Pay-What-You-Want Birthday Sale Results

Last week, to celebrate the one year anniversary of World of Goo’s release, we decided to run a little experiment and for one week, offer World of Goo to the world for whatever price people want to pay for it.  The birthday sale has been a huge success so far, and because of that, we are extending our little experiment/celebration until sunday, October 25.

“Huge success” is a pretty vague term, and we’re not going to leave you hanging.  The purpose of this post is to share the data we’ve collected during the experiment, not do draw conclusions.  This is just one data point about how this kind of pricing methodology can work, and we would need other developers to try it with different games and under different circumstances in order to be able to draw any real conclusions.  One thing we can say for sure, is that a large reason this experiment generated so many sales, is the huge amount of press and blog coverage it got.  We want to thank everyone who bought the game in the last week, and everyone who helped spread the word!

Big Picture

Since the birthday sale started, about 57 thousand people bought World of Goo off our website.  The average price paid for the game was $2.03 a significant percent of which went to PayPal for transaction fees.  Normally, they keep about 5% of the revenue, but because PayPal fees are structured in a way that they take a larger percentage for smaller transactions, we ended up paying over 13% in transaction fees.  For all purchases of around 30 cents and under, we actually saw no money, PayPal took it all, but they probably ended up losing money on most of those transactions ($0.01) as well, they’re not the bad guy.

Here’s a histogram for the amount people chose to pay for the game (click for full size image):


One interesting thing about the amount people were willing to pay is that it went up as the days went by before leveling off.  Here’s what it looked like:


Effect on Other Channels

This one was a big shocker. Steam sales rose 40% relative to the previous week. Our Steam sales tend to fluctuate and it’s not unheard of for there to be a 25% difference from one week to the next (up or down) but the 40% increase came after a week that saw a 25% increase.  It has been several months since we’ve seen this number of sales in a single week on Steam.

The effect wasn’t as dramatic on WiiWare. This week saw a 9% increase in sales over the previous week.  Last week saw a 5% fall, and the week before it saw a 2% rise in sales.  9% seems like it’s large enough to have not been entirely caused by normal fluctuations.

The Survey

A few days into this experiment, we started lamenting the fact that we don’t have more information about how people are choosing a price.  We were getting emails via our contact page from people giving us reasons for why they paid 1 cent, 1 dollar, or 30 dollars, but only a few a day.  We decided to throw up a survey and included a link to it on our “thanks for your purchase” page and in the email that contains the download link.  The survey asked three questions:

  1. How much did the person pay?  This was interesting because we wanted to get a sense for whether the people willing to take the survey represented an accurate cross section of the people who bought the game.  Notice that the results of this question (see link below) are VERY different from the histogram presented above.
  2. How they chose the price?  Some of the options we provided don’t really make a lot of sense as direct answers for this question.  That is because rather than guessing what might motivate people, we simply took the most common reasons people gave us in the explanatory emails they sent and put them in there as answers.
  3. How much do they think the game is worth?  We wanted to see if there’s any correlation between what people think the game is worth and what they’re willing to pay for it.

We haven’t done much analysis on the survey data yet, but we want to make the data available to the public in case anyone wants to look at it more closely.  You can check it out here.  This link will allow you to see the summary, filter the data based on a variety of criteria, and even download the raw survey data to do whatever fancy schmancy analysis you want to do on your own (I’m talking to you, Linux people!)

[Update: we were informed that when downloading or browsing the responses, people’s IP addresses were visible, so we disabled browsing and downloading, but the result summary is still accessible.]

One thing that the survey data might suggests is that despite there being a lot discussion around what games are worth and the dollar value of an hour of play, few people chose their price based on the perceived value of the gameHow much the person feels they can afford seems to play a much larger role in the decision than how much the game is worth.


And with these words, let the birthday celebrations continue!

Thanks again to everyone who bought the game for putting up with our server failures, we’re doing our best to take care of every single one of you.

203 Responses to “Pay-What-You-Want Birthday Sale Results”

  1. FingerGaming » Opinion: The Mac App Store And The PC Gamepocalypse - Gaming on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad Says:

    […] to suggest that the natural price (the price that users want to pay) for games is actually $5. When 2D Boy did an experiment with flexible pricing with World of Goo a couple of years ago, they had players essentially choose what they wanted to pay from across a […]

  2. Kevin Walter Says:

    Great idea for a survey.
    Any chance of a copy of the summary as survey monkey has taken the data down.
    I have quite a few students who would like to discuss this in the dissertations next year.
    Kevin Walter
    University of Gloucestershire
    The Park
    GL51 6NW

  3. Does Pay-What-You-Want Work? | Dealpeg Blog Says:

    […] World of Goo gathered and shared its pay-what-you-want data—huzzah for statistics and transparency! Buyers were also asked why they chose to pay what they did. A plurality indicated it was “all I can afford;” the close second was “I like the pay what you want model and wanted to support it.” […]