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Pricing and marketing your games and mine

Started by Joshua A.C. Newman, November 17, 2005, 10:59:29 PM

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Victor Gijsbers

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon on November 18, 2005, 10:35:58 AM
Hey Victor! I'm working on it, man. I did just release the revised edition of TSOY in Creative-Commons licensed text last night.

I love you for it. :-) (And you know, I bought the first edition book because I liked the CC-version on your website.)

Ron Edwards

Hey! This is a moderator post.

Most people posting so far have completely failed to understand the difference between options and preferences.

As long as this thread is about options, then all is well.

However, a number of you are posting from the basis of defending your preferred choice among those options. And that's just bullshit - no one can tell you what to do, so you are not in danger. No one is oppressing you.

If you are irritated or upset by the topic at hand, or more accurately, by the viewpoints represented by others' posts, then I have serious moderator advice for you: you must develop the courage of your own convictions. That courage will permit you to post about the options you've chosen without attacking others. That courage permits you to post and let readers make their own choices.

But posting in irritation, outrage, or hurried confrontational explanations only arises from fear. The intensity of that fear is not courage, no matter how justified or satisfied you feel when posting.

As content moderator here, and arguably among the vanguard of constructive self-publishing in the hobby, I say this: I despise your fear. I'[ll stomp it out of the posts here with a mallet. Post your chosen options and your knowledge of the range of options, for others to understand. Don't defend them or attack others.

Best,
Ron

LordSmerf

I think that Joshua has a point here, let me see if I can lay this out coherently.

Let's say that Joshua goes all out on his printing for Shock.  Glossy full-color pages, hard cover, whatever else.  At POD rates it costs him $15 a book.  Using Clinton's "double what it costs" scheme that's a $30 book.  The problem is that he would be introducing this book into a niche market (the indie RPG market) that has an expected price point closer to $20.

Joshua is going to have a hard time selling at $30, not because his game isn't worth $30, but because the customers are un-used to spending that much money on an Indie game no matter how good it looks.  This ends up being an uglier proposition for Joshua if, in addition to the added printing costs, he spent a similarly increased amount on editing, layout, and art.  He ends up with an extremely attractive, high quality product, and he can't recoup his expenses.  We don't even have to talk about his personal expenses here, this could be purely the expenses for things he farmed out.

I think part of the problem, and this I is something I think is interesting, is that until quite recently the technology didn't really exist for indie RPG producers to have a chance to produce books with the same physical qualities as the big boys.  So the indie producers have been pushing a "content over appearance" line for a long time, and have been tossing in a "and it's cheaper too!" line into the mix.  This is all well and good, and definitely true, but it presents problems for us now that we can produce giant glossy books (or probably will be able to in a year or two).

It seems to me that Joshua is rightly worried that we may be making this option difficult to pursue economically.  Now that we have the options to make books at least as pretty (and probably far prettier) than the big boys who get all those economy of scale niceities, we find ourselves in a position where it looks like no one can actually afford to do so.  Because there's a seemingly-entrenched impression (and there's plenty of evidence of it in this thread) that indie RPGs should be cheaper than RPGs from the big companies.

It seems to me that Joshua's position is similar to the one that the Forge has been pushing for a while.  In the same way that "You're work is good!  Don't give it away, sell it because it's worth money."  Josh is saying "Don't under-sell yourself, your work is worth more than $20."  Of course, as Ron pointed out above, it's all a matter of options.  If you want to give your work away, then you're free to do so.  If you want to sell your work for less than the market will bear, well you're free to do that too.  Discussion of what the market actually will bear?  Well, I just know that I'm not really qualified to speak to that...

Now, assuming that I'm reading Joshua correctly with the above, the only response I have is...  Well, I don't think it will actually turn out to be a problem, at least not in the long run.  It strikes me that I at least would pay $30~$40 on an indie game that really struck me as interesting, especially if it were also an attractive product physically.  What it will probably take is for someone to bite the bullet and go ahead and produce such a game so that we can all see how it works out in real life.  The downside, of course, being that whoever that is is going to be assuming some significant financial risk...

Thomas
Current projects: Caper, Trust and Betrayal, The Suburban Crucible

Frank T

Josh, I apologize for my rough tone.

I will take a break from the Forge for a few weeks. I have had too much of it lately.

- Frank

Josh Roby

Just to be clear, Clinton, I am being an asshat out of love.

Indie games can go for $30+.  I have full faith that a lot of people at the Forge could produce something similar to Nobilis, and sell copies at that $50 price point, and I'd really like to see this happen.  However, no customer is going to buy a book -- regardless of the quality of its contents -- unless its presentation and production quality match the price tag.  There are very difficult things that can be done to increase the physical quality of our books, and there are also some massively easy things that can be done to increase that same quality.  I outlined some of those options beforehand.

(I have doubts that a first-edition game from an unknown designer could pull this off -- a Dogs 2nd Ed or a Compleat Sorcerer could do this handily.  My FLFS ain't even reaching for those numbers.)

One point that I haven't heard yet is ubiquity of players, and I'd hazard that this is one of the reasons why White Wolf and D&D can sell multiple $35 hardbacks for a single game -- customers know that they will be able to find a group to play with.  To a lesser extent this worked for Nobilis, in that the market it targetted (older gamers who knew what they liked) could also reliably expect to get their friends to play.  Except for a few titles, this isn't the case for indie gamebooks.  But, and here's the important "options" bit, this is something that can be addressed, either through game design, through packaging & presentation, or through general marketing.  Making the game seem more accessible, highlighting the "out of the box" nature of most indie games, including support for connecting groups (Clinton, would you mind if we slapped FindPlay icons onto the back covers?), fostering vibrant forum communities -- all of these things will reduce the "but I'll never play it" nonpurchase excuse.

Now, I'm looking at a $20 price point for FLFS at Con, and probably a slightly higher price point for online purchase and on the MSRP on the back cover (~$24).  I'm not specifically interested in making cash off of the project because at this rate of my own personal time investment, I'd need a blockbuster movie deal to break even.  I consider FLFS design to be my hobby, and I wouldn't dream of costing my time for it.  That stance may not be shared by other designers -- but on the other hand, I sincerely doubt I'll be (significantly) undercutting them, otherwise we should start criticizing all those damn freeformers for stealing all our sales.
On Sale: Full Light, Full Steam and Sons of Liberty | Developing: Agora | My Blog

Valamir

Pricing Indie games is a thorny subject.  I've long been on record as being critical of under pricing indie games so I'm not going to rehash that here.  But there's one aspect of the pricing equation that's been left out of this discussion so far, and that is how vigorously are you personally planning to promote it.

If you're going to go the Luke Crane or Mike Miller route and you're out there on the convention circuit and you're pounding out demo after demo and your enthusiasm is getting people fired up.  And you're out there on the forum and blog circuit and you manage to walk that line between promotion and shilling and drum up interest and be involved.  Then you can take your basic "indie-rpg" price point and bump it up another $5.  Your sales efforts will overcome any loss of sales due to the price and can be easily justified as compensation for the sweat equity of being out there.  Hey...if you're a BW fan today and the only reason you gave it a shot was because you sat in on a phenomenal Luke Crane demo and now you have many hours of happy gaming behind you...then Luke (et.al.) did you a service by introducing you to something you enjoy.  That service is worthy of being compensated for.

On the other hand if you plan on taking a "if I build it, they will come" approach and you figure a couple of announcement on news boards and a website with a paypal link is about all the effort you're planning to do...Then you're probably better off just giving it away for free.  But if you really want to at least recoup some costs then you can take your basic price point and subtract $5 and rely on a couple of reviews to generate sufficient traffic and the "its cheap, so why not" attitude to capture a few sales.

Personally, I'd rather see folks in that second group just give it away and not have any costs to recoup by going with PDFs or the like because I do agree with Joshua that a flood of under priced product does set expectations too low.  There is one reason and one reason only why people in this thread think $30 is an unreasonable price for most Indie-rpgs.  Because they're used to seeing indie-rpgs at $15.  It has NOTHING to do with perceived value, or cost, or anything other than "wow, that's higher than what I'm used to seeing...therefor its too expensive".

If what gamers were used to seeing was $50 for mainstream RPGs and $30 for Indies...then $30 for the exact same book would seem entirely reasonable.

Don't believe me?  Just ask your American friends how many people are loving how cheap gas is now that its "only" $2.00/gallon.  When they were used to seeing $1.00 / $1.50 two bucks was outrageous.  Now that they've gotten used to $3.00 / $4.00, two bucks seems like a bargain.

Its all in the perception of what people expect and to the extent that under priced games set that expectation too low, they are counter productive.

For the record I also price at double the cost to produce, but instead of pricing the cover at double the cost, I recommend pricing the actual revenue received at double the cost.  This allows the book to be sold through distribution without losing your shirt.

Blankshield

Josh, dude: A|State.

Big, glossy hardcover.  Pretty cover.  Not $20 bucks.  Fits right in next to Blue Planet.

Me, It'll be a long time before I go that route, if at all, because it doesn't match what I want to do.  Death's Door is priced exactly where I want it, with the production values I want for it.  Other games out of BSP may look similar, may look totally different.  

There is no "indie" look, there is no "indie" price.  My shelf of indie games is all over the frickin' map for price, production, size, and the rest of it.  Some of them aren't worth as much as I paid for them, some of them are damn near priceless.

Design and produce the game you want.  Price it what you think it's worth.  People who agree will buy it, people who don't won't.

There's a parable in here somewhere about a man, his son and their donkey.

James

I write games. My games don't have much in common with each other, except that I wrote them.

http://www.blankshieldpress.com/

timfire

Assuming that you're charging enough to cover your costs, I think there are three angles to considering "what the market will bare."

1) What fans of Indie games perceive the value of your book to be;
2) What mainstream gamers perceive the value of your book to be;
3) What non-gamer perceive the value of your book to be.

Fans of Indie games will pay almost anything. You can charge pretty much whatever you want, and the Forge folks will likely pay. But the size of this market is small. (It's a tad bit more complicated than that, Indie fans will still compare your game to what's already out there, but let's ignore that.)

Mainstream gamers will always compare your book to the "Big Boys". It's important to consider these guys, otherwise you will be dooming your book to only a hundred or two sales fro the Indie crowd. The standard 300-page core book is selling for $55, I think. The standard 150/200-page supplement is going for $35. For these guys, the size of the book matters. We know its not true, but many gamers think quantity=quality. It's hard to tell these guys that a 120-page 6x9 book is going to give them the same pleasure as a 300-page 8.5x11.

I'll tell you, I was VERY nervous charging $24 for The Mountain Witch. When you go over the $25 mark, you start getting compared with those 150/200 page 8.5x11 supplements. This is something important to keep in mind. Because of this, my opinion is that we shouldn't be selling our books for over $25. That's a little less than 50% of the price of a big core rulebook.

Lastly, non-gamers. I know we don't sell that many to non-gamers, but isn't that a big drive right now, to open up the hobby? My opinion is that non-gamers won't value our books as much as a gamer would. My opinion is that they would think that a $20-$25 book in the 120-page 6x9 size to be "a lot". Again, that's my opinion.

So to sum it up, I think are current pricing scheme, $15-$25, is just about right.
--Timothy Walters Kleinert

Josh Roby

Quote from: timfire on November 18, 2005, 04:15:21 PMLastly, non-gamers. I know we don't sell that many to non-gamers, but isn't that a big drive right now, to open up the hobby? My opinion is that non-gamers won't value our books as much as a gamer would. My opinion is that they would think that a $20-$25 book in the 120-page 6x9 size to be "a lot". Again, that's my opinion.

Actually, I think we could probably get a greater price out of non-gamers, but it would require changing the packaging and presentation.  Non-gamers will see your typical gamebook as "just a book" and expect to pay paperback price.  But non-gamers are also very used to paying $40-$60 for games.  Any of the recent games using cards can easily be packaged in such a way to appeal to that market as "games" rather than "books" and make a $40 price point.  I'm sure there are other clever ways to package and market our products to people who aren't expecting what they're used to seeing in a roleplaying game.
On Sale: Full Light, Full Steam and Sons of Liberty | Developing: Agora | My Blog

timfire

Quote from: Joshua BishopRoby on November 18, 2005, 05:05:55 PM
Actually, I think we could probably get a greater price out of non-gamers, but it would require changing the packaging and presentation.  Non-gamers will see your typical gamebook as "just a book" and expect to pay paperback price.  But non-gamers are also very used to paying $40-$60 for games.

Good point about the perception of game vs paperback. However, people pay $40-60 for videogames. Boardgames such as Monopoly, Risk, or Clue retail for around $20. Some of the "fancier" mainstream boardgames (that you might find at Target or Walmart) sell for $25-$30. I really doubt you could convince a non-gamer to pay $40 for one of our games. Hell, *I* wouldn't pay $40+ for one of games! (Sorry folks.)
--Timothy Walters Kleinert

Andrew Morris

Quote from: Joshua BishopRoby on November 18, 2005, 03:40:27 PM
One point that I haven't heard yet is ubiquity of players, and I'd hazard that this is one of the reasons why White Wolf and D&D can sell multiple $35 hardbacks for a single game -- customers know that they will be able to find a group to play with.

I agree, Joshua. That's what I referenced in my previous post. Like most gamers, I think, I have a different price that I'm willing to pay for an interesting game that I'll read and probably never play and a game that I know I'll play regularly.

Quote from: ValamirThere is one reason and one reason only why people in this thread think $30 is an unreasonable price for most Indie-rpgs.  Because they're used to seeing indie-rpgs at $15.  It has NOTHING to do with perceived value, or cost, or anything other than "wow, that's higher than what I'm used to seeing...therefor its too expensive".

While I'm not saying that there's no truth to that (I think there is), I'll just point back to my post about the time when I started to get interested in indie games (as an illustrative example, not hammering my own opinion). Universalis and Sorcerer were the first indie games I bought. I had no preconceived notions of what the "average" price for such games was, at the time. At $15 for Uni, I bought a copy, thinking that it would be worth it even if I never played it. Sorcerer for $20 was where my mind started to balk, and I wouldn't have bought it if a friend hadn't recommended it, meaning there was at least the possibility of getting together for a game some time. If they'd cost $25+, I would have thought that the concept of indie games was neat, and then gone right back to playing V:tM. Again, I'm not saying this is the rule, I'm just providing an example from my own experience.

Quote from: BlankshieldBig, glossy hardcover.  Pretty cover.  Not $20 bucks.

Obsidian, as well.
Download: Unistat

Josh Roby

Oh no, people pay $40-60 for boardgames, trust me.  Or at least they used to when I managed a GameKeeper/WotC store.  There are the low-end versions of Clue/Monopoly/Whatever at $20, and there's even the children's games at $10-$15, but there are a whole lot of games up into the $40 and $60 marks.  This is especially the case for special editions, but that's relatively tangential.

Generally speaking, the more "adult" the game is, the higher the price range.  Which means that party games, designed for a night of fun with you, your wife, and your four friends (sound familiar) are often sitting at the top.  I mean, Cranium had a $55 version and a $65 version for the longest time (admittedly, it had play-dough -- now there's a selling point) and it was a phenomenon at that price.  Other games like RoboRally went for a 'mere' $30 for the basic set, but then had three $20 expansions that people would return and buy within a week.
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timfire

Quote from: Joshua BishopRoby on November 18, 2005, 05:33:53 PM
Oh no, people pay $40-60 for boardgames, trust me.  Or at least they used to when I managed a GameKeeper/WotC store.  There are the low-end versions of Clue/Monopoly/Whatever at $20, and there's even the children's games at $10-$15, but there are a whole lot of games up into the $40 and $60 marks.  This is especially the case for special editions, but that's relatively tangential.

I don't mean to reply back and forth, but the people who shop at a GameKeeper/WotC store should rightly be classified as a "gamer". I was talking about mainstream America, who buys their boardgames from Target, Walmart, or Toys-R-Us. I had a friend or two that had the Star Wars version of Monopoly, or the Disney version of Tivial Pursuit, but by and large my non-gamer friends, past and present, only own those $15-20 basic editions.
--Timothy Walters Kleinert

Roger

This is merely my opinion as a consumer:

If IPR (or someone) released a big bundle of games -- the popular ones: Sorceror, Burning Wheel, Mountain Witch, Primetime Adventures, etc etc -- priced at about, oh, $100, I'd buy that in a minute.

Maybe I'm an unusual member of the target consumers, maybe not.  A lot of people thought it was crazy to put out a big dungeon adventure for a hundred bucks, too, but it sold like crazy.



Cheers,
Roger

Josh Roby

Before there was a WotC takeover, there were GameKeeper stores, whose foundations were solidly built on jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, and chess sets.  Then party games, too.  The typical customer was not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination.

(Then Pokemon came along, and GameKeeper got bought out by WotC, and then bought out by Hasbro, and then dissolved.  The End.)

On topic: packaging for games, including printed boxes and included dice, and constructing the package and all, can be rather expensive, but there are corners to be cut.  I'm sure guildofblades can point out a lot of them.  I think a lot of RPGs could easily be repackaged to be marketted alongside boxed games -- hell, that's how D&D got so big, right, with the Red Box or whatever?  Matt's Galactic sounds prime for such an application.  There was a board game called Heroquest that used minis and could easily be expanded into an RPG.  But the boxed package makes the game seem like it's more than "just a book."
On Sale: Full Light, Full Steam and Sons of Liberty | Developing: Agora | My Blog