Poll Question 053 – Would an “Honesty” payment system work for PC Games?

19th October 2007

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3
Does Honesty Pay?

Radiohead have made a bold move regarding selling their latest album. The BBC reports that “Radiohead’s plan to let fans choose how much to pay for their new album.”

This week’s poll question is:
Would an “Honesty” payment system work for PC Games?


The demographics of CD buyers, especially Radiohead, and PC game player must be quite different and I am sure their management team did some research before making this decision. The questions is would it work for PC Games that you download?

I say download because there are different costs involved in buying from a retailer and this would just be too complicated to work properly. But with a download service it’s easier.

The thing I find most interesting is that you are asked to pay before you download and listen to it. Did they do that because people as less likely to go back online and pay or for other reasons?

Perhaps each downloader could be given a code for reference purposes and after they have listened to the album or played the game in this case, they go back online and pay what they feel it is worth.

My Version

The player downloads the full game and plays to just after halfway. AtT that point the game is paused until a code is entered. Don’t panic it’s not as bad as it sounds. At this point the player is required to go online and finalize his or her “purchase”. In exactly the same way that the Radiohead system works the player can enter zero and receive the required code.

This would allow the player to actually see what they are getting for their money, in a similar way to a demo, but also force them to go back online as well.

If the game is good enough then the developer will receive the reward, assuming you believe the gaming community is honesty enough! It would also remove any need to produce a demo, which may take some resources away from the actual game; I don’t really know how that part works.

If the player reaches the half-way stage and can’t be bothered to get the code then they probably wouldn’t have paid for it anyway.

There should be no need for hackers to create code generators because the codes are free and take very little time to get.

My Confession

Personally I don’t think it would work for gaming for a number of reasons. Firstly, I believe a lot of players don’t actually have the spare cash anyway. Secondly, my faith in human honesty isn’t what it used to be. Sad, but true.

What do you think?

The Results


  1. Zeroth404

    I’d love this kind of system. I could grab a game and play it, and if it’s a big “ol piece of crap I don’t have to fork over any cahs for it.

    I would still have the cash I payed for Bioshock, HL2 Ep1, Gore, and all kinds of games I regret paying for.

    I could instead have invested that money in better places, like poor companies like Troika that are no more. Poor Troika 🙁

    Arcanum 2 will rise.

  2. the average payment for radiohead is 7eur so this shows that it can work

  3. I don’t think that this will work, probably because a good amount people who play PC games have a pretty good knowledge of computers, and will try to get anything they can for free, be it legal or illegal. However, it is possible that some of these people will feel obligated to pay for games that they like or keep, so it may work. I’m not really sure.

  4. Jimbo

    I’m 99% sure it wouldn’t work with games. I think demos are a better method as-is. If gamers see/hear it’s a good game AND that it’s free, they’ll swarm to get it for free with no morality behind themselves. The companies would go out of business after a short while.

  5. Kerberos

    It would be good to have it and pay nothing after all (joke). Well, I don’t have faith in gaming community because the age diverges. It can be just a kid with 10 years old, a teenage with 15 years, an oldman with 99 years… There are too much different points of view and it is really not recommended to trust a entire community into paying what they think it is worth. But, having this in mind, it could actually “work”, not in a traditional way where some x fund could be achieved, but in a way that in the final result, the artist/author gets satisfied with the status he achieved. Anyway, I voted I would not trust the gaming community… But I do believe that trustfulnes in each other is the evolution way for many things…

  6. Mikko Sandt

    What a stupid idea. Players (consumers) already choose the price by buying the product at its market price. The 50€ per game is not set by the supplier.

    Radiohead may afford to do stupid stunts like this because they’re already rich and famous.

  7. zeroth404

    A bunch of pessimists you are!

    but by saying you don’t think it would work probably means that you wouldn’t want such a system which would also mean you are an honest gamer. most of the posters here are doubtful of the system, which leads me to believe that at least most of the people that visit platphillip.com are honest gamers…which shows more that the system WOULD work.

    I’m sick of seeing great companies die, and I’m sick of seeing crappy ones pump out cookie cutter games that should never have made a buck.

  8. Matt Glanville

    Mikko is right, only an established developer would be able to take a risk like this. Not only that, but also I think people are more inclined to remain loyal to a musical artist than they are to a game developer. Developers are, at the end of the day, faceless corporations. We love the game, not the designer. The music industry is much more interested in appearance and icons.

  9. This would not work. The vast majority of people would pay nothing, or would pay very little, and the bandwidth costs alone would sink the company.

    Don’t get me wrong; I would love it if such a system could work, but it never will. I’d love not to have to deal with the ridiculous, invasive copy protection software that gets installed with demos. (And… Why do they do that? Are they afraid I’ll steal the demo?)

  10. What a stupid idea.

    I disagree, difficult to impliment yes, possibly unworkable, yes. But not stupid. Just becasue you can’t see the benefits now doesn’t mean it couldn’t work.

    Players (consumers) already choose the price by buying the product at its market price.

    Again I disagree. Whilst consumers have some influence in the long term hy either buying or not buying they don’t choose the price.

    only an established developer would be able to take a risk like this

    yes, this is probably true. However, there may be a cse of a group of independant developers who are part of the community already. Perhaps the perfect example would be “Black Mesa Source”.

    This concept could work very well for them because they planned to release the mod free anyway.

    I think people are more inclined to remain loyal to a musical artist than they are to a game developer.

    Probably. It’s interesting that we don’t often think about the music publisher in the same way as a game publisher. Obviously the industry is different but we relate much more directly with the musicians.

    Of course Valve have broken that mold in that we deal directly with them now via Steam.

    Perhaps this could work for Portal. It’s a short game and is not available outside the Orange Box and I dioubt players bought the Orange box specifially for Portal. It’s the combination of games that makes that package so attractive.

    This would not work.

    I agree.

    nvasive copy protection software that gets installed with demos. (And… Why do they do that?

    In the case of Bioshock I think there was supposed to be a good reason but I can’t remember what it was.

  11. zeroth404

    Gamers are just as loyal to their games as people to their music. all artists put out sub-par albums, and all game companies put out sub-par games. the comparison doesn’t end there.

    most people who call themselves gamers play all sorts of games, good or bad. A few of them really care about the game and the experience and have much higher expectations. They expect a game to be made for reason, one other than money. It’s the first type of gamer that inflates the number of games-without-reason and inflates prices.

    Though it’s hard to tell how good a game is these days, we may still try: GamesThatWontSuck.com

  12. Aniline

    Phillip you can answer this one. You already provide games for free and people can pay by chipping into your support fund. At this moment you have 5 contributors so what does the average freebie-downloader pay in – zilch? Shameful but human. I blame Darwin.

  13. You already provide games for free and people can pay by chipping into your support fund.

    I see youir point and I agree but most people don’t really appreciate the amount of work that goes into running a website.

    I have little doubt that I soend more time on this than the average mapper does, yet it’s the mappers and modders that get all the community praise.

    It would be interesting to set up a system where downloaders of files can download a maximum of either X files or X Megabytes per month. After that they have to pay a small fee. This fee would be divided between me and the mappers (Don’t ask how I would get that working! It’s just a thought experiment)

    I wonder how many would pay, probably nobody!

  14. Zeroth404

    Most people are just broke. especially gamers.

    especially Zeroth.

  15. Mikko Sandt

    I disagree, difficult to impliment yes, possibly unworkable, yes. But not stupid.

    Economically speaking yes, it is stupid.

    Again I disagree. Whilst consumers have some influence in the long term hy either buying or not buying they don't choose the price.

    This is how prices are set. If you don’t like the price you don’t buy the product. If enough people do this, the price will be lowered. It’s not some influence in the long term but a lot of influence in the short run.

  16. Firstly, I’ve added the poll to the main post. It seems that most people agree that in this case the idea wouldn’t work.

    However, I still stand by the point that in the right case it might. Black Mesa Source is the perfect example.

  17. I have the fortune of seeing this in action with an actual video game. World of Goo ran the same type of deal. They said it actually worked out well, but I get the impression that was only because people had bought it for a specific listed price first and the whole honesty thing was nothing more than gravy.

    Ultimately, most people are only going to pay as much as they think they can get away with. The people who are actually paying more than the bare minimum usually are doing so not because they specifically want to pay that much for the game, but because they want to support the honesty concept. This, from what I’ve heard people saying, is usually based on the idea that if they support it now, it will be used by developers more often, and therefor give them the opportunity to get future games cheaper.

  18. An honor system might work, but bulk sales at a lesser price has a long proven strong track record of working well. I say Demo the game, then if they feel it’s worth it they can pay up for the key.
    Allowing the buyer to set their own price could very well break the market. They might get it work by having the game available with different number levels, weapons or what ever price dependent on which options the player wants.
    Much like automobiles, you want more monster you pay more $$. And like cars one can sell them off or trade them. There is a place called Grey Whale CD here that does just that. New,Used and trade.. They do quite well.

    Hmmm, a stripped down game you could customize/build your own situation. I do like the concept.. To get a picture of that go to Dodge’s site and click on “Build your own”

    “The demographics of CD buyers, especially Radiohead, and PC game player must be quite different”
    They are pretty neck and neck. I have and know others who listen to CD’s while playing games..lol..Business is business.

    When RH did that I think it was a killer move, I think it was more of a rebellious move than anything else. Allot of musicians weer led to believe, but mostly record producers thought that things like file sharing sites like Napster & Audio Galaxy were responsible for the decline of album sales. They weren’t.
    Album sales were already on a sharp downward spiral long before Napster even appeared. Research the statistics for yourself. The real reason was their sales when to hell in a hand basket was that they went from10-12 bucks to 20-30 bucks an album. Same with concert tickets.

    The price of a live show these days is absurd! I could see 20 or 30 there, but upwards of one hundred+?! I don’t think so! I haven’t purchased a concert ticket since they went to Mars,lol..
    The only people in the music industry making any money are the producers…The business end. It, sadly has been that way since the mid 70’s..
    Now a rock star may make millions but it costs most of that to make it.. Now with sites that sell per track, they are making even less. I wait it out, eventually it will go on sale or wind up in the bargain bin.
    HL Eps 1&2 are now $4.99 each, they were over $50.00 a piece to begin with. What will I do? BUY now..as will many others who were not willing to shell out a premium price. I NEVER pay full price for anything. I am a basement,bargain bin shopper.. Always have been
    SO… An honor system/pay to play? How do you know who is paying and who is free riding the system?
    OVERALL… I have paid 14 bucks a year, ONE dollar and twenty cents a month for all of the games I have and play…That’s an amazing deal really, hard to beat a buck twenty a month…
    People, most anyway, prefer to own a thing be it what may. Most consumers want some thing tangible they can touch, keep and shelf for later…or use and toss..The latter is especially true of America..(I AM a US citizen, so I can talk) We throw out enough perfectly good food ALONE here to feed the starving of world well every month..It is shameful!

    What they do now with demos is great. Penumbra rocked, so have others like PainKiller..After playing the demos I paid up. I still play them.

    Before Steam took over Sierra / Valve HL1 was around 70 bucks, I paid for it, then it showed up online for the same price,I was pissed, so I waited and I paid that for the set online, I think it was HL1,2,Blue Shift and Op force.. And they threw in a couple of others if I remember right, Quake series and Hexen series? Sounds about right, but I paid that same 70 bucks for all of it….
    What they have now is a pretty good system. Bigger market, more clients, charge less, yet still make more money than ever before, and it is still growing. I think it was Ford who said “I’d rather make one dollar each off of the work of ten men than make the 10 dollars myself”. The industrial revolution exploded. The same still holds true today.. If you sell a product to 10 people for 100 bucks each you have a grand..But if you sell that same product for much less and that attracts 1000 people at 20 bucks each, you just made 20K..But there is a pivotal point in the market where that stalls unless your buyer base just explodes exponentially..
    Like, say the service sells $4.99 a month to 500,000-1,000,000 clients, that’s an average of $3,742,500 per month. Considering the number of employees you would need to run a company that could do this would be nominal, that is good business.(psssst, get busy Phillip)

    GameTap is also a good idea that seems to be working quite well. So the monthly fee and pay per play already works. it would be interesting to see both on a pie chart… I don’t subscribe to or keep track of sites like GameTap or GameFly. I’ve stuck with the Steam system of doing things for the same reason I stick with single malt scotch..It works well..most of the time…$1.20 a month! Hard to argue with those numbers.
    ….further mor……
    Whoops..went off on a tangent rant again..lol..OK. Stops here.lol

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