Research published by Steam market tracker SteamSpy reveals some alarming figures about the state of the indie games market on Steam.
In a post on Medium, SteamSpy founder Sergey Galyonkin revealed that an indie game on average sells for $8.72 on Steam, with this figure dropping to $4.63 during the last Summer Sale.
Despite this low price tag, these titles only sold an average of 21,000 copies.
Galyonkin’s concern is very much that indie game developers are selling themselves short – that these games, save for a few exceptions, are never going to sell millions of copies. Thus, they need to be successful, and more importantly, profitable, off the back of a small audience.
He goes on to praise Jonathan Blow for opting for a $39.99 price point on The Witness – something which Blow was criticised for at the time as this was seen as massively above what indie games normally sell for. Even with Steam Sales, the game has never dropped below $19.99 on the platform.
“Instead of discounting your title from the start, maybe invest some time into explaining why it’s worth the price you are charging for it,” Galyonkin said.
“It’s obviously harder than just slapping $9.99 tag on it like everyone else does.”
Galyonkin also questions why indie publishers offer launch discounts for their products, arguing that they are not charging their most loyal fans enough. Instead, he says, developers and publishers should be offering more value, such as bundling in soundtracks or extra game content.
“I understand the repercussions you might face,” Galyonkin wrote.
“Some people will claim they can’t afford to pay extra $10 for your game. Some will write long opinion pieces or forum posts about how wrong you are by making money from your hard work — just look at reactions to The Witness launch price, mentioned above. And it’s fine. Just remind yourself that if someone can’t afford your game right now, they can always buy it several months later when Steam Sale will inevitably encourage you to discount it.”