Art vs Pricing

Unrelated to Kill the KOTH, but I've been thinking about the topic of pricing and artful games recently:

If you want to make art AND live off of it, you either have to:

  • compromise on your vision, and add things that the masses want (play time, common gameplay elements, etc.), OR
  • find a new set of widely accepted ways of adding a price tag.

Adding elements that are proven to yield revenue is very hard to do when you just want to express yourself, but it's simply a reality that nobody has control over. It's risky to release something you know doesn't meet market standards if you depend on the project for income.

Free art that rejects norms is kinda like grafiti, and can remain that way - a pure expression, forced onto a medium instead of the other way around. Revenue shouldn't matter here if pure expression is all you want. But if you want to live off your art, you have to make something the market wants - which may mean limiting your artistic vision. I don't think there's any shame to this.

The most financially successful art games I've seen are a compromise between mechanics that sell, and a group of people that want to say something. I think there is a sweet spot. The art working within - and sometimes against - the market demands are still able to produce incredibly beautiful work (Journey, Darksouls, Zelda, ...) while still yielding massive revenue.

A bible verse comes to mind (sorry): "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's."

I interpret this as: you can't ignore the system that is in place if you want to thrive, but you still owe it to yourself and humanity to express yourself and your desires.

That being said, there are exceptions - which ironically go on to be a new norm with their own expectations. eg. Walking Simulators.

We still want people to be rewarded for highly experimental, expressive games - such as the ones here on I've noticed however that most games are available for free - even very high quality experiences. Personally it pains me to see people put so much work into things without getting anything in return. In my opinion, the only context that this should be okay in are jam games, and practice games.

I've observed a few trends that seem to be helping however, and I'd like to see more of the following:

  • release games in bundles
  • release only to patreon subscribers
  • partnering with others to release bundles
  • curators collecting and showing esoteric games

Some example collections are: 

  • Haunted PS1 Demo Disc (free)
  • Dread X collection (paid)
  • Indiegala (paid)

Some example Curators and reviewers are:

  • Warpdoor
  • Alpha Beta Gamer

I'm confident that we'll see more of these types of organizations where they pool together great artists in hopes of reaching a mass market with unconventional games.

Dread X collection is specifically a great idea that I want to highlight. It's a collection of 10 games - all made within 7 days. These are bundled and sold together on Steam.

One thing that stands out about this is that a collection like this can be organized by anyone! You could host a paid-only game jam, and curate 10 of the top projects by vote. Those projects are then published as a bundle and sold to the benefit of the winning participants. This is something I may do myself in the near future.

Anyway - just wanted to share some thoughts and ideas.



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Jun 09, 2020
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Jun 09, 2020

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