When is a game’s marketing deemed excellent? Is it when a publisher makes millions off of the back of a nationwide TV advert, causing millions of addled gamers to part with their cash for the “next big thing”? Or is it when a small indie company makes a game that steals people’s hearts and causes enough word of mouth to inspire people to keep buying it a year later? The latter is true for 2D Boy, makers of World of Goo.
On the first birthday of this surreal and wonderful game, 2D Boy decided that they would let gamers pay whatever they wanted for the acclaimed title. Be it $50, $5 or whatever, 2D Boy was just happy to get you to pay and play. Although there were many (16,852 to be precise) people who only paid the minimum one cent for the game, there were plenty with scruples intact who paid a fair price for the game. 6483 paid up to a dollar; 15,797 paid between a dollar and two. 13,877 people paid less than six dollars. These sums may seem paltry but once added up, rounded off and blogged over at 2D Boy, the experiment bagged them over $100,000.
I would deem this a successful marketing experiment. They may have lost money in the long run, but think of the ripples this has caused throughout the internet. On Twitter alone I saw around nine people on my followers list tweet about the offer, which I then retweeted, spreading the news on and on. In fact several of my friends jumped on the deal and reported back to me how much they were enjoying the game. Thankfully, at the time of writing, 2D Boy has extended the offer to attract more people and I’m sure the results will carry on in much the same vein.
In my mind, this move was a stroke of genius. Not only does it create strong word of mouth a full year after initial release, but people get to try World of Goo and will then be on the lookout for the next game from the developer. It also shows the great deal of confidence 2D Boy have in their audience, knowing full well there would be people who would pay mere pennies but banking on those who would pay more. And let’s be clear; the game has been out for a year and it pulled in $100,000 in less than a week.
One of the more amazing facts regarding this experiment is the rise of sales on other platforms. Sales on Steam actually rose by 40% compared to the previous week’s sales and while not as impressive, WiiWare rose by 9%. The reason that this astonishes me is that people couldn’t name their price on these systems, so this really was the power of word of mouth and quality that sold these games. Not flashy marketing plans, adverts or sponsorships, just good old fashion word of mouth, albeit in a rather web 2.0 style.
This is a testament to how supportive gamers and the industry are of indie developers and it bodes well for popular success of future indie games. Without indie developers pushing boundaries and giving us unique games to experience we would be lost. This sale showed more people what indie studios can do and I hope that those people search out more games like World of Goo and keep spreading the word. I hope this sale can be repeated in the future by others, reinforcing the trust given to gamers, as isn’t that what will keep us getting what we want from our games?