The $80 problem

edited November 2006 in Story Games
Here is a little scenario I want you all to ponder and then respond to. You have just purchased a game, it is now in your hands with all its bells and whistles. You are completly satisified with your purchase. You can't wait to digest everything you have there, and then gather whatever players you will need and play it. This game is going to be great.

This game cost you $80.00

What would this hypothetical game need to do, have, feature, come with, etc in order to validate it's $80.00 cost? Is it big? Is it a board game with tons of cool minis? Is it some sort of killer software that interfaces with live play? What does it take to get that big chunk out of your pocket and still leave you happy?

And none of that nambsy-pamsy "As long as it's a good game, I would pay any price" bullshit. We aren't having that here. We're talking about flash, we're talking about gloss, we're talking about inverse price consideration. Get to it you monsters.
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Comments

  • comes with a cd that actually has useful stuff on it? It would definitely need to be more than just a book. Perhaps include all you need to play the game: deck of cards, poker chips, beads, pencils, pads of paper. Then sell it all in fairly compact, durable box.

    --Nancy
  • Art. Lots and lots of beautiful artwork. No filler, just amazing full-color illustrations that drive home the essence of the game experience.

    Maps. Lots of them. Nations, cities, worlds, galaxies, whatever. Big, glossy fold-out maps that my players can pore over and scrutinize.

    Setting. Everything I need to run the game for the next few years. Save me the trouble, as a GM, of inventing all of this stuff. I want rich, detailed setting laden with game hooks.

    Monsters. Hundreds -- no, thousands -- of enemies. Strange, repulsive, foreign creatures whose very descriptions will give my players pause.

    I'd shell out eighty bucks for the above. Hell, I've done it, just not all at once.

    -- Rafael
  • Well, here I assume it's an analog roleplaying game:

    It's a cloth-bound book. There's something beautiful on the page edges - gilding or a stamped design or something. The front cover is embossed and the paper is heavy, not glossy, has a bit of tooth. It has a ribbon bookmark. It's typeset in a cool, uncluttered way; no awkward things like sidebars, borders, and scattered pictures. There are full-color, full-page plates here and there, but illustrations only come into contact with captions and never with running text.

    It comes in a box, covered with matching cloth, with all you need to play the game. Maybe there is a bundle of yarrow sticks or a string of three coins, or a deck of custom cards. There's a nice heavy gameboard, again backed with matching fabric, with tokens and things to move around on it.

    It's imperishable and beautful; something that I can leave out on display in the middle of a game and have it ornament the room, and something that my children can inherit.

  • I have no point of reference. I have literally never gone into buying a game intending to spend that much. I don't have any sense of what could pull that amount of money out of my pocket at a go.

    I mean, yeah, White Wolf milked me for way more than that, but that was a whole "death of a million cuts" thing.
  • Here's my requirement list for an $80 game:

    1. Unlimited replay value.
    2. Very fun.
    3. Instant play (by which I mean that within 60 seconds of deciding to play, I can have a game going...including the time to find other players, so we're obviously talking online or telecomm or something).

    So far, there's no game out there that fulfills these qualifications for me. Yes, that means there's no game I'd buy at the $80 price point.
  • It would have to be BattleLore. And it will be.

    More seriously: that anniversary edition of CoC from a few years back was basically built to Shreyas' specs. What did that go for, $75 retail?
  • I think BattleLore is retailing for $70; start there as a reference point in terms of design, production and presentation of a game. I've got a pre-order, I know it will be worth the price already. I actually knew the minute it was announced - DoW has a reputation for excellent production, Richard Borg has a reputation for excellent design.

    Yesterday I looked at the slipcased Bill Watterson collection - three oversized Calvin and Hobbes volumes beautifully laid out, $120 - and thought 'I could imagine buying that'. Scarcity is at work there, of course - I hunger for the content, which isn't easily available in that form. It'd be a wonderful object to have around and enjoy.

    The cost of entry into, say, GURPS is probably around that - two 256+ page color hardcovers. Of course that path is eased by freebies, GURPS Lite, etc. Same with D&D, right? There's a de-facto standard for pricing those kind of books, so if I were excited about getting into those games, I don't think I'd blink at the cost (I'd probably share it with my friends, though).

    $80 means different things to different people. There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when an eighty dollar price tag might as well have required Elf Moon Magic - it was complete impossibility.
  • Hey Kevin,

    Play would teach the following skills of real value:

    How to tell if another person is lying.
    How to tell if another person doesn't have your interests at heart.
    How to know if purchasing a specific advertised product is going to make you personally happy.
    How to make meaningful life and career decisions.
    How to take constructive criticism.

    And games would be compelling and watchable events for non-participants. I'd pay $200+ for it.

    Paul
  • The company that publishes the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books has a board game called Cashflow 101 that they sell for $200. So there's another data point as far as reasons vaguely like Paul's to value a game.
  • Shreyas said it, but...

    - immaculate visual and physical design
    - special components that are critical to play and greatly enhance the feel of the game, such that I couldn't imagine playing without them (like, say, the roulette table in Fastlane), maybe even including the book itself
    - maybe it's handmade, like untitled, or somehow shows the creators' commitment and care
    - I will never need to buy another product to enhance the play experience
    - it is written by someone I respect and admire
    - it's a frickin' amazing game
    - it DOESN'T have a included CD or other gimicky stuff; some content is better distributed electronically
  • Posted By: misubaThe company that publishes the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books has a board game calledCashflow 101that they sell for $200. So there's another data point as far as reasons vaguely like Paul's to value a game.
    I've played it. It's very, very interesting.
  • I've dropped $80 in a game line several times: D&D, Vampire, Buffy, GURPS, and so forth. I don't see a difference in principle between spending $80 on a single product versus $80 on two or three products if they have similar content.

    So I think the main barrier for me would be knowing in advance that it was a game which I'd want to drop that much money on.

    That said, I personally would prefer having a boxed set with a number of components rather than a single giant hardbound book. Especially being able to hold the introductory adventure to myself while players pass around the character generation booklet is extremely useful.
  • My spec for an $80 electronic game, incidentally, would be like...

    A game with a really strong and new visual style, with a graceful, well-designed interface, presented with lots of really significant choices, so that you can play the game over and make new choices, then the events that proceed from them are starkly different.

    Maybe it's like Betrayal at the House on the Hill, and parts of the game change in ways that you can't control from play to play, so even if you do make the same choices, the game changes anyway.

  • edited November 2006
    Lots of marketing that focused on my specific weaknesses and insecurities about life.

    That or having Aishwarya Rai tell me to buy it, because I'll buy anything she tells me to.

    Edit: Also, for many people the answers are all found in Ptolus. Really, its like a how to manual.
  • If I knew I'd like it, due to playing it, downloading a cool demo of it and playing it, and so on, I'd buy it.

    Fuck visual style and art and all that. Art is dead.
  • edited November 2006
    I have a hard time knowing what I would pay $80 for. I do it for software & textbooks, sure, but RPGs?...

    It would definitely require having everything I need to play included.
    I would probably consider a "normal" product that included some snazzy software for this price.
    I would also expect (require?) a purdy-looking book for $80.
    I would also expect long-term replayability for that price.
    I would also have to be assured that the game was going to be good.

    I'm not sure what else. But you know, as another data point, Ron likes to point out that the complete Socerer collection (corebook + Sword, Soul, & Sex) is $65. If he only sold his books (as-is) as a collection for $65-$75---I, personally, would probably pay it. [edit] Let's be honest---who else would do the same? [/edit]
  • these are great answers. Keep em coming.

    Jason, Tony, i agree with your sentiment entirely. I fixed the mark at 80 because its out of my bugitary range. I can't afford an 80 game (i mean i could pay it, but i can't fathom it). I'll spend way more then that this year on games, but i'll get lots of them.

    The 3 dnd core books cost $90.00 and insane # of gamers have purchased them.
    A game console costs anywhere from 4-almost 9 times that amount.
  • I'd have to be buying it for my significant other or a family member, and know they'd love it.
  • I think my number one criteria for purchasing something that large is that it satisfies an unfilled social niche.

    I purchased Memoir 44 so that I would have something on hand that was specifically designed for two players but which was component rich (as opposed to something simple and elegant like chess or go). I purchased Caylus for nights where we only want to play a single sprawling board game. I purchased Jungle Speed for filling in short periods of time.

    You want $80 out of me? You're going to have to find some social space that I need filled that no one else is filling.

    Thomas
  • John, Tim: Personally, there's a big difference between four $20 products and one $80 product. I have Sorceror and the supplements ($65 total), but I'd never buy a single book with all of that material included, even for $50. For me, $20 is simply my "impulse purchase" threshold -- for $20 or less, I won't even consider. If it even slightly interests me, I'll pick it up.
  • Posted By: Andrew MorrisJohn, Tim: Personally, there's a big difference between four $20 products and one $80 product. I have Sorceror and the supplements ($65 total), but I'd never buy a single book with all of that material included, even for $50. For me, $20 is simply my "impulse purchase" threshold -- for $20 or less, I won't even consider. If it even slightly interests me, I'll pick it up.
    Same here. BattleLore looks awesome and seems awesom from the demo, but I doubt I'll buy it barring some sort of windfall.

    Even more realistically, your could sell me four $25 products much more easily and walk away with an extra $20.

    You could make a lot more than that as the price drops below $25/unit, as proven by some embarassing miniarure and ccg collections I've had over the years...
  • Posted By: Andrew MorrisJohn, Tim: Personally, there's a big difference between four $20 products and one $80 product. I have Sorceror and the supplements ($65 total), but I'd never buy a single book with all of that material included, even for $50. For me, $20 is simply my "impulse purchase" threshold -- for $20 or less, I won't even consider. If it even slightly interests me, I'll pick it up.
    Fair enough. I fall prey to impulse purchases as well, but I strictly limit them. I'm probably similar in that I'd consider a single $80 purchase more carefully than four $20 purchases. However, the impulse is much less strong in me, so I'd certainly consider larger books.

    Still, I'm curious about your feelings about the single Sorcerer book. For example, if a retailer were selling a "Sorcerer pack" which had Sorcerer and the supplements for $50 as separate books, would you consider buying it then?
  • Posted By: jhkimStill, I'm curious about your feelings about the single Sorcerer book. For example, if a retailer were selling a "Sorcerer pack" which had Sorcerer and the supplements for $50 as separate books, would you consider buying it then?
    Not as an impulse purchase. It's the lump-sum thing that gets me. Different prices get examined differently. A purchase of $20 or less doesn't really get looked at any more carefully than passing the test of "Do I want this?"
  • When I get to 9th level, I want to learn real magic

    yrs--
    --Ben

    P.S. Don't construe this post as anything productive.

  • Posted By: Ben LehmanWhen I get to 9th level, I want to learnreal magic
    When you get to tenth level, you'll realize that you knew it all along.

    -- Rafael
  • I hear the $90-to-play-D&D thing a lot and it always makes me think - has no one used the DMG or Monster Manual for anything other than D&D? I know I have...
  • Well, second edition makes for nice bookends...
  • Must include free ale and whores.

    On tap.
  • $80 is a serious break point.

    $80 = Everything Burning Wheel + Burning Empires (more or less). I own this because the setting inspires me and because it's something I bought intending to get a lot of use out of.

    $80 = Upgrade to latest edition of Warhammer 40k (rules only). I didn't make this bump. The book is worth it from a production value standpoint. Then again, the only reason I need to buy it is because I can't play Warhammer 40k with my friends any more because THEY all made the bump. Leaves me feeling manipulated.

    $80 = Play two months worth of Magic: Online at my chosen rate (that's two one-month leagues). Steep as it sounds, that probably averages an hour of intense competition every day. This is something I do at least once a year.

    What it comes down to is this. For $40, I'll buy a great game. For $80, the game has to be part of how I define myself as a gamer. It has to be a game that's definitive for my group, or that I intend to develop for my own purposes, or that gives me a big chunk of personal satisfaction. Right now I'd pay $80 for a big fat book of Solar System materials with lots of secrets and keys and maybe a couple of settings or a book with 100 gorgeous full color maps that I can use for something.
  • You see Ptolus? For my money, that's worth $80, even if it were 2/3 the size. Extensively cross-referenced, lots of art, full-color, disk with all kinds of great stuff, carefully designed around the game it's written for.
  • Wow, I'd never heard of Ptolus prior to this thread. But man, that is one nice-looking book... Might just have to put that on my Xmas list.

    -- Rafael
  • Posted By: Colin_FredericksYou see Ptolus? For my money, that's worth $80, even if it were 2/3 the size. Extensively cross-referenced, lots of art, full-color, disk with all kinds of great stuff, carefully designed around the game it's written for.
    Dammit, beat me to it.

    I think that Ptolus, more than any other prestige RPG product I've seen, is a perfect example of a worthwhile high-end RPG book. An excellent mix of quality and quantity. A lot of prestige products tend to understand one, but not the other.

    (Interestingly, I think another big selling point of Ptolus is that we know for a fact that there will likely never be any more products in the line. I.e., I'm not being invited into another supplement treadmill. The value of the artifact will never be diminished by splats or revisions that counter/negate/update the content within. I can't feel "burned," because this is it.)
  • For that price, I expect a full "kit" of fully branded and evocative materials. The dice can't be generic, nor can any other materials included in the kit. Every single item should convey a consistent brand experience.
  • I was going to mention Ptolus also. Also look at Arcana Evolved at $50 (and note that you still need the Monster Manual and DMG). The D&D core book set is $90.

    Hmm, Ptolus being the end of the line... Not hardly... There are PDF supplements coming out for it on a periodic basis. Plus, I'm betting we'll see some full fledged modules come out. Just because Monte will not be writing any more RPG books (for some time), doesn't mean he won't license his IP to others.

    So I guess for my $80, I would either expect the complete core rules to a game with a scope similar to D&D, or I would expect a game with a smaller scope packaged complete with a good setting book and at least something in the way of scenarios.

    In general, I'd prefer not to see dice in an RPG. I have more than enough dice as it is (I understand their need in a board game). Miniatures would be nice (but if they're included, I'd prefer they be pre-painted - and they had better be of long lasting usefullness to the game if a signigicant part of the package).

    Frank
  • It's Up Front. It's used but has all its pieces. It's out of print. I've been looking at it in the local game store for a while; I guess in this scenario I finally went "screw it, time to buy" and did.

    -Vincent
  • Posted By: ffilzHmm, Ptolus being the end of the line... Not hardly... There are PDF supplements coming out for it on a periodic basis. Plus, I'm betting we'll see some full fledged modules come out. Just because Monte will not be writing any more RPG books (for some time), doesn't mean he won't license his IP to others.
    The supplements seem to be mostly things like adventures, maps, counters, etc. I'm not aware of plans for actual setting-expansion stuff, a la FR or Eberron.

    My point is, Ptolus is basically a "done deal" product, not a gateway product. This appeals to me. If ti was the first in a line of $100 books, I probably would have been more hesitant to buy it.
  • Posted By: lumpleyIt's Up Front. It's used but has all its pieces. It's out of print. I've been looking at it in the local game store for a while; I guess in this scenario I finally went "screw it, time to buy" and did.

    -Vincent
    Dude, Up Front rocked!
  • I know it. One of these days I'll have $80 with no strings attached, and I'll buy it.

    -Vincent
  • What's Up Front?
  • For $80 it would have to be the thing Brand really wanted for Christmas.

    Other than that, the only way that I am likely to buy something in that range, only for myself is if it could catch me in a moment of weakness, tired at the end of a long, terrible day. Especially if it came with Aishwarya Rai included.
  • Posted By: tony dowlerRight now I'd pay $80 for a big fat book of Solar System materials with lots of secrets and keys and maybe a couple of settings or a book with 100 gorgeous full color maps that I can use for something.
    Which is interesting, because as far as I know everything Solar System is currently available free.

    (Psst, Tony, Errantry has a big bunch of secrets and keys you can pillage if you want.)
  • For 80 bucks I want a happy ending. And I do not mean thematically.
  • It would, as so many people have said, come with all the goods to play. It would have to be pretty enough for me to want to just hold it and admire its features and durable enough for all my friends to do the same without it falling apart.

    Most importantly, though, I would need to know that *I would* be playing it very, very soon and for many sessions--in other words, I need to know it is something that a bunch of other people (that I like) want to play it right now and into the near future. That is why I was willing to fork out the bucks for D&D.

    Which leads me too: when Ptolus became the flagship Monte Cook product (ie dominated his design discussions, his advertising, etc), I started caring a whole lot less about visiting his site. I was simply never going to buy that book. I looked at it at Gencon, admired it, can acknowledge it's beauty and organization, but still can *never* see buying it. I can't imagine the world in which I would make enough use of it. That sort of detail has never gelled with my playstyle--I can't see myself using it, extensively, with my friends, so it isn't even on my radar.
  • I've want to track down the 1989 swiss rpg Laborinthus, which is described as being about "Onirism, symbols, psycho-analysis. Very beautiful, with many original engravings and eau-fortes, but of course very expensive. I mean very expensive (around $100, not refunded by Social security)!"

    This makes it sound cool, although I needed to look up what onirism meant, presumably the act of describing a world that you can't see.

    The world's largest dungeon cost $100 retail and apparently sold thousands of copies.
  • edited November 2006
    I purchased the books for AD&D circa 1978-79. These cost, as I recall, $12 each. Maybe more for the DMG. Let's call it $36. I applied it to an inflation calculator I found here: http://www.westegg.com/inflation/

    That's $101.94 today. Three hard covers, cruddy art, ramshackle design.

    Somehow people think that they should still be paying the same prices for RPGs that they paid in 1980, or whenever they discovered them. So, er, sorry, but as long as it's a good enough game, I'd pay any price. Well, at least $80.

    Mike
  • Posted By: IskanderFor 80 bucks I want a happy ending. And I do not mean thematically.
    You won't get any help from me! I do not mean thematically.
  • For $80.00? All at once?

    I don't want little pieces that scatter, get snarfed by the cats or small children. I want clear, concise, aesthetic layout, but I don't want wasted space. I want a game I can use against stab wounds at the very least. If it has its own carrying case, even better. I want to get non-gamers cooing over it. [Yeah, sure, I want them to think my sexual prowess is mighty merely because I own it, but if my shelves don't already give me geek stud cred, I'm probably out of luck.] I want to be able to read it and reread it for pleasure. I want it to have ideas of all sorts of strange and funny crossovers I can use it with, and I want it to come with support. It shouldn't insult me, my gender, my (lack of) intelligence, or my personal choices, but it should allow me to challenge them. I want it to have places I can take notes in the book. Heck, I want a workbook. I want things I can distribute to my players. Most of all, I want the author(s) to be really, really enthusiastic about their product AND have them be talented enough to bring that same enthusiasm to me without it just shouting, "SQUEE!"

    I'd also like a red wagon. And a pony.

    Thank you.
  • It needs to have cool, evocative artwork that ties directly into the content on the page spread.
    It needs to have props: cards, miniatures, a board, pre-generated characters on index cards, tokens, dice included, etc. (not ALL of these, just some.)
    Replay value through the roof.
    Smooth, easily learned basic mechanics. The game should be easy to explain to newcomers, and easy to launch into.
    Beautiful physical product.

    ...Energetic game designers who take their customers seriously and really communicate their product well.
  • Hmm. Cost being no factor, I'd much rather use the Solar System than Ptolus.
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