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General Forge Forums => Publishing => Topic started by: Luke on May 17, 2004, 10:18:02 PM



Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Luke on May 17, 2004, 10:18:02 PM
My aim for this thread is to chronicle some interesting developments in the "product" that is Burning Wheel. Not the game, but the thing sold from websites and stores. The entity that costs money to produce, and generates revenues based on sales.

I hope that this information might help better guide decisions of an independent or small press game designer in the future.

First off, I have a confession/admission: Ralph is and was right. ::gnashes teeth and tears at hair::

Ralph was right to lambast me about the price of Burning Wheel. Ralph was right to say it was underpriced.

For those of you who don't know, BW sells for $15. It's 472 pages of game material in two digest-sized books. It is, in fact, pretty darn cheap.

The price point was set low quite deliberately. My reasoning: 1) The BW was a hobby/fun-thing-to-do. 2) I hate the high price of rpgs.

The hobby part meant that I wasn't "paying myself" and I only intended to make back what I invested. The hate part meant that I was going to price this as low as I could get away with.

So I simply doubled the full cost of the game to get the retail price. Seemed like plenty of profit margin to me at the time.

In the last year and a half I sold most of my copies via direct sales -- either from conventions or from the website. Thus I actually made a profit and put all earnings into savings for a possible reprint. The remainder of the copies went to retailers. For those, I simply split the retail price so I would just break even. Seemed fine to me, and I only had a handful of retailers willing to carry the game, so I wasn't dealing in large volumes.

Now things have changed. The game has been picked up by Alliance for distribution. This is a good thing for the game overall. But it doesn't feel so good for the product/fiscal side of the game.

Through distribution I only make 28% of the cover price for each set. In order to break even, according to my pricing model, I need to make 50% of cover. So I take a loss on all sets sold through distro at the $15 price point.

That's ok. In fact, I anticipated this. I figured it was essentially like paying for advertising for the game. Alliance is going to get far more saturation than I could, even with an ad in Dragon. So at the outset, I banked on selling a couple of hundred through distro and taking a little hit. No big deal; the game gets "out there."

But matters have changed subtley. I figured the distro thing would come in the 500s (middle of the run), it would pass, and I would sell the remaining sets off via direct sales to waning interest. This is not the case.

I'm down to my last 200 copies and the Alliance orders haven't even come in yet. Let's just say, for argument's sake, that those remaining copies are going to leave via distribution channels and I take the hit as anticipated.

Fine, right? Sort of. This is where it gets sticky. What happens if demand continues at its current level? What happens if distributor demand eclipses direct sales demand? This is a possibility at this point. And it would mean that, at $15 a set, I go from taking a little hit, to bleeding money. I would be paying roughly $3 to everyone who bought my game. More importantly, I would not make enough money to do another print run. That stings. The whole goal of this hobby was to break even -- make it pay for itself -- and that is obviously short of the goal!

Suddenly, we have a possible situation where the game gets more popular, but far less profitable.

I'm sure, by now, a few of you are screaming the obvious answer at your screen: "Just raise the damn price, jackass!" And let me tell you, that stings, too.

Raising the price of BW takes us from the hard ground of costs and retail into the infirm territory of philosophy, inward perception and outward perception.

What does it look like if I raise the price? Does it damage the fragile image of the game? And, is this next step one I want to take?

I do worry about the outward perception of the game. I cringe at the thought of sneering rpgers whispering, "BW sold out." Ridiculous, I know.

But I suspect, and I could be wrong, that I've built small reputation around providing a solid game for dirt cheap. Will a price change damage that reputation? Will that damage have deeper ramifications? Buzz is a very fickle thing -- I feel very nervous about changing any part of the formula that has brought me this tiny sliver of success.

But this leads to the next question: Do I want to take this from hobby to business?

Yes and no. More than business or hobby, what I really need is to lighten the load on me a bit. The cost of the game doesn't factor in: days off from work, cost of conventions, website expenses, lunch and drinks for the guys who help me out, the marginal advertising and promotions I do and the other myriad incidental costs (like stressing my relationship with my patient and understanding girlfriend).

It's funny how all of that can be ameliorated with a little more money.

Anyway, if I factored all that in, the price of the game would rise dramatically.

I spoke to Jason and Jason of Key20 today. They advised me on a little pricing: Retail price should be either 6-8 times the cost to print, or 4-5 times the full cost (includes printing, art and editing).

$7.50 is my full cost, which means BW should retail for $30 minimum.

Hm, that's ugly. That's what all the other games retail for. Where's all that money going? According my deal with Key20, $18 of that theoretical $30 would be split between the distributor and the retailer. If they both make 30% of msrp, that's a good cut.

Key20 takes another 10% for their services, which I do not begrudge them. They've done quite a bit for me over the past few months. I can't remember it's gross or net though, but let's price it on the outside: $3 for them.

That leaves me with $9 in my hand. $1.50 over the amount it cost to put the book together. Multiplied times one thousand... $1500 is a tidy sum, but not nearly enough to cover the list of expenses I mentioned above. Still, it is far more attractive than taking a $3000 loss.

But $30 is just beyond my ability to stomach. I know it's "what the market will bear", but I just can't charge that much money for a luxury item I personally produce.

Hm. That puts me in an interesting position -- giving a discount on a luxury item that others are willing to purchase... there's got to be an economic term for this (I mean one aside from "idealistic jack-ass makes no money").

Ok, even if I price the books at $27 -- which nets me exactly my cost -- I am still in the difficult position of not actually making any money. And as I've mentioned, additional capital allows me to go to more conventions, further spread the word and to write more books.

Another direction to take, of course, is to somehow lower the cost per unit and thus increase my margin. There are a couple of ways I could do that: Combine the books into a single volume, trim material from the books, or print in larger amounts. The last option seems the most savory to me. The first two go counter to my design aesthetics for the books.

Ordering more copies from the printer means I need more warehouse space, more money up front and I am taking a bigger risk. What if interest wanes as suddenly as it waxed?  

The final difficult position is that of the reprint. I have enough material to offer a revised edition. However, if I simply reprint the game, my cost per unit drops dramatically. But, of course, I feel morally obliged to release a better, faster, stronger product -- not the same old model T. This, of course, puts me right back up in a high unit cost due to the price of doing a new print run.

That's a lot of numbers -- quite a bit to chew on. And it fairly outlines my current position. The big variable here, of course, is I really have no idea how much Alliance is going to order. None. This puts me in a very difficult position -- I don't know if I even should do a reprint/revision. But waiting until the last minute could be disastrous.

Anyway, there is my cautionary tale.

Also, Let it be known that I give credit where credit is due: Ralph, I shall have my revenge.

Just kidding.

===

Addendum: There are no definitive answers to the conundrums I've posed -- if only because I have muddled simple business sense with a design aethetic, a wierd sense of ethics and an obligation to my fans.

However, I would be interested in hearing details of inward and outward perception of the game  (in this case, I refer solely to price, design and store presence -- not mechanics). Also, if I've made any mistakes in my assumptions, feel free to correct me. And, of course, advice is always welcome.

thanks all,
-Luke


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Trevis Martin on May 18, 2004, 12:25:45 AM
Luke,

I recently bought BW myself (#600 and something according to the flyleaf which I don't have on hand.)  I was wowed by the quality of the product and I thought to myself "Luke is crazy not to be selling this for more."  I know about luxury items bucko, I'm a painter.  I can't do it for a living because the production level would kill me to even break even and I have a family to support.  One of the absolute hardest things I've had to learn to do is price my own work.  They're my babies and I'm happy if each one gets a home.  

 I would have gladly paid $30 for the set.  It's a value at that price.  Its a steal at the current one.  I would have paid 15 for the pdf's.  You have a quality product that you've put a lot of sweat into.  I think your price point is so low as to actually indicate a lack of self value. Hell you buy DVD's which you'll only watch a few times for $20, sometimes more.  I'm only projecting sure, but that's what I faced up against as a painter.  Asking myself 'Well, dammit, why isn't my work worth this much?" (and I'm having to price individual items in the several hundreds to thousands of dollars.)  I think the game is excellent quality, solid, well packaged and professionally presented and there is no external reason why it shouldn't sell for more.  

Luke, the heart and sweat you and your mates are putting into your game is worth more than you're charging, there isn't any shame in balancing that out.  You owe it to your fans, to me, not to deprive them of your work by cutting yourself off at the knees. That's your obligation IMO. Just to back my point, if you do raise the price, I'll give my copy to a freind and I'll buy it again!

regards,

Trevis

p.s.  Have you thought about selling at least your supplements in PDF form?  Even if its both PDF and finished version? That would have a very high return and might help in your balancing act.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: DevP on May 18, 2004, 02:03:56 AM
You have to take care of yourself, so price up the new run so that you can Not Lose Money! If people start crying "sell out!", just give me a call and they'll soon start crying "Dev that's illegal!" because, y'know, I'm driving over them with my car.

It's worth $30. It's probably best to add *some* new stuff if possible (even just various letters from you, designer, and various anecodotes about how cool the book plays out, or something easy really), but pragmatism seems key.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Jack Aidley on May 18, 2004, 02:17:47 AM
$30? That's er.... (damn you Americans with your freaky foreign currencies) 18? That seems a fair price for your game - it's a lot better than other drivel I've paid that or more for.

Having said that, I might not have bought The Burning Wheel at that price - I'm kind of reluctant to speculatively purchase from beyond the pond at that kind of point. In upping to $30 you'd be moving your game out of the speculative purchase/impulse buy 'cos it's so cheap bracket, and into the serious product band. Which, if you ask me, is a good thing - The Burning Wheel is a serious product - it has a growing groundswell of support, folks talk about it, folks are playing it and folks are liking it. And most of all, it deserves it.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Michael S. Miller on May 18, 2004, 03:20:13 AM
Hi, Luke.

I have to echo Jack here. Raising the bar to $30 will lose you 2 kind of sales: 1) the impulse buy and 2) the folks who grumbled about it being too expensive at $15  If your fans were all impulse buys, they wouldn't be clamouring for the Monster Burner. They wouldn't be clamoring for your con games. I think a year and a half of impulse buys have gotten you enough. Raise the price to where it shoulda been to begin with!


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Matt Machell on May 18, 2004, 03:37:28 AM
Quote from: Jack Aidley
$30? That's er....  18?


Closer to 16 quid with exchange rates as they are...

Anyway, back at the point. The lower price built BW a diehard following of fans. I reckon those fans will still pass on word of mouth recommendations even at a higher pricepoint. Because you have brand loyalty.

-Matt


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Valamir on May 18, 2004, 04:14:32 AM
Quote
First off, I have a confession/admission: Ralph is and was right. ::gnashes teeth and tears at hair::

Ralph was right to lambast me about the price of Burning Wheel. Ralph was right to say it was underpriced.


I'm just shallow enough to really enjoy reading things like that ;-)  Heh.


Seriously, though, you'll go through your 200 copies no problem.  Then you'll need another print run.  The first thing I'd try is shopping around printers again and see if you can't shave $1 or 2 off of that printing cost.

The second thing I'd try, to get you over the last little hurdle of guilt at doubling the price of the book is running over the manuscript again.

You've got a ton more history of actual play of your self and others behind you.  You've got a ton of feedback from a variety of sources.  More than just an errata update, is there anything you've learned about the play of Burning Wheel that might be worth revising portions.

I don't know when the last time you read BW cover to cover (if you're anything like me probably a long time) but you might just find entire sections of text that at one time you thought was important that now...due to changes in philosophy or more play experience...have become superfluous.  There might be other parts that could be trimmed down, worded more succinctly, etc.  One of my own bugaboos is duplication where I explain the same concept in multiple places.  You may also decide that the voice you used when writing BW the first time isn't the voice you'd use today.  That something easy to change.

Point being there probably is a relatively painless dozen maybe two pages of stuff you could reduce.  But instead of saving money (that amount wouldn't save much) you could replace it with updated stuff.

I know we've had some philosophical discussions about the role of mechanics and interpreting dice in the game.  From some of your recent play posts it appears that you've really crystalized your philosophy of the role of dice in BW and the specific practiced technique of you use with them in BW.  Putting that in the game in a more direct fashion would be a great use of some of that freed up space.

If you've got the room left, you can add some of the support material you've developed on the web site, as a teaser or tie in to your web site (here's a sample of what you'll find there).

Lots of things you could do on that front.  Not necessarily BW revised.  But BW updated and brought up to your current standards.  



In the meantime.  There's no rule that says you can't up the price $5-10 for your last $200 copies.  It won't completely help you avoid loss on the distibutor sales, but if you raised the price on the direct sales also (cuz retailers generally hate it if you're offering the book cheaper direct than their cover price) you'll make up for that a bit on that side too.  Avoid taking a big hit on those last copies while gearing up for the next print run.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: ethan_greer on May 18, 2004, 05:03:19 AM
Couldn't you just skip the whole distribution step? If what you want is a hobby that covers its own expenses, why get into distribution at all? It seems as though the game is fulfilling all of your original goals without distribution, and distribution is what's screwing everything up. I say distribution be damned.

Or is it not that simple?


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: quozl on May 18, 2004, 05:46:01 AM
Here's my advice:

Sell it at $30.  (Remember, it's still only $15 for each book, which reminds me, can they be sold separately?) Reprint it exactly the same.  Then put out another book with all the updates and new material you've collected over the past year and sell it too.

Oh, and put your last post up on your website and on rpg.net and anywhere else that people might be interested.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Sean on May 18, 2004, 05:52:11 AM
Totally subjective, but that's what you're asking for: not having been exposed to it at all firsthand, I would have struck at BW for $20, but not for $30.

Based on a hobby store readthrough that would have gone up to $22.95.

I do think the game is worth $30 (maybe even $35) relative to the market, but I wouldn't have paid that for it. Unless I had a friend who was actually running it, of course.

Like everyone else when I got it in the mail I thought: "I want some of what Luke's smoking to be selling this for $15." That's just way undervalued by any reckoning, and I'm a notorious cheapass.

The revised Artha rules and the free-form magic system on your website were actually what made me click the paypal button to buy it - I loved those instantly. For what it's worth.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Andrew Morris on May 18, 2004, 05:57:23 AM
Yeah, I have to agree with the others here who've stated that $30 is a reasonable price for your game. When I decided to buy a copy and check it out, I assumed that the $15 price was for one of the two books. When I found out that it for both, I actually felt like I was stealing. Not like, "Oh, what a steal," but more like, "I gave him a $10 bill and he handed me a $20 with the change."

I wouldn't have blinked if the price was $30 for the two. I've recently identified my impulse-purchase-cutoff point to be $40 exactly. Anything under that, I'll still buy on a whim. At $40 and higher, I have to think about it. Of course, there's no saying that I'm the average RPG consumer, but I don't think a $30 price point will hurt you much. Hell, I don't think a $30 price point on your remaining stock will hurt you much, let alone if you update the game.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Luke on May 18, 2004, 06:00:29 AM
First off, thank you everyone for your honest feedback.

Second: Ralph, you and I are due for a very emotional reunion at GenCon this year. Two friends who trained at the same temple, one joined the provinicial militia, one joined the rebellion...at their tearful reunion they have no choice but to fight! ;)


Quote from: ethan_greer
Couldn't you just skip the whole distribution step? If what you want is a hobby that covers its own expenses, why get into distribution at all? It seems as though the game is fulfilling all of your original goals without distribution, and distribution is what's screwing everything up. I say distribution be damned.

Or is it not that simple?


This really seems like crazy talk to me. Why wouldn't I want to use all available channels to "get the game out there?" Why would I want to hamstring the game by refusing this risk?

Even if distribution only moves a hundred copies, that's a hundred more than I would have sold. Even if my time in the sun only lasts a few months, I really believe  that the exposure will be highly beneficial.

I honestly feel it would be irresponsible of me not to attempt to get the game out to as many players as possible. Irresponsible to me as a design, and irresponsible to the 700 other kids who play Burning Wheel.

So I am going to try to make this work and move forward.
-L


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: ethan_greer on May 18, 2004, 07:42:17 AM
Quote from: abzu
This really seems like crazy talk to me.

Fair enough. Allow me to clarify my thoughts by responding to your reactions in turn. If, after that, you still think I'm crazy, then cool. :)

Quote
Why wouldn't I want to use all available channels to "get the game out there?" Why would I want to hamstring the game by refusing this risk?

Because you don't want to have to raise your price.

Quote
Even if distribution only moves a hundred copies, that's a hundred more than I would have sold.

No it isn't. You'll sell the hundred copies. What's really at issue here is the timing. When do you want to sell those hundred copies? Right now in a big chunk, or in little pieces over time?

Quote
I honestly feel it would be irresponsible of me not to attempt to get the game out to as many players as possible. Irresponsible to me as a design, and irresponsible to the 700 other kids who play Burning Wheel.

I don't see it that way. You're already selling the game.  Anyone with an internet connection and a credit card can get it. Which, if you ask me, is already more "out there" than Alliance will get your game. And can't Alliance send your product back to you later and demand a refund? That sort of thing can kill a hobby-based business like yours in a heartbeat. Opening yourself up to that possiblity seems risky to me. Is going under because Alliance poorly markets your product irresponsible? Is selling at a loss that prevents or significantly delays the next print run irresponsible?

Quote
So I am going to try to make this work and move forward.

Then you're going to have to raise the price to 30 bucks. Don't compromise and take a loss under any circumstances.

So, do you take the blue pill, or the red pill?


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Luke on May 18, 2004, 08:11:33 AM
Quote
No it isn't. You'll sell the hundred copies. What's really at issue here is the timing. When do you want to sell those hundred copies? Right now in a big chunk, or in little pieces over time?


This isn't  true. Yes, of course I will sell those hundred copies. But I will sell them to people that I already would have sold them to. I've got my beat covered, I'm going to sell those hundred copies to kids at conventions, kids who frequent game websites and kids who frequent local game stores. There are thousands of these kids, each one is a potential customer.

However, distribution is going take the books and put them in a place where they can be purchased by the tens of thousands of gamers who are not a part of my beat. The forums, cons and local stores are a fraction of my potential audience. Correct me if I am wrong, but most gamers don't go to cons, haunt this website or purchase all their games from my particular game store.

Therefore, I feel compelled to attempt to reach them with my game. I like it, and I think they will, too.

I am trying hard not to idealize distro; I know it is full of pitfalls. I am also trying hard to not idealize this website and a few others (mine included) in their ability to take a game from cool local phenomena to the "next step." But I think a dose of the real world helps a bit here. Alliance simply has resources that I don't. Already they've put a full color ad out for my game in an international catalog -- on my own, I simply couldn't afford to do that.

thanks for your thoughts,
-L


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: ethan_greer on May 18, 2004, 08:37:07 AM
Quote from: abzu
However, distribution is going take the books and put them in a place where they can be purchased by the tens of thousands of gamers who are not a part of my beat. The forums, cons and local stores are a fraction of my potential audience.

I agree with this concept. However, I don't know that you aren't already reaching that wider market without distribution.

Quote
Correct me if I am wrong, but most gamers don't go to cons, haunt this website or purchase all their games from my particular game store.

You're probably right about that. However, I would counter that most gamers know at least one person who does at least one of the following things:

> Goes to cons
> Reads the Forge, RPGnet, ENWorld, or similar RPG support sites
> Reads GamingReport.com
> Regularly visits one or more of the RPGHost sites (RPGNow, RPGShop, RPGNews, RPGKitchenSink, etc.)

All I'm saying is, I'm betting more people are aware of your game than you might think.

Quote
Therefore, I feel compelled to attempt to reach them with my game. I like it, and I think they will, too.

Your pragmatic enthusiasm all but ensures your continued success.

Quote
Alliance simply has resources that I don't. Already they've put a full color ad out for my game in an international catalog -- on my own, I simply couldn't afford to do that.

And there's no getting around that, is there? In the end, I think you're right - getting into the distribution channels will expose your game to a wider audience and increase your sales. But choosing to take that next step makes an increase in price not an option but a requirement.  Sounds like you've already made that choice.

Edit: Oh, and finally, the disclaimer: I know nothing about your business, your sales, or anything like that, and my own business sense is roughly equivalent to that of a mushroom omelette. I'm just providing an alternative viewpoint based on limited knowledge. If I'm coming across as an arrogant know-it-all, chalk it up to not enough sleep on my part.


Title: Re: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: taepoong on May 18, 2004, 09:05:43 AM
Quote from: abzu
But this leads to the next question: Do I want to take this from hobby to business?


I don't think this is a question at all from your responses to Ethan. It sounds like you've made up your mind. Your ambition to reach thousands of gamers precludes you from the hobby category.

A hobbyist would be happy with whatever amount of people stumbled on his game and money wouldn't mean a thing. But you want to aggressively seek out and recruit more Burners. That sort of goal requires a business, perhaps even a full-time commitment.

So, you have no choice but to raise the cost of your game to whatever amount is necessary to keep producing more copies.

Like Ethan said, if you don't want to raise the amount of the books, you need to drop the distibutors and maintain the status quo at the current hobby level.

I totally think you should go the business route and raise prices and start competing with the big boys and show them what a really good RPG is supposed to be like!


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Bankuei on May 18, 2004, 09:44:53 AM
Hi Luke,

If your goal is to share the game as far and wide as possible, don't forget to take into account advertising and marketing.  If folks don't know about it, they can't even look into it to see if they'd want it or not.

Chris


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: jdagna on May 18, 2004, 10:20:48 AM
Well, first of all, Luke, congratulations on having this problem!

I think you're right in thinking that distributors will help you reach a much larger crowd than Internet and convention sales.  I would wager the opposite of Ethan - I think the vast majority of gamers do not know someone who frequents a major website or convention.  In any event, your ability to reach those people is somewhat limited anyway - you can't be at every convention.

Personally, I would just jack up the price.  I would have jacked it up from day one if I were in your shoes, but I'm a self-proclaimed capitalist bastard.  I would go $16.95 on  both of your books and sell them independently from each other.

However, I can understand not wanting to do that, so I'll offer a middle of the road suggestion.  Take this suggestion with a grain of salt though.  In another year, you may find that it hurts you even worse than your current predicament is.

The suggestion is this: mark up the MSRP, and don't sell at it.  You can sell the books to Alliance at 40% of MSRP ($7 per book), and sell to retailers at 50% off MSRP ($8.50 per book) and sell to consumers at 50% off MSRP (8.50 per book).  You just phrase the consumer price as your "Convention Special" or "June Madness Special" (followed by the "July Fever Special" and the "August Insanity Special").  Most jewelers and upscale retailers run almost continual sales on items with bloated MSRPs just to create the perception that you're saving money on high-priced items.

Where this will eventually bite you is that the distributors and retailers (at least some of them) will eventually figure out that you're undercutting them, and you'll probably get a lot of grief from them.  I know of a small miniatures manufacturer who has gotten just such grief because they offer lots of specials on their website and at conventions. (Some of that grief is from me - I carried their stuff at a convention and had a guy say outright "Well, I just wanted to see it in person.  I'll wait until their sale next month and buy it online."  So there I was paying them money to advertise their stuff, basically).


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: LordSmerf on May 18, 2004, 02:51:40 PM
I tossed in my personal Gamer answer over at the Burning Wheel forums, but i figured i'd add a little bit of a different perspective here.  Our local group is notoriously cheap.  For almost any game we play we will have a single copy of the book(s).  I feel compelled to point out that we own three copies of the Burning Wheel, since we play it a lot, but also because that's about what it would have cost to get one other book.

I think a price increase is going to be nessecary for you.  I'd definately look into reducing costs for printing, but I think that overall this Distribution thing will be good for you.  It allows you a couple of new oppurtunities:

    1. I can be at the local bookstore with a couple of more casual gaming buddies, see a copy on the shelf and say: "Oh wow!  It's The Burning Wheel, that's one of the best RPGs i've ever played..."  It's a little more natural than saying: go to Luke's website and buy his game now!

    2. It gives you a huge oppurtunity for non-Convention demos...  I know you personally don't have the time, but with the Burning Wheel being available through Alliance, i can go down to my local Hobby Store (not even gaming specific) and say: "Do you mind if i demo a product some weekend?"  I think you have an enthusiastic community and this would allow some of us to get involved, especially if you had some tips and pointers for demos available.
    [/list:u]

    I think i should go ahead and note for anyone not familiar with the Burning Wheel: Two seperate books sold seperately would almost certainly not work.  Luke basically has a single book divided into two: Mechanics and Character Creation + Skills and Abilities.  I really like the two book format since neither book is all that big, and you almost never find yourself flipping back and forth between them.  You're either dealing with Mechanics or you're making a Character...

    Luke keep doing what you're doing...  As to whether you should Revise or simply reprint the original i would say that that is highly dependent upon a couple of things: (A) How much do you save on the reprint as opposed to a Revision (with possibly a new puplisher)  (B) How much of the stuff that would be different in a Revised Edition be in the planned Annual, and how much are you talking about selling the Annual for?

    If you have a $5-10 Annual which has most or all of the stuff that would go into a Revised Edition and you're saving $2-5/copy by reprinting then i'd just reprint...  You'll, of course, be required to make your own decision since it's your risk and your game...

    Thomas


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: quozl on May 18, 2004, 08:08:54 PM
Quote from: LordSmerf
Two seperate books sold seperately would almost certainly not work.  


Personally, I would let the consumers make that decision.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Luke on May 18, 2004, 08:40:12 PM
Quote from: quozl
Quote from: LordSmerf
Two seperate books sold seperately would almost certainly not work.  


Personally, I would let the consumers make that decision.


Interesting. Perhaps a focus group?

Actually, I'm being sarcastic. Thomas is right, the books would not work sold seperately. They were not designed to be sold seperately and neither is useful in anyway without the other.

This is a non-issue, let's move on.
-L


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: John Burdick on May 19, 2004, 12:48:36 AM
I sent a quick PM to Luke saying essentially "I'd buy at that price". He suggested I elaborate here.

In response to the Actual Play discussions about BW, I looked into getting it back I think in March. It didn't seem to be mass distributed at the time, so I didn't pursue it any further. With availability through Alliance, I will order it probably this saturday.

On the subject of game books being expensive, I have a trade paperback The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian published by Random House under the Del Rey imprint. The price on this book is $14.95. It happens to have about 463 pages. Unless BW can sell as many copies as Conan, I think BW should reasonably cost more. That's what they taught me about "economy of scale" in Intro to Business.

Luke, I think you should follow the advice from the Key20 people. I don't know anything about Key20, but apparently their people are trying to help. That gives a range of $30 to $37.50. I buy game books in the $25 to $30 range all the time. I pay money for other luxury items like DVDs and beer. Most of the DVDs I buy are anime and I never buy mainstream beer. My biggest concern is availability of what I want, not minor differences in price. Not having examined the books in question, I can only estimate from descriptions I've read. I feel that a price of $32 to $35 is fair. You've said that this price range makes you unhappy. I can't judge your feelings, but it wouldn't make me unhappy as a game buyer.

On the subject of giving away a product below market value, the free software people give away their software. That doesn't stop them from also selling it to anyone who wants to pay. The principle of free software isn't about being cheap. I've paid for printed and well bound copies of files I already had for free on my computer. I don't have any idea what you might know about free software as an organized movement, but you might find it interesting.

John


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: ryand on May 19, 2004, 12:13:25 PM
Here's another perspective:

When you underprice your product vs. what the market would pay and is paying for similar works, you're hurting everyone who is making those other works at the higher price.

Every time you meet a fellow game designer who is doing it "for a living", that is, paying the rent, buying food, insuring a family, etc. on income from game design, think about the fact that you choosing to price a great product at a low price means that person will have a harder time earning that paycheck.

When customers are trying to determine "what something is worth", they tend to ignore all the stuff in the middle and focus on the extremes.  If you are "extremely low", you are setting a part of the price perception for what RPG products should cost a consumer.  If your low price means that someone doesn't buy a $30, $40 or $50 book because subconsciously you've shown them that those other books are "too expensive" you have just taken food off someone else's plate.

If you are implementing a low price strategy because you think that by selling at a low price you can jack up volumes and make a better income on a faster sell-through, then I think that is an absolutely legitmate reason to use price as a selling feature, and you owe nobody any apology.  Price differentiation is something this industry needs more of, not less of.

But if you're just selling stuff cheaply because you want to make a political statement, you should consider the impact of your actions on your peers.

Ryan


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: greyorm on May 19, 2004, 02:29:21 PM
While Ryan is correct, and I'm all for doing "the right thing" -- I'm inclined to say "screw 'em, that's capitalism" and let it ride. If they can't compete with your prices, too bad. More for you. The cream rises to the top through competition. Those who can't compete lose out. That's how capitalism works; if you want a business model where people care about their competitors...well, it ain't capitalism. After all, how many of them are considering you in selling their products, who wouldn't cut your corporate throat if it meant theirs?

(I also think the above advice is a bit surprising coming from you, Ryan, as I recall part of the OGL/d20 mission statement was to remove competitors whose products weren't up to par -- in essence, to take food off of the plates of others.)

However, as I said, such a callous dismissal of the plights of others is against my moral beliefs. But so is capitalism. And as such, given our society, unfortunately, something has to give: neither you nor I can take care of everyone else, and still take care of ourselves. So, you've gotta do what you've gotta do, and worry about others once you're in a stable enough position to help them and worry about them.

Though this is really meaningless as a data point, let me say, regarding pricing:  $20 I'll do. $25 is...questionable. When I hear about $50 gamebooks, I laugh, and immediately put it off my radar forever, unless it happens to show up in a bargain bin somewhere. I feel I'm being stolen from at that point.

That said, BW is two books. $30 for two books isn't bad.
My advice: See what you can do to shave prices. Bigger print runs, different printer, etc. Then, increase your price a bit so you're making enough for future print runs. Don't worry about "what the industry regularly charges" (6-8x cost), just worry about what you need to profit, even if it ends up "only" 3-4x cost.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: quozl on May 19, 2004, 03:16:58 PM
Quote from: abzu
Thomas is right, the books would not work sold seperately. They were not designed to be sold seperately and neither is useful in anyway without the other.

This is a non-issue, let's move on.
-L


I was going to just let this go because it's your game and your choice but I feel that as a member here, I'm duty-bound to give you my opinion since you asked about raising what prices would do the perception of potential customers.

Not selling the books separately is a HUGE mistake when you can just sell them for $15 each.  It's all about perception and customers buying things in little chunks like impulse purchases (which I'm guessing have been the majority of BW's sales so far).  

But they'll get an incomplete product if they only buy one book!

So what?  As long as it's obvious they're only buying half of a complete product, what does that matter?  Let them buy what they want to buy in the way they want to buy it (which is what I meant when I said to let the consumers decide).

That's my opinion.  I can point to lots of products that split things up and I can't think of any that require you to buy only the bundled set.  It's your game and your business but I hope you actually think about my advice and do a little research.  I'm only trying to help you.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Zak Arntson on May 19, 2004, 03:52:01 PM
I'd also like to point out that by splitting up the books, you can potentially sell multiple Character Burners to a single gaming group. That way they can all create characters without swapping one book.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on May 19, 2004, 04:37:47 PM
I side with Raven about Ryan's comment on take food of someone's plate or whatever. I think the comic book store guy on the Simpsons said it best. "Emotion is out of place here."

That said, I think Ryan's comment on the public's perception based on price bears some thought. Consider Coke & Pepsi. IIRC Coke was sold in a 12 ox bottle for $.10. Pepsi was in a 16 oz bottle for $.05. I may have the facts wrong, but Coke became America's soft drink choice and was shipped to our boys in WWII. Pepsi was considered "Poor man's Coke" It took them decades to overcome that image.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: ryand on May 19, 2004, 05:21:23 PM
The only additional point I'd like to make is that the issue I raised (low price vs. peer compensation) is directly related to the difference between publishing "for a living" and publishing "for a hobby".

It is a normally valid assumption that the market will tend to keep prices of RPGs high enough to justify the costs to make them and support the people who make them (or cause innovation on the cost side to make them cheaper which could allow a lower price in theory).  But one of the assumptions in that model is that all the publishers have the same cost basis - that is, they all have roughly the same kinds of expenses and needs.

A unique situation develops when a small-press, vanity-press or art-press product gets enough attention to come onto the radar of a larger segment of buyers (ala Alliance distribution).  Now a product produced under one model (profit not relevant or far less important) will be compared apples to apples with products where profit is critical.

In a worst case scenario, enough small-vanity-art press products get enough attention that the general SRP of products has to drop substantially, and a lot of RPG designers are fired and companies go bankrupt.  It is not likely, in my opinion, that the small-vanity-art press community can continue to push the quality and utility bars for RPG products through their own efforts, and the loss of a lot of full-time designers and for-profit publishers would have the net effect of removing a lot of cool and important work from the market that could not be otherwise replaced.

That's an extreme, and extremely unlikely scenario, but there is something to be said for the general price resistence factor in the market being affected by small-vanity-art products that do "break through", and the publishers of those products do, I think, bear some responsibility for the impact they have on the overall perception of "fair price".

I think the biggest misunderstanding in both the small press world and the consumer world is the idea that an individual RPG product can be priced based on its costs.  In reality, each publisher has to invest capital in new work, and some of that investment will be lost.  It is money at risk, and the risk is high.  RPG products have to pay the costs of that risk in the form of gross margins.  If a company did nothing but break even on the stuff it sold, it would be killed the first time something it invested in failed to sell.  A well run company is always working to build a reserve fund, a contingency that allows it to survive a bad knock in the market.  The capital to make continued investments can only come from either outside money or gross margins, and since most RPG companies have no outside money, de facto, it comes from gross margin.

That's the key difference between an small-vanity-art press release and a "commercial" release - the need for the commercial release to make more profit than absolutely necessary to break even.  And if companies didn't make that money, they'd be a great risk of failure, and would fail, and that would, in my opinion, be a bad thing for the art, science and hobby of roleplaying games.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Luke on May 19, 2004, 09:25:55 PM
Hi Ryan,

I just want to clear something up: At no point in this thread was I attempting to villify "the industry". And the nature of this thread was not to imply that distros and retailers are making a bundle off me and I'm coming away all the poorer.

Not at all. This thread was created as I realized that as I start to add in those "tiers" the price must rise, but yet no one is making a killing selling these products.

The profit margin is very small.

And you said it best, I have to examine the shift from a small-press/hobby model to a distributed game company model.

I understand what you are saying about industry comraderie and the outward perception of pricing (and how that affects prices as a whole), but I think it's worth noting that my endeavors are not in any way in competition with WW, WotC, SJG, Green Ronin or Mongoose. I have a difficult time believing that what I do affects them in anyway. And I have an equally hard time believing that if it did, they would not apply their own competitive edge to drive me from the market.

In this case, one of my competitive edges is to be able to deliver a quality product for a low price. I've got to leverage that as best I can, and I do so in the spirit of furthering quality of the hobby as a whole.

-Luke


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: LordSmerf on May 21, 2004, 10:23:59 AM
Quote from: Zak Arntson
I'd also like to point out that by splitting up the books, you can potentially sell multiple Character Burners to a single gaming group. That way they can all create characters without swapping one book.


Luke, i'd like to highlight this comment.  Even if you don't sell the Burning Wheel seperately from the Character Burner, having extra Character Burners to sell seperately wouldn't be a bad idea in my book...

Thomas


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: taepoong on May 21, 2004, 10:39:05 AM
That isn't a bad idea, really.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Luke on May 21, 2004, 02:59:28 PM
guys,

I do appreciate the input. I have already decided do something to scratch your itch for additional CBs.

But please consider my position as a small game publisher: I have a game which is contained in two books, I was able to afford a very small run of said books. Selling and keeping track of the set is a lot of work. Selling the books separately would engender a whole different set of problems. It simply wasn't feasible in the beginning.

At this point, it might, may be, possibly be more feasible, but it seems like more effort than it is worth. Right now, I need to focus on getting you folks complete games, solidly produced.

I'm in the home-stretch for the Monster Burner. After that, it's the Annual and the Revision. It never ends and my work here has just begun.

-L

PS There's a chance that there might be some extra CBs left after all is said and done. So some of you very well may get your wish.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: madelf on May 21, 2004, 03:49:29 PM
Not that this has all that much to do with the issue you're dealing with now, but I am a bit curious...

Why two books in the first place? If they are inseperable, why not just make them one book?


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Christopher Weeks on May 26, 2004, 11:25:48 AM
Luke, when you sold me BW last fall, I would have paid $20.  I would have passed at $30.  I don't know about the numbers in between.  At $20 it was worth it even if I never played because I'm one of the people who just reads games and considers it time well spent.

I'm really having a hard time seeing how it makes sense for you to take a loss on your product.  Unless you just like the idea that much.  When I read Ryan's comments about snatching food from the professionals, my first thought was to write you a check for a couple thousand just to support my preferred aesthetic -- the idea of these people making a steady living producing those big glossy-art filled tombs is at odds with what I value about art.  It would be worth something to me just to help fight that trend.  And then it occurred to me.  Just like I'd consider throwing dumb money after the pursuit of an aesthetic, maybe that's your deal too.  I wouldn't go distro at a loss.  I just wouldn't do it.  But if your personal (non business) goals include getting your game out to as many 'kids' as possible and you're willing to pay them a little to take it, then what the hell.  That's what money is for!

The question that I have is: will BW end up selling to stores and languising on the shelves or will it actually get played more?  I've seen your spiel a couple times now and played in a game that you ran.  You have to know that you are much more effective then Joe Random Shopkeeper at getting people to _play_ the Wheel.  And whatever your personal reasons are for being willing to take a loss, I don't think you want to do that just to get them onto some dusty shelves.

Chris


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Andrew Morris on May 26, 2004, 01:44:41 PM
I agree with Chris. I would never have played Burning Wheel if not for you, Luke. You are, without a doubt, the most enthusiastic GM I've ever come across. I probably wouldn't have bought BW if I'd just seen it in a store, and that is important to note.


Title: how about a paravan?
Post by: Rorimack on May 27, 2004, 03:21:05 AM
One of the reasons I bought this game was it's low prize.

(the another was your help with getting Fvlminata :))

Now, that I own them, I could imagine myself paying more for it, but back then I would hesitated if it was over $25 (maybe even if it was over $20.)

I can understand that you don't really feel like raising the price, but would  you do that if you could by giving "more" to your customers?

What I'm thinking of is a "dustcover" (one, in which both of the books could fit) which could be used as a paravan.

With it , you could raise your price by, let's say, $5. It is still not in the $25/$30 category, but you have not just raised the price, you have added an extra supplement too.

(I don't know about the developing/printing cost of such an item, but I feel that (especially if you could sell it separately too) even with an extra investment at the beginning, it could decrease your loss/help making profit)


Title: Just an Idea
Post by: MarktheAnimator on June 11, 2004, 02:10:41 AM
ok,
So why not break the book into two or three books, add lots of cool stuff to these, and raise the price?

That way, you could increase the price without alienating your customers because there is more cool stuff in the new revised edition.  

The new revised edition should have lots more cool ideas and rules.  Those who bought the book before will want to buy the new version to get at all the new cool ideas and rules.

When the book is broken down into two or three separate books, you can still offer it at fairly low prices because your print costs will be less.  So offer two or three books at $20.  

Take the old version and put it into a pdf file and sell it online for those still interested in the old "outdated" system.  

If you want to generate sales you could simply give away the old version.  Any new player could try it for free.  Since it would be outdated, they would still have to buy they book to play with all the cool new ideas and rules.

Also, if the game is fun, it should sell at any price.

Just a few ideas.


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Luke on June 11, 2004, 05:51:59 AM
Hi Mark,

thanks for your input. If you get a chance you should take a look at the Burning Wheel.


Moderator? I'd request this thread closed. Thanks!
-L


Title: The Price was Right (Come on...er... Up?)
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 11, 2004, 06:42:17 AM
Closed, folks, at Luke's request.

Best,
Ron