Everyone loves sales. I am hardly the only person with a Steam library full of games I am probably never going to have enough free time to play, and yet I still eagerly await each new sale. Jason Rohrer, the developer behind The Castle Doctrine, thinks video game sales are actually a bad thing. Not a bad thing for the games or the developers, but for the gamers and fans.
His reasoning is that sales split the fanbase. He believes many people who would buy the game at release instead delay their purchase in anticipation of the game going on sale, causing online games to have a drastically smaller launch community than they would have had if not for those sales.
To a certain extent, Rohrer is correct. The problem he sees is not game sales, however, but the understanding in the minds of gamers there will be sales. It is a culture of sales, one with its own history and humor and expectation around it. It is a culture the Castle Doctrine developer feels is inescapable now.
He notes that in order for things to balance out economically the culture would require a great number of people who buy games arbitrarily when they are on sale, creating a backlog of games they may never play. Rohrer admits to having met several, and I can personally attest both to being one and knowing quite a few others.
This does nothing to actually create more of a player base for any of those games, however, thus raising the actual question once again. Just how many people who are truly interested in a newly released game buy it at launch, knowing it will likely be on sale soon, and how many delay their purchase to wait until it goes on sale?
To balance out in terms of community, the sales would have to bring in a large number of players who could not afford the full price but were already interested in the game, another category I have belonged to in the past.
I suspect Jason Rohrer is somewhat over-estimating the damage sales do to gaming communities, but I could be wrong.