GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue Games

April 12, 2012 -

In a recent interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, GOG.com's Managing director Guillaume Rambourg and marketing head Trevor Longino try to make the case that Steam's practice of discounting games actually hurts developers in the long run. The duo questions the frequent sales on Steam, adding that heavy discounting also sends the wrong message to gamers.

"Selling games at too high a discount - one often sees discounts above 80 percent off here and there - sends a message to gamers: this game, simply put, isn't worth very much," the pair said. "Of course you make thousands and thousands of sales of a game when it's that cheap, but you're damaging the long-term value of your brand because people will just wait for the next insane sale. Slashing the price of your game is easy. Improving the content of your offer when you release your game, that's more ambitious."

Rambourg continued by saying that his focus is on convincing gamers to spend their money on games when they are released by adding value.

"Heavy discounts are bad for gamers, too," he said. "If a gamer buys a game he or she doesn't want just because it's on sale, they're being trained to make bad purchases, and they're also learning that games aren't valuable. We all know gamers who spend more every month on games than they want to, just because there were too many games that were discounted too deeply. That's not good for anyone."

Rambourg admitted that one thing Steam's sales do is convince people who are unsure about a certain product to give it a try because the risk is a lot lower. At the end of the day he hopes for some kind of happy medium between the two extremes.

Source: Eurogamer


Comments

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

I just looked through GoG's catalogue. and it really makes me want to slap the GoG guy who did this interview.  Complaining about devaluing game prices, but if you look through their content, 50% off on a lot of their games takes them down to $3 - when steam sales come around, you often see nearly identical prices for indie titles, (75% off a $10?) and yet he's complaining about $2.50 vs $3 basically.  GoG's initial price on games seems to be lower in a lot of cases $6 for a lot of the games I looked at (Interplay Catalogue) vs $10 on Steam.  

It seems like this is just PR fluff trying to pull people away from Steam's business practices, that in the end don't seem any different than GoG's.

Sometimes steam sales drop prices for games down to $1 or close there-about.  Looking on GoG.com - they have a few bundles that go for around $3 for 2 games. that makes them $1.50 a piece. The only thing I can logically take from this article is that GoG is talking out their ass.

 

Sidenote - I don't mind GoG, and I do browse for games on their site when I'm looking for older games, I will continue to use their service as long as it remains similar to what it is now.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

The makers of SPAZ seem to disagree with this article. Their fan base (which was fairly large for an indie title as it was) easily tripled when their game got a major discount during the last sale they were in. When a company's best source of advertising is word of mouth you need to get as many mouths talking about it, even if it means a heavy discount.

Btw, as a shameless plug for the game, if you don't have it on your steam account, get it. Freakin' awesome game.laugh

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

I think one of the things GoG and really most services fail to understand is that many gamers aren't willing to pay premium prices to get a game that they know they are only going to beat in 15 hours (CoD/MW anyone?) for $60 a lot of us expect the game to last longer than that, and when you're given many 'indie' games for $5-$20 that last and last (or maybe they don't) - you start to realize as a customer that the $60 games really are not worth the investment.  I'm still holding out on purchasing Forza until the price drops or I can get a used copy for cheaper than $5 off retail value.

One of the biggest shifts we are seeing is all-digital releases.  And as was mentioned before, there is nearly no overhead (except development costs) for these types of games.  You don't have to deal with the manufacturing or shipping costs that a retailer does, and the developer can get more of the money that they actually deserve (if they do indeed deserve it for a good game).

End result: Discounted game sales only prove that free market economy really does work.  Supply has never been an issue in the game industry, so really you're only marketing your product vs what people actually think the value of the game will be.  One good example of this is going to be Torchlight 2 vs Diablo 3.  We all know D3 is going to be premium $ to buy, lots of people will get it. Torch 2 will almost definetely be $20.  Comparatively they'll probably have about the same value at release, though I imagine Torchlight's will increase as Runic Games has proven they know how to handle a good community. Blizzard, meh.  Which product would you purchase?  The $20 Indie dev who will give back to the community by providing modding tools, extended support, and good relation? or the $50+ game by a company who wont provide any modding tools despite the community continually asking for them?

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

This is the exact same situation as used game sales. Trading games back in has become part of the ritual of buying them, especially with those short games. People will buy them, play them, and trade them back in before the retail price drops. Thanks to a couple good locally owned chains with more generous trade ins than Gamestop I've effectively "paid' as little as $15-25 for launch-day purchases.

If those used games are disabled, people who buy games this way will simply stop buying them. Just like if I hadn't caught Brutal Legend on sale for $7.50 I would have never considered playing it.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

CoD MW take 15 hours?... hmmm i suppose if you play the series all together.. or max out in MP..

/sarcasm off

sry i couldn't help but have fun with that :p But given most games these days are about 5 hours long at best in SP, and barely have MP's worth a mention... well... yeeah.. def not worth that premium price like you said..

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

hmm if i bought it on sale its because i WASN'T going to buy it at full price ever.

the only reason i even own Saints Row the third is for this reason. I hated the first game, skipped the second and got the third for $20 (steam ver obviously, but not on a steam sale). as a result i'm actually considering trying 2, cause 3 is really damned good.

there are other titles that i'd never pay for at full price for similar reasons, ones that use TAGES or other BS DRM's, games that just don't outwardly appear to spark my interest, and so on.

but with the sales i get to try a few at a lower price and enjoy them a lot at times. In then end i'm far more open to buying the next one from that dev, or in that series.

the only thing i wish they would stop is the sales so soon after a new release.

SR3, Skyrim, and others have gone on sale within a month after release, devaluing the game right there to those that eagerly waited and payed full price. there are even people that are now waiting for this exact advantage and getting these games as such.

IMO its that practice that need go, not the sales in general. Some of these sales inspire people to get other games that they'd never try, let alone consider otherwise. And it really sparks the sales of older titles that are somewhat over priced atm on there ($10 USD for Quake 1? really? then $5 per expansion? 10 years ago maybe, but now? uhhhh....)

Unlike on GoG where they test and setup old titles to WORK on newer systems, STEAM does not, and as such makes older games worth less than what GoG has to offer.

not to mention GoG will give support and update the installer if something is found wrong, STEAM just kinda shits on it.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

One thing that needs to be mentioned in this forum is that discounting and bundle packs can introduce gamers to games that would've otherwise gone unnoticed. Portal had the luck of being included in The Orange Box, a $50 bundle which included the much anticipated releases of Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode 2. By including such a risky game into a low priced bundle, Valve gave customers an incentive to try it out, and much to everyones surprise the tactic paid off and created a whole new franchise.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

I was tracking Portal's development after playing Narbacular Drop - Valve snapped up the team to make Portal.  Valve doesn't generally do that unless they have an idea for something awesome.  TF2 has never really excited me.  I loved the original though.

I picked up Orange Box for $20 the year it came out.  At that price, Orange Box was a no-brainer purchase.  Now you can generally get Orange Box for $10 on sale.  Think I even saw it at $7.50 once.

- Left4Dead Why are zombies always eating brains? I want to see zombies that eat toes for a living. Undead-related pun intended.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

Lower prices can make bad games good, or at least tolerable. I will defend Duke Nukem Forever to the death, because I only paid 10 bucks for it, and thought it was 10 dollars well spent.

---You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

"Selling games at too high a discount - one often sees discounts above 80 percent off here and there - sends a message to gamers: this game, simply put, isn't worth very much,"

I feel like a bad person for saying it, but a lot of those games aren't worth very much.  The sales often times just bring them down to their actual value.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

That's my thought process and I don't apologise for it. I'm one of those people that usually buys games 6 months to a year after release to get the game at a reasonable price. Right now I'm waiting for a game to come down to what I'm willing to pay. I somewhat enjoy this particular franchise of shooters, but not a full price level of enjoyment. I complete the campaign of those games in under 4 hours and never do MP, so I want to pay for 4 hours worth of entertainment.

So my angle isn't that those games aren't necessarily worth very much, but to me and the way I play games they're not. That's really my problem rather than the game makers, but as long as I have options to wait or to take advantage of sales I have a solution to this problem. And if not for this the game makers wouldn't get any money out of me at all.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

Same here.  If companies would release MP-neutered versions (i.e. single player only) at drastically reduced prices that make sense, I'd be happy and would buy sooner.  I only play single player these days and only occasionally fire up Counter-Strike: Source.  What companies don't realize is that there is a whole contingent of gamers who just want to play single player games.

- Left4Dead Why are zombies always eating brains? I want to see zombies that eat toes for a living. Undead-related pun intended.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

An odd statement coming from GOG, a portal that discounts a chunk of its games by 50% almost every weekend and often gives games away for free (Ultima 4, Broken Sword, Fallout).

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

I was thinking the same exact thing, actually. He wants to blather on about the true value of games days after they just gave out the original Fallout as a free title.. That's just silly.

Yeah, they sell older games, but don't those have value too?

If anything, Steam is doing a favor to the industry by getting people to purchase and try games they may have never tried otherwise because of their ridiculous sales. It says more about the industry than the consumers when gamers are only willing to pay $10 for a game the industry is trying to push at $60.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

heh off the top of my head i can think of at least 4 games i got for FREE from them out of titles they usually charge for... something steam generally doesn't do at all for anything but Valves personal titles and those that have officially gone free to play.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

I like Steam. I like GOG, although I'm very disappointed that they've decided "Old" is no longer their priority.

I have to wonder if it's coming now that GOG has chosen to move their focus away from games that Steam most likely wouldn't have, to titles that they're more likely going to be in direct competition with Steam on?

But it sounds like whining, regardless.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

So, I guess that Theme Hospital, Wing Commander 4 and Dark Stone aren't old games.

---You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

i think its in referance to how they've been pushing more modern titles lately.

though usually indie, and old in style, they aren't really "old" games.

as well as how they've been releasing more modern titles such as Assassins Creed, Cryostasis, and ArmA.

while all good games, they aren't exactly very "old" yet... Old enough i guess, but they're still kinda fresh as things go with what GoG was supposedly about at one point (being pre-Y2K games)

but hey, its a business and it evolved IMO. So its welcome as long as they don't start crapping on support like Valve has begun to do...

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

I haven't been given in indication that they are abandoning the Old part, just expanding their focus.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

I thought so as well. I seem to remember having games given to me when I registered with GOG.com not too long ago.

-Mike Papadopoulos

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

Every single game I own from the GOG catalog has been a free game. Whether it is a permanent free listing, a promotion or a prize. I have yet to spend money on GOG, but still love the service to death.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

I generally only buy full price stuff on GOG when I REALLY want it. Most of the time I get their stuff when it's on sale.

---You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

I was always under the impression that Steam sales were less about getting people to buy more games, but to get more people to sign on to Steam. Anyway, I really don't understand the argument that the sales devalue games or hurt gamers.

For one, more people buying a game means more people who will potentially buy a sequel or another game by that developer. Usually the sales happen long after the game's release (relative to gaming life spans) and rejuvenates interest in the game. That is a good thing for the developer. I could understand the concern if the mark off was %80 a week to a month after release, but 6 months to a year, it is gravy.

Two, the cheaper the cost, the lower the risk for the player on an unknown game. If the game is good, they will look forward to buying the sequel. If it is bad, they wasted a LOT less money than buying it at full price.

Two very good reasons for these sales.

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

Agreed. I might have never played Borderlands if I hadn't seen the Game of the Year edition on sale for $7.50 on Steam one day. Since then I've gifted the game to three other people and preordered the sequel. Sales like that help get people interested in franchises they might not have otherwise tried, and at that point everyone wins.

Also, Steam will publish the Metacritic score (if available) on most (if not all) of the games in their catalog. While those are not to be taken as law, I'd still pay more attention to a Metacritic score than the price of a game when assessing how much a game is worth (at least to me). 

-Mike Papadopoulos

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

My guess is they are over-applying an old marketing lesson.   It is true that people can see value in price and thus decreasing the price of something communicates that it is less worth having, and increasing the price can actually increase demand because it must be 'better' if more expensive.  In extreme cases there will actually be less demand for something that is free then if you have to pay for it (the classic example is IBM's compiler... when it was free no one wanted it, but when they started charging usage skyrocketed under the idea that if they were charging it must be because it is awesome and specialized).

So it is a real effect, but otherwise I agree that in Steam's case the benefits to these sales outweigh the possible impact of this particular bit of market psychology.

 

Re: GOG: Steam's Discounting Practices Hurt Gamers, Devalue ...

Plus, if a game is fun, it's going to sell no matter the price. Team Fortress 2 went free and still has a strong player base.

 
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