Here’s what I have been baking for the last year

Have you ever played board/party games such as Mafia/Werewolf? Or Battlestar Galactica? Have you played and liked especially the traitor aspect of these games?

If you answered yes for both, then you might wanna read further. If you wanna hear know more about traitor mechanism and cooperative card game then read further.

Introduction
I’ve been working somewhat under the radar for well over a year now. I’ve been doing a card game, not a video game, but a card game. I have kept the possibility of offering also downloadable version, but my first priority has been to create a game that can be played on your kitchen table, with real friends.

Not on your computer, with virtual buddies.

And I now can say that the game is in such shape, that I’m willing to share some more information about it. After 3 very big revisions, I’ve now get all bits and pieces of the game together, and it plays good. I’m proud of the stuff I’ve done.

So, let’s get into the the (zombie) meat of the game: traitor mechanism

Crappy “hd quality” ipod touch camera pic – yes, I’m hunting a better device – but perhaps you’ll see something in that picture

The Infected card game is a game for 1-4 players, and in case there’s 2 or more players, a traitor mechanism is used. Traitor in this game is of course the infected. The chap who got bitten, brain melting, but who is not quite a zombie yet. Only slowly transforming into one, while sabotaging the human players.

And this happens secretly.

For example, in a 3 player game, each player receives a blood sample card which determines whether the player is carrying a nasty zombie virus or if he is clean. During the game, the humans try make a successful escape and figure out who the infected is. It’s not going to be easy.

And while the game is going, the infected tries to sabotage the game.

The meat of the game is to have healthy amount of suspicion, paranoia and backstabbing. All that good game can offer.

Here’ll be zombies

I hate my ipod touch camera. Don’t ever think it’s any good.

In the game, there will be zombie threats that players need to handle. Mechanicswise, it is relatively simple: draw new zombie cards until you draw a smaller valued card than the previous one. Between card drawing, players get to do actions.

It’s pretty simple, but there’s plenty of things to do, and good amount of decisions to be made. All action happens simultaneously, so game scales well whether there’s 1 or 4 players.

And then there’s the items

Apple should have sticker “VHS quality” near the “take HD pics” in their ads

The game has plenty of items. Chainsaws, molotov cocktails, crowbars, revolvers, shotguns… you name it. And plenty is getting used. During threats, player decide to play number of item cards and try to reach equal or greater sum than the zombie threat cards. Each item can be equipped, and then players have access to the item specialties. Different items work better in different situations. For example, Flashlight does not give much bonuses, but is good against several different threat cards. Chainsaw is powerful against threats, but can also be used to receive more item cards for the whole group.

Then there’s also few more things
There’s 7 different characters, with different specialties. There’s also “major threats” which will affect the difficulty. There’s some additional variants, such as “total co-op” mode where there’s no traitor at all. There’s advanced game variant which makes the game slightly more difficult to play (for humans), for groups that have beaten the basic game.

Design philosophy
I’ve strived to have as simple rules as possible (and turn summary – which is practically major part of the game – can fit to about one page of rules), and I’ve tried to keep the mechanism simple. The rules are easy to remember, and since cards provide different choises, there’s stuff to consider. For example, item cards can be played in a threat, they can be discarded to take other actions, they can be equipped, or used as a buffer against threats in case you need to discard them.

I’ve also tried to provide meaningful tactics for the traitor. Here’s some strategies:

  • He can secretly lose a challenge (there’s no need to show cards) which prevents gaining more cards
  • He can hog certain rare cards (such as “vest”) and prevent others from getting enough resources for successful escape
  • When it’s his turn to lead, he can select nasty zombie encounter and secretly discard the easy encounter

And some more. There’s several different ways to sabotage… but of course if he sabotages too much others might get too suspicious and get rid of him.

When it’s available?
When it’s shiny and polished.

I’ve gone through 3 major revisions. The first version was way too luck based, where traitor could affect nothing. Second was not much better. It wasn’t until the third big revision that really nailed it all. The 3rd generation is the one that I’ve been working on for some time now, adding things here and there. Testing. Adding more things. And testing some more.

3rd version also got totally new graphics (from “realistic blood” to “cartoony”), which makes the game so much more fun to playtest.

The co-op version works great, and scales well. I need to get healthy amount of traitor mode testing done, and then we’ll see. The game is currently – as I see it – in “polish shiny” phase. I will playtest, playtest, playtest it, and make some minor tweaks here and there. Maybe I change number of item cards, or change some zombie encounter, or tweak character special abilities a bit. It’s mainly testing & balancing now.

I’m right now freezing features and “new items”, and those go into my “ideas for expansions” list.

So…. when it’s available?
When I consider game done, it’s my plan to do the following steps:

  • Get the game to a publisher (I’m putting my full effort to get z-man games interested)
  • Possibly do a small pre-order based self-print for those interested (since Z-Man way will take quite a bit before there’s even glimpse of hope seeing the game published)

This will take time for sure. My goal is to nail the game – finish it – “in the nearly future”*, and then it totally depends on the publishing process. This is my first physical card game, so I’m almost complete n00b when it comes to that.

We’ll see. Meanwhile, check Infected card game website – there’s links to rulebook, and other stuff is going to appear there too at some point*

*valve time

Psst… if you are interested in ordering the game…
…I don’t mind if you mention that in a comment to this blog post.

Here’ll be Minecrafter traffic: fhriesoxpcdsuhwwnjrdchjdisowiquhfrdcsa

What is this shenanigan?

It’s about this:

And then search engines find the stuff.

And then you get traffic.

This stuff works also other than words like “fhriesoxpcdsuhwwnjrdchjdisowiquhfrdcsa” you know…

What I didn’t do in year 2011

About a year ago, I promised several things that I shall NOT do. Here’s how things went:

  • BAD GOAL: “no email on my main computer”. I still email on my main computer, it’s just convenient. It’s convenient for certain purposes. The good thing is I’ve used mobile devices to clean my email, so I consider this to be success. Goal itself was bit bad.
  • SUCCESS: “no twitter on my main computer”. I have tweeted a few times, but 97% of the tweets are used mobile devices. That’s success for me and will keep it this way.
  • SEMI-FAIL: “”no (too much) NHL11″ was my goal. What can I say. I bought NHL ’12… I think I didn’t waste too much time, and we had some good online gaming with my bro so it’s pretty ok. Less next year.
  • SUCCESS: “ad sales hunting”.: I stopped this. I did accept some ad offers when people contacted me, which is fine. Will keep this way.
  • SEMI-SUCCESS SEMI-BAD-GOAL: “no distraction”.. I think I managed to say “no” to many things, and recently started GTD stuff has been a blessing for especially all non gaming stuff.
  • SUCCESS: “no clutter in email” Email has been zero. I mainly Inbox or Archive, or Trash stuff. I did have zero inbox for the whole year. That is a great feeling.
  • FAIL: “no more new Insider members accepted” – I did change the whole gamerelease.net thing (added forums on that domain, added twitter and other stuff), and there’s new members too.
  • SEMI-FAIL, SEMI-SUCCESS: “focus in making game, having fun, generating the green stuff”. To get green stuff, I have had to do other than gaming stuff. I have had fun making card game, which is now in Tweak state. I’m not focusing on green stuff no more. It’s funny, but somehow those software pirates have taught me that “greating fun games for people” (and to myself to enjoy) should be the goal. I think that indeed is the biggest thing one can aim for. That’s where I’m aiming as well.
  • SUCCESS: “no wockas if being parent requires time”. It sure does. Bye bye free time, but welcome great time. This soft talk is what only parents can understand.
  • DUNNO: “no too fast conclusions”. I think I draw too fast conclusions, but maybe drew less fast conclusions last year. (Hmm, or do I draw a too fast conclusion here? I dunno)

Since I have one young kid and second one coming, I had seriously need to re-think my resources. My main goal was to get rid of stuff this year, and ensure there’s room for game development. I think that was achieved pretty well, and I’m pretty satisfied how this year has been.

Dear pirates, this is how you stop evil media corporations

Instead of sharing their crap, just like you know… do the following:

  1. Stop buying (if it’s crap, why buy it?)
  2. Stop consuming (if it’s crap, why share it in the first place?)
  3. Stop sharing it (if it’s crap, why share it?)

And if it’s good, then why not buy it and show support for doing good stuff?

(And if it’s not “convenient to get”, then why not (a) first pirate it and (b) then buy a copy anyway?)

Dear governments, this is how you stop pirates

Trying to censor torrent sites leads to censoring google as well. It’s like saying “you cannot deal drugs in this building, so drug dealers, move to the next building please”. So, let’s all agree this path won’t work.

So, members of government, this is how you stop the dealers.

  1. First, setup a huge torrent sharing site, operated by secret gov agency. Register PiratePartyBay domain or something like that. Tell that you support all pirate parties around the world. (Also, open some sort of “free proxy” system, but don’t tell it’s operated by you)
  2. Second, make huge ad campaign: plaster ads everywhere: tv, radio, google, etc. All possible places to get visitors to your site.
  3. Third: Make sure your visitors register at your site.
  4. Four: make fake lawsuits against your own company, telling how “Big Media Corporation” is suing you. Gain publicity for 2 years.
  5. Five: track which files people have shared, mark dates, IPs, etc. to you.
  6. Six: Using available data to track down where the chaps are located. Half of the folks have figured out privacy stuff which makes it impossible to know where they are located, but half of the pirates don’t do that. Get court order for operators to help tracking.
  7. Seven: Arrest half of your country’s population and put them in prison. Including some of the cops who do the arrest.

And, to get the rest of the country’s population in jail, do the following:

  1. Setup a “rat the pirate” program, which gives $150 reward for each person who rats about their friend who is sharing illegal stuff. The remaining pirates will rat about their friends faster than you can say “parrot on my shoulder”.

P.S. Tomorrow morning I’m telling how pirates can stop evil media corporations

This is what is forgotten when we talk about “benefits of piracy” and “sharing culture for free”

Who pays the development costs of the first copy?

Pirate parties explainin their websites how “all benefit from sharing of culture”. I almost agree. Yes, when product is created, and if sharing costs are zero, that indeed means that the whole world can enjoy the existing culture for free. Everybody wins?

Almost. Except the chap who created the first copy. The original piece of culture.

If all games would cost zero and everybody would just use pirated copies, the situation is pretty good. There’s just one question. How do we support those who create new culture? (I’m not saying we necessarily should, but in case we wanna create new culture, who pays the price?)

Game developers blame that pirates are selfish, since pirates don’t give their money to game developers. Pirates blame game developers being selfish, since game developers want to take pirates money.

Both are correct.

And then pirates suggest alternative models, such as these:

Game developers should get money from selling mugs, t-shirts and other stuff. Like angry birds does

This is same as pirate would be saying:

“Let’s produce more plastic crap that somebody else than me should buy”. This means that we will need to start producing crap in order to make games. I find the idea of “in order for me to make games, the world must produce more t-shirts” pretty damn unmotivating. I don’t want more t-shirts and mugs. I want more money, so that I can produce more culture.

Game developers should get money from advertising

The situation is pretty same as with the previous example, but instead of developer getting the money (or mug industry), now the game advertising industry gets the money, and we want world to produce more advertising systems.

Aka, this is same as pirate would say:

“I don’t pay, but those makers of product X should pay so that I can get culture for free”

As a developer, I don’t necessarily want another middle man who would start finding advertising deals for me, taking cut from each sale. This means my funds are used to support producing advertisement systems in the world. Or, if I don’t want middlemen, I will need to spend time hunting down ad deals, which is time I could spend make games (been there, done that)

I too am selfish, like you pirates, but at least I have the guts to admit that. (I’m also pretty good at trolling sometimes).

Also, advertising model clearly isn’t what pirates want, since pirated versions often take those ads away. So, it’s slightly odd to suggest “advertising” when pirated versions lack ads in the first place, or are downloaded through sites that show ads yes – but revenues go to somebody else than the developer.

Game developers should make distribution more convenient, like pirate bay

Pirate bay gets support from ads. Google too. They are big distributors, which make it handy to get stuff for free. This is essentially as saying:

“I don’t wanna support the creators, I wanna support the distributors for showing adult, dating, casino ads, and possibly other industry ads too, which then support those industries – but I don’t wanna support the guy or company who created the first copy. As long as somebody else pays, I’m all good.”

“Game industry needs to develop better ways to distribute”

I think AppStore, Steam, Desura and others are much more convenient distribution channels already for those who are not technically advanced. I’ve tested torrent systems, but I tell you: AppStore for example is a very handy way to get stuff.

And if it’s the “distribution” or “convenience” that you are against, why don’t you do the following:

  1. First get pirate copy of the software
  2. Send money to the developer

This way you would cut all midmen, but developer would see his money.

I know why. Because: “I don’t have money”, said the pirate and took a sip from his ale filled with grog.

If you sip grog, instead of giving that money to a developer. Then you are supporting grog sipping, not culture creation.

Equally well I can say that if I’m spending money I get from game development to grog sipping, this means I’m sipping grog in the expense of the pirates. The difference is this:

  1. I have the guts to say this.
  2. Currently all my game dev money goes back into creating more game dev, and to support my family (and to buy Moomins toys at the expense of your – and mine – grog sipping).

You cannot have cake and eat it too
I’m not totally against piracy. I think it’s okay for example students without money or well, anyone without money to pirate games. As long as these guys then remember to support later when they are productive members of the society and can show support to the industry creators too.

The bottom line is this:

  • Piracy means you don’t want to give your money to the creator (nor other parties involved)
  • Suggesting that we should produce more grog drinking mugs means creators should not get money, but grog mug makers.
  • Developers are selfish, yes – and we have guts to admit it: we want all the money we can so that we can keep on producing culture, and to sip some grog if money is left.
  • Pirates are selfish, but they hide behind some “all for common good by sharing culture to all (let’s forget the chap who created the piece of culture)” clause, meaning they have more money to sip grog.

All this boils down to this:

  • To whom we give our money, gets to decide where it goes (after governments take their cut and spend it to build roads and statues in cities). If pirates keep the money and keep pirating, they decide who gets it. They can give it to developers or to grog industry.
  • We as developers of course want that we get the money (plus some leftover to sip grog).
  • Pirates wanna of course keep the money, so that they have something to buy grog.

At some point developers claim that “hey, we help children by giving to charity” to which pirates respond “so do we, by not giving you the money in the first place”.

Game devs say that “if we have more money, then we have more time to make games” and pirates reply “if I have more money, then I don’t need to go to work so much so that I have more time to play games”. Whose free time is more precious?

I think ease of distribution is important, but totally forgetting the guys who created the stuff that is distributed is somewhat worrying.

I think we are all selfish, all wanna keep decision power at our hands. There are couple of pretty fair models. Kickstarter is one: there everybody gets to decide how much they spend money so that something gets produced. Of course there’s quite a long waiting time, and some stuff doesn’t get produced if there’s no money – but that’s life.

I’ve seen some honest pirates too. They say they pirate because they don’t wanna pay, period. I think there’s nothing we can do about those chaps. They’ve chosen that we creators should not get a penny, because they wanna buy bigger monitor and faster computer to play games. I think in a free society, this must be allowed. We can respond by stopping making games, so that pirate no longer has new games to play. If that’s what society wants, so be it.

But then I’ve seen these pirate parties, who claim that “all win if sharing is free”. That is simply not true. It’s the developer who is funding the development then. The first copy costs.

I’m not saying that it’s the “right way” that it’s the players responsibility to pay – I just feel it’s one of the most fair way. Those who create get money from those who consume the creation.

So, what you think.

Who should pay the first copy? Developer? Players? “Somebody else, as long as it’s not me”?

Why piracy isn’t hurting gaming industry… sort of

Whether a person gets pirate copies of games or not is somewhat irrelevant when it comes to sales. Copying game as an action does not affect sales. What is relevant whether this person buys games or not. Not buying (whether he pirates games or not) means he is voting that this industry should not get money.

If he buy games, then he is voting that this industry (or let’s say certain game development company) should get money.

Introduction
I’ve been honing up my economics knowledge, and I must say that I’m starting to lean into accepting that piracy as is, is not necessarily hurting our gaming industry. In fact, I feel that it can be proven quite easily that a “pirating games” as an action alone does not hurt the industry.

Here’s example. If there’s a person who is not spending any money in games, then whether he pirates games is quite irrelevant. Whether he pirates or not, then our Trout Slap Studios example gaming studio is not getting any money from the pirate.

But Trout Slap Studios is not getting money from many other people, who don’t play games.

The direct effect of piracy as such, does not mean that we lose sales. The same way as my dad is not playing nor buying any games, the same way random pirate is not buying any games. If pirating games as such means sales are lost, then equally well can be said that thanks to my dad who buys no games, games industry is losing sales.

Think this for a moment.

The mere act of piracy is equivalent for not pirating and not buying the game
If we whine that piracy means lost sales, then we can equally say that the fact that some random guy at the streets is not buying our game means we are losing sales. And since piracy here is not relevant – only “not buying” is relevant factor, we can conclude that piracy can be removed from the equation and simply state that “not buying” is the important factor here.

Let’s say there’s some random student living in some poor country where he barely had money to buy the computer and eats only cheap tuna fish. He has no money to luxury products such as games, so he pirates. He was putting 0 dollars in the system, and now pirates, still putting 0 dollars. Whether he pirates or not, is irrelevant for the industry: since he has 0 dollars to give to the gaming industry, gaming industry cannot benefit from him.

There are cases where piracy might cause the situation where sales are affected. We will be getting there soon. For now, just let’s try get our minds around the fact that “pirating a game” is not automatically a lost sale.

This is when piracy is not hurting anyone:
Let’s look at the next example: let’s suppose there’s a person who has kept buying NHL games. He bought all games from ’94 to ’12… spending 50 dollars (just conveniently picked sum) each year. This means the following is happening:

  • Gaming industry as a whole is getting 50 dollars in the system each year, and the makers of NHL game benefit the 50 dollars (I leave any other middleman and taxes and transactions and whatnot cost away to simplify the example).

He has no money left to other games, so here’s what can happen:

  1. He pirates all other soccer games
  2. He doesn’t pirate any other games

If he chooses first option, that means soccer games maker isn’t receiving any more money (since the chap spent his 50 dollar budget to NHL game).

If he chooses the second option, that means soccer game maker isn’t receiving any more money.

This suggests that act of piracy alone doesn’t necessarily hurt gaming industry, if we accept that there is certain budget that the pirate is using for gaming. His budget is 50 dollars, which he gives to certain games – and that’s it. Whether he pirates or not doesn’t have meaning to the profit of other gaming companies.

In this case, piracy might hurt the industry:
Only the following types of piracy can hurt gaming industry:

  • The guy who was previously giving money to gaming industry stops giving any money to the gaming industry. He stops spending 50 dollars to gaming industry. Since everybody is pirating games, he concludes, he too can pirate everything. Now the guy doesn’t pay for the next years NHL game, but pirates it.
  • A guy who was just about to click “order” heard his buddy saying that he can get the game free by pirating it, cancels the order. He was about to buy the new NHL game and bring 50 dollars to the industry now decides not to put any money in the industry. This means possibility of piracy has made this person to decide not to give money. If there wouldn’t have been possibility of piracy, then this chap would have purchased the game.

The direct consequence of this is the following:

  • Makers of the NHL game will not receive 50 dollars from either chap – so they are getting hurt (when you compare to the situation where this chap was always spending 50 dollars, or to the chap who was about to click “order”)
  • Soccer game devs don’t get that money either, same situation as the previous year.

So… does it hurt the industry or not?
Now, whether piracy hurts our industry (or at least the developers) boils down to this question:

  • Did the possibility of getting the product free mean that the guy is decreasing his gaming budget?

There’s two potential answers to this:

  • If the guy who was spending 50 dollars per year thinks he’ll just buys shoes instead, and that he will from now on get all games as a pirate… then yes, in this case 50 dollars is leaving the gaming industry. Thus, it’s the loss for the gaming industry. It means gaming industry will have less money.
  • If on the other hand the guy who was spending 50 dollars per year thinks he keeps spending that 50 amount and pirates other games then no sales are lost.

I repeat this bit differently: we all have some limit on how much money we spend to games. For some people it might be 10 dollars per year. For others, it’s 400 dollars. Or 0 dollars.

If we keep spending that money – as much as we can (no excuses here) – then piracy is not hurting our buying habits. If we keep buying then it’s quite irrelevant whether we pirate some other games too or not. Since we have used our budget, we have put the money we can to gaming industry.

Act of piracy – aka downloading game for free – alone is not hurting anybody.

Of course there’s the “budget” that is tricky.

Some might use this reasoning to conclude that they “wouldn’t pay anything anyway” and keep on pirating, and I would suspect that people who say so don’t necessarily really mean this. They just use it as an excuse not to pay for games, so that they can get other stuff…. but if games would be impossible to pirate, would this force them to buy game? If the answer is “yes”, then piracy is hurting sales. If answer is really “no”, then piracy isn’t hurting sales.

Some pirates say that “they don’t buy because it’s not convenient to get the movie, so they pirate it to rebel”. In reality, these pirates could very well pirate the movie, and buy the movie too. This way they would support the makers of the movie AND would get the movie conveniently. I don’t know if this happens, but I do get the impression that usually pirates who claim the “they would support but…” don’t really do so.

The conclusion is this:

If piracy affects “where we put our money”, then it affects industry too
Only if piracy means that the person who consumes games is putting less money in to the gaming industry (and decides to do something else with the money) because he figures out that he can get all stuff free, in that case piracy hurts the industry…

…for short term.

I repeat: only if piracy means that our mr. pirate does not bring any money to gaming industry (money he would have otherwise put there), then industry gets hurt.

Short term impact is that developers of games software (and of course many other groups that are connected with the system) don’t get the money. If everybody is pirating games, and nobody is giving money to developers – this means that developers are in trouble.

Long term effects of piracy?
Long-term effect of piracy will be interesting to see. The raise of different pricing systems like free 2 play or gaming bundles are here to stay.

Gaming industry has about 2 choises here. One option is to stop making games. Let’s close shoppe and start all making something else if nobody is interested in paying for games. We can all start making shoes and hope that people buy them. That sure would stop gaming piracy, as there would be no games to pirate.

Or alternatively – if developers and publishers are willing to take the challenge – the industry must adjust. The industry must find ways to produce fun to people, and somehow get necessary money to survive, and to develop more and better game.

It’s similar when somebody has made an invention that benefits the mankind. If the founder is given money from all the people who are allowed to use the invention, then that will be bloody harsh for the world and the inventor benefits. But if the inventor let’s everybody else use his technology for free, we all (except the inventor who got no money) will be happier. The inventor might get pissed off and stop inventing (tough for mankind)… or he could try figure out if he could get money in some other ways, so that his masterbrain could be focussed on new inventions. (Of course economic cycle will be quite complex to draw, but at least the short term effect is pretty much as described – I’m not trying to be academically accurate here to make a point)

With digital delivery, it is possible to share games to wider audience than ever in the history of gaming. The possibility of being able to connect with billions of human beings who can enjoy fun games sounds great.

I think developers and publishers need to take piracy as a challenge, and focus on figuring out what people are willing to pay for. If that means more gaming bundles then so be it. In societies, I feel people must be given right to vote with their wallet.

I do think that those pirates who are reading this, read the text fully. If you pirates like some games, then purchasing those games means you are contributing to the industry and helping developers meanwhile the developers try figure out new ways to adjust.

I still like the idea of being able to show my influence by purchasing games. I don’t mind if people pirate games, but I would hope that these people would also consider buying some games. Since players have the ultimate power at their hands about the future – after all, we all can decide where we put our money (well, at least as long as government doesn’t mess the developing market by supporting the industry in different ways…) – this means we also have the responsibility.

Piracy doesn’t necessarily hurt sales, but it isn’t helping either
If we want more fun new gaming experiences, then we try show our support to those developers. One way or another, game developers must get their money if we want to see more games from them.

Whether you get pirate copies of games or not is somewhat irrelevant.

Whether you buy games is relevant. Not buying (whether you pirate games or not) means you are voting that this industry should not get money.

If you buy games, then you are voting that this industry (or certain developers) should get money.

If you enjoy games and want and can support the developers, then do so.

I don’t know what’s going on with game pricing… but to me it looks like games stuff is becoming sort of free

Humble Bundle 4 averages currently about $5.32 or so. That’s like 4 euros. It includes 7 games. That means price per game about $0,76. Iphone apps cost $0.99.

I… honestly don’t know if this is good or bad thing. And for whom.

The good news is that the volume increases: much more people can now enjoy many different games. At least that what happens short-term, and I think it’s pretty evident. If I can buy a gaming bundle with $5, then I can get 10 times more games compared to if I buy one $50 game.

This means that instead of one developer getting my $50, several different developers now get the sum. Or, that I simply can choose to spend just $5 in games and use my $45 to buy whatever stuff I might need. Like shoes. (Since it’s damn wet here in Finland. Where’s the damn snow?)

Anyway.

Short-term, it’s quite obvious that players win in this system. They want games, and if you look at the Humble Bundle games… those are quality. They are highly polished production values. They are good games.

What are the long term effects?

That depends on volume. If volume increases so much, that the end revenues are higher than what bigger prices would generate, then this would be win-win for all (except of course for other industries, like shoe industry who would not get the money) . If a developer sells 1000 games, $10 each and gains $10 000 – then it would require 10 000 games sold at price of $1 to reach the same revenue (I am simplifying and not taking into account cost per transactions). If developer can generate same amount of revenue with games that cost $1 rather than $10, then more people will be able to enjoy fun games. I’m not saying that this would happen, I’m just stating that if this would happen then all would be goo.

If on the other hand the developer doesn’t reach that amount, it means he must do something else. He could not buy shoes. He might need to do other stuff that pays and so on. It might mean that he simply cannot produce enough to survive and would end up leaving the industry.

If there are other developers who can survive with smaller amount of money, and can produce enough volume to survive – meaning people are willing to pay for his products – then those chaps would join the industry.

End result is… that this is basic rules of economy. It’s the survival of the fittest. It might mean that some stuff is never made again. It might mean some gaming studios disappear, and all that is left are Click the Cow facebook game.

I think this would be okay, if that’s what players want.

This might sound capitalistic talk, but I believe in the market system. If players are not willing to pay such amounts, and if developers cannot produce quality stuff… then it’s good that the unproductive (by productive I mean “those who develop quality & fun games”) developers are lost.

Alternative would be some sort of group tax paid by all, which would then be used to support various genres in the field. We all would pay N dollars, and these dollars would be directed by the government to produce games. That would be pretty communistic system.

Currently our capitalistic system ensures that players get most out of everything and that each player can decide what they support.

(I’m not saying that communism is bad and capitalism is good, just pointing out that if people can decide what they do with their money, then individuals decide. If money is paid from taxes, then group of people – democratically or not – somehow would decide which developer gets your tax dollar. There are certain places where I like communism style more than capitalism, but that’s not the topic of this blog post, so carry on.)

If players don’t wanna pay anything for indie games, then indie games will die. Sure, that might be sad, but it’s also okay. If players don’t wanna pay for AAA games, that industry dies. If players don’t spend money on Facebook games, then that industry dies. (Again here, I’m taking for granted that we support games industry mainly by so that gamers decide what they buy).

Whatever happens, I like the idea that gamers have the ultimate decisive power in their hands.

It is up to you which industry you support. And it’s the industry’s responsibility to be flexible and introduce different systems that help generate revenue (to help produce more fun to the players, that’s what they are paying for anyway).

If you support stuff like Humble Bundles, then those bundles will appear more. If you support AAA games, then more of those will happen. If you like Facebook games and spend money on them, then more of those games will happen.

If bundles won’t get enough money long-term, then those will disappear. Humble Bundle has sold $1.5M. If devs get about 70% (the default split), and each game is equal, then 1M is shared between 7 games – that’s about $140 000 per game. If that $140k (minus taxes, transaction fees, bandwidth, salaries, pizzas, company expenses and whatnot) is enough for the devs to keep bringing more, then this humble bundle is good thing – and more will happen, bringing more quality games.

Group control (like for example: “let’s collect taxes to support adventure games”) to my opinion would not be a step in better direction. If we force money to certain group via taxes, then some group gains and some loses, and we lose our decisive vote on where our moeny goes. For example, if you would need to spend $50 yearly to support adventure games, then you would not be able to choose to spend those $50 to support indie bundles or shoe industry or whatever. Taxes mean we’d do collective decision on what to support. I believe that players must have the choice.

If players aren’t willing to pay anything, for example every player would become pirate 100%, then it is up to the industry to stop producing anything anymore – or figure out how to gain money. If players are willing to pay little amounts, then it’s up to the developers to figure out how to make it profitable, or stop producing.

Either way, the end result is that.

I think players must be in control, but also responsible. By pirating everything and giving 0 dollars to producers, the pirates are essentially stating “stop making more games” (or “stop making stupid DRM”).

And at that point the ball is in the developers’ court. It’s now up to us to:

  • Simply stop making games. That would stop piratism. If people don’t wanna pay, then we can simply stop making games and all go into shoe industry.
  • Or we can try stop making games more convenient (re-think DRM for example)
  • Or we can think alternative price models (humble bundle, f2p, and so on)

I think it’s bit pointless to try argue if the current system is “good”. We are working in a gaming industry. We devs are providing fun (and other) stuff for players. And different market forces affect this, whether we want or not.

We can bitch about the system and try not to adjust and vanish.

Or we can be flexible and perhaps survive.