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RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche

 
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RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 10:08:56 AM   
DBeves

 

Posts: 393
Joined: 7/29/2002
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Iain McNeil

Thanks for the psychological analysis. I'll let my doctor know so he can stop looking for something more serious :)

There is definitely a clear misunderstanding here.

We greatly value customer feedback. You only have to look at the forums and see all the things we've changed at the request of our fans - basically you guys on the forums. We really appreciate the feedback and ideas and suggestions. However every idea that you present is reviewed and while many get implemented because we agree they are good ideas, many do not. We use our judgement to decide which of the suggestions to go with, and our experience and knowledge of the games industry and 13 years running the largest strategy games publisher in the world to filter the wheat from the chaff.

So the basic summary is - we are listening to our fans. We trust them. We believe they are telling us what they think is best and have our best interests at heart.

But...

We do not agree on this point. Does this mean we're paranoid, arrogant and out of touch.

That is one way to interpret it, but it assumes we are wrong.

The other option is that we are right and this is best for our business and our developers. So we have 2 options
1) Follow a business plan based on 13 years of running a successful company and over 20 years in the games industry.
2) Follow a business plan based on what a journalist and our fans (none of whom to my knowledge have ever made a game or run computer game publisher) suggest because we don't have the guts to follow our beliefs.

I know which option I will be choosing :)



Exactlty - the ONLY arrogance apparent in this whole subject are those who continue to insist they know better - without ever actually having done anything at all in the industry. If any one needs a phsyche eval its those who continually ignore that fact as being the only one thats at all relevant to the argument.

< Message edited by DBeves -- 4/25/2013 10:10:14 AM >

(in reply to Iain McNeil)
Post #: 61
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 11:06:18 AM   
Tomn

 

Posts: 40
Joined: 4/22/2013
Status: offline
quote:

ORIGINAL: Iain McNeil

The other option is that we are right and this is best for our business and our developers. So we have 2 options
1) Follow a business plan based on 13 years of running a successful company and over 20 years in the games industry.
2) Follow a business plan based on what a journalist and our fans (none of whom to my knowledge have ever made a game or run computer game publisher) suggest because we don't have the guts to follow our beliefs.

I know which option I will be choosing :)



While I understand that you are responding primarily to what was not the best-planned message, I’m not entirely sure I agree with the reasoning here. If nothing else, the shape of the gaming industry has changed dramatically in 13 years. The market of 13 years ago, or even of five years ago, is very much not the market of today, and operates on a great many changed realities. While I am certainly not going to discount that experience entirely, some of your experiences can be said to be more pertinent to the present than others – and it isn’t at all impossible that your certainty in your earlier experience may cause some more recent changes to the market to slip under your radar.

But then again, it probably isn’t necessary to do more remind you of the possibility of error – after all, you are wargamers! Tales of how institutional confidence in tradition and experience ran afoul of emerging realities form some of the most dramatic moments of history. Who would know better the story of Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars, France during the Franco-Prussian War, and just about everybody in World War 1? More importantly, and more seriously, however, you already do seem to be making some tentative steps towards seeing if new strategies might work, such as Steam, tablets, or this aforementioned sale, which I fully applaud. Though I would personally prefer it if you approached these ventures with a more open mind, the fact that you are in fact trying to branch out this way is not particularly suggestive of a completely closed mind, as some have accused you of possessing. I sincerely hope (and expect!) that your new ventures will turn out to be far more rewarding than you had expected, and that you will thereby gain the knowledge to make your 14th and 15th years of experience something to truly remember in future times.

(in reply to Iain McNeil)
Post #: 62
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 11:07:28 AM   
Mobeer


Posts: 356
Joined: 1/17/2007
Status: offline
Op, thanks for the interesting post.

I do sometimes think that Matrix Games could do with trying to raise it's profile a bit.

- Steam downvotes do mean that at least someone noticed the product.
- I understand the retreat from retail sales in terms of profitability, but it does reduce the chance that someone will actually see the products.
- Demo's would help raise visibility.

How about bundling old games in sale periods? You mentioned Pride of Nations, which costs a lot more to buy alone from Matrix games than it does to buy the Military Strategies 2 compilation (currently £2.86 cheapest price). Matrix Games must have enough old titles to come up with a decent sales bundle.

(in reply to Tomn)
Post #: 63
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 11:25:16 AM   
Jim D Burns


Posts: 3113
Joined: 2/25/2002
From: Salida, CA.
Status: offline
Man I hope Matrix doesn't cave to these posters screaming for price discounts like we see at sites like Gamers Gate or Steam. All I can say is the products Paradox (the only other real wargame competitor left out there) puts out are pure crap compared to most Matrix releases and there is one over-riding reason for it, their crappy business model that requires release deadlines be strictly enforced whether a game is ready or not. If they don't have new product to push 24/7 they will go under pretty fast because of it.

If you decide to try and turn your games into volume products dependant on huge sales numbers to have even a remote chance of breaking even, then you are forced to do the crap Paradox does in releasing buggy unfinished games and then charging users for the patches and game features that should have been part of the core game originally. You always get the feeling Paradox is teetering on the edge with their business model, and you never see them support a game once its finished its pre-planned support schedule of what, 3 patches max? HOI3 is a perfect example of an unfinished piece of crap they will never fix due to the fact they can't afford to as its already had its sales run and they need to move on to new product to keep the cash spigot open.

I have stopped buying Paradox games for the most part because of their business practices and would stop supporting Matrix if they were to follow suit. Wargaming has never been a mass appeal genre and never will be. Once you go down the road of Paradox you'll be forced to start having meetings about how to chop up games and release what you have now and finish the rest later just to keep the light bill paid. And releasing patches years after release will become just as impossible for you as it is for Paradox now.

Stick to what works, you've had great success in an industry that traditionally has seen dramatic failure whenever companies tried to be like the rest and move into the larger mass-appeal markets. Don't be baited by the penny pinchers who could care less if you are able to feed your kids or not. There are plenty of retail sites already out there selling the crap games that thrive in the business model they want to see, they can go to them.

I for one will always support companies like Matrix and AGEOD who want to make the games I enjoy playing. And I hope there are many others like me here silently listening to the whiners who want to shoot themselves in the foot by trying to convince you wargames can appeal to the masses just so they can save a few bucks on a game.

Jim


_____________________________



(in reply to Iain McNeil)
Post #: 64
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 11:34:14 AM   
jday305


Posts: 115
Joined: 3/31/2013
From: Northeast Indiana
Status: offline
I would have to agree with you Mr Burns especially on your opinion of Paradox games. I have ultimately been disappointed with their games I have bought from Steam.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Jim D Burns

Man I hope Matrix doesn't cave to these posters screaming for price discounts like we see at sites like Gamers Gate or Steam. All I can say is the products Paradox (the only other real wargame competitor left out there) puts out are pure crap compared to most Matrix releases and there is one over-riding reason for it, their crappy business model that requires release deadlines be strictly enforced whether a game is ready or not. If they don't have new product to push 24/7 they will go under pretty fast because of it.

If you decide to try and turn your games into volume products dependant on huge sales numbers to have even a remote chance of breaking even, then you are forced to do the crap Paradox does in releasing buggy unfinished games and then charging users for the patches and game features that should have been part of the core game originally. You always get the feeling Paradox is teetering on the edge with their business model, and you never see them support a game once its finished its pre-planned support schedule of what, 3 patches max? HOI3 is a perfect example of an unfinished piece of crap they will never fix due to the fact they can't afford to as its already had its sales run and they need to move on to new product to keep the cash spigot open.

I have stopped buying Paradox games for the most part because of their business practices and would stop supporting Matrix if they were to follow suit. Wargaming has never been a mass appeal genre and never will be. Once you go down the road of Paradox you'll be forced to start having meetings about how to chop up games and release what you have now and finish the rest later just to keep the light bill paid. And releasing patches years after release will become just as impossible for you as it is for Paradox now.

Stick to what works, you've had great success in an industry that traditionally has seen dramatic failure whenever companies tried to be like the rest and move into the larger mass-appeal markets. Don't be baited by the penny pinchers who could care less if you are able to feed your kids or not. There are plenty of retail sites already out there selling the crap games that thrive in the business model they want to see, they can go to them.

I for one will always support companies like Matrix and AGEOD who want to make the games I enjoy playing. And I hope there are many others like me here silently listening to the whiners who want to shoot themselves in the foot by trying to convince you wargames can appeal to the masses just so they can save a few bucks on a game.

Jim




_____________________________

RebelYell

"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it."
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Edmund Burke

(in reply to Jim D Burns)
Post #: 65
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 12:11:25 PM   
Alchenar

 

Posts: 218
Joined: 8/2/2010
Status: offline
I like how this '13 years of data and experience' line keeps getting trotted out despite the fact that it apparently doesn't include basic analytics like 'how long on average do our users spend playing a game?'

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Post #: 66
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 12:16:57 PM   
wodin


Posts: 7850
Joined: 4/20/2003
From: England
Status: offline
Jim no one wants Steam like sales\reductions where they charge silly amounts for newish games..we are talking about games well past their shelf life.

Why do those who stick by Slitherine resort to name calling when myself and Tim Stone are trying to make a change that we think will benefit everyone...does that make us whiners or because we want to save some money and want things cheap? So far removed from where I'm coming from anyway...


< Message edited by wodin -- 4/25/2013 12:20:28 PM >


_____________________________

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https://www.facebook.com/Tacticalwargame


(in reply to Alchenar)
Post #: 67
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 1:37:50 PM   
Jim D Burns


Posts: 3113
Joined: 2/25/2002
From: Salida, CA.
Status: offline

quote:

ORIGINAL: wodin

Jim no one wants Steam like sales\reductions where they charge silly amounts for newish games..we are talking about games well past their shelf life.

Why do those who stick by Slitherine resort to name calling when myself and Tim Stone are trying to make a change that we think will benefit everyone...does that make us whiners or because we want to save some money and want things cheap? So far removed from where I'm coming from anyway...



Complaining about prices is not constructive criticism when the company already laid out their reasons (something 99% of other companies would never do) for sticking with their business model, I can't think of anything else to call it except whining if you are not then ready to let it go.

They obviously still generate an acceptable revenue stream from their older titles which is what allows them to continue to support those titles many many years after release. I guarantee if they resorted to discounting their games 2 or 3 years after a title is released, the ability to support those same titles for more than a couple years max would vanish overnight, Paradox being the best example of this fact. Paradox has stated time and again there is no budget for more than 2 or 3 patches for a given game, if it isn't fixed by then it won't be getting fixed. Because of their business model they have to move on to a new product line.

The people at Matrix and their developers have families and mortgages just like the rest of us. I seriously doubt 100,000 sales of game X at $5.00 per game would keep a development house and the production team at Matrix in business for more than a year or two max. Not to mention the fact I seriously doubt they could sell 100,000 units of any of their titles even if they were severely discounted, Distant Worlds being a possible exception due to its crossover appeal.

Once a game has gone through a severe discount period, there are very few people left who would be willing to buy the game for a higher price again years later as we see now occurring with PON. Those who paid 1.50 for PON basically put the money in the pockets of the discounters and gave nothing to the men who did the actual work to bring that game into being. While I understand the urge to pay such a cheap price for a game, you did take food out of the mouths of those men and their families by not supporting them and buying it from their site at their listed price.

And because you enjoyed getting something for nothing from those men you now want to convince Matrix and all the other developers here that you should also be allowed to take food from them as well. If wargaming was mainstream like most other genre's out there I'd be the first one screaming for price breaks because they'd sell enough units to make discounting a viable business model. But years of experience in this hobby first with board games and now with PC games has taught me that anyone who tries to make wargaming work using a mainstream business model will fail in very short order.

Talonsoft is a perfect example. They were arguably the most successful early PC wargame publisher out there. Then they had one non-traditional wargame title (FPS title can't recall the name) sell hundreds of thousands if not millions of units and they tried to bring their business up to support the staff and warehousing such a success needed. They were out of business within a year or two having to sell out to Take 2 because there simply wasn't enough interest in the rest of their games (almost all were traditional wargames) to allow them to stay in the black.

They did try and move into games they were not experienced at developing, but they simply couldn't succeed in time to stay afloat. If memory serves they tried to develop some vampire FPS game and a RTS title, but their customer base revolted on them when they were told by Talonsoft that PC wargames were going to be different from now on. Translation: They couldn't keep the success going with traditional wargames.

Had Talonsoft been successful at crossing over to mainstream titles and were it still in business today, I doubt there'd be any more wargames on their roster of games offered. Wargames will never sell enough units to support a discount business model unless you shift your games quality to something that appeals more to the masses.

Paradox used to be a quality production house for wargaming, now they simply pump out garbage and come up with ways to sell the same garbage to their customers over and over. If they stuck with their titles long enough to get them working as intended I wouldn't be so negative on them, but the fact games like HOI3 will never be finished because they can't generate enough cash to support the work needed to fix it tells me their business model is not worth supporting no matter how cheap they decide to sell their garbage.

Even if Matrix has a bad release, I know from experience they will stick with it till they get it right. To me that's worth the higher price point any day of the week.

Jim


_____________________________



(in reply to wodin)
Post #: 68
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 2:00:15 PM   
vonRocko

 

Posts: 1155
Joined: 11/4/2008
Status: offline

quote:

ORIGINAL: wodin

Jim no one wants Steam like sales\reductions where they charge silly amounts for newish games..we are talking about games well past their shelf life.

Why do those who stick by Slitherine resort to name calling when myself and Tim Stone are trying to make a change that we think will benefit everyone...does that make us whiners or because we want to save some money and want things cheap? So far removed from where I'm coming from anyway...


I agree Wodin, you're one of the few who can see the trees despite the forest. I can't believe the comprehension skills of some posters. Heck some of them think this is all about PON!

(in reply to wodin)
Post #: 69
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 2:31:51 PM   
Iain McNeil


Posts: 1934
Joined: 10/26/2004
From: London
Status: online
There is no bad feeling towards anyone who bought PoN at $1.50. I really don;t want people to feel guilty or that they cheated anyone out of anything. I think it was a bad business decision to sell at that price but it is the person setting the price who any angst should be directed at, not the customer buying it.


quote:

ORIGINAL: Vasquez

Wargaming is indeed a niche. The success of Panzer Corps means nothing since it is more or less a mainstream startegygame.

I am a supporter of the idea to lower the Prices of older titles of course. But would that get more blood into the genre? I doubt it. As someone mentioned take older SSG titles as example. They have fixed resolutions and they arent loooking very good on nowadays widescreen TFTs. Same goes for a lot older Matrix Games (Crown of Glory etc). I fear those games would scare more people away instead of broading the audience. Lowering the prices of those games would help us (wargaming geeks) but not the genre as a whole.

Two more interesting examples:

1. One year ago a retail gaming store (in germany) announced their cessation of Business. They had offered a half dozen boxed Version of Battles in Italy (German retail Version) for 1 (one) Euro each. 
One months later they had not sold one of them. So I bought them all and made a giveaway on my gaming site. We have some wargamers over there yes, but the majority are shooter fans (since 7idGaming is focused on e-sports and we are hosting servers for ArmaII and such games). Anyway. In short: No one wanted Battles in Italy. Neither for 1 Euro nor for free.

2. Some weeks ago a friend gave me five gamersgate keys for a almost brand new wargame. So I announced a contest again. The only requirement was to like the developers Facebook site. My article had 280 hits but only three guys were interested enough to like the page for a free copy.

The price alone does not turn average Jon Doe into a wargamer. 


This is fundamentally our point and matches exactly with the data we have. Price is not the issue here as some would have you believe. There is very little price elasticity in the demand curve beyond a certain point. We pick prices on a game by game basis that put it in the best position on that demand curve.

When I say we have 13 years of data - I don't mean we look at data from 13 years ago. I assumed that would be clear but just to clarify and avoid any confusion - I mean we look at the trends over 13 years and use them to predict the current and future trends.

The perception that old games are past their shelf life is misguided. We have games approaching ten years old that still generate revenues in the five to ten thousand dollars a month range. Sure, that's not all of them, and there are some older games that might benefit from a price drop but the assumption that these older strategy games do not sell is fundamentally flawed. What you see in other genres does not apply here for various reasons I wont go in to. I don't really know what more I can say. I'd like to convince you we are right, but it looks like I can't as you don't seem to believe anything we say. :)

The sad thing is it is we who are accused of not believing our fans! Oh the irony.... :)

_____________________________

Iain McNeil
Director
Slitherine Software
Website http://www.slitherine.com

(in reply to vonRocko)
Post #: 70
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 2:42:31 PM   
wodin


Posts: 7850
Joined: 4/20/2003
From: England
Status: offline
Well fair enough. I know I've upset some people over this issue...however the core motive behind it all was to benefit everyone..I will now accept that Tim and myself and any others who thought similar (and I'm not on about silly Steam pricing here either)are wrong in our assumptions. Obviously those old games stills ell well and are a very good source of income for those developers going by what Pip has said and Iain. If thats the case I have no argument.



_____________________________

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https://www.facebook.com/Tacticalwargame


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Post #: 71
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 3:00:45 PM   
DBeves

 

Posts: 393
Joined: 7/29/2002
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Alchenar

I like how this '13 years of data and experience' line keeps getting trotted out despite the fact that it apparently doesn't include basic analytics like 'how long on average do our users spend playing a game?'


And who else in the industry has that data ?

Mmmm... steam ... why ? Because they track your activity and it gets reported back when you are online via a proprietary system linked to their DRM - you like that ? Next you will be suggesting an always online DRM system so matrix can know what day of the week you play it on as well.

(in reply to Alchenar)
Post #: 72
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 3:07:27 PM   
DBeves

 

Posts: 393
Joined: 7/29/2002
Status: offline
quote:

ORIGINAL: vonRocko


quote:

ORIGINAL: wodin

Jim no one wants Steam like sales\reductions where they charge silly amounts for newish games..we are talking about games well past their shelf life.

Why do those who stick by Slitherine resort to name calling when myself and Tim Stone are trying to make a change that we think will benefit everyone...does that make us whiners or because we want to save some money and want things cheap? So far removed from where I'm coming from anyway...


I agree Wodin, you're one of the few who can see the trees despite the forest. I can't believe the comprehension skills of some posters. Heck some of them think this is all about PON!

quote:

see the trees despite the forest. I can't believe the comprehension skills of some posters. Heck some of them think this is all about PON!


Our comprehension skills ? LOL thats rich - you are the ones who are told again and again the facts - based on hard data from an actual games company - doing actual business in in actual market place, and the one we are discussing to boot - and yet you are the ones who cant comprehend that your assumptions based purely on what you think would happen - not about PON on its own - are entirely incorrect.

< Message edited by DBeves -- 4/25/2013 3:09:03 PM >

(in reply to vonRocko)
Post #: 73
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 3:15:09 PM   
Tomn

 

Posts: 40
Joined: 4/22/2013
Status: offline
quote:

ORIGINAL: Jim D Burns
Complaining about prices is not constructive criticism when the company already laid out their reasons (something 99% of other companies would never do) for sticking with their business model, I can't think of anything else to call it except whining if you are not then ready to let it go.

They obviously still generate an acceptable revenue stream from their older titles which is what allows them to continue to support those titles many many years after release. I guarantee if they resorted to discounting their games 2 or 3 years after a title is released, the ability to support those same titles for more than a couple years max would vanish overnight, Paradox being the best example of this fact. Paradox has stated time and again there is no budget for more than 2 or 3 patches for a given game, if it isn't fixed by then it won't be getting fixed. Because of their business model they have to move on to a new product line.

The people at Matrix and their developers have families and mortgages just like the rest of us. I seriously doubt 100,000 sales of game X at $5.00 per game would keep a development house and the production team at Matrix in business for more than a year or two max. Not to mention the fact I seriously doubt they could sell 100,000 units of any of their titles even if they were severely discounted, Distant Worlds being a possible exception due to its crossover appeal.

Once a game has gone through a severe discount period, there are very few people left who would be willing to buy the game for a higher price again years later as we see now occurring with PON. Those who paid 1.50 for PON basically put the money in the pockets of the discounters and gave nothing to the men who did the actual work to bring that game into being. While I understand the urge to pay such a cheap price for a game, you did take food out of the mouths of those men and their families by not supporting them and buying it from their site at their listed price.

And because you enjoyed getting something for nothing from those men you now want to convince Matrix and all the other developers here that you should also be allowed to take food from them as well. If wargaming was mainstream like most other genre's out there I'd be the first one screaming for price breaks because they'd sell enough units to make discounting a viable business model. But years of experience in this hobby first with board games and now with PC games has taught me that anyone who tries to make wargaming work using a mainstream business model will fail in very short order.

Talonsoft is a perfect example. They were arguably the most successful early PC wargame publisher out there. Then they had one non-traditional wargame title (FPS title can't recall the name) sell hundreds of thousands if not millions of units and they tried to bring their business up to support the staff and warehousing such a success needed. They were out of business within a year or two having to sell out to Take 2 because there simply wasn't enough interest in the rest of their games (almost all were traditional wargames) to allow them to stay in the black.

They did try and move into games they were not experienced at developing, but they simply couldn't succeed in time to stay afloat. If memory serves they tried to develop some vampire FPS game and a RTS title, but their customer base revolted on them when they were told by Talonsoft that PC wargames were going to be different from now on. Translation: They couldn't keep the success going with traditional wargames.

Had Talonsoft been successful at crossing over to mainstream titles and were it still in business today, I doubt there'd be any more wargames on their roster of games offered. Wargames will never sell enough units to support a discount business model unless you shift your games quality to something that appeals more to the masses.

Paradox used to be a quality production house for wargaming, now they simply pump out garbage and come up with ways to sell the same garbage to their customers over and over. If they stuck with their titles long enough to get them working as intended I wouldn't be so negative on them, but the fact games like HOI3 will never be finished because they can't generate enough cash to support the work needed to fix it tells me their business model is not worth supporting no matter how cheap they decide to sell their garbage.

Even if Matrix has a bad release, I know from experience they will stick with it till they get it right. To me that's worth the higher price point any day of the week.

Jim



I don’t think I can agree with you on this, for the simple reason that I do not believe it is wise to accept anyone’s word, my own included mark you, as the Voice of God bearing ineffable truth. All people are fallible, and in the absence of a Truthrock that glows gently in the presence of objective truth, the only way to resolve any disagreement in opinions is through debate and discussion. So long as we are polite about the matter, and explain our positions as clearly and as well as we can, what harm can there be in expressing our opinion that Matrix Games may have overlooked potential profit?

For that is the key point at stake here. Those of us arguing for lower prices are hardly trying to “steal money out of the mouth of developer,” and I am not at all certain that there is any benefit in accusing us of such. Rather, we genuinely believe that lower prices, particularly with older games, would bring in MORE money for Matrix Games and their developers – that such lower prices would be a net benefit not only for the customer, but for Matrix Games as well (for details of why we think this is so, please refer to my earlier posts. I apologize for their length!) Certainly they are experienced publishers – certainly they have garnered a commendable success in their projects – certainly they do have some idea what they are doing. But does that truly preclude the possibility that some of the fans might have good ideas and good arguments behind those ideas which Matrix Games, which is only human, might have overlooked themselves? And even if we should be complete Neanderthals incapable of stringing two concepts together, cannot Matrix Games simply ignore us and leave it at that? I see then no harm whatsoever in polite discussion about the matter.

So much, then, for our right to speak our piece. As to specific arguments, I think I must object to two particular prongs of your offensive. Firstly, you have a particular amount of vitriol for Paradox Interactive, and seem to believe that they don’t ever patch and are doing badly. This is more than a little surprising to me given that they’re pretty much the biggest name in grand strategy and that they possess quite a good reputation for being willing to stick with their games for rather a long time – longer, certainly, than any more mainstream publisher you might care to name. I’m completely baffled as to where this claim of “two-three patches then BUST” comes from. In fact, with their newest modular DLC system (visible in CK2 onwards), one can’t even argue that you need to buy their expansions to fix their games – their DLC/expansions unlock new features within the game, but patches will always be free and constantly coming even for those who only ever bought the base game. This doesn’t REALLY seem to fit the image you paint of an addict on the verge of starvation constantly stumbling towards their next fix. And while you may not care for the direction their games are going in, it seems hard to argue that they’re doing quite well for themselves. May I ask you to provide citations to back up these claims of bad patching and poor financial stability?

Moving on, then, you bring up Talonsoft as an example of a company that went bust trying to become mainstream. Now, I wasn’t particularly aware of who Talonsoft was, and had to look it up – I was pleasantly surprised to find that I did in fact recognize one of their games, and easily the most famous one on the list – Jagged Alliance 2, a tactical turn-based squad game that’s still considered one of the great classics by gamers across the world. None of the other games on their list comes anywhere close in terms of recognizability – I presume, then, that this was the “FPS” you were talking about? Not exactly, I would think, the sort of thing that denotes them diverging wildly from their roots, but perhaps you have a differing perspective on the matter.

But regardless, we move on as you tell their story about their attempt to branch out which collapsed swiftly, and cite this as evidence that wargames cannot be sustained using standard pricing tactics. While this is certainly a useful cautionary tale, I think I must point something out – Jagged Alliance 2 was released in 1999, Talonsoft was acquired by Take-Two in 2000, and it went out of business in 2005. In terms of the gaming industry, this was a VERY long time ago, in the days when “digital download” was a thing that a few homemade shareware developers did and retail stores were the only places you could get your games from. The advent of major one-stop-shopping distributors such as Steam and Gamersgate changes the old retail dynamics dramatically. For more details, I refer you again to my previous posts in this thread, but in short, Steam provides enormous visibility. The main problem that niche games of all kinds have always suffered from is finding their customers and selling to them, but Steam sidesteps this issues that making practically anyone with a PC game aware of anything that comes to their front page, making it much, much more likely that anyone with a potential interest in the niche will find what they didn’t know they’d loved all along. It is for this reason that Steam et al. are considered responsible for the recent boom in indie niche game development, and why so many niche developers are so willing to sign on with Steam.

In the old dynamics of 1999, when customers could only see what they can find by browsing on the shelves and where wargames were customarily shoved into less prominent spots, it was unlikely that wargames could succeed by trying to compete in price. But now in the age of mass visibility, unlimited storefronts, and digital pretty-much-everything, is it not possible that these old dynamics no longer apply, and that wargames can make an excellent profit even at a lower price because they’re capable of finding many new eager wargaming fans from major distribution outlets? That is the great question. Are the lessons of Talonsoft, then, so relevant to the year of 2013?

< Message edited by Tomn -- 4/25/2013 3:16:15 PM >

(in reply to Jim D Burns)
Post #: 74
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 3:46:40 PM   
Tomn

 

Posts: 40
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Iain McNeil

There is no bad feeling towards anyone who bought PoN at $1.50. I really don;t want people to feel guilty or that they cheated anyone out of anything. I think it was a bad business decision to sell at that price but it is the person setting the price who any angst should be directed at, not the customer buying it.

This is fundamentally our point and matches exactly with the data we have. Price is not the issue here as some would have you believe. There is very little price elasticity in the demand curve beyond a certain point. We pick prices on a game by game basis that put it in the best position on that demand curve.

When I say we have 13 years of data - I don't mean we look at data from 13 years ago. I assumed that would be clear but just to clarify and avoid any confusion - I mean we look at the trends over 13 years and use them to predict the current and future trends.

The perception that old games are past their shelf life is misguided. We have games approaching ten years old that still generate revenues in the five to ten thousand dollars a month range. Sure, that's not all of them, and there are some older games that might benefit from a price drop but the assumption that these older strategy games do not sell is fundamentally flawed. What you see in other genres does not apply here for various reasons I wont go in to. I don't really know what more I can say. I'd like to convince you we are right, but it looks like I can't as you don't seem to believe anything we say. :)

The sad thing is it is we who are accused of not believing our fans! Oh the irony.... :)


Hi, Iain. I hope I'm not being a bother, but I do have some questions which I think are worth asking. For the benefit of others reading, I hope you realize that I intend no offense with these questions, but instead genuinely want to have a discussion on the subject.

Now, then, I certainly understand that you're attempting to observe trends in data, but I do have to ask - where is the data coming from? Because if they're coming primarily from your own customers, your own sales and your own business, and if you've been operating using a somewhat unusual business model which hasn't altered that greatly over the years, it seems that this could obscure the potential for greater success using other strategies. To use an analogy, a farmer who consistently uses 2-field rotation could say "My data and my experiences of farming trends over the past fourteen years shows that 2-field rotation is the best way of gaining maximum food out of the ground I possess," and while 2-field rotation certainly isn't a bad system and is capable of feeding the farmer, 4-field rotation would be even more productive - but his data would not show otherwise in the absence of having tried it out. Much the same might apply here, and indeed, has applied here - were you not greatly surprised by the success of tablets? Did your pre-existing data predict that success before you attempted it? If it did not, doesn't that suggest that your data is incomplete and may not have been adapted properly to account for new market realities? If the data is in fact incomplete, wouldn't that suggest that it might well be possible to lower prices and still make a greater profit?

I do not insist, of course, that you are absolutely and certainly wrong, and that I know this because I'm the customer, dangit, and I'm always right. I do ask, however, that you make greater consideration for the possibility of error in this regard than you are currently appearing to, and to approach your latest experiments in these matters with a touch less hesitation than currently affects you, as I think my reasoning for doing so is fairly sound. If you think it unsound, however, do let me know if you have the time to do so, and I shall strive to correct it.

Have a nice day!

(in reply to Iain McNeil)
Post #: 75
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 3:57:22 PM   
Iain McNeil


Posts: 1934
Joined: 10/26/2004
From: London
Status: online
We have sales data from Steam, Gamers Gate, Impulse, Matrix, Slitherine, Ageod, iTunes, Google Play, PSN store, Amazon and a host of other digital outlets that combined together are insignificant. We also directly publish to retail around the world. Then we have our partners and their experiences. Then we have our staff's experiences at other companies before joining.




_____________________________

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Slitherine Software
Website http://www.slitherine.com

(in reply to Tomn)
Post #: 76
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 3:58:20 PM   
thewood1

 

Posts: 1349
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Something I might have missed...

Has matrix ever talked about product mix in their announcements on revenue? Revenue growth is almost meaningless without some discussion of how much of that is garnered through existing products and new products. This is where the pricing discussion is important here. Beyond the newer forms of distribution, this is basic product management 101. If you have new products coming out steadily, you go to your catalog and lower the price of older products that aren't selling. If you have a product that is selling less than 100 units a year, the only recourse you have as a product manager is to lower the price or re-invest in it. You could also sunset it. If you don't do this, that product is just chewing up costs. Because you still have to support it, maintain space for it, manage the contract, market it, etc. That takes time and money.

This is not about trying to get a cheaper game. This is about advice to Matrix on easily increasing revenue on their older product, at almost no risk. If after a lowering of the price, little activity happens on the product, sunset it. This is not some wild out of the blue idea. It is standard product management in SW companies good and bad. If all those old products are flying off the shelf at list price, the point moot. If the contracts with developers are structured around minimum discounting or a veto by the developer, than Matrix is screwed.

(in reply to Tomn)
Post #: 77
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 4:02:06 PM   
dutchman55555

 

Posts: 139
Joined: 4/21/2013
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Tomn

I do not insist, of course, that you are absolutely and certainly wrong, and that I know this because I'm the customer, dangit, and I'm always right. I do ask, however, that you make greater consideration for the possibility of error in this regard than you are currently appearing to, and to approach your latest experiments in these matters with a touch less hesitation than currently affects you, as I think my reasoning for doing so is fairly sound. If you think it unsound, however, do let me know if you have the time to do so, and I shall strive to correct it.

Have a nice day!


I think why I have so much concern is that Matrix can be recognized as a lynch pin for PC wargaming today. And what they choose to do (or not do) affects the hobby just as much as it affect the company. Higher prices encourage fewer sales, to fewer people. Rationally this means that at best we can hope for a stagnation in the number of players; at worst this means a gradual decline through attrition. I think what's most infuriating here are the apologists who will grasp at any straw to defend Matrix with their dying breath. I'm sure next we'll hear that a shrinking wargamer population is a good thing, as it frees up online resources or encourages more iPad development or some such thing. Anything to avoid that cold, hard look at reality.

(in reply to Tomn)
Post #: 78
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 4:18:28 PM   
Tomn

 

Posts: 40
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Iain McNeil

We have sales data from Steam, Gamers Gate, Impulse, Matrix, Slitherine, Ageod, iTunes, Google Play, PSN store, Amazon and a host of other digital outlets that combined together are insignificant. We also directly publish to retail around the world. Then we have our partners and their experiences. Then we have our staff's experiences at other companies before joining.



Thank you very much for your response. I realize it's hardly standard practice for staff members to discuss details of their business with their customers (or potential customers), and I do appreciate you taking the time to do so. If you don't mind, however, I do have a few follow-up questions.

Now, I apologize for a certain level of ignorance here, but when you say you have sales data for all these outlets, do you mean general sales data to do with the various games (from other companies) trying to be sold, or do you mean sales data for your own games on these different platforms? Because what I was suggesting is that if you embrace a certain sales doctrine and look only at the data produced by using that sales doctrine, you may not be seeing the possibility of greater success and profits using alternative doctrines. Of course, I realize other companies are hardly going to give away such information to anyone who asks, but have you looked closely into seeing what has worked for others and figuring out what is worth adapting for your own models and experimenting with?

Leaving that aside, however, I'd like to reiterate this question, since it may have been lost in the issue of where the data comes from - Did your existing data predict your success in tablets? If they did not, doesn't that suggest the possibility of error in your data and therefore in your assumptions regarding price points? Not to say that you should immediately go out and have a "EVERYTHING IS ONE DOLLAR FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS" sale, but would it be worth revisiting the basis behind those assumptions, perhaps focusing more efforts on other experiments to see whether those assumptions still hold true?

Thank you again the taking the time to try and engage with the public.

(in reply to Iain McNeil)
Post #: 79
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 4:38:10 PM   
flipperwasirish


Posts: 1641
Joined: 2/25/2003
From: The Nutmeg State
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quote:

ORIGINAL: grogmaster

Why do I get the idea that Matrix Games distrusts customers input and shoots down any advice consumers give, with a strong aroma of arrogance?


Oh, this is too easy...

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Post #: 80
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 4:52:28 PM   
Perturabo


Posts: 2261
Joined: 11/17/2007
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Tomn

In the old dynamics of 1999, when customers could only see what they can find by browsing on the shelves and where wargames were customarily shoved into less prominent spots, it was unlikely that wargames could succeed by trying to compete in price. But now in the age of mass visibility, unlimited storefronts, and digital pretty-much-everything, is it not possible that these old dynamics no longer apply, and that wargames can make an excellent profit even at a lower price because they’re capable of finding many new eager wargaming fans from major distribution outlets? That is the great question. Are the lessons of Talonsoft, then, so relevant to the year of 2013?

No. The second half of 1990s dynamics were that customers would get info about games from gaming magazines and their demo CDs.
Anyone who has read such a magazine would be aware of existence Talonsoft games and would be able to check out the demo.
I remember playing demos of their Battleground games in 90s and of many other wargames.

It didn't make them any close to being popular. Simply, wargames were always a tiny niche when compared to shooters, "strategy games", simulations and RPGs.

Maybe the main difference between now and then is that there were still some specialised reviewers in magazines that knew the conventions of the genre and could judge its value for a fan of the genre, instead of dim-witted cro-magnons that would go on and on about how turn-based games are outdated, about how 2d games are outdated, about how everything has to be a cinematic experience, etc. etc. etc.

< Message edited by Perturabo -- 4/25/2013 4:53:34 PM >


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Post #: 81
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 4:52:51 PM   
Iain McNeil


Posts: 1934
Joined: 10/26/2004
From: London
Status: online
The sales data I refer to is specific data for sales of games, day by day, that we own on all these platforms, not generic publicly available data.

On tablets, we were told that our pricing was wrong for Battle Academy. "You can't charge more than $5 for an app." We were apparently crazy. This was the opinion of the press and the public.

However, our experiences suggested otherwise. Against significant pressure we stuck to our plan and went with a $20 price point making it one of the most expensive apps in the hundreds of thousands of apps in the store. It was a huge success and charted around the world hitting #1 in 20 or so stores in board/strategy games categories (I forget the exact number). The success has enabled a team to work full time on the release for the last year producing regular updates, 1 new expansion and 2 more in production. It is also ensuring the development of BA2.

The sales data did not tell us tablets would be successful - that was based on other research. The sales data told us the right price point to release at.

_____________________________

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Director
Slitherine Software
Website http://www.slitherine.com

(in reply to flipperwasirish)
Post #: 82
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 5:33:15 PM   
rogo727


Posts: 1387
Joined: 7/12/2011
From: Iowa
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Even before you told us the price on BA for ipad I told you that it would be the best selling wargame on the iPad. While its true I may have never "made" a computer game I do know about retail and customer service. My beef with you and slitherine is your total lack of customer service skills. BY THE WAY IAIN RESEARCH WILL TELL YOU REWARDING YOUR LOYAL CUSTOMERS will help you with your "going concern".
quote:

ORIGINAL: Iain McNeil

The sales data I refer to is specific data for sales of games, day by day, that we own on all these platforms, not generic publicly available data.

On tablets, we were told that our pricing was wrong for Battle Academy. "You can't charge more than $5 for an app." We were apparently crazy. This was the opinion of the press and the public.

However, our experiences suggested otherwise. Against significant pressure we stuck to our plan and went with a $20 price point making it one of the most expensive apps in the hundreds of thousands of apps in the store. It was a huge success and charted around the world hitting #1 in 20 or so stores in board/strategy games categories (I forget the exact number). The success has enabled a team to work full time on the release for the last year producing regular updates, 1 new expansion and 2 more in production. It is also ensuring the development of BA2.

The sales data did not tell us tablets would be successful - that was based on other research. The sales data told us the right price point to release at.



_____________________________

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(in reply to Iain McNeil)
Post #: 83
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 5:37:55 PM   
wodin


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Joined: 4/20/2003
From: England
Status: offline
Perturabo..well turn based is big business again...go check the graphics on many indie games..infact they try and be 8bit and sell in the bucketload..things have changed from even three years ago.

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Post #: 84
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 5:48:56 PM   
vonRocko

 

Posts: 1155
Joined: 11/4/2008
Status: offline

quote:

ORIGINAL: DBeves

quote:

ORIGINAL: vonRocko


quote:

ORIGINAL: wodin

Jim no one wants Steam like sales\reductions where they charge silly amounts for newish games..we are talking about games well past their shelf life.

Why do those who stick by Slitherine resort to name calling when myself and Tim Stone are trying to make a change that we think will benefit everyone...does that make us whiners or because we want to save some money and want things cheap? So far removed from where I'm coming from anyway...


I agree Wodin, you're one of the few who can see the trees despite the forest. I can't believe the comprehension skills of some posters. Heck some of them think this is all about PON!

quote:

see the trees despite the forest. I can't believe the comprehension skills of some posters. Heck some of them think this is all about PON!


Our comprehension skills ? LOL thats rich - you are the ones who are told again and again the facts - based on hard data from an actual games company - doing actual business in in actual market place, and the one we are discussing to boot - and yet you are the ones who cant comprehend that your assumptions based purely on what you think would happen - not about PON on its own - are entirely incorrect.

Hey dbeves, i don't respond to your posts. Please return the favor. I have no interest in what you have to say or your opinion.

(in reply to DBeves)
Post #: 85
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 6:12:33 PM   
Lord Zimoa


Posts: 629
Joined: 10/10/2008
Status: online
quote:

your total lack of customer service skills.


Sorry, what a bunch of bullocks and insulting for all the many guys from Matrix, Slitherine, Ageod, Lordz and many, many other developers giving support and helping out customers, even in weekends, during holidays or at night!



< Message edited by Lord Zimoa -- 4/25/2013 6:13:15 PM >


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Post #: 86
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 6:17:30 PM   
Ashcloud


Posts: 163
Joined: 11/29/2010
Status: offline
quote:

ORIGINAL: Lord Zimoa

quote:

your total lack of customer service skills.


Sorry, what a bunch of bullocks and insulting for all the many guys from Matrix, Slitherine, Ageod, Lordz and many, many other developers giving support and helping out customers, even in weekends, during holidays or at night!





From my personal experience I have only ever had very good service from Matrix. I love the guys at Matrix, Slitherine, Ageod and Lordz who make the games I love to play (Please make some 19th century stuff like Age of Rifles with the Boer War and the Zulu Wars).

< Message edited by Ashcloud -- 4/25/2013 6:18:16 PM >


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Post #: 87
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 6:22:32 PM   
pzgndr

 

Posts: 1620
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Iain, I appreciate the insights you have shared with us. I can't comment on the sales and marketing because frankly I don't know what more to suggest. But I have questioned here on the forums how older games that have already been released here at Matrix and have plateaued so to speak can continue to get some development support. Basically if the original developer cannot or will not continue development with bug fixes and other improvements, what incentive can/will Matrix provide to keep the developer going or transfer the game rights to somebody else to carry on development? I mean, you have a niche community of fans who basically enjoy a game that doesn't necessarily require a complete remake but some more patches to make it better. But realistically there is that point of diminishing returns and no financial incentive for an active developer to keep working for peanuts. Fair enough, but maybe there's somebody else who IS willing to take on a game project as a hobby effort and maybe Matrix should explore how to do that? I see a potential Win-Win: customers get continued game development for games that aren't quite dead yet and Matrix gets some continued sales, and possibly grow a new game designer/developer in the process. Heck, it can't hurt.

(in reply to DBeves)
Post #: 88
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 6:22:52 PM   
vonRocko

 

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"your total lack of customer service skills."
No matter what you think of Matrix\slitherine, you can't say this. They are tops in customer service. IMO

(in reply to Ashcloud)
Post #: 89
RE: The Good Health of the Wargaming Niche - 4/25/2013 6:28:42 PM   
Tomn

 

Posts: 40
Joined: 4/22/2013
Status: offline
quote:

ORIGINAL: Perturabo
No. The second half of 1990s dynamics were that customers would get info about games from gaming magazines and their demo CDs.
Anyone who has read such a magazine would be aware of existence Talonsoft games and would be able to check out the demo.
I remember playing demos of their Battleground games in 90s and of many other wargames.

It didn't make them any close to being popular. Simply, wargames were always a tiny niche when compared to shooters, "strategy games", simulations and RPGs.

Maybe the main difference between now and then is that there were still some specialised reviewers in magazines that knew the conventions of the genre and could judge its value for a fan of the genre, instead of dim-witted cro-magnons that would go on and on about how turn-based games are outdated, about how 2d games are outdated, about how everything has to be a cinematic experience, etc. etc. etc.


Now, this is an interesting comparison, but I don't think it's really very valid for one very simple reason - sheer, unadulterated, massive volume.

Steam has, at this very moment, four million gamers online. This happens daily. These gamers are constantly checking out what’s on the store page, clicking through it to see if there’s anything interesting in the “What’s New?” section. While the big billboards up top don’t always show everything as much as they might deserve, they do generally appear long enough to announce a new game, and any new game is guaranteed a week at least of sitting right up there on the front page, waiting for anyone curious to check it out.

Let’s assume that just one percent, a teeny, tiny one percent of everyone on Steam checks out a niche product, like a wargame, and finds it interesting. That’s 40,000 customers right there and then, and while wargaming may be niche, I truly and sincerely doubt that it makes up no more than 1% of the gaming population. Even if we remain conservative and kick it up to 5%, that’s 200,000 customers. Sure, you couldn’t compare such numbers to big names like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, but it’s still quite enough to make a comfortable living for a niche developer.

That is, I should think, an incredibly different beast entirely from advertising in monthly or weekly gaming magazines back in the ‘90s, back when gaming itself was still a fairly small industry and still suffered from the stigmata of being for the “immature,” and where not everybody who played games subscribed to magazines or checked out everything on them. Wargames don’t need to be popular to be successful – they just need to tap into the enormous, thrumming pulse of gaming in general and siphon off the smallest section of that aggregate to become more successful than they ever could have been a decade ago, which is what a great many developers within other, even smaller niches have already done and proved to be successful. The main thing that appears to be stopping that would be the price, hence the debate here.


quote:

ORIGINAL: Iain McNeil

The sales data I refer to is specific data for sales of games, day by day, that we own on all these platforms, not generic publicly available data.

On tablets, we were told that our pricing was wrong for Battle Academy. "You can't charge more than $5 for an app." We were apparently crazy. This was the opinion of the press and the public.

However, our experiences suggested otherwise. Against significant pressure we stuck to our plan and went with a $20 price point making it one of the most expensive apps in the hundreds of thousands of apps in the store. It was a huge success and charted around the world hitting #1 in 20 or so stores in board/strategy games categories (I forget the exact number). The success has enabled a team to work full time on the release for the last year producing regular updates, 1 new expansion and 2 more in production. It is also ensuring the development of BA2.

The sales data did not tell us tablets would be successful - that was based on other research. The sales data told us the right price point to release at.


Again, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions – I hope you’re not too bothered by them? That said, I’d like to point out that this is a pretty good example of what I’m trying to get at. Your data exists entirely for the games you own, which you are selling using your own pricing strategy with little variation (because you’ve already proved it works). While this certain allows for a degree of success, how are you then so certain that other approaches cannot and will not be just as successful, if not more so? In other words, if you have not tried much in the way of significantly different approaches, doesn’t your data primarily prove simply “What we do works” as opposed to “What we do works better than any other approach”? Doesn't your data mainly prove that doing what you currently do will achieve results like you currently achieve, and little else?

Take for instance Battle Academy. You are indeed right to be proud of your success in reaching the number one spot for strategy games across multiple stores. It’s quite the achievement. But given the more accessible, simpler interface of Battle Academy, are you really 100% certain that you couldn’t have gotten the number one spot for games, period, across multiple stores had you reduced the price? It isn’t War in the Pacific, after all, from what I could see – it’s fairly simple for anyone to get into. One of the major barriers to entry for newcomers to wargames is how complex they are, but Battle Academy appears not to suffer too badly in that regard. What, then, makes you sure that you couldn’t have swept the field entirely with reduced prices?

I do not claim, mark you, that I could GUARANTEE such success had you lowered the price, but I do ask this – what is your rationale behind such a feat being completely impossible, given that you’d already managed to achieve remarkable and unlooked for success with what you’ve already done?

< Message edited by Tomn -- 4/25/2013 6:30:22 PM >

(in reply to vonRocko)
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