I'm a video game developer who loves fonts. I noticed that fonts are often more expensive when they are bought to be used in games.

For example, a font called Daft Brush on HypeForType is sold for $20 when it is for "desktop" usage is, but is sold for $400 when bought to be used in games.

Is there a specific reason for that?

up vote 16 down vote accepted

The reason is when you're buying the font for a desktop, it can be used to author text on one or two machines, by one person. When you have a game the game authors those texts on many machines so the situation is the same as if you'd buy a license for each player separately.

So as long as the font has a pay per usage model a game would constitute many uses. The font makers realize your game company is not going to buy the fonts for each game separately so they cap the price for something like in this case 20 licenses, which acts as unlimited uses.

This is where it gets a bit murky. If the font is NOT being used as a font but as a bitmap then you don't necessarily have to pay the font price. As it would be the same as sending artwork to press. Unfortunately the font creator is free to use whatever licensing model he chooses so there's nothing to stop them for charging more if you use red underpants. In reality people tend to charge you what you get for it. So what you're really seeing is cost going up as the value for you goes up. This kind of price fluctuation is perfectly normal, if you go to shop in an area with richer people prices also go up.

So you're just getting a higher value for the font hence you pay more. Another way to look at it is this: If they would charge you the same as the desktop model you'd be paying $20 for each game sold, so you're actually getting a good deal here.

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    "If they would charge you the same as athe desktop model youd be paying 20$ each game sold" -- I understand and respect this logic... however, what would happen if I only make free games with no ROI? – lvictorino Feb 23 '15 at 10:17
  • Are you saying video game developers are richer than desktop apps developers? (I'm not trying to argue on the pricing strategy, it's just an interesting side-discussion) – Geoffrey Bachelet Feb 23 '15 at 10:17
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    @GeoffreyBachelet Its not a desktop app price its pirce for one user on a desktop, so if you make a desktop app you need to pay 20$ per desktop app sold. The price for the game is actually dirt cheap in comparasion (the game has many users). – joojaa Feb 23 '15 at 12:14
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    @lvictorino Whether or not something is free for not-for-profit use is a matter for the owner of that thing to decide. But note that it's very common to have to pay for things that you'll be using without making a profit. For example, most people who buy video games buy them for entertainment, not to make a profit, but they still have to pay for the game. – David Richerby Feb 23 '15 at 15:44
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    @Ivictorino Then you still owe them $20 for everyone who downloads your game. (Probably. Depending on the exact contract. I am not a lawyer.) – immibis Feb 23 '15 at 23:20

There's more money in making a game than allowing a single graphic designer to use it in his works. This becomes obvious when you consider that games tend to be developed in teams, but "desk" type licenses usually allow only a single user to employ the font.

Hence, bigger interest (aka. demand) and ability to pay leads to higher price.

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