Friday, June 26, 2009

Very Interesting

A number of people have pointed out to me that, according to this page, Paizo will be selling the PDF version of their upcoming Pathfinder Roleplaying Game for $9.95. Now, I'm not ever likely to be playing Pathfinder. From what I have seen -- I have read the Beta Playtest in its various iterations -- it's still too much like v.3.5 to hold any appeal for me, no matter how much I like the Paizonians.

That said, $9.95 is a remarkably ... reasonable price for a PDF, especially in an industry where far too many companies offer very little discount over the cost of buying a hardcopy. I can't help but applaud Paizo for doing this and I hope -- almost certainly in vain -- that we might see other companies follow their lead. In my experience, a low price on a PDF means that I'm much more likely to plunk down some money on a product whose merits I'm unsure about than if the PDF is a mere 10-20% cheaper than the print version. Likewise, if I like the PDF, odds are good I'll also buy the print version. If there were a PDF version of HackMaster Basic available at a reasonable discount, I'd probably buy a copy, because, despite my skepticism, I'm still intrigued by it. But, alas, no such thing exists and so Kenzer has lost not just one but possibly two sales from me (and the possibility that I'll drive some sales their way with a review of the thing).

At $9.95, though, I'll happily snag a copy of Pathfinder, even though I'm highly unlikely to play it or to buy any of its supplementary material. That's a small enough amount of money that, even if I find nothing of value in the PDF, I won't feel as if I'd been cheated and the odds of that's happening are pretty slim indeed.


  1. Yes, it is.

    A common thing on some boards is company's reps reminding you that deep discounters are bad because even in full channel a company is lucky to get 15-20% of retail. Yet, when a PDF comes out it is 90%+ of the printed version.

    If you only get 20% for printed versions from channel than selling the PDF for 50% brings in twice the revenue even after allowing for RPGNow et al to take their cut.

    Yet companies just don't get it. The idea that "our IP should be worth this regardless of utility issues with the format" is blinding them to the fact that by changing channel and lowering the price they'll get more for their IP while acknowledging the buyers belief that PDF has lower utility.

  2. Paizonians! Is this a new Dwimmermount race? Or a new pocket-like dish at Pizza Hut?

    /both sound delicious!

  3. I believe that kenzer has stated that they will put out a pdf of the new HM rules. They just haven't gotten around to it yet. No idea what the price will be though.

  4. I agree, and hope to keep down the cost of both .pdf and print versions of my game.

  5. I just bought a whole lot of the Arduin stuff from Emperor's Choice.

    After doing so, I made sure to suggest to them that selling softcopy of the books would at least sell to *me*, and that I was obviously ready and able to drop a pile of money on RPG stuff. I also suggested that "buy both, get a pretty steep discount" was a model that worked for me. If I can get the hardcover for $20, but both hardcover and PDF for $25, I'm buying the bundle.

    I *do* like having the physical book available; that's my preferred format. But if I'm gaming at someone else's house, or going on a trip but want to have the book handy as a reference if I'm writing something else, or if I just don't feel like walking to the bookshelf from my comfy nerd cave in the basement, then having softcopy available is nice.

    I didn't hear back from the Emperor's Choice guys (this being somewhat ironic in that a bit of Googling suggests that the Arduin books are available in softcopy if you have a bittorrent client and some time), but I think it's not a bad idea, if this is something you want to see happen, to tell it to publishers *at the same time as you're giving them money for their product*. I think there's a lot of value in THEIR recognizing that PDF products can be a way to sell to the people who are already paying for the hardcopy.


  6. They undercut us by 4-cents. ;-)

    I think this is a good trend.

  7. I couldn't agree more. If I am going to play a game on a regular basis, I like to have a hard copy. A 9.95 pdf lets me try it out and then print it and have it spiral bound if I like it. Usually I can get an RPG book printed and bound for 30-40 bucks. I windup paying only a little more, and I have a spiral bound copy, which I like more because I can fold it open or lay it flat

  8. PDF availability can impact retail distribution.
    Heck, selling directly to the consumer at a steep discount can effect distribution. May not be a big a deal as it was in the past.
    Keeping the pdf high in price could keep it from being a drag on retail distribution.

  9. PDF availability CAN certainly impact retail distribution. It probably makes me twice as likely to buy a given product in hardcopy. I'll experiment with my PDF dollars when the price point is cheap enough, and I've bought copies of books in paper format when I've been impressed by the PDF.

    Without the PDFs available I wouldn't be experimenting with my RPG reading.

  10. and I hope -- almost certainly in vain -- that we might see other companies follow their lead...

    The House of the Blooded PDF by John Wick is only US$5 from IPR so people can buy and try. I think that's about the first RPG I know of that has purposefully pursued this policy. Does anyone know of an earlier example? [And it's a good game, too.] Many "indie" games have cheap PDFs because it is the most effective method of advertising their games.

    And it's not just an IP issue. Distributors and retailers can get stroppy sometimes if they feel that the manufacturer is undercutting them. This is a big reason that non-gaming ebooks tend to be priced equivalently to their printed version. Despite the fact that there is evidence that it actually increases sales.

    [Although in this case it would be nice to see the author royalties increased appropriately, but most remain at the print levels, even with the reduced cost of production and distribution. More profit for the publisher.]

    And living in Oz, I really appreciate the existence of PDFs. The freight costs from the US would be prohibitively expensive to maintain my normal "sounds/looks good – I'll buy it!" policy otherwise.

  11. The House of the Blooded PDF by John Wick is only US$5 from IPR so people can buy and try. I think that's about the first RPG I know of that has purposefully pursued this policy. Does anyone know of an earlier example?

    I don't know if you'd call it the same thing, but Pinnacle has had an "Explorer's Edition" of Savage Worlds for $10, and it's a print version. As far as I know, it's the complete game, too.

  12. The House of the Blooded PDF by John Wick is only US$5 from IPR so people can buy and try. I think that's about the first RPG I know of that has purposefully pursued this policy. Does anyone know of an earlier example?
    Not sure when they started, but we've been selling our +400pg full PDF for $4.95 since we released Wayfarers last fall. Actually, that's after it was free for an intro period. IMHO, IP is simply not worth that much. Yes, I put countless hours and much money into publishing a RPG, but it's a PDF I am selling, an zero cost download, infinite resource. It will be shared. It will be torrented. Cest la vie!

    It's nice to see Paizo is taking this approach.

  13. I fear this is an anomaly having to do with their business model more than anything. That model being offer ogl/free/cheap rules, sell tons of modules/splats/supplements/magazines.

  14. I think Norman is right.
    But I'm glad to see a .pdf that is one-fifth the print price, especially when we're talking about a game that is essentially D&D 3.8. That isn't an edition-war slam, but rather the observation that it seems unrealistic to ask someone to spend $50 on a game that is substantially similar to another game that you've already dropped ~$100 on already (and not get the DMG).
    Imagine if the publishers of Labyrinth Lord didn't offer a free or low-cost version of their game. Most people would say "hey, I've already got my old copy of D&D, I don't need this." Paizo is in a similar situation, compounded by the fact that they botched the release of the Beta edition and failed to get it out before 4E hit the shelves.

  15. Let's see, Paizo sold out of a print run of a Beta playtest and has registered 50k+ unique downloads of the free PDF. Hardly a "botched" effort.

    They already have pre-orders for the final rules in the thousands. A book which will contain both the equivalent of the PHB AND DMG. SO, two books in one, logging in at well over 500 pages.

    I think Paizo knows what they're doing, business-wise.

  16. I think Paizo have their timeplan the way it is intentionally.

    Anyway. The fact that pdf sales are priced oddly is something I've written about earlier. It's an interesting topic.

    The payment in the hobby is lousy, and the margins are small. Add to that the fact that a lot of people complain of the costs of RPGs. No chance to win, eh?

    That being said, there is indeed something odd with the pricing of pdfs. I haven't published anything, but I'd be surprised if printing costs isn't the biggest one. Publishing electronically that cost is fully loaded onto the buyer. I almost laugh when I see pdf books hundreds of pages long priced at $29.99 and I know how much it would cost me to print it.

    Considering how much fun you can get from a game book I would say a higher price than the present one for a hardcopy, and a far lower one on pdf would be a fully reasonable setting. I was going to mention John wick, but has already been done.

  17. PDF costs are trivial compared to print costs. The utility is less for the end-user, the risk of loss due to electronic failure is MUCH greater, the exercise of rights by the publisher is greater.. everything about a PDF just screams "This item is essentially pure profit with practically zero per-unit costs associated with it." $9.95 for a PDF is still more than a 400-page physical fiction novel. And that's complete b-s. I don't know why you think $9.95 is reasonable for an intangible like a PDF.. but I vehemently disagree.

  18. I don't know why you think $9.95 is reasonable for an intangible like a PDF.. but I vehemently disagree.

    Compared to the 75-100% of hardcopy cover price that most publishers charge, $9.95 is reasonable. I agree that it's probably still much higher than it ought to be, but, given the market as it exists now, I applaud any publisher who sells PDFs for less than 25% of the hardcopy cover price.