Nicholas Entertainment Group (NEG) is a Polish independent game publisher that recently got their hands dirty with development. Their first game (with Intoxicate Studios) is the forthcoming horror first-person shooter Afterfall: InSanity, which comes out next month—dangerously close to the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3 and Assassin's Creed Revelations release dates. That's some stiff competition for small company, especially since it's a $35 debut game.
How does NEG intend to deal with this problem? Like no one ever has before.
Yesterday they started offering pre-orders for Afterfall: InSanity, including the soundtrack, for just $1 on their website using PayPal. That by itself is pretty crazy, but it's actually the most tame part of NEG's release strategy.
The goal of the one dollar offer is to encourage 10 million gamers to pre-order the game. That is a staggering figure, more than any AAA games get, but Afterfall also costs significantly less than those games do and just happens to have one last trick up its sleeve—charitable donations.
Perhaps taking a cue from the Humble Indie Bundle, NEG will donate 10% of whatever money the company makes on pre-orders if they surpass 10 million. However, if they get less than 10 million pre-orders by the time of the game's release date on November 25th, all of the money taken in so far will be donated directly to charity. Sounds pretty generous, right? But no one will receive their super cheap copies of the game either. However, the dollar they spent will be counted against the game's normal purchase price if they still want to buy it.
The whopping 10 million figure is eye-catching, and whether NEG reaches it or not, they still win. They get the huge PR bump for making a big charitable donation, 10 million or not. As for selling the game itself, they've created a win-win scenario, too. If they get 10 million pre-orders then the game is already a success at any price point and they can afford to practically give it away. If they don't reach the goal, they don't give the game away cheap to anyone, and release as they would have before, but with more hype.
It's a brilliant little package. Charities get money and NEG gets exposure no matter what they or anyone else do, and post-launch it's like the whole thing never happened. This is one of the many reasons indie game development is so great. Without the pressure from publishers and retailers to sell a game for more money so everyone can get a cut, indie developers are free to come up with new price structures. Maybe one day they can even come up with something to replace the $60 boxed retail game as the primary game-purchasing medium. If last quarter's NPD Group game sales numbers are a trend and not an abberation, they may have already.
One more note on chartiable game-buying options. Several iOS indie developers from the UK recently created the first mobile version of the Humble Indie Bundle—the Corona Indie Bundle.
Named after the engine the games all share and whose creator Ansca put the bundle together, it features five games and costs $0.99 (69p in its home country) with 17% of the money taken in going to charities Child's Play, Bliss and Dispensario de Managua.
Due to the constraints of the App Store interface, there are no sliders to control the percentage going to charities, developer, etc., like as the Humble Indie Bundle shows. Similarly to the NEG offer above, Corona Indie Bundle organizers have also stated they will add a sixth game to the package if it reaches 100,000 downloads. Given how cheap mobile games are and that name-your-own-price isn't an option on the App Store, I'd say Ansca have done a pretty clever job. If you have an iPhone or iPad, give it a shot. It's only a buck.