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How Expensive is Too Expensive?

A couple of years ago, Monte Cook Games began an experiment, kickstarting a project called Invisible Sun. The game itself has plenty of interesting ideas, and an amazing (although not unique) setting. But one thing that makes it stand out is the price. The core box set will set you back around $250, three or four times the price of most high end core books. However, one look inside the box made it clear you were getting what you paid for. Four lavishly illustrated hardback books, a ton of cards, maps, handouts and tokens, dice, character sheets, play aids and even a big statue of a hand. Invisible Sun was designed and conceived to be a luxury product, a game given every possible advantage to shine, with a price tag to match. The experiment posed a simple question, would it sell? Are enough gamers able and willing to part with that much cash for an RPG, even one as lush as Invisible Sun?

invisiblesun.jpg

The answer was a resounding yes. The kickstarter was very successful, and so MCG offered a second kickstarter project to give people another chance to get hold of it with a second print run. Obviously, such a complex project was not something they could offer as print on demand. The second kickstarter also hit its target and drew even more fans. However, the project also had its detractors. Some called MCG ‘elitist’ for making such a game only available in such an expensive form. In my case the first kickstarter coincided with my having had a very good week of overtime and I eagerly backed it. But I found it interesting that two of my friends, who regularly back huge, miniature laden board game kickstarters, declared that it looked nice but ‘they’d never pay that much money for a role playing game’.

Does this mean we don’t value role playing games in the same way? I wonder if this is the case. We’re used to board games being expensive, but given that you need the components there has never been the option to pirate a copy from a dodgy website. We still see people pirating PDFs of games and even trying to justify it as a reasonably necessity. I have known people say ‘I can’t afford them so I have to pirate them’. I have nothing but sympathy for anyone unable to afford to buy an RPG. But there are plenty of free games and quickstarts out there for all of us to play for free forever. The same pirates probably wouldn’t think of stealing something they actually need (like food and clothing) yet feel perfectly OK stealing from RPG creators.

When we look at RPGs today, it is a wonder they are as cheap as they are. The market is demanding more illustrations, graphics and content than it ever has. Thankfully, advances in printing have made such gorgeous books possible and affordable for creators. But all that art, layout, writing and graphic design (and the rest) all has to be paid for. Yet a game without such lush production values is often derided for looking cheap and tawdry, or just ignored. When I did some work on the Monte Cook Games stand at Gen Con, Invisible Sun had plenty of interest. While many people were taken back by the price tag, not a single person complained the product was overpriced when they saw what it contained. I wonder if those making calls of elitism would be so interested in an expensive game that wasn’t so well produced.

I would be very interested to see if Monte Cook Games produced a plainer version of Invisible Sun, whether it would sell. Monte himself has declared that the game is designed to be played as an experience, with all the tokens and components, and making a cheaper version takes too much from the game. But Invisible Sun is an awesome game in its own right, so, given its popularity, would it really be so bad to offer a lower cost version, if only to offer more people the chance to play it? But then, where do we stop? We again come back to ‘how much is too much?’ Should the industry make everything as cheap as possible or insist that to play their games, you (or a friend) will have to put your hand in your pocket? Sadly, the option of extremely cheap but lavish production values doesn’t exist.

Role playing games are a luxury market, much as we’d miss gaming, RPGs are not essential to life (hard to believe, but true!). So should the games continue to be prestige products, or do they need to be cheaper? To a certain extent, the market is the deciding factor. If people are buying them at this price, and there are plenty of cheaper options out there, why shouldn’t some games be more expensive than others? While we are used to limited editions alongside plainer standard ones, sometimes making a cheaper book isn’t always that much cheaper for producers. One company made a ‘cheap gamer edition’ of one of its rule books, a plain text print version without all the art and graphics. But not only did it not sell as well, it wasn’t that much cheaper. It still had to be printed, still needed writing and still needed layout and production.

John Wick addressed this issue very well in a youtube video, taking Call of Cthulhu as an example. It’s an especially good example as First Edition Cthulhu and Seventh Edition (John uses 6th but it was the latest edition at the time) bookend most of the history of gaming. While 1st edition is a nice boxed set, and a lot cheaper (even if you adjust for current values) it doesn’t even have a third of the page count of seventh. The two books in first edition add up to 128 pages; where seventh is a massive 488 pages, with far more illustrations and art throughout.

I’d offer that even the most expensive games offer more value for money than most other hobbies. A core book or box might set you back a chunk of cash, but given you can role play until doomsday with it, that’s still not a bad price. If you find the game you want to play is too expensive, get together with your group and buy it together. Even Invisible Sun isn’t that bad divided by 5 or 6. Failing that, given the variety of games out available, there is always a cheaper option. Can’t afford Invisible Sun? Take a look at Amber, Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, Itras By or Nobilis, to name but a few. Better yet, if you can afford to buy expensive games, run them for friends who can’t afford them and enjoy them together. Even the cheapest game isn’t much use without a gaming group.

Finally, when it comes to price, give games creators a break. Let them try new things, even if they come out expensive. Remember that few, if any, companies are trying to cheat you or bleed you for cash. In fact, most are doing the opposite and cutting their profit margins down considerably to offer an affordable game. In this way the industry develops and learns, and even the most expensive games end up in the second hand bin eventually.
 
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Andrew Peregrine

Comments

aramis erak

Adventurer
It means cheap Amazon isn't an option in a few countries. I buy regardless but some of my new players don't have phb IDK why. Being honest I haven't checked we're only three sessions in.

Main point is some people might get salty at premium and luxury expensive game materials. Have you not noticed current events around the world about things like the 1%? It bleeds over.
It's not even a given inside the US. Many online points of sale for US companies do not ship to Alaska or Hawaii, even tho USPS is available throughout both states. I've talked with several from the territories, too... and it's the same issue for Guam, US Virgin Islands, Diego Garcia. I've seen a lot of evidence of similar issues for Puerto Rico.

Some simply will not do business with these states/territories, others will insist on UPS or Fedex instead of the cheaper US Postal Service. One I did business with insisted that only DHL delivered to my neighborhood...

the most annoying was the company that waited 2 weeks for the "needed customs forms for Alaska"...of which, for a shipper in the midwest US, are none.
 

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TransTomgirl

Villager
I love Monte. As a kid,he was my hero. He is arguably the most innovative talent that Adventure fiction has ever seen, next to George Lucas. Monte is pulling a scam. Can't offer the experience without the physical swag? He already did. This is a Numenara copycat. And why is the Invisible Sun pdf marked at 100 bucks? That's still more than double the price of a hardcover lavishly produced Star Wars core book from FFG. Still about double with a sale. Monte is being vain glorious and we fell for it. Top seller on drive thru, because we allowed this guy to exploit his legend. It's one thing for prices to go up by a ten spot as we get higher production values. But what Monte's doing here is just a con.
 

Dire Bare

Hero
Supporter
I love Monte. As a kid,he was my hero. He is arguably the most innovative talent that Adventure fiction has ever seen, next to George Lucas. Monte is pulling a scam. Can't offer the experience without the physical swag? He already did. This is a Numenara copycat. And why is the Invisible Sun pdf marked at 100 bucks? That's still more than double the price of a hardcover lavishly produced Star Wars core book from FFG. Still about double with a sale. Monte is being vain glorious and we fell for it. Top seller on drive thru, because we allowed this guy to exploit his legend. It's one thing for prices to go up by a ten spot as we get higher production values. But what Monte's doing here is just a con.
Monte's pulling a fast one here? A con, a scam? I can't roll my eyes hard enough.
 

TransTomgirl

Villager
Monte's pulling a fast one here? A con, a scam? I can't roll my eyes hard enough.
If that's how you feel,than spend an entire game line worth of funds on one product. Monte is playing a game called capitalism. Even luxury licensed products rarely check in at this price point. When they do, it's not for an entry product. Movie prop recreations have cost less.
 



Doc_Klueless

Doors and Corners
... Monte is pulling a scam. ... But what Monte's doing here is just a con.
If it's a top seller on drivethru as you indicate, then he's charging the right price for it.

Just because you won't or can't spend a hundred bucks on an item does not indicate some sort of trickery, thievery, scam or con on the part of the seller.
... Even luxury licensed products rarely check in at this price point. When they do, it's not for an entry product. Movie prop recreations have cost less.
And? So, it's expensive. Apparently, it's more than you'd like to spend. The maker/seller of an item is in no way obliged to sell it at the price you'd like or can afford.
Still a 99 buck pdf listed, so there's current relevance.
Aaaand? Look, you've got three whole messages on this forum site. All three are whining about someone selling something that you don't need at a price you don't want to pay.

So don't pay it. Move on. Spend the money on something else you'd like.
 

TransTomgirl

Villager
If it's a top seller on drivethru as you indicate, then he's charging the right price for it.

Just because you won't or can't spend a hundred bucks on an item does not indicate some sort of trickery, thievery, scam or con on the part of the seller.
And? So, it's expensive. Apparently, it's more than you'd like to spend. The maker/seller of an item is in no way obliged to sell it at the price you'd like or can afford.
Aaaand? Look, you've got three whole messages on this forum site. All three are whining about someone selling something that you don't need at a price you don't want to pay.

So don't pay it. Move on. Spend the money on something else you'd like.
It's called being parasocial. He crafts an image of being a fellow geek friend so he can inflate his price point. It's wrong. A luxury pricing trend would also be unhealthy for the hobby, introducing a class divide that realms of imagination don't need. Monte decided to cash in on the community that has always supported him, with no regard for the residual effect it could have on that community. Don't like my posts, find another thread.
 


TransTomgirl

Villager
Actually, I disagree. The emergence of a (admittedly small) luxury RPG sector is a sign of health of the industry as a whole.



And that's getting rude. Tone it down, please.
He was equally rude to me than. You guys have an advertising deal with Monte? They've snarked throughout. That's fine, but don't ask me to not snark back.
 




teitan

Hero
Too expensive is relative. When I have to pay $50 for four pages of content then it is too expensive to justify buying the product for a handful of rules for sea faring or vehicles for example. $50 dollars for Xanathar? Fair. It's about content use. If someone buys Ghosts of Saltmarsh and is happy with their full purchase great, that's awesome. But if you aren't going to use the rest of the content it is too expensive when you take into account that we have limited budgets. It's all about relative value to the individual. RPGs are a luxury market sure but 5-10 years ago we were actively measuring value based on page count to cover price for a reason and we've lost that reason. I think most pdfs are overpriced when you consider what it would cost to print them later as well. That new 40K RPG looks sweet but it would cost more to print it than it would to just buy a hard copy.
 

Doc_Klueless

Doors and Corners
Don't like my posts, find another thread.
Unfortunately for you, this is NOT your thread. You don't get to tell me where to post. So, follow your own spoutings: Don't like my posts, find another thread.

Sorry, Morrus. Didn't keep reading and see your red text. I won't send any more posts her way.
 

Doc_Klueless

Doors and Corners
It's all about relative value to the individual.
I can see that. There are many RPG and other hobby products that I don't think contain enough value (for me) in relation to the price. But, I come to places like EN World, and I see that others are getting a ton of enjoyment out of them.

When that happens, I think: "Well, I guess it was a fair price!"

So I look at Monte's work and I think: "Whew! $100?! Too rich for my blood!" and not: "$100?!?!?! That thievin' bastard!" Because, apparently, lots of somebodies out there are buying it and getting $100 worth of enjoyment out of it.
 

atanakar

Hero
Seven years ago I had to get my gaming spending under control. I was buying to many different rpgs, wargames and boardgames. I had a large inventory of unused games and unassembled miniatures.

My solution was to set up an annual budget and never go beyond that. Once I buy a game I consider myself repaid for the amount of 25$ per hour that I spend actually playing the said game. So after 4 hours a 100$ game has been repaid.

At the end of summer I do an inventory. I resell games that have not been touch for a year, unless of course it is a classic. The profit goes towards next year's budget. Thus reducing the total amount of new cash I put in the budget.

So, if I really want a really expensive game, I need to make sure I will play a number of hours at least equal to its value divided by 25$. A 300$ KS is not that expensive when you put it that way. But if you don't play it, you wasted hard earned money. No other way to put it. You have to be honest with yourself.
 
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teitan

Hero
I can see that. There are many RPG and other hobby products that I don't think contain enough value (for me) in relation to the price. But, I come to places like EN World, and I see that others are getting a ton of enjoyment out of them.

When that happens, I think: "Well, I guess it was a fair price!"

So I look at Monte's work and I think: "Whew! $100?! Too rich for my blood!" and not: "$100?!?!?! That thievin' bastard!" Because, apparently, lots of somebodies out there are buying it and getting $100 worth of enjoyment out of it.
Exactly!
 

Hussar

Legend
Heh, years and years ago, I bought the World's Largest Dungeon. At the time, it was well over a hundred bucks, plus I got reamed on shipping.

Still the absolute best investment I ever made in gaming. We got hundreds of hours of enjoyment out of that module. I couldn't possibly beat it.

So, yeah, if you're actually using the product, price doesn't matter as much as you might think.
 

Von Ether

Adventurer
While I thought the pitch was reasonable, "You're just paying for the whole gaming line at once instead of spread out." (And I guarantee that I have spent $200 to $300 over the years for an entire gaming line), the second I heard the price, it was like switch went off. "Not for me, but thank you."

And that's all I think I have to say for a necro-ed thread that's over half a year old - 'cause I ain't changing its diapers.
 

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