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12 Sep 2013

How Can You Properly Price Your First Game?

This isn’t Michael Brough’s first game, yet he has proven that there is flexibility to pricing mobile games. Brough has accomplished a feat that is all too rare in mobile gaming nowadays: he has released a game for approximately $5.99, and the real kicker? It’s selling. An independent developer that decided to experiment with price points via his new game 868-HACK (which looks awesome by the way), Brough has proven that in an era in which mobile games are either priced as free-to-play or for $0.99, games do not need to be priced at the low end of the pricing spectrum in order to sell.

“There’s definitely a vast ocean of games at $0-$2, and so going higher than that breaks with people’s expectations,” said Brough in an interview with Indie Statik. “I’m not going to claim that this is the ‘right’ price by any means. Basically, I’m running a long on-going experiment to try to figure this out.”

This isn’t Brough’s first game to be release on mobile devices. His first game, Glitch Tank, was released for $1.99, yet it didn’t sell very well.

“The response I got from some established developers was that it was silly of me to expect anything better at that price. App Store is for $1 or free,” said Brough. He took the advice with his next game, Zaga-33, sold it at $1.00, and sold a few thousand copies. Yet with his third game 868-HACK, he knew he had spent more time in development than with his previous two games, to which he decided he needed to raise the price to reflect the amount of time he had poured into the game. Thus, 868-HACK is available for $5.99.

So what happened? Why exactly did his first game sell barely anything, his sophomore game sell a few thousand at a cheap price, yet 868-HACK is looking to become his bestselling game despite the game being quite a bit more expensive than the average mobile game? Perhaps it’s due to Brough having a few games under his belt, resulting in potential customers being more willing to hand over their money to a developer that is more seasoned than say, a developer releasing their first game. Potential customers are more willing to trust the quality of Brough due to his catalog of developed games, and despite the higher-than-average price point, it’s working well for him.

“It has worked very well, [and] I am not shy about numbers; it has sold almost 3000 copies, which, wow.”

Brough isn’t exactly sure what effect the price point has had on sales; after all, most customers are accustomed to purchasing mobile games for either free or pennies. Yet to Brough, he doesn’t care at this point, as the higher price point combined with solid sales have allowed him to develop more games – and in the end, that’s all that matters.

Brough has obviously found success in his game, but what if you have absolutely no clue as to how you should price your mobile games? What’s the best approach to increase the chances of your game selling well rather than not selling at all? The answer isn’t extremely clear-cut, but let’s look at some tactics you can do when initially pricing your game.


Study Your Competition

What genre does your mobile game fit into? For example, if you are developing an MMO, you are probably going to want to go the free to play (F2P) route due to most MMOs following this model. Thus, look at the prices of their in-app purchases (IAP) and learn about what they are offering for certain prices. Are they offering 5000 gold for $20? If a player had 5000 gold, how would that benefit them in-game? It is imperative that you balance “cost vs. reward” in this case, as if you overprice your in-game purchases, you are liable to hinder players from spending any money altogether.

How many games are in your genre? If the marketplace is flooded with games in your genre, consider matching or slightly lowering the average price of the games. Diligently study the best-selling games of the genre and come up with that sweet price point. It takes time, but it’s worth it.


Ask Your Peers

There are many communities centered on mobile game development, and most of the people in these communities are extremely helpful. Reach out to some of these communities, explain your game to them, and ask for advice from developers that have created multiple games – especially since this is your first game! They will likely tell you what worked in terms of pricing, what did not, and what they have learned from the experience. Eventually, you will probably notice a trend, and with this acquired knowledge, you can make an informed decision with your game’s pricing. Sometimes, the easiest way to learn something is to simply ask those in the community!


Reflect on the Project

Keep a few of these variables in mind when deciding a price:

  • How much time did it take to develop your game?
  • How much money have you poured into the development of your game (an obvious question)?
  • How much have you spent on promoting your game? How much do you think you will spend on promotions?
  • What do you hope to profit from your game (another obvious question)? How much would it take for you to profit in order for you to consider this game a ‘success?’
  • If you want to develop future games, how much must you earn to fund them?
  • How many sales do you want to see per week? Per month?

By asking yourself these questions, you now know which answers you need to seek out. Again, finding the answers to these questions can be accomplished by following the first two practices: researching and asking your peers. More questions will likely follow as you find the answers to the above questions, and that’s okay. Find the answers to the additionally questions that crop up, and as you find your answers, do the following:


Document the Process

This cannot be stressed enough. It is vital that you document this entire process so you can refer back to it whenever you create your next game (or games as the case may be). There is no detailed guide on how to price your games, nor will you learn everything you need to know about pricing with your first game. Yet, by documenting and detailing everything you learn along the way, you’re going to be more prepared with every game you release.

And lastly…..


Do not be Afraid to Experiment

Michael Brough found himself experimenting with price points in his games, and with his junior release, it has proven to be lucrative for him. He discovered that his first game was overpriced, his second was possibly underpriced, and with his third game, he already had spent a substantial amount of time, money, and resources developing his game that he decided to see what would happen if he raised the price of his game far above the average cost of a mobile game. Brough knew he could always lower the price, but he wanted to see what would happen, and guess what: he’s made more money from 868-HACK than his other games by far. Brough wasn’t afraid to experiment, and it paid off: you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with pricing, either.

You are going to learn a lot of lessons along the way; that much is certain. There is no science to pricing your first mobile game, yet it will get easier with your concurrent game releases. Ask for help when you need it, research the games that have come before you, but most importantly, learn from this experience.

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