Idea: An Alternative Way To Sell Video Games

My dream is to one day work on a little indie survival horror zombie game. Pathetically cheesy, I know. But hey, zombies are popular for a reason. The temporary artwork is below. I can’t reveal the name because it’s just too damn perfect and I’m paranoid about someone else taking it. One of the things I’d like to try is to distribute my theoretical game using a sort of “in-app-purchase” scheme. The same one smartphone app developers use…Maybe I’m stupid, or naive, or maybe this has been done before with PC Games and failed (update: studies show demos do NOT help sell games, ouch). But this is what I want to try:

On my game’s website they will see the above screen. They can download the demo from my server or through bittorrent. Or if they’re feeling lucky they can go ahead and purchase either a digital copy from me or a digital copy with physical case.

First 2/5ths of the game will be free:
The first 2/5ths will be considered the game’s “demo” and no I won’t pull the demo as soon as the game is released like certain publishers do ಠ_ಠ (you know who you are). The free version will include the core of the game (single & multiplayer) with the first 4 campaigns (2/5ths) of story mode. From all my years of gaming, I’ve never gotten 2/5ths into a game and then abandoned it. 2/5ths in and I was too attached to the characters, story, and plot to put it down. By then I had gotten used to the gameplay and controls so I hung in there till the end. Otherwise, that’s one hell of a cliffhanger. To get 2/5ths in and not know what happens next.

I also, like many other gamers, have gotten “screwed over” one too many times by a lack of demos for PC games. We PC gamers can’t rent games, we don’t get demos most of the time, and with digital content delivery we can’t resell our games like console owners can. So it’s extremely important that gamers see the final finished game (or at least a part of it) so they can try it out, see how it runs on their system and solve or report issues. To this day, I still can’t play 4 PC games I bought and paid for because they were “shitty ports” or badly programmed and can’t run on my PC (despite meeting the requirements *cough*gta4*fromdust*deadspace*citiesxl*cough*).

Because Traditional Demos Have Little Emotional Hook:
Usually demos feature a short section of the most action packed or enticing part of a game. Same with movie trailers. So it shows off game play and graphics but without properly introducing the characters, story, plot, and setting we can’t get emotionally hooked. And it’s emotions that we find difficult to tear away from. Numerous games have the same gameplay, the same visual style, the same level of graphics, and sometimes the same execution of their idea (Ninja Gaiden 2 & Ninja Blade). They shouldn’t be showcasing something that other games have, they should be showcasing their emotional values. And it takes time to discover those values. Which is why it’s important to properly introduce players to a game’s emotional set pieces.

No Bait-n-Switch:
Also by using the first 2/5ths of the game as the demo I will avoid confusing or over-hyping my game with bait-n-switch demo tactics. Many times the demo will show things that the full game doesn’t have. WTF. Sometimes entire scenes are deleted (Resident Evil 2), destructible environments are taken out (The Bouncer), music changes, character models change, and levels are heavily altered. The formula for “disappointment” is to basically promise one thing but deliver another.

Once they download the free version I’ll show them this screen either at startup or when they exit the game.

They can move the slider to the right and upgrade to a digital copy of the full game or a digital copy + physical copy that’s mailed to their house. If they already own a digital copy of my game, meaning they have a serial key (ex: F738-4v5-6h4-34r-235f) and love the game so much they want to have a physical copy of it, that’s fine…

They don’t have to rebuy the physical version, they can just pay a the difference and get their physical copy, that includes a printed note with the serial key of their digital copy (ex: F738-4v5-6h4-34r-235f), in the mail. Now technically the right thing to do business-wise would be to offer a 1 or 2 dollar discount to buyers who get the physical and digital together but because PC gamers are fickle and quick to torrent I don’t want to piss them off so I won’t pull any marketing tricks on them.

In the future if I release any downloadable content the expansion and its price will simply be the added onto the slider as the 4th option from the left.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s something I’m overlooking or some really good reason why this might not work. Feel free to point out why this may not work in the comments.


  1. Jeyko says:

    Wow, that price. I would never buy the game for that much. 
    You aren’t a tripple A; you are an indie. The price of an indie game should never be more than 15-20 dollars. Even if it’s full of content, it IS your debut title.

    • It was just a sample price but good point, however I’d say price depends on the content and length, not who publishes it.

      A lot of Tripple A titles from big publishers with terrible graphics, short stories, no multiplayer, and no online play from the Playstation era were sold for $40 at launch and that was perfectly acceptable.

      I know that era is long gone; but with “Plants vs Zombies” (a simple 2d game) being sold for $20, I think I’m fully right in charging $40 for a 3d game with online multiplayer, voice actors, cutscenes, and 8 hours of gameplay.

    • Jeyko says:

      PvZ is 10 dollars on steam. I just think people won’t buy a debut indie for that much. It is your decision though. I am looking forward to updates to your project in the future though

    • Anon says:

      Make no mistake. There are too many games out there that have stayed alive, only because gamers buy everything. And allows publishers to get away with everything. COD is a perfect example of that. They get away with everything because gamers buy the game anyway, yeah they complain and whine but who cares if they have best selling game every damn year.

    • Lucb1e says:

      You won’t buy a game for that much? I’ll buy games up to €50 (around 65 dollars), that’s what they cost when I was nine and it’s still their maximum worth to me. Since then the default price became 60 euros, then 65, then I stopped looking, and a few months ago I was in a shop and saw one for NINETY EUROS. No way I’ll ever buy games again. I’m going to illegally download every one of them while buying all the normally priced games. For a good game, $39.99 is a fine price I think.

  2. Blake says:

    Awesome idea. Could end (games) piracy :D