Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Price Point Backlash: The Cost of Awesome
If it had just been one or two isolated incidents, I wouldn't have written this post - but there were a small handful of outspoken gamers who seemed to be offended by the initial $14 PDF for Alpha Blue.
The straw that broke this particular camel's back was a guy named Tom L. who gave the book a 2 star rating and a sentence fragment bitching about the expense. Scroll down this page if you'd like to admire Tom's work.
That seems strange to me for a variety of reasons... and here they are:
Both The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence and How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss were roughly around the same page count and both of them started at a higher price than $14 for the PDF.
1. As you can see by the visual aid in the top right corner of this post, I had lunch at Paisan's today. With tip (cause I'm not that much of an asshole), I paid a little over $14 for a sandwich and mountain dew (I also paid a dollar for parking in the ramp). That seems normal to me. Sure, I could have lunched for less, but I like nice mid-range places that aren't too low or high. Is a full-sized RPG book (even an electronic one) not worth the price for lunch? Maybe it depends on where one lives...
2. Most gamers actually prefer PDF. The sales bare that out (or is that "bear"?). I'm not sure if the vast majority of PDF customers are aware, but if the print version costs more than $5 than the PDF, that's the publisher (not the print-on-demand manufacturer/distributor) punishing those who want their product in print. They simply want more money. I usually price my softcovers at $4 more than the PDF and that's only to cover the extra printing costs of DriveThruRPG and Amazon.
But back to my original point, the PDFs are more popular. So, why would anyone ask how I can charge so much for "only a PDF". It's not like the Alpha Blue PDF is written on virtual toilet paper. It's the electronic version. That has real value and, in some cases, it's what customers would rather have.
3. I put in a lot of effort for that $14 PDF. I estimate about 4 months and 100 hours with the combined total of artist and layout hours coming in at about half that amount. That doesn't necessarily mean Alpha Blue is any good, but my creative sweat should count for something.
4. If I had priced the book at $12, would that have prevented the backlash? I don't know, probably. If I could go back in time and price it at that, I would. But if I now reduced the price by $2 after less than a week of the PDF's release, would the original buyers be pissed? I have no idea. I might, if it were me. I'd love some feedback on that front. Typically, I slightly reduce the price of my books after they've been "on the shelf" for 2 or 3 months.
5. Alpha Blue is an 8.5" x 11" book, rather than the typical 6" x 9". I think that makes a bit of difference. The PDF is bookmarked (a Kort'thalis Publishing first!), and there are awesome maps and character sheets that Glynn Seal of +MonkeyBlood Design created. Without buying the game, you can download them for FREE!!!
Hopefully, this doesn't come off as an angry rant or screed. I'm genuinely curious to know if I missed something, am out of touch with the times, or have a valid point. Perhaps the economy is worse off than I thought?
In any case, I'm extremely grateful for the original backers of this Kickstarter project, those who've already paid good money to acquire the PDF at DriveThruRPG, the ones waiting for a print version, and everyone who has supported me over the years. Thanks, y'all!
p.s. I threw a little Alpha Blue bonus content up on Draconic Magazine yesterday. Enjoy!