Thursday, May 22, 2014
Supply and demand of games
Jeff Vogel recently claimed that the indie bubble was popping because there were simply too many games chasing the same, barely growing, pool of gamer money. That is simply a matter of supply and demand. While casual and mobile games have increased the number of gamers a lot over the last decade, the new gamers spend a lot less on games than the core gamers.
That is going to make it difficult for games that are, or are perceived to be, expensive. And for once I don't want to talk about MMORPGs here. Instead I am somewhat worried about the future of Dungeons & Dragons. The core books of the 5th edition just have been announced, and there are (as usual) three books you need to play: The Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, and the Monster Manual. And they cost $50 per book, for a whopping total of $150. And then you don't have any of the $30 adventures yet, or dice. There are six dice in the $20 starter set, so if you buy that and one adventure, you are at $200.
Now somebody is going to remark that the D&D books were never very cheap. But as I said in the beginning, times have changed. When I started playing D&D over three decades ago, there weren't many alternatives if you wanted to pretend to be an elvish wizard. Now a fantasy game on your mobile phone can be had for less than the price of a cup of coffee. $200 buys you a LOT of games in Humble Bundles and Steam sales. In the long run D&D isn't so bad, because your initial investment can last you and your friends for a very long time. But that initial cost might put a lot of people off.
It is good that the first 5th edition product is the $20 starter set, which at least gets new players a basic pen & paper experience for not much money. But from there to the real thing is a huge step. And the pricing strategy to me looks like a step backwards from how 4E Essentials were priced. I am sure a lot of D&D veterans, grown up and having money, will buy the 5E books. But as a product to attract new players to the hobby it seems less than ideal.