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Are sales bad for games?

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Some of you may know of the game Cardinal Quest (a fast paced rougelike - it's pretty cool go check it out) by a guy named Ido Yehieli, well he wrote a blog post I have been meaning to bring to light for a while but kept forgetting (I have a back log of articles to cover!).

The blog post is titled Why Bundles and Steam Sales Aren’t Good for Most Indies (read it) and brings to light some problems with what is currently going on in Indie land for a few developers, he isn't the first one to call out on the problems either - one of our frequent visitors Alex from Kot-In-Action (who make Steel Storm) when I interviewed back in October 2011 also mentioned how bad a time he had being included in a Humble Indie Bundle as a bonus game.

So what do you all think about bundles and massive sales cutting out a lot of revenue for Indies? Personally I am very torn on the issue as the Humble Indie Bundle guys have gotten a lot of games ported over to Linux which then later on mostly get included on Desura for purchase as well.
Developers like Frictional Games have had one of their games included in a HIB (Penumbra) but their other game Amnesia judging from their posts on their blog and forum has done well for itself staying away from these kind of sales.

Update 09/01/12;

As pointed out by Robert is that Frictional Games - Amnesia sold most of it's copies when it was on sale and most of them at a reduced price of up to 66%!

It seems everyone has such different opinions on the matter and it has created some heated discussion in the comments/replies! Article taken from
Tags: Misc
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Cheeseness Jan 8, 2012
Wasn't Penumbra in the first Humble Indie Bundle? :D

Don't forget that aside from the Introversion games, and Blocks That Matter (which we had to specifically request) we haven't seen Desura keys since the Desura client launched. To an outsider, it certainly seems like there's not the level of synergy between the Humble Bundle guys and Desura that there was before IndieRoyale launched...

IMO, bundles/sales need to be seen as an investment in getting better market penetration/exposure. Developers who expect to have all their dreams fulfilled and be granted magical rainbow riding unicorns are going to be disappointed. It's about getting customers at the expense of revenue, which is not necessarily bad, and can be a great thing if a developer has other stuff that those new customers can spend money on if their interest is piqued. These sorts of things aren't a good match for every developer, and tend to turn out bad for those that don't quite understand the dynamics, but the same goes for anything that people can have unrealistic expectations for.

There's also the side effect of bitter customers who get cranky about paying a fair price for something they actually like when they could have got it cheaper by waiting, but I think people like that deserve to feel ripped off.
Liam Dawe Jan 8, 2012
I meant that bit for Amnesia as they said about their sales numbers being good enough to keep them going. I shall edit the article to reflect what I meant.
Bumadar Jan 8, 2012
It does make sense, people tend to expect cheap games as is written in that article. I also think one of Alex issue's besides that the cheap sales are bad in general was that games that got added "later" to the bundle did not get an even remotely fair chair.

Cheeseness is right, you can see the bundles as an investment in getting better marketing but that only works if you already got several games out there. Penumbra when it got into the HiB already had 2 sequels and they where working on Amnesia. So yes that could work out, but if your 1st ever game gets into the bundle and with the general attention span people have these days you will be long forgotten when your next game comes out a year or more later.

That all being said, to be honest I don't think it will change now the gates are open so to speak.
forces Jan 8, 2012
I think that the main purpose of the bundles is to show the games to a very large group of people, not to make money... And that works really well for some games - I don't think that Voxatron would get enough money to continue development without the Humble Voxatron Debut... I bought both the Penumbra collection and Amnesia, but i haven't won any other games than first Penumbra. And i plan on buying Trine 2 when it comes on Linux... I think bundles are a really good way to get medial attention about your games, even if the developers don't get that much money...
Cheeseness Jan 8, 2012
Quoting: "Bumadar, post: 3041, member: 93"I also think one of Alex issue's besides that the cheap sales are bad in general was that games that got added "later" to the bundle did not get an even remotely fair chair.

I haven't talked to Alex, and I don't know him personally, but from what I read of the interview and other posts from him, it sounds like the real problem was that he signed a contract that he wasn't happy with, which sucks, but isn't really anybody's fault but his own. :(
motorsep Jan 8, 2012
I signed the contract because HIB told me that they will give he access to userbase afterward. So while I was very disappointed with HIB being capitalistic sharks and not passionate human beings, I was hoping to make it up with DLC sales, by letting _my clients_ (even though they got their copy through HIB, they are still my customers) know about DLC. Well, guess what, HIB not only didn't give me mailing list, but also refused to let people know about DLC.

I would not argue against HIB if there was Steel Storm bundle to fund the development of SS2 or ToM. But that was never in their plans. As I mentioned many times, they refused to include free SS:Ep1 to HIB2 and they refused to do anything with SS:BR until a week or two before HIB3. So when people keep on saying that SS:BR is a good game (many people say that), the game has gotten 7-10/10 scores across the Internet, it makes me wonder about underlying reasons why HIB did what they did.

Also, the media coverage is still a huge issue. If you google for Tomes of Mephistopheles, all of the sites that mentioned it are Linux gaming sites. Incredible. Basically a lot of indie media think that KiA and its games are not worthy of coverage. It's been an issue from the day 1 with SS:BR and it continues.
motorsep Jan 8, 2012
Back in the days I would save money to buy only 1 or 2 games I really wanted to play. And I played these games until I beat it. It was a good business model back in the days and it worked well. Doom 2 used to cost like $45 and no one complained. Many games did cost a lot of money back then. No one b..ched about it.

Now it's a shovelware days. People buy games and don't even play them. I still hear some people bought SS:BR and haven't played it yet (or haven't activated it on Steam/Desura yet). What good does it do for us, indies? We are forced to sell cheap. A lot of indies are after simple 2D games. Most of the times it's a gameplay with quickly put art on it.

There are a lot of indies who either have funding or came into the indie field with ton of cash from their previous work in AAA titles (and contacts in the media). I can tell you a fact - it takes a week or so to make good, next gen piece of art for 3D game. Could be done faster if it's a simpler piece, but it's a long haul for 1 artist (KiA has only 1 artist now). So that's kinda unfair when "indies" beat indies and then people say "oh well, these guys are successful. What stops you from being successful?! Don't blame media or bundles. It's your fault." without taking into the consideration years of experience, number of years in the industry and resources. Now that's unfair. I wish people think twice before they put indies down or compare them to the leading teams of the industry.
avarisclari Jan 8, 2012
I have personally spoken with a few of the Linux commercial game dev's and they all say their sales are low. Most though, don't advertise that they have Linux versions, and the others only had it in HiB, and didn't upload it or put on the site that its on Linux now too. I don't blame HiB, I blame the various indie devs who don't try promoting themselves. I use desura, i browse indiedb, i constantly google linux games. But if it is just a copy of another game, eg Terraria and its numerous clones, I'm not going to get it, I'm going to get this game that looks awesome, epic, and original.
motorsep Jan 8, 2012
I am not sure you understand what it takes to promote a game.. AAA tiles spend millions of dollars for advertising. Indies can't afford that. Yes, Minecraft and Terraria are the best examples of indie games that took off without advertising. But even Notch said he got lucky.

You can have awesome game, but if no one knows about it, it won't sell well. Especially when your audience doesn't bother with writing small reviews and rating your game on MetaCritic.

Steel Storm has 8.5 out of 10 score on Desura. But guess what, for some reason people care for what score it has on MetaCritic. I pleaded to my users to rate the game on MetaCritic if they like it and they didn't do it.

Advertising and marketing is a huge part of success. And it's something that is out of indies' reach.

If Desura and HIB at least e-mail to the users who purchased games through HIB about new updates and new games, indies would do better. That's not the case obviously. I can't reach my users on Steam, Desura or HIB. I am blocked from that opportunity, chopped off so to speak.
Robert Jan 8, 2012
I am disappointed with this post. I find it bizarre that [URL='']Amnesia: The Dark Descent, [/URL]Its also sadly why I bought Steel Storm BR at full price, and thank goodness I also got that through Humble Bundle because the delivery method by KOT was disgusting. I am concerned every time Steel Storm is brought up, as I think their poor negotiation is the problem; Not Indie Bundle. Other compnaies seem happier like Introvision.

The article itself is pretty poor. Lamenting that people expect to pay less than an artificial price of $25. The fact is that was always too high for an indie game...try $5, but you have to see More to make the same money. The argument relies on the same umber of users buying at a higher price. They never were. There are better posts on Puppy Games Blog. and that show raising prices, and the boost they get from sales, both Blogs make for Excelling reads.

The bottom line is developer wants users to pay more for their software. I want good value, preferably Open Source with a proper Licence. The sad fact is Cardinal Quest is poor value at anything more than a $1 or even less than that. Its cute, but needs a lot more work.
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