Having a bit of experience as far as reviewing indie or AAA games, one of the criteria I used in order to give positive or negative points was the price of the title and if it was worh what the game was offering. As usual, there are gamers that reading about a game that gave us a different and exceptional experience, they focus on it’s price, saying that the pixel art graphics do not justify how expensive it is. I saw something like this on Kelfecil’s review of Hyper Light Drifter. For some gamers, the 20€ that they had to pay seemed illogical for a pixel art title, even though it’s a diamond as far as gameplay and visual style goes.
The price of a game is actually taboo for us gamers. We live in an era where AAA titles stack on the store shelves at 60-70€, begging us to pre-order them in exchange to play a day earlier or to own some worthless cosmetic items, trying to make us gamers feel like that AXE advertisement, where after a spray on ourselves, every woman in the vicinity will run after us. Though, when the big day comes, the first impressions of the game are that the game is usually full of bugs, missing features etc. that forces us to pay extra for DLC or to wait for a patch, since the first day experience doesn’t live up to our expectations.
Unfortunately, situations like these have an immediate impact in titles that actually manage to offer what they promise. Indie games have managed to acquire great recognition, since they do something different than AAA games. We love indie games because through them we experience feelings that big titles sacrificed on the altar of sick graphics and recycling, while indie developers dare to risk for an idea, that might actually work in the end.
Most of the times this idea hasn’t got an army of developers or NASA’s equipment behind it, but it’s the idea the developer loves and the fact that he/she wants to see it through. When he completes it, it still seems to most of us that 15€ and 20€ are too much to pay, even though we pay triple to own half a game from AAA developers. Let’s look at this in another way. When a developer starts to build on his idea, before he decides how much to sell, he plans on what he’ll need first. He starts with a small budget that might become bigger if the developer asks help through Kickstarter or Indiegogo. That help means more money which immediately means more features in the game, while a 10-15 person studio to manage through will have to hire freelance devs so there won’t be a possible delay in the release. Let’s say that everything went according to plan and it’s time to price they game. The fact that they were successful in crowdfunding or that the game’s graphics are simple, means that the price should be lower?
The answer is no, if the crowdfunded goal was reached, that means the people who helped by giving money, got at least a copy of the game. From there on, the price helps the studio. A gaming studio is a business that needs to have a profit in order to be able to support itself, it’s human resources and the upcoming projects. The same thing actually is true for a one man studio, that the profit will make sure the developer will not go hungry and all his needs will be met.
If someone reads my opinion right now, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be persuaded to change their minds, since there were games that asked for funding, they never released and the developers disappeared, leaving fans to complain and in an angry state. A certain case was that of No Man’s Sky, the Hello Games game that had an unfortunate end. As an indie game it brought something revolutionary to the genre, with its countless random planets and the powerful standards for the audience that loves exploration. Until the developers got involved with Sony. Sony actually gave the AAA brand to the title and as a result Sean Murray went on different shows trying to persuade us about how many cool things the game will offer, having also Sony as a backer, in development and distribution. What followed the release was a 60€ price on a game that died before it completed it’s first month of release, with many negative reviews and Steam refunds and Hello Games developers to have been disappeared. Sony though, instead of admitting that the game was not what they wanted, they “punished” those who asked for their money back on PS4. The whole situation damaged indie games and made many of the gamers say “don’t pre-order a game, remember No Man’s Sky and thank me later.”
Of course I’m not on the outside, I pre-order games, especially ones that I really want, like the recent Shadow Warrior 2. I read the above line about pre-ordering from a guy who wanted to play smart on some forums, and that saying actually turned against him. Shadow Warrior 2 has a certain legacy on its back and instead of using that to have a 60€ price, it released with a cost of 30€ and with many things waiting for us inside the game.
Indie games pretty rarely go above 20-30€ and when hey do they usually try to offer something more. If they do not succeed, it doesn’t mean that that is an excuse for every indie game to fall at 5-10€. Just because the developers are unknown doesn’t mean they do not offer more than AAA titles in their game. It is anyone’s right to judge if something is cheap or not, but they shouldn’t end up with this excuse all the time. My goal with this article is not to teach that any indie game is worth the money it’s developers ask, but that we should see the whole picture and not only things we don’t like just because we’ve being used to AAA titles that offer beyond amazing graphics and half-developed gameplay experiences. Good graphics does not mean a perfect game.