On Braid and Pricing

By: Derek Yu

On: August 8th, 2008

fifteendollars

The latest Penny Arcade strip is about Braid! As far as I know, this is the first indie game they’ve mentioned directly in a comic, which is pretty cool. I personally enjoy PA so I’m glad to see them promote indie games through Greenhouse, PAX, and now the strip itself.

In the post accompanying the strip, Tycho/Jerry sums up the whole pricing thing for me pretty nicely:

I wrung four and a half hours out of the finished product, coming into contact with genuinely huge concepts that hum with stradavarian fullness. You’re mad about five dollars? What? Shove your five dollars up your stupid ass.

Well, okay, maybe not that last part. At least not until rear ends start vending Cactus Coolers or bus tickets. What a waste, otherwise!

But in all seriousness, the pricing issue is another compelling problem for developers, especially an indie who can set his or her own price. It’s especially compelling because it’s become obvious that for some people (perhaps most people?), the price somehow enters into the equation that determines a game’s inherent worth. A game that costs more than it should cost becomes a worse game. Should that be the case? Should that idea be reflected in game reviews? I suppose it depends on whether the goal of the review is to help you make a purchasing decision or whether the goal is to evaluate the merits of a video game.

In Aquaria’s case, Alec and I priced the game at $30, $10 above what I guess is the “norm” is for downloadable PC indie games is, because that’s what we felt it was worth. We considered a lot of factors, from the quality of the game, to the effort we put into it, to plain ol’ numbers like how many hours of gameplay and how many assets we created. A lot of people felt it was worth what we charged, and a lot of people didn’t, which is fine. But some people took the pricing personally before they even played the game, which I’ll never truly understand.

I think the problem is that no one knows how much a game should cost, or how we should value games. Is a good, short game better than a mediocre, long game? What are pretty graphics worth to good gameplay? What about indie versus mainstream? Like with almost EVERYTHING about games, it’s just not as clear-cut as with other types of media. The industry is too young, and it’s just plain different, too.

But to quote Tycho once more:

You read a lot (in incandescent threads devoted to the topic) about how ten dollars is the “sweet spot” for Live Arcade titles, and that may be the case, but we should entertain the idea that its creator wasn’t trying to make an “Xbox Live Arcade Game.” Perhaps he was trying to make a good game, the best game he could, and Microsoft’s Broadening Initiative For Digital Content was the last thing on his mind.

In the end, I don’t think it makes sense to compare games to anything other than what you think is a good game. $15 is more than most XBLA games. It’s also about how much a 2-hour movie or an ironic t-shirt costs. I guess the question is… so what? What do you guys and gals think?

TIGdb: Entries for Aquaria, Braid

See Jonathan Blow’s explanation of Braid’s pricing after the jump:

(Video posted at 1up.com.)

  • Derek

    Somehow I don’t think Penny Arcade needs a “transport” to “stick it” to people…

  • Hmm…

    Since there are so many people here with $15 dollars to throw away I’d definitely be willing to let you give me the points to buy Braid. The points that I do have left right now though are going towards Bionic Commando and Castle Crashers. I don’t need or want Braid for free, but if it was $10 dollars (it’s got about $5 dollars worth of play length) but I know that a lot of heart was put into it, so 800 pts is where I draw my line though. Aside from the cute graphics the Trial didn’t encourage me to tell others about it. I’m being honest. I hope the developer has success with it, but everyone else needs to relax and enjoy the game if they bought it. Perhaps I’ll join the crowd when it becomes an arcade hit and drops in price. I was really looking forward to Braid but it didn’t really impress me with its game play and the price on top of that fact didn’t impress me either, but I’m just one person and perhaps there will be more people that feel strongly enough about it to just drop their 1200 points instantly. In the meantime there are a lot of great games coming up that I want to save my points for though. With so many good games coming it’s a great time for people who were looking forward to XBLA games, unfortunately I can’t afford to buy every single one of them and I’m not prepared to dish out more than the average price for a game that provides little more than an average play experience. Again that’s my opinion so I don’t hope or expect you to change your mind about the game and you won’t hope or expect to change mine. That way we can still respect each other even though we don’t agree with each other.

    And yes (to the people who can’t admit they already bought it because they’re busy sticking up for Braid ;-) ), Castlevania was a fuckin awesome game. For $10 bucks I got more game out of that sucker than many other titles – including the so-called full priced mainstream titles. To be fair though I purchased Assault Heroes 1 and 2 as well (great little action games with some nice co-op). They’re nothing that hasn’t been done before but for $15 dollars I was able to get those 2 games and they’re both fun but they also have replay value. You get a lot of game out of them for a single player romp and then even more if you plan to play with a friend.

    Don’t know why people are so pissed that others don’t want to dish out $15 dollars for a game they aren’t as interested in or don’t feel that the game warrants a $10 dollar price tag… it’s just opinion, so if they don’t feel that there’s a $15 dollar value there they won’t buy it. It’s not something that others should take personally.

    Some people like it, some people don’t. If we’re being honest then we have to face the facts that if Braid was as good as some of the fanatics say it is this discussion wouldn’t exist or at the very least wouldn’t have gone on for so long. Don’t take that personally though, I’m not saying that as an attack towards people who have purchased it.

    Those that bought it, enjoy it. Those that didn’t, enjoy looking forward to the titles coming up. We can all be happy then.

  • skaldicpoet9

    Well the bottom line for me is that a game should have something to bring me back to it. Some have used Portal as an example of a short game that was worth the price point but I beg to differ. I definitely wouldn’t have paid $20 for Portal but I got it with the Orange Box which was undoubtedly worth it. I don’t mind if a game is short but there are a variety of ways that a game can extend it’s replayability past the main part of the game. From what I hear Braid has a time attack mode but what else does it have? For me it isn’t about escapism or the fact that I am used to XBLA games being priced around a certain point (I don’t even have a 360) it is whether or not I feel like I have gotten enough out of the game. Someone mentioned before that Audiosurf was only $10 and that they would have paid even more than that. And why? Because Audiosurf goes beyond the core mechanics of the game itself and has an extensive amount of modes and a online scores and multiplayer as well. Hell, I would have paid $15 at the very least. From what I hear though Braid doesn’t sound like it has that much of a replay factor and for me that is what counts no matter how good the initial main game is.

  • captain pirate

    I obtained Aquaria for the low price of $30 and also thought Braid was worth its price. I respect others because I respect myself!

  • Koholint

    Hmm…, the demo of Braid is not a good representation of the rest of the game. I really wish you would listen to my advice and watch some gameplay footage of the later levels. I can’t stress enough that this is NOT Mario with a rewind function, and that’s what you seem to think it is.

  • Hmm…

    @Koholint,

    I did check out additional footage and quite a bit of the game was shown off. It wasn’t enough to convince me and it still proved that the game was extremely short. I kinda wish I hadn’t seen some of the video though because all of the levels were basically given away. That kinda ruined it for me (not the gameplay itself but the fact that I saw so much of it in such a short time), now there won’t be any surprises, but that’s my fault for watching the video. I’d still buy it if and when it becomes an Arcade Hit but the full price now is too much especially considering I’ve seen most of it now, but that part has nothing to do with the price I don’t want to see most of a game in any video, I’d rather play them for myself. In this case now I’ll have to wait before buying it if I”m going to find any appreciation for it because I basically just watched someone else go through the game.

    I was right though, there’s little to no replay value. But, you were right, there aren’t the exact same elements that are found in Mario but I still found that the Super Mario games had more to them. The rewind has been done in other games, but the platforming is still running and jumping with a few puzzles to them. To be completely honest I like the looks of Braid’s graphics, but I don’t like the looks of the game. I was much more impressed by N+ and although that game has stick-man graphics the game play has a lot to offer and all at a regular price. There are a ton of levels in N+, not to mention half a dozen multiplayer modes, and a built in level editor. It’s teeming with game and puzzles, and running and jumping, but it even offers more once you’re done with the core game… plus, it’s fun and good, to put it plain and simple.

    So there is a cute quality to Braid but after watching the video I know that I would have been sorry for spending the 1200 pts. That’s just me, but I think others might feel the same, I can’t speak for anyone else though.

  • Flamebait

    @Kongming: *”Flamebait, no, those are not, technically speaking, **games**. There’s a reason we call that kind of software sandbox **games**.”*

    (Emphasis added) make up your mind: are they or aren’t they games? Even assuming the “game” in “sandbox game” is meaningless, you’d still just be appealing to a neologism in order to ignore past and current usage of a term.

    *”You may want to avail yourself of a dictionary,”* Okay (both from dictionary.com):

    *3. a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules,*

    Competition doesn’t imply monolithic or even formalized victory conditions; players could theoretically compete using whatever conditions they wish. Good examples are MMOs (although they remain almost exclusively one-dimensional and base). See http://www.infinity-universe.com/. Also in terms of self-determined victory conditions, a player can compete with himself or AI agents, such as in sandbox games; numerous real-world examples can be found in athletics.

    *8. anything resembling a game, as in requiring skill, endurance, or adherence to rules: the game of diplomacy.*

    Computer games certainly require the skill of traditional games, and obviously adherence to the rules (except in the case of cheating, but that’s just changing the game to something worse).

    *”rules and victory conditions are not exactly contested as qualifiers for “game” status.”*

    That’s false. In addition to the above, I’ve always heard of Maxis’ Sim_ series in the context of “games”, or explicitly referred to as “games”. As one example. Perhaps your definition is entirely prescriptive?

    *”Also, given all the times I’ve had massive chunks of ice thrown at me in a snowball fight or been attacked by my erstwhile teammates, I wouldn’t say snowball fights have any unspoken rules.”*

    Apparently the individuals you participated in snowball fights had no regard for loyalty or safety, certainly making yours a less formalized variant.

    *”Finally… “Besides, you could replace “snowball fights” with any real-world game, the argument wouldn’t change.” I’m not going to make your argument for you.”*

    Huh? The point was obviously that there are games that an individual can enjoy heavily but that carries little longevity, as well as games that lead to less satisfaction on the part of the individual at most given times, but that have greater longevity. My examples are based on my subjective observations during participation in these games and not necessarily meaningful to you, yet they don’t need to be to make a point. But to indulge you, another example: basketball. My favourite game described as a “sport”, I have found it exhilirating, yet I have not and will not return to it often (or ever), on account of my perception of its longevity rather than logistical factors.

    *”How could I, when I think it’s wrong?”*

    If you think my argument is wrong, you’re doing a very poor job, or indeed no job at all of properly disputing it. All you’ve done is raise one irrelevant objection. Even assuming it’s relevant, it’s still hardly sufficient to prove me wrong.

    *”You’ll have to come up with an actual game to use as an example on your own. Good luck with that, because I don’t think you’ll be able to.”*

    Now I think you must’ve seriously misinterpreted my post, but I can’t tell how because you haven’t presented enough.

  • Flamebait

    @Kongming [comments section didn’t like the post’s length, epic 2 parter follows]: *”Flamebait, no, those are not, technically speaking, **games**. There’s a reason we call that kind of software sandbox **games**.”*

    (Emphasis added) make up your mind: are they or aren’t they games? Even assuming the “game” in “sandbox game” is meaningless, you’d still just be appealing to a neologism in order to ignore past and current usage of a term.

    *”You may want to avail yourself of a dictionary,”* Okay (both from dictionary.com):

    *3. a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules,*

    Competition doesn’t imply monolithic or even formalized victory conditions; players could theoretically compete using whatever conditions they wish. Good examples are MMOs (although they remain almost exclusively one-dimensional and base). See http://www.infinity-universe.com/. Also in terms of self-determined victory conditions, a player can compete with himself or AI agents, such as in sandbox games; numerous real-world examples can be found in athletics.

    *8. anything resembling a game, as in requiring skill, endurance, or adherence to rules: the game of diplomacy.*

    Computer games certainly require the skill of traditional games, and obviously adherence to the rules (except in the case of cheating, but that’s just changing the game to something worse).

    *”rules and victory conditions are not exactly contested as qualifiers for “game” status.”*

    That’s false. In addition to the above, I’ve always heard of Maxis’ Sim_ series in the context of “games”, or explicitly referred to as “games”. As one example. Perhaps your definition is entirely prescriptive?

  • Flamebait

    *”Also, given all the times I’ve had massive chunks of ice thrown at me in a snowball fight or been attacked by my erstwhile teammates, I wouldn’t say snowball fights have any unspoken rules.”*

    Apparently the individuals you participated in snowball fights had no regard for loyalty or safety, certainly making yours a less formalized variant.

    *”Finally… “Besides, you could replace “snowball fights” with any real-world game, the argument wouldn’t change.” I’m not going to make your argument for you.”*

    Huh? The point was obviously that there are games that an individual can enjoy heavily but that carries little longevity, as well as games that lead to less satisfaction on the part of the individual at most given times, but that have greater longevity. My examples are based on my subjective observations during participation in these games and not necessarily meaningful to you, yet they don’t need to be to make a point. But to indulge you, another example: basketball. My favourite game described as a “sport”, I have found it exhilirating, yet I have not and will not return to it often (or ever), on account of my perception of its longevity rather than logistical factors.

    *”How could I, when I think it’s wrong?”*

    If you think my argument is wrong, you’re doing a very poor job, or indeed no job at all of properly disputing it. All you’ve done is raise one irrelevant objection. Even assuming it’s relevant, it’s still hardly sufficient to prove me wrong.

    *”You’ll have to come up with an actual game to use as an example on your own. Good luck with that, because I don’t think you’ll be able to.”*

    Now I think you must’ve seriously misinterpreted my post, but I can’t tell how because you haven’t presented enough.

  • Victo

    I actually bought the orange box but only played TF2 once, and never played even half-through HL2EP2 … I felt Portal was worth the price of the orange box by itself. Any game longer than get gets repetitive, unless it’s moddable …
    I never really finish commercial games, they bore me. The developers know what a typical gamer expects from a commercial game :
    the longest possible gameplay time, because reviewers always include “time it took to complete it” in their reviews most of the time.

    If you’re saying Braid isn’t worth 15$, then you’re comparing it to commercial games. A dinner can cost 20$ and won’t last more than 10 minutes. It also won’t entertain you.
    Braid is actually way too cheap…
    I don’t know shit about the XB Arcade standards, but I know for sure that any indie game with efforts put in it’s development deserves every penny it can get.
    If you don’t like it, just don’t buy it. Don’t go around convincing other people that the game “isn’t worth buying”. Let them judge for themselves.

    I’m definitly buying that game when it comes for PC. I sincerely hope it will cost over 20$. If most people complain about how short the game is, that means you actually enjoyed it and would’ve wanted more, haha! (sorry, weird humor)

  • Victo

    Any game longer than that*

  • http://www.seznamzbozi.cz/crt-lcd-a-plazmove-televize-c3164/ Lcd Televize Jack

    Im totally agree with ChrisL, every single publicity is a good publicity :)

  • ugh

    Anyone that compares Braid to Mario Bros is a complete and total moron…let alone writing an entire essay about something you don’t get. Jesus christ already. The game is more like Lolo or Fire and Ice or Portal than it is about platforming.
    This game is a must buy. Puzzles don’t get any more clever than what you see in this game. If you don’t like clever, that’s fine. Go play something that isn’t.

  • Jean-Sebastien

    @Derek : “Somehow I don’t think Penny Arcade needs a “transport” to “stick it” to people…”

    Yeah, would you have posted that comic if it was about PA:OTRSPOD? It would have made them look like whiners, whereas by doing it about Braid it makes them look like the Defenders of All Thing Indie.

    In any case, people here who quantify any game as “there is 5$ worth of game play in that 10$ game” need to be shot.

  • Jean-Sebastien

    @ Victo : “A dinner can cost 20$ and won’t last more than 10 minutes. It also won’t entertain you”

    Like the movie and ironic shirt analogies before yours, this is a flawed argument at best. Don’t get me wrong, Braid is worth every penny, I’m just talking about the argument itself.

    A 20$ dinner will last 10 minutes, but the same 10 minutes at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant will cost you 200$. Quantifying the value of anything based on the amount of time that it entertain you is a narrow view of what makes something worth what it is.

    Comparing Braid (or any games) to a McValue meal seems like a weird argument to me.

    So Microsoft set the price for them. Big deal. Indies need to get used to that if they want to play in the big league, and remember that “customers” aren’t the same as “fans” or “followers of your work”.
    There is always someone to buy anything at any prices, (see : the “I Am Rich” iPhone app.) the trick is to find the correct threshold between sales and profit.

  • Hmm…

    It’s obvious people need something to talk about more than they need games but I think that’s a given. I’d play and complete Braid if I owned it but I don’t and my side is simple. There wasn’t enough there to warrant a purchase (I came to the conclusion shortly after playing the Trial but I watched a couple of gameplay videos to be fair as well). With the other new games coming out I couldn’t find it within myself to drop 1200 points when I think there are better games around the corner. So there’s my side of it, short and sweet.

  • Victo

    “Quantifying the value of anything based on the amount of time that it entertain you is a narrow view of what makes something worth what it is.”

    That’s exactly what I was trying to prove… that the whole “longer games deserve to be more expensive” way of thinking is wrong …

  • Irony Irons

    I like the way Penny Arcade sticks up for Braid in their comic and how Jonathan Blow inadvertently sticks it to Penny Arcade by implying that his game isn’t like a JRPG where you fight the same creatures over and over and basically do the grind only to try and find some sort of entertainment in that grind which is what makes the game longer. The funny thing is, Penny Arcades Rainslick whatever is exactly like that.

    I love the irony of it, but this works to Braids advantage and sorta kicks the behind of Rainslick.

    Go Braid Go!

  • Lambchops

    When Braid comes to PC I’m going to have no problem forking over the 15 dollars. which, equates to just over 7 quid 50 in good old British pound sterling. Which is the cost of a cinema ticket and some popcorn, so considering I play games more than I go to the cinema I’m obviously going to have no qualms.

    I’m perfectly happy with indie games that I’ve enjoyed the demos of to pay what the developer thinks the game is worth. I did it with Aquaria, I did it with Noitu Love 2 and I’ll do it again.

    In fact in my opinion sometimes developers undervalue their games. I’d be amazed if nobodies mentioned Audiosurf yet, which quite honestly I think represents the best value for money of any game I’ve played ever. Dylan could definitely have charged more in my opinion and been perfectly fair in his pricing.

    I haven’t yet come across an indie game I’ve deemed to be over priced but I’m sure there’s some out there. But even if I deem it to be so it doesn’t mean there aren’t 100 other people who think it’s a bargain.

  • Porkchops

    Ok now you’re just talkin out your ass.

  • Nitro Crate

    Christ, it’s 5 bucks people. 5 bucks. :|

  • Trebeck

    it went down to $5 bucks!?!? I’m buying it right now!

  • Trebeck

    You fuckin liar it’s still $15!

  • magallanes

    Sorry but no matter if it’s a extra 5 bucks or a penny but the fact it’s MY MONEY.

    So i can decide if i want to bargain or not. “shove your five dollars up your stupid ass.” is offensive, (ahem) stupid and pointless.

  • Flamebait

    @Victo

    “Any game longer than get gets repetitive, unless it’s moddable”

    So? Any game gets repetitive, unless it’s pure mechanical noise that’s impossible to ever rationalize (no existing game is to my knowledge, and I don’t even know whether that’s possible). I think you’re making the errenous assumption that a game’s duration always depends solely on its *content*, never its *mechanics*. Deep games can have impressive longevity without being tiresome- see Shogun Total War.

    “If you’re saying Braid isn’t worth 15$, then you’re comparing it to commercial games. A dinner can cost 20$ and won’t last more than 10 minutes.”

    Wait, it’s more appropriate to compare Braid to a dinner than to another kind of game? I sure as hell wouldn’t pay more than $5 for a single dinner. Also, food is necessary to survive, giving it a huge utility boost over any game.

    “Don’t go around convincing other people that the game “isn’t worth buying”. Let them judge for themselves.”

    That’s a double standard coming from you. But I’d say noone should convince anyone that Braid is or isn’t worth buying; it is for some and isn’t for others, for (generally) perfectly valid reasons.

    @Jean-Sebastien

    “A 20$ dinner will last 10 minutes, but the same 10 minutes at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant will cost you 200$. Quantifying the value of anything based on the amount of time that it entertain you is a narrow view of what makes something worth what it is.”

    I wouldn’t enjoy myself more over those 10 minutes with the $200 than with the $20 dinner. See, nobody’s quantifying the game’s value *solely* on the amount of time it entertains. Both longevity and the amount a game entertains at all times are obviously considered by any rational person. Consider a game so entertaining to be considered orgasmic, but that becomes boring after 10 seconds. Of course that wouldn’t be worth more than a couple dollars.

    What exactly is wrong with valuing longevity? If a game has ill-gotten longevity, such as through mounds of similar content, then its entertainment in the eyes of seasoned gamers will fall off too far anyway. As stated above, some people just prefer lasting low-level entertainment, and others go for a bunch of short but very sweet games. Both are fine.

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  • https://myicloudlogin.com/ Amilaa Anderson

    You know this is all opinion and also based on your living situation right? Getting mad at people just because you feel like spending 15 dollars and they don’t is fucking stupid.