OgreCave

Audio Report: wow, someone bought a CCG

November 17th, 2006: admin says...
Audio Report: wow, someone bought a CCG

The WoW news leads off this show, followed by another trip into the bad neighborhood that is the RPG PDF market, and some final thoughts about Gen Con SoCal before we charge into some thorough and fascinating RPG play reports from the last Endgame MiniCon. Check it.

33 Comments »

33 comments

  1. Philip Reed says:

    I think you guys are seriously underestimating the size of the PDF market.

  2. misuba says:

    Phil, if you can link to (or provide) some data that will give us a more correct idea, we’d be thrilled.

  3. Philip Reed says:

    I no longer share my own sales info but it has been reported that RPG sales were $2 million for 2005.

    Contact me privately for more information.

  4. Philip Reed says:

    Note: RPG PDF sales. Sorry, clicked the button too fast.

  5. Allan Sugarbaker says:

    To my mind, we were mainly talking about the lowest end of the PDF industry, the end which could benefit from a slightly increased barrier of entry. But we didn’t really make that clear, nor did we dicuss the upper-end PDF publishers.

    $2 million? Did the RPG PDF market reach adulthood already? Though I’m sure that number is boosted by the major publishers releasing their old print products again in electronic versions.

  6. Adam says:

    Wait — didn’t someone. during the show, mention that one of the vendors charged a fee for new publishers, and it sounded to me like they were trying to spin it as a bad thing. Isn’t that an increased barrier to entry, and therefore a good thing, or at least, COULD be a good thing?

  7. misuba says:

    It’s not much of a barrier when your competitors aren’t doing it. And if the PDF site that did this spun it into any kind of “we pass the quality on to the buyer” message – or indeed, if any PDF site has tried to make selectivity part of their marketing – well, we haven’t heard about it.

  8. Philip Reed says:

    In the podcast you guys, it seemed to me, looked down your noses at the smaller, $2 PDFs. These things sell; they’re impulse buys as people grab other stuff.

    As someone with hundreds of these things, and tens of thousands dollars in sales each year, I seriously think you’re missing the point of shorter, inexpensive PDFs.

    And “101 whatevers . . . ” were something I started and, again, are something that generate more income that any of you seem to realize.

    I quit my job at SJGames 2 1/2 years ago to publish PDFs. It’s working for me.

  9. Lee Valentine says:

    Guys, you DO NOT get pricing on PDFs at all. You aren’t devaluing other people’s work. Do the math. Do you guys actually know what percentage the author of a small press RPG product in distribution makes? Profit margins can be very low. And if you are merely the author, rather than the publisher, then you either get a silly low percentage or a low flat rate to the tune of a couple hundred dollars for a small RPG supplement.

    As a PDF, frequenly (after RPGNOW’s 30% cut), you make 70% of the price you sell the PDF for. So the author’s per unit cut can actually be HIGHER in PDF sales than it is in print sales. The catch is, that you are pulling out retailers, distributors, middle-man publishers, etc., and the author is directly selling the product and directly reaping the bulk of the profits.

    If you took the print product, subtracted 60% off the top of the retail price for distribution/retail cuts, and subtracted out shipping and printing, you’d find that PDFs can actually make a HIGHER per unit profit margin for a small press author than the print products can.

    You’ll spend 100% of all the same hours developing a print product, but then you have to take a risk printing 1000+ copies or going to Print on Demand. A lot of products that are available as PDFs are available as POD. POD is really only useful for direct sales unless, again, you do it in some volume and hunt around a lot to find a cheap, reliable POD outlet.

    And printing by traditional methods will bite you hard if you are a small press publisher, as many such games sell 100 to 300 copies and you print 3 to 10 times as much as you need to get your price point down.

    Once you send a print product into distribution, you will only see 40% of the cover price of the book. And that you have to take out printing costs, shipping costs, art and writing costs, and development costs.

    Compare that to a PDF where you get about 70% of the value you sell the PDF for, and out of that you now do not have to take out printing costs and shipping costs.

    Consider also, that to even get into distribution is a fairly large pain in the neck (and may be impossible for some vendors) compared to going on to RPGNOW and signing up as a vendor and then you instantly have shoppers, an e-commerce solution, etc.

    Also, keep in mind that some shorter PDFs (10 pages or so), may make you some money on the PDF market, but might not sell at all through distribution.

    When you do the math, you’ll realize quickly that:

    * for people who have professional volume like Monte Cook and Phil Reed, PDFs are a great money makers, and that Ogre Cave is really underestimating how much people like Phil Reed make selling PDFs.

    * some things will sell as PDFs that would not sell at all in distribution

    * some people with great ideas but no industry clout can build a name for themselves selling PDFs where they otherwise would be fully closed off from distribution channels.

    * the author’s profit margin on PDFs can be equal or higher per unit than it is on a print product

  10. Lee Valentine says:

    RPGNOW charges $40.00 to become a vendor (at least the level of vendor I am) and they actually even charge $10.00 (in addition to the $40.00) to list a free product.

  11. Lee Valentine says:

    You guys put down cheap PDFs.

    Most cheap PDFs are SHORT!! Almost nobody is out hocking a 100 page RPG for a buck on RPGNOW.

    You said, de facto, that WotC prices it’s old stuff at reasonable prices, and isn’t underselling themselves. Well, some of their prices are around $5.00 per 40 page module. That’s about $1.00 per 8 pages. That’s 12.5 cents a page.

    You guys made a wise crack about $2.00 PDFs. Compare that to a 10 page Ronin Arts PDF that sells for $2.00. That’s 20 cents per page. Actually more per page than a Wizards of the Coast out of print module. Even if this PDF were only $1.00 it would only be a few cents less per page than product produced by Wizards of the Coast. But it’s actually MORE per page than a WotC product.

  12. Lee Valentine says:

    WoW is not the only CCG with Todd McFarlane art.

    In January 2007, Powerstorm also has some Todd McFarlane art and we have Marc Silvestri and Michael Turner art as well.

    The funniest piece of art we have is Todd McFarlane’s drawing of Ripclaw with Marc Silvestri’s face on him.

  13. Lee Valentine says:

    Chris — is that zombie video game the one where you can pick up a soccer ball and kick it, ricocheting it off multiple zombie heads? I saw that on G4 and it looked hilarious.

    Fun show, guys. I’ve been posting as I’ve been listening. One of the most thought provoking episodes in a while.

  14. Allan Sugarbaker says:

    Phil: The more I read these comments, the more I think the RPG PDF industry has gained much wider acceptance than it had just a couple years ago. I’m wondering if the industry’s multiple distributor debacles (Wizard’s Attic, Osseum, etc) have provided incentive for publishers to really get behind the PDF industry and give it the support it didn’t have previously.

    Lee: Working backwards through your comments – about Dead Rising, yes, it’s the same game you saw on G4. I saw the same show, and it was highly amusing. Yet another reason I need an Xbox 360.

    And yes, I *thought* WotC and other large publishers were severely cutting the price on *some* of their older products when released as PDFs. I didn’t realize that practice was quite as prevalent as it appears to be now. Sales must have slowed on those at the higher prices.

    Also agreed that print products have a lower margin and bigger initial outlay/risk. The prevailing theory was that print products were seen by a larger audience (at least, those that got into distribution). Perhaps the number of PDF consumers has reached a more viable level in the last couple of years.

  15. Adam says:

    “Selectivity” was a big part of how DTRPG portrayed itself in the early days, at least to the companies that it was trying to work with. It was supposed to be the place where the “real” publishers sold their eBooks. I am hideously paraphrasing based on my memories of the documents they sent around in early 2003, of course, but that was the gist of it.

    I’d assume that after that, they realized that since it costs very little for them to add new products to the catalog, so they went after more and more companies — after all, the more products they had for sale, the more potential sales they would have, and they don’t have to pay [beyond, again, the time it takes to get them input into the database, and the completely negligible disk space] to store merchandise.

    Alan sez: “The more I read these comments, the more I think the RPG PDF industry has gained much wider acceptance than it had just a couple years ago.”

    Absolutely. I’m surprised that it took you this long to notice … maybe some of this show’s discussion on PDF sales and vendors isn’t as relevant as it could be?

  16. Allan Sugarbaker says:

    I’m surprised that it took you this long to notice … maybe some of this show’s discussion on PDF sales and vendors isn’t as relevant as it could be?

    So it would seem. Personally, I’m looking to reacquaint myself with the status of the RPG PDF market.

  17. Philip Reed says:

    It’s actually grown so large that I’m amazed Alliance or ACD hasn’t stepped in with their own store.

  18. timopod says:

    you know, i think my problem (well one of my problems) is I can’t seem to get how many role players there are out there. My thinking is “ok, maybe 10,000 role players will look at a rpg pdf”. Now I know theres probably more then 10,000 people on the internet, and sure, theres problably more then 10,000 role players. But I think I have trouble with the numbers game. I run out of toes and fingers to quickly to count how many people might be paying for a rpg pdf.

    How popular are these things? Are they saleing in the 100,000’s? do rpg books (like you browse at the store) even sell that many?

    I guess I just don’t understand how big the market is casue i’ve lived in small towns and what not. (well sept for maryland, dream wizards was a rocking store!)

  19. Lee Valentine says:

    Allan, it’s not that WotC is slashing prices. Prices on their older products haven’t varied a lot (I think). Figure that the minimum cost for most PDFs (unless they’re free) is around $1.00. In general, a PDF is priced at 8 cents to 20 cents per page (even for a lot of new PDFs from major vendors). The price per page tends to go down slightly for longer PDFs. And it goes down further for a larger PDF from a little known PDF publisher.

    So, while Green Ronin, Phil Reed, and some smaller PDF publishers may all have a comparable per page price on shorter PDFs, Green Ronin seems to be able to set a higher upper level price for a longer PDF than a lesser known publisher. Part of this, I suspect, is just because of name recognition. At the same time, I suspect that part of this (with Green Ronin, for example), is that the PDF is being used as laptop reference for something with the player (or someone in his group) already owns in print. This latter point is important, because people will value a PDF less per page if its longer and they feel they have to print it out, because then they are factoring in time, hassle, ink, paper, and finished product quality.

    I guarantee that most people who are buying a 200+ page PDF primarily to own a printed copy would rather purchase a professionally printed copy if it’s anywhere near the cost of the PDF plus printing.

    Consider that if it costs you 5 cents per page to print a 200 page PDF then that’s $10.00 plus another $3.00 or so for binding. Thirteen bucks on top of the base PDF price. Figure that if you actually intend on printing this out the PDF better not be that darn expensive, particularly from an unknown publisher.

    A lot of people who don’t buy PDFs regularly feel that because they aren’t printed, that they must therefore be crap. I can tell you that I’ve bought a lot of drech in print. It happens a little more often in PDF form because barriers to entry are lower. However, there are also a lot of great PDF products. What I do think is true of PDFs is that MANY of them are about slightly less popular and more obscure topics than what can survive in a print market.

  20. Philip Reed says:

    RPG books selling 100,000 copies? No. Not at all. Nowhere near.

    Try 1/50th to 1/100th that for a lot of the books that hit game stores.

  21. Chris says:

    Sure seems like there is a LOT of snowballing going on here, so ya, hooray PDFs!

  22. Adam says:

    I’m pretty sure that a good portion of people who buy larger PDFs don’t print them out, or don’t print them out in their entirety. An informal poll I saw relating to one game line [Shadowrun] specifically indicated that over a third of buyers bought both the print books and the PDF. Obviously, these people may be printing out some parts of the PDF to use at their game table, but a good portion are buying PDFs for the bookmarks, searchability, etc — having the content in two different formats is worth the dual expense for these people.

    It’s pretty badass to tell Acrobat to search all the PDF files in a directory for the name of an NPC, and get all the canon references to them within a few moments.

  23. Philip Reed says:

    If you guys ever decide to discuss PDFs in your podcast again feel free to ask me questions and I’ll try to help as best I can.

    This RPGNow/DTRPG merger isn’t quite the tiny, insignificant event you seem to think it is. It’s huge and, if publishers aren’t careful, is the second step to a situation that will halt and possibly reduce the growth of the PDF industry.

  24. PaulofCthulhu says:

    We have a few PDFs on Lovecraftiana and the big boon for us is no ‘real world’ shipping issues.

    We plan to offer more in the future, which reminds me Philip, I need to send you commission at the end of the month!

  25. Allan S (not that one) says:

    Two comments from someone who doesn’t listen to podcasts. (ie – take this for what it’s worth).

    Without knowing the details behind the merger… if I _had_ to place a bet on it… I would have to guess that the RPGNow-DriveThru merger is not a sign of a healthy market.
    Given the assumption that a healthy market is one that can support multiple distribution channels that is.

    My personal experience with $2 pdfs has left me unhappy with the format. The couple of times that I’ve purchased one I ended up disappointed with the low quality of the work.
    It wasn’t even a matter of the price – the two things I picked up weren’t even worth the hassle of entering my ordering information, especially given that there were better articles available for free on the web.

  26. timopod says:

    so how does a pdf compaire with a pod book (print on demand) like something from lulu.com or such. Or do people hae the same feeling
    (i don’t think would buy a pdf, i might if i knew what i ws getting ahead of time)

  27. Chris says:

    I am not a fan of PDFs at all, but own a few books that were printed from LuLu. I think in general, their production quality is very high, and haven’t had more than one issue with a product being misprinted. I carry a number of titles in my store that were printed through LuLu.

  28. Lee Valentine says:

    RPGNOW has a number of products that are available as PDF, POD, or PDF + POD. Printing out a work which isn’t worth printing out doesn’t make it any better. Personally I like the option of having a Lulu.com version in addition to a PDF version.

    BTW, in my experience, it’s not the price of the PDF that matters, it’s the author. Some authors reliably produce material that I like. Others aren’t worth a dime. It’s worth checking out the reviews on RPGNOW in many cases.

  29. Rhialto the Marvelous says:

    I’m a printed matter person myself. BUT: In the right hands pdfs can be an art. Greg Porter of BTRC designed the gear supplement (“Stuff!”) for his EABA RPG in such a way that it comes with an in-built spreadsheet that does the number-crunching for you while you’re building, well, stuff (vehicles, guns, whatever). That is pretty impressive.

  30. Lee Valentine says:

    Greg is one of the few PDF authors on RPGNOW who puts a LOT of programming into his PDFs. His print your own CCG, Infinite Armies, won an Origins Award earlier this year. Porter is a great game designer, and I think he’s one of the few designers who formerly worked in print who is now working on PDFs almost exclusively. BTRC is one of the reasons why I’m really happy that RPGNOW exists.

  31. Cassandra says:

    As one of the designers of The Mother of All Treasure Tables, I’d like to thank you for your comments on it, especially on its usefulness and quality. I found it amusing, though, that the review shared the program with your more negative comments on the PDF industry. The reason is that Tabletop Adventures (which was responsible for the actual writing of the book) is a PDF publisher, contracted by Necromancer Games for this project. Just because a company is small, publishes PDF products, or even publishes very short products, does not automatically say anything about the quality of the company or its material. Coincidentally, we even have our own “hundred great treasures” product in the works, and it’s going to be very good.

  32. Tim Gray says:

    Let me add to the crowd saying that if you want to pontificate about PDF products it’d be helpful to have some awareness of the market.

    And frankly the suggestion that people are only doing it properly if they do it your way is somewhat insulting.

  33. misuba says:

    Two questions, then:

    1) How much time should a PDF producer spend making a $2 PDF, and

    2) How many instances should that PDF sell to make the time worth it?

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