Lessons From Pay-What-You-Wish Gaming

By  |  Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 5:41 pm

worldofgooLast week, two-man game studio 2D Boy made like Radiohead and let people set their own price for World of Goo, a game in which you construct gelatinous towers from cute little goo balls. The promotion, which has now been extended until October 25, is in celebration of the game’s first birthday.

2D Boy has now shared the sales figures, the range of prices paid, and the results of a buyer survey. Media buzz and word of mouth gave sales a hearty boost, reaching 57,000 downloads at an average of $2.03 per download, (over $100,000 even after Paypal’s 13 percent cut), but it’s more interesting to see what people said about 2D Boy’s pay-what-you-wish model.

Asked why they chose a particular price, survey respondents mostly said “That’s all I can afford right now” or “I like the pay-what-you-want model and wanted to support it.”

“How much the person feels they can afford seems to play a much larger role in the decision than how much the game is worth,” the developers wrote on their blog. Incidentally, most people said the game should normally cost $10, not the $20 it usually sells for.

The data is enlightening enough on its own, but there’s one point I want to bring up: Shortly after World of Goo was released last year, 2D Boy estimated that piracy rates were roughly 90 percent. Given the survey responses from the sale, I’ve got to think there’s a correlation between piracy and the feeling that a game’s price isn’t justified.

2D Boy doesn’t draw any conclusions, saying that other developers would have to try the idea under different circumstances to get a better picture of what’s happening. They’re right, because World of Goo is an exceptional game and a critical darling. But other developers should take this model for a spin to see if its legs are sturdier than goo.

 
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  1. alur Says:

    These utopian-minded philosophers need to view some history. Published in the Whole Earth Catalog over 30 years ago was an anecdote where a group of workers planting trees (by hand, lol) in the NW came up with an idea that each would set their own daily wage. If you worked harder that day, then you would pay yourself more, and if you think you didn’t work as hard, then you would pay yourself less. Ah, these utopian-minded post hippies striving for peace on earth and everyone-loves-everyone found that it didn’t work. EVERYDAY, everyone thought they worked harder than average and should be paid the maximum amount. If these game developers want to stay in business, they better ask for WTMWB and do some old fashioned, capitalistic advertising as much as that might gaul their socialist comrads. You can’t wait around for people to give you something if you want to be more than a sophomoric hacker in the gaming field and pay your mortgage.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Donation-based sales is perfectly fine and honest, as long as you aren’t pretending it’s something else. You could have a little gague to indicate how much of the target you’ve raised, or raise money for specific features by holding a bounty for them (or ransom).

    But when the supplier couches these stories in terms of “the customer should be paying me all his consumer surplus, or it’s going to be a bad deal for me,” then they have mistaken for “donation” a “dutch auction.”

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  1. Indies Band Together For More Pay-What-You-Want Says:

    [...] October, World of Goo developer 2D Boy tried the idea themselves. The combination of media exposure and love for the game resulted in more than $100,000 earned. 2D [...]

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