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GameMaker Studio 2 impressions: Pricing

[Rather than posting a long article that takes days to organize, I’m opting to do short-form posts that focus on a narrow aspect of the new GameMaker. This means more frequent, smaller posts, which will hopefully be more timely and more digestable for readers. For more articles in this series, just follow the GameMaker Studio 2 tag.]

This is all very early to talk about, and I recognize this, but a lot of people are talking about how much GameMaker Studio 2 will cost.

YoYoGames have put out their “prospective” pricing out on their website:

Currently, it looks like this:

GMS2 pricing GMS2 upgrade pricing

Analysis

First, I am very happy that YYG did not try to go with a subscription-based model with their pricing. This shows that they have listened to their users, nearly all of whom despise the idea of paying a subscription on an ongoing basis for software. For hobbyists and occasional users, it’s not a good deal to pay for a subscription if they’re not going to use it all the time and really get the value out of it.

I find that the costs are basically in line with what I was expecting. Sure, Master Collection is a few more dollars than it was when they released it 6 years ago, but guess what, that was 6 years ago. Stuff gets more expensive as time goes on. That’s how it’s always been

The upgrade discounts are reasonable. 40%-50% off is not bad for an upgrade.

I do question why certain modules are so much more expensive than others. I would rather see the Android/iOS bundle and HTML5 bundle cost the same as the Desktop bundle. The UWP an Console bundles, I can understand somewhat more, as those build targets are of prime interest to commercial game developers who, it’s understood, make money from the games they produce, and it makes sense that they should be willing to pay more for those tools, and if by paying more for them, it helps subsidize the other users, then great.

I’m sad to see no free edition, apart from the Trial edition. Depending on the limits of Trial edition, it could still be viable for hobbyist developers, but it sounds like it’s more intended as an evaluation edition to allow people to decide whether they want to pay for a real edition that can actually build games.

Community Chatter

So, predictably, most people who are talking about it are complaining that the cost is too much. That’s a subjective judgement, and of course everyone wants to pay as little as possible, and get everything for free if that were possible somehow.

Some people think that all software should be free (as in beer). Mostly, these people just don’t have enough money to afford to pay for software. They spend as much money as they have on just getting a new computer, and then they can’t believe that the cost of the software they need to run can more than double the price of the system. I sympathize, because when I was younger I was definitely one of those people, and if it wasn’t for deep discounts on student licenses, bundles that came with new hardware, and so on, I couldn’t have afforded to buy much software.

Fortunately there has always been a lot of good quality, low-cost or free software available, as well. Different products are aimed at different markets. Companies that sell to big businesses charge a lot of money for their software, in part because they can, but also because they need to, because in order to develop they need big budgets and a lot of employees. But some software is the product of a single developer, who doesn’t have all the overhead that a large company has, and they can afford to sell for a cheaper price, or even give away if they feel like it. Additionally, there are developers who feel that they get paid to program, not to sell copies of software, and they can get funded to do a project that someone who has money needs, but then turn around and give away the software as a public good, and as long as the cost of development is met by a few, everyone benefits from it.

GameMaker’s history started out with a single developer, who sold the software very cheaply at first, and always had a free edition, and a paid edition that cost $20-25. Later, as GameMaker grew, it became too much for one person to maintain, and he sold it to YoYoGames, who are a larger company, and who therefore have more overhead and need to charge more in order to cover their costs, pay salaries, continue R&D and support, and turn a profit.

YoYoGames initially raised prices, from $25 to $40, around the time of GM8, and users howled that it was too much. And we can see in retrospect what a bargain it was, and how childish people who complained back then were. GM:S has been considerably more expensive, anywhere from $70-200, although they have continued to provide a free edition. YoYoGames can’t continue to exist if they just give away software for nothing.

And YYG charge more for extra GM:S features, up to $800 for their “Master Collection” bundle which includes everything, including stuff they haven’t come up with yet, later for no additional cost. $800 is very expensive for most people, and unless you’re making money with the software, or are wealthy enough not to care, it’s probably not for you. It’s aimed at companies that can look at the purchase of software as a capital investment that is part of the cost of doing business. And if by charging more to these customers, it enables YoYo to keep costs lower for individuals, students, and hobbyists who otherwise couldn’t afford to buy what YoYo would have to sell it for, I think it benefits everyone.

Maybe low-budget amateurs will gripe about not being able to get all the features, but they do get something.

You also have to compare GameMaker against what else is out there. And there’s a lot else out there. There’s stuff that’s completely free, like vi + gcc, which is very high quality and extremely powerful, but that isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone, because it requires a huge amount of learning and knowledge and work to create games with. In more direct competition are tools that are geared specifically toward game development, such as Unity3D (which is more expensive, and uses a subscription model now) and Construct2, and free tools such as Godot, Love, and Defold, which may not be as well supported, well documented, or easy to use. And many others besides these. The bottom line is, if you don’t like GameMaker because of what it costs, you have plenty of options to choose from, many of which are very good.

So for people who are complaining that it’s too much, I don’t have much sympathy for you. It’s very likely that at various points YYG will have sale events, as they’ve had in the past. If you don’t want to pay the release day price, you can probably wait a year or two and hit a Steam sale or a Humble Store sale and get it at a pretty good discount then. By that time, it will be even better, with more polish and more features. In the meantime, if you have GM:S1.x you can continue use it, it will continue to receive support and bugfixes, and 2.x will be ready for you when you decide you can afford it.

3 Comments

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  1. My problem isn’t so much that it’s expensive. My problem is that I was one of the few who splashed out the extra cash for the master collection, because it allows me to create my programs across all platforms, but in order to upgrade, I have to pay and LOSE all of those extra platforms I paid for to be tied down to Just one. This to me is NOT an upgrade, but actually a downgrade. I don’t personally appreciate the feeling of being mugged off so I’ll just stick with what I have. Not that I condone it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a crack or two shows up sooner or later anyway.

      

    1. I’ve seen a lot of Master Collection license holders complain about this.

      I too am a Master Collection owner. I’ve been using GMS since the GM:HTML5 beta was first announced, and was using GMS8 before that for a few months.

      When I got into GM8, it was free to use, or if you wanted the full-featured professional version a license cost $25, which I considered very inexpensive and a good value. Shortly after I paid for my license, YoYo increased the price, IIRC to $35. Many users complained about the price increase, but come on. $35 is still inexpensive, and a $10 increase isn’t much.

      When YoYo released the HTML5 beta, it was priced at $50, reflecting a 50% off price for early bird adopters who wanted to get in on the beta, as a way of thanking them for testing the beta. Regular price was to be $100. I again paid the $50, happy to receive the discount, and excited about the new capability to produce games that ran in a web browser without a plugin like Flash Player or the Unity3D plugin.

      When GMS was released, YoYo retired the HTML5 edition, and we HTML5 licensees were able to convert our licenses over to a GMS1.x license. It’s been years since then, but I don’t recall having to pay anything additional for that, but could be I did. GMS launched at $100 for a pro edition, and they continued to offer a free edition, although it was much, much more limited than the previous GM8 free edition had been. Many users complained.

      Some time went by, and YoYo offered the Master Collection. I don’t recall that it was available immediately on release, but maybe it was. At any rate, it was something like $499 at first. But YoYo allowed users who already owned GMS1.x Pro to purchase Master Collection licenses for $499 less the cost already sunk into our Pro license, so something like $399. At the time, this came with the promise that as YoYo released future modules, Master Collection users would be entitled to them automatically at no additional cost, and free upgrades forever. YoYo made good on this, releasing additional build targets for iOs, Android, Linux, Tizen, Windows UWP, the YYC compiler builds, etc. — all of which I got for no additional cost. But… most of these, I haven’t used. I’ve only used Windows, Windows YYC, and HTML5 build targets. Still, I really liked having the peace of mind knowing that, whatever else YoYo were going to release, I would be entitled to it for no extra cost.

      Sometime later, though, YoYo clarified what they meant by “future updates are free” to mean “future updates within the 1.x sequence”. Users complained. I felt that this was a bit shady, myself, but I also somewhat expected it, because it’s just not realistic to expect free upgrades literally forever — it costs money to run a business, to develop and maintain software. But of course users complained.

      As well, after releasing several important additional build targets, YoYo increased the cost of the Master Collection license from $499 to $799. Arguably this additional cost was justified by the fact that Master Collection now comes with more stuff. But of course users complained.

      Now, it might have been nice had YoYo grandfathered in users who had already purchased a Master Collection license under the old terms — we could call them GrandMaster Collection users. These would be early adopters who could have the special prestige of owning a rare, limited edition license that is no longer available for purchase. That could have been really cool, and a huge thankyou to those early users who bought into YoYo’s modernization efforts to keep GameMaker a relevant development tool. But they didn’t.

      But that said, YoYo gave me everything they released from 2010 through 2016 for the cost of my Master Collection license, and if you average that out, that comes to significantly under $100/year for the software. For me, at least, I find that to be a very good value.

      Oh and let’s not forget that they lowered pricing on Professional and HTML5 at some point, and relented on the too-limited free edition, making a Standard edition that is free and useful. That counts for something, doesn’t it? And then they’ve had some near-giveaways, such as the Humble Bundle offer that gave you a license of GMS Pro, a bunch of professionally developed games build with GameMaker that were big indie hits in recent years, plus the source code to those games… in total worth something like $1800… for just $15. I bought it again for the access to the source code alone. It was VERY much worth it to see how professionals code their stuff. Or just for the access to be able to play some great games.

      In late 2016, YoYo gave us a paid GMS2 beta for $50. I don’t like paying for beta software, but at least it was a discounted price offered to us for taking part in the beta, and would entitle us to the full version once it was officially released at no extra charge, so of course I took advantage.

      Then they offered their upgrade pricing, and we were surprised that they removed a Master Collection edition for this version. All build targets are a la carte, buy what you want, save by not buying what you don’t. No Tizen (I don’t even know what devices run/ran Tizen, does it matter?)

      HTML5 for $150 makes me frown, and $300 for Mobile makes it clear that YoYo only wants serious developers producing mobile apps with their product, which to me isn’t such a bad move, considering the glut of awful mobile apps that has given rise to the so-called Indiepocalypse phenomenon. But 40% discounts for regular users upgrading, and 50% off for Master Collection users is a nice consolation. Of course the earliest Master Collection buyers who were promised “free upgrades for life” have some right to complain. But YoYo clarified their terms long ago, and we’ve had time to get over it, and in any case GMS2 is truly a new product, rewritten from the ground up, and not a mere “upgrade” release.

      So I ended up buying GMS2 Pro, HTML5 and got them for $50 and $75, so $125. Really not bad, much cheaper than what I paid for Master Collection, and everything I need and want in terms of build targets. I don’t need Windows UWP, nor do I need Console, unless I happen to develop a game that becomes so popular that it demands a PlayStation and XBox release, in which case I’ll already be making money and the cost for the Console bundle won’t matter.

      Then YoYo decided to limit the duration of the upgrade pricing offer, so I opted to splurge and get the Mobile bundle for $200. So $325 all told. I spent something like $400-500 altogether on GMS1 and GM8 combined, and we’ve had about 6 years of inflation in that time. So it’s cheaper now, for a better product.

      Am I buying it all “again”? Yes and no. To me, it seems quite reasonable, but I’ve been enjoying the use of the software over its entire product life. On the other hand, if I had just gotten into GMS1 in 2016, then of course I would feel like it was asking too much to pay for all this stuff again. So depending on when you bought, I can see the point, but really I don’t feel that YoYo are doing customers wrong by charging them for a product.

      And if I decide to switch to Mac OS X, I can take my GMS2 license with me, at no cost. That’s awesome. (Of course, I want to run GMS2 on Linux…)

        

    2. And, also, the much more obvious point to make about this is that Master Collection is clearly intended by YYG as a product for the serious professional game developer, who intends to recoup the investment with revenue earned by the games they develop. If you haven’t derived any income from the product, that’s not really YoYo’s fault. But it certainly offsets the cost of the license if you’re making money with the product. And it’s also a tax deductible business expense.

        

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