This is something I'm genuinely trying to figure out, and it's not the sort of conversation I can have with Gabriel unless I'm willing to say "BOOBS!" every ten minutes. Maybe I can have it here.
Independent of Braid as a product, I am sympathetic to the challenges faced by a person trying to price a game. Nobody else here wanted anywhere near this grisly task, and so it was left to me, as are so many grisly tasks. As someone who gives away ninety-nine percent of their work for free, it was new territory. I had to try and generate the most good for the most people.
Years ago, I spoke with Daniel James (who might be called "The Puzzle Pirates Guy") about the ten dollar monthly fee he was charging for his java based puzzle game, and what he told me was cleansing: that there were people selling worse products for more. I vastly prefer the confidence of this construction over Jonathan Blow's own characterization, which amounts to "the devil made me do it." The game is either worth fifteen dollars, or it isn't.
Recent conversations with the man are more fruitful, but the entire pricing conversation is so left of the point that I can't believe it dominates the discussion. It's incredibly potent PR, which I suspect its creator knows well. How bad could the game be? Is it really worth it? I know from our logs that twice as many people check out negative assertions than positive ones. So they try out the demo, and even within its circumscription their minds are shattered and remade. I wrung four and a half hours out of the finished product, coming into contact with genuinely huge concepts that hum with stradavarian fullness. You're mad about five dollars? What? Shove your five dollars up your stupid ass.
You read a lot (in incandescent threads devoted to the topic) about how ten dollars is the "sweet spot" for Live Arcade titles, and that may be the case, but we should entertain the idea that its creator wasn't trying to make an "Xbox Live Arcade Game." Perhaps he was trying to make a good game, the best game he could, and Microsoft's Broadening Initiative For Digital Content was the last thing on his mind. Frankly, the model they set up for pricing is as outmoded today as their Goddamned size limitations were. Both structures limited what was possible.
The reality is that we can create the kind of culture we want. This was always true, but our distributed culture is especially well suited to this ideal. We can be the people who find and nurture truly original ideas when they emerge, or we can lament the sorry state of the medium. We can be consumers, or we can be curators.