In Real Life

Steam Dev Fights Price Complaints With Excellent Breakdown Of Why Game Costs $20

Steam Dev Fights Price Complaints With Excellent Breakdown Of Why Game Costs $US20 ($28)

Making a game usually requires a lot of time, money, and sacrifice from developers. Lots of players are aware of this, but every once in a while, it’s nice to get a reminder of the work involved bringing our favourite games to life.

Take, for instance, Brigador. It’s a $US20 ($28) early access game where you command a mech that can destroy everything that stands in its way. It’s not a big, well-known game, which means that potential players have a more rigid idea of what a game like this “should” cost. Hint: it’s less than what the developers, Stellar Jockeys, are actually asking for.

Curiously, the developers actually took the time to explain why the game costs $US20 ($28) over on Brigador’s Steam forums, and the response to players complaining about the price is a must-read. Yes, even if you’re not interested in a game like this in the first place.

Not only do the developers put into perspective just how much time they sank into making Brigador, they also tell the player where, exactly, all that money is going. Turns out, after you take into account taxes, Valve’s cut, and contracting costs, the actual developers of the game aren’t actually left with much from that price tag. Not to mention, Nickleback posters cost more than this game. Surely a good game is worth more than a Nickleback poster?

Really, the entire response is worth your time:

We have spent 5 years making Brigador, if you include when we started building the engine.

5 years.

Much of that has been working full time, 6-7 days a week, 8+ hours a day. Even at a very conservative estimate that’s over 10,000 hours of work per person, and there are 4 of us. We did not do a kickstarter, we do not have a publisher. We have funded this entire project out of pocket.

Here is a list of things that also take about 5 years to do:

  • get a PhD
  • get married and have two children
  • earn $72,000 at the US minimum wage (pre-tax)
  • win the election and serve a term as President of the United States
  • fight World War I
  • develop from an embryo into a person who can speak in complete sentences
  • fail to qualify for the Olympics, twice
  • start drinking too much and gain 9kg because of stress from starting a company and building a game for 5 years
  • watch all 262 episodes of Two and a Half Men (we do not endorse doing this)

Brigador was made almost entirely from scratch, and when it ships will contain 2 hours of original music (small sample[soundcloud.com]), over 100 different enemy units (spoilers[i.imgur.com]), a story campaign, a free play mode, and a playable landmass of ~2 mi² (split between 20 maps) — roughly the size of downtown Chicago or the urban area in GTA III — hand detailed all the way down to street lamps, trash cans, stop signs, etc. I took some time to render out two of the maps in their entirety at game resolution so that you can look around for yourselves:

(heads up, each image is ~10 mbs)

St. Martim’s Commercial Spaceport[i.imgur.com]

The Sintra Necropolis[i.imgur.com] (had to be slightly downscaled to fit on imgur)

For this we kindly ask that you pay $US20 ($28).

As a reference point, here is a list of things that cost more than $US20 ($28):

It’s bad enough there’s a Nickelback poster worth more than the game we’ve spent the last 5 years building, worse still to have people come along and announce that in fact our game is only worth about as much as this other more common Nickelback poster. I hope you can understand the frustration this inspires.

$20 a copy, once you factor in Valve’s take and taxes, gets cut down to about $US10 ($14) a copy (we live in Illinois which has the highest state income tax rate in the US at 5%). Pretending we don’t have to pay contractors or have any other development related expenses, to pay ourselves minimum wage for the time we’ve put in requires selling 25,000 copies of Brigador. Factoring in contractors and any kind of reasonable living and that number jumps up to ~50,000 copies. While not unheard of, that’s already getting into long-shot territory, especially for a new company that has no pre-existing ties to games media or the backing of a publisher. And people’s reticence to pay what amounts to a pint of beer more for the game means adding another 33% or 16,000 copies to see the same results. That increase alone amounts to more units than many independent releases ever sell.

We’re not asking for pity or charity, nor are we saying you should buy a game just because people worked hard on it — it’s possible to struggle valiantly and still make poo. But quality, depth, innovation all require time, and projects of this scope demand full-time work. If Brigador is not worth $20 to you, that’s fine, by all means wait until it goes on sale. But understand that you’re making an already extremely difficult job that much harder. Brigador took so long to make because we wanted to take a risk on building something unique rather than just reskinning an existing game. We wrote an engine from scratch so that we could create fully destructible environments and still have good control over performance. Iterating on design, creating something even only partially new takes a tremendous amount of time, and if people are unwilling to pay a price commensurate with the labour involved in creating games like this then fewer people will take those risks, and many of the ones who do will get starved out the industry.

At the end of the day we all have to eat. So yeah, we think it’s worth $20. Hope that clears things up.

Makes sense to me.

You can check out Brigador on Steam here.


Have you subscribed to Kotaku Australia's email newsletter? You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Trending Stories Right Now