money. Not just fictitious, huge-piles-of-filthy-lucre indie-game-developer who made-it-big money. All our money. We barely scratch a living, like most indie game developers. You quite literally cost us lunch because the shop sold you a computer with broken software on it.

So you’ll understand now why customers aren’t worth anything much any more. You’ll realise why we’re actually happy to see you go if you feel like insulting us. You might add two and two together and realise that for four, we’re not going to cry ourselves to sleep over the loss of your custom when we don’t take your shit.

But we’re not allowed to say it, because it makes customers feel bad. Customers all think they’re worth everything in the entire world to us. The funny thing is, you are. Without customers, we’re dead in the water, homeless and living in a cardboard box outside Berko sewage plant. But individually, you’re like ants. And all of developers secretly know it and don’t talk about it. You’re not worth supporting. It’s far, far better to completely, totally ignore support, if you want to make a living. Developers don’t like to talk about it, and they certainly don’t want to make customers aware of it. Some developers right now are bristling with public-relation-inflating indignation, waiting to burst into my castle in shining white armour championing the cause of their customers, and how they treat their customers like royalty still. But I know, and they know, they’re only doing that because it’s actually yet more Dark Side of Public Relations. It’s a lie. The numbers do not add up. I’ll show you where they do add up – on Steam, on the App Store, on Big Fish, on Google Play. That’s where all of the money is going these days, great sucking, black holes, spewing out tat on their event horizons and hoovering up pennies from wallets worldwide. You can yell about how important you are into the black hole if you like. No-one cares. You can “take your money elsewhere” and “never buy another product from you again, EVER”, and the black hole will continue to treat you exactly as you deserve – with impassive, voracious, inexorable silence, and still ever-growing. Because you’re worthless.

Does anyone think we wanted it to happen this way? Seriously?

Don’t talk about it though. It wouldn’t do to let anyone talk about it. 4chan are coming. I’m going to get my head down and keep writing games, because that’s what I like doing. PR sucks.

368 thoughts on 'Because You’re Worthless: The Dark Side Of Indie PR'

  1. Well, I suppose I should feel happy that I can say with certainty that the only time I ever contacted the developer was because their game was broken to some degree.

    But I feel that while the “games industry” is filled with all this hate and anger, it’s the same everywhere. It’s just the fact that this industry is so much more digital, so to say, that it’s out there for everyone to see.

    I guess I can feel satisfied that I never sent an angry e-mail to a developer and that I seldom comment on things. I do send e-mails of love when I enjoy a game a lot more than usual, or it just made a personal impression on me.

    With all this said, I do complain to developers a lot. Usually, about violating such things as the system’s sanctity. Because it’s very possible and very easy to mess with the system of the user – when devs take a shotgun approach to placing saves/configs (looking at you, Puppygames), or when they touch things they shouldn’t – like literally any configuration of the system, including screens, keyboards and mice – because a sizeable chunk think they know better how the system should look.

    But as a person who tries to fix the problems of friend’s being unable to play games (hey, they don’t speak English, they can’t bother you! :) ), 99% it comes down to drivers.

    I’m not really sure why I’m writing this comment.

    I do have one question though:
    > In fact technically, I don’t think anyone’s allowed to talk about it.
    I’m not sure how to understand this statement. Are you implying that the heavy push for low priced sales that Steam started is at the root of this? I was under the impression that Valve doesn’t really care, but the fact that so many devs are now willing to absolutely slash the price of their game for that quick gain, pushes all. I do remember cliffski voicing some interesting opinions on pricing around the launch of Democracy 3.

    But yeah, could you just expand on that point, if possible? To me, it is unclear what are you implying through it.

    1. A friend of a friend told me that he tried to set the price of his game to some figure or other but that Valve vetoed it and set it to something else. It absolutely didn’t happen to us and even if it did we’re not allowed to talk about it, no, not at all.

      1. Truly? Well, that is indeed more than worrisome. I have not heard of this before about Steam, although I do recall quite a few developers complaining about GOG.com refusing to sell the game at a particular price.

        This seems beyond foolish, and mostly needless. What is there to gain from forcing a developer to a different price, when he feels his game is worth something else.

        I don’t mean to press your for details, but could you release the timeperiod? I am curious whether this is something as recent as this or last year, or whether it was a longer while ago.

          1. Well, thanks anyway for saying as much as you did. Too much of this is still shrouded in mystery for no good reason, at least for no good reason in the interest of the consumers or developers.

            1. Hahahhahhahah! You do realise that you are exactly the type of person that this guy is talking about in this hilarious and sadly, very true account of the games industry. honestly, I’m embarrassed to be a part of this (gaming) world most of the time.
              I work in the music and theatre industry, and while bitchy sometimes, they are never as willfully hateful and immature as gamers seem to be.

              1. If you ever worked in retail, you’d know gamers may get worked up over small things, but the walk-in public is full of angry lunatics.
                “No, we don’t carry that. Perhaps at XXXXXX down the street.”
                “But Toby said he got one here. I’m not leaving here without one.”
                Stupid things like that go on, and they’re serious, it takes the police to get them out after they stand there and make a scene for your actual customers.

                Then there are the junkies and true schizophrenics that are off their meds that you can chase off but they’ll return. The police don’t want to deal with them either, so it can take all day to get them to haul them off, a day when you COULD be doing business, but instead you spend it babysitting an adult that’s shrieking every time a door opens.

                Someone sending me hate mail, or email, just doesn’t seem as obnoxious as people are in a brick and mortar store.

          1. >tiny glimpse of what we normally deal with.

            But that was obviously a joke? Did you not see his username?

      2. I thought Valve recently decided to let developers set their own prices? Or at least, decide on your own sales parameters, i.e. frequency and percentage of discount?

  2. The hubris of people on the internet is really something (speaking of what you call the mob). I just came from a forum of a game which is going to launch today – people were yelling at the top of their lungs that they were not sure that it was worth their money in the absence of info and the release not happening. Never mind that in the timezone relevant for release (stated in the post concerning it) is 9 hours behind their time.

    Anonymous masses of people… Weird phenomenon.

  3. The thing with the drivers should be a common issue, right? Couldn’t help a small setup-programm that checks the computer hardware for latest (or checked) graphic-driver versions? or a small benchmark that checks (for example) for the available extensions (on my linux notebook the intel drivers are horrible).

    of course this also costs you time, but it would be a one-time only investment? (but I have to admit I’m not a game developer, so I don’t know about your customers and their behaviour).

    but none the less: please keep coding, I really like your games :)

    1. no because then you’ll get yelled at for installing intrusive privacy-invading malware on the dear customers’ computers

      1. Just make it a separate download which you “recommend strongly” before buying/playing it. Advance users know better, but silly consumers don’t. They need some help… And if they choose to download it themselves, they can’t complain. Right?

        Besides this, I think it’s a wonderful idea to have a benchmark/HW check with the games engine. Shoudn’t cost that much time? You would be able to move your mouse, see some ingame graphics and hear audio. Afterwards you get a thumbs up, or down. :)

        BTW, I like your games guys and I bought it. Don’t piss on all of us… :(

        1. The problem we generally have is just that Intel drivers – almost always Intel – simply crash our executables instantly when trying to open the simplest of contexts. ATI and Nvidia tend to fail gracefully and actually invite the user to find some newer drivers.

          1. Isn’t it possible to put a small troubleshooting section with the download and again in the contacts page, that says you have to update your drivers and gives a few links for that?

            1. The blind rage fueled mob never reads those sections of a download page anyway. And if they did, why would they think it would ever apply to them?

              People are stupid.

  4. Well that was depressing to read. Mostly the “worth” part.

    But it actually reflects a growing impression nowadays, even if not many talk about it. Cliffski does a bit too, from what I observed, but that’s mostly it.

    I’m not going to lie, the first time I saw Steam’s weekend deals, I was super enthusiastic. Because it was bringing something you could only get with the second hand market : you could play games you wouldn’t have bought at full price, or older games, for a portion of the price. More games to play! Without emptying my wallet! (or so I thought, back then). In a way, it was showing some “ideal” scheme: people who love the game buy it on release, full price, and you widen your public with a sale.

    At least it was at the beginning.

    Because with the acceleration of sales (“hi, here is the weekend deal, the mid-week deal, the daily deal, and oh, we also have the super holiday deals”) and the rise of concurrency (“we want to exist next to Steam so we’re going to break the prices even more”), it started accelerating also the “time to sale”. I remember seeing for example Super Meat Boy which I bought full price, for -50% or -75% two months later. I mean I didn’t even manage to pass half of the game in that time, and it’s already for a much cheaper price. And it became worse.

    Of course at first it was fine, you gain more money this way, right?
    But customer learned the new price behaviour.
    Why would you buy full price, when it’s going to be -75% in a few months? Moreover that you haven’t had time to play the previous games you bought with all those sales. It doesn’t make sense to rush to buy anymore.

    And then came the bundles.

    Again, don’t get me wrong, the first humble indie bundles were amazing packages, and I loved them. A great way to buy great games (mostly to complete my collection, as I owned most of them already) and make other people discover them! It was happening every few months, and was welcomed warmly.

    Then the concurrency started to rush to this pot of money. Now I see every day new bundles, I don’t even remember the name of the sites. Even Humble accelerated their release schedule to fight back. Now you have countless bundles. If your game was worth anything on its own, it’s now diluted in the middle of all others. You’re now a toy in the middle of the cereal box. Or just a cereal, lost in the middle.

    Value of an indie game nowadays ? 10-15 euros/dollars on release (but please have a release discount) MAX, then -50% in 2 months, -75% in 4, and bundled in 6. Dare to price higher than that, you’ll actually get scolded by the lovely gamers.

    Gamers buy more games than they can possibly play, have countless useless things they did not want in their Steam library (thanks to the bundles, mostly), and instead of buying one game for 20 euros, they’ve just spent 1 euro on 20 bundles. And got 100 games out of that.

    That’s depressing.

    1. By useless, I meant actually “unwanted”/”not matching to the player”. Useless to him, in a way.

      1. Absolutely. I’ve got about 50 games in my Steam library I’ve never even downloaded let alone played. They have no value to me. At least the developers got a couple of bucks from me.

        1. I try to maintain the illusion that I’ll one day manage to sort them and find hidden pearls by putting them into a “backlog” category on Steam.

          The ones without a Steam key don’t even exist anymore at this point, under the sheer mass of games.

          It’s terrifying, really.

        2. Agreed. On one hand I’ve bought all my games through the steam sales and humble bundles. On the other, I’ve barely played any of them because it turns out I don’t like gaming on my PC. I have even repurchased some of them on consoles.

          That brings me to a serious question. What about consoles? I realize that brings a whole other series of challenges, but at least on consoles people don’t have the expectation of steam sale prices, and you don’t have to deal with being tech support for customer’s computers.

          1. Same here; I’ve repurchased indie games on my Playstation consoles.
            I’d rather play indie games on the PS3 or the Vita than my computer.
            It’s not because I use Linux either, I have a nice NVIDIA card and could reboot into Windows if the desktop computer setup really was fun to play on.

        3. I suddenly had this Terry Gilliam-esque vision of Steam evolving into a mix of subscription service and welfare system, in which developers are paid minimum wage to make games, fix other people’s computers, and receive hate mail, not necessarily in that order. And the scariest part is that this probably isn’t even the worst possible outcome.

    2. Seems to me like creating this practice has done nothing more than harm the developers, especially indies, more than it has done any good.

      A lot of people may absolutely argue that developers have a choice in how they price their product and whether they’ll partake in the bundles or not (both of which I assume is true, but wouldn’t be shocked to discover it was otherwise). That choice does exist in theory. However, when considering the cycle you mentioned, where consumers end up buying way more than they’ll ever actually “consume” and keep adding to their ever expanding backlog, it isn’t surprising then that people no longer want to buy things at full price. This fallacious “pro-consumer” decision is built on the notion that this industry can only ever work properly if the consumer alone is happy with the transaction.

      While making sure not to alienate consumers, these practices end up alienating developers. Which will in turn undoubtedly harm consumers in the long run as well.

      I am a very frugal buyer on Steam; I only ever buy very specific titles, have personally never bought anything off of a sale (most of the times I actively wait for the sales to end if I really want something) and never buy anything I’m not absolutely sure I want. One may say this makes me more harmful than people who actually just buy all the crap they so much as look at on Steam Sales. Point of the matter is that I’ve always contributed as much as I actually could, and every single cent I wasted on videogames on Steam has paid off by… y’know, actually consuming the product I bought.

    3. I sit here looking at all the games I never paid for on my external HDD, on the verge of crying knowing that I wish I could actually pay for all these heart-felt and personally-made pieces of art (and as someone who uses writing and gaming as escapist mechanisms, I understand wanting people to value the work produced by devs like yourselves). Sadly, the fact is If I wanted to buy a $1-$5 game, it means I go a month without buying credit for my cellphone, which is a necessary device for staying in contact with mi familia.

      I’ve had to go into tertiary education for the Student Allowance Benefit because there are no jobs in my country (New Zealand) that I can be accepted for, and trust me, I’ve been looking since I left highschool 4 years ago: a data entry job at a local business will reject a CV if it doesn’t have a degree in particle physics and sixteen years management-level experience (hyperbole obviously, but not by much).
      I can’t afford to travel to a larger city to look for work, and I now have a massive student loan to pay for an education I don’t even care about and which will provide me with no employment opportunities by the time I finish. Sure, I’m studying a Bachelor’s in Computing Systems which is a booming industry, but I’m about the fifth generation of students doing so – those jobs are all gone, hundreds of graduated students are already looking to fill the non-existent positions I haven’t finished the education for yet, and businesses are currently downsizing like crazy.

      I can completely understand that among pirates like myself and Steam-Sales-Whores like many I know, indie devs just don’t give a flying fuck about the individual customers. All I can say is that when I do eventually throw money at a game – like saving up for fuck knows how long to afford Terraria, a game I’d sunk over 500 hours into before purchase, on the inevitable day it went on 80% sale – I feel like I’ve finally just given a long overdue tribute to a very angry god.

      I don’t want indie development to go away – there are enough market-researching fuckwit development companies and publishers who abuse their customers with DRM and Always-Online gaming (it costs $90 a month for me to have basic DSL internet that drops out constantly), like EA and ZeniMax, that Indie Devs seem to be the only future for a non-homogenised gaming industry.

      But fuck the “sob story”, what’s the point of my post?
      Just wanted to pitch in my two cents, which in summary goes something like this:

      I love gaming to the point it’s more of an addiction than any Schedule A, the result of my childhood Windows NT laptop with no sound card being a better parent or family than my own blood relatives. I want to point out that among us pirates there are those of us who genuinely wish to pay full non-discounted price for all these games we have dangled in front of us by everything from social media to Steam itself, and we feel genuine remorse for our theft. However, I personally have the decency not to harass or troll developers and try to fix my own goddamn driver and hardware problems, because I realise the gift we have in the emotion-driven Indie scene and I don’t want it to die because I was contributing to the ignorant technological burden crowd.

  5. I can relate: Someone emailed us to ask if we could add S-pen support to our Android game Let There Be Life (other styluses work fine). I looked into it and found that it’s an issue with games built in Unity (which ours is).

    I figured out how I *might* be able to work around the issue, but it would probably take at least a couple days to code, test, and upload a new build. We simply can’t afford that time, not for small amount customers who want to use the S-pen with our $1.99 game.

    And I hate that. I want to help everyone to enjoy the game if they’ve bought it, but it’s just not practical.

    1. That sounds like something you should fix, not just for that Android game but so you can use the S-Pen in future games you produce too.

        1. The things that a Dev should do are as many as the grains of sand on the beach. Truth be told, most developers would love to spend the time finishing the 70% of the game features they cut to actually finish the game at all

        2. Is it because time is money, and you’d lose it all if you tried to support every gismo people used?

          I’m just an amateur programmer, so from my stand point adding in support for that to the code base would just be a good thing, so you have less work later.

          1. Aye, it simply costs too much to add a feature instead of some other feature, when it benefits such a tiny number of people. There are almost always more important things to do that benefit tens of thousands of people.

            This is part of the sadness of the whole Linux support thing, though we’re sticking at it anyway.

            1. Linux gamer here – I appreciate your support of the platform as much as I know it can be a pain, especially on the driver front.

  6. Whew. While I was reading, I thought you were going to close up shop. Glad to hear that you will keep coding. Thanks for all you do, your games are great!

  7. I’d never heard of your studio until rock paper shotgun made an article about it.

    Why not just sell your games yourself for $20?
    I’d guess that your games wouldn’t sell for $20.
    My solution is to make a game worth $20.

    Just remember you’re not a tech support company, though you should still look to fix and improve your product.

    It feels like some of your going out of business rage is bleeding through to your blog.

    keep your chin up.

    1. The RPS article is possibly exaggerating our situation … we’ve got £50k in the bank and four products on Steam after all. But we’ve just not got to where we wanted to be in time. Basingstoke should be a nice reprieve.

      We’ve supported, added to, modified, and improved all of our games for years and years after their release, for free. (When we actually released some DLC for RotT, and gave away most of it for free, people actually asked us how very dare we charge for it!) Stuff like the Christmas modes added to Droid Assault and Revenge of the Titans, or checkpointing added to all the games, or just getting them to work at all on Linux despite its pitifully scant revenue.

      I fix you beadily with my eye and ask you now: how easy do you think it is to make a game worth $20?

      1. “Make a game worth $20″. That’s a tall order these days. Recently I got the following games for $20:

        Killzone: Shadow Fall (PS4)
        Battlefield 4 (Xbox One)

        I also got EA Access, which let me pay $30 for a download of Madden, FIFA, and BF4 (which I already spent $20 on, curse it all). Certainly all of these games required a LOT more manpower and money than anything made by Puppygames.

        So be careful when you throw around the “game worth $20″ phrase. Its meaning is getting increasingly skewed in today’s game market.

        1. Well, I bought Skullgirls for $65 and so far I think that purchase was worth it.

          Why? Because it’s a well done, fun game that’s integrated with its player base and tries to do something different.

          1. You are what we refer to in the industry as a “whale”. That phrase usually means something negative to most people… but I’m not using it negatively. In this context, a whale is someone who knows they like a product, so they’re willing to spend money on it, period.

            Whales are the exception, not the rule.

            1. Agreed. I, too, am a whale. I’m a whale because I know that Developers look at where their money comes from and shift their priorities accordingly. I find a game I like and I support it – preorder it, DLC bought on day one etc.

              I could wait for steam sales but I mostly use those to fill in holes in my back catalog, not to purchase new games.

              1. In an industry flooded with misguided previews of early alphas “subject to major changes” or CGI-Not-Real-Gameplay trailers, unfortunately finding a game you like and wish to support is really fucking hard when you’re in the financial situation that paying for one game means no more games for you for the next six months.

                Also, perhaps indie developers shift their priorities to get to the monetary sweetspot, but I’ve seen no proof of so-called “AAA Developers” doing so.

                EA throws always-online DRM in everything, Ubisoft doing similar but also saying things like it’s impossible for them to resize a character’s game model and copypasta animations to create female playable characters. Copyright stamps are being thrown about in all directions for stupid-ass reasons and with horrible results to the customers (Read: Youtube, Twitch.TV, and Audible Magic and other content-matching).

                I wouldn’t ‘whale’ even if I could – if the gaming industry at large was a person, I violently distrust them so much I would not be in the same room without a switchblade in my pocket.

      2. “how easy do you think it is to make a game worth $20?”

        Making a game worth $20 is totally easy. You do have a $10-$20 million development budget, right? (And a publisher willing to spend at least another $10-$20 million for marketing, too?) No sweat. Ok, granted, you’ll need to sell millions of copies just to break even, and at that price point you’ll be competing with last year’s AAA games that had $100+ million combined dev and marketing budgets, but…

        1. I love you mentioned this bro, what was it that SquEnix said? The last four games it released were considered sales failures? They sold fucking millions, but I think the true value of a game is completely over estimated by AAA devs – they think a game’s worth is determined by a mathematical function of

          RetailCost = (DevTime * DevBudget)/Desired Profit

          ~ although I don’t know how they ever consider any game a success since the “Desired Profit” seems to be every fuckin’ cent in the world. The true value of a game is how much of a memorable experience it was, and how much enjoyment is gained, not how much they can crowbar in 4k textures.

      3. It’s a shame to hear Linux was not a return. The only reason I purchased your games was because of Linux support, especially when at the time, there weren’t that many developers supporting Linux. I don’t know how were those purchases counted back then (2009? 2010?) and how did that change with the movement to Steam.

        I wish I could say that the games were flawless – I won’t pretend to be a big developer, because I still stumble around with the most basic things, but the main problem I have with your games can be literally fixed in 5 lines of code. And while the fact that your games are brilliant time wasters (in a good way!).

        I’ve bought all the others only because I enjoyed Titan Attacks so much – I can’t say I liked the other titles so much, because I found Ultratron to be a bit boring (although after the update it is now quite fun) and Droid Assault to be a bit too hard for me after the first few levels – and RoTT never caught my attention for longer than 30 minutes, and I tried to return to it so many times :(

        I’d just like you to know, that for the 50 or so hours you gave me with Titan Attacks, you still have at least a few more guaranteed purchases of games. I don’t feel like that gives me any right to demand things of you – I can’t think of too many games that gave me this much fun and enjoyment, except for some books. But please please please fix the save location for all your games. I won’t pretend I know how to do this crap in Java, but surely there’s some equivalent of getEnvironment(“XDG_DATA_HOME”) and then an if/else depending on whether it exists or not. Right now your games insist on creating a dozen (literally!) directories in my home (altogether). That’s a bit ridiculous.

        1. When we started out there wasn’t any concensus on Linux data home. Now our games are too old to patch that out for the 20 people who’d care – but anything forthcoming I assure you will be using XDG_DATA_HOME. Well, Battledroid will. Not sure what Unity’s going to do.

          1. But you already appear to have some form of migration code between versions. And because of that stupid argument (sorry) I currently have 70 extra folders in my home, and there’s still devs who stick by it today. I can understand if you just do not have the time though, even if it leaves me disappointed.

            Depends on how you’ll use Unity. If you’re handling saving on your own, you can use the right paths. If not, unity is fairly close anyway with their choice for standard data.

      4. Hey Prince, my name’s Alex Thomas. I was the creative director on The Banner Saga. Just read this and saw a news article on RPS. Would you get in touch with me? I’d love to chat about an opportunity. My email was required when I made the post, use that!

      5. What makes a game worth $20 to you? That’s a probably I feel with games. You can sink millions upon millions of cash and time and still end up with a product that really isn’t worth the players time and investment. While I get there is effort behind making the game, you have to accept you might have made a shit product.

        I am not saying your games are shit but when you release to the public, you need to know that their opinion says something about your work even if it isn’t well put.

        The wall of anonymity of the internet causes a majority of our issues though. You put your effort out there and even a minor issue can be responded to with so much anger because that person isn’t thrust in a social environment where they have to behave civilly.

      6. For you? Impossible. (warning: I just woke up and got linked to this, so most of this is barely-coherent rambling.)

        I don’t mean to say that you’re bad developers or anything — the only game of yours I’ve played is Droid Assault, and it was cool and fun, to be sure (not $10 cool, but I’ll come back around to that in a minute) — but simply that nobody knows who you are in the wider market.

        A game for $20 is, as you said yourself, a significant chunk of money. In this devalued game market, $20 is as often an older AAA title as it is a newer ‘budget’ or indie title. This is one of the critical points about the rise of PC gaming that is both good and bad, which most people seem to miss: you’re not just competing against the hot new releases, but against every game which has ever been released for home computers. When I saw Grim Dawn come out a while back, I looked at it and thought “Huh, that looks neat, but I don’t know if it’s $40 better than Titan Quest.” (Titan Quest is a similar full-3D Diablo-alike game which came out in 2006.)

        So for you to make a $20 game? You just don’t have the budget, the manpower, or the market presence. Sorry. I’ll pay $20 (and did, when it first came out on Xbox Live) for Renegade Ops, because it was gorgeous thanks to the advanced Avalanche Engine. The gameplay is roughly about as advanced and deep as Droid Assault, but the visuals are really AAA-quality stuff (that’s important! Faux-retro is not endearing, it’s just boring.) I’ll pay $20 for Sword of the Stars: The Pit Gold, because it’s an incredible amount of content. I’ll pay $20 for an imported physical copy of a Team Shanghai Alice game, because I’m a fan of their (his) works.

        There’s a school of thought that says a game’s worth should be decided by how much time you get out of it but I don’t really buy that. I’ve paid $20 in free-to-play games that enhanced my experience for hundreds and hundreds of hours. I’ve paid $15 for a Final Fantasy XI Online subscription that I then played for over 200 hours that month alone – after buying the game for $40 (remember when MMOs worked that way?) I paid about $5 for Binding of Isaac, including Wrath of the Lamb, and you can guess how much time I have in that. I paid *nothing* for Rusty Hearts, and I played that for a hundred hours. The list of free to play games that I have a lot of time in is not short.

        I also paid $20 for Renegade Ops, and my friend and I beat the whole game in about four hours. And then I bought it on PC for another $5 (on sale, obviously), and I haven’t even played the PC version yet. (My Xbox broke, as they do, and I wanted to have the game still.) And I don’t regret those purchases at all. I do regret spending around $100 on Warframe, even though I have around 600 hours in that game. $100 for 600 hours comes out to six-hours-per-dollar, which is better than what most indie games can say.

        So I don’t buy into this idea that game length = game worth, but some people do, which brings us around to subjective worth. I’m sure I don’t have to explain the concept to you, but The Point of all this rambling is that you CAN make a $20 game … for some people. You just need to find out how. It’s not just a matter of making a super long game, or making a super deep game, or paying out thousands of $MONEY in licensing fees, or having an established brand, or any of that. It’s just a matter of finding an audience and appealing to it.

        Look at Europa Universalis, man. (Maybe Paradox isn’t really an indie developer, but they’re not that big, either; they’re in that weird third-tier developer area.) That game looks terrible to me. There is literally nothing about it that interests me. And yet, they do pretty well for themselves, with an active community and fans rabidly awaiting the next update, the next DLC, anything. So obviously they did something right.

        As a smaller developer, you need to find that niche instead of trying to appeal to the mass market. Faux-retro games with cute visuals and simplistic mechanics are never going to draw in the really core audience. The only people who are really drawn in by the faux-retro aesthetic are other hipster indie gamers who actively avoid AAA games and sit around in coffee houses with their macbooks running Windows ‘ironically’ drinking two-dollars-a-cup (or three, or five, or whatever; I don’t go in those places because I brew my own damn coffee) sugary coffee-flavored drinks. So if the aesthetic is a neutral or a negative, you’re left to rest on the foundation of your gameplay, and at least in Droid Assault, there’s just not that much there.

        Sure, in 1991 (and perhaps later; I’m exaggerating to make a point here) that style of gameplay was enough for a $20 game, or even a $70 game, but honestly I do think your expectations are a little unrealistic. Revenge of the Titans, is, what, a tower defense game? Why? Did you look at the market, at Defense Grid and Plants vs. Zombies, and think — “hey, tower defense is popular; we should make one of those!”

        I’m not just trying to bag on your games; Droid Assault (again, I haven’t played any of the others) *is* fun, and it *is* cute, but that’s just not good enough. Your games are fluff; they don’t have a niche aside from the aforementioned “indie gamer” niche (which is not very big at all) and if you really want to make more money and have people lining up to buy your game at $10, $20, or $60 a copy, you’re going to have to change it up. Sure, I’d pay a dollar for your game, because it’s basically a phone game on steroids. (By the way, it’s the phone games you have to thank as much as Steam and the Humble folks, for bringing game prices down to $1. Odd that you didn’t mention that.)

        Anyway this comment post has gotten way, way, way out of hand and I wouldn’t mind discussing this further, but maybe after I’ve had coffee.

        1. You don’t think this developer’s games are worth $20, but you do think your stupid, uninformed, tedious rant is worth reading.

          You’re what’s wrong with the Internet.

          1. At least my rant was informative and thought-provoking, unlike your completely pointless comment. You should direct some of that ire inward, bucko. Maybe do some introspection, figure out where you went wrong in life.

            1. It really wasn’t either informative or thought-provoking at all. It was the parenthesis-riddled empty mind-spew of a closet narcissist. Here’s a writing tip, overloading your text with unnecessary little asides telling us snippets about yourself and your tangential opinions is not cute, edgy or even interesting, you’re not coming off as a quirky guy with something to say, but as a self-absorbed, tedious boremonger with his head up his own ass.

              1. Holy crap. You burned him so hard I feel like I got a 2nd degree sunburn from reading it. I have to rethink my own posting habits now.

            2. Thought-provoking? Not really, more like a waste of time. But I guess if you think it’s “thought-provoking” you already have your head up your ass.

            3. You know, that’s exactly the sick burn I’d expect from someone who spends most of his time telling other people how they should do things he has no experience doing.

          2. You missed the whole point. Value is 100% subjective. Just because the developer believes his game to be worth 20$, does not me I, or anybody else agrees with him. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t. You’ll never be everyone’s target audience, and I think they need to stop trying. His point was find the niche, and stop just making games that are popular to the masses.

          3. The only “stupid, uninformed rant” here is yours. He actually had some interesting points, developers need to find games that are either niched or are in high enough demand so they can charge said $20 for them, instead of making one dollar arcade games.. It’s a really saturated market. You don’t need to be a AAA studio to make $20 games, look at Dust: An Elysian Tale. The game costs $15, received plenty of positive reviews and attention and it was made by ONE guy.

          4. I think it’s absolutely hilarious that some “freelance writer” comes in to downplay some well written comment about people’s tastes and how you don’t need to follow the crowd to do well. If you keep chasing that car you’ll eventually run out of road, as everyone knows.

            Also “freelance” “gaming” and “journalism” shouldn’t ever be in the same sentence, phrase, or title again.

            Now, back to the subject at hand, the post contains very valid nuggets of truth, but appears to be very narrowly angled towards only a few of the variables at hand.

            1. I don’t think the fact that they’re a freelance writer has much to do with anything. Behind the shell of career choices or theoretical learned skills is just another person commenting on the internet. In this case, that someone is being rude and dismissive and implying that to speak in a forum like this, one’s opinion has to have some value.

              Never been a fan of the “subjective value is objective correctness” school of thought, personally.

              So it naturally bugs me a bit when a phrase like “You’re what’s wrong with the internet” is followed up with “X should never be in the same phrase / title ever again” from another commenter, as it’s the same sort of dismissive judgment that the first post spouts with such self-assurance. Opinions are too subjective to be universally right or wrong, and that’s going to be the case regardless of what guise someone speaks under.

              Although I’ve digressed. Simply put, generalizing here is somewhat saddening for me. That person doesn’t speak for game journalism as a trade any more than I would speak entirely for Mexicans, or you might for all anglophones. They’re just a person, who in this case, is also unfortunately being a jerk.

        2. Hate to say it, but there’s some truth here.

          I have Revenge of the Titans, and I’d gauge its worth at the $10-15 range max (pretty sure I bought it for 10). While it’s a decent enough tower defense game, tower defense is a glutted market filled with so many different variations on the theme that I’m sure I could find one for cheaper. But I liked the music and the little talking scientist dude in the trailer so I picked it up. While it has more content than I expected, it’s also fairly repetitive and there’s so little to actually set it apart from any other tower defense game that it gets tiring fast. It’s an OK bit of fluff, but it really is just fluff (I suspect the big problem I have is individual mission length – most campaign levels feel so short that they end before they get good, and only the last mission on any set of campaign levels feels substantial or interesting, which makes the missions leading up to that one feel like padding to make the game longer than it needs to be).

          I bought it at $10, which feels like an accurate value of the title for me.

          This isn’t to say that an indie game can’t be worth $20 or even more, it’s just that it does need to have something that can’t be readily found elsewhere, in my experience. I look at the four games with trailers on this site and I see – RotT, a Tower Defense, 2 Robotron-likes, and something like Space Invaders – with absolutely nothing apparently groundbreaking about any of them and all using the same “pseudo-retro/duplo blocks with the lights dimmed” aesthetic. Considering my experience with Revenge of the Titans, it all looks like more fluff, and Revenge of the Titans is fluffy enough for me already.

          Cas talks of things we don’t say, and normally I wouldn’t be so blunt with a developer, since I’ve worked with many and it’s hard to want to say things that hurt another human’s ego, but the other truth being unsaid is that these games simply AREN’T worth twenty bucks. It isn’t just Steam or Bundles causing this either, it’s the fact that there are now so many indie developers all iterating on well worn concepts that just adding to the pile of well worn concepts means you devalue your own hard work within the market.

          You want to make a twenty dollar price point? Then innovate. Don’t present me yet another iteration on something I’ve already played with little to differentiate it from the last ten versions made by the last ten indie devs. Don’t reuse the same aesthetic four games in a row and expect it to look as good the fourth time as it did the first. But then, me saying that doesn’t matter, since as Cas has already pointed out, as a customer my opinion is invalid. So he or she can stay in the bubble of thinking the game’s made at this studio are anything other than uninspired fluff.

          But Cas is right: now that they’ve stirred up some controversy with this whining about markets rather than the dearth of innovation exhibited by the devs, they’re going to see some more sales. So good job on that score. You’ve sold more units and you only had to reveal yourself as a vainglorious blowhard to do so.

          At least Phil Fish actually made a game worth the ruckus around him.

          1. In the context of a race to the bottom, no game is worth $20 any more. Not yours, either. Therein lies the problem.

            Now, we’ve basically made a fortune out of our trivial little games, and another fortune again out of Revenge of the Titans (which is every bit as big and complex as Command and Conquer was, and then some). The problem is one of perceived value that is now eroded to the point that developers cannot rely on paid gaming as a financially viable business. By financially viable business, we mean reliably repeatable. Counterarguments usually consist of the survivorship bias of citing several breakout hits to prove that there’s a viable and successful business model out there, but already sabotage their own foundations by actually being the exceptions that prove the rule. So what we’re left with is a paucity of diversity, gamers left with no support as it’s no longer affordable – for anyone not just us, and games that are largely risk-free and all the same (see: AAA industry).

            I should just reiterate once again that the article was not about Puppygames, it was about the industry. We ourselves are vastly more successful than 95% of the studios you’ve ever heard of, having made in excess of $1.5m with “yet another iteration on something I’ve already played with little to differentiate it from the last ten versions made by the last ten indie devs”.

            As you’ve not actually played our games you might want to look at them a little more closely. Your comment “Don’t reuse the same aesthetic four games in a row and expect it to look as good the fourth time as it did the first” does the style a disservice; the artwork in each game is quite unique, and it’s called a “style” because that’s the sorts of games we make. When we started making games like this, no-one else was doing it; and pleasingly, no-one else is doing it still – they remain unique. Chaz is an incredible artist. We’d be fools to throw away a signature of our games. What we do instead is evolve that style slightly with every new game.

            1. I have to disagree. There are plenty of games worth 20 dollars. and plenty worth more than that. But what it comes down to is perceived value. I look at a game, and if i think it’s worth 20 dollars to me, no one else, I’ll buy it for that price. If I don’t think it’s worth 20 dollars then i’ll wait for a sale, but the developer never would have gotten that 20 from me in the first place. So even though I got it for less, it’s still money they didn’t and wouldn’t have had without the sale.

              You need to make the perceived value of your games higher. Now I’m no economist, or a PR rep. So how you go about that is your own business. But that just my 2 cents

          2. “You want to make a twenty dollar price point? Then innovate. Don’t present me yet another iteration on something I’ve already played with little to differentiate it from the last ten versions made by the last ten indie devs. ”

            This doesn’t mean anything. It’s not about what you, specifically want, or think is innovative. It’s about the fact that indie devs are being used by stores to drive grown of said stores via sweet deals, creating a market where the developers themselves make so little per-customer profit that each customer is, individually, worthless.

            I know you think everything is about how you feel, but there’s a difference between opinions based on facts and opinions based on ~~but,but,but…the way I feel is…~~

        3. “As a smaller developer, you need to find that niche instead of trying to appeal to the mass market.”

          You say that as if small developers have the time and financial warchest to experiment with 10 or 20 failures to “find that niche” where they can get a fair price for a game.

          I agree that the $/time ratio is not the sole way to determine value, but it is definitely one very legitimate way to determine value.

          If a game gives you 100 hours of gameplay, isn’t that worth at least $20? That’s less than a quarter every hour. I mean a movie is around $5 an hour.

          I am not ignorant of market economics and the fact that if you want to be a business to figure out a way to deal with the problem.

          But at the same time, pointing out a troublesome direction we are headed is perfectly valid.

        4. I actually agree with your conclusion: Indie developers need to target a niche. I believe it so thoroughly that I was planning to make just such a game and charge $20 for it when I was distracted by an employment offer I couldn’t refuse. (Combination of a large salary and a lack of excess funds to throw at developing the game.)

          So my game is on hold for now, but I still want to release it. And the niche is one that I’m pretty sure will fork over $20 for a game — it’s not a HUGE niche, and I’ll be lucky to make a reasonable wage off of those $20 purchases, but it’s a genre I love, and I want this game to exist, so I feel that if I can pull off making it and not simultaneously starve, then I will count it as a success.

        5. Well 20$ or 1$. There are too many indie games nowadays. And this is another problem. I think ATI RAGE PRO TURBO point to this problem in his own way. You want to get some money for your work and you know number. But competition on market too high. You can go to niche and charge you customers for 20$ like Train Sims. Or you can make one of the best game in the particular genre like Defense Grid. But if you not exceptional and still want money then you go for masses. And yes masses are like milk buyers. And Steam and others knows they need big cash flow and your game is like one customer for you.
          “A friend of a friend told me that he tried to set the price of his game to some figure or other but that Valve vetoed it and set it to something else” Then don’t go to steam. Minecraft doing well. But you friend may think he wouldn’t get money without Steam.
          Market for games enormous nowadays and indie have to deal with it. It’s your choice. And you breathtaking truth drop on deaf ears. Because mob don’t want to listen and those who understand already know this. If you made this move without PR goal then you just waste your time.

      7. Ask Squad. Or Mojang. Maybe MC is different, but KSP relates. And that is worth EVERYTHING. Hours upon hours upon hours of gameplay. And more. Now, there are sales and stuff, and I wonder just how hard they’re hit by all this.. very interesting read.

      8. It’s not easy. It should take a few years after a lot of failed attempts (and learning) to make a game worth $20.
        You could always be scumbags and toss in a lot of ads, spam, and tracking software (although I’m not sure what that pays).

        Just getting something to work on multiple operating systems (with very few flaws or differences) is impressive to me. Props to you for being the good guy game-company and supporting your games.

      9. Ask Supergiant how hard it is. Or Yacht Club, Tripwire, Squad, BetaDwarf or Torn Banner. Or, you know, any company that doesn’t slap a $10 price tag on a dolled-up flash game, then goes on an ego trip when people won’t pay full price.

        You’ve made a space invaders clone, a twin-stick shooter and a tower defense game. And you three have jobs?

          1. So you’re witty, but you didn’t address the issue. You don’t care about a $1 sale and wrote a great article about that. But you can’t turn that mirror around and understand that we don’t care about yet another indie clone with a ~twist~ either. Elsewhere in the comments you defend your tower defense as every bit as “every bit as big and complex as Command and Conquer was”, which is a comparison I feel illustrates your self-awareness well- because this isn’t ’95 anymore and the genre has come a long way since.

            You want to sell your games at a $20 price point? Then realize the bar you’re trying to rise above is a lot higher than you think it is. Be more Chivalry and less Newgrounds. Be more Kerbal Space Program and less Armor Games. Be clever and fresh and put forth a new idea, or keep doing what you do and be content with “quite good”.

            1. You don´t have to explain it to me. :-) I can see what you did there to be inovative, interesting and definitly not “only another tower defense”. I always explain it to everybody! :-D

    2. When you can pick up Tropico 4 for less than $3(steam sell this past weekend 80% off) or look at the steam week long deals right now, more games are selling for less than a dollar than are selling for more than 10 dollars, what exactly are you suggesting they make and put out there that people will consistently pay $20 for? His point is the constant deep discounts of steam and the bundles have dramatically moved that target of what people are willing to pay $20 for in a way he finds unsustainable.

      It makes me think the answer is a bit paradoxical, raise prices. That way you can go 75, 80, 90% off on steam and end up a price point that is livable, and only put games in bundles when expected future value is more or less nil.

      1. And just how long do we expect AAA developers to be able to keep up that sort of behaviour, eh? It reeks of utter desperation on their part. As for us, we’ve made a fortune compared to the effort we’ve put in though by no means are we indie superstars. But the Tropico devs? The other AAA developers out there seeing their stuff being sold for 1 cent? They’ve got an awful lot more to worry about. But more specifically so do you (we! me!) the customer – because they can’t keep it up and they certainly can’t support their products. They absolutely will be changing the games they make when they see them being sold as valueless sub-commodities.

        When the average consumer values a coffee more than something you spent 3 years making – you have a problem. The industry has a problem.

    3. or perhaps the problem is at your end when you see a $20 worth of games and say ‘lol i can just grab it for $0.02 at the next humble bundle”

    4. “Make a game worth 20$” is about as subjective as you can possibly get and this is coming from someone who advocates objectivism as a general philosophy.

      As a consumer, I paid 15€ (if I recall) for Journey on the PS3 and it was worth every single cent for the experience I got. I would have paid 30€ for a digital copy of Shovel Knight and would still feel like it was more worth my money than the vast, vast majority of crap that major developers put out these days that sells for that price.

      If I somehow felt compelled to waste 10$ on… I don’t know, Battlefield 4 or a Forza (both genres I don’t enjoy), I would feel like it was a complete waste of my money, even considering they’re both priced way higher than that and, while their actual market value is probably /not/ as much as they’re selling for, the actual worth of the product is still very likely higher than I would ever consider spending on them.

      As a developer, my vision may be worth more than 20€. Maybe I somehow figure that vision as a game designer is more than enough to justify that price and I may even be able to explain to you, objectively, why this is the case. That still doesn’t mean the consumer will see it the same way.

      Point being: That ain’t how shit works.

  8. Isn’t the anger misplaced?

    The customers didn’t create the market where you’re only getting pennies on the dollar. Steam, and the other deep discount loss-leader low-cost high-volume digital sales pushers, are the problem. As evidenced by their constant pushing down of prices, escalating sales windows, and setting of price points regardless of developer wishes; To Steam, puppygames, you’re worthless.

    1. I think to Steam we’re worth over a million bucks, actually. Check your facts before you reach for the keyboard and make a fool of yourself!

      1. Isn’t it Steam setting the price though? Not the consumers? Didn’t Steam start all of this with sales?

      2. The way “Joey” tried to make his point was in error, but if I understand his sentiment, I think he’s right. If you want to break the cycle, then as a successful indie company, you’ve got to stop going through organizations like Steam. I understand that’s hard — they’re essentially your publisher in a classical sense — but if the most noteworthy and successful game studios stopped offering their products on services like Steam and started publishing for themselves, then this model would change.

        Yes, yes, I know, that’s unrealistic, because who could possibly make any money without subjecting themselves to the market norms? Well, I don’t have any answers for you. That’s probably why I left the industry and got a real job. :) Nevertheless, the change won’t happen at the consumer level. They’d be fools to voluntarily start paying $20 for a product they’ve been getting for $1. No, the change must take place at YOUR level, or it won’t take place at all.

  9. I totally agree. Individually customers are worthless. I can say this as both a customer, and as someone who provides customer service and technical support. It often costs more in time to solve a customers issues, and soothe their frustration and anger, then the product they purchased is sold for. Which is why I don’t do it anymore without compensation. I now tell every person who wants me to fix something for them that I charge $60.00 an hour with a minimum charge of $120.00. I have blissfully few support requests now, and those that I do support are as eager to be done with it as I am, with the added bonus that support is now profitable.

    On another note, I’ve only ever played a single game I own on Steam. Otherwise, I haven’t even bothered to use the Steam keys I’ve gotten from various bundles and promotions. Honestly, Steam is a disease, and I’m just waiting for it to collapse. I learned early on cheap games are not necessarily games I want to play. While I will occasionally buy a cheap game, I will only do so if it was a game I wanted to play anyway. Unfortunately, the new reality of cheap games seems to have pushed developers away from making games I want to play. I’m starting to believe that in another 10 years I won’t be a gamer anymore, for lack of anything I want to play.

  10. Those dollars i spent on your shitty game will shure come in handy when you get cancer(hopefully)and have to pay your medical bills. O wait, i pirated that shit and i hope you’ll end up broke in a ditch.

      1. Thanks for letting this one through. As a hopeful games developers, I can’t really begin to understand the amount of misdirected and unwarranted hatred given. I got Revenge of the Titans in a humble bundle, and didn’t really think much of it at the time. But thanks to you, I’m rethinking the way I look at the games industry, for I will one day have to deal with these issues.

        Thanks again.

  11. They arent the same customers. You can instantly tell someone whose from around the fourth or third or before generations of gaming, and those who were brought in from the billion dollar advertising blitzes.

    This is the gamer the AAA publishing Industry wanted. This is what they spent billions of dollars conditioning. This is what they destroyed my hobby for.

    I think Its only now, once its far, far, far too late, after the genocide of the mid tiers, and the homogenization of everything with a budget behind it… That Victor has realized the ramnifications of creating his monster.

    Hopefully, all I have to do is wait it out, scraping together the odd gem here and there, the Nintendo game, the SCE wonder project, some bigger more ambitious 3d indie games, or whenever my oversaturation level goes down, one of the more abundant retro platformers or a well done 2d metroidvania (Guacamelee is rocking my world right now, much love to drink box games, as well as a well earned 20 bucks). But if videogames of my favourite genres were my sustenence, id be one sad skeletal looking dude.

    Eventually though, I feel the big publishers will once again, push too much poo, too far, and bring the whole house down just as suddenly and shockingly as they did in the past, and the only people left will be the ones who really, really love making games, the kind of games they want to play, and the people who buy them will be the same kind of people (And im sure more like me, so in fact, many of the exact same people) who were attracted to gaming back in the beginning decades.

    It will be smaller, probably a step backwards in production values for some time, but it will be oh so worth it. And so I wait..

    1. I really hope you are right. I’ve been boycotting EA for a couple of years now because their business practices have been poisoning the gaming industry (I would also boycott Activision, but for the life of me, I can’t think of an activision game actually worth buying). Large publishers have been trending towards mediocrity, it is one of the reasons that simpler indie games, and the mobile market, have exploded. The quality expected of a game is high, but the quality people will accept is quite low. I mean, just look at how many games from the early 2000-2010 are still relevant and extremely popular. I consider Battlefield 2 to be the best of the series, with more enjoyable gameplay than 3/4, and that is a decade old game. Call of Duty 4 has almost as large a playerbase on steam as COD-Ghost, and that’s 6 year old game. World of Warcraft is about to celebrate 10 years, and it remains the most successful MMO, not just of all time, but on a yearly basis, nothing has managed to challenge its supremacy (SWTOR had the smallest chance, but EA bungled it sooo hard).

      I guess my point is that with game quality falling so drastically, there has to be a limit. When AAA games are worse than swaths of Indie games, something has to give. I desperately WANT something to give.The gaming industry is growing decrepit, and I think there needs to be some death before new life can take hold, so to speak.

  12. Toxic customers are most definitely present in every single business, you are not alone in that. I am currently a manager at Walgreens, a drug store in America, and a day has never gone by where we don’t receive the most entitled, venemous assholes, but are forced to still smile at them and give them what they want. It is a sad fact that money exchanges immediately cause customers to objectify you as a doormat. I could go on relating all day, but I’ll cut this short and just say that I have a lot of respect for you for making this post and sharing your actual feelings on the subject. Thanks for saying what is thought across multiple job titles and hemispheres.

  13. Game development sucks shit through ten bricks right now, man. More devs than ever, more outlets to publish games than ever, more games than ever, largest userbase ever, and here we are. A vitriolic userbase who are uneducated in the realities of game development, and have no interest in hearing the other side. Entitlement reigns supreme. “I paid $20 and I expected to get my money out of it!”, fuck off. You want a 40 hour epic with AAA production? Get your wallets ready, sixty bucks is coming out of it. Want an afternoon, or a weekend of fun? $10-20 is fair. How much would you spend on that weekend without that game? Go out with some friends, piss away a few gallons of gas, a trip to a fast food restaurant, go to the cinema? That’s an easy $20-40 right there. Games are still the best bang-for-the-buck source of visual entertainment (books win in the non-visual realm). If you can’t afford $20 for a game, get a new hobby or learn how to manage your expenses, ’cause clearly you can’t afford to buy games. It sucks dude, it fucking sucks. Bust your ass on 60, 70, 80 hour a week months, and users shovel shit down your throats because they’re entitled cockstains with unrealistic expectations who think only they matter, and all the work you did to make the product ship, install, and run perfectly on 99,999 other machines doesn’t matter. You didn’t do a good job because one self involved fuckwit who needs help turning off their computer and thinks they really are the one millionth visitor can’t run your game.

    I don’t know what the way out is. Everyone at a dev house that pushes 100k+ units, hell even 50 or 40k, deserves to make a decent living. They put in more hours in one month than most people do in two or three, they put in decades of service to get to the point where their team can crank out a game that gets good critical acclaim, and move five, six, seven digit units. Most of those teams just have a passion for what they do to show for it. That’s swell, but it ain’t good enough.

  14. THANK YOU, for this article. I’m a person who rarely if ever speaks their opinion on forum boards, or even game chat rooms, unless I am really really pushed too and/or the topic directly or indirectly effects me.
    I’ve always bought the bundles since the beginning, I’m not going to lie I started off like everyone else, wanting cheap games not giving a fuck about anything else, this included trading bundle games for games I didn’t have etc. Overtime though I grew to despise these cheap assholes I traded with. These were the same fuckers that came on to newly released indie devs and demanded their bundle keys, the most tenacious of these assholes often had more games then they could play in a their own lifetimes. I got disgusted and I would sometimes get pushed to tell people to literally fuck off cause the dev could not do it. This same bullshit eventually got extended to Early Access games, where people would just bitch and bitch and moan and then bitch some more, devs that had games that were the most popular like starbound get the worst treatment. This shit really gets on my nerves, you are 100% right and I wish more devs spoke out like you.

    1. Cas definitely makes some good points, but I’m afraid you lost me at “These were the same fuckers that came on to newly released indie devs and demanded their bundle keys” If they bought the bundle, and the game had a great big “GREENLIGHT” label on it, then they are owed a key. The devs who claim otherwise are just wrong. I’ve heard ‘it’s a completely different game now’ well then you owe me a key for the old one, that I purchased.

      It may be hard to be a dev (in fact I know it is, thats why I avoided it) but to sell something, and then refuse to provide it is simply wrong. It isn’t fair to sell something, then turn around and say, ‘oh I changed my mind, it’s worth more than that’. It might be worth more, but the dev agreed to sell at a certain price, and they should be held to that.

  15. 1) Why worry about 4chan? Ever?
    2) Why make content, like a christmas mode for a game after release?

    1. Coz we love making things for people.

      Me, I’m not personally worried by 4chan, but the article is not just about Puppygames. It’s about mostly all indie development studios.

      1. > It’s about mostly all indie development studios.

        Thank you for this, seriously. As someone trying to break into the market in their spare time and out-of-savings funding for artists and the like, it’s sad to think it’s just going to wind up being a very expensive hobby in the end. You’ve said what a lot of us are thinking, and I hope your blog post gets passed around and completely read.

  16. a huge portion of the issue is that video gamers think they know things but they don’t. Using the laptop comparison, it’s like the technically illiterate “that guy” who always comes in with a broken laptop and tells the tech support what to do because “Well the last time the computer didn’t boot up it was because *a completely useless solution to a different problem*, so why can’t you just fix it like that? God , you tech support monkeys are worthless, why can’t you just do it right like *completely incomparable company*? They know how to fix computers, unlike you guys” And the only thing you can do is tell them a generic answer instead of telling it like it is – “sorry, you don’t know what you’re talking about”. because that’s rude.

    and afterwards “that guy” has the nerve to complain about being given a generic answer

  17. While I understand where you’re coming from I don’t think looking at customers as worthless is right. No matter how crappy people may treat you or how shitty people might make you feel or how bad your business is you are talking about real people.

    Yeah, some of them may be shitty people but not all of them are like that, and by considering them worthless you’re just continuing the cycle. Like the old saying goes-don’t hate the player, hate the game. Telling the people you should be appealing to that you consider them worthless..it doesn’t matter that their money isn’t worth what it used to be.

    People have inherent value, and it’s more than just a dollar.

    I wish your company all the best. I really do. The sad irony here is that due to my being disabled, and on SSI/fixed income I’m not even worth a dollar to you.

    Sorry.
    Zid

    1. But thats the thing guy. Even if all they got was overwhelming positive feedback…

      We would STILL be worthless. Games have been devalued so far by the big publisher race to the bottom, that even if we bought every game they ever made and we werent full of douchers, but people who said nice things that made them feel good, wed be half a cup of coffee, and small sense of satisfaction.

      Doesnt amount to a pile of beans in this crazy industry anymore.

      We need to take it back. We dont need these ridiculous budges for every single release. We dont need to spend a vulgar amount of money renting sound studios and equipment and voice actors for every single game, we dont need to spend a disgusting amount of money on a games visual presentation. And thats not saying the game will look bad. Hardware is powerful enough now, that you dont need to break the bank to get your vision through in tact. Look at RIME on ps4.

      What we need, is a return to good game design, in games big enough to be worth that 20 bucks, because these guys cant survive on those buck games, and frankly, neither can I. And honestly, on an even playing field more akin to what we used to have, some of these games would get noticed for being great games despite not having the best production values in the industry, and as a result the next game would warrant the investment on higher production values under the promise of an ample return of investment.

      But there arent enough of us left.

      And no matter how much they seem to complain, No matter how many features are cut up and set aside for dlc, or in app purchases, or broken the game is at launch, or how it plays exactly the same as dozens of games they have already played, I dont see anyone of those AAA buyers ever thinking of stop buying those products.

      And until that happens, there is just no room for anyone else, the AAAAAAA publishers do everything they can to place making large games out of reach of the mid tier, and the bite size indie market is a post apoctalyptic waste land, full of way too many mouths to feed, and a manufactured shortage of food to do it with, unless you are hoping for a crap shoot lottery, and even then, its probably something that destroys your soul to make (Looks at mobile f2p).

      Its literally a suicide industry right now. It cant be sustained like this.

  18. Even though i’m a random ant as you so rightfully put it, i just hopped on over to give you both thumbs up.

    You gave it to them raw and proper. It’s a shame that financial difficulties had to be endured for that to come out, but i’m still glad it did.

    As expected, the masses are now grumbling and while the rare exceptions come out to agree with you, the majority feel like you don’t have a case to stand on.

    Hat’s off to you though, stick to your guns.

  19. “The more we argue, the more we bait the trolls, the more we seem to get into a death spiral of internet hate… the better it is for us. There is no such thing as bad publicity. ”

    Brrr…if you bring it that way the Derek Smart-method might actually be viable business model for some indy’s.

    Having been a witness of some of the most notorious flamewars ever back on the spacesim related discussion groups in the USENET days. I’d rather not see that again.

  20. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I feel very bad everytime I see trolls spewing venom in comments sections for no good reason (I have a particular rockpapershotgun article in mind).

    Please ignore these idiots and know that there are a lot of silent, but very supportive people who will buy your game on release just for the sake of supporting your company. We don’t care if you’re speaking your mind in a harsh (?) way, we see that as honesty.

    Your games are all pretty good. You deserve lots of respect for that. Also thanks for supporting Linux. :)
    Good luck with your upcoming game. We are on your side guys!

    1. Oh and, people giving you shit for being too blunt? Fuck them.

      My advice (if I may?): be more vague in your replies to suspicious comments, don’t give too much detail. People are not entitled to get replies from you. You don’t owe them anything, despite popular thinking.
      If I give you money, it’s not for support, it’s to show you that I appreciate the work you’ve accomplished. There are plenty of games I have never played yet bought on release just to show my gratitude for releasing a Linux port. Heck, I even bought some 3 times at full price (Monaco, to name just one).

      Have a nice day/night, wish you all the best!

  21. I’m in shock. You’ve pretty much forced the issues with the current industry and relating store fronts out in one blog post. I agree with every point you’ve made here, and it makes me sick to see the state of the industry; As you said, Indie Games used to sell for $20-30 a pop 10-15 years ago. Even with the advent on XBLA in ’06 most games kept a $15 price tag. Valve had a plan all along, and that was to make Steam popular, #1. Making all their AAA hits everyone wanted to play exclusive to the Steam platform on PC got them their goal, and even then prices (For the indies that got onto the platform) would still be $5-10, yet they would sell.

    It was Greenlight that was the killing blow.

    As soon as Greenlight launched, the store was swamped. Utterly flooded with titles. Before, Steam Sales were pretty tame, yet indies were feeling the pinch. When Greenlight launched, the sheer amount of people wanting some Steam money drowned out the rest, and it’s only gotten worse. The Store Page right now on Steam is 20 new releases a day, Sale Sale Sale, etc. You make a good point stating the customer is worth nothing, and I’ll admit I did buy Ultratron and Droid Assault at $2.50 a piece on coupons.

    A point you made about gamers in general really speaks to me. I personally believe the worst are Linux users. Now, hear me out here. Not all Linux users are bad (Some actually, you know, use Wine instead of whine *ba dum tis*) but since they’re platform is so low in use, they become the most vocal. I’ve seen Linux users criticize the dveelop for using “such a bad engine” simply because the devs wouldn’t port to Linux (Engine was in XNA). Every. Freaking. Game on the Steam platform has a thread in it. “Linux version?” followed by the same usernames, the same faceless players. “+1, +1, +1″ and they just expect because 70 people replied to a thread they’ll get it, and when they don’t you get called a bad developer. This applies to a lesser extent to Mac, and when used with Windows, they usually rant about DLC or the game (As you said) not working on their machines (But my specs are amazing!!1!1!)

    All up, being an indie is soiled forever. It’s a shame that if a kid dreams of being an indie dev, they’ll see Phil Fishes and Johnathan Blows (People being little bitches to them) and if they still choose to follow it, they’ll most likely end up scraping pennies just to get people to look at their game.

    Fuck you Valve, and Fuck you Bundle sites.

    1. On the Linux users note, I’ve seen people that I know don’t use Linux troll developers for not having Linux versions. And yes there are assholes in the Linux world, but a large portion of us really just want to play games.

      Also, don’t just put your game in WINE and ship it on Steam (I’m looking at you Eador). WINE is so prone to breaking between systems because the settings shipped with the game are different from the settings needed to make it work on your system, that I feel completely ripped off.

      As for a great Linux port, Mount & Blade: Warband. Sure some stuff doesn’t work 100% yet, but you know what, they got the important stuff working and that’s all I really care about. Sure I can’t play the most popular mods yet (or export my characters!), but I can play the awesome game without having to load it up in WINE.

      When Humble Bundle first came out, all I could of think of was “Awesome! Amazing games for Linux that I can just download and pay!”. So I, like many others, paid $15/$20 for those first few bundles. And we were amazingly happy. We had games to play on our OS of choice. We didn’t have to launch WINE, we didn’t have to install anything outside of a few libraries, and we were happy. But then they started recycling games, pushing more games, the game selection became boring. And the games even though they were different, all tended to be the same. And we kept buying the bundles, but we paid less and less every time. We stopped being enthusiastic and many of us just stopped buying them because why do we want a 50th retro platformer?

      You want to know what I’m most pumped for? OpenMW. I will finally be able to play one of the most amazing RPGs ever made. I want people to make amazing RPGs, not even on the scale of Morrowind or the later games, but even smaller scale open world RPGs would be awesome. I’m tired of procedurally generated RPGs or RPGs with little to no actual story.

    2. I only get annoyed when the developer is using an engine that has done the porting work for them, like Unity, and they don’t talk about why they won’t release a Mac/Linux version. Thankfully, MonoGame has made porting XNA games easier, but I completely understand that takes time effort and money.

      Actually – the absolute worst is when a game *has* a Linux version, and the developer has refused to put their released Linux version on their Steam entry!

  22. I’m in shock. You’ve pretty much forced the issues with the current industry and relating store fronts out in one blog post. I agree with every point you’ve made here, and it makes me sick to see the state of the industry; As you said, Indie Games used to sell for $20-30 a pop 10-15 years ago. Even with the advent on XBLA in ’06 most games kept a $15 price tag. Valve had a plan all along, and that was to make Steam popular, #1. Making all their AAA hits everyone wanted to play exclusive to the Steam platform on PC got them their goal, and even then prices (For the indies that got onto the platform) would still be $5-10, yet they would sell.

    It was Greenlight that was the killing blow.

    As soon as Greenlight launched, the store was swamped. Utterly flooded with titles. Before, Steam Sales were pretty tame, yet indies were feeling the pinch. When Greenlight launched, the sheer amount of people wanting some Steam money drowned out the rest, and it’s only gotten worse. The Store Page right now on Steam is 20 new releases a day, Sale Sale Sale, etc. You make a good point stating the customer is worth nothing, and I’ll admit I did buy Ultratron and Droid Assault at $2.50 a piece on coupons.

    A point you made about gamers in general really speaks to me. I personally believe the worst are Linux users. Now, hear me out here. Not all Linux users are bad (Some actually, you know, use Wine instead of whine *ba dum tis*) but since they’re platform is so low in use, they become the most vocal. I’ve seen Linux users criticize the dveelop for using “such a bad engine” simply because the devs wouldn’t port to Linux (Engine was in XNA). Every. Freaking. Game on the Steam platform has a thread in it. “Linux version?” followed by the same usernames, the same faceless players. “+1, +1, +1″ and they just expect because 70 people replied to a thread they’ll get it, and when they don’t you get called a bad developer. This applies to a lesser extent to Mac, and when used with Windows, they usually rant about DLC or the game (As you said) not working on their machines (But my specs are amazing!!1!1!)

    All up, being an indie is soiled forever. It’s a shame that if a kid dreams of being an indie dev, they’ll see Phil Fishes and Johnathan Blows (People being little bitches to them) and if they still choose to follow it, they’ll most likely end up scraping pennies just to get people to look at their game.

    Fuck you Valve, and Fuck you Bundle sites.

    Reposted

    1. I only know a grand total of ONE person who uses Linux without dual booting. He is the customer that is being lost… not the ones that would prefer to run the game in Linux.

    2. I won’t blame Greenlight. For me it was bundles which dropped the price to $1 or less. But even before that sales dropped the price I was willing to pay for an AAA game to about $5, or $10 for a game I really really wanted. Bundles did make indies a lot more visible to me, but these games worth very little.

      I still think that the inherent value of games as art is higher to me. I occasionally pledge up to $15 on Kickstarter for this reason, i.e., to encourage the creation of games I want created. However the value of games as entertainment is near zero to me, simply because I hardly play them.

      I think that’s a major part of the problem. Not enough time to play, and yet a push by players and media for long games. It’s easy to buy hundreds of game hours for $10.

  23. Really sorry to hear about this… I wish it surprised me but all the sales really always do seem too good to be true…

    I hope something can change to fix this and make your professions more viable, as you all at least try to provide us gamers with some wonderful entertainment and escapism from the real world and you deserve to make a more than fair profit from it for dedicated so much time to it.

    I like to think I’m not too much of a part of the problem here. I never outright harass developers or even outright ask for support unless it really is something wrong with the game itself. I’m fairly competent with troubleshooting basic PC issues, so I can usually tell when it’s something wrong on my end. I also try not to take advantage of things like Humble Bundle sales and pay at least a somewhat reasonable price for them… though even then I know it’s never really enough since they always add more and more games until even if I’m paying $20 for it all, that’s barely $5 or less per game…

    Perhaps I can only say this as a gamer with a well paying full time job who makes far more than enough to find paying a fair price for games reasonable, and in fact desired. I know plenty of gamers who are far less well off than I am, and really wouldn’t pay $20 for a game after being spoiled on $5 and less deals for so long… I hope that can change though… something has to…

    If services like Steam are actually preventing you folks from pricing your games as you wish to in order to actually make a decent profit then that NEEDS to become public. That is downright deplorable and I can’t imagine even “the mob” can try and justify that sort of blatant developer abuse.

  24. I bought all your games on Steam, they’re brilliant. I bought them on sale though, I’m sorry.
    I also bought all your games as a gift for a friend. Once again, I’m sorry.
    Hope it adds up a bit though.

  25. I knew most of this already, but it was beautifully written. At first I thought it was just another goddamn rant, but the Phil Fish plot twist kept me reading until the end. The sad thing, is, this doesn’t only happen in the gaming industry.

  26. I knew most of this already, but it was beautifully written. At first I thought it was just another goddamn rant, but the Phil Fish plot twist kept me reading until the end. The sad thing, is, this doesn’t only happen in the gaming industry. Pretty much everything that involves art/design/composition suffers from this.

  27. As a developer, this was an incredible post. Thank you for saying it as it is. Avid gamers will rant on about game design and yet none of them can even produce 1/400,000 of the programming or art it takes to make a simple game.

    Stick to your guns. You are 100% right. This, unfortunately, is an art of passion, one that you really have to love in order to spend your entire life on, because the chances you strike it big are so slim you might as well have a day job until it happens (yeah, right… say that to r/gamedev).

  28. we are le 9gag army, we are leejun. never forget or forgive. we are trained in the arts of gorilla warfare and epic maymays. you will regret messing with us, kid.

  29. Good article, but I gotta disagree with the Fish part. He was an asshole on TIGSource back when his boring little game was only a youtube tech demo, now he’s an asshole with lot of money, nothing’s really changed except his bank account.

  30. Without the bundles you launched your games with, where would you be at all? Never heard of your games until this stink started popping up everywhere. Yeah, I’m one of those thousands of “humble bundle customers” he’s whining about. Sorry my $1.00 doesn’t make me worthy of the zero minutes I’ve played your game. Realistically you would have done a lot worse without the bundle. Why is this mentality so prevalent among indie devs? You couldn’t catch me paying $20 for your tower defense game in a market where games like pixeljunk monsters or kingdom rush exist.

    Are we seriously suggesting that the onus is on a customer to pay over and above asking price in a marketplace that’s still massively inflated by monopolistic pricing practices, because that’s the only way to prove that we’re “loyal” to “good companies?” Because if you are, then it’s you who is entitled. You want 100% of the control, what if I hate your game and played an hour and it failed to meet any expectations? Can I return it for a refund, where is the recourse for that?

    Indie companies just a few years ago were crying that steam wasn’t letting them on and now you’re on and you’re still complaining. But the fact is, 90% of indie gaming is shallow. It takes something really special for the public to notice but when we do, it goes big. You mention Phil but also mention Edward McMillen who blew up around that time, he killed it with meatboy and then came back and released isaac, arguably a much better game. Lately we’ve had guys like Ryan Clark who made crypt of the necrodancer, which is something so different. . Sure there are lots of different KINDS of games. But otherwise, sometimes indie games barely offer anything. Or they go the masturbatory “artistic” direction. Which is all fine, but offer me something with some meat on it.

    You exist in a market with tremendous competition now. You have more ways than ever to get your games out. In the 90s like you’re so apt to mention, you would be working for a studio, doing what they tell you to do. Now more developers can become their own bosses but like any business, risk of failure is high. It just sounds like a lot of bitterness in your post and you’re trying to place the blame on the consumer.

    1. We’d be roughly where we are today… Steam still composed >90% of our income. We made far more on Steam with RotT than Humble Bundle ever made.

      Like many on the internet you are fast to see grave insult to yourself rather than try to understand the meaning of this essay.

      No one is whining about Humble Bundle customers. Humble Bundle customers made us quite a few bob, and in fact enabled me to escape Basingstoke, which is always a good thing. However, Humble Bundle customers also cost a fortune in support, because bundle customers are legion and profits are miniscule.

      Also like many on the internet you’re assuming that I’m just talking about Puppygames.

      I’m telling you how it is for about 95% of the indie development studios you’ve heard of. We’re just one of them.

      What this article describes is how the industry and customers have spiralled to the bottom into a situation in which no-one will benefit. Games may cost 10 cents, but they’re certainly worth more than 10 cents. They’re worth more than $10. The problem is that customers are increasingly tight and increasingly demanding. Something has to give.

      1. >Games may cost 10 cents, but they’re certainly worth more than 10 cents. They’re worth more than $10. The problem is that customers are increasingly tight and increasingly demanding. Something has to give.

        They are worth as much as the market decides they are worth. If a game has been driven down to be on sale for a few cents, then that is indicative that the game doesn’t offer anything particularly special that makes it stand out from the crowd. There are more than a handful of indie devs that raked in the cash while having a price point between $5 and $20. The difference between these devs and the devs of games that are forced to sell their games for appstore prices is that the former offered something new and different, or packaged up concepts in a fun and compelling way.

        Also, I feel like you are ignoring the fact that thousands of people buy indie games when they are cheap, when they would have never bought those games at a normal pricepoint. The reason for this? The games in question don’t actually stand out amidst the flood of indie games that you see on Steam and Humble Bundle. Consumers becoming more “tight and demanding” is a natural result of vastly increased choice and competition in the market. With a glut of games coming out every day, consumers can afford to be picky and say “hmm, this game looks sort of interesting, but it doesn’t really compare to other titles I have played recently. Maybe I will wait for a sale”. The games that do “outperform the market” are always either really stunning titles, games from a developer that has established a reputation for quality, or games that exist in a popular field.

        What “has to give” is that indie developers that put out mediocre work will be forced out of the market, while consumers enjoy games that they think are worth their time and money, and these games will sell for significantly more than “10 cents”. You’ve said it yourself: “I don’t think we’ve made particularly good games.” That is the problem in a nutshell. You can insult customers/blame the industry all you want, but if you do not make good games, you can’t expect consumers to give you more money out of a sense of charity.

        1. I sincerely hope you love F2P mobile games because that’s where the market is heading.

          Perhaps you don’t care, but as game developers we definitely see what is on the horizon.

          The current situation is absolutely NOT VIABLE. Games cannot be made at the price/customer ratio currently being received.

          What you are seeing right now is the backlog of games worked on over the last few years getting finished up and then released into the current marketplace.

          When people began working on them, $20 price tags were a viable thing and you could sell 100k units on Steam if your game was cool.

          Now, the same game will move 10k units at a $5 price tag and shortly after that be on a bundle where the developer makes a quarter.

          Once the backlog is cleared, there literally won’t be new games of that type. Everyone will have switched to F2P with ads because there won’t be any other way to keep the lights on.

        2. 100% agreed with Rio’s post.

          The claim that individual customers are worthless is interesting because you can just as easily flip it around and say that individual indie games are worthless. There are tons of indie games out there. Tons. Most of them are pretty bad and aren’t worth $1, let alone $10, to the vast majority of customers. If you want these customers to pay premium (by indie standards) prices, you need to offer a premium experience that stands above your competitors. I’m sorry to say it but your current products don’t offer that. It doesn’t matter how much love or money you poured into them. You aren’t selling games to yourself. Identify a viable target audience, find out what they want and make it.

          There are plenty of indie games that have been successful with premium prices. Terraria, Minecraft, DayZ, Starbound, 7 Days to Die, Rust, Gunpoint, Don’t Starve, The Forest, Space Engineers, Kerbal Space Program, Goat Simulator, Unturned, Divinity: Original Sin, Spintires, Bastion, Transistor, Super Meat Boy, LIMBO, FEZ, Project Zomboid… if you make a product that people really want, they’ll pay the asking price for it. If people are unwilling to pay your asking price, you need to find a way to make your product more appealing to them.

          1. Again, I think I should just point out, that the essay is not specifically referring to Puppygames, and that we’ve actually made a gigantic pile of cash from our games, because, it turns out, they are in fact good. As voted by you, the consumer, with your wallets.

            1. I’m sorry but the bitterness and cynicism shown in the blog tell a different story. You obviously think your games are worth more than they’re selling for and that sense of entitlement is the core of the issue. You (and I mean that in a general sense) don’t decide the value of your product. You may think they’re worth more than $10 but if the consumer doesn’t agree, your valuation is meaningless.

              Success in the indie market is just as rare as success in the AAA market. Most games are not successful. It’s just more noticeable in the indie market because there are many more indie games compared to AAA games. If you honestly think consumers should spend at least $10 on every indie game they see, you’re fooling yourself. They’ll spend $10+ on the indie games they believe are worth that price. And yes, there are plenty of games that fit that description. Check the top 50 selling games on Steam. Notice that almost none of them (indie or AAA) are selling for less than $10. In fact, most of them are selling for over $20. The devs selling their games for pennies? They didn’t make a product that consumers want.

  31. This was an interesting read but in the end the conclusion I’m left with is that I don’t care. I don’t need support because I’m not retarded, as long as your game works at all and isn’t broken then I can do whatever I need to on my end. I don’t care what phil fish said, i dont care if he was entitled to say it or if he was an idiot for spewing shit at all his fans when one fan pissed him off. I pay the going price for games i want to play. If I think a game looks ok but might suck i wait for a sale.

    in theory i agree with your sentiment, in practice, shit devs dont get hype and payout, good ones make money. I own one of your games and have 5 minutes of play time in it, all my friends have similar times. you are welcome for the free money.

    Maybe don’t fix peoples computers for them if they are retards with 8 year old dell laptops, just refund them their dollar and say fuck it if its not worth your time.

    Maybe don’t treat the entirety of a community like they are the single person you are frustrated with, when you respond to a crowd instead of a person, you instigate the crowd instead of the person. I don’t judge the entirety of indie game developers by the shitfucks at Hammerpoint, maybe don’t insult the entirety of 4chan or reddit when one user calls you a cockburglar.

    1. I recognise you from 4chan.

      It’s a shame we can’t refund people any more. But that’s what customers want these days.

      1. The lack of refunds is a reason why a lot of people will wait until the price get’s to their personal ‘don’t care if it’s not worth it – it’s the cost of a coffee’ etc. That is a downward pressure on price entirely driven by the publishers/developers..

        I hope I’m reading your comment wrong.. but as worded it seems that customers don’t want refunds.. I’ll take that one with a grain of salt.

        Also having forums/customers provide others with the tech support or hell even a FAQ/Knowledge base of previously asked tech questions would reduce the need to ‘fix people’s computers’.. I think most people understand that if a game isn’t working due to their system they should sort it out themselves.. that’s what your EULA’s say anyway right.. but if something isn’t working right because you took a one look approach to doing things with zero flexibility – well.. that falls back on you as the dev.. deal with it.

  32. I completely understand where you are coming from and, sadly, it wasn’t until after I began programming my own games. I used to buy every Humble Bundle, Bundle Stars, etc that appeared as well as waiting for the bi-annual huge Steam Sales. From a consumer point of view there isn’t anything better. But these huge 75% off sales on Steam and the $.10 price point in bundles don’t quite cut it for developers. I haven’t purchased a non-AAA game on sale in 6 months and I really like to think I’m making a difference. I only buy at full price and have even begun to pre-order indie games that I know I will enjoy. It’s strange what the gaming industry looks like when the consumer glasses are removed :)

  33. Not a developer here, at most I’m a hobbyist. I guess this needed to be said, thanks for writing it.

    Two things:

    1) Trolls don’t care about right or wrong, it’s just entertainment. They do it because they can. We all know how it works. Indie developers are just easy targets, because trolls know they can get to them. If you wan’t to argue and send them an honest “fuck off”, go ahead. But you can easily lose yourself in the process.

    2) As a customer, I know that those sales are too good to be true. But I don’t think I’m at fault. The truth is, if it weren’t for the price tag, I probably wouldn’t get those games. It’s just economics. You have to compete with AAA games, back catalog, dozens of platforms and any guy in his garage running Unity Free. The barrier for entry is non-existent.

    Developers got too greedy, not necessarily indies. Pre-order DLC, release day DLC, dozens of DLCs after release, season pass, online pass, etc. And then, after one or two years, the GOTY release. Fuck loyal customers, worthless indeed. Do you think we’re stupid? Not your fault, of course, you’re just taking collateral damage.

    I bought a fair share of indie games that simply didn’t work. I wouldn’t have bought them if not for the price. I also didn’t even bother to ask for support. Just grab another 5$ and get 10 more. The good ones however, I bought more than one copy, some at full price. I will not buy another AAA game for full price, never again. I’ll get the GOTY for 5$ at most. So in that regard, you’re already ahead of the competition. Make it count, show me something I want. This is your edge, don’t ruin it.

    1. I hate people bitching about DLC, online passes, and GOTY editions. Its not all for you. You are not a special snowflake at the center of the universe.

      DLC is all about options. Providing additional content to players who want to continue to play more of that game without investing another $60 is the sequel or expansion pack.

      Online passes are a way to pay for all the server costs for the players that play online and not burden the players who play offline. They also help the players most likely to play online to directly support the team building the game, and not gamestop. You are welcome to sell the game to a friend afterward, but the game team shouldn’t be expected to front those server costs forever for free.

      GOTY editions are for players who never jumped into the game in the first place. And hey, why not package all the cool content that came out in the last 1-2 years together.

      1. I’m just a customer, the market will decide if those are acceptable or not.

        Server costs? Never been a problem, games usually shipped with the server executable. Communities were built around those games. And I didn’t even mention the always online requirement for single player games, another massive fail (Diablo 3, Sim City, etc).

        And why do publishers think they can be above the law, and stop second-hand buying?

        If publishers want to risk everything on these kinds of tactics, they can’t act surprised when the market comes crashing down. I’m not bitching at all, you got the wrong message. You see, I couldn’t care less, and here’s why. I have been playing games for more than 25 years now, and I bet anything that I’ll have games to play for another 25 years, regardless of what the industry thinks it’s best.

        This is the funny part… customers already know they’re worth shit. This kind of disrespect has become the norm. I just think indie developers are actually in a better position to take advantage of this. Indies are getting crushed because they can’t compete with 5$ AAA GOTY of the day, but I would actually pay full price for a good indie game. Can’t say the same for the next AAA.

    2. > I bought a fair share of indie games that simply didn’t work. I wouldn’t have bought them if not for the price. I also didn’t even bother to ask for support. Just grab another 5$ and get 10 more. The good ones however, I bought more than one copy, some at full price. I will not buy another AAA game for full price, never again. I’ll get the GOTY for 5$ at most.

      Part of the problem.

  34. I think you hit the nail on the head for many points, as a game dev I too have seen the market change drastically over the course of 5 years, and in the end I think we are headed for a crash or a gobbling up of talent to the big companies. Mid sized and lower sized companies just won’t be able to survive in this market, and the occasional hobby developer will strike it rich but for the most part it will just be unsustainable. We as the developers have to adapt with the trend, and voice our concerns like this more often. Want a game for $1 or for nothing? Don’t expect for support for it then. Pay $20 to the developer because you love their game and want to help them out, expect full support and fan service then as you have just made it worth their while. I think that is the way it will end up being, release the game for free or dirt cheap, with higher paid tiers for support or extra content. The problem in PR then is allowing a voice to all the people who have purchased your game at those lower prices. They shouldn’t have an equal stake in what they feel about your game, but in fact they do because it was allowed by the developer. It’s really our own fault for allowing this to happen and the devaluation of games to occur on this scale, but now we have to start setting new standards for ourselves as a collective. It is not the customers fault this has happened at all, it is allowing our games we have worked so hard and so long for to be sold for a pittance just to compete for market share. If you don’t want those people to have a voice, then don’t sell it to them, set your prices higher and make a stand. If Steam and Gog are not working with you on prices, pull the games from them and sell them independently or with another distribution system that allows more control. Otherwise, if your games are your livelihood as a developer, something has to give, and it is either going to be customer support, good PR, and fan service or profits and positive exposure.

  35. I love your games, Cas, and I’m sorry it’s not working out financially. Honestly, I’ve wondered for a long time how it’s possible for anyone to make money in the indie scene. It seems you either make a breakout hit like Papers Please or you make no money at all.

  36. Satisfied customers stay silent far too often.
    I’ll open with a ‘thankyou’.
    Not just for the games, but also for making this post.
    There’s far too many things in this world that people ‘shouldn’t talk about’ due to the implicit threat of reprisal from various sources.
    I’m glad for the opportunity to hear about one of those things for once.

    Anyway.
    I may have bought your games on a sale, though it wasn’t as harsh a discount as the one mentioned above, I do find myself feeling somewhat guilty now.
    On the plus side, I’ve never needed any customer support.
    So there’s that at least.
    They worked well and were thoroughly enjoyed.

    I do find myself wondering though…
    A sale at 20 dollars is ideal, but the sales numbers must have been lower than those generated by a sale priced product.
    I understand that a 1000 sales at 2 dollars is not by any means equal to 100 sales at 20 dollars, due to the massive increase in incidents of customer support and general asshattery a larger customer base invites.
    I wonder though, where is the happy medium?
    Is there even one at all?

  37. He’s right of course, and that’s why people shouting “Vote with your wallets” and “Boycott!” whenever a company does something anti-consumer, like pre-purchase/order incentives (especially when those are retailer exclusive) or season passes or microtransactions or whatever, are either delusional or idiots. Usually a combination of both.

    They don’t care. The vast amount of their customers will still gobble up everything regardless, so a small amount of people shouting obscenities and not buying (and a significant amount of that percentage still buys anyway, regardless of what they’ve been shouting) can safely be ignored.

    That’s why devs release half-finished products, or sell us the ending later (Prince of Persia) or story critical DLC (ME3, more specifically Leviathan without which the ending makes no sense whatsoever, even with the extended nonsense) or map packs for insane prices. It’s more profitable to release fast, then to release good solid products.

    I disagree with his statement on our ‘niceness’ though. If you release shoddy work, then obviously people are going to vent their frustrations. And that dark hole he mentions? It goes both ways. The vast majority of gamers will never post here, or anywhere for that matter, they are, as he says, invisible, in that aspect at least. Which means that the only people posting their opinions is that small subset of people who care. And when you then piss all over them, well, they will piss back.

    When it comes to raw percentages, I still think the amount of dicks among gamers is far smaller then the amount of dicks among devs and publishers, but then there’s a lot less of them, so that might be unfair. On the other hand, worthless as I am, fairness doesn’t seem to come into his rant, so why should it in mine?

    I sympathise with the guy, to some extent, games are getting more and more expensive and people are willing to pay less and less. We’re all guilty of that, I myself passed up a large amount of indie stuff because during the last Steam sale they didn’t drop below a random amount I thought the game was worth to me.

    But hey, that’s capitalism. Things are tough all over, and when the amount on offer is this huge, pricepoints like 20 for indie games are not sustainable. Studio’s will start failing because of this, and while that’s sad for them, it’s survival of the fittest out there. Offer something more then the latest reskin of flappy whatever, and, hey, suddenly there are loyal customers who will buy your stuff. Maybe not at 20, but definitely on 10.

    In conclusion, I agree with your assertion that customers, as individuals are worthless to devs at certain pricepoints. At 1 per game, volume is the only thing they can care about. But what he fails to take into consideration is that the reverse is also true. There are hundreds of indie devs out there. You’re worthless to us too. The black hole works both ways.

  38. Have you thought about targeting a stronger niche? A smaller more focused fanbase might pay more for a game outside of steam sales and you can always pick up a few extra sales during the big sales from a general audience. That seemed to have worked out for some of the hardcore sim companies.

    Stuff like tower defense has been saturated for so long even the biggest fan of the genre has more games than they can play. It is hard to judge the right genre because I know people have platformers coming out that were started back when it was an under serviced niche and now they are everywhere, but I think doubling down on fighting for space in the mass market is a rough strategy anymore.

  39. So, I’ll preface this question with a disclaimer: I’ve never bought one of your games, nor have I heard of you until today, when I saw a link to this article on a forum I visit. I have also not used Steam, nor have I bought anything through Humble Bundle, and I mostly ignore indie games since, honestly, most are bad and few indie devs (or AAA devs or… inbetween devs) are making the kind of games I want to play. I do not know where that puts me on the Puppy Games Scale of Worthlessness, but I hope you take it with no disrespect when I say that you are equally worthless to me, and our mutual worthlessness is just fine. Now, my question:

    Why don’t indie devs just get together and create their own online marketplace? Remove their games (or forgo releasing their new games) from the traditional online stores, and just sell them someplace that won’t be filled with half-finished alphas and a thousand and one retro-platformers brimming with a nauseating mix of nostalgia and irony? If there’s control on who can enter the market, if everyone contributes equally to site maintenance and bandwidth cost and keeps the rest of what they sell, if no one developer is given preference in terms of advertisement, speed, &c., then what would stop this from working, aside from initial resistance from all the steam kiddies (most of whom, let’s be honest, are as bad as most console kiddies)? I’ll grant you, I’m an idiot, maybe someone else has had this idea and it horribly failed, but the central argument of this post seems to be that you don’t like how the online pc indie market works, and though you are taking that anger out on people who are asking you for support (people don’t just look up answers on duckduckgo?) to fix driver problems (or maybe just people in general), I doubt that people are the problem.

    So, I don’t know, just some thoughts from an idiot. Who will probably get called entitled at some point, because most people who post on video game websites apparently never learned what words mean.

    1. Not an idiot at all, well reasoned and eloquent compared to 80% of the comments I’ve had to trash this morning.

      There have been moves along these lines – see http://www.showmethegames.com for example – but at the end of the day it’s like grains of rice in a bowl compared to the sheer power of Steam (or the App Store, or Google Play, etc). The platform holders have created a toxic swamp which is slowly being poisoned.

  40. An interesting read.

    Also, after reading some of the comments, I have some thinking to do on how much I pay for indie games and why.

    Makes me glad I bought the games directly from you. And I want to start supporting indies directly, as opposed to Steam, GoG, et al, while they’re still certainly helpful, don’t seem to give the proper due to the people that actually make it.

    Not to mention that Greenlight’s made Steam a mess, but that’s neither here nor there.

    So, that being said, I will do my best to support indies that are worth my money and pay them their due. Yes, talk is cheap, but I hope that I’ll be honest with myself enough to remember the reason WHY I am paying the price I am for a game to a developer in the first place.

  41. “Interestingly I don’t ever hear of people taking their laptops back to the shop – which remember cost $500 or more – and yelling at the salesmen for selling them something that didn’t work”

    Oh don’t worry that happens too. The real world is just as full of morons with over inflated customer care expectations as any forum, they just use more gentle language while demanding something for nothing.

    Even when you expressly tell a customer ,”This AMD E1-2100 laptop ($400 AUD) really isn’t suitable for anything past basic internet access, if you want to play games you’ll need something with dedicated graphics ($800+ AUD).” half the time they buy the cheaper machine anyway, come back claiming it’s faulty, and jump up and down until a manager refunds/upgrades the machine at a discount.

    But you can’t tell the customer that they are being unreasonable… That is a PR nightmare waiting to happen.

    1. This. I get this every day. “Gamers are…” arguments fail to realise, it’s a human problem, and it’s one solved through community and engagement.

      You cannot always choose your customers, but sometimes you can do things to help.

      At work we always try to be polite, 99% of the time it works out. If we ever did the opposite, we could loose work/customers so quick. But that’s the point, bad customers (or trolls/pretend customers) are there to cause you harm. The best response is a good defence. If they get you worked up, they have already won.

      Like the customer asking for next day delivery for free, because they failed to pick up their package as they requested, and not that’s “your fault” some how. :P

  42. I’m just a regular gamer, though I actively try to be a nice person. As a college student, I have a very limited income, so I can’t buy every game I want, and sometimes even $10 is more than I can afford at a given time. But I’ll stay away from Steam sales most of the times. Partly because I own an old PC without proper drivers installed (heh), but also because it feels wrong to pay so little for a good game. I’ll wait a while and buy the game full price (or only mildly discounted), even if it doesn’t really make a difference. I don’t have a deep understanding of the market, so I don’t have much to add, but I can humbly congratulate you for the post, and wish the best of luck for the studio. I wasn’t going to buy any game from you, tbh, but now I’m considering it – even if it takes a while.

  43. As a random gamer, I thought this was intriguing and well-written. I would elaborate, but I cannot seem to find the words. Excellent rant, good sir.

  44. Our most recent support request contained this:

    “Cheat fuck”

    And nothing more. And this is probably from someone that got the game for free during our current promotion on the App Store.

    It cost me more time to open the support request and read it. On the plus side, we all got to laugh at it, and that’s worth more than $ :)

  45. Keep up the good fight man, I might be worthless, but I love your games.

    Sorry the industry’s become what it is, and I know it’s got to be a frustrating position to be in.

    I didn’t see it mentioned in the article, but I think the biggest thing is the Humble Key resellers, people buying things for pennies on the dollar in humble sales, and then reselling them on sites that they own or places like eBay/Amazon at an inflated price.

    There’s got to be some way to curb that. They’re making more than you on your game. :(

  46. I used to complain about buying games that cost more than a few dollars (privately, to my friends, not loudly on the net). A little while ago I realised the thing to do is as an above comment from Breadward said, think about how else you’d spend your money. I’m 500+ hrs on TF2, Binding of Isaac and Terraria. All games I got for about 20 dollars a while back. I’d spend 20 dollars on an evening out with my friends, and that’s maybe 5 hours of enjoyment. So I told myself to stop bitching, decide if I wanted the game more than a friday night out. So to all game devs, indy and otherwise, if I get more than about 4-5 hours of quality and enjoyment out of it, more than happy to pay 20-30 bucks for it, keep em up. I don’t really buy $60 games, and there’s not much that can change that, because I get so much enjoyment out of games that cost half that, I don’t see the point.
    Thank you to Cas, I never really post on forum sites, but I felt like being the ant that smiles, and not the one you want to take a magnifying glass to.

  47. I’ve purchased all of your games off steam because I thought your graphics and music were kinda novel but if you guys stopped making games tomorrow I couldn’t care any less. A simple tower defense game and a Robotron clone aren’t going to be worth much to people.
    It’s true that gamers are entitled but so are you if you think you should be successful from your derivative games, especially when there’s millions of indie titles out there that are much more worth my time, such as Divinity: Original Sin. They’ve been sitting in the Top 5 on Steam for a while now, at full price by the way.

  48. As someone who works as a foot soldier for a studio’s PR, I should either say “that’s not true” or just not comment all together. But the reality is everything up there is just 100% the truth. There’s no sugar and butter up there, and dealing with customers has been some of the worst moments I’ve had in this industry. They’re just fucking awful; self important, delusional, entitled jack asses. I’m glad someone said it because I lack the guts to do it myself. Hell, I lack the testicular fortitude to post this under anything but “Anonymous.”

  49. Hey, just wanted to say I enjoyed reading this. I found it thought provoking and interesting.

    I love Steam, and I use it almost exclusively, partially because of what digital distribution has allowed smaller developers to do. It is my sincere hope that small shops like you and yours are able to continue being profitable and make great games that you’re proud of.

    I wonder if Steam could force you to update things like video card drivers? Or notify you that your current hardware is unsupported for XYZ game when you buy or install it? Maybe its a stretch to say so, but don’t they owe developers like you something?

    I agree with your points about the gaming community. I feel like a lot of us are a little damaged, kindof have a chip on our shoulders more than other hobby communities. I include myself in that evaluation; I’m always quick to judge somebody that’s into farming simulators (shudder).

    For what its worth, I have 3 of your games in my library and have enjoyed them for about 5 hours total (usually in small bites of about 20-30 minutes each). I believe I did buy 2/3 or maybe even all of them during a sale. Thanks for making fun games, and I hope you keep doing it.

  50. Fuck Steam, GoG and the rest of the lot. I don’t deal with them and I never will. I knew all of those sales where just BS. These entitled crybaby “gamers” don’t know jack shit. When I do play PC games (I am mostly a console gamer). I try and buy directly from the Developer or publisher. So I can skip asshole Valve or GoG. I would rather spend $20 – $40 on a game so the developer can get some of that cash to make better games. I have gotten tired of gamers sucking whatever valve says. You’d think the good lord himself came down. The way these arse holes defend steam.

  51. So, given the popularity of this article, and the small number of replies present here, I’m going to assume that censorship/moderation is at a high level, and have no reasonable expectation of seeing this reply actually get posted. I’m going to post this with the hope that the intention to not ‘troll’ (although this term is often abuse to simply delegitimize opposing viewpoints).

    That said, I have no doubt that everything you’ve said about your customer base is absolutely true. Customers are individually worthless. But there are also things to be said about your games.

    They aren’t worth more than $1. They are rehashes of the same set of tired ideas which have been done to death over the last thirty years. Tower Defense? Arena Shooters? A ‘Space Invaders’ clone? Give me a break. This isn’t the underestimate the time and\or effort which goes in to making these games, which, as a software developer, I know is considerable – this is simply to point out that the end result of these efforts could never be a game which could actually command a $20 pricetag.

    There are plenty of indie games which are quite successful at a ~$20 price point, utilizing technology and art styles not significantly more advanced than what is presented by your company. Examples include; Shovel Knight, Castle Doctrine, Prison Architect, Resistor, Lifeless Planet, Kerbal Space Program, and Space Engineers. I’m not even going to mention Minecraft (other than to say, ‘I’m not even going to mention Minecraft’).

    There is no money in ‘art’ games. If you want to have a better margin, perhaps you should make games that are worth paying more than $1 for.

    1. Another person convinced of the accuracy of their arguments without knowing any figures… and another person who missed the point of the article.

      1. Nah, I got the point. You are complaining that the market can’t support the product that you are making, you are upset that you can’t convince people to buy your games at at $20 price point, and you are upset that customers have an overly inflated sense of their individual importance to your business.

        Tough titties, said the kitty.

        The market is over-saturated, yep. You have to make actually interesting games in order to command a decent price point. You either need to do something *new* (ie, KSP, Minecraft), do something old *very well* in a way that feels new (Banner Saga), or do something old in a fundamentally *new* way (Shovel Knight, Resistor). That is the appeal of indie games in general – not the same tired recycled crap with fancier graphics than last year. Unfortunately, you seem to want to make the same tired recycled crap without the advantage of fancier graphics, and then blame your customers for being cheap bastards when they want your cheap games for a cheap price.

        You are correct in your assertion that I ‘don’t know any figures’, but empirically, there are small development houses being very successful making indie games, even charging close to ‘mainstream’ prices – maybe the problem isn’t just your customers being ‘cheap’?

      2. After reading more of the rapidly expanding corpus of comments – maybe I did miss the point, as I interpreted this as a rant about your situation in particular, with only tangential emphasis on the industry as a whole. I’d be willing the argue that the point was muddled, but that is possibly due to the influence of the RPS article on my interpretation.

        That said, I’m more or less willing to stand by what I’ve said – interesting games are still selling at reasonable price points, and less interesting games don’t. The market is over-saturated, and many games don’t sell unless they do so at dramatic discounts on Steam or * Bundle, but to make the assertion that they would be doing better without the existence of such distribution methods is probably foolish.

        This is reminiscent of the copyright mafia’s assertions that every illicit download is a lost sale, and the empirical research which demonstrates that piracy is linked to increased sales, rather than decreased sales.

  52. That was interesting. And worrisome when it comes to the part about price fixing on Steam. I always assumed Valve let devs fix their prices on Steam (as some games never seemed to have a sale, while some others never dip below a certain price).

    Also, I wish more devs could and would talk about it. And how expensive making and maintaining a game can be.

    I’m a culprit of buying cheap games too (sales are awesome and USD exchange rates are over 3 to my 1 buck) . But every now and then, i’ll hear of a game I like from an indie dev that I’ll buy at full price (like Banished from Shining Rocks) even though I know there will be a sale later on. Because I found out he’s an indie dev in a one-man studio. And he kept a frequently updated blog on what he was working on in the game. Sure seemed like a lot of work.

    I guess what i’m trying to say is, I know we can be total brats and cheapskates. But when we know better, sometimes, we try to do the right thing too. Or at least, make sure our favourite devs are still around to make more games we like. And thanks for making those awesome games.

  53. To be honest, I feel like the most telling sign of the times in the industry is the that its producers and consumers are effectively in a power struggle with each other…a lot more sellers and a lot less disposable income both able and willing to go to them. I came into the article assuming this would be about the glut of crapware indie games, but this too is kind of important (albeit differently so).

  54. I have to completely agree with you. Individually, customers are not worth it.

    Now, I am not nor have I ever been a game developer. However, you did ask for people of other industries to comment. I am also not an artist nor a musician (at least professionally).

    I used to work in one of the most customer despised industries ever, though. One even moreso than by gamers. I used to work in the customer service arena. Specifically in tech support for a bank’s online services.

    You think indie devs receive anger and hatred from gamers? You should experience the vitriol from the general populace when it comes to the financial industry. And I worked to fix their problems, no less.

    In my time as a technician for a bank in the online services (and I was their senior tech for a while, too), I had to deal with hatred, racism, misogyny (not towards me, I am a man; but we did have female techs and bankers), threats of lawsuits to the bank, threats of lawsuits towards me, threats to me, etc. What’s even more…all of this was done over the phone, not on a forum, email, twitter or message board.

    I’ve had to take over many calls because techs (or bankers) couldn’t handle the person on the other end.

    There’s a lot of hatred out there, and it isn’t limited to gamers.

    Back in the 40′s and 50′s there was an adage: “The customer is always right.”

    That was back when the customer had common sense, and usually a good set of ethics & morals. Unfortunately, in this modern age that adage is no longer applicable – but the customer still tries to cling to it. The problem is, the average customer no longer has the common sense they USED to have; and half of them honestly don’t have the ethics and/or morals they used to have either.

    There has been more than one customer that I informed, because of their “actions” over the phone, that their accounts were now locked, their cards were useless and that they could go to the branch to pick up a money order for the full amount or we could mail it to them. When I have done that they invariably requested to speak with my supervisor – I always stated “I’ll do one better for you, I’ll give you to my manager who is standing right next to me and already knows of everything that has happened. Hold on just for a moment while I pass them my headset.”

    So, you are correct. Individually, customers are not worth it.

    Just make sure that you don’t drive them off in droves, though. ;)

  55. Hi, I’m Steve and I’m worthless. Guilty of Steam and Bundle sales, guilty of buying multiple copies of your games during these sale periods so my kids can play, and guilty of loving them for their variety and retro art-style. I am worthless, and I hope that my worthless act of praise to the team at Puppy Games is joined by other worthless people so that hopefully this voice may be heard, even as just a whisper that you can hold as a shield against the army of troll.

  56. Just a note to say that Ultratron is one of my favorite action games (and an influence on my own work), and that’d I’d happily pay $20 for a boxed edition :)

  57. I just wanted to say that I went out and bought one of your games with a 10 dollar tip as a gift for a friend after reading this, and I really do appreciate that you’ve always taken the time to support my platform and make good games despite the vitriol and diminishing rewards.

  58. I was able to get a wonderful fellow describe to me in detail what it was like to be a developer with a game on steam. his description of all the services you have to have shit on just to get by was like having 4 different pimps (delivery services) for one prostitute (developer).

    How I long for the ‘shareware’ days of the 90s where you could put out a demo and have someone put in a key or go to yourself or call in an order the rest. And make more than 5 dollars per unit for $30,000+ of work.

  59. People suck. While you can do worse than a forum troll, entitled gamer, penny-pincher (buy an expensive gaming rig, only shop during Steam sales yay), or child who just posted on the internet for the first time and managed to form a coherent sentence that warrants a reply of some sort, it’s frustrating as shit when people don’t shut up.

    PR in gaming is a career I want in to for the sole purpose of trying to fix the problems mentioned in the original post. PR originated from an urgency to change public opinion on a wealthy mass-murderer and it worked (there was no internetz then).

    That fact alone should be reason enough for the profession to evolve past it’s original/unintentional cause.

    PR approved phrases, PR lingo, focus tested words and the general misleading of the generally uninformed public has gotten stale, especially when it comes to gaming.

  60. Thank you for posting the truth even with the mobs out there. I absolutely agree with what you’ve said because I’ve seen it even in the AAA sphere (rough waters everywhere, it seems) and I’ve been doing it for 15 years. I wish you the best in your pursuits. Thank you for saying what we cannot.

  61. As much as I hate the Free-to-play model, I think the argument in this blog at least partially explains the rise of Free-to-play games. While F2P is not as popular on PC as it is in the mobile market, I think the mobile market is even more saturated with “cheap” indie games than Steam is (at the moment), that developers are therefore almost forced to go to F2P to make money on their games.

    Not only are Free-to-play games able to advertise the price of “free,” which can’t be beat, but micro payments are continuing source of income, as opposed to the one-time payment of a normal game.

    As someone who absolutely waits it out until Steam sales to buy games, I think I will stop complaining about F2P now.

  62. By the time I was halfway through reading it, I’d written you off as a cunt, but thenmy rage subsided and I realized you had good points.

  63. When I hear about developers making pennies I do see how it’s a problem and sucks for them, but however grim it is all I can think of is how I’m glad I’m not a developer and what a great time it is to be a customer.

    1. The state of the industry right now has been played out in evolution before… it’s like the pre-Cambrian explosion, just before one of the Mass Extinction Events. Which is a great shame, because of all crazy wonderful creatures that died out in the ME event we’ll never see the likes of again. And so it will be with games: 90% of developers will go under or simply stop making games and take all their ideas with them if the industry continues in this manner. The few that carry on will be using business models that are unpopular but successful, such as free-to-play. We’re even doing it ourselves – there’s no future in paid games.

      Other developers, and customers too, might scoff at this prediction. But then everyone scoffed at the very same prediction 10 years ago in mobile.

      1. BINGO. If you can’t make money by actually selling your game, your only option is to monetize the audience itself. The future of gaming is advertisements, commercials, energy-timers, pay-gates, and micro-transactions… at least it is on PC, where it costs $300,000 to develop a game and you’ve got to sell three million copies of it just to break even.

      2. God dammit this scares the shit out of me.

        If thats true Im screwed either way then. Nobody wants to spend the time and effort (money) to make the kinds of games I enjoy most, or they simply dont have the time or money to make the kinds of games I enjoy most. Most of the time the best I can hope for is an extremely transparent imitation. Like Im on a kiddie theme ride depicting things I used to actually do in videogames, but I have to keep my hands and arms inside the cart.

        AAAAA Publishers wont step off of their factory production lines to make someting for me, and most Indie devs just cant finance a title quite that ambitious without fear of near garunteed failure, because apparently, Im like the TF2 Demo man of the gaming customer world, Theres more beasties in the Loch than there are of me. I have a ravenous hunger for an apparently unpopular style of game, thats extremely hard to make and balance, and doesnt sell nearly enough to warrant making it.

        The best I can hope for is Nintendo (Or whatever part of SCE gives the go to publish projects like RIME) survives the crash, and tosses me the odd bone now and again, in between drunken benders of doing who knows what bizarre expirements they will come up with in the future.

        I have to believe something will rise again from the ashes to take a go at the barren battlefield. Something thats not thinly disguised skinner box monetization treadmill.

  64. As I wrote @gamasutra (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/223628/A_new_perspective_on_the_dark_side_of_the_race_to_the_bottom.php#comment249382)

    Lets be honest. Reason why puppygames dont sell higher? Because the market shows me they are not worth it.

    I have all your games. I like them, really do. But only bought one at full price, the others came from a steam bundle during the summer sale. Still, I played every one of your games and liked it. But, if you look right now to my wishlist on steam (http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198010641857/), there are 50 or so games for 10$ or less. And I have around 70 games installed waiting to be played (both AAA and indie games). Thats what an indie has to fight against right now. Huge backlogs from average players and a immense and ridiculous amount of games being released every day.

    Its not gamers that are worthless. Its games. Games, saved from a few bunch here and there (and, yes, 100 games IS a few bunch right now) are worth next to nothing for the average player. Theres absolutely no reason for me to buy any other game this year. I have no real expectation to finish my backlog even if I quit my job and my family till the next big steam sale. Yet, I buy around 4 to 10 every month, when they get 60% to 90% sale. Just because I want the opportunity to play them someday.

    Thats the reallity right now. And I think its best the way it is now, then how it was before. 7 years ago I would have never had the chance to buy your games, no matter the price. Simply because it wouldnt sell in Brasil. Now, I can.

    You know what you guys are still doing wrong? Ignoring a simple rule: seek the market that are not crowded yet. Brazil, India, Russia (getting crowded), China…these are huge markets, being noticed just a few years ago from AAA tittles and not really doing a great job. Yet, you have huge gamers here, that love to buy and play games. People that go to an extent to have pieces of hardware imported from another country just to play these distractions. And, yet, we are still hugelly overlooked.

    So…come here. Market your game to other markets. Be a pioneer. Maybe you will see a bigger sell when you try to yell to a market that are not, yet, abundant in people yelling. Or not. And keep banging your head in to that USA wall.

  65. Good on you for bringing this issue up. There is a massive amount of gamers who need to have a damn good look in the mirror. This very demeanor that the community perpetuates is (in my opinion) what is damaging the games industry, possibly the most. Devs have very little ability to defend themselves and get away with it. I wish you luck in future development.

  66. Screw you – I was going to buy your game tonight but now I’m not due to your venomous post.

    Joking of course. It’s an interesting article, I’m glad you had the guts to write it because it does provide a fascinating insight to the world behind the scenes that most gamers like myself have no idea about.

    However the one thing that doesn’t make sense is though that you spend the whole post talking about due to steam and humble bundles and the evolving markets how little you make from games these days. Yet you mention Phil Fish and how he will be sitting on a mountain of cash. It’s a contradiction to your entire post since wouldn’t he have been subject to the same laws as yourself? If he sold 1 Million copies at 10c then that’s $100K. That’s enough to survive a couple of years maybe, but far from royalty.

    1. Indeed – and do you realise how difficult it is to sell 1 million copies of anything? Even Humble Bundle, in which you can pay 1 cent for AAA titles on occasion, can’t shift 1 million copies. The model is, essentially, fucked. Phil is sitting on a giant mound of cash, but that’s because he released originally on Xbox, where the digital meltdown has not yet occurred (it will, soonish).

      1. Yes but if he can do it, surely that means that it must be possible for others too. For example, if you talk about how steam and humble bundles devalue your product due to incredibly small margins, well it’s never been easier to get games released on the consoles (from what I’ve read) where not only is the market thriving (the PS4 is the fastest selling console in history), but also the margins are much higher.

        As mentioned, people like Phil, Jonathan Blow, Markus Persson and Arnt Jensen are subject to exactly the same laws that you are, yet they have been highly successful.

        From an outside perspective all it seems is that you need a product that people are willing to pay for. A product that people feel that it’s not worth waiting for a sale for, or worth buying off the PSN. Those people cited above had standout products and because of that they have done very well.

  67. Sorry, but personally, as a developer, I can’t agree with the general message here. Yes, customers aren’t worth as much to you because of the low price on your games, but ultimately it’s you who chose to be in this position. The game market evolves really quickly and if you want to stay afloat you have to adapt to supply and demand. You chose to make generic (Note: I’m not saying they are bad by any means) arcade games, and then complain that you can’t sell them for $20. There’s plenty of successful indie games selling for $10-$20. Look at Shovel Knight or Dust:An Elysian Tail (made by ONE guy). They can charge $15 for their games, and why? Because they invested into finding their niche and making games that stand out, games that are still in demand. Despite the over saturated market, there’s still plenty of room for high quality games, we just need to find a niche that works for us with the price we want.

      1. The Shovel Knight game is currently priced at $15 and has sold 180k copies, I haven’t seen it being part of any bundles at discount. So yes, it’s selling for $15, how much of that money ends up in developer’s pocket is an entirely different topic. In your post you lament over how games can no longer be sold above $10 while you have recent examples proving you wrong. You need however to produce games that are actually in demand for that price.

        1. You are taking one extremely high-profile example and using it as the rule instead of as the exception.

  68. Actually it’s not the consumers fault at all, it’s the developers (ie. YOU)
    Why would you waste time fixing people’s computers for free? That’s not your job and if you took it upon yourself to do that, that’s your fault. Also if you don’t like selling your game for 10cents, then don’t sell it for 10cents. On the subject of steam sales and humble bundles though, the main point is so that many people have your game and thus word spreads about it. But no, you’re here complaining about the computers that need fixing that you don’t have to fix. The fuck is wrong with you?

    And seriously? The consumer doesn’t matter and individually we’re ants? Do you even internet bro?
    Some of us have huge followings. We do reviews and youtube reviews, let’s plays, blogs and stream the games people make. Piss off the wrong ‘ant’ and you’ll effectively be pissing off 100, 3000, 60000 or even more ‘ants.’ ‘Ants’ that will outright refuse to buy or play your game, boycott it or worse. PR is actually very fucking easy. I do it constantly in my line of work. Stop being a bitch about it, the age of steam and how things have changed. Certainly don’t take it out on the consumer because you don’t make good enough games to go viral and sell in bulk. Hell you’re complaining about selling too many games because of the computers you had to fix. Oh poor you, you sold games.. the point of the job you do, better go fix some computers for free right? -_-

    Here’s a nicer idea. Maybe make it so your computer doesn’t use drivers that are broken on the majority of platforms. And here’s a better idea. Maybe make your game multi-platform and not just appeal to the PC market. And here’s another idea. Maybe instead of pursuing a $20 price point for a game that doesn’t work on people’s faulty hardware, maybe sell it at $5 – $10 (So people will actually buy it) and make sure it works on the majority of systems. Then perhaps market your product a bit better because the ONLY reason i’ve ever even heard the name of your studio is because you pulled this bullshit PR stunt to ‘unveil the dark secret of developers’ and pissed off a bunch of people.

    Unbelievable..

    1. Here’s a nicer idea…. [ramblings] ..works on the majority of systems

      You have never written a line of code in your life, clearly. Would you tell a chef how easy it is to cook a vegan, gluten-free chicken parmesan? No, because you’ve probably some understanding of how food is combined to make flavors. Go home and think twice before talking about things you know nothing.

      P.S.
      I code for a living and know a thing or two about cooking for alternative diets. I do know of what I speak.

  69. Beautiful rant is beautiful, and pretty much on the ball and come next week I’m buying Revenge of the Titans because of it.

    On tech support – for some fucking reason the people who are the most hassle will _never_ read the damn stickies, let alone google and demand you fix it for them, though thanks to the lowish sales Krater had I avoided most of those users while helping fatshark with the post-launch fun and games of sorting out issues with the game vis issues with peoples computers. Left me with an undying annoyance at Nvidia’s driver team though for taking nearly a year to fix power management issues with their drivers that stopped people with 400 and 500 series cards from sometimes being able to play and a shoddy driver release that lead to what users termed a “LSD lightshow” due to those same power issues.

  70. every industry is like this, indie gaming isnt any different. i support them (speaking their mind on this blog) and Phil speaking his mind because everyone has the right to say what they want. i also bought Titan Attack and Fez on xbox360, but no i dont expect the devs to get on theirs knees and give me head because of it. keep doing what you love people!

  71. no edit feature for my last post, i also bought Ultratron and had a hell of a lot of fun playing it.

  72. Im only here because i rad your article on Kotaku, I have never played any of your shitty games and i never will. You are untalented programmers and with this post you have shown your true colors as a group of giant cry babys, get your cardboard box warmed up because your going back to the landfill you came from. Also tell your mother to get her lips ready, daddys coming home.

  73. Well, I wholeheartedly agree with your post. The hatred, bile and venom is everywhere, in the forums relating to all games that are released today. Even within the big companies are those of us who still can’t help but take that unbridled rage to heart, even if we do have the walls of a big publisher to protect us.

    I know that’s not really the point of your post, but it’s nice to see someone push back for once. Wish I could.

  74. I’m a game developer and I have a game up on Steam. I’m also “from” 4chan, and by that I meant that I use it a lot.

    That said, I totally understand your post. I absolutely HATE PR, talking to costumers in general and things like that. I just wanted to make games and get a little money from it. Still, I don’t think you really mean some things you’ve written.

    First let’s talk about “internet trolls”. My advice? Play dumb. When someone says shit/lies about you or anything else, just ask them to tell you more about it. Seriously. Every single time I’ve done this they end up messing up somewhere, making it obvious for who was reading that I was just being attacked for no real reason. Say that you’re really sorry for any major problem you’ve caused to them, and that’s it. If you do it just right they will feel closer to you and stop it. Probably joke about it. At the end of the way what trolls really want is just your attention, and they will say whatever shit necessary so you reply to them. If they keep at it, just imagine them being a 12yo kid with nothing better to do, say you’re sorry and move on.

    Now, if you did something really shitty, they probably won’t forget about it and harass you until they feel like stopping it. Best you can do is apologize for the inconvenience you’ve caused them, treat them with respect and go your way. NEVER EVER argue with “costumers”. I say that because nothing good comes out of it, EVER.

    About your costumers being worthless; I know you don’t mean that. Even if you really think this way I’m sure that deep down you don’t feel it this way. Because we devs want people to enjoy or games. You might talk mainly about money and how costumers don’t pay the price we deserve for our games, but deep down we know that the feeling of changing someone’s life because they played your game is incomparable.

    We are living in a tough time, though. What you said about not getting enough money is true. What I’m trying to do is work in 2 games at the same time, so maybe I can release 3-4 games a year. If I do that every year until 2016 I will have 9 games, which should be enough to keep me alive while I work in more.

    Well, in any case, I hope you get through this.

  75. I would like to use this as a reference for a series of articles I am writing on Indie Games. Email me when you can. Much respect.

  76. I think that the price issue has less to due with the delivery method, and more to do with the expected quality of the delivery.

    When I go on Steam, I can quickly find 20-30 games for $10 and under that I think I’d be interested in.
    However, the reality is that if I buy 20 of them, I’ll be lucky to find 1-2 games that I actually enjoy, and that are well enough done that I will continue to find enjoyment in for quite some time.
    And 1-2 games is not worth spending $200 for.

    Instead, as a consumer, I am pressured into waiting for the Summer/Winter sale, or a Humble Bundle deal, so that I can acquire the lot of them for $20-50 instead.
    What changed? The bar of quality on released games.
    When it cost an arm and a leg to market a game, and you had to actually sell boxed products, it prevented tiny companies from getting involved. And a publisher wouldn’t back a game that they thought wouldn’t be profitable. So the games (while oft held back by overbearing publishers) were generally worth an investment of at least $10. Good games went for the full $60.
    Now, however, there is no “good guy publisher” filtering the market. Obviously, this had the upside of allowing hidden gems to appear before us. However, it also means that all the little studios out there that only make half an effort developing their game can get it distributed with the same price tags as the gems out there.

    And video game review sites aren’t helping, either. NewGameX shows up on Steam, and, more likely than not, there isn’t a single decently done review of the game out there. Why? Because the game company doesn’t need to hype their game. So they don’t send a demo to the reviewers to take apart. A bad review hurts them far more than a good review helps, so its better to just bank on the Steam visibility.

    For the consumer, the result is that, over a month, we’ll see 60+ indie games hit Steam. All of them will have nifty screenshots, and a great “about this game” description (because that’s really easy to do right).
    Maybe we’ll be interested in 5-10 of those games (they match the kind of games we like).
    But, without any hype…
    Without any professional reviews…
    Without any professional “quality filter”…
    We are left starting at a batch of games and have to buy them all, or play Steam Blind Dating.
    Thusly, the best result for the consumer, is to only buy games that are on a major sale, so that you can buy them all. Because you definitely don’t want to pick one at random, and have it be a steaming pile of dung that you spend less than 15 minutes playing before giving it up forever.

  77. I’ve never heard of your games until now. And looking at what you’ve made, it’s not surprising. Seems pretty run of the mill mobile stuff like tower defense or other oversaturated genres on the Android and iOS store.

    Maybe that’s why you’re not so successful?

    1. It’s a shame you’ll never read the reply to your post because you like so many others cower under cover of anonymity and won’t get a notification. I should probably let you know at this point we’ve made over $1.5m in the last 4 years, and that our games still sell just fine (just at a price point that eshews any possibility of further support or patching). We were the #8 selling game worldwide on Steam for a while.

      I thought I should probably clear this little detail up for all the clever little ants who have enjoyed telling us to “just make a good game unlike your shitty games” etc. and “make something that people want”

        1. It is working out for us. We’ve still got a pile of cash in the bank and we’re selling well on Steam. Rather better since yesterday too. But the whole article is NOT ABOUT PUPPYGAMES! It is about the WHOLE INDUSTRY!

          1. Good to see your PR trick with this rant worked out for you. However, there’s nothing wrong with the industry, those who make unique, quality games more often than not get the attention and sales they deserve. While I agree with the point regarding customers being too demanding, you’re way off regarding pricing. Games are no longer a unique hobby for coding wizards, so naturally market becomes more and more saturated with generic stuff. You however make it sound that people deserve special treatment just because they make games.

            1. I assume you love F2P games with ads?

              Because *that* my friend is where the market is going.

              I am amused by these super clever people who think they are zinging us “greedy developers” when they say “Hah! That’s the market for ya bub! I guess your game is really worth 10 cents, because that’s what I paid!”

              People who say that don’t understand the time lag between game development and reacting to the market.

              I have hundreds, if not thousands of game dev colleagues. Less than 1% of them are working on non-F2P games right now.

              Paying 10 cents for a game, or even worse, buying a key from a site that repackages keys it got from mass-buying bundles, is taking this industry to 100% F2P + ads in EVERY game.

              1. No, I don’t love F2P games although some of them are rather good. You make the issue look black and white, while my point is that ultimately your product is worth what consumers are ready to pay for it. It doesn’t mean you absolutely need to resort to F2P, but it does mean that you need to offer certain quality and gameplay to reach higher price tag. Some games like Braid (then again, it had $180k budget), Dust: An Elysian Tail, Shovel Knight, etc, succeed with it, some don’t and fall into lower brackets.

                F2P market is booming not because gamers are greedy, but because the value of the games plummet as it becomes easier and easier to make them and new, casual, mainstream audience grows who doesn’t necessarily want a $60 blockbuster but something to play on their phone during lunch break. It’s the same thing with movies – you see the rise of free, shorter movies on youtube yet nobody is bashing the movie industry and movie watchers for not wanting to pay movie tickets but instead watching youtube. As the medium evolves cheap, “fast-food” alternatives flourish, which is common for everything. Books, movies, songs, it was just delayed for the games and now we’re starting to feel it to. Get along with it and adapt.

                1. You don’t understand. You, the customer, are on the brink of no longer having the choice. That’s “the market” speaking.

                  Developers like Cas are sounding the horn because they hope somehow this can be reversed. Sadly, it cannot because too many people think like you.

                  F2P + ads + D list celebrity tie-in for attention is where we are headed.

                  The games you mention as counter examples are the viral hit exceptions to the rule. They are good games, but there are many games just as good. Winning the luck of the draw and being one of the few “indie darlings” that get massive media coverage and attention is the key difference.

                  The race to the bottom has already happened. Gamers played a role. Platform owners played a role. Developers played a role. But we’re talking about past tense. It happened. Now the inevitable result and reaction is playing out.

                  Gamers are going to be very unhappy about it.

                  You are already seeing a version of it in the AAA space. Did you know video games cost about $50 in the 80s? And here we are 30+ years later, with budgets having grown a thousand fold, and they still cost about the same. Sure, economics of scale account for some of that, but is it really logical for the price to have stayed the same?

                  That’s why you see Day 1 DLC, Online Passes, Annual Passes, Exclusive Pre-order content, Always Online DRM, and Microtransactions for AAA games.

                  You probably don’t like that stuff. Well, that’s “the market” for ya. Damn, it burns when it works against you, huh?

                  “Get along with it and adapt.”

                  You keep making silly statements like this because you have made assumptions about me that aren’t appropriate. I already adapted. So has the rest of the game industry.

                  The tragedy of the commons you are taking such delight in right now is about to become apparent even to you. You aren’t going to have this wealth of $1-$10 games 2 years from now.

                  You are going to have Early Access transitioning to F2P + ads with all the content sliced up into tiny pieces and you have to constantly pull out your wallet to keep going. And all of that while being bombarded with ads.

                  Sounds fun? *THAT*, my friend, is “the market.”

                  1. I am not only a “customer”, I’m also a developer. I am currently working on a non-F2P title. So you’re also making quite a few assumptions on your own about me.

                    You keep on making it a black and white issue, which it really isn’t. It’s not a choice between “old model” and f2p with ads, there has and will continue being choices in between, with games utilizing whichever model fits them best. I don’t think this needs to be reversed because market has changed but despite that games will continue being released in different models, there’s place for everyone. It’s not tragedy of commons, it’s evolution of a medium. Movies went recently through the similar phase are still doing fine, although many realized the need to adapt to on demand streaming.

                    You make it sound like a zero-sum game, which it isn’t. New games with F2P models don’t fight for same market as traditional games, they are aimed at new, mainstream audience who wouldn’t bother paying for your $60 blockbuster anyway.

                    No, I don’t mind day one DLC and preorder rewards. It’s something that developers resort to in order to keep the prices of the initial game down since as you said, budgets have increased tenfold.

                    The reason for price slash is because indie market is over saturated, the race to the bottom happens when everyone and their mom can fire up game maker and release a game. You have to find your niche and release quality games to avoid that race. Those who manage doing so, are rewarded appropriately. Could you for example name a few titles that failed despite their quality and unique gameplay? It’s not luck that some games received the media attention more than others – they deserved it.

                    Because as I see it Puppygames have to sell their titles for $1 not because of entitled gamers, greedy platforms or because industry has changed, but simply because there’s not enough demand for their titles to warrant higher price. That’s how it is.

                    1. The reason for the price slash is because the platform owners make it the ONLY WAY FOR YOUR GAME TO BE SEEN: AT ALL.

                      You are acting like the price drop has anything to do with traditional supply and demand or an arrival at economic equilibrium between buyer and seller. That’s not what is happening because the guy who owns the store is making all the rules.

                      Seriously man, you need to listen to people who actually do this for the living. We are telling you HOW IT IS. You are talking about a fantasy land that has no connection to reality.

                      That is cool that you are working on your first game and you have this idealized dream of how things might be. And you know what? One guy doing it as a hobby can continue to sell his game for 25 cents and not really care. Have fun, man.

                      But the professional side of the industry is moving in a very clear and obvious direction:

                      AAA: Day 1 DLC, Online Passes, All Access Passes, DLCs, Exclusive Pre-order content, Always Online DRM, etc.

                      AAA & Indie: F2P + ads + celebrity tie ins for attention.

                      That’s where the entire market is headed right now.

                      Selling games for $1 is not viable or sustainable.

                  2. This is the future I have been scratching and clawing against for what seems like the better part of the past decade.

                    Ive been going crazy thinking Im the only one who saw it all heading here.

                  3. I’m gonna reply to you here because apparently PuppyGames lack a proper comment system that supports longer discussions.

                    Seriously man, you need to get off your high horse and quit assuming things about me. I do this for a living too, my current project isn’t my first game and I’ve been in the industry for a couple of years, enough to judge it.

                    Here’s a thought for you: if selling games for $1 isn’t viable for you, then stop making $1 shovelware. Indies that invest into making quality games with enough originality are doing just fine for themselves.

                    The market IS based on supply and demand, nobody’s forcing you to sell your goods through a specific store like nobody’s forcing artists to sell music through Spotify or retailers to use Walmart. You don’t like that guy’s rules, go elsewhere or adapt to the market as consumers are the ones who judge whether your game is worth the price. Either step up your game or sell it for a $1.

                2. One more thing:

                  I need to point out something you and many other people don’t understand.

                  The race to the bottom that has happened on iTunes, Steam, Bundles, etc. is not a normal market force.

                  It is not two products sitting next to each other on the store shelf competing with each other for your dollar on price, quality, and features.

                  The platform owners have evolved a system where the race to the bottom is a cage match between developers for the right to be SEEN AT ALL.

                  The price of indie games has not plummeted because buyer and seller engaged in a traditional economic dance that can be plotted on a graph and the economic equilibrium determined.

                  The price of indie games has plummeted because indie developers were put in a situation where they had to constantly slash prices to be DISCOVERED AT ALL.

                  1. I fail to see your point. How are these not normal market forces? Somehow economics apply to everything, except games?

                    Having to pay for physical shelf space, 15 years ago, THAT was artificial. The indie market was extremely small then. People would DREAM of something like Steam. Now they have it, and it’s a problem.

                    Steam is not evil. Steam is a consequence of it’s popularity and success. Any other alternative, if successful, will evolve to a copy of Steam. This is what people don’t understand. If there was a better way for Steam to do business, they would.

                    I won’t be forced to play F2P games and the industry won’t die. It’s economics, it will adjust. Do you know how I can tell? It happen before. Indies aren’t a new thing. They founded the industry, in the 70′s and 80′s. Games written in a garage by one guy that would be played across the globe, before Steam.

                    This is what I don’t get. People that make a living in the industry have to know this. It’s history. It happened before. What is the surprise? You keep making the same mistakes, and expecting different results.

  78. As an indie dev working on FortressCraft(shamelessplug) , we’ re dealing with a shit ton of *ahem* people coming to the *urp* ” defense” of minecraft. For some reason, ” if you like cake (their favorite game), nobody is allowed to eat muffins (any other game in the same genre)”.
    After somebody was spreading FUD for the third time on the forums, this was my response:

    If people wonder why some independent developers quit making games, well it’s because of people like Zero Rains an joey1993.

    As we cannot respond to these people in any way civilized we will just lock or delete this thread.

    We have tried in the past to explain, to reason, to jibe or to try to understand these trolls… I’m sorry, but personally I’ve given up on people who fail to understand the realities of the gaming industry, who think because they paid 3 bucks they can demand you spend a month working for them personally. Who think making a tantrum will sway you to their viewpoint.

    Or people who don’t realize that spreading lies about our products hurts us, sometimes physically.

    They don’t realize that every time they open their mouths we have to deal with depression, that every time they stamp their feet the heart of the game they pretend to love gets flattened.

    Personally I consider these people to be sociopaths, as in sick-in-the-brain. They cannot feel beyond themselves, they cannot understand the damage they cause for they are unable to see it.

    I tried to pity them instead of hating them, I have failed. Forgive but remember the ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥s name.

    We repeatedly tried to have a constructive conversation, whilst they were laughing in our faces.

    We tried, and because we tried, people noticed. Thankfully most of the people understand that these kind of trolls are radioactive to a game and come to our defense.

    Those that defend us, or have empathy with us, or at least show a bit of understanding: we love you, we are making games for you, we love the respect, suggestions and downright awesome ideas you give us.

    To the trolls: I don’t believe in hell, yet compassion for my fellow humans makes me wish you to go there, as you’d make good compost.

    1. Except that FortressCraft isn’t a muffin, it’s same cake with a different icing. But you don’t care, you will continue brushing off legitimate criticism as trolling because you can’t come up with own ideas that are unique enough not to look and play like Minecraft.

  79. Hi there,

    I bought game at full price at launch from indies many times. I enjoyed the shit out of them. They were worth the price i paid them.

    I am trying to say maybe you should take a look at your product and your expectations from it.

    2D,platformer,dungeons,rogue-like.

    These may take time to make but there are so many around, there is nothing special or interesting about them. Indie game scene is filled with this stuff and as you can see, its not making money. Moving onto more advanced projects may solve your “diminshing returns” problem.

    Good Day,

  80. After reading your article, I must say that I have been enlightened. I can’t say that I have much programming experience in the world of gaming, however, I understand how it feels to have your hard work unappreciated and undercut. Especially when it hits you in the wallet. And especially when people aren’t capable of getting their own games to work and it costs you time and money. Your frustration must be immense.

    Very depressing that a work of art costs the same as a bag of gumballs in a grocery store candy isle, and then people bitch about how it isn’t good enough. And then it gets posted on an influential site and you’re toast. Oh, the internet mob. This isn’t just a problem about price and value; it’s also about entitlement and complaining from gamers who don’t want to pay full price on a game that costs a dollar.

    1. And publicity, this article is starting to pop up in places. I first saw this on a gaming news app on my phone. I had to check it out. I think this is the publicity you’re looking for my friend!

  81. You should just be thankful newgrounds.com isn’t more popular, even fewer people would have bought your games had they known they could have just played something of a similar quality for free,

    Anyways, good luck on getting this blog post featured on kotaku.

      1. Don’t kid yourself, many of the games features in their tower defense section are of a similar quality as your first game, albeit with somewhat lower production values.

  82. Nice promotional post, Cas. :) I see it’s already drawn in the news sites, and hopefully you’ll see a spike in sales.

  83. It truly sucks when something is just too big to face. The collective mass is in such a depressing state. I myself am an artist working for a game studio and i understand the difficulties we face. I wish things can be better, but it can’t. Like you said, it’s an unstoppable blackhole.

  84. I have only ever made two negative comments to a game developer, and shockingly, both of them were under EA. One for their plunder of Dungeon Keeper and the other for the NHL team. Both were well deserved and actually resulted in EA issuing vouchers (for bugs that cost me significant time or money).

    Beyond that though, I tend to come onto forums to be positive and to say “thank you, I enjoyed your work.”

    Statistically speaking though, I guess I’m not the majority. Thanks for a good piece – good luck keeping your servers up under the load of traffic that is coming your way now that Reddit and Kotaku have picked this up.

  85. Interesting read. Some very good points there. There’s probably room for differentiation. But still, some valid points.

  86. “It’s like standing in a city full of ravenous zombies, armed with a lowly fire axe, and shouting “BRAINS! HERE! GET ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT!” ”

    Oi you div. I do that all th’ time in th’ streets of London. Always start the game as a Zerker, anything else is just rubbish!

  87. Hi,
    I’ve read your post and while I do recognize the truth in many parts of it I have to ask, what’s your point?
    Yes, the market at the moment has a very low return per sale for indie developers selling through steam and other bundles and I agree that most indie developers must go through these channels to get the exposure necessary.
    But, you know this. why aren’t you changing your support model?
    If you can’t create a profit and you don’t control the sale price then your market plan and specifically your development cost for the product is too high. Ok, that is just business 101.
    What other condition would you prefer? Brick and mortar distribution where your game would have never existed in the first place?
    There is a reason why so many developers switch to in-app purchases because then you control the revenue and pricing.

      1. Yeah, but that’s mainly a vocal minority in both complainers and complained on products.
        Abusive junk like the dungeon keeper thing by EA.
        League of legends does in-app and it’s the biggest thing since sliced bread.

    1. I’ve reread this a couple of times and I think I see where you’re going with this.
      You got people giving you bad press because the game doesn’t work for them.
      You can’t confront them because some are trolls and we all know how that ends.
      You can’t give the support because it’s too expensive.
      And no one wants to say to the clients, we can’t support you because the sell price is too low, so if the game doesn’t work, too bad.

  88. It’s nice to see some refreshing honesty.

    I don’t think Steam are as much to blame as the bundles. It’s created a mentality of “if I wait a couple of months” then I can get it for 79p in a bundle. The other issue that arises is when a game goes in a bundle when it’s only been on Steam for a couple of weeks. Some gamers think that a game’s release date is when it goes on Steam – even if it’s been on sale elsewhere for months or even years and feel cheated afterwards. Steam has opened doors for a lot of developers and the side-effect of that is the deluge of titles we now have.

    The solution? It’s difficult. Stick to what you enjoy doing knowing you will always get idiots in every walk of life. I personally love your games and have spent many enjoyable hours playing them. You develop for something of a niche market but, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Jeff Minter does the same and if he changed it would be for the worse.

    Bundles are good for exposure and I believe that is how they should be viewed.

    Good luck for the future – whatever you choose to do!

    1. I think that both Steam and the bundles have caused a serious change to how we perceive game value. When you know you can buy slightly older AAA games for a fiver, putting a high value on new indie games becomes difficult. When I can expect to buy indies (and occasionally even AAA/AA titles) for under a dollar, it makes it harder to spend a lot more on a game.

      Another problem is that having these cheap games raises the expectations. You expect a lot more from a $5 game because you can buy AAA games for that. Gamers also expect more because they have so many games in their backlog that they can easily throw away a game for minor issues after a minute of play, and they still have hundreds of games to try.

  89. I’m not really sure how you can simultaneously profess that mentioning topics is “risky” and that bad press is the best thing that can happy to an indie dev. It’s easier doublethink or stream-of-consciousness rambling that forgot its earlier point by the next paragraph.

    This is written to you, specifically, to read by the way, since by your own statement you keep your comments section more heavily censored than Cold War USSR for people who don’t swear allegiance to you. This isn’t for anyone else. To ‘troll’ you or ‘defame’ your ‘good’ name. Think about it. Really consider how you’ve constructed your argument.

  90. In my honest opinion, it feels like a cop-out to claim that 4chan and /r/games are by default set against you. In fact, this whole article seems to me like this guy is making excuses for why he wasn’t honest up until now.

    Well here’s a newsflash:
    Large groups of people don’t like condescending assholes who write in ways that make them out to sound like they think they are better than all of us. We don’t mind honesty, but when you address a congregation of individuals, you’re damn right they will expect respect. I get it, times are tough, not all games make a ton of money. A man’s got to eat and we all respect that, we all know the feeling. Appeal to us, through your craft, and through your writing. But now you’ve made a big mistake, and that’s to get mad. Talking’s over, I’m never giving you a fucking cent.

    1. Who said I was mad? Or even angry? I’ve had an awesome 24 hours. My missive is about the games industry, not Puppygames. You may keep your cent. I will cry over it later. I still have more money in the bank than you will ever see in your lifetime. Your loss, and the loss of all of your friends, and everyone you ever know, will make me cry even more. For about a minute, which, if you’d understand the article, is what you’re worth to a developer. You’re actually worth even less than that, but you don’t yet see it.

  91. I don’t usually read long articles, but that one got my attention. I generally agree and think the passages about Steam and the Bundles could fill an entire series of articles with ranting and yet with praising.
    It’s also articles like that which made me decide to make games just as a hobby and not for a living.

    Well done,
    a fellow indie dev

  92. I probably won’t be playing your games ever now not because of patches or any other superfluous bullshit you mentioned, but because of your blatant classism. Did you honestly write this and think, yep, it’s perfectly acceptable for me to call people who don’t wish to pay $20 or even $100 for my game subhuman? Really? Then you go on to say “when he walks into the restaurant where you pitifully scrub the floor like a servile wretch in order to pay for DLC in DOTA2, you’ll call him sir.” Yeah, fuck you. Without those worthless serivile wretches, you probably wouldn’t even be able to find dinner for yourself. Oh and you mentioned making 1.5K, congratulations. Apparently that’s not enough for you, your highness.

      1. You are fighting a battle there that you can’t win. NEVER.

        Most blogs and webpages out there are saying that the article is exclusively about the current situation of Puppygames, some even saying that you are writing this article because you are going downhill and at this rate, to bankruptcy. Even worse, they provide cutted or biased versions of you article, so when the people reach here, they don’t read them because they believe that they did it already.

        Not saying you should stop doing it. I just wanted to mention it, even though you probably know this issue already.

        1. In the weird case you plan to do, don’t try to use the e-mail i provided. I noticed that from this week onwards (last week didn’t happen), Hotmail is telling me: give me all your personal info including your anus diameter or get lost, so currently i can’t access e-mails sent there.

        2. On balance it would seem that the great unwashed agree with the sentiment of the article. There are only a very, very few semi-coherent arguments against the missive; most simply descend into ad-hominem attacks, infantile insults and/or threats against myself and my family, or merely corroborating the entire article by saying I shouldn’t have written it. Job’s a good ‘un, as we say here in the UK.

  93. I’ve never seen someone so delusional. If indie games are bought for $0.10 or $1 that’s because that’s exactly what they are worth. In your case you should consider yourself lucky! Your games are worth precisely $0.

    You cannot get on your high horse and call yourself an indie developer when all you have ever released is showelvare, iOS tier garbage. You are simply the programmer of what might as well be digital 9/11s.

    It’s pretty sad that you believe your commentary to be relevant in any way when customers would sooner buy ineffectual Dota 2 hats rather than waste their money on your casual trash!

  94. You really make it seem like 4chan is like an evil, well organized Gorilla force. Ive “lurked” 4chan for 7 years. They and certainly not I have this Lord Voldemort omnipotent presence that goes into kill mode whenever their name is uttered. They are not the boogy man.

    1. To the general masses that is exactly the image that 4chan has. Me being one of the general masses. (I, too, am but an ant)

    2. 4chan does not have a good reputation for mature, intellectual discussion. More a children’s ballpit than a cesspit. Some good has come from 4chan but plenty bad as well.

  95. As someone who reviews games I can understand getting flak from people, I’ve gotten horrible comments from people who were livid that I did not enjoy a game as much as they did, and I’m just some nobody on YouTube, but I let it go because I don’t know that person and will never meet them offline.

    This post seems more like people aren’t buying your games or they told you that they didn’t think that your games are good and you’re acting like babies. You’re throwing a hissy fit is what you’re doing and it makes you look immature.

    You can’t say that you love your customers only to turn around and say that individually they’re worthless, as every individual is a potential sale and those sales matter because without those sales you’d be dead in the water like you said. You can’t call me worthless and expect me to give you money for your product. Even if other developers feel this way, they know they depend on gamers buying their products so they learn to deal with it. If you can’t deal with it, get out of the industry.

    Bringing up Phil Fish is not a cautionary tale of keeping your mouth shut, it’s a cautionary tale of keeping your ego in check. That’s the problem with you indie devs lately, you make one game that becomes a hit and makes you a lot of money and it inflates your ego to insane proportions. You want to bring up that Phil Fish made more money than I ever did and probably ever will in my lifetime? Alright get ready for a large slice of humble pie, Shigeru Miyamoto has made more games and more money than Phil Fish, or you guys, ever will and Miyamoto’s games will be and have been more critically acclaimed and will be loved by more people than your games.

    You are nothing, you are worthless compared to Miyamoto and all the other game developers who have been in the business longer than you have and this blog post of yours, proves that you guys are nothing, and will remain as nothing until you check your ego at the door.

    1. We’ve done very well for ourselves, thank you. Much better than you have done. Much better, I suspect, than you ever will do. I suspect I made more money sat on the bog this morning than you’ll make all day. And yet here you are, grovelling on my blog, telling me to check my ego.

      The article is not about Puppygames, or our customers. It’s about all game developers, and all their customers. It’s about what happens when customers buy products for 10 cents. It’s about where the industry is headed. I, personally, do not care much for my ego. I just want to scratch a living and I hope that many of my contemporaries and peers can too, making the games they want to make rather than what the market is trying to dictate to them to make.

      1. I’m one of the thousands of hopefuls who have put their life savings on the line to make games and are now facing this depressing reality. I agree with virtually everything you wrote.

        That said, do you not think that the manner in which you say something is also important? When you phrase a response like this one just here, I can’t help but dislike you even as I agree with all your points. Are you simply so angry that you’re in a self-descructive mode? Or is the point of the behaviour really to anger a lot of people to generate publicity? I’m genuinely curious because heck, if it works I may do it to.

  96. I think it’s pretty rich (pun intended) to complain about people not giving you enough money, when you’re trying to sell Space Invaders for 10€. Of course it’s your right to express your displeasure on the internet, maybe even get some people buying those games of yours out of sympathy, but ultimately I don’t think that’s going to make your business more profitable. Especially when you antagonize your customers and all gamers at large.

    I could try selling sand on a beach or dirt on a field for $30 a pound and when people only buy my product out of novelty when I discount the price to 1 cent a pound, I could write long blogs about the injustice I just experienced. It is hardly the customers fault that the supply overwhelms the demand. I’m pretty sure Business 101 will teach you that if a business is not profitable, you need to change something to make it so, or if that’s not possible, then that business needs to be abandoned and you need to move on to other endeavours.

    Nothing says that you’re entitled to success and wealth just because you’re a brave outspoken indie game developer.

      1. An article on RPS that was published yesterday says your company is running out of money and plans to run out of money before your next game is released, how exactly are you successful again?

        1. That’s $1.5m of successful. 679,029 units on Steam alone. With just £50k left in the bank though we thought we’d better spend it more wisely than we have done over the year, which I’ve freely admitted was poor decision making on my part.

          The RPS article was a bit garbled.

  97. Heh, I enjoyed the read. I’ve always known that we are individually worthless and all that, it’s just refreshing to have an actual developer say it out loud — or, write it plainly. I actually don’t really have much of a point here with my comment except to voice my appreciation for being straight about these things. Then again, my sole, individual voice of appreciation may again be quite worthless… ;)

  98. 1.) This picture might be quite accurate, but it isn’t full without talking about crowdsourcing like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Of course the “discovery” problem is present there too.
    BTW, if you’re having financial troubles, try Indiegogo, worked for Kerberos Productions, for three times now :
    http://www.kerberos-productions.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=72&t=50858

    2.) If tech support is too expensive compared to the price of the game, why not make it a paid service or only for premium users that paid at least $20 for your game? Similar for refunds.
    You’re saying that you can’t give refunds. Is that because of Steam? If they don’t let you control neither that, nor the pricing of your game, fuck them. This issue NEEDS to be talked about. Is that even legal? Otherwise how customers and other developers can know about bad company practices, which might eventually lead to a boycott?

    4.) My feeling is that the system of selling non-scarce electronic “goods” is now even more broken for video games, and everyone (except the middlemen) would be better off with a global patronage system (be it for games, movies, books or music).

  99. I think the flipside of the matter is that indie devs have also devalued themselves in the eyes of the gamers.

    So many major titles and even AAA games jumping on board the 85% off sales, the PWYW bundles and other price races mean that they’ve been trained to expect those cheap prices. I realize that they were herded down that route but I kinda think they could’ve said no and let the chips fall where they may.

    When the first Humble Bundle hit I figured it was a one-off thing. We’d probably never see anything like that again, it’s essentially suicide for the games involved, they may as well just make them free now since no one will ever pay full price for them again, almost no one anyway. But it just kept happening and they just kept coming out on new sites, you’ve made mention of all of the pertinent stuff.

    I’m not in the industry, I’m just a long time gamer, but I have a really hard time justifying full price on a game now, and it’s not that I NEVER buy them at full price, I’d just rather be patient and save the money. You have 50 odd games you’ve never played in your Steam library? I have hundreds. It’s probably a bad sign. But a solid 85% of those games are the “collateral damage” bundle games. I didn’t want them, they were just tied to the one I wanted and didn’t want to pay full price for since I was on the fence anyway. Sometimes I’ll boot one of them up and they’ll surprise me but generally the bundles were and are one or two good games and a bunch of tosh.

    Paradoxically, I’ve found myself gravitating back to console now. There isn’t so many games I’m overwhelmed and can’t bother with playing any one, there are sales, but only occasionally. There’s a far greater incidence of demos and I can resell stuff I’m done with, or trade them with friends, or hell, on Craigslist. That probably doesn’t do me any good from your point of view either though. And as you suggested, the sales are getting a bit crazy there too.

    I suppose the point is that while the ‘mob’ is evil and spiteful and full of rage and vitriol and poison and just horrible resentful people, they’re also pretty savvy on the front of money. They made themselves that way. Any time anyone does anything and admits to it anywhere they get completely reamed for their momentary lapse of judgement, their differing opinion, their being an ‘entitled child throwing a fit’, on and on. You buy something and it’s not what you expected, you take to the forums? You get ostracized for your idiocy. You dislike a facet of a game and take to any part of the community about it? You get ostracized for your idiocy. You can’t talk to the majority of gamers about anything because they’re all so trained to be vicious and defensive. Opinion becomes fact and if you dislike something someone else likes you’re a faggot and a casual and you should go play console games you peasant/farmville you casual/CoD you dudebro etc. etc.. It’s just lunacy.

    I’m just rambling I guess. Overall I’m saying I understand your position, and I understand people who would hate you for your honesty. I don’t like what I hear but I also agree with it I do respect honesty and raw, blunt information above all else. There’s too much pretense and skirting issues in everything.

    A lot of work goes into making a game and now that we have bundles and used games and piracy, Steam sales and GMG coupon codes and account sharing… the retailers who rely on the sales are shooting themselves in the foot in one way, killing development studios and devaluing their product, but there’s such a huge number of uninformed people buying whatever they want that there is simply no way it’s going to stop. Steam sales and bundles aren’t going anywhere so I guess float on what you can or change business models at this point. That probably sounds asshole-ish but I really don’t mean it to be… I just don’t see any alternative.

  100. Has a troll, I like many of your games. They pour style. But they feel shallow somewhat. And thats probably why you guys did not made more money, your games lack the deep to be play very long.

  101. One thing that wasn’t touched in the main post and in none of the replies I skimmed through (sry, but way too much) is the problem with currency exchange.

    I can feel a game is worth 20 monies, sure. But then the game is priced at $20 and when it gets here to Brazil, that’s about R$50… and then suddenly this looks way less attractive. That is coupled with a devaluation of games for people. They will spend increasingly ridiculous amounts to see a 90-minute film (heck, the normal ones with no fancy rooms or anything are about R$30 these days and it keeps on skyrocketing) but if you want to sell a game that will offer the player, let’s say 6 hours of decent entertainment for the same price as a film ticket, they think that proposition completely ludicrous!

    And it makes actually investing in games so bloody counter-productive. It doesn’t matter if your job is your dream job (which is an argument often thrown around: “You need to have passion!”), it’s a job! And no amount of passion or professional fulfillment is going to pay your rent and put food on your family’s table. So every decision has to be weighed against next to no return. It’s tremendously hard to imagine a solid reason for corners not to be mercilessly cut off with half a thought in many titles.

    As a coder who is actually trying to become a game dev, these sorts of thoughts have been in my mind for quite a while and though this is not at all the first time I’ve heard this point of view or seen data that points to it, but don’t think we had such a brutally honest take on it until now

  102. You do have a point, and its the truth, customer support its a pain in the ass when you get so little by selling your games.
    Its gotten to a point where only the big can survive, and they barely do too.
    What a mess, steam, what a mess.

  103. welcome to the world of digital products. every new product competes with every title released before it. old titles continue to exist forever. the number of available titles can only continue to increase. go plot that supply/demand curve.
    also, unlike in the physical world where new products are engineered to be better than their predecessors, new games are a completely random crapshoot. gaming customers are getting incredibly wary of throwing money at unproven games.
    choosing to be in an industry that allows anyone with a computer and a compiler to compete, also means you have to compete with EVERYONE.

  104. It’s a shitty world because it goes both ways. We’re worthless to you, and you’re worthless to us. Just like you, I don’t really mean that in a bad way. But ask yourself why the price is a dollar apiece. It’s because there’s WAAAAAAY too many damn games out there today for any one person to ever play.

    This is the harsh reality. If you want to make a living making games you’re gonna struggle, because everyone wants to make a living making games right now. Hell, even I do! I’m just a bit more practical so I work a more practical job.

    1. No.

      The price is $1 because the platforms that have accumulated all the eyeballs have deliberately failed to create any discoverability tools.

      Thus, the only way to be SEEN AT ALL is to slash prices.

      I guarantee you that if every gamer were put in a room with all the games and all the developers, and you were forced to play each game for 1 hour before deciding which games to buy (we’re in a time statis field here!), the developers would not lower their price to $1. They would happily accept that some people like their game and some people don’t.

      Developers slash prices and join bundles because it is currently the only way to be found AT ALL.

  105. Have you considered that you yourself are a troll?

    If I saw a rant like this in a comments section, I would hazard a guess that it’s trolling.

  106. I absolutely agree with this, though perhaps with a little less overt angst. I can’t speak for the developer side of things, but the customer side seems right on. Customers, and particularly “gamers” (being of a younger and more entitled generation on average, coupled with the terrible advent of an internet culture), feel that they have every right to complain and fight and treat their customer service or salesperson terribly, then are shocked and appalled if they get anything but submissive niceness in reply.

    “Gamers” will whine forever about anything and everything. They expect perfection on their terms — others’ opinions couldn’t matter less– and they expect it now. They have no appreciation for the creators of their games and those creators’ rights in terms of artistic vision or practical intent. No other type of medium seems to have so many people within the medium crying for other parts of the medium to exist. So much and and vitriol about consoles of choice or genres of choice.

    Creators have it rough, but things aren’t going to change. It’s too late to stop it now.

  107. Frankly, this post mixes a number of topics and that’s a little dishonest.

    1) You have to deal with individuals who treat you like their serfs because they gave you 1$. That’s part of western society, and especially the US. Has nothing to do with gaming.

    2) You can’t say what you think as a developer, but all publicity is good publicity. You contradict yourself. If the latter point was true, then every dev would be out there making a twitter shitstorm at every chance. When a player screams you’re shit, and your game is shit, and others join the chorus at release day, that’s most definitely bad. You can see the popular opinions reflected on metacritic, so while you “might” sell more for that one game, the rating will be associated with you and your studio forever, so if you don’t change your image you just become yesterday’s news. That’s how bad publicity works. The truth is you know that it’s enough to make ONE popular game for you, poor indie dev, to get rich, or if not, almost. More on that in the next point.

    2) Steam and humble bundle devalued games? In capitalism, that’s not how it works. Prices are regulated by offer and demand. There is a lot of offer of simple indie-looking games because they’re easier to make than more complex games. Since you were direct with your thoughts, i’ll be too: your creations are just a notch or two above mediocre bathroom apps. That your games don’t sell enough doesn’t upset my day. Perhaps it’s time to stop fretting about the industry, and try to up your skills and ambitions. if you make something like Transistor, Binding of Isaac, Shovel Knight, or plants-versus-zombies, you will make money. I don’t even like those games that much, (apart from binding of isaac) i prefer yours. But putting asie the successful marketing, they are much higher on my personal, unwritten scale of art in videogames. Regardless, whether it’s marketing or art, you can and should improve both. You have to be a better developer to make better games, since yours are already both fun and quirky, otherwise, you’ll just be another okay dev going out of business when the next blow hits.

    1. I really don´t get it. Binding of Isaac, Shovel Knight, or Plants-versus-zombies are (from my personal point of view) mediocre games. There is a lot of buzz around them, but seriously, they aren´t better or more beautiful than Puppy Games. Plant versus zombies have so called generic graphics. Showel knight is outdated pixel platformer with good gameplay. Definitely nothing with super cool art. All these games have only strange ideas and people are crazy about it. Or may be they were made to be crazy about it because of really good marketing. Getting better in marketing is really hard. You do what everybody does and still it doesn´t work.

      I was once on the festival where we showed our game and during that time one of the journalist come to me and told me: “Wow, it is cool. How is it possible that I haven´t heard of it? I will make an interview with you!” But the truth is that we have written to their redaction. They simply haven´t read it. Or may be they have overlooked it, because there were other more famous names at that time. Things aren´t that easy.

  108. I can understand your pain though I’m not a dev. Throughout the years I’ve been a gamer I noticed a steady decline on how our community turned into a black pit of destruction. Capcom, Square Enix, Koei, Namco, Monolith Soft, Ubisoft, etc. It does not matter to our community, they will spew their venom at anyone, and see what happens.

    I miss the days when we all respected eachother (mostly), but it seems alot of it is coming from my generation that grew up in the 90s, and have become loathing mouth-pieces on the internet. Some of the newer generations does not seem too terrible, but I hope they don’t follow the same pattern as us. Personally this does not sound like a popular idea, but I wouldn’t mind if the industry went under like it did a long time ago, I don’t think we gamers deserve games with the way we act. I’m not sure about this, but I think a lot of the venom seems to be mostly coming from the UK, and America. I don’t hear much from the European/Canadian communities, seems like they are more respectful…though I could be wrong on that assumption.

    I’ve seen some of the worst behavior over here at GameFAQs which I’m sure you heard of, and let me say they shared your article, and you’re already getting some venom spewed your way eventhough it seems some of them have missed the point, it just reinforces what you been saying. I’m sure if this was shared on GameSpot…amplify that 10x over because they are way worse than us.

    I don’t know how game developers put up with the community, but I always felt at some point they need to start coming together, and fighting back for all the crap they get. Course that will never happen because “profit”.

  109. There are certainly some points I agree on, and I’ll to to keep it concise. I do agree that its a little unfair to sell a game for 10 cents and then be expected to be full on customer support for that amount. But, I guess that could be solved easily by just saying ‘if your game is bugged, ect…, email this’ which automatically emails you a list of solutions you’ve done in the past.

    I certainly agree with the taboo thing. I mean my opinion is that theres been a shift in power between youtubers and developers. I dont hate youtubers, I like them, a lot, but some of them handle power badly. Youtubers now have all the power, where the opposite used to be the case. Some use this power (E.g. the Yogscast) to promote small games and talk good about them. Some people however, forget that indie game developers are people, who work day in day out for their games. Im gonna come out and say, the idea of the Escapist is disgusting. He makes a career off digging deep into exposing every flaw of a game a developer has worked so hard for, trying his hardest to be as rude about it as possible. And the worst part, is indie devs are expected to bow their heads at this and thank the youtuber for taking their time to make a video about our game. Thats just my 2 cents

  110. I didn’t read every comment to be honest but theres 1 thing that you seem to forget and you’re not the only ones that forget this. If price is a problem then look at the value of the game. What do you offer to you’re customers. Let’s be honest here. You sell games that have already been made so originality,design and creativity goes out the windows since 50% has been done before.
    You sell very casual games…so casual that if you look at the steam stats for you’re game only you’ll notice theres not a lot of people past 10 hours who still plays your game. That should give you a hint to what’s the problem.

    To me that seems to be the problem. I mean, if people keep buying your game at 90% off and some other rebate then its clear customers think you’re game is not worth its full price. Some people are willing to pay 20$ or more for other indy games so… It seems you guys need to look at yourself rather then blame others.

  111. As a comic artist for 20 years, I can tell you that this problem exists in other industries as well. I often get the “I was about to buy but…” or the “If it were ‘X’ I’d buy it…” with the person constantly changing the value of ‘X’ downward. I don’t actively hate the people who enjoy my work, otherwise why would I do it? But I do hate the behavior of those that under value my work and feel a sense of superiority or, dare I say, entitlement with my projects. Some even get to the point where they act like they’ve created the property with you and should have creative control despite not spending a dime to support it.

    You kind of hope that these types of customers are just kids who will eventually grow up and learn that there is someone on the other side of that product who deserves to be paid fairly for their work just like they do. Sadly, I’m not so sure they get that anymore. In comics, a lot of us have a mindset that we do it for the love of the work. Because most of us realize that we’ll never make a living at what we do or break even.

    I couldn’t imagine adding a layer of technical support to that. At least with my work, I don’t have to provide support to ensure their hands can hold the books properly. If I had to do that, I’d probably just stick to drawing on the walls of my padded cell.

  112. i had to read this several times to understand what you were doing here.

    you are right, of course, there is no such thing as bad publicity. thus, you just got a boost in sales.

    well played.

  113. My Steam account has 1000+ games. After seeing a link to this article on Twitter, I had to look up Puppygames to see what games you were associated with, and yes even though I own them all on Steam, your name was not familiar.

    Perhaps “worthless” is a two-way street.

  114. Unfortunately, yes most of that is true.

    I was just really surprised recently when a game developer came after ME, and started trolling me. Was very odd. I copied part of the random insults and cursing. Game Developers just have to rise above that, and take alot of BS from some immature gamers, but they shouldn’t be stooping to those levels themselves.

  115. I feel I should weigh in, as someone trying to break into the industry myself.

    I agree with you. People do NOT see the value in games anymore, people don’t know the effort, money and hours that go into a product and it stinks.

    Regarding pricing, I – as a base (this model doesn’t always apply) – like to spend £1 for every hour of gameplay I get. So if I pay £20, I expect 20 hours of gameplay. Games like The Last of Us didn’t net me 50 hours, but the sheer quality and workmanship that went into it makes that OK with me, similarly I paid the full £15 for Banished (a two man dev team, I believe?) and I have got about 40 hours out of it. Now, many people have turned their heads at games like Prison Architect because of the price point, but similarly I have had about 40 hours out of it so far, it was well worth the price they priced it at. Just because it doesn’t have next-gen graphics and all the bells and whistles, doesn’t make it worth less as a product.

  116. I’m not going to lie, it was hard reading this.
    I would although like to make a statement on the idea of gamers being bad people. Personally I feel that this opinion has come to pass because of the silence of those who don’t follow the crowd, hidden away in their bunkers of silence, enjoying the new pace of a small indie dev.
    I will admit. I love indie games, often more so than big corporate trade marked titles of games. They rely on the popularity of their other games far too much, and often go as far as to destroying the series as a whole just to milk that last dollar out of a paying customer, and how is that customer treated? With less value than dirt. Where as the moment an indie developer does the same thing, they’re dead.
    I admire your courage in putting this into an area as vast as this internet is today. You can end up with a lot of angry people after you. Hell, even I can, and I have in some places. Some of my names are known and resented on the internet. But you have given that little voice to the indie dev in that black hole that is the expansive and forever growing cyber world.
    I would also like to thank you for showing me just how bad it is for you guys. It makes me feel somewhat neutral on my part in it, but supporting you a little with no complaint other than to myself, when I eventually fix my own support problem after looking into it enough.

  117. Well since I would have made you so little money in the first place I suppose I don’t need to feel bad about pirating all your shit.

    1. Here’s another first-class twat. Feel free to pirate it. Like we care about you or your opinions! I let this post through again to show a small section of the sorts of things developers have to put up with. I personally don’t care but others are less thick-skinned.

      You should be ashamed of yourself.

      1. To be clear I haven’t pirated any of your games so far, because I’m mildly in favour of indie gaming as a whole. I guess I always thought that my handful of dollars, while little, was better than nothing and was appreciated at least to a certain extent. You expect me, as a consumer, to choose to pay more than I have to off my own bat? If you found somewhere selling a gallon of gas for a nickel I highly doubt you’d be sending ExxonMobil a cheque.

        You could have made this an appeal, friend. You could said “The market is busted, here’s how, here’s what you can do to curb the demolition of the industry” and tried to rally some support. If you’d written evocatively and posted links on the right sites you would have got a lot of positive attention. But you chose clickbait vitriol, so you can fuck off with no sympathy from me. The only shame I feel is for actually falling for it and reading all your hackneyed bullshit.

  118. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m not a game developer but I work on commercial business software. I can’t imagine doing all the post release support yourself for customers who expect so much that bought the game for next to nothing. A customer should be able to play the game they bought but you should not be held responsible for someone’s hardware or software environment issues, especially at humble bundle price points. If pc gamers wonder why devs still bother with console exclusive releases they should read your article

  119. “Make a better game if you want it to sell for more than a dollar.”

    To the clear industry professionals making this ingenious statement, I offer a brief explanation of reality…

    A game’s monetary success is based on four things, ranked in order of importance:
    1) The size of the target audience
    2) The product’s market visibility
    3) The price point of comparable existing products
    4) The quality of the game

    I’ll elaborate on these points a little.

    To start with, it doesn’t matter how good your game is or how much you advertise it if there’s a very small target market. For example, if i were to spend four years and 10 million dollars making the greatest, most awesome, groundbreaking furry relationship simulator, it really wouldn’t matter how good the game was, how much I was selling it for, or how well I advertised it… I’d only be selling copies to lonely furries that play computer games, which is indeed a very small subset of the population.

    The product’s market visibility is pretty obvious in why it’s important. If they made the new Elder Scrollz 7: CoD Hardline Madden Edition… and they released it silently without ever saying a word… do you think they’d be selling millions of copies? Obviously not — and that’s even true for well-known AAA developers and IPs. What if an indie team released a game without ever telling anybody? The answer to that one is well documented. They’ll sell maybe 50-100 copies, max.

    The product’s comparative price point is next. If your game has a large market, and it’s got lots of exposure, the next question is how much does it cost in comparison to the competition. There’s plenty of times throughout gaming history where the superior option was shunned by the community as a whole because it was the more expensive choice. Countless multi-platform releases on consoles bear this point out.

    Last, and least, is how good your game really is. The ultimate proof of this one is everywhere. Do you care how good those games really are in the bundles that you purchase? Or are you just buying them because they’re cheap and you happen to see it? Why would CoD sell well every single year? It’s well polished, but it’s certainly no masterpiece… but it does have the first three things in my list 100% perfected.

    TL;DR — Quality doesn’t determine success.

  120. Valve is trying to destroy the market. Steam will soon be only a flooded store full of trash with prices on google
    play level.

    I see your frustration, but to be honest, I liked revenge of the titans and the space invaders spinoff looks good,
    but you havent had a smash hit yet you know. Those are all good games and they seem well executed, but there
    is nothing too addicting or too longlasting so far, something that is better than just good, you know ?
    You build up a good portfolio thats shows competence, but your time is yet to come imo (if you can pull that game off)

  121. Overall, a very interesting read! I think it sums up many of the points I’ve seen about “the rise and fall of indie gaming”.

    I’m just a lowly and worthless ant. However, I’d like to challenge you (and any other developers who go on to read the comments) about one thing: Put your money where your mouth is. Do you believe that we are currently entering an endless spiral of doom due to sales, bundles, etc.? Do your PR through other methods. I may be shooting myself in the foot since this pricing scheme isn’t spoken for yet, but take a look at Castle Doctrine, which has the rationale for its pricing here (http://thecastledoctrine.net/seedBlogs.php?action=display_post&post_id=jasonrohrer_1389812989_0&show_author=1&show_date=1).

    I haven’t bought that game due to the genre not being of my taste, but I certainly remember it for being unique and respectful to the buyers; I do enjoy supporting new releases, and don’t mind paying full price for whatever I feel is worth my time. It does pain my wallet a little when a game goes right into a mega sale (like Betrayer… which actually has the right name for its 80% sale of a $20 game right off the bat!) or a bundle (it’s hard to determine due to the quantity of games that were free for the taking or on Greenlight bundles before being released, but I believe that the most recent game that was bundled after release was the Tower, which went on IndieGala for peanuts and released on Early Access a month ago).

    If you are able to guarantee that I, as a customer, am not going to be burned by supporting your game and company (even as a lowly ant!), by promising you won’t bundle your game or you aren’t going to do an X% sale in a certain period, I’m certainly going to feel more comfortable in buying your game at full price. That’s my thought as a lowly ant. Even ants would like to be respected on that base level, though…

    1. Salient points. Jason Rohrer put his money where his mouth is, but he’s barely scratching a living from the Castle Doctrine as a result. There’s the dilemma. It’s a race to the bottom, and while you’re in the race, and at the front, you’re winning. Until the very end.

      1. Well, but that’s a solution that would need to be done by a majority of indie devs, right? Just like the majority right now is going on large sales and bundling to their heart’s content, if a majority did business like this the initial revenue would probably stagnate and be much lower than expected, but after the consumers got into their heads that the games they wanted would NOT follow the expected process, revenue would increase and maybe allow for less waste of resources on support (as you say) or channel them to good marketing campaigns that don’t hurt either the consumers or the developers. I guess it’s easier said than done… but it’s a proposal for a solution.

  122. You’re doing it all wrong!

    1.Dye your hair blue
    2.Fuck ‘journalists’
    3. lol yes hahahaha I said journalist, as in game journalist
    4.Profit

  123. Arguments about the validity and correctness of this article and its various points aside, the way so much of it centers around what amounts to a textual soundbite, “you’re worthless”, seems to me like it’s meant to sting first and make sense and have context to it later — whether that context is meant to educate anyone or just be something to run and hide behind when people understandably get indignant. Yeah, you clarify that you mean in sheer monetary value, but the intention is certainly to make the reader feel like they’re completely irrelevant with that phrasing, not as a customer but a person, until they read on and say ‘oh’ or get rightfully offended first, and it’s half a step from clickbait (if not all the way there, since it’s in the title). You want this to get around as the article that calls indie-game customers worthless — read “of no merit as people”, NOT “of no monetary value”, however incorrectly — so people will read it, and at the same time be able to say you don’t mean that kind of worthless. It’s transparent, it ought to be shameful, and it’s unfortunate that nobody has called you on it yet because it’s all been trolls or people who are pumping their fists in the air because you talked sass to The Man.

  124. This makes me want to go buy some of your games right now. I’m not being sarcastic, nor will I be calling support. You make the things I can’t make, things that make my life more enjoyable.

  125. But does a customer really care about being “worthless” when we can get 100 games for the price that we used to get 2-3 games for?

    And at the end of the day, there were bad games back then. It sucks to have wasted time on a game that wasn’t bad in which I could have spent playing another game in my Steam back catalog.

    The point to me is that its a waste of time. Back in the 90s if I bought a game that was bad, it was just straight out a bad game. It was a waste of money.

    In the end, why should we, the gamers care about our “fandom” of a game developer? Since when has fandom ever lead to something great? I can name more franchises which i would consider myself a fan of which has disappointed me than I can name the ones that wasn’t done so.

    We want games, devs make games and publishers supply them with the means to make them and take a share in the sales. “back when fans mattered to us” well.. its pretty fucking pretentious to think that we care if you think we matters. Because in the end, you the devs, matter to us. We don’t need to matter to you. We just want to play your games.

    And again, I would like to point out that big time games still sell at a full $40-60 + dlc and pre-order bullshit this is mainly focused on the indie scene and the indie scene never sold that many copies at $20 to begin with.

    The Indie scene will never compete with games like StarCraft, Diablo or Battlefield around launch and they shouldn’t even be trying to do that. I don’t see indie movie producers trying to beat Avatar on the market.

    Don’t think you don’t matter to us, you do and this “internet” that you talk about, you’re just as much a part of it as 4chan, tumblr or facebook is. Its what we choose to contribute that matters and in my humble opinion. I truly think we’re seeing it getting a bit bright each year. People are growing up, and I think we start to respect each other more and more as time passes and I think the “trolls” you are talking about, are no longer people trolling, but people that are in actual need of help.

    1. That’s not the way I see it.

      I agree that things haven’t change much, in that “back then” if you bought a bad game you wouldn’t play it, and if you bought a mediocre game you might stop in the middle. That said, I think that people’s tolerance levels are lower these days due to the deluge of games.

      In the old days indies needed a publisher, and that came with some advertising. These days it still happens, but many indie publishers (Capsule Computers for example) see bundles as the way to go.

  126. I really liked this post and agree for the most part the gaming community can be quite demanding and entitled. Unfortunately, I’m afraid you lost me a little reading your comment replies. If the point of your original article is that developers such as yourself can’t possibly survive in this “race to the bottom” indie game market selling games for a buck, that point is completely negated when you say over and over in the comments that in fact your company is doing quite well for itself and makes tons of money on its games. If the system is making your company so much money, why is it unsustainable? Couldn’t other developers simply follow your path to success in this market?

    Also, if you could just clarify what percentage of your customers actually ask for tech support that would be helpful. I have never in my life contacted a game developer for tech support on my computer. Not for a 60 dollar AAA, let alone something I bought in a bundle for 10 cents. And furthermore why do you not simply farm out these tech requests? This seems more financially viable than having content generators (game developers) working on simple tech support issues. I did a little math based on 500,000 units sold at an average of 50 cents each, a tech support request rate of .5%, an average response time of 15 minutes, and a cost of 20 dollars an hour for tech support. Using those figures your tech support cost would be 5% of sales. That doesn’t seem too bad to me compared to other markets. Perhaps my figures are way off, and if so please enlighten me. Thanks for your article and your responsiveness.

    1. I can field this one. 500,000 units sold? That’s one hell of a sales count. A more realistic count for an indie title would be in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands. But let’s say that you were right, and the game DID sell 500,000 copies at 50 cents each, generating $250k gross. To start with, let’s say that Steam takes 10 cents per sale. Let’s say the dev team consists of two programmers, two artists, and a designer, and each one has a yearly salary of $50k. Let’s say their office space costs them $2000 a month. Now let’s say it takes a year to design, develop, and release the game. The overhead for making and selling the game is $324,000…

      …so in other words, making this game and selling half a million units just COST THIS COMPANY $74,000. Even if we entirely eliminate the costs of the office rent and Steam’s cut, you’re still only breaking even. AND THAT’S ALL BEFORE YOU HAVE TO PAY TAXES. According to your own calculations, you’re figuring that tech support will cost the company $50,000. Where does that money come from, exactly? In order to just cover that cost to merely break even, they’d have to raise their game’s sales price by 20%, never mind what it would take to actually turn a profit.

      1. Thanks for your reply cd. To clarify, I should have made it clear that I was figuring 50 cents to not be what the game on average sold for but what they got from it. In other words, net sales not gross. My bad. I was thinking something like half of sale price of one dollar. Also, 500,000 would certainly be an unrealistic sales amount for many indie developers but I was ballparking based on sales figures for Puppy Games which has some pretty popular and high selling games. Lastly, I was talking only in reference to the cost of tech support as a percentage of a single game’s sales. For instance, I would assume that costs like office space and developer salaries for a year would be getting paid for by multiple game revenue streams. For instance, they may be working at two or three games at any given time. I would assume this is the case because most games I see on steam for a buck don’t look like they took a dedicated team of 4 people working full time a full year to put together. Keep in mind this is all coming from someone who is not a game developer just trying to get an idea because from the outside looking in it seems kind of ridiculous that developers inherently can’t make money under this ecosystem.

  127. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, especially in their own domain. So you have the right to say whatever you want here, whenever you want. Trolls can piss off for all I’m concerned.

    That being said, I can understand your frustration, especially since I am a musician who has barely made any money. Anyone who does well in fields of creation, such as music or video games, is an outlier. However, since most media has moved to digital, the idea of making little to no money for creating something you love has become something we have to deal with. You have to stand out against a large field of competitors who are doing the same exact thing, albeit with different results. You invest capital in something you’re driven about, but you have to expect little or no return. If you go into a field of creation and think you’ll do this for the money, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

    Let me give you an example:

    I have my own music project called The Lee of the Stone I started 10 years ago because I love writing music. I learned that in order to get publicity for my first few albums, the best way to get the word out was to give it away free. I don’t tour, so I wasn’t making money on that or merchandise. I put my first “for sale” album in 2009. I thought I’ll give it a little publicity and take out the money when I have enough to do something with. I didn’t take out my money for sales on that album and the one I released after it until earlier this year. My total earnings? $11.03. That was it: two albums and some streaming fees. In all those songs I wrote, I usually spend an average of 8 hours total on each one. I have spent about $3000 for equipment. If I was doing it for profit, I’d be a complete failure. I decided before my 2012 album “Ringdark” I was going to just place all my albums up to that point in a torrent and put it up on Mininova for free. In the two years since I’ve done that, I’ve had almost 75,000 downloads and not a cent for it. Do I get any gratification for it? Absolutely. I have to choose my battles.

    I am sorry you are bitter about your “average” customer. I did buy the Puppygames bundle from Steam and you know what? I love every single one of those games. I have even went and bought the soundtracks for those games, thus also supporting the musicians. I have even bought the PS3 of “Titan Attacks” because I like your stuff so much and wanted it on the PS3. My 5 year old loves it too. If you put out apps, I would buy those too.

    Dealing with your fans is a lot like being a school teacher: you’re not going to get through to most of them, but there may be a few who really get what you do and enjoy it. You need to embrace THOSE fans, not the ones who constantly bitch. I myself have wrote Puppygames before, but that’s just every time Steam updates, it fucks up the ability to play your games at first.

    1. But its not about Puppy games….

      Its about the current state of the industry, and where its current course is heading.

    2. The problem is that that games take a lot more work (and money) to create than many art forms. Creating games purely as a hobby isn’t something that most people could do, because it’s multidisciplinary. If you want to create music and have the talent, you can, if you want to draw and have a talent for it, you can, but if you want to make a game you need art, music and programming (and possibly writing), something which is hard for one person to excel at, so you either need to pay for some parts of do it as a group, and it becomes more of a job than a hobby. Then you work for years on the game because you’re only doing it part time and games take a lot of time to make. And, as mentioned in the blog, games require pre-sales support, which no other art form requires.

  128. Hi Cas, sorry by the textwall…

    I wanna congratulate you by writing this piece, it’s funny and pretty informative. Got here because some friend shared this on facebook, I’m just another indie with a game to be released some time on the future, so when I could get some information to tackle a strategy based on some experience (as yours) I’m used to debate, specially if it deals with a problem that affects not just the author but the indie market at all. I just hope in don’t being too much nosey here.

    First, it’s clear on your post that you are a lot tired from this “said PR”, I don’t know your studio on deep, but doesn’t looks like it’s a huge company… Why I’m saying this? Because I think that this is a common mistake from “US” indies. Some of us are trying to guide our PR as “Blizzard or EA” does, but, (as any indie) we don’t have a PR department with lots of atendees (some from a third party company on India or China) hired to do this job.

    My “theory” is that WE DON’T NEED TO ACT as one, but IF WE DO, we can’t get too much personal about trolls and the Internet. The PR Departments on these companies WORKS simply because the people working on then doesn’t have any “deeper relationship” with the games or companies at all. To them, is just a daily job/task: “watch the forums/mails be polite and try to contour”, there is no “emotional charge” and because this it occurs without this PR atendee getting any ulcer,getting angry, or sad.

    On the other hand, you can look at these “answers” to this personal essay…

    While I don’t know how much “troll unseen comments” you got, I bet they were a lot less than the ones you could be getting at other places. Unfortunatelly I can just estimate (based on my theory), but IF you confirm this, maybe this can be a good sign that this theory is not as crazy as it looks.

    Ask yourself: “Why this post worked so well?”, “Why my game PR could not be alike it?”.

    Sun Tzu says that “terrain” is an important factor to win any battle, did you already saw Blizzard trying to deal with a troll outside their forums? ;)

    Also, here I didn’t saw “a company” talking, I’ve seen a person, I felt “contact” and until some “empaty”.

    More you get distance from the standard person’s state, more interesting you become as “troll target”, Mr. Fish is a good example, most trolls that beats you without any reason are just attention whores as you should know, and nobody get any attention by killing an ant, but it’s a completelly different situation when they are “daring” enough to kick a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s paw.

    I think that we/you are giving up from your potential fans too soon, exactly by how the STEAM’s factor made us watch them (a 30 cents sale) and how consumers are watching us (a “company” name on a database), well, something is wrong and I’m happy that people are noticing and with some luck and effort will be better start doing something regarding this.

    Ow, and about market…

    I’m from Brazil! Why the heck I gave attention to your post on an unknowm language? Expent time commenting?
    Answer: Because you did offered something relevant to me! ;)

    I think the same can be made with games. We don’t need be on Steam, “we don’t need be priced” at 0,30. :D

    I hope this give you some ideas!

    Best wishes man! Cheers!

  129. *slow clap
    I just want to say I’m impressed that in contrast to the tone of your article, you have done an admirable job in the comments being civil (in spite of the sheer volume of vitrol I’m sure you’ve had to remove) and giving well reasoned responses. You’re doing the complete opposite of what any sane blog post would do :P

    I do appreciate the continued conversation though. Being a programmer but not in the games industry (even though I’ve considered jumpinga few times), it’s interesting to see what it looks like on the other side of the wall.

    1. Ah, it’s probably because in reality the blog post was written in a cold and calculating way, with none of the emotion apparent in the text. I’m actually perfectly normal and reasonable. The post was written the way it was for a specific effect, which it has achieved. I feel a bit mean doing it, to be honest. Most of the internet has just played into my hands and it’s made me feel a little dirty.

  130. I find this to be a pretty great opportunity to say something to all game makers that could posibly be reading this:

    Dear indie devs, and pretty much anyone who works on game development, regardless of the company size, please consider bringing your games to other markets outside of the US, Europe and Japan. I know that’s where the money is, and I know it’s risky, specially given the times we live in, but there is a lot to be gained here in the so called “third world countries”, and I am confident you’ll receive a more than warm welcome, at least here in Latin America, for we too love games, yet all we recieve is the second hand products that no one else wants or are otherwise inferior services with no support at all.
    Contrary to what many may belive, we are NOT all pirates, we HAVE money and we are willing to spend it on good games, and we HAVE an infrastructures that can support game development, the gaming market might be small, but it’s there, and it’s your games that could make it big, and we will welcome you and thank you for doing so.
    Even local developers are making games for US audiences and that really pisses me off so much, not because of nationalism, I have no quarrel with any country and I know they do it to play it “safe”, but the idea of simply missing the chance to develop your own market because you want to play with the “big boys” is not only stupid from a marketing point of view, it’s downright dangerous, you CAN’T compete with monster-like comapnies unless you are big enough yourself, you are just gonna get swallowed and turned into another subsidiary for EA before you get to make anything that’s worth remembering, and worse, before you make anything that makes you happy as a developer.
    I’m no expert myself yet I can tell that what I say is pretty idealistic, but still, I think it is a risk worth taking, or I wouldn’t be taking it myslef with my career plan, as an aspiring game designer.

    That’s all, sorry, I feel that if I proofread for spelling mistakes I might regret saying something and end up censoring myself, so yeah… hope it’s readable.
    And wish you guys luck.

  131. The reason people wont pay more than $1-$10 for your games is because your games arent worth any more than that. It’s not the customer who is worthless to you, it’s your product that is worthless to the customers.

    If your customers are worthless to you since you are selling games for $1, then how about giving them something they are willing to pay $50 for like other big developers? Game development operates exponentially. Just because you dont have the resources to develop the next Frostbite engine doesnt mean you should expect people to pay proportionally less for a lesser technology platform. People will pay $50 to play the next battlefield, but they wont pay $25 to play a game they feel is half as good as Battlefield.

    1. Basically… you’re wrong. Have a read through the comments for a few facts and figures and reformulate your thoughts on it.

  132. Think of it like this; I’m a graphics designer. I can render a character from the movie Avatar from scratch. I could produce a 10 minute short film of avatar that would take me 2 years to complete. Avatar has grossed over a billion dollars. Am I entitled to 1/10th of that projected revenue for a film that is 1/10 as long? Of course not, because people expect a feature length film. If they cant have 2 hours of material to watch then suddenly their time goes from being worth $16 to being worth $0.00016 dollars. It’s the same with game development. You cant make some cute side-scroller that may have taken a year of your life and thousands of dollars in devkits and then expect a proportional return on your investment. A video game is either worth $50 or it’s worth $0. If you cant ship a $50 title then dont even bother.

    1. This binary world view is naive and simplistic. It’s not like that. A video game is worth what you can get for it, and what you can get for it is dictated by a multitude of factors, most of which have nothing to do with the game itself (See: Goat Simulator, The WarZ, countless other mediocre titles that have made a fortune but been utterly dross)

  133. “Firstly, gamers aren’t very nice people. Yes, you. You are not a very nice person. Statistically speaking. By which I mean, independent game developers get more nasty shit from gamers than they get praise. Right now you are preparing to lecture me about how I talk to customers, or how I deserve to be broke and unsucessful. If you’re feeling particularly sanctimonious you’ll tell me you’re never going to buy any of our games again. If you’re especially spiteful you’ll also tell me that you were about to buy one of our games (for a dollar! ho ho), but now you’re not going to.”

    Hi,

    You’re an idiot for writing this blog. A suicidal one no less; because this missive is nothing short of career suicide. You sir, are no Phil Fish (he’s just another fool who spent too much time in the limelight. Then froze like a deer in headlights).

    Your missive is devoid of meaning, structure and signs of being written by an intelligent lifeform; let alone a game developer (granted, some aren’t intelligent to begin with; so there is that).

    Lumping anti-social misfits into the category that is “gamers”, is foolish and without merit. Not all gamers are assholes. Maybe only 99.9% of them. So why lump the other .1% in there? That’s exactly how racism starts.

    Thanks for reading.

    Yours Truly

    - thatoneguywhojusthelpedkillyourcareer

    1. I’m not sure how to take this post. Derek has certainly committed career suicide many times over the years, and he’s still at it. I’m not sure whether this post is meant to say “don’t do as I do”, is trying to get a free ride on the publicity of this blog post, or is just enjoying his trolling self.

  134. The industry is huge, but the customers don’t have a whole lot money on average (but then they are more willing to spend it on many gadgety things than the average well-earning people). I think 99% of the time spend discussing on the internet is worthless or worse than that. It’s not even normal conversation, but just low-capacity brain waste, even if it may seem otherwise, or is constructive on a limited scale (because someone suddenly discovered a common sense solution that others were taking for granted before him). But regarding games, I don’t like playing them these days. Even some really big and complicated games. After a few ours I feel I have gotten everything out of them or I’m just not interested anymore. Games are supposed to be all about fun and good times, and the more games the better, but once you’ve seen through them, it seems there is not much to be got out of them compared to doing almost anything else. And that’s why it’s really rare for me to be both spending money (I really can’t, to be honest) and to be committed.
    Games are a bit like advertising or TV in that way. Everything in it is supposed to be worth my time, and in an abstract way maybe some of it is. But it’s just as good not to care.

  135. You guys have balls and I salute you for it. To hell with the mob, most people are idiots. Yeah, it get’s me in a lot of shit too, but frankly people need to hear how it really is.

    I only one one of your games. Revenge of the Titans. I saw it on a humble bundle sale along with a few other games that looked interesting. I think I paid $50 for the bundle. 5$ to Humble Bundle and the rest split amongst the game devs. I had never played any of the games before, so I had no idea how much each game was truly worth. RotT was hands down the best game of the lot and I got a lot of play time out of it.

    I do see what you guys are having to deal with, though before this blog post I’d not really thought about it. Good on you for saying what needed to be said.

  136. I had absolutely no idea that Puppygames as a company or any of its individual games existed until I saw this entry reported on via PCGamesN.

    Thank you for having the integrity and courage to realise and write this entry. I’d really like to say more, to get into the particulars on why I’m glad you wrote this entry, but I simply don’t have the time at the moment and it seems to me that some meaningful support, even if in a small note, is important. Keep your head up.

    And as an aside…see about getting some of your titles on GOG. The rest of the world may be in love with Valve’s Steam but I’m anything but -actually a lot of people are anything but- and only use Steam to play (1) the titles I purchased years ago and (2) multiplayer titles like Killing Floor with my girlfriend. Once GOG gets Galaxy up and running I’m hoping to rectify (2) and am eager to repurchase any title on GOG to rectify (1). Here’s to hoping for Quake, eh?

  137. Hi, i think you’re largely right about the things you point out in your post, but i find it a bit silly and dishonest when you kinda “call yourself out” of the whole scenario saying that your company is successful and you’re doing good etc. every time someone tries to say that maybe it’s your games’ fault if things are like that.
    All the things you said only apply to devs who make generic games like yours, which are hard to sell in an overcrowded market and therefore they only become interesting for the consumer when they have a ridicolously low price. And i don’t say this to bash you, i enjoyed a couple of your projects but they’re just not original enough to justify a “real price tag” from my point of view.
    In the indie games market there’s a lot of competition nowadays so everybody has to rely on something to make their product appealing, of course when the games are not attractive enough on their own the only thing you can do to lure customers in is lower the price.
    But when you do things right and make your game appealing thanks to its game design, the art style or whatever, then you don’t need to have 90% discount sales to move some copies of it. Maybe you’ll say that they’re all exceptions, but there are dozens of successful games/companies out there which made quite good money from their games before putting them into bundles or discounting them so heavily. A lot of people already mentioned Super meat boy, Binding of Isaac, Terraria, Shovel Knight, Minecraft and Dust, and i’d like to add Frozen Synapse, FTL (to name two games without a really cool artstyle which sold on the strength of their designs), OlliOlli, Hotline Miami, Hammerwatch, Stealth Bastard, Mutant Mudds, Spelunky, Steamworld Dig, Risk of rain, Starbound, Mercenary Kings, Retro City Rampage, Dungeons of Dredmor, VVVVVV, Recettear….there are a lot of them, too many to dismiss them as “glitches in the system”. The fact is great games can still be sold at the price their creators think it’s fair, good/mediocre/bad games need to be dirt cheap to catch the customers’ attention, and that is because there’s too many of them so their value keeps going down and down at the consumers’ eyes.
    You’ll probably just answer me something like “wtf are you saying, our games are not generic and i swim in money even if we only made the news because we’re broke” but i thought it was worth a shot.
    Oh, and sorry if this comment contains some errors, english isn’t my native language!

    1. It’s really a response to people that like to tell us we’re doing everything wrong and that our games are shitty… when actually the post is not about us, or our games, but about the industry. Everyone. Not us. We’re actually not a great example to whom the post describes, on the whole.

  138. Stop giving support to every single person. Take note of bugs and fix them, but don’t waste your time with tech support. Concentrate on making a game that people will pay full price for instead. DayZ is pretty much broken and their forum is full of complaints, and yet it is constantly in the top 5 Steam sellers. Steam itself has shit support and it is still incredibly popular.

    1. Our games have been around so long now there aren’t actually any bugs in them any more… all that’s left is weird shit with user systems, and it’s a royal pain, as they’re usually fucked in ingenious ways.

  139. You’ve made some good points. I’m not sure the emotionally charged style was necessary, but I can understand that it may be an emotional topic. I thought the main idea that a $1 customer isn’t worth much (and, really a $1 game isn’t worth much) does definitely lend itself to the foundation of a toxic relationship between the player and the creator.
    Anyway, one solution I was thinking about was trying to increase the value of a player, through other means than just them buying the game. A few examples:
    – Many games have (free) modding communities that breathe an exponential amount of life back into a game. Speaking from my own experience, I sometimes completely ignore modded content, but for some games (Minecraft, Left 4 Dead 2, Fallout 3) I’ve without a doubt derived at least 10X more playtime and enjoyment via community projects.
    - Having a community in and of itself can create value. A forum, chat room, subreddit, or server group can make people feel like they are included in something, and make them want to play the game more
    - You mentioned support costs. Some of your community may be willing to help others resolve problems. If a $20 dollar game is $19 worth of support, then a customer who pays $1 and then helps just ONE person goes back to being worth $20, do they not? And realistically, those posts will help more than one person.

    I prefer to read your essay and extrapolate the following: “Not all customers are valuable.” I think you’d agree that a game without any players could just as easily be in the imagination of the developer than on a computer, so we know that some customers are needed. So, yes, don’t waste too much time/money on the trolls (hate that term), or the people who are money sinks of support, etc. If possible, send them to a community that can help them. If not, apologize (maybe give their money back or something, if it’s only $1, who cares?) and go about your way.

    But you can’t succeed if you throw the baby out with the bathwater. For every 12 year old troll, there’s a Win32 dev who can support your customers. For every script kiddy trying to DOS your server, there’s an art student with a copy of Maya and an obsession with detail. Don’t miss the opportunity to turn your game into something way bigger by dismissing all players as worthless.

    1. It’s worse than that. “Not all customers are valuable” is a very positive spin on the article’s basic gist. The reality is, “Nearly all customers are worth 10 cents each.”

  140. computer gaming changed dramatically…..

    http://www.retrodrome.net/index.php/articles/80-interviews/100-an-interview-with-legendary-game-designer-al-lowe

    Retrodrome – Do you think having Kickstarter back in the days would have made any difference for smaller developers to make a game?

    Al Lowe – Gosh, I don’t know. In the 80′s, it really was pretty simple to put out a game. There was a huge demand, particuarly on PC’s, and one of the great brilliant moves that Ken Williams of Sierra made was to focus on doing games for IBM compatible computers. There were a lot of companies doing games for Commodore 64 or the console systems, Nintendo and whatever else, but there weren’t a lot of people doing PC games. But it turns out that because PCs were very expensive, the people who owned them had money to buy games! So yeah, when you stop and think about it you go “Wait, the guy that scraped together $188 to buy a Commodore 64, how many games is he gonna pay for?” versus the guy who dropped $5,000 on an IBM computer. I mean, the first EGA cards we bought were $1,000 for a 16 color card! And $1,000 was more money back then, too.

    But anyway, back then it was pretty simple. We could sell more games than we could produce. There were no tools to make games, it was difficult to do and nowadays with flash and all the other wonderful tools that are available, it’s a lot easier and the threshold to get in is easier. The problem is that there’s so much product out there that it’s difficult to get your head above the surface of all this sludge that’s floating around. I mean when there’s a million apps on the app store, you know 900,000 of them aren’t really any good. (laughs).

    So I guess what I’m really trying to say is that today, the challenge is getting heard and back then the challenge was to actually create the games.

  141. Personally I’ve never responded to a game I bought for under ten dollars not working with anything but a shrug and a deletion. These things happen when you’re bargain hunting.

  142. Do you actually think it is Steams fault? I would have figured the mobile market and Facebook are what killed the value of games. They set an expectation for free games with cheap (theoretically avoidable but in practice non avoidable) in app purchases.

    I only started paying less for games on steam once the attention put towards those games seemed to wane. When more money went into product planning and marketing than actual effort.

    I own most of your games, I purchased Revenge of the Titans very shortly after it existed. I do find it a shame that you think of people based on their monetary value to you but as a business I understand why you do.

    Not much else to say I guess, just not feeling like steam hit the extremes it has (even though its always been known for sales) until after the mobile market butchered value.

    1. I think it’s Steam and bundles for the core gamers. Core gamers don’t think much of Facebook or mobile gaming, so that’s not a huge influence. Being able to buy AAA titles for $5 does change expectations though.

  143. I already commented, and thanked you for writing this, not because I agree, but for your honesty. I just want to add this exercise, to get some perspective.

    I’m 35 years old. Let’s say I’ll live up to be 75. If I play 8 hours per day (more than a full time job) until I die, that’s over 100,000 hours of gameplay. My Steam libray has almost 1000 games, I’m not even counting consoles and mobile. Let’s average this to 100 hours of gameplay per title in my CURRENT current library.

    You could all LITERALLY stop making games for the rest of my lifetime, and I would still be playing games. Add to this the amount of DAILY game releases worldwide, accessible at the click of a button.

    What does this say about your position in the industry? What are the consequences? Please be honest. If you take away the trolling, the “entitled” customers, would that solve everything? If you get rid of Steam, how will indies publish?

  144. evidently your games are worthless too, if people won’t pay more than a dollar for them.

    will you start scrubbing floors now that your studio is out of cash?

      1. Me, too! I also watered carpets and cleaned 40 toilets and urinals a night until it was 3:30 in the morning and time for lunch!

        This is not mockery. I actually did do all of those things for a living, and I am actually strangely excited that you also scrubbed floors for a living.

    1. Comments like these are particularly frustrating because they seem, not to represent the vocal minority as we’re told to believe, but more and more the expression of the average customer. (And here I don’t even say ‘player’ or ‘gamer’ as, truly, I view both as two separate groups but that’s another story for another day.) What’s demonstrated here isn’t the angst of frustrated gamers who have seen drops in quality and creative gameplay as graphics get better, it’s the puerile snipping of people lacking the maturity to handle serious conversations and no matter the amount of colourful language used.

      It’s one thing to comment on the nature of people, that it’s smarter to look for a given thing on sale whenever possible and how the prevalence of fire sales is making development problematic. It’s another thing to talk about the stark reality of games being released buggier, with fewer and fewer demos and the prevalence of DLC completing or filling out titles, how people don’t want to pay full price for what’s likely to be a buggy or unfinished (e.g. DLC or some other sort of demonstration of perpetual development, akin to Diablo III) and that is the elephant in the room. Getting into both of these things are important and it needs to happen to move video games forward again: in the days of the Atari when devs had no rights they were ‘just toys’, then they moved into a mature situation and now we have heavy-handed publishers forcing games into unfortunate mould after broken mould. In some real way we’re back where we started.

      And the thing is I care about games as a gamer, as someone who cares about the art and craft of video games, the people that play them and what they can do as both entertainment and art. In order for video games to be better, for the industry to be better, people need to be held accountable and that includes the people that just play the games. It’s possible to play games wrong, it’s possible to be the wrong audience and, therefore, criticise things incorrectly for myriad connected reasons, and it’s possible to be a straight-fuck asshat that makes people involved in any aspect of video games all the worse for being involved in video games.

      All of this is less a statement of defence for the OP and much more a statement of offence toward the disturbing portion of people that respond like you, ‘Anonymous’, who demonstrate they have no business participating in the conversation. And this is not a stretch, assumption or leap of logic. Truth be told, the less people like this there are the sooner the video game industry can get back to growing again.

  145. Perhaps you should try switching to console development. And I don’t mean just porting your current games to console, I mean any new games you make, make exclusively for consoles, and not even bother with the PC community anymore. I feel that the PC game market is heading for a market crash soon. Your rant pretty much highlights all the current problems with the PC game market. And while prices for games on PC have rapidly spiraled downwards, the price of games on console are increasing.

    1. I think the very same thing is imminent in the console market… so that’s probably not an escape.

      What we’re looking at right now is free to play gaming. This horrifies many vocal internet gamers but bean counters rub their hands together with glee at the prospect, because vocal internet gamers aren’t actually people who pay money for things. Instead of having jobs, or possibly even playing games, vocal internet gamers rant about developers making free games for them. Meanwhile, rich gamers who have jobs and play games to relax love them.

  146. I’m really without words. Not because of offense but how…exact… everything was in this blog. I’ve always had a problem with the customer service industry as a whole. Mainly because of the way employees are treated and every customer being an entitled little shit. But I noticed (especially with Phil) that people are especially cruel in the video games industry. Be it online or reviews or whatever. Many of whom are young adults or teens who have not realized how rage inducing their comments are.

    Not exactly by what they say but how ignorant the whole lot of them are. It was a breath of fresh air and a reinforcement to what I have believed all along with customer service.

  147. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog post, I love stuff like this showing you what it’s really like inside the industry. Polygon do some good stuff like this too, just with less use of the word “cunt” which is a shame, as it’s a great word :)

    You touched on the PC side of things, but I’d be interested to find out if you’re having any more luck on the PlayStation side of things with Titan Attacks?

    1. I do love slipping in the odd cunt here and there, mostly because it horrifies Americans and feminists-without-a-cause and I’ve got a shameful self-indulgent streak which compels me to upset the weak of mind. I will grow up one day, possibly in the next 40 years or so.

      Playstation Titan Attacks has done modestly well considering. Curve hugely underestimated how complex our games actually are and blew their entire development budget for porting all four of our games on just Titan Attacks. I don’t expect we’ll pay off the advance any time in the next few years.

      1. Well I hope the PlayStation side of things improves, I do like the way Curve tries to bring the games to all the PS platforms. While I doubt you guys are keen on this approach, it’s great from a customer point of view. The cross buy promotions certainly help sway me as I recently purchased a PS4 to go with my Vita (CounterSpy is another game I’ll be buying because of the cross buy with the PS4 and Vita version).

        I hope you guys find some more funding to keep plugging away, I’ll be buying Titan Attacks on the PSN soon, I hope more do the same.

  148. I didn’t read all the comments (obviously) and even gave up on reading just the ones by Cas. But here’s my hopefully-encouraging 2c worth:

    Revenge of the Titans is worth $20. Now, I wouldn’t buy it for $20, and I didn’t buy it for $20. In fact, even if I hadn’t gotten it yet, even now I probably would pay $10 at best for it. This is not because it isn’t worth $20. It’s because I can get other or more things for $20, and I can only make a few $20 just-for-fun purchases in a given span of time. When I bought the game, what’s more, I was in college. I probably wouldn’t even have risked more than $5 then, given how tight money is for American college students trying not to throw their parents into as big a mound of debt as they’re throwing themselves into for having the lack of foresight to go to a private university instead of a state one. (Ah well, I met a girl there, so it worked out.)

    My point is, the fact that I would be unlikely to pay $20 for RotT is not your fault. It is not because it is only worth $5, because it’s a fantastic game worth at least as much as the bad games that used to be on sale in the bin for $20. Cas knows this, I think. It was probably part of the point he/you were making. I’m just shocked at how many people blame the problem on games not being worth the release-day, non-sale asking price. Shocked, I tell you.

    And a little sad. Do you realize how sad it is that we talk about games not being worth $20? That that’s expensive? Again: bargain bin was $10-20 for games that had been out a long time or were just not that great or maybe, if I was lucky (and the developers weren’t), got screwed by the publisher’s marketing and were actually pretty good. $50 was a good game from a known publisher, $40 from an unknown. $20 was an old or bad game. What’s an old game now? 30 cents in a Humble Bundle. I bought RotT in a Humble Bundle for somewhere from $5 to $10, and I don’t regret it. But neither did the game deserve that pittance, hypocritical as I am for not re-buying it at full price.

    I think the fact that so many people in this thread are talking about needing to make sure the game was worth $20 — as if that was a summit to be attained! — is terrifying and depressing. I think my tactical RPG will be worth $15-20 when it comes out, I’ll try to sell it for $10-15, and people will act just like me and get it for 30c in a Humble Bundle (if I’m lucky enough to get picked for one).

    I really liked Revenge of the Titans. Even the stuff I hated about it (I hate not seeing the numbers of what I’m buying and having early-game mistakes show up hours later) didn’t stop me from beating and enjoying it. I should probably buy the rest of the games at some point. I should probably pay more than 30c for them. I probably won’t, but I should.

    Your rant was bitter in places and worried me a little, but it was worth the read. I hope you keep making games for me, even though I’m part of the problem.

    (Also: wasn’t Java supposed to make these support problems go away? I drown in a pool of broken promise tears.)

    1. It may be worth noting that my standard for “worth $20″ is that I wouldn’t feel ripped off if I had paid $20 for it. Heck, I didn’t feel ripped off paying $40 for Custom Robo, but if you tried selling that now, people would say they should try harder to make it worth $25, even though it was probably worth at least $60.

    2. Java is actually a total godsend. Java just works, period, with the exception of Mac OS 10.6 where it’s a bit buggered.

      What we really have a problem with is OpenGL drivers, and nothing else. Actually just Intel OpenGL drivers. Fuck Intel. Really. Fuck Intel.

      1. Gaslamp Games recently announced their upcoming Clockwork Empires wouldn’t support certain common Intel cards. (3000 and 4000?) Which is sad, cause my new laptop has one of those. I think you advised me on another forum to cause my old laptop with the Intel 945G or whatever to meet an accidental bucket of water, so it’s sad that even my new one will have trouble with some games. I mostly use my desktop for gaming anyway though.

        Sorry, that was a tangent. I’m glad to hear that Java probably will work without too much trouble. So far I’ve only tried it on Mac a couple times, and sure enough, the only problem I had was that I’d hard coded some backslashes into the file stuff. Oops.

    3. I’m not really sure why you keep insisting that Revenge of the Titans is worth $20 when you plainly state that you wouldn’t pay $20 for it. If customers are unwilling to pay $20, the product is not worth $20. It’s that simple.

      As for your bargain bin reference, that’s not the same situation at all. For one, they contained physical products. Physical products will always be valued more than digital ones and in the case of videogames, it is somewhat justified because of the costs associated with producing physical goods (manufacturing, distribution, storage). With the rise of digital distribution, those costs have disappeared. Secondly, bargain bin games weren’t all $20. Most of them were $5-$15.

      If you want to sell your game for $20, you need to convince people that it is worth $20. Putting it in a bundle isn’t going to accomplish that. Making a unique and high-quality game that caters to an established but under-served audience? That’s far more likely to be successful. For example, Klei just launched Early Access for their new turn-based stealth game, Invisible Inc. It’s currently priced at $16 (20% discount from $20) and is in the top 10 sellers on Steam. Granted, not all indie developers have access to the same resources or talent as Klei. However, consumers don’t know or care about that. They only care about the product you are trying to sell to them and how it compares to other products on the market. If I had to choose between Invisible Inc at $20 or Revenge of the Titans at $20, Invisible Inc would win every time because it looks like a more interesting and higher-quality product.

      1. I think the real problem is that Revenge of the Titans _was_ worth 20$ just a short while ago. Back before we’ve all had our market expectations adjusted by the inevitability of Steam sales and discount bundles. Now when I consider how to spend my same 20$ I know that I just have to be patient and one of these outlets will give me all the same games I currently want, but at 25-30% of their listed price. It means I don’t get everything the day it releases, but since I’m not rolling in dough (oops, I make games for a living), that’s the tradeoff I, and a lot of other people, regularly make.

        Another factor that has really changed the market recently is that digital distribution removes the production costs that used to suppress publisher ability to flood the market with low cost back catalog items. When most people were buying games from a store in a box, it took a significant expense to produce those boxes, and stores only had room for a set amount. This is why you weren’t seeing Assassin’s Creed 1-3 in the store while AC 5 was on the shelf. Now, however, a company can simply take every title they have the rights to, and drop it onto Steam for a fraction of its original price. Since they have long since dealt with their production costs, this is just ‘free money’ to the publisher but devalues the market as a whole.

        Figure we’ve all got a relatively fixed amount of money available to spend on games at any given time. Right now the market is flooded with boatloads of material that would have passed out of availability before. It has increased the potential earning tail for old titles (you can sell them cheaply for longer), but also means that all the new games are competing for market share against those old titles as well, so the average price drops and their short-term earnings drop with it.

        Publishers harvesting their fat back catalogs may be ok there, but smaller devs are hammered by this. Your dev costs are all up front, and you can’t sit around and wait for years and years hoping to recoup them. Plus any sort of royalty or performance payment arrangement with a publisher is generally tied to short term results (first 1-3 months sales figures), and the further you get away from your initial payment the harder it becomes to actually acquire any portion of royalties that might be owed to you.

        The market is in flux at the moment, and small – mid sized developers are struggling hard to figure out how to survive in it. If they can’t, then we’ll all lose a whole bunch of cool games because of it.

  149. I just want to say I really like your game Ultratron. I saw trailers for it, bought it the day it came out, and subsequently got the 7th place global high score right before you guys submitted a balance patch and reset the leaderboards (lol). I still play it occasionally and was definitely worth the full price I paid for it.

    I also really appreciate the light you put onto this PR situation. As a possible future indie developer (assuming I can get my life together and start finding actual time to make games), this is definitely something I should be aware of.

  150. Omfg no sh1t sherlock! Now fix all these game breaking bugs that means the end of my personal little fucking universe. Or I shall continue to download all your games through torrents until I suffocate from boredom!

    (•_•)

    ( •_•)>⌐■-■

    (⌐■_■)

    Deal with it~

    -Sorry mate, I couldn’t contain myself/- This is a nice article, but only shows your truth. I do agree with some parts of this, but we don’t need, as an industry, more shadowy clouds to blur people’s mind and make them think for the worst (although I know this is a cry out of disappointment for the gaming community).
    Yes, yes, I might sound like the “mentor” you said at your post, but I do believe otherwise for the gamers. Kickstarter is here, VR is on the corner and there are many bright examples of people who play games, even in e-sports.

    I could write for this matter all day – at the end there is only one truth:

    You just nailed a nice public advertise, in a way that none other would dare to do :) Enjoy people from Kotaku , Reddit and other communities getting familiar with your company, I wish I would had done this first.

    All out /jealous,
    *Chedruid*

  151. One thing you mention is that things like steam and google apps have devalued games, which I do agree with to a point. However they are also a life line as without those platforms indie games would probably not exist in the way they do today.

    You mentioned 2000s, lets go back to 1990s. With £3 I could go out and buy a commodore 64 magazine and get some demos of mainstream games and get anywhere from 3-10 full indie games. These were games made by people in their bedrooms or in a small office etc, and were like the humble bundle of their day. However after commodores and spectrums died out and the amigas which followed and consoles came into play average game prices went up from about £3-8 to about £20-40 and you could only buy them if they were published. So during this period (after magazine bundles and before Steam/app stores) it was VERY difficult to develop and shift any sort of indie game as there was just no way to get it to the people. Sure you could put it on the internet or use one of the lesser known stores, but it was a very small audience, also there were fewer games out as not as many people knew how to make games nor spent the time to make them.

    If we fast forward a bit then, and steam starts selling indie games, the whole indie/bedroom coder option opens back up again, and plenty of people jumped on that bandwagon. So if it wasn’t for steam and the app stores we would not have indie companies like yourself even existing, as it would just be too difficult to handle the marketing, publishing and all stuff that you need to do to get a finished game sold. So although you do say that steam etc hawk lots of tat, part of the reason is because its the only place that tat can go, and most of that tat is made by people in your sort of situation, where they make a game they want, its not a mainstream success so they go to make another one to get some more money and the cycle continues.

    Now one other thing to touch upon, which is the value of games. Yes back a decade or so ago majority of games sold for $20, and yes a lot get sold on humble bundles and steam at discount prices. Hell for some games I will just wait for them to go onto sale before I buy them, however this is mainly because the game is not something I REALLY want and would probably never purchase anyway. As there is 0 correlation between time and effort put into making a game and its eventual selling price/profit, you could spend YEARS making a game you REALLY like, but if no one else likes it then you ain’t gonna make any money. So you have to ask yourself do you want to continue making games you want to make, which appeal to smaller audiences or make games more mainstream that others would like even if you don’t enjoy making it? as if this is a job and your income then liking your job is a bonus not a requirement.

    Anyway back to the point about price, so you say that you end up selling your games for $1, and I do not doubt that, and I agree once the bundles, and steam etc take their cut you may as well have just given it away. HOWEVER one major thing to think about here is, why do you NEED to sell your game for that price? Surely if you game is great it will sell itself for $10-20, look at minecraft (which I dislike) as an example, guy half assed it, sold it as quickly as he could and has never really discounted it or put it in a bundle, yet he is swimming in money. That is because the game is good (by most peoples standards) and can be sold at full price without needing it to be discounted to fly off the shelves. This is also why AAA games do not discount for ages, as they have no problems selling their wares (generally because of marketing campaigns) however *most* (and not all) discounted indie games are at that price because no one will buy them otherwise, and that is often because they are not games we will see ourselves playing, its more of a punt. Like being on holiday and buying a fridge magnet because you feel you should buy a souvenir, not because you really want it. So I would not really put the blame for this upon steam and app stores (although they do share some of the blame) but put the blame on developers like yourself who can only sell their games to people if they are super discounted, who seem to think that just because they made a game we all have to buy it, as we don’t, and in most cases won’t unless its a punt purchase, and those are reserved for games which we would have never bought in the first place, never mind at full price.

    Finally you are 100% right about support, customers are awful vicious beings who don’t care about you and just want to be right and have their stuff working. Granted in some cases it is your responsibility to make sure your product works, but you can only go so far, so I agree that supporting the community is a nightmare.

    Finally I just want to say that my points above are trying to be objective not hurtful or insulting, as I know full well how much time and effort goes into making a game, and supporting people etc, but at the same time just because you made something does not mean it will sell well.

  152. I read the article yesterday and decided to read some comments today. With so many people focused on the whole “$20″ thing I thought maybe I missed something and had to re-read it. Either I’m ignorant or a $20 price-point is not the point of this. Well … I’m probably still ignorant in one way or another but I’m still confident this is about how “dangerous” responding to entitled assholes on the internet is as far as PR is concerned. Responding only seems to open the floodgates and, if there’s anything that people believe, it’s never the customers fault.

    I keep wanting to ramble on about examples I’ve seen over and over again that reinforce what you’re talking about, Cas, but … well I don’t think I would be adding to the conversation at all. I just agreeing with you in many, many more words. This was a very good read.

    Interestingly, when I pay less for a game I’m less inclined to play it. That said, time is more expensive to me these days than dollars are. I just don’t have much time for games anymore. I find myself more willing to pay developers what they deserve but just can’t bring myself to spend money on games I honestly won’t end up playing, whatever the cost of that game is.

  153. Guys I think that it is brilliant that you are both surfacing realities which are taboo and giving yourselves good PR as well. I for one had not heard of you or your games until reading about this blog post but they look great so I will buy them and I hope others do to so you can continue your great work.

  154. Just wanted to say that this was a well written post (with some masterful manipulation) and looking at all the traffic it’s generated seems to have done it’s job. I don’t think I would be brave enough to do the same so bravo.
    Just reading all the negative comments (of the ones you put through) is making me feel bummed and it’s not even targeted at me. Not looking forward to having to deal with that on my site when I release my game.

    Keep on carrying on.

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