The game industry is in the middle of an interesting shift right now. We’re at a point analogous to where the music industry was in the early 2000s: the product is only just becoming convenient enough for the mainstream to purchase and download online. Sure, people have done it for years, but the sales of online services, and the services themselves, are multiplying. As the pricing model for music changed with mp3s and iTunes, so the pricing model for games is in flux now.
We’ve seen how Minecraft and the Humble Bundle have seized the opportunity presented by this unstable situation, and now we can add another potentially disruptive model to the list. Polish developer NEG is offering its upcoming sci-fi/horror game Afterfall: InSanity for only one dollar — but only if it gets ten million pre-orders. If they fall short of that goal, they’re donating all the money to charity.
Even if they hit their goal, ten percent is still going to charity. But there’s no way to get that dollar back once you pledge it. Here’s a video explaining the whole thing, with that flopping text effect I can’t stand:
It’s an interesting model, though certainly one with a little room for refinement. Ten million, for instance, is a pretty large figure to aim for right out the door. Even indie phenomenon Minecraft is only at around a third of that number, though admittedly the price is higher. A million pre-orders at a dollar each is still a lot of money for an indie developer.
The game looks creepy and interesting, a Dead Space style 3rd-person survival horror thing with mutants and failing batteries and a fear system, all that stuff. Sure, it’s not going to dethrone the majors or cause as much of a splash as the incomparable Amnesia, but I think sight unseen I can tell you it’s worth a dollar.
Either way, I think it’s a good thing. If these guys hit their goal, it’s a proof of concept. If not, the game still gets made, and maybe they try again once they’ve shown they’ve got the game-dev chops to back up their pricing gumption.
You can pre-order the game here. I’m going to. It’ll be available until November 25th, so if you aren’t sure about whether you have a dollar to spare, you’ve got some time to think about it.