I hope to see a lot of you at ThanksGaming tomorrow at Total Escape Games in Broomfield, Colorado. We’re going to have a lot of fun and raise some money for a worthy charity.
Welcome to 2012, the age of digital distribution. Many of my gamer friends are equipped with small tablet computers like iPads and Kindle Fires. Our weekly game includes six people, four of whom have immediate access to a tablet device of one kind or another and PDF versions of rulebooks and sourcebooks, as well as access to the entirety of the internet. This allows them to find a rule, locate errata, and answer the many trivial questions that arise when any group sits around a table. I wish I could call them pioneers, since I’m behind-the-times in this regard, but my friends are hardly at the cutting edge. PDF as a method of distributing content is quite popular. A significant portion of roleplaying game sourcebooks are currently sold digitally and the numbers are growing. But what is the most effective method for selling your digital roleplaying game content?
If you share an interest in producing roleplaying source material with us here at RoleplayDNA, this new reality of distribution is probably fascinating to you. There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to digital distribution, such as the low publishing and delivery expense when compared to the costs of printing and shipping paper books, and the risk of losing sales due to the ease of file duplication. There are design factors at work as well, to make the books more suited to the typically small format of the devices or to make the files more suitable to printing on bitonal printers perhaps. But digital distribution is not something to be avoided; assuming you will distribute your brilliant roleplaying products digitally, you have multiple options for collecting payment.
The vast majority of roleplaying games are sold for a set price. Pay once, receive one product. If you’re writing just one book or gaming aid, this is the appropriate pricing method. Or perhaps you are a prodigious writer/creator, but your products are not closely related, thus selling them as independent products just makes sense.
But if your plan is to produce a series of related products, and you’re looking for a way to encourage customer loyalty and you value steady income over feast-or-famine income, it may be worthwhile to consider a subscription model; It’s been gaining adherents in different industries, such as software and webcomics. But how you structure your subscription plan is up to you. The popularity of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft has created an army of potential customers who are accustomed to paying every month for continuous play and regular updates. D&D Insider provides game supplements and online tools for a monthly fee, but as I understand it core books sold separately. Pathfinder has a subscription plan that’s really more of a commitment to buy new products as they come out.
What to charge users should of course be based upon how frequently you can commit to putting out new material and an honest analysis of the value of your work. And, the lower buy-in cost of a subscription as compared to an up-front purchase means you, the creator, won’t be receiving a fat and sudden influx of cash. But, don’t be intimidated by the potential complications – there are services out there that you can take advantage of to take the worry out of setting up subscriptions and taking payments. Of course, if you’re a totally unproven commodity, attracting subscribers will be a challenge.
Ron and I occasionally discuss the topic of digital distribution and pricing, but I haven’t heard your opinions. Let’s hear from the other writers out there. Have you had experience with this, from the sales side or the purchasing side, and want to share your opinion? Please comment!