Results of 2D Boy's 'Pay What You Want' World of Goo Sales Experiment Released

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Taking a page from Radiohead, World of Goo developer 2D Boy used the game's one-year anniversary to run a sale that allowed customers to name the price of the game before buying--right down zero dollars.

While a large number of people paid under $2, the average price factored out to $2.03, with a few generous souls giving as much as $50. The sale resulted in pushing some 57,000 copies of the year-old game, generating over $114,000 as determined by the average price.

2D Boy also ran a short survey, asking users how much they paid, their reasoning, and what they think the game should be worth normally.

"One thing that the survey data might suggests is that despite there being a lot discussion around what games are worth and the dollar value of an hour of play, few people chose their price based on the perceived value of the game," wrote 2D Boy's Ron Carmel on the company's blog. "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."

From The Chatty

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    October 21, 2009 11:48 AM

    I think this was a tremendous success, but it is a model of sales with some very serious qualifications and limitations. It runs a risk of devaluing the work of developers, the same way that the 99-cent song (as created by iTunes) has starkly undercut the value of an actual album. When Radiohead did a similar "pay what you feel like" sale with In Rainbows a few years ago, Trent Reznor had this to say:

    "Pay-what-you-want model
    This is where you offer tracks or albums for a user-determined price. I hate this concept, and here's why.
    Some have argued that giving music away free devalues music. I disagree. Asking people what they think music is worth devalues music. Don't believe me? Write and record something you really believe is great and release it to the public as a "pay-what-you-think-it's-worth" model and then let's talk. Read a BB entry from a "fan" rationalizing why your whole album is worth 50 cents because he only likes 5 songs on it. Trust me on this one - you will be disappointed, disheartened and find yourself resenting a faction of your audience. This is your art! This is your life! It has a value and you the artist are not putting that power in the hands of the audience - doing so creates a dangerous perception issue. If the FEE you are charging is zero, you are not empowering the fan to say this is only worth an insultingly low monetary value. Don't be misled by Radiohead's In Rainbows stunt. That works one time for one band once - and you are not Radiohead."

    I think this experiment worked because World of Goo is a title with large media expose and multiple-platform success, and success breeds success. Very few titles not positioned in this way would be able to pull off a sale like this and succeed. Bravo to the developers, this is a big kick in the face to publishers and their money-hungry ways, but there needs to be a preemptive strike against editorialists who will hail this as The Future of Game Publishing

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      October 21, 2009 11:54 AM

      There the mentality now of "I will just wait until I can buy it used, or I will just wait for the steam half price sale"

      I don't know how bad that is though. You lose some full price sales, but gain a lot of sales from people who would have never bought it at all at or near full price.

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        October 21, 2009 12:01 PM

        Steam (or GoG or Impulse) sales have pulled me in to purchase games that I would have easily skipped in the past. I wouldn't have purchased World of Goo without the $5 sale on steam.

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          October 21, 2009 12:11 PM

          You and me both on many accounts. Titan Quest for $10, Braid for $5. Company of Heroes I consciously waited until it went on sale :)

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            October 21, 2009 1:11 PM

            I don't know that I consciously waited for it to go on sale. I had no intent on ever buying the game...but I saw the sale of a game whose name I had heard tossed around, looked up some reviews, and bought it.

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              October 21, 2009 1:47 PM

              Steam sales have effectively been stripping my wallet clean for a while now.

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        October 21, 2009 12:20 PM

        Well there's one key difference with Steam sales and that the manufacturing costs are zero, the distribution costs are low, and the sunk costs don't exist.

        Distributing a game on Steam isn't free. Bandwidth and servers cost money.

        However, you don't have to press a disc, print a manual, make a box to put it in, assemble it all together, put it on a truck, drive that truck to a store, share the money with the store, and eat the costs of however many copies of the game you didn't sell.

        I know this isn't 100% how it works with retail (i.e., you're not paying the store to put your game on a shelf) but 100,000 people buying your game at $5 adds up quick, but 10,000 people buying your game at $20, leaving (say) 90,000 copies you pressed rotting on the shelf probably loses you money.

        I think the Steam sales are Valve's "halfway" point. If they put L4D on Steam at $25 while it sells for $50 at Wal-Mart, then Wal-Mart would just stop selling it entirely. But if they just drop the price to $25 for a weekend then Wal-Mart doesn't care.

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          October 21, 2009 2:31 PM

          That's a very good point that a lot of people don't take into consideration - there are some politics involved in pricing, as well. Retailers are your partners, not your enemy, in a sales-based field; if you undercut their retail prices too often, they will be extremely pissed off because they *do* need to recoup that cost for physical media, which is passed on to them by the actual publisher of the software. If a company consistently undercut the retail price for a game or product they might well find themselves banned from the shelves.

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      October 21, 2009 12:01 PM

      That sounds like good sense, \[but]\ one difference here is that World of Goo has been on the market for quite a while already, under various price points. This is just an extreme example of "having a sale", which is just probing different price points to catch consumers that haven't pulled the trigger yet. The PR value isn't insignificant either, as apparently they had significant upticks on their other distributors like Steam (where there is still a fixed price) just because of this event.

      But yeah, it's not the sort of approach that is appropriate for all games, all developers, all situations. I doubt you could earn back the investment in MW2 this way. :-)

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        October 21, 2009 5:05 PM

        theres no way, although im sure they have alot of "loyal" customers... i somehow doubt they are THAT loyal.

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      October 21, 2009 12:25 PM

      All these arguments remind me of the iphone's App store and $1 games/apps, and even $10 games/apps that are 2 or 3 times more on other platforms. It works well on the iphone because of volume. If you have a large user base (and most of them want your product & hear about it) then you can charge dirt cheap prices or even resort to ad supported. In fact, it's the same pricing scheme as the web if you think about it. Shacknews is basically a daily games magazine, but free to the user because of ads. There are enough ads and users that users don't actually have to directly pay anything.

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      October 21, 2009 12:39 PM

      Well put. Thank you.

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      October 21, 2009 4:26 PM

      You, a person not involved in any way, who doesn't have a clue about the actual cost/price ratio of it, think this is a huge success? Well, THATS good to know, at least we have an expert on the job. Considering the average was an insignificant $2, I would say it was a mixed result. Again, I don't know what the average needed to be to reach success, it has to hurt that the public sees their game as being worth a tenth of what the developer thinks. Hell, I got that concept from the trent reznor quote you posted. Only 316 people felt it was worth the $20 that the developer felt it was worth.

      Personally, I would have paid $5 (didn't get around to it) because thats what I personally thought the average would work out to, and I'm pretty cynical, but apparently not cynical enough. Thats just sad, that game is totally worth every penny of the original price, but as the guy stated, I would pay what I felt I could afford. For context, the last xbox game I bought was 5 months ago, and I internally debate a week before buying a $1 app for my iPod; in short, I'm a Frugal penny-pincher.

      In short, again, I disagree that it was a success...

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        October 21, 2009 4:40 PM

        Terrible post. You misrepresent the data, is a hypocrite and a cynic, and don't give good or even relevant reasons to support your point.

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      October 21, 2009 5:01 PM

      I think its an interesting thing to do but its not what the game industry needs to start doing. Not only to cover production costs, but I bet we'd be surprised by how many people just view this as a "free game" and personally... I dont play "free" games.

      Not that World of Goo is a bad game or anything...
      and the fact they are selling the idea as more of an experiment justifies itself in my mind, but we cant have every developer giving away their games as experiments. Then they just lose value, plain and simple.


      Note that playing a $60 game for free is not the same thing.