Gun Monkeys is a procedurally generated online deathmatch game that is receiving high praise from critics alike. The problem is that not a lot of people are playing it – which is a crying shame as it is rather good. So because of this, developer Dan Marshall has decided to cut the pricing of the game, and every purchased game will now come with an additional copy you can send to a friend. Already bought the game? Not a problem, you now have a gift you can send to one of your nearest and dearest – or perhaps someone you would like to blow up with a mine.
In a blog post on the Size Five Games forum, Marshall said, “It’s something I’m doing extremely reluctantly, because I don’t want to devalue the game.” Further on he noted that, “here’s the takeaway from this, for any indie dev considering adding multiplayer to a game: the number of games you have to sell in order to have people playing constantly is HUGE.”
So while it is a smart move to make (given that a multiplayer game generally needs more than one person playing it) it has come at the expense of potentially devaluing the game – and any game (namely his next release, The Swindle) that Marshall makes further in the future.
Speaking via email, I asked if releasing the game so close to the Summer Steam Sale might have had a negative effect on sales. “Yeah, that was probably a stupid mistake,” Dan said. “I should probably have sat on the game for a month or so, built some hype, waited for the Steam Sale to end, but I’ve got a mouth to feed (and believe me it needs near-constant feeding) so I put the game up and hoped for the best.”
One of the big issues that developers are struggling to deal with is the perspective that consumers currently have towards the pricing on games – and in particular, indie games. YouTube personality TotalBiscuit did one of his WTF? Let’s look at’ videos on Gun Monkeys and concluded that the game was good, but not to the value of $10. Pointing this out to Dan he said, “I think it’s a shame we’ve somehow got to the point where a game isn’t worth $10. Gun Monkeys is playable for hours upon hours, but $10 is suddenly a big ask? It’s something I’m increasingly concerned about, what price am I going to be reasonably charging for my next game? I need to make ends meet, and if we’re down to $3-5 per game as ‘reasonable’ the indie industry’s in massive trouble.”
He carried this on to say that, “When I started making indie games, back in 2006, there was a running joke on forums and stuff that it was stupid to charge anything other than $19.95. Whether it was a match-3 knockoff or fully-fledged brilliance like Armadillo Run, your price point was $19.95, that was just the standard. Somehow people’s perception of ‘worth’ for an indie game is slipping – and I’m not saying this is something I’m exempt from, even I do it, you look at a game and it’s $5 and I think ‘I might only play it for an hour,’ and actually, if I did that that’s still good value.”
There are a number of reasons why this is the case, one of the biggest issues is the trickle-down effect that the mobile gaming market is having. Marshall noted that even a game like XCOM: Enemy Unknown, one of the high points of gaming last year, had an excellent port to the iPad, but was unfairly lambasted for its release price of $19.99.
Selling a game that only has multiplayer mode is a big gamble in the current market, with the likes of Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2 being free-to-play, being able to sway players is a massive challenge. While turning Gun Monkeys F2P isn’t happening anytime soon, Dan said that he plans on doing free weekends and tasters. So if you are still unsure about Gun Monkeys, it’s highly recommended to give it a try when the free trials become available.
Gun Monkeys is available on Windows and Mac for $5.99/£3.99.
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