A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pricing and the Doom of RPGs

I've been hearing it for years. RPGs are doomed. Sadly there is a loud group of morons (many of which unsurprisingly are on RPGnet) who claim these games are too cheap. This has lead to some blogger posting a massive 2 part manifesto on how RPGs are TOO CHEAP and this is a big reason why they are dying out.


I largely lost interest in either ramble the second it was said RPGs were too cheap.

The real problem with RPGs doing well is their image, their marketing, their complexity, and their fanbase.

Secondary problems involve scheduling issues for gamers, their generally too high pricing, quality of the actual gaming products, and the market's desire to actually play them.

For some reason 2/3rds of all roleplayers seem content to only play whatever edition of Dungeons & Dragons is currently in print regardless of the game's actual quality.

But overall RPGs just have the same damned problem American comics do. They cost too much, and are continually aimed at pleasing an ever decreasing market share, and are largely only available at specialty stores which are hard to find if you don't know where to look, and are usually repellent to anyone not willing to put up with their "quirks".

At least comics have a trade paperback market at the bookstore which kind of helps, plus major TV and movie and toy properties to help keep them in the mindshare.

RPGs don't have this period to the point I wonder why anyone bothers making or playing anything, especially if its not more in print D&D (or maybe White Wolf as the distant second place).

And if we want to do a quick play with nerd product prices....

I have the complete 20 issue (20 month) run of the Marvel Shogun Warriors comic book which ran from 1978 to 1980. At its start it was 35 cents, which was touted as a feature.

By issue 4 it was up to 40 cents, and the final issue (20) was 50. 5-6 years later 60 cents was the normal comic book price with series like the Transformers being a notable exception at 75 cents for slightly better quality paper and color.

Now most comic books are 3 dollars, with many at 4. (Such as the Transformers)

It doesn't really matter if the books look amazing, its 4 bucks for 10 minutes of entertainment, 15 if you are a slow reader or like to really study the artwork.

When I tell your average person or even your average nerd how much a comic book costs now I get words of disgust and horror.

Few people will pay this price regardless of economic realities and the ever retarded inflation principle.

Which leads to comics having to increase prices which causes them to sell to even LESS people, being one of many causes of comics' downward spiral. And then when you compare it to Manga books where its a good 200 pages for 10 dollars it makes it so even the only new comics fans stay in the land of black and white comics with sweatdrops.

100 bucks is still 100 bucks even if it gets you less. Perception of value and sticker shock matters.

Just ask Sony how they are doing with their expensive game console compared to the cheaper 360 and Wii offerings. They hold a distant third place in most of the world because of it.

And even inflation has a stopping point. A can of soda in the mid 80s was like 50 cents. Its roughly a dollar now with some variation. Its only doubled in price as opposed to RPGs which went from 15 bucks in the late 80s to 40-50 now.

Its more than doubled. And what do we get? Oh so fancy full color and hardback, stuff that does SQUAT for actually playing and enjoying the game.

Unless making the books heavier and less portable counts as a feature. Oh, and sucking up more printer ink if you need to make some cheat sheet pages.

RPGs need help, that is to be sure. But raising prices? That's just gonna make a bad situation WORSE.


Badmike said...

Nice post. I have been reading comics since I was six years old...this year I turn 46. I am presently purchasing less comics a month than anytime in the last 40 years, solely because the cost not only has soared to ludicrous levels, but the industry loves to cut it's own throat by pissing out trade paperbacks that are CHEAPER than the collected series was on the shelf...weeks or sometimes days after finishing up the particular run on a title.

But enough of that...the point being I am also spending far less on RPGs than I ever have, for exactly the same reason. If I want to try a game why do I have to invest $100? I've mostly been sticking to the free OSR stuff like Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry, as well as cheap yet lovingly made homebrew modules available on Lulu and elsewhere in pdf form.

Sure RPGs are doomed...if publishers don't realize by trying to make all their money up front with a $65 rulebook they are cutting their own throat.

Captain Rufus said...

Yeah. I love some of the Lulu old school publishers. The guys either sell at cost or at a reasonable price. It might not have the sales to run a small company or anything, but I cannot say fans making labors of love for other fans at a fair cost is a bad thing.

I'd rather have more of that and less of these 50-60 dollar coffee table books like Cthulhutech.


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