To pay or not to pay….

After uploading an update to the Android store at 1am last night, and then waking at 7am to see a tweet showing the location of the cracked version of said upload. It made me think about the issue of piracy.

Now I don’t think that £2.99 is too much to ask for an app, but some do. I’ve seen many comments since the release of the iOS version stating the the price was steep. I understand that nowadays some people might find it a high price to punt on a game, despite the large number of high rating reviews for the game. And I do need to find a way to allow people to experience the game for the first time. Now I don’t like the idea of Ad backed games, it’s not really a direction I want to follow. I also don’t want to reduce the price of the game. I think £2.99 is more than fair and reasonable, despite the prices of Apps in general.

I was thinking about doing a price promotion in Feb, around Mike’s birthday. But I was also thinking about releasing a Lite version. However, part of me is thinking about releasing a Free version.

The idea being, Free version and Paid version. Free version just has a nag screen pointing at the Paid version, and the free version will not get updates and new features. I’m kind of thinking almost like an honesty box version. You like it you buy it. But if you don’t buy it you miss out on any new features I add in the future. I’m sure others have tried this to varying success. But if anyone can cite some examples, that would be great.

I did wonder a little about should I remove a few items from the original free version, like. Remove a couple of the ways of destroying the ice-crown, or remove the quest entirely. Remove the grouping functionality. Remove the last undo. Remove the multiple stories. Should I remove more from a Lite version? Restrict the number of game days you can play it?

Anyway, thoughts…

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37 thoughts on “To pay or not to pay….

  1. Chris, you’ll never fend this one off shame though it is because for the price of a return bus ticket or less than a pint people are getting a gaming masterpiece. It’s obviously your call but I would say keep it to £2.99, don’t devalue it and then charge for upgrades too- new scenarios, effects etc that are above and beyond patch fixes and regular updates. This isn’t about exploiting people but its about stating that a quality product and design takes time and energy which has a value. Keep it special.


    • I agree, £2.99 shouldn’t be an excessive amount by anyone’s standards (and I’m not flush). I’ve bought the iOS version and also just purchased the Android version. £2.99 is less than a meal deal in Boots, it’s worth every penny for the pleasure of reliving those Spectrum glory days and I for one see it as a minor expense for the gratitude you’re due in honouring Mike’s legacy.

  2. Piracy is inevitable, we cannot escape from it.

    Free version is a good idea, imo. Maybe a vanilla, Speccy lo-res graphics version with nothing extra added (since it can be downloaded for free and played on many Spectrum simulators out there anyway).

    Don’t discard ads as an option. Neither iPhones nor Androids wouldn’t be so popular (judging by the sheer number of apps available for each platform) if that was a bad idea, right?

    Just my 2c…

  3. Please please please don’t create a crippleware version even if it is a free one.

    People that don’t intent to pay for the game won’t pay anyway and people will always complain about the price even if it was 0.99. I really doubt that you can win those over.

    If you want create a free version that is fully functional but you can’t play after the 10th night or so. If you know what you are doing by the 10th night you should really have recruited most of the Lords anyway 😉 People will still get to see how a great job you have done and those that are willing to pay for it will do.

    • I agree with this suggestion. Let the free version have the absolutely minimum amount of days of gameplay that are needed for a victory. Is 10 nights enough for Morking to destroy the Ice Crown? The that.
      They have a complete game, but if they want the convenience of having unlimited days, alternative scenarios and alternative graphic set, they need the full version.

  4. Hi, I can’t see how anyone can complain about paying (can’t find the pound sign) 3 quid for this game, but I suppose there must be a balance between price and number of sales ! I played the game on the Amstrad & only realized it had been released today ! It is now on my Nexus and my iPhone ! How much did it cost in …. ? 10 pounds ? People don’t know how lucky they are !

  5. In my opinion not worth wasting time and effort to do a special solution. Scientists have proved over and over again that piracy increases sales. Those who pirated your game, see them as people who didn’t buy your software. No more, no less.


  6. This is the first app I have ever bought – I have only ever used free apps until now on principle. I was delighted it was only £2.99 and I think it’s great value 🙂

    I also tend to agree with BK. The evidence on piracy of music is very mixed – it tends to show that pirates wouldnt have otherwise bought the tunes and so they arent reducing the cash-flow, but they are increasing the user-base.

  7. To be fair, I’m not so concerned about piracy. I am concerned about try-before-you-buy. Which is the area I need to address.

    • Well, at least the PC version will need a demo, as I dont think there is an indie PC game without one. That is a standard and expected thing. It would probably also work well for mobile platforms.
      I think that a version with the time limit (in-game days) may be a good solution and quite easy to code.

  8. The evidence I’ve read states that free versions with a ‘buy the full version’ button don’t convert to significant sales unless the full
    version can offer more, as a lot of people won’t pay -anything- if they don’t feel the need to do so.

    The game sells itself, so I think a time-limited free version of the game would be a reasonable way to go. If that doesn’t work, you could always go for an advert before each night screen or a banner ad etc..

    And yes, I agree that piracy is best ignored, no point wasting time trying to prevent something that might actually increase sales !


  9. I’d leave it at £2.99 Chris, it’s a bargain and I agree with the earlier comments about not watering it down or devaluing it.

  10. First, add one more vote for 1) keeping the price as it is, and 2) ignoring the pirates.

    As for a free version, the problem is that, with this type of game, it’s not like you can release a version with “the first couple of levels”, or anything. Of course, giving just part of the map wouldn’t really work.

    Nag screens, or night taking 30 non-skippable seconds, or reducing the time limit to, say, 5 days would probably get cracked soon. Any free version that can be somehow “turned” into the real one is something crackers see as a challenge.

    The original Sid Meier’s Pirates on C64 basically crippled your chances if you failed the copy protection: every nation would permanently hate you, everyone would be stronger than you, your men would rebel all the time, and so on. But this is dangerous here: not only could it be cracked, but some players might even enjoy the added challenge (say, if Doomdark had 5x as many armies). They would see the free version as “hard mode”.

    What about removing every recruitable character AND Morkin (*) from the game, with messages telling the player about what he was missing during play?

    (*) with Morkin in, the game could still be won, and, again, some might like the challenge

  11. Chris,

    I am so sorry this has happened, regardless of how inevitable it might have been. LoM is NOT overpriced. Some people just never see past their own nose and society is increasingly selfish.

    Honestly, I would have paid more to get this game.

    In all seriousness, is there a way to contribute more? I recently put £ 40 down for the Elite kick start and would have gladly contributed a similar figure to LoM and the eventual release of Domdark’s Revenge later on an iPad.

    They are lots of people like myself who respect what you are doing for Mike’s legacy and the game. I know this is a labour of love, but I do want you to be financially be rewarded for what you are doing.

  12. If you did feel the need for a free version. What about something that only has the south half of the map and the idea of the game is to resist Doomdark’s forces on the plains of Blood (something which I think is referenced in the story for a past encounter). They could recruit nearby lords like Shadows, Thrall, Blood, Shimeral, Dawn, Mitharg etc.

    I think the idea should be that you fail to hold the line and the game ends, but then an extra bit of story as Luxor escapes says, “Oh, if only we had rallied the Deep South and gathered at Xajorkith”.

  13. Chris. I’ve read all the replies to date & can only echo that £3 is NOT overpriced. Pirates will always be a sad fact of life, but I wouldn’t waste too much of your time with a watered down free version. Seems a crime to tinker with this, just to pacify some cheap saps. You have a premium product here; so charge accordingly. Always easy to drop your price under pressure, or change your offering with a lite version, but you can’t step back from this when (& it is a bloomin’ when) LoM really takes off. If you do anything; the only suggestion that made commercial sense to me was a limited time version, that cuts off after day 10 or so. Taking features out of a lite version seems like time consuming for you, & also waters down the product which would make potential buyers less likely to upgrade. Stick to your guns Sir. This is an excellent game. Pirates only ever go after treasure.

  14. Thanks guys, I really appreciate the sentiment and the support.

    I just thought I’d throw the question out there. I don’t intend to do anything for next few months, happy with the way things are going at the moment. WIll obviously try a few things to stimulate sales over the next few months anyway.

    Just tired today… been battling with the Android for far too long! 🙂

  15. Raise a kickstart for Doomdarks Revenge, see how it goes. Set it for a figure you want you may be surprised at the response. Honestly I was expecting 4.99 for LOM.

    I don’t think in app advertising works personally.

    Make scenarios for LOM / DR as 99p expansion campaigns.. So long as in apps are actually extra content, I have no qualms paying. Only in app purchases I loathe are ones where I need to buy to get the most out of a game.. Like buying currency.

    Don’t worry about the piracy, I know people.. Sadly… Will even download 69p games from torrents as they think they are somehow entitled to it. I am sorry that the massively amazing reviews are not generating the extra sales that should be happening.. Who knows, if you reskin the graphics, add in the levels.. The contact all those reviwers who clearly loved the game.. The may re-review the now modern looking version

  16. Best to rely on the honesty of customers rather than trying to win over crooks.

  17. Echoing some of the comments here, but I don’t see a problem with the price at all. If you create it, some people will steal it, not because they want or value it, but for the thrill of theft.

    The people stealing this game aren’t making a statement about the price, their statement is more “even though this is easily available, it pleases me to steal it instead.”They can be ignored. I am sure that seeing a cracked version must be a blow, but that doesn’t mean it is being stolen en masse.

    Through your conversion and the Midnight Engine this game has been available for free for years. I have no issue paying the quite reasonable price to acquire it. Even though DDR is my real love, I want to buy this game a) because it’s a great game and b) to show my genuine appreciation for your work.

    This price is also somewhat less than the game would have cost back in 1983 isn’t it?

    The question of a demo is one I hadn’t considered. Maybe a free demo that lasts for five days, then when you go to night on the fifth day you get the update plus a link to buy the full version?

    I don’t think additional versions of the game at a different price point would help. I think the current price is sound, a demo would be useful for new players (I guess).

  18. Keep the price point. Make the game free to play for 5 to 10 days, maybe with a challenge mode(recruit 10 lords/hold Plains of Blood…) which will incentive REAL customers to purchase. You’re doing a fantastic job Chris, the sentiment in these messages shows that we really appreciate it. Keep it up.
    Also, plus 1 for the Kickstarter idea. I pledged a lot for the Elite reboot and there is a strong community of retro-gamers that I’m sure would support any Midnight inspired product.
    Good luck

  19. Chris, when it comes to spending money I’m pretty cautious, and compared to some games on phones LoM is a little higher…. But I’ll still buy it! The point here is that the game is a complete thing, no having to join this or that to get more gold etc. It’s also a very well known quantity. The price is right, leave it as it is.

    Regards piracy, it’s out there, and I doubt you can beat it when the big huge funded companies can’t.

    I also agree with those who have said don’t do a free version. It would not be Lords of Midnight if you made a cut down version, and that will be against every reason that you set out on this path. I don’t think releasing a limited number of nights version will get people to pay for the full one either.

    The mobile market is very fickle. You get it, you play it, and all the time it works you may continue with it… but the moment it goes wrong… you delete it! So keep to the plan, because that is what you wanted for Mike.

  20. The issue is not the piracy. I’ve been around the industry long enough to know how it works. But it’s still depressing as hell.

    The issue is, that at some point, I will have exhausted all the people who are going to buy it because they know what it is. So far the response has been… “I loved Lords of Midnight first time round, I’ll buy it…. I love this version!”

    What I will need to transition from at some point is those that were aware of Lord of Midnight and aren’t sure about taking the plunge. And those that knew nothing about it. Now some of these will be influence by the reviews and word of mouth. However, at some point I will have to move to trying to increase the fan base.

    • Two things Chris;
      First, the game industry (more so the music industry) call it stealing, which is really download a copy of the original, nothing is being stolen really. Those who download it instead of buying, do not necessarily chose between buying or downloading. Addressing this by coming up with solution will be a waste of time.
      Second, You are doing a re-make, most of your buyers will be people who played and enjoyed the original game, you may get a few casual just-happened-to-find-the-game people, or recommended by someone somewhere, but still I believe your bread and butter is the fans of the original game. And putting a price for that segment is really not that sensitive, 2-10 dollars would work for most people.
      There is much research on free vs paid content/games/books/etc and the thing is we people are not good at really calculating what things are really worth, so when having two choices with paid and free we compare them and make a decision which option is better, and that decision is rarely logical (scientifically). I think that you really DO NOT need such plans for this product (and the rest of the re-makes you plan to release) as people will still buy them. Anyone who just downloads it for free will (when they test and like) at least mention it to someone else, and that could lead to a purchase.
      Just a recommendation, check out the book “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely, it has good reading about pricing, and lots of research and experiments on how the decision process goes when we face free vs low price vs good price and so on..A good read for anyone in price setting position really.

      Just my two cents.. 😀

      • As I’ve said before, I’ve been part of the games industry for 20 years, so piracy and all the issues is nothing new to me. I’m actually not that fused about it either in this instance. However, every time I’ve released a game, and I’ve released over 90. I always find it depressing. This time I guess more so that usual for various reasons.

        What I do find galling, is that the sheer amount of cracking websites that are holding the game with all the content ripped from google store. So for all intent and purpose you are seeing a store, but for a free game. Right now, if you search for Lords of Midnight Android, there is a good change you will end up not at a store to buy. And the sites holding the game are making money through advertising etc…

        As for stealing, it’s not stealing, but a copyright infringement.

        • Chris, I find it surprising that you find it depressing when people do what they do, and you say you’ve released over 90 games. People will do what people will do, period. No point wasting energy on that. You should have learned that by now. 🙂

          If you really want to be better protected not to get pirated, do server-checks to start game sessions. So at start of the game, game gets a token from server that is valid until the end of the game. I understand it’s bad that others make money of your work (that you do not agree to) but that is something that happens everyday. I think the thoughts of developers should go something like:
          “If I make X amount of money of this product, I will be really content” and everything above that is just a bonus. But we tend to get very obsessed with what is ours, and I am not talking about you (as I do not know you) but as a race of humans. We are very scared that someone will take our things without our permission. I say, do not get frustrated at such things that you can not control but spend time and energy on things you enjoy doing. I think that could be applied to pretty much anything in life. 🙂

          Happy coding..


          • I’m not sure why you find it surprising. Yes people do what they do. And developers get depressed about it. I’ve learnt the lesson many times. Doesn’t make it any less painful. You have a bad day, and then move on. Again human nature.

            As for adding checks. Again little point. People find ways round it.

            People don’t make money from me every day, not that I haven’t consented to.

            I’m happy with what I’ve done. I’m happy with what I will get. But I don’t need to be happy with how others benefit from my hard work and worse cloud the issue.

            Google “Lords of Midnight” android for the past 24hours and tell me how that can’t be depressing. And then click on a few of those links and tell me how that isn’t clouding the issue. Or do a twitter search…

            Had you done the same when the iOS version was released, it was a very very different story.

            Anyway, the weekend is almost over, this moment has almost passed…

          • I guess to be able to understand that I need to release my own app then. I am into biz app development, consumer market is alot harder unless you have a unique design or re-make a classic.
            Well, good luck with the games, no matter what obstacles are there for you, there will be a fanbase that will enjoy their once-favorite games on the new devices.


  21. The free version needs to be fully functional, so people can really try before they buy. I would limit the number of nights to 5. By that time they should know whether the game is for them.

    • nah, I do not agree with this. Anyone that is that careful with money can do a google search and youtube search for gameplay/screenshots.

      Free = 5 days (or whatever)
      Paid = unlimited

      With this setup you may get lot of people testing AND NOT buying, coz 5 days is nothing. Why not have the FULL game free during a certain real week during a year?! Or the FULL version for free for 24 hours or something..5 days is nothing in the game.
      Again I am against the free trial thing. Then going from free to paid is bigger step than what you get for paying the price , in the mind of a potential buyer, I know it sounds silly but the thought process goes most likely in that pattern.


  22. I know that it might be tempting to follow the freemium model to generate extra revenue, but I don’t think that tLoM lends itself to being distributed in this manner. A cut down, or time limited version of the game would just be an half baked or inferior version of the game and people who are completely new to it are either not going to have enough time to become addicted and then pay up or they are going to complain about missing features and start leaving un-informed and bad reviews on the various app stores, which is a really good way of killing sales off.

    The Lords of Midnight is a great remake, just as it is. It doesn’t need further embellishment of the core gameplay, and continued development need only focus on further polishing the user interface experience. The price seems to be more than reasonable for the games main audience, most of whom seem to be already familiar with it.

    Unfortunately, DDR might also be similarly constricted, if the plan is to actually produce a faithful remake, with a few mod cons to bring it up-to-date. However, there should be an great opportunity to totally re-design a The Citadel, which could be altered from the ground up to fit a IAP distribution method that could allow for paid expansion of it’s gameplay and / or additional new and novel features. (Please avoid ‘bux’ or ‘credits’ etc. – they do my t*ts in.) People who already know Mike Singletons games wont have many pre-conceived expectations about how that particular game should work, as the original was OK but nowhere near as strong as the first two games. With a re-booted game all options are open.

    For my part, I hope that DDR is updated in a similar sensitive manner tLoM and I reckon you’ll get a few older punters guaranteed, like myself, who will buy it, no matter what.

    There now’t you van do about pirated Android or Jailbroken iOS versions of the game. Maybe some of them will crack and buy the original – it sometimes happens!

  23. Chris , you have done a fantastic job , with the ios conversion of LOM and i did not think twice about paying £2.99 . It is worth every penny , do not belittle this brilliant game , by lowering the price .
    The problem i find is , when i went to look for the andriod version ; it does not show up , only if you know about the game can you type it in to the search engine and find it . There is the crux , there are thousands of games on andriod and it is easily lost. What is needed is a rally of troops , it is time for the midnight community to promote this game , can i suggest that every member who reads this , to put on there Facebook status , playing Lords of Midnight , this will then be shared with their friends. let us hope others will then seek it out.
    Chris , while a lite version might sound good , i understand your frustration , first look at other ways to promote this game ,i wonder what the conversion rate is ,many people are just happy to play a lite version and never intend to pay for the full version . what is the average uptake to paid version and how do you stop the lite version getting lost in all the other free games available ; ideas please.
    what ever you do Chris i will always be greatful to you for bringing LOM up to date and i really hope to see DDR, thanks Chris.

  24. I don’t have much to offer in terms of suggestions for sales strategy; but for me this issue underscores how times have changed: like many of the other commenters, I’m sure, I remember when LoM was originally released, and I think it cost about £10. That was almost 30 years ago! … £10 in 1984 is equivalent to about £26 in “today’s money”, and yet now, for a more polished product, there are some who judge £2.99 to be too much.

  25. It’s true that if you want more people to get to know the game by playing it, having a ~3€ cost (higher priced than the average game in the Google Play store) is not going to encourage them to buy it if they cannot even try it out.

    I don’t see the problem of having a limited version of the game. That is what demos have always been and I have never seen anything wrong about it.
    There is usually a justification claimed by those that crack games, and it is that retail games without an available demo do not let the public preview the game without buying it. And that noone wants to pay money for something they aren’t sure they would like.
    Put a demo out. If they like it, they will buy the full game, and you get more people for the community.
    If they don’t like it, or they don’t want to pay for it, those are people that wouldn’t buy it regardless of how much effort you put on making it hard to pirate, or how much your lower the price. Forget about those people, they aren’t your target market.

  26. This was the first Android app I’ve ever purchased – and I don’t regret it.

    I like the idea of additional senarios for 99p – would be great for even those dodgy folk who stole it at full price.

    The time limit sounds a great idea – but would it do any good when the games already out there? Although to be fair – people wont get a bug-fix for a pirate copy I guess?

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