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Developers: Stop trying to sell levels. The public don’t want them.

By on December 10, 2009
Pet Society hat

I spend a lot of time talking to games developers about downloadable content.

And they always say “We’re going to make bonus levels and maps and sell them as downloadable content”.

Which is a terrible idea.

it’s a terrible idea because of all the different types of microtransaction content, consumers are least likely to pay for levels, map or extra content,.

They’re more likely to pay $2 for a Santa hat or to have their weapon recharge faster.

So why do developers keep trying to sell levels?

Selling what is expensive to make, not what customers want to buy

The problem is simple.

Making a new level is expensive. It takes lots of artists and designers lots of time.

Making a new Santa hat or shirt for your virtual world avatar is laughably cheap.

So developers want to make money from the thing that is most expensive to make.

Which is logical but utterly flawed. That’s putting supply needs ahead of demand needs. And that usually ends in tears.

Developers should accept that their role now is to make a world in which consumers play, and make money from it by selling players the things that they want (which may in fact be the cheapest items to develop of all).

The alternative is to spend a lot of money building expensive assets that consumers won’t pay for.


(Note: I acknowledge that this analysis holds more closely for PC/browser-based games than it does for console titles. Console gamers are more used to paying for content, and are therefore happier than freemium players to pay for extra levels. However, I think that this is likely to change over time.)

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: