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Defending The Price of The Witness (and likely No Man’s Sky)


We posted earlier today about how Jonathan Blow is concerned about his latest game, The Witness, being one of the most pirated games on torrent sites recently. There has been a lot of backlash to the game’s $40 price point.

Some people think that’s simply too much for an indie game or that The Witness is a short experience overall. These people couldn’t be more wrong as the game offers 50+ hours of puzzles in a vast, impressive world that took Blow eight years to create.

For whatever reason, it seems that a lot of gamers bulk at the idea of a full priced game from an inde studio. I was reminded of this yet again while reading this topic on GAF.

The upcoming open-universe-exploration game from Hello Games, No Man’s Sky, is likely going to be a full $60. Its listed at several retailers at that price though nothing has been confirmed. Does it need to be confirmed? You don’t ask Activision if Call of Duty will be $60 because all you play is the multiplayer and don’t touch the campaign mode, do you?

I can anticipate fans lashing out at No Man’s Sky, one of the industries most ambitious titles in years, when it releases in June for being priced at $60. This would be wrong of fans to do.

Maybe you don’t understand what you do in a game like The Witness or No Man’s Sky. Maybe that’s the fault of the marketing teams behind it, to make you understand why these games are worth their launch price on day one.

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But that doesn’t stop these games from being worth exactly that. Shadow of the Colossus has only 16 battles with Colossi, on paper would say that game shouldn’t cost $50-$60 because all it is is exploring an empty world betweeen boss fights? Of course not because we all know that game offers so much more than what you write about it in bullet points. The Witness and No Man’s Sky can (and could) offer so much in terms of value beyond what any trailer or promotional material can show you.

Hopefully the idea that indie titles can’t be full priced games subsides over the next few years. Sure, not every indie game should cost $60. I love Renegade Kid’s Mutant Mudds from years ago and I’d be willing to maybe pay $20-ish for it but not $60. Same way not every AAA retail game is worth $60 at launch, like the new Thief and Star Wars Battlefront.

The reasoning that a game from an indie studio doesn’t cost as much to make as a game from a big publisher so it should cost less is silly. AAA publishers shouldn’t even be spending so much on their titles, this only puts us in situations like with Square Enix in 2013-2014 where they had unrealistic sales goals for Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution and Sleeping Dogs. These games all sold very well, 2 million units plus but Enix’s goals were out of this world. AAA publishers should be spending less on these titles. Indies can use higher profits to finance bigger and better titles in the future.

So if you think indie titles, no matter how much content they offer, shouldn’t be priced close to full retail games, why do you think that? Why do these developers not deserve your money if they deliver a solid experience that gives you more value and enjoyment than a $60 title from EA/Ubi/Activision?

If these titles truly deliver on their promises, why not reward the developer with $40-$60 for their extraordinary efforts?