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TGC, PnP etc. Free vs. Paid

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Fhizban
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Did not come up with a better title. Let me try to explain:

We have in our modern world several ways of publishing a game by ourselves in order to do two things: A. make the game available to our audience and B. also charge money for it.

My question would now be: How well presented (layout, art) should a game be for you to pay a (modest) amount of money for it IN COMBINATION with one of the distribution channels we as indie developers have available.

Clunky wording, I try to explain more:

PRINT-AND-PLAY TITLE
So, in case of a entirely print-and-play title that you publish yourself on one of the available platforms (or your own website). Yeah I know, that won't give you many sales, but at least it exposes your game to the public. Now what would you be willing to pay and how good should a game be? I dont want to know exact numbers. More like:

A. NOTHING
Such a game should always be free. No matter how well presented it is. Its a lot of effort to assemble a game on your own anyway. Let us see this more of an additional distribution (and also advertising) channel.

B. A BIT (IF ITS GOOD)
Just a few bucks to protect the mental child of the creator and help him. But even then, it has to be good (in terms of art, layout etc. not rules).

C. FULL PRICE
Would someone really be willing to pay the full price for a Print and Play title? I see lots of RPG lorebooks on drivethrurpg that sell for 25-50 dollars (50!) and always wonder how that works.

...

THE GAMECRAFTER
Now, I would like to repeat the question for a Gamecrafter release. How much would anybody pay? Nothing is not possible in that case.

A. A BIT
Basically just the production cost, nothing more. And it would have to be good (I for myself dont want to have badly designed components on the shelf).

B. FULL PRICE
So yeah the full price, it has to be good i guess. I would pay that, even +10 so that the author earns something. But then it must feature a great layout and art. Thats a requirement.

...

PROFESSIONAL PRINT RUN

I guess this one justifies the full price being paid. We just assume the components, art and layout are good in this case.

...

COMBO
Plus any combination of the above. Imagine the title is available in various forms, would that impact your vision of the pricing?

Would you rather prefer a FREE print and play version with a more polished PAID version offered via TGC or as full print run later on?

...

Hope you got the pip of this question. Im interested to hear your thoughts guys!

FrankM
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The Combo Option

I'm not a big spender on board games myself, so not the right person to ask about pricing.

I will mention that having different versions available for different prices is known by the rather unfortunate name second-degree price discrimination. The way to do this profitably is to figure out several different plausible price points.

The cheapest version is priced at what the stingiest group (that you're willing to serve) is willing to pay. These folks get no discount off of their willingness to pay, or in economic-speak they get zero surplus.

Figure out a quality/feature that some are willing to pay for. Price it somewhat below that willingness-to-pay, but above the cheapest version for the stingiest customers. They get some surplus to entice them to buy this version rather than the cheapest.

Figure out a higher price point that goes even further on the original quality, or maybe adds a second one. Calibrate the price so a group of people get more surplus here than in the first two versions.

Keep building higher and higher versions as long as you can find an audience for each. Getting more than two versions with positive sales is really hard unless you're giving away a ladder of premium add-ons (like many Kickstarters) or dealing with such a huge market that there'll be someone out there willing to buy just about any level (see the many versions of Microsoft Office).

I'd be fine selling a PnP version of Horeman's Chess for a nominal price (right now as a WIP the fair price is about $0) and a full version with purpose-built pieces. I doubt anyone would want a super-premium hand-painted titanium set, though I wouldn't be upset to be wrong about that :)

Fhizban
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Im currently leaning towards

Im currently leaning towards this solution (thats for one of my own games, your point of view might be different):

1. It's not a commercial project and not geared towards making money. But I don't want to make it 100% free either.

2. The plan is to have a 100% free PnP version available on DriveThruRPG and my own website, plus any other download sites I might come across.

The PnP version will use a simpler design and less art.

3. There will be a "premium" version available via The Game Crafter a little bit later.

The TGC version features a better design and full color art.

This version will cost around 20$, a possible expansion around 10$.

let-off studios
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Contributions, PWYC

You may also want to consider "pay-what-you-can" and "pay-what-you-want."

DTRPG and other sites like itch.io, charity sites like Humble Bundle, and even your fantasy stock art site, provide options for a contribution-based pay model, where a minimum price can be set but if the purchaser wants to they can add more to their own purchase price. This is also a variation on the "sliding scale" admission price for those "currently experiencing financial setbacks," or something to that effect.

In a way, it sets the bar at the minimum referred to by FrankM in his post, but opens the opportunity for those currently flush with cash and sufficiently generous to chip in a little extra.

Also, on DTRPG, there are folks who provide something for no-cost for maybe a week, and then charge a small fee afterward. The inverse of that is also true: charge $X for the first week or two, but set it as no-cost after that.

I can only speculate (as this is quite far outside my realm of interest and experience), but my assumption is that "free first, pay later" would eventually generate more income than the flipped version of that model. But you may be able to capitalize on the "cult of the new" who impulsively/compulsively purchase stuff because it's the newest, freshest game on the market... In which case the "pay first, free later" model would be worthwhile.

Personal anecdote... Earlier this year, just for the heckuvit, I decided to charge for my personal software projects (these are largely retro-style arcade games), which are normally no-cost. I set a minimum price of US$2, where people could have one day when my games would cost money.

Sure, it was only four people, and it was no one I didn't know at least as an acquaintance already, but I was actually paid far and above the US$2 I asked. I didn't follow-up and ask why people chose to pay me money, but they did: either they like my games, they had spare cash, they think I'm a nice person, the incentives I provided were worth it, or something else. I don't know.

AdamRobinGames-ARG
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I am only speaking from a personal habit

As for a PnP, it would need to be pretty darn good to put forth a few dollars. But I would be in the B camp.

The Game Crafter, I would likely be willing to pay the PnP price + production.

Finally, to address the combo, I have a few games that I think I would provide a PnP version with a limited set of cards and a published full version. This gives people a taste of the game in hopes they enjoy enough to buy.

FrankM
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A worked-out example

Just did a rough estimate of what serviceable TGC versions of Horseman's Chess would cost under three options.

A PnP doesn't really cost anything other than the set-up cost of making the rules (already in hand) and illustrations (for which I'd budget a few hundred dollars).

For cut cardstock on plastic stands, a medium rulebook, a folding 16"x16" board, and a medium stout box, it's a production cost of $31.03 to $33.53.

Using custom acrylic pieces would have roughly double the production cost at $57.60 to $64.10.

Those are a big jump from *maybe* $5 for PnP (I see very few priced over that).

A high-volume solution with injection-molded plastic would require a Kickstarter that I don't have the time or marketing skills to do, so my three potential versions would cost $0-$5, the retail price for $32-ish cost, and retail price for $60-ish cost.

(Edit: typo)

(Edit 2: The board is the most mispriced part since I don't want anything fancy. Figured out I could actually use 4 square mats instead of a folding board for that middle version, which would bring the production cost down to $22.85.)

Fhizban
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Did the same calculation for

Did the same calculation for one of my card games. Just out of curiosity if printing at TGC (with a few sales in mind) makes sense at all:

1. A 120 card deck without any rules or packaging costs 12.51 $ - thats the optimal number of cards required

2. A 60 card deck still costs $ 7.53 (its not 50% of the above due ot handling fee). That would be the absolute minimum, without any freedom for deckbuilding.

Wow. thats quite a LOT already.

Not mentioning art, or tokens, or even a board...

larienna
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My only experience is that

My only experience is that PnP paid games does not pay much. I made at most 100$ with in average 5-8$ per game.

I would go for game crafters with 1-2$ profit. And a free PnP version.

If it works well, then try a bigger print run if it can lower your cost.

Or like microcosm: Free pnp and commercial print run.

questccg
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PNPs are normally UNDER $5.00 USD.

The other point I wanted to make, the AVERAGE "Profit" on a game that can be purchased on "The Game Crafter" is around $5.00 USD (Profit). There is a 30%/70% split on one-off production.

Go to "PNP Arcade" (https://www.pnparcade.com) and have a look at what is SELLING. I took a look and most games are at $3.00 USD. I don't know how much VOLUME they get... They (PNP Arcade) take 30% off each sale. So on $3.00, they get $0.90 USD (Less than a dollar).

As for "The Game Crafter" ... TradeWorlds was available to purchase on TGC ... But Mike and Stan asked to remove the older version as not to confound people between the 4 Player Version and the 1 Player Solo Boxes on TGC. I made over $800 USD on TGC (from TradeWorlds).

The KEY to TGC is knowing HOW to make a game FOR THEIR PLATFORM. It's like the game needs to be TAILORED to FIT (with TGC). I am working on 2 designs that "FIT" TGC. One WILL be entirely made on TGC, the second IDK ATM. The first one will introduce me to managing my own KS campaign and having TGC handle the "manufacturing & fulfillment". It will be my first INDEPENDENTLY run KS (with no external support). Seeing how that goes will impact the NEXT "game".

I think TGC is a GREAT RESOURCE but you need to fit the TGC "Mold". If you can do that... Well then, congrats to you... You should be able to squeak out some sales and then look for a Publisher to retail your game.

Would I GET EXCITED about PNPs??? No, another Designer and I worked on a PNP with Mechs. It was pretty cool... But got no attention or traction. 0% ... nobody was interested. Terrible reception led to the other designer "abandoning" the project. So I'm not really a FAN of PNPs. I personally HATE cutting my OWN prototypes. The quicker I can get TGC to make my prototypes, the BETTER!

PNPs also have a "mold" to fit too. Limited amount of components, Micro Decks of cards too. Under 20 cards I would say. Shared components need to be "lite" too...

But you probably get the idea... Best of luck(!?) with your game idea...

Fhizban wrote:
A 60 card deck still costs $ 7.53.

That is reasonable because a BICYCLE Deck of 52 cards is sold for about $6 to $8 CAD. Not at the Dollar store where you can get CHEAP cards, I mean the real DECK of standard cards.

So $7.50 add $2.50 = $10 USD for YOUR game.

With TGC and with games GENERALLY, you want UNDER 100 cards. 120 is too much. Your Magic Deck is 60 cards. IF POSSIBLE, your plan for 60 cards should be the proper SIZE of your game's DECK (per player).

How you can PROFIT from your GAME...!? Is make 100 cards and then use a Deck size of 60 out of 100. With TGC you can make EACH GAME CUSTOM. Do this and you can SQUEEZE out more... Like $15 USD (double). You can BUY Magic Decks for $9.99 USD. Each one of your purchases is a CUSTOM game.

Just some thoughts for you to think about. I don't steal from customers, I offer VALUE. And a CUSTOM deck for $15 USD is reasonable (+ Shipping). You've got to take into consideration all the ART too. 100 cards is a lot of ART... I find 80 pieces is a LOT. But that comes with the territory of making GAMES with CARDS!

So yeah, you can make a project with TGC for CERTAIN. You just want to go into the project understanding your MARGINS, not only costs. And remember 100 cards is already HIGH in terms of ART fees... There is a financial investment done in producing said art!

questccg
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The OTHER avenue...

Instead of 100 unique cards, create A MINIMUM-SIZED deck of let's say 60 card. That deck (call it a "Starter-Kit") will have duplicates of many of the cards (let's say to a maximum of 4 per kit). So 60/4 = 15 UNIQUE cards.

Okay work with 15 UNIQUE cards and maybe ADD +10 others. So 25 UNIQUE cards. That's about $2,500 in art commissions! But $2,500 is VERY FAR from $10,000 for 100 unique cards.

This is BEING SMART! I work hard to reduce the amount of investment required by my games (or more so these days -- because finances are tight).

These are things that I am sharing... As ways to DRIVE the cost of production down to more affordable numbers. You've got to WORK, WORK, and WORK some more to drive down your figures (on art and components).

But this is one DEFINITE way of "looking" in a neutral way at your product and seeing how you can literally "trim off the fat"!

Fhizban
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@questccg: As always: Very

@questccg:

As always: Very insightful and interesting, thank you for that.

TGC-Design/Non-TGC-Design - thats a highlight, completely new point of view for me. Very good to know.

The deck size idea is also good, i guess i would go with a 60 deck instead of 120. And make it playable, if anybody wants, he could order another box to have the full amount of card copies available to play with.

I would not go as far to commission any art for such a project, but keeping the card count low is of course the best idea to have less pieces of art.

pelle
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If I find out that the PNP is

If I find out that the PNP is in any way limited, with less art or other things missing, I would definitely not pay for it. An optional low-ink version included is great, but if the game is good I do not mind printing the real version.

Otherwise, for something that I do not know much about or has any other high expectations on, that I know I will most likely end up not printing, I will not pay much. Probably not more than $1. It is not worth very much to me to just download a PDF and look at it and skim through the rulebook. Not that I do not find that entertaining, but it is not worth as much as actually printing and playing a game.

For an established game of some kind, that I feel confident I will actually get printed and played, I can happily go up to $5-$10, sometimes up to $20 (even for a RPG rulebook or miniature games rulebook PDF). I probably sunk at least $50 into print'n'play Car Wars and piles of PDF expansions for it, for instance. But this will only work for you once your game has become very successful and then been out of print for a few decades. This beats having to track down a used copy on ebay that is going to be way more expensive anyway, plus with a PNP version I can easily modify it and print extra components if I want to, and there is no risk of anything missing in the box.

Never bought anything from TGC as they are not very cheap PLUS international shipping is extreme. There was a small game I considered buying, that would have been $80, plus often games are caught in customs here and have some $20 or so added in extra taxes etc. I do not want to pay $100 for a game that would probably be around $15 if it had a large normal print-run. Until someone can work out how to do print on demand well internationally I will prefer print'n'play. I know I have ordered print on demand books that were printed and shipped from Europe somewhere, but I do not know of any company that do that for board games yet.

Fhizban
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After following this thread

After following this thread for a while, i think its safe to say:

Print-and-Play should be FREE, although it is possible to make a modest amount of money from it, thats no desirable goal.

A PnP version provided for free is bonus marketing though and helps to get more people interested in the game. Even if those people don't print and play the game, they might convert into buyers later on.

questccg
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Some additional thoughts

Maybe make a TableTop Simulator version of the game. I know TableTopia is another option. But you're limited to the number of games you can design until you have to pay a MONTHLY fee. You buy TableTop Simulator ONCE and then you design your own Module(s). I think you can even SELL the Module for a couple dollars like $5 USD or make it FREE for more Advertising and encourage people to buy the physical version of the game.

This is a BETTER option IMHO.

pelle
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There is also (still) VASSAL

There is also (still) VASSAL that is just free, no strings attached, no limits.

http://www.vassalengine.org/

Most recent version less than a week ago. There has been many new versions this year with long lists of improvements and new features, for an engine that already was very mature and stable for years (decades?) of development.

let-off studios
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Virtual Tabletops

Regarding TableTopia:
I shied away from it as soon as I learned that it was subscription-based after a certain level. I immediately opted for Table Top Simulator instead, which required only a one-time purchase. TTS requiring premium purchases for only some games instead of a constant subscription was a move in favor of the player, which was nice to see and was instantly more attractive to me.

Regarding VASSAL:
I am impressed they've upped their game lately (pun not intended). I remember when they were THE big fish in a very small pond, so to speak, and I have a feeling they felt the need to focus development on user-friendliness and graphical improvements to stay relevant in the current field.

questccg
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The only DOWNSIDE to TTS is...

That you need to install "Steam"! From my experiences, "Steam" is a resource hogging app that updates at the wrong time, forces you to be logged in as much as possible and has TROUBLES when it is NOT connected to the Internet. TBH sometimes I disconnect my Network cable (no WIFI) every now and then when I am working on things that don't need the Internet.

So with TableTopia you need NOTHING. You just go to their website put the name of the game you want to play and hit SEARCH and it will find you a LOT of games. No need to install anything (no app) and no need to download anything (no DLCs).

But the downside is I believe you are only allowed ONE (1) Free Game on TableTopia... Then you need to pay a monthly fee. I personally have used TableTopia for "TradeWorlds" and it's FREE to play 2 Players Head-to-Head.

However IF I was a GAMER, I would probably spend the $10 USD on TableTop Simulator and pay for whatever DLCs (Games) that I want (which are not free... There are some that ARE FREE ... but not all).

let-off studios
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TTS In-App Purchases

questccg wrote:
However IF I was a GAMER, I would probably spend the $10 USD on TableTop Simulator and pay for whatever DLCs (Games) that I want (which are not free... There are some that ARE FREE ... but not all).
You're making me think just a bit more about this, questccg...

For those cheap -and- enterprising folks, they could simply use the TTS tools to cobble together their own version of Twilight Imperium or whatever, and be satisfied with their own no-cost version of that premium game, and still have the "perks" of the Steam interface, as you note above.

But I suspect that someone who really loves one of the premium games on offer for TTS will shell out the money for that one-time purchase. It still seems a better deal to go for that, instead of a monthly subscription.

You could even make an argument that the one-time purchase of the premium game in TTS is better than attempting to make your own in TTS or TableTopia, simply because the process can be time-consuming and likely wouldn't have the same custom features and components found in the premium version. The time not spent making your own version could be spent playing the game itself.

And typical fans of board games that we're talking about here aren't exactly the kind who would balk at a US $5 - $10 purchase, so the premium version provides a great return on investment.

Kinda leaving VASSAL out of this, but it has a reputation problem in terms of user-friendliness that will be tough to beat when it comes to competing with TTS or TT. In comparison, personally I still see that as more of a "niche" tool.

questccg
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You know it's making me feel FUNNY about BOTH...

Literally in TableTopia you can play 1,000 of games. TableTop Simulator comes with only about 20 or so games. All the rest of the games are DLCs and you must PAY for that game.

So I think for the PLAYER, it's less expensive to use TableTopia with nothing to download and install.

For the CREATOR, it's probably better to use TableTop Simulator because the "sandbox" is one of the useful features to designing your OWN DLCs. I checked on Steam and there are 42 DLCs you can pay to download.

Compare that to 1,000 of TableTopia games FREE... Hmm... @Let-off you may want to re-think that TTS purchase and just use the FREE TT account/level.

Just an observation, by digging deeper into BOTH "worlds". Cheers!

let-off studios
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Sure

questccg wrote:
Compare that to 1,000 of TableTopia games FREE... Hmm... @Let-off you may want to re-think that TTS purchase and just use the FREE TT account/level.
Leaving aside the frequency at which I play games online... You're probably right, questccg. :)

questccg
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I agree with you 100%

let-off studios wrote:
Leaving aside the frequency at which I play games online... You're probably right, questccg. :)

No I'm sure you don't have time to play many games (online or in-person). I was just stating this as "What is the better deal". FREE 1,000 games or $20 for 20 games plus a Sandbox you can create your own content.

I was surprised at how one has 1,000 of games and the other 42. Hmm!?

That seems wrong, I thought these two apps/tools were on the SAME LEVEL. Guess not...! Maybe I'm searching wrong, IDK.

pelle
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VASSAL IS ugly. I hope the

VASSAL IS ugly. I hope the planned rewrite for version 4.0 will bring it into this century because many will judge the engine from its looks probably. But it is very powerful, and it has a focus on allowing a module designer to make games as playable as possible, with game-specific shortcuts, and to add overlays and such to graphics to make them often much more userfriendly than the original game tokens. There is no attempt to make the game look and behave exactly like the physical game, as that is very suboptimal on a screen. No physics engine or 3D or other gimmicky distractions (big plus).

It is also the only serious FREE alternative we have. Free as in open source and all that. No gatekeeping what modules can be used, or preventing anyone from modifying a module to their liking (thus improving usability even further). Other than the two companies offering TTS and Tabletopia it is a win for everyone in the hobby if a free alternative can be more popular, preferably to set the standard (and eventually maybe lead the way to a standard module file format for easily sharing modules between different engines, as many have dreamed about for ages).

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