Customers Care: The Radiohead Strategy that Worked with 2D Boy

21 10 2009
World of Goo

World of Goo

2D Boy asked consumers to name their price for World of Goo until the 19th, but just as it worked with Radiohead, it did with them. Now, in case you still haven’t bought World of Goo, you’ve got a second chance…until the 25th.

If you don’t know what this is about and why 2D Boy and Radiohead have something common, check the previous post “Catering to the Consumer”.

Though publishers, developers, and service providers might worry about tending to their customers, truth be told: In the end it’s about the profit. A business cannot maintain itself without making money and that isn’t something new. The novelty arises when different strategies are used to cater to the consumer and obtain income simultaneously. 2D Boy acted in that sense by allowing customers to pay what they wanted for the game World of Goo for the duration of one week.

The response came through statistics released by 2D Boy via surveys and interestingly revealed that though consumers do care about those developers, publishers (not so much), and service providers who treat them well, in the end it is how much they can afford that matters. According to the sale results, 2D Boy’s Ron Carmel deduced “Few people chose their price based on the perceived value of the game. How much the person feels they can afford seems to play a much larger role in the decision than how much the game is worth.” At the time, 22.7%  of the buyers had confirmed in a post-purchase survey that they paid what they could afford.

It does make a lot of sense that people might think a a game is worth $60 (insert currency here) or more. It also makes a lot more sense that you can’t buy what you don’t have money for or isn’t considered a priority. Entertainment, as a whole, tends to always remain steady among society’s needs, however when choosing between putting food on the table and going to the movies, it is pretty clear which choice prevails. The strategy adopted by 2D Boy and their conclusion reveals that making things easier for the consumer, in this case financially, is extremely more valuable than opting for aggressive anti-consumer measures (such as DRM). After all, when people pay what they can (or want within their limits), buyers are being created where previously there were none. Even if one cent is a meager amount, this means that 17,000 new buyers payed one cent where previously there were none. The same goes for the $1-$1.99 pricing category with at least 16,000 buyers.

Please note that figures might rise and change because the sale has been extended to the 25th.

"Name Your Price" Sale Survey Results

"Name Your Price" Sale Survey Results

I opted to pay $5 USD (which comes close to $10 Reais) and became part of 29.3% of the buyers. I justified my purchase by selecting the “I like the pay-what-you-want model and wanted to support it” answer and became part of 25.6% of the buyers. In other words, I am also one the buyers that came into existence once the “price bar” declined.  I also said I thought the game was worth around $15 USD (along with 25.9%), which still is less than the usual price. Are we hypocrites? On the contrary, consumers need to dictate what services please them, because by paying for something (or not) they are expressing their priorities. Alternative pricing models, like this one, reveal that it is better to have a (cheap) paying customer than none.

Carmel’s words to Gamastura were especially insightful regarding their perception “I do get a sense … that there is a lot of room for improvement in how games, and in fact, all digital products, are priced. I think the optimal pricing strategy for any digital product is one in which every person pays what they feel is a fair price that they can afford, based on their economic situation, their perception of the value of the product, the balance of their bank account on that particular day.” By acknowledging consumer’s difficulties and particular scenarios, he continues “Neither fixed pricing nor pay-what-you-want even come close to achieving this, however. The answer is elsewhere, but this was our first step in exploring alternative pricing models, not sure what our next step might be yet. Regardless of being an experiment, this has definitely been a very important step for business models in the game industry.

Customers want to pay. Customers want to go legit and show their appreciation for a service or product, but they won’t be fooled twice (or so we hope). Show them your respect and their money’s worth, and they’ll show you they care.

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3 responses

22 10 2009
Bruno Baere

Unfortunately not every player is a consumer. After buying Assassin’s Creed on Steam for US$5.00, I told a fried and he said “You payed for it? Why did’nt you just download it?”. “Because I had already done that and I wanted to have the original as I can afford 5 dollars, even though I can’t have a physical copy of it”, was my answer.

I think that lowering prices or letting customers pay what they want is a good strategy, maybe not the right one for every product, but as the graphs says, it’s working for Radiohead and Goo. Only this strategy will not be enough: gamers must become customers, this “why pay if you can get for free” mentality is hard to fight against.

Exclusive content for registered players can be a way to overcome this mentality, but it may also come with DRM-like solutions (as having to be connected to get access to the content), which are undesired.

23 10 2009
Arthur Protasio

As I said “Regardless of being an experiment, this has definitely been a very important step for business models in the game industry.”

It is true that acquiring products for free, legitimately or not, tends to be a more desirable path for the customer. However, my intention here is to show that the best strategies are those that treat customers favorably and by doing so convince those who wouldn’t buy the games (or would acquire it via illegal means) to do so.

There is no point in blindly punishing a gamer into following your rules and ways. In the end, he’ll opt to not pay for your product (and usually still acquire it). CD Projekt, The Withcher’s developer, allowed original buyers of the game to have their versions updated to the “Enhanced Edition” that was later released on shelves. The developers knew it would be pointless to force their previous customers to buy the same game again. Instead, they showed their respect (and good sense) in order to gain their loyalty and a community. Sales were still high, nonetheless, and though many might have illegally downloaded the game (as with other games), there were others who initially resisted and eventually realized the benefits.

No path is definite and flawless, but be certain that an unsatisfied customer won’t be a returning customer. Meanwhile, a well treated player might be a future customer.

5 01 2011
O Relaxamento do DRM « Vagrant Bard

[...] Evidência de que isso tudo não está resolvido é flagrante: Você ainda precisa autenticar o jogo online quando rodá-lo pela primeira vez em uma máquina. Se você comprou via Steam, isso até é aceitável porque a plataforma em si já é um DRM (embora mais amigável) e todos os jogos são distribuídos digitalmente; mas e o usuário que comprou uma cópia física na loja? A troco de uma inconveniência e um suposto controle sobre o consumidor, a distribuidora perde a oportunidade de cativá-lo e realmente merecer seu dinheiro e fidelidade. [...]

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