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[]), over 100 different enemy units (spoilers[]), 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[]

The Sintra Necropolis[] (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.


    Looks pretty fun,

    Hmmmm $20 bucks though... how can they explain that!

    God, people will bitch about anything. It costs like $30+ to feed 4 people with takeaway pizza for a night, but the same price to have access to a game (you presumably want) for as long as Steam is a thing is out of the question...

      It's all about subjective values and priorities. Until there's a day when a $20 video game can feed 4 people for as long as Steam exists then they will be less likely to complain about the price of food than non-essential entertainment. Of course, there are people who will complain about the price of pizza but will gladly buy a $20 game as well. Then you have the group of people who will complain about both.

      It all comes down to finite budgets though, you have to take into account the fact that if I feed a family of 4 for $30, that's $30 I don't have to spend on a $20 game. This is the thing that most people miss when it comes to price discussions and they try to justify it by comparing it to something else you'd buy without complaint. Money is finite for most people and spending it on one thing means you can't spend it on another so when you have to always choose between things and you can't choose one thing most of the time because of its cost then it's understandable some people feel annoyed. It doesn't justify the more expressive reactions but I can understand why some people might grumble.

    The amount of hours or money sunk into a game does not automatically give it value. If that was the case, Duke Nukem Forever is one of the greatest games ever made. People will pay what they feel a game is worth. Customers aren't a charity, and I don't see what's wrong with people saying that they feel the game is too expensive. Saying "But we worked really hard and it took a lot of time and money!" doesn't automatically give your game more value.

    Additionally Steam has conditioned us to expect cheap games because of its near-continual sales.

      I agree with all of this. Unfortunately for the developers the market will dictate the value of their product, and if you can get 2 games that each provide the same level of joy as this 1 then it really doesn't matter how hard they worked on it.

      I don't actually think $20 is unreasonable for a game, but I can't remember the last time I spent more than $10 (I think it may have been Arkham Asylum... in 2009...) and I have a huge backlog, so I don't see that changing.

      because people's price point these day is so pathetically small it is completely out of touch with the real world. It was bad enough when it kill subscription based MMO's as a game form. (if you cant afford $15 a month, play another game, dont ruin it for everyone else who likes it) It was bad enough gamers seriously dont realise that AAA price hasnt really changed in 20 years. Seemingly I have always paid between $80-100 for a brand new game and guess what its still that. While everything else in the world seems to steadily rise on new years day. (lets ignore the whole DLC side of things for the sake of simplicity.

      You say customers aren't charities but I am really beginning to feel some gamers feel the same about game developers. While sure there are the evil masterminds/corporations but for the most part they are still better than a whiny subclass gamers who think all games should be free or at the very least their price should function like a Humble Bundle. Especially that annoying guy from the other week wanting a refund because he didnt get 'time quality' from Firewatch. Like I said the other week to someone else, you cant ask a movie cinema to refund you the cost of a ticket price when a movie when for 85min, instead of 2.5 hours. You still consumed that entertainment, It was on your head for not reading up on things before paying money.

        There are plenty of people who just don't want to pay for things or who refuse to pay until things become deeply discounted - I don't disagree with this and I lay the blame squarely at Steam for being in almost perpetual sale mode these days. But by the same token people are more than free to state that they don't feel a game is worth the asking price - and if it was a AAA game nobody would even care.

        What I mean by 'customers aren't a charity' is simply that we shouldn't give money to people purely because they worked hard, and there's nothing wrong with a customer saying "I didn't think I got my money's worth" in most cases. That's them expressing an opinion - the developer is free to disagree as they've done here. But I won't give people money just because they worked hard on something if I don't like the end product or I don't think it's worth the asking price.

        As for this game I have no real opinion on it, and don't know if I'd buy it at all. Because I'm fairly ambivalent about it, I wouldn't pay $20. I might not even buy it on sale because I don't know if it's my cup of tea. Thus to me it isn't worth the asking price. That's not entitlement.

    I really do think steam sales have devalued games in the eyes of many a gamer, myself included. Not to mention the amount of f2p gaming around.
    Back in the day I'd pay $100 for games without blinking. But now, after years of picking up AAA games for the cost of a pub meal and smaller ones for a coffee it's hard to go back.
    Especially since I know all I have to do is wait a couple months, and by then it'll be patched to actually work to boot.

    Will check out this game though, sounds cool.
    But I almost hate to admit it'll go on my wishlist for the next sale.

      That's the thing though. It's supply and demand. The dev can set whatever price they like, reasonable or not but if no-one is willing to pay that price then it isn't worth that much.

      If I can go buy a game for $10 that I'm going to love and give it a personal score of 8/10 then why would I pay $20 for this other one that would be an 8/10?

      Personally I won't pay more than $60 for a game, and those have to be a AAA title to justify that amount. Indie titles I'm more in the $15-$20 max range depending what they are and how much polish they have.

        That's sorta what I mean though. I don't think many would disagree that the game, assuming it's decent, is objectively of more worth than a couple of pizzas.
        But a market flooded with games and massive sales informs the consumers otherwise.

          Well yeah, we agree with each other mostly. My point is more just that in supply vs demand if the supply is much higher than demand then prices drop. Games don't sell at higher price points anymore so they have sales to move them.

          Why don't games sell higher anymore? Well there's too many of them. Back when we paid $80-$100 per game we were playing Snes, Sega Mega drive, PS1 etc era titles. There was a hell of a lot less games in the pool back then and plenty of demand for the goods ones that stood out.

          These days gaming has continued to grow, there are way too many good/excellent titles for one person to play let alone the number all up so supply has become way higher than the demand.

          The gaming industry is its own worst enemy when it comes to pricing and the consumer feeling prices are too high.

      I don't think of it as "devalued" games but as "more accessible" games and realistic pricing. If a game has been available for a few years then it should be selling at a lower price. I also used to pay high prices for games years ago - but I wouldn't buy a lot. Now I have over 200 games in my Steam account with a lot from Humble Bundles and Steam sales. I actually am now spending more overall even though each game is cheaper.

    Complaints about price will never go away, and they will never truly be 'equal' because no matter how much the internet would like it, a lot of countries have individual currency values.

    When situations like this arise, they are embarrassing and it's a little bit sad but there are grains of truth in there also. The only thing people should agree on is Steam/etc has irrevocably changed the landscape for developers and not in a positive way.

    I'd also like to see a shift onto the so-called consumer advocates (the Sterlings, Biscuits, Angry Whoevers) who have made more money off streaming the damn game than the actual game developers, they don't say 'I can't recommend this' they say 'don't give your money to this swindler'. Steam enables them to make a profit, not the dev.

    Destructoid said in a post about 'here's some fresh new IP' that you should absolutely exercise the ability to get a refund for the Beginner's Guide after you play it on Steam.

    What sort of example is that setting?

    Sure that explains why they're charging $20 US for the game. Doesn't actually explain why it's worth that much to the person buying it though. Any product or commodity is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. I might want to sell my 3 bedroom house for $6 million...doesn't mean it's worth that much no matter how I justify the price tag.

    *Without knowing anything about this game or what the arguments from people are about* I'd say they're being reasonable if they're saying it isn't worth $20 (to them) based on what the game is, what its content is and how well it does what it does.

    The developer needs to do more than just set a reasonable price tag, they need to sell it to the end user, they need to show why it's worth that price. If they've failed to do that then likely they'll get people saying they're asking too much. Someone might buy it and play it and go "hmm, only really feels like its worth $15. Wait till it goes on sale people!".

    Maybe because it's still in Early Access. Looks interesting so I've wishlisted it. I'll grab it in a sale or bundle.

    After reading this, after work I am going home and paying the money asked. $28.00 is not a rip-off its as they say, less than a really shitty band's poster. And I know I'd buy what is supposedly an overpriced game than even watch a remake of Point Break ever!

    I love what these devs said. So much so that I'm going to buy the game. Done and done. Not out of pity, but to realise the complete outcome of their 5 years hard work. I know all game devs work hard on their games, whether indie or AAA. However, I think getting this game after reading this will give me a clearer view of the complete picture, and the struggles involved.

    Brigador is being made (primarily) by a good made of mine and his little brother. They work damn hard, and deserve every damn cent they're asking for this game!
    I've known Gauss for almost 20 years now, and we've worked together on things before (like weapons for Quake 3) and the guy's got talent coming out his ears! He's put a lot of work in to making this game, and I've watched his progress throughout the development, and I can tell you he's put a hell of a lot of hours in to this. Asking for a measly $20 to play it, is his gift to you!
    Fuck the haters and whiney little bitches! Do yourself a favour and check it out!

    I wonder how many people complaining about the price of a game also have the opinion that a video game can be considered art. If a group of people spend 5 years making something, then put a price tag on it, that is what they want from you for their effort. To accept that and then purchase it, confirms the idea of game as art.

    To complain about the price means you see the game as nothing more than product. And while you may barter a price on art, doing so to something that is consider as not art by some only helps their argument.

      It's both dude.

    People will pay what they feel a game is worth?

    That's really cute. Walk into any store, pick up a pair of shoes, and just see how far that mentality of yours will go.

    A product is a product is a product, mate. The creator of said product will place a price that ensures a return on investment, you know, because at the end of the day it's a business.

    And of course you, as a consumer, can then decide you don't feel it's worth that much and refuse to purchase it... Not "pay what they feel a game is worth", because Developers aren't a charity.

    Get a grip on reality and come back down to Earth with the rest of us!

      Nice strawman. Customers will either pay the asking price because they see the value in it, or they'll go "Nah that's too expensive!" and decide not to buy it. Stating that you think something isn't worth the asking price isn't being entitled - that kind of thinking sits at the opposite extreme of "I demand developers match my pricing!" which is what you seem to think people are doing here.

      All that happened here is that some people said that they don't believe the game is worth $20. And that's perfectly acceptable. The developer went and gave their reasons why they think it's worth $20. I'm just pointing out that it doesn't really matter - if people don't see the value in the end product, how many hours or how much money you sunk into it is irrelevant. Again, Duke Nukem Forever took an obscene amount of time and money to make, but it sure wasn't any better for it, and the value of the purchase (especially at RRP!) wasn't any better because of it.

      Developers aren't a charity, they deserve compensation for their product. But it's complete bullshit for commentators to decide people are entitled because they don't think something is worth a particular value. Which is probably why the devs didn't take such a hardline approach.

        As you mentioned earlier, the current market around Steam is driven by the perception that games should be cheap. Apart from questioning the worth of a product in a market heavily skewed toward devaluation, some people obviously believe this kind of market entitles them to request the price of a product be changed to conform to their ideal. There are people, who by their presumptions around this subject, are claiming entitlement and may be unaware of it.

        Could you stop referencing Duke Nukem Forever? You should know as well as anyone else that the unique circumstances surrounding that game preclude any comparison in the argument you're making. It's an apples and oranges situation, and quite dissonant when you're accusing others of using straw man techniques.

          The point regarding DNF is that some people seem to think that the fair price of a product is determined either entirely or predominately by the effort put into making it. Except it isn't because a 20-hour finger painting is still just a finger painting. If the customers don't see the value in the product they won't spend that amount and no amount of 'But we worked really hard!' is likely to change that.

          People are entitled to offer their opinion on a product's price tag. They are entitled to argue for whatever absurd price they want, just like the developer is entitled to rebut their argument. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and nobody is holding a gun to the dev's head to change the price. People will buy it if they think it's worth it regardless of what others say.

          If it doesn't sell very well then it's a combination of gamers as a whole devaluing games because we're used to constant Steam sales, and the product is overpriced and the dev made a bad investment. These are entertainment products, not utilities or necessities. What people are prepared to pay isn't logical.

    Saw the screenshot and thought Syndicate, was ready to hand over $20

    Lol. Is there an actual assumption that the words of uneducated, entitled man-children are worth anything when it's about concepts beyond their perspective? The amount the average person just ASSUMES they know because, well... they'd just like to think they do, is utterly staggering.

    What gave everyone the idea that they are actually capable of assessing things holistically with little to no education on the subject?

      Even then the "educated" are overrated at times. Being able to rote learn and regurgitate facts does not give basis to actual experience (from my own limited anecdotal experience hiring uni grads). It's something sorely missing from most schools and higher learning, actual application of knowledge. I'm a pretty strong advocate that teaching, particularly in the early years, should be more philosophical instead of RRR. We spend so much time rote learning that we dropped the ball when it comes to teaching how to actually think and solve problems.

    If it's going to give more enjoyment than a movie, then pay more than what you would pay for a vastly inferior movie like Point Break.

    I'm sorry but just because you put x amount of hours into something doesn't mean it is deserving or entitled to x amount of money in compensation. If you want a job that does that, then go find an employer willing to pay you for the hours you put it. There is an associated risk when it comes to developing video games by yourself. Your judge, jury and executioner is going to most likely be the consumers, and if your product isn't appealing to the consumers well... that's risk for you. Don't expect money to start raining in to compensate for your hours, indie game development doesn't work like that. There are far more that fail than those who succeed, the odds are slim. If you want to make something good, make sure others like it and are willing to fork out cash for it because nothing else besides the game itself is going to have a greater first impression on whether it should be bought or not. I'm sorry, but if people are complaining about the price, something is wrong with the product. At least you are being told as to why. Perhaps doing something practical to bring the perceived value up to your expectation would be a good first step if you want to make more sales, otherwise, you just have to deal with what you have. I think there is a common misconception of the reality of the industry, particularly indie. There are always risks, and not everyone is a winner. I'm sorry if I seem blunt or harsh, but I do wish the best for these developers right now and in their future endeavours.

      "...but if people are complaining about the price, something is wrong with the product."

      No. The price is set by the developers and it's usually to cover their investment on producing it + profits. I think the consumers that complain need to spend their money on things other than games. (They're too cheap/poor to be spending their time on games)

        I know the price is set by the developers, but what they're trying to do is make sales, and if people are complaining about the price, well their sales take a hit, don't they? There are ways to deal with people's complaint with the prices. One way is to make a public response detailing how much time you spent and how you think it's a fair price (fair enough but that won't fix the perceptions of all people), or you could perhaps tackle and address some parts of the game that would help raise the perceived value by those complaining customers to the one's the developers have.

        There is a problem with the product, and people complaining about the price is a symptom of it. It is up to the developers to fix that. They can go with or against the complaints, they've gone against. Going with and working with the complaining customers to improve their game to justify the price in the user's eyes would help.

        In the end, the product is out there, and when most people look at it, they don't give a rat's ass at how much time the developers spent on it, I know this from both sides. What matters is the product and if people aren't happy with the price, then there's a problem. The best case for the customer is that they get more than they paid for. The optimal would be that they get as much as they lose. The worst is when they get less than they give. And some people do feel that. If you wanna convert every potential customer, then you gotta go above and beyond to make them feel like they're getting as much as they paid for if not more.

        I don't bear any negativity towards any persons but there is an obvious naivety in this whole situation, from every party and it's not nice to see.

    I just not in the position now to care for most game titles. There's so many. I only have so much money. I only have so much time to play them.
    Brigador looks pretty good and totally looks worth $20, so I appreciate their own valuation.
    That said, even if I had $20 and could spend it on the game, it would just sit in my library; not getting played. Is that reasonable? Do they want me to buy their game and not play it? What is that worth?
    If they're ok with that then I would try to buy all good-looking games with all my limitless cash. But I can't - someone will be the loser in this game of sales.

    I've never read an article that's made me want to go look at a game more.

    "You can check out Brigador on Steam here" *no link*


    Great post by the dev.

    One thing that most comments here have missed is the simply supply vs demand. Have a look at the amount of games being released each year now versus 10 years ago (heck even 5 years ago). Supply has shot up massively. I'm currently at the point where i have a large back log of games to get through. I could literally not buy a game for a year and still have titles to play through for that entire year. If I'm uncertain on a title, especially if the price is on the highish side i just won't even bother with it. $30AU is way over that (~$15 is my sweet spot). If it was lower i might just buy it due to it being essentially throw away money.

    Of course there have been certain titles that i've picked up at full price just to support the dev. XCOM2, Witcher3 etc.

      Not to mention: a lot of us are already sticklers for good value. I didn't need Steam sales "devaluing games" to be someone who already refused to pay full price on most games simply because I knew I could eventually catch a deal and play more games! I could neither afford nor justify buying a game at $60 to $100 for the majority of my life. They just never were worth that much in my mind no matter how well the devs explained it.

        They just never were worth that much in my mind no matter how well the devs explained it.

        See this rock here. I've spent thousands of hours grinding it down from a boulder - so many hours. I think i deserve recompense for all that work I did on it. Just ignore all those other rocks - mines better i spent many, many more hours on it it should be worth more to you.

        It's still gotta compete with the rest of the market and atm the market is overloaded with "rocks".

    Farkinhell; 5 years & it's just reached early access?

    Here is something. I can buy 1-4 better games on steam for $20 dollars.
    First off the Dev didn't need to create their own engine, which apparently took up alot of time. Graphics look pretty Meh from my stand point, rather have graphics like older games like red alert 2-3 and the command and conquer series. Yes they are a bit out dated.

    Shooting looks boring and completely generic, bad interface.

    I like the fact he mentioned you can buy a toilet plunger and trash can as that is where this game will end up.

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