Jacking up the price of downloadable content could turn into a new form of marketing.
Fallout 4’s season pass for all of its upcoming add-ons is the top-selling product on the Steam digital-distribution platform today, and that’s likely because its price is about to jump from $30 to $50 starting tomorrow. This has created a sense of urgency among anyone who wants access to all of the open-world role-playing megahit’s expansions for a “discount.” And this move, which mirrors a successful strategy we saw from Dying Light developer Techland in November, shows that developers can get fans to spend a lot more by making them feel like they must act immediately to avoid missing out on a great deal. With console and PC gaming worth tens of billions of dollars, game companies stand to make a lot by maximizing the value they derive from each of their customers.
Publisher Bethesda detailed how it plans to squeeze more from its player base earlier this month. The company revealed three add-ons, and it says it has several more in the works, which is more than it originally had in store. The company used this increase in content to justify raising the price of the season pass by $20, which is something that should increase that average revenue per player. But now we’re seeing that Bethesda didn’t even have to wait to start benefiting from the increased price because the season pass has spent the last two weeks in the top 3 best sellers on Steam. Before that, it wasn’t even in the top 10 and most days it was well outside that.
This is not the first time we’ve seen this with a blockbuster game. In November, developer Techland told fans it was going to raise the price of the downloadable content (DLC) season pass for its open-world survival game Dying Light from $20 to $30. The company gave fans about two weeks of the old price before making that change, and the Dying Light expansions spent much of that time in the top 10 best-sellers on Steam.
Like with Bethesda, Techland said this price increase was due to bigger plans for the DLC.
Newzoo analyst and chief executive officer Peter Warman said that while this might seem new, it is an idea that we’ve seen applied elsewhere in games.
“Price is one of the marketing instruments that is used. This is not new,” he said. “Why it seems new is that traditional game publishers on PC and console that used to only sell [$60 pay-up-front games] are getting smarter in applying new rules. For years, it has been common practice, especially for smaller PC publishers and developers, to play around with a combination of upfront fees and DLC prices.”
As an example, he points to indie developers that make their products available in those Humble Bundle sales where customers can pay what they want for a collection of PC games. Studios don’t make a lot from those deals, but they could potentially then get fans into their game who might want to pay the full price for newly released DLC.
So while we’ve only just started seeing huge publishers attempting this sort of thing by specifically raising the price of their season pass, it’s part of a larger trend that will lead to more of this in the future.