Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cost of Gaming

There's been a lot of talk about PDF pricing and how expensive it can get.  Including my pricing of my own adventure.  A lot of controversy surrounds the pricing of the Castle Keepers Guide.  Over $30 for a PDF.  I won't pay that much for a PDF because I would want it in print.  If I am spending that much I want to be able to hold it in my hands without using two ink cartridges.  But, I can think of one PDF that priced at $30 and did pretty well.  The real kicker is it only had 37 pages to it.  I am Mongoose, and so can you! is a 37 page PDF.  It is now a Copper Pick.  I see they dropped the price to $24, but I believe it achieved copper before lowering the price.

CKG is lingering in the top three at RPGNow and #32 on RPG Drivethru.  So people are buying it.  Just like people bought Mongoose's PDF.  I'm not sure why, can't explain it, but there are enough people out there who will buy to have it right now.  They don't want to wait.  Although in the case of the CKG they've been waiting a few years.

But the other thing I want to mention is the cost of print books which I think are pricing themselves out of the hobby.  I would love, love, love to get the Hacklopedia of Beasts from Kenzer & Company, but at the price tag of $60 (not including 10 bucks shipping), that isn't going to happen.  It's going to be a beautiful and fantastic book, but I don't personally have that kind of money to plop down on one book.  All these $40 rule books are pushing it these days.  Steven Jackson Games put out Low-Tech at a $30 hard cover which isn't that bad these days, but it was incomplete and three companions were put out with on PDF which cost an additional $26.  So that hardback just became $56 dollars. 

I am writing this as someone who easily spends hundreds of dollars per year buying gaming stuff.  Some people like read John Grisham or Nora Roberts novels, I like reading gaming books.  I find myself spending more and more of my money on old school gaming stuff because it's my preferred choice and you get a lot of value for your money.  It seems more of the expensive books are trying to dazzle you with artwork and fancy templates.  Old school product may not have the dramatic artwork, but I much prefer the ink line drawings, they spur my imagination more that a blast of swirling colors and exaggerated power poses.  There will be a few more typos in the independent products, but the writer's excitement is bursting throughout the pages.  I think I've used this quote before and I think Beethoven may have said or at least in that one movie about him and I'm sure I'll misquote.  "To miss a few notes is nothing.  To play without passion is unforgivable." 

I am done rambling now.  I'm going to my bookstore they are closing down.  That is my place I go to write.  My place to go to get away for a while.  I was my place of peace.  Now it's going away.  I guess all things change so now I need to find a new shrine to do my meditation in.


  1. For the larger PDF's I would want them in hardcopy but the smaller ones ok to download, price is the key but sometimes you can't help it.

  2. Great rant! Sorry to hear about the loss of your favourite bookstore; all of mine are long gone now.

    My jaw dropped when I saw the price of the CKG PDF. Not in this life time will I pay $30 for pixels.

    And I completely agree with you about overpriced game books. Why the hell does every gaming product have to have glossy pages and full-colour illustrations? I prefer plain paper and black-and-white line art. And, do you know what, all my cheaply-made old school products from the early '80's are still in fine shape. Flashier does not necessarily mean better or more durable.

    One of the things that turned me off GURPS 4th edition was the switch to expensive, glossy paged hard-covers. I'll stick with my old, black and white 3rd edition softcovers, thank you very much.

  3. It was a fine rant, and that's also what a blog is for of course; we understand.

  4. Print-on-demand is the solution and (I think) the future.

  5. When you account for inflation, game books are way cheaper today than back in the early 80's.

    The OSR is full of older guys who think back on 30 year old pricing, and wonder why everything is so expensive nowadays. Also, we've mostly got families and such and pay a lot of attention to where our money goes.

    We're nobody's target market, really - a dwindling number of cheapskates who already own everything they ever need.

  6. I think much of the nominal inflation of rulebook prices simply has to do with the margins necessary to make it worth distributing paper gaming materials that are printed POD or short run. Nobody's churning out 10,000 copies of Supplement X any more, but the trade discount expectations haven't shrunk much, if any.

    To take my Stars Without Number as an example, I'm currently pricing the hardback at $25. It costs me $12 to print the 210 page B&W interior book. After OBS takes its 35% cut of the remainder, I'm looking at eight or nine bucks profit on every hardback sold. Assuming I sold direct to distributors, they'd want around 50% trade discount off the MSRP, which would essentially leave me losing money on every book sold. If I wanted to get 8 bucks profit off each book, I'd need to charge around $40 for the same book. The only way I can afford to charge as little as I do is by simply accepting that it's not going to be picked up by a distributor.

    As it is, I'm going to have to boost the price up to $30 soon just to give myself some margin for short discount distribution options. If I were churning out 10K runs of these things, sure, I could cut my cost-per-item enormously, but that just doesn't happen any more.

  7. Hi Sine, thanks for stopping in. Yes, I do understand the cost of of everything has climbed and to make any profit you need to charge accordingly. Being a fiction author first I know the struggle of trying to scrape the smallest of profit from your hard work.

    My own adventure's price was called into question and rightfully so, I understood why the reviewer had said what he said. But like you, I had a profit margin involved and I wanted to get a little something for my efforts and I believe I produced a product worth the $4. But understand why others may not.

    Either way Sine, I think your Star Without Numbers was a success and I hope it continues to be. Please stop by anytime to give a writer/publisher's point of view.

  8. @Sine: But you're talking about a physical book whose price you're having to increase will still be LESS than the CKG pdf.

    I've ranted about PDFs pricing a bit but more in the range of cost versus physical books. I know of an entire game line I was ready to buy en mass on PDF on a whim until I saw none of them were competitive with used copies on eBay (it was an out of print line). I can think of at least one game where the hard copy was too expensive to risk and when I looked for PDF it was 80% of the hardcopy price so I said why bother.

    Yet on the flip side I downloaded SWN and now am anxiously awaiting my hard copy in the mail, bought both pay PDFs and all the free, and anxiously await more of both.

    Putting something between the covers I want and making sure I know that you have can change my price sensitivity greatly.

    Finally, on the CKG it's just 2-3 years too late...what it provides I have elsewhere now.