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The industry needs an enema. Or, I am tired of this PDF nonsense.

July 17, 2009

So if you have not been paying attention lately, the “industry” is in a tizzy about PDFs and the pricing of PDFs. I’ve ignored this, as has James, and we just kept doing what we like to do, design games. Then this blog post was posted, and it ticked me off:…-rambling.html

That entire post really rubbed me the wrong way. Not just as a gamer but as a publisher. This attitude, which I am seeing more and more lately in this industry, has me annoyed. Really annoyed. That is why I am writing this, becasue as Howard Beal screamed in Network (a movie that despite the age is even more correct now then it was in 1976):

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.

When forming Rogue Games, one of the big things James and I wanted to do was keep our games as affordable as possible. That is why we price them (both print and eBooks/PDFs) as low as we do. That is why we do the things we do to help keep the cost low. Like what? Use POD and stay away from color. For me, as a publisher, I would much rather price titles lower, create smaller games, and build a customer base on making affordable games.

As for PDF pricing, hell, we give ours away when you buy a print copy either online or in a physical store. We give them away as if on a whim — as one irate publisher told me in a recent email. The reason? For us, PDFs/eBooks are as much a marketing device as they are a information tool. For us, if you bought the game, you should be allowed to use it anyway you want. Period. That is why we bundle the PDF with the book. That is why we strip any DRM we can from the PDF. That is why we do not get in the way of how you choose to use the PDF.

This is why we made our PDF guarantee public. We state right up front that the upper limit of a PDF from us is $9.99. We have PDFs at lower price points as well. Why the limits? Personally, I cannot sell a PDF at or near the same price as a print book. I just cannot do it. Why? I could not live with myself as a person, let alone a publisher.

I am happy as hell Paizo is charging $9.99 for Pathfinder. To call them out on this is silly. To call them a threat is just damn ignorant. Hell, Pathfinder is a game that is not my style, however, I am buying a copy of the game because I support them in their decision. Period.

Sadly the reaction other publishers have when another publisher does something they do not like, no longer surprises me. I am always getting emails from some accusing what Rogue Games does as harming their business. Why? Our pricing and views on PDFs.

In the end, James and I are going to continue to do what is best for Rogue Games, the gamers who like our games, and the consumer who does not want to go broke just to try something new.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2009 8:06 am

    What good is a game that is too expensive to play, can’t get (legal) copies to players and basically neuters its fanbase?

    Honestly, I far prefer to sell thousands of copies of a game, get people playing and have a shitload of fans than have one spendy one that maybe a couple hundred play (and may more pirate all to hell because it is ridiculously priced).

    It’s okay to cut profit a little on the front end because you can make it up in bulk (on the back end).

    Problem is, many people associate spendy with good and inexpensive with “cheap” and sucky. “You get what you pay for”. That is one of the biggest lies in commercialism.

  2. July 17, 2009 8:23 am

    In economics class in high school, I learned that you can hope to sell a few units of a product at a high price, or many units at a low price. Unless you are a monopoly (or have a brand so powerful that it neutralizes any competition) you have to compete for customers, and an effective way to do that is the latter strategy. The more customers you have, the greater your odds of building a viable base of repeat customers – and that’s what RPGs depend on.

    Richard, I think you are doing exactly the right thing. For anyone who says otherwise, I have two words: Free Market.

  3. July 17, 2009 8:44 am

    @Jeff Preston

    I agree with you Jeff. Pricing is one of the big areas James and I thought long and hard about when we started. That was part of the reason we did not release anything until August 2007. I thought out the entire process, and did the numbers. In the end I came to the simple calculation:

    less + more = happy

    lesser price + more potential customers = happy Rogue

    Would I like to sell at a higher price? Yes, however, doing so, means my net is smaller and I risk not attracting more potential customers.

    I do not talk shop a lot, and it is not because I am hiding things, but it is becasue it is not important to the goal: producing games people like. However, the fact that James and I are still here, and are in the position to publish the games we like, is a testament to the plan of lower prices.

  4. July 17, 2009 8:47 am

    @ Graeme Davis

    It is astounding that many people forget that simple economic lesson isn’t it? 🙂

    Thank you for the kind words Graeme, they mean a lot to me.

  5. July 17, 2009 1:34 pm

    From a buyers POV I now find myself whenever possible buying direct if possible from publishers, there are a few main reasons I prefer over going to a FLGS.
    1) As I know that the publisher will get a higher return with me buying direct from them this is my main reason,
    2) I now find that the shipping from the USA (in the main) is as good if not lower than say a UK gaming shop,
    3) I like the direction of publishers to give the PDF free with a print copy purchase.

    As being involved on the industry side of the fence with both Avenger and Cubicle 7 I know the strengths and marking power that PDF sales can bring, with regards to Avenger apart from a few printed version we are in the main PDF publishers. If in the future we go over to print in the main then I would like to see that PDF’s get cheaper and free with all printed sales (not my call in that aspect but I would/will be an big advocate of this change).


  6. July 17, 2009 2:55 pm

    @ Rog

    You are dead on with buying direct. I think this is the area most are forgetting. Compared to ten-years ago, it is far easier for a gamer/fan/consumer/ to buy direct from the producer. By cutting out the middle man, prices can be lower.

    When setting up Rogue Games, the big thing I did was try to have as many sales channel as I could. Some thought this was foolish, but for me, I felt and still feel, that the more venues you have the easier it is to survive. In the two years we’ve been doing this, I have seen very little crossover between the various channels.

    As far as bundling goes, we were not the first, and I hope more join on this. I look at is a nice value added bonus. Additionally, as is the case with preorders, I think it is cool to be able to give a buyer instant access to the game the bought now. It gets them playing, hopefully gets them excited, and if they become excited enough, hopefully they will share their excitment with others.

    Pricing and profit for a PDF is a headache, and I know that from what we do. For me, and this is for me, I tend to look at the long term. For our $1 PDFs, they might not earn a profit for themselves within the first week of release, but they continue to sell, and over the long term, make their money. Our first one, Sleepy Hollow, broke even within a month. It still sells, and sells strong. For me, I look at the $1 line as our marketing. For the cost of a ad — and we have done our share of print advertising — I make more on the $1 PDFs then I made on any ad. Plus, in the long run, it costs less.

    For me, and for James, we have a much long range plan in the works. It is one that is not grand, but it is one, that has served us well from the start.

  7. July 22, 2009 12:16 am

    It’s a business. You’re free to sell and price your products any way you choose. Consumers too are free to decide that they’d rather pay less for a certain type of product even if it means that they’ll get less. So? The marketplace may change. That’s just the way life is.

  8. July 22, 2009 5:34 am


    Totally agree with you David.

  9. Cameron permalink
    July 27, 2009 8:44 pm

    So very, very right on. These people who want to keep the price of PDFs artificially high must be on crack or something. Their customers are not idiots, and are never going to go for it in the kind of numbers they need them to.

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