Democracy developer Cliff Harris believes regular sales and discounts do more harm than good for the games industry as a whole.
“Gamers are being played, played like a fucking piano, every time you see the word SALE,” Harris wrote in a new blog post.
“This is a big psychology trick that is being used to siphon money from gamers, and it’s a bad thing, and if we can (and I think we probably can’t) we should stop it.”
Harris, the one man behind one-man-band Positech Games, argued that sales detract from game launches; because gamers wait for a sale, many releases miss out on the “water cooler moment” that accompanies big launches. This is especially bad for multiplayer games, and the slow revenue build means developers can’t afford to continue supporting games with new content and patches.
He also believes sales encourage consumers to spend less time finding out if games are worth buying before forking out, rewarding good presentation over game quality. Similarly, because gamers have so many cheap games to choose from, they may never finish (or even begin) many of their games. Since games are expected to have tens of hours of play time, developers are encouraged to pad them out with repetitious content, since it’s not worth developing quality material as the majority of players won’t finish it.
Sales also devalue games, Harris said, and hand all the power to portals like Steam and Gog, although he didn’t name names.
“I’m not sure there is anything we can do about it. Discounts work. Sales work,” Harris concluded.
“I understand that varied price points to suit different gamers is good, I understand the reasons for sales being economically efficient ways to maximize global utility. But this implies utility is derived from the product. We are no longer selling products, we are selling discounts. The endorphin rush is now from getting a bargain, not the fun of actually playing the game. This is bad.”