Higher sales or better reviews? (and other pricing/marketing questions)


#1

It’s difficult to paint with a broad brush on these sorts of topics, but from looking over the reviews/downloads info from GooglePlay, I’m trying to draw some conclusions re: marketing and price

It appears to me that games offered for “Free” (generally a free sample, not a free product) have a greater number of reviews, which I assume correlates with a greater number of sales, but lower ratings. Many of the lower ratings (1s and 2s) seem to stem from reviewers who think the “Free” tag is deceptive. It is also possible that customers willing to select games with clear price tags tend to be more hardcore lovers of CoG/HG and may be less likely to give a lower score (i.e. they aren’t going to say, “omg this is just a choose your own adventure! not a game”) However, it also appears that the free download approach might pull more customers in by hooking them with the free sample.

I guess my questions are:

  1. Does anyone share these conclusions or perhaps disagree?

  2. As an author, would you prefer higher sales or higher ratings? (I can see either helping launch a career)

  3. As a customer, when are you willing to purchase a game with a price tag? What does it take to give you that level of confidence in the game?

  4. As a customer, what price points do you think are reasonable for a well-written game with compelling choices, an interesting plot, and replayability, assuming a standard playthrough length of between 3-4 hours?


#2
  1. I have found the same thing–so many bad reviews are angry about the idea that the game costs money, or are surprised that it costs money. And I agree that although the game is marked as having an in-app purchase, it could be clearer.

  2. It is hard for me to imagine higher sales and higher ratings not tracking with each other, but I could imagine a popular series selling really well at first, then getting a bunch of lousy reviews. I think I’d rather have higher sales. I’d like to have my whole game in front of people, and more sales means they bought the whole thing. A review could just mean they played the demo. So I don’t take reviews too seriously–I see lots of review of my game saying they liked or didn’t like the demo, but seems like a strange thing to rate a whole game on.

  3. My platform of choice is Steam, and Steam reviews mean a lot to me. At least Steam reviews indicate that the game has been purchased (as opposed to just the demo.) I will purchase a game when the price has dropped a bunch. I waited until the Winter sale to buy four Choice Of games to save a few dollars.

  4. Three to four dollars is the magic range for me. I feel good about that. But amazing reviews will make me consider a higher price point–but not that much higher. As a writer, I think, “three dollars is SO LITTLE TO SPEND on this thing I took a year to write.” As a consumer, I think, “yeah, three is about right.”


#3

Hey @Gower, I sent you a PM.

And yes I love Steam reviews too. I was concerned that such a hardcore gaming platform might have folks who were less receptive to our more bookish products, but I’ve gotten great feedback from Steam customers.


#4
  1. My take is that people these days expect everything to be free, ignoring completely that it took the author work and time, most of the times a ton of both, and that should be repayed.

  2. I would prefer a balance of both. If a game has like ~500k downloads and reviews of 4,x it’s almost certainly going into my wishlist.

  3. When I enjoy the title and the artwork. I know, and I agree, this is not the best method, and I was really disappointed with some games (namely The Sea Eternal, with that title and artwork, the game could have gone soooooooo much further), but I think a good artwork and title are usually the best start to marketing a game.

  4. I am willing to pay a big price if the story justifies it. Taking your own game as an example, I think it would be worth much more, but maybe that’s just my opinion. A great CoG or HG should always keep you wanting more, wanting to know what happens, everytime you click “Next”, you’re extremely expectant of what the other page says. That ability is seldom found in any game at all, text or not, and should be worth more money than it is sometimes given.


#5
  1. i look at screenshots for the game, i then look at the game’s lowest rating reviews while ignoring the most asinine ones (“i got an error on startup 0/10”). if i don’t get the feeling the game won’t be my thing i end up buying it.

  2. since you included the word replayability in there. 5 up to 10€. without replayability i doubt i’d ever pay more than 3 regardless how well-written it is.


#6

What type of currency is your 5 to 10 in?


#7

The currency is euros


#8

So basically equivalent with the US dollar. Wow so @WaNeZot, that is interesting feedback. I personally also think that the well-written games are worth at least $5 USD, but I’m not a starving college student and I know that audience may disagree.


#9

I’d also be willing to pay that if the game was worth it. Some games offer a hella great story while others offer tons of replayability. Those games should be worth 5$. If a game offers both in top quality, I see no reason why it shouldn’t have its price higher.


#10
  1. I’m sorry,but people who give games a 1 to 2 star review simply for costing money are absolute fucking morons (pardon my French).It clearly says right below the Install button that there are In App Purchases (at least on Android.I don’t know about Apple).And even if they do cost money,the majority of them cost either 3 or 4 dollars! Seriously,even if you think the game was crap,you’re not really losing anything.

2)Personally,I prefer higher ratings.I don’t know,it just seems nicer for a game to have less downloads yet a 4.5/5 than higher sales with worse ratings.

3)Well,this is where the CoG community comes in.On the thread of release,or a separate discussion thread,they usually post their thoughts on the game.If the majority say it’s good,I’ll buy it.If the majority say it’s bad,I’ll skip it.

  1. 3 to 5 dollars for a normal game.

#11

I agree with all the French written in the last post.


#12
  1. I think people who are dismissive towards choice games costing money (or having to buy to play gasp a game with words) are kind of silly. Authors spend tons of hours cranking up stories. Sure, some might not be that great, but it’s work and it deserves monetary support.

  2. I’m going to go with better reviews. But, then again, I haven’t published a ChoiceScript game (yet), so I don’t know how much would sales matter if I were a writer trying to make a living out of it.

  3. When it comes to CoG, yes. I like them, know a few of the writers, am interested in the work and trust the published games. I don’t really play games on my phone, so I wouldn’t know about those.

4.A game that has some 150,000 words? Three bucks sounds okay.


#13

From the perspective of consumer only:

Point 3: The things that add a CoG/HG to my “will buy” list are ability to play a female MC, the ability to take said MC on a lesbian romance and whether I enjoy the free demo content. Male only MC adds a game to my “protest with wallet” list irrespective of content quality.

Point 4: I would consider $3-$7 depending on the length of the playthrough. I care more about per-playthrough content length than total content available. For instance, if your game has a light side journey and a dark side journey, I’m unlikely to replay to see light side, but will probably replay dark side journey several times. If this is short I’m less likely to feel as though I got my money’s worth.


#14
  1. I don’t really read reviews beyond a general good or bad sense. I’m more likely to look for a thread on here and look for feedback. That said, being outraged over the price of a CoG game seems silly, especially with a preview so you know the kind of writing you’re paying for. The price equivalent is usually the cost of a main-title DC or Marvel comicbook. In fact it’s usually less (sometimes £1.29 on Chrome)

  2. Not an author, but I guess ratings? At least then you’d know your second book would probably do well.

  3. Official games I just buy, Hosted ones I always preview unless I’ve read it as a WIP (same thing I guess?).

  4. I’ve paid up to £3.99 and that seems a reasonable limit.


#15

Price-wise… I’d pay anywhere from $2 to $8, depending on the game. Like, Tinstar, I’d probably be willing to offer up $8. I’d probably offer up between $6 and $7 for each of the Infinity games. Most 200-300k games are rather safe between $3 and $5. Considering that I can pay $15 to $30 for a real novel (and I do on occasion), none of the asking prices on CS games seem high to me even at the high end. Though to note, I’m an old school reader. People these days do have access to free books on Kindles and such. Free. Though to me the quality is circumspect. I am sure that it depends upon one’s context as to whether a price seems ‘fair’.

Purchasing a game for me, I think it’s more what the game is about than sales or reviews, I mean, I usually don’t even see reviews or sales figures before buying a game. Though I do sometimes see the WIP stage of the game. A good WIP can really interest me. Although the forum is probably a minority market, though a more hardcore one generally.

Higher sales means more money actually earned. Which flies in the face of reviews. I’m personally the type of person who wants to get good reviews for a game, but sales are more important. Five bad reviews of a hundred people buying a game is better than five good reviews of ten people buying the game. Even if all ten people love it, there are higher odds that more people love the game with bad reviews overall despite the reviews, simply because of the sales figures. Although bad reviews are likely to slow down sale momentum, whereas good reviews can build momentum. I look at reviews as a portion of cause, sales as effect. An author wants a game to sell.

Oh, also- something I do sometimes look at is how many words a game is. When CoG puts out their newsletters, if I haven’t heard of a game before, I’m more likely to be interested in games with more content. Not an absolute rule, but big word counts do catch my interest.


#16

3) As a customer, when are you willing to purchase a game with a price tag? What does it take to give you that level of confidence in the game?

This may, or may not, be helpful (hopefully its relevant at least) But…
I have purchased many of the Choice/Hosted games (mainly Hosted) at full price, happily and willing to take on most things in blind faith as long as the title sounds compelling and the art seems somewhat professional or visually appealing (a surprisingly large selling point for me)

However when I see a ‘free’ or in-app chaptered game I am instantly hesitant about it. For some reason I cannot purchase in app on my iPod (my main device) and so even if i play the start of the game and love it if I hit a pay wall I cannot purchase and the game loses money I would have been happy to pay from the get go. It has become so frustrating now that I dont bother looking at the game unless I see a price tag from the start. It might just be my iPod but it is something to consider at least.


#17

My official game (A Wise Use of Time) was a paid app while both of my HG games are free. With paid apps, the market is narrower, so A Wise Use of Time ranked in the first week in Apple iTunes in the top 30 of all paid games, and was ranked very highly in Steam and Google Play, even reaching featured apps. The exposure of reaching those high ranks for even a brief time gained the app significant exposure.

For Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven, it is a free app and, even at launch, never broke top 150. There are so many free apps, there’s little chance to outrank major studio games even for a flash of time. All exposure is gained elsewhere.

I don’t see higher ratings translating to higher exposure. If you mean higher sales or higher unpaid downloads, I’d take the downloads, which is exposure.

I read reviews and see if they give an accurate reflection of the game. If they reflect things I like, I consider value:cost.

3-4 hours? 2-3 dollars. At 3-4 hours, the playthrough length is around 25k words, which is short for my tastes.


#18

My official game (A Wise Use of Time) was a paid app while both of my HG games are free. With paid apps, the market is narrower, so A Wise Use of Time ranked in the first week in Apple iTunes in the top 30 of all paid games, and was ranked very highly in Steam and Google Play, even reaching featured apps. The exposure of reaching those high ranks for even a brief time gained the app significant exposure.

For Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven, it is a free app and, even at launch, never broke top 150. There are so many free apps, there’s little chance to outrank major studio games even for a flash of time. All exposure is gained elsewhere.

Interesting! Would you say that the high ranking translated into larger sales? I am at the point now where I have to start thinking about these things for my own game, and it’s interesting to see how other authors have gone about things.


#19

The higher rank definitely helped sales though it is difficult to analyze the true impact. There are many variables. I’d say I prefer paid app over free for the potential ranking bonus. ZE:Safe Haven is free mostly because it will be sold in parts with IAP.


#20

If it were a way to pay you out front all the game I will do that . Derelit software the crappy no choice games that have so many sales lately had a season pass for 20 something euros for determined games in a year . It has good notes in Google play and sales. I certainly would give you and writers I trust a bundle season pass for your future plans. Not all authors though.