You only have yourself to blame

As reported over at 6d6Fireball (among other places), Adamant Entertainment have ended their $1.99 pricing model on all of their products and returned to regular pricing, citing that it isn’t sustainable for their business.

This is sad news indeed. What Adamant Entertainment were doing was spear-heading the transition of the PDF RPG market from being one which mimics the print market, to one which more closely models Apple’s App Store. This would have done wonders for the industry; imagine picking up a small adventure for a couple of dollars, or a professionally designed map, or a quick pick-up boardgame. Imagine RPGNow being transformed into some kind of huge RPG-centric App Store with countless fan-made products rubbing shoulders with the professionals for your two dollars and five minutes of fame. Imagine an industry born from a casual gaming model where people will buy something for a few dollars just to try it out. D&D is not Angry Birds, but it should be.

RPGNow is so almost there right now. It’s just the pricing model which needs to change. Gone should be the days of $30+ pdfs (I’m looking at you, Castle Keepers Guide).

Adamant Entertainment were at the forefront of this, and now it’s gone. Their decision has put the potential growth of the industry back months, if not years.

And you know what?

It’s not their fault.

It’s yours.

To those of you who bought ICONS when it was $1.99, I salute you. You have one of the two best superhero RPGs currently available. What is more, you supported both Adamant Entertainment and this pricing model. By buying it you did your bit to show that this pricing model deserves – nay, needs – to work, but it only works if buyers support it.

To those of you who didn’t buy it, hang your head in shame. Even if Superhero RPGs aren’t your thing (they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, granted), Adamant Entertainment produce no end of great products for all manner of systems and genres.

Would it have been too hard just to spare a couple of dollars to support what they were doing? Really?

To Adamant Entertainment, I say this: I understand, and I’m sorry. We let you down.

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12 Responses

  1. DarkTouch says:

    I bought several of the ICONS adventures so I have nothing on my conscience there.. and while I think the App Pricing model has potential I think that Adamant probably needed to make a change as well.

    $1.99 is a great price for a PDF, any PDF. But then you look at some of the sizable source books that Adamant was putting out at that price. I just don’t think the universal pricing model works best unless you’re putting out uniform products. An adventure isn’t the same as a source book.

    I feel like the next cool experiment would be to do app pricing for a modular RPG. Like $1.99 for the D&D core rules, and then an addition $1.99 for everything you need to play a fighter and $1.99 for everything to play a Wizard.

    • greywulf says:

      I would love to see an RPG where each component is available separately for a very low price. Perhaps the core rules could be free with, as you say, the Fighter Pack for $1.99, and adventure for $1.99, a linked set of monsters $1.99.

      Yeah. I’d buy that. The GM would only buy the stuff they need, and the players could get the classes which interest them.

      Hmmmmm……….

  2. Joshua says:

    You have zero obligation to purchase anything from anybody just because you like their business model, that’s just charity. And if you’re going to spend money on charity, you should give it to a real charity. If there aren’t enough people who think Adamant Entertainment’s products are worth $1.99 to make it worth their while to put them out but there are enough who’ll buy it at $15.99, well, then, lesson learned.

    And to the extent that you can guilt people into paying more than they think the thing is worth to support the business model, you’re actually sabotaging the business model. The purchases to show support will eventually dry up, and then what happens to the producers who thought there really was that much demand for these things at that price? If you have any obligation to the sellers, it’s to be honest with them about whether you think their product is worth the price. Only armed with that information can they make good decisions about whether their time and resources would be better spent on something else that actually could make them and the purchasers subjectively better off.

    • greywulf says:

      Joshua, you’re under no obligation to buy anything from anyone, ever, whatever their business model or pricing structure.

      It’s not charity to buy things you support – it’s voting with your wallet. If you don’t want to support it, fine. But I do feel that it is a huge opportunity missed just because the sales did not appear. There’s no doubting Adamant Entertainment’s production quality – they’re great products, whatever the price – and the fact they took this step should have been applauded and supported.

  3. sycarion says:

    Take heart, the model will change anyway. Amazon is already turning into a big App Store for eBooks. The price point there seems to be 2.99.

    The same will happen for RPGNow.

  4. Mad Brew says:

    I’m calling shenanigans!

    Blaming the community (or just your audience) for Adamant’s failure at implementing a business model is bologna. It’s not my fault (or anyone else who didn’t pony up money for their products).

    It’s Adamant’s fault for not producing products that generated enough profit and/or employing effective marketing to support the model.

    I do think Sycarion is right. The model is changing anyways, with or without Adamant’s success.

    This is not a setback, but a foreshadow. It is just a footnote in the period of transition until we arrive at these cheaper price points. Or we don’t (but it seems inevitable to me).

  5. callin says:

    RPGs are a niche market and we need to realize that. We need to look at it the same way as people who collect antique railroad models or that only eat truffles grown in a certain part of the world. I think the business model needs to go the other way.

    RPGs are not apps downloaded by thousands of people. It is a very small and select market, especially so when when you get into the “fringe” of our niche; such things as super-hero games or games about killer bunnies. Your market is small and even smaller the more niche you get. Therefore the price should be going up, not down.

    PDFs are cheaper to make than print books. But this is not an issue of cheap cost, it is an issue of a limited market.

    If your potential market is small then you need to raise prices to keep profitable. RPGs are essentially a luxury item, one where you charge more because there are less people who want them.

    • sycarion says:

      In one sense, is demand is small and supply is small, then the result is higher prices. However, the supply is not small. If you look at all the material available at RPGNow, the supply, regardless of the size of the audience, is huge. This is especially true of PDFs because they are effectively a limitless item.

      PDFs and model trains are not comparable items. Trains are manufactured into physical objects. PDFs, once made are limitless.

      That tends to drive the price down.

  6. Stargazer says:

    I actually bought a couple of Adamant Entertainment products before they dropped the price of their PDFs. ICONS for example was well worth it’s price and I even preordered as soon as they opened preorders. But I wasn’t interested in all of the follow-up products (like adventures), and not the lowest price can convince me to buy something I am not interested in.

  7. greywulf says:

    The Role-Playing Game industry is a huge one that thinks itself small.

    The best data I could find shows there there are 2 and a half million gamers (and lapsed gamers) in the US alone, with easily the same number here in Europe. It would be fair to estimate the worldwide existing RPG consumer base to be about 10 million people who are, or have, played role-playing games.

    That’s all target audience, and it’s certainly not niche.

    • callin says:

      Adamant just made a fascinating post about the pricing change…http://gmskarka.com/2011/04/04/a-failed-experiment/

      To quote a section that lies along the lines of my thoughts…
      “perhaps the consumer pool is too small in this market to drive the kind of numbers where it would work. Perhaps Adamant’s audience base is fairly static, and we’d move roughly the same number of units regardless of our pricing.”

      As for me personally, I do not like pdfs. I recently got Stars Without Number, an excellent “old-school” complete sci-fi rpg. You can get the 200 page book online for FREE as a pdf. Instead I ordered the hardback for $24 (and it was well worth it).

  8. greywulf says:

    Interesting how Adamant made an increase in income of over 200% in January and February, but took a nose-dive in March. Sound to me like the experiment didn’t fail, but Adamant’s handling of it in March did. Up until that point, it was very successful!

    Hmmm. Maybe the customers aren’t quite so to blame after all. I take most of it back.

    I think he’s right about one thing: for the App Store model to work, you have to release often. App Store pricing works best when there’s always something new and shiny on the table. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a full game, a handful of stats, a mini adventure, fragment of a campaign setting or some tokens. Whatever it is, it has to be there, and current. Released should come once every two weeks, at most.

    Likewise, thinking in terms of “sale prices” isn’t going to cut it. You’re not going to get any more sales by reducing your prices from $1.99 to $1.49. Keep it $1.99, all the time, and instead of sales offer some (older, past their newness shiny) products bundled together for $1.99 for a limited time. This keeps the “special” in special offer without impacting your pricing structure.

    I think ditching the App Store pricing was a mistake. Adamant should have looked at those figures, seen what could have been learned from them, and pushed back, hard.

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