How would you make a game for $2.99?

edited March 2011 in Story Games
There was a fairly interesting thread on RPG.net about how to sell a version of D&D for $2.99. I thought that you people here might have an interesting and different set of perspectives on doing it. And I didn't see any reason to restrict the question to D&D exclusively.

So how would you make and sell a physical game (pdf is too easy) for $2.99 per player or less? Could you make a game sold for $2.99 for the whole group? A D&D version for that price?

Comments

  • For my own part, I'm considering actually jumping into doing this, as a birthday present for my daughter and a pure vanity / art project thing. I've found an online POD place that can make an appropriate sized booklet for $2, which is good enough since I'm not trying to make any money off of it. (As I said in the RPG.net thread, a series of 16 page booklets, one for players and one or two for the GM. Aimed at teaching gaming to kids, or at least my kid.)
  • XXXtreme Street Luge is $3, I think.
  • Psh, that's not even difficult. Solar System is a perfectly serviceable game that goes for about $1.5 per player as a pretty normal print product. I paid a bit for the art, even. Nothing to it as long as you don't need anything fancy in printing and are willing to print several hundred copies of whatever it is.

    Requiring any individual player to never have to pay more than $3 is a bit more challenging - with SS, for instance, an individual hopeful still has to actually put down the $5 for the game. I'm as interested as everybody else is in JW's Scoutbooks or similar as a vehicle for a distributed game text. It's an interesting design constraint to compartmentalise a game and sell it in $3 pieces instead of one big bulk. Production costs aren't really insuperable here, it's possible to get them down to $1 per copy, for example, as long as you don't demand more than basic black ink on white paper to read upon.

    Much more challenging than the production of a cheap game to my mind is the issue of marketing and selling the super-cheap thing: the profitability of your average game sale lies largely in the specialty boutique product nature of the roleplaying game, and pushing the price point down low enough basically kills many marketing approaches dead. With a $3 product you'll have to either get the thing to market with minimal effort or figure out how to make selling it so effortless that it's still worthwhile. Your typical small product fares in the marketplace by being attractive to the customer without any special sales work, while the average indie rpg publisher will do $3 of work in merely fulfilling an order. It's not a winning combination if you're selling something at a $1 profit and taking your envelope-filling and mail-running wages out of that. The aforementioned Solar System project is a pretty good illustration in this regard, in fact: not only are rpg sales very price-inelastic (meaning, I could've sold about the same number of product at double the price), but I'm also effectively spending the $3 profit per copy on paying myself or my brother to run to the post office to mail the booklet.

    A cheap product will make the most sense in a fixed point of sale where it can just lie around and attract impulse buys in a situation where the cost of fulfillment is minimal. Not an easy proposition, and probably a pretty basic economic reason for why there aren't many rpgs in the <$5 price range.
  • NewbieDM's RPGKids is only $2.99; though admittedly that's in PDF format. The book's small enough that it could be printed in a small pamphlet that would hit likely hit the $3 price point fairly easily; but I imagine that the profit margin would be almost negligible.

    Personally, I don't think I'd work on developing a single product with a $3 price point that would work for a whole group. I would probably create a simple rule system to go into a "core' book (though pamphlet would probably be more accurate), and then create player pamphlets kinda like Apocalypse World's playbooks to describe character archetypes. This would give a group entry into the game for $3 plus however many player packs they wished to buy.

    Alternatively, card format would be another way I'd go. Cards would be sold for $3 per pack, and packs would cover character archetypes and abilities. Depending on the type of game I was going for, like say I decided to make it a D&D inspired game, then each character archetype would be split into 'core' with the archetype's defining cards and first few levels (say 1-3 for the sake of argument) of powers/stunts/moves in one card pack, the next few levels in another, and the next few levels in another, and so on up to the maximum level designed. So in this fashion, the entry cost for the game starts small, and only grows as much as the players want it to by only buying character archetypes that interest them and level packs they intend to play up to.
  • edited March 2011
    I'd put it in a box (cost about $1), put a nice label on the top and do some stapled, laser-printed booklets for the inside (cost, next to nothing). That would cost about $1.50.

    I CHALLENGE ANYONE TO GET LOWER. Well, I don't really, because I'm sure you can. But I think that $1 - $1.50 price point is more interesting.
  • edited March 2011
    In Italy in the 90's we had I giochi del 2000 (the games of 2,000), which published small (10x14 cm) 32 pages booklets with complete rpgs and/or gaming scenarios. They were sold on a price of 2,000 liras (more or less € 1) and were quite successful.
    Linkie: http://www.mclink.it/com/agonistika/giochidiruolo/2000.htm

    Ciao
    Lorenzo
  • The Princess Game was three dollars. Wrote it in about a month, got some fairly inexpensive art from iStockPhoto.com, printed it at KaBlam (who do comics printing). 24 pages, full-color, three bucks without even going for any bulk discounts.
  • edited March 2011
    Posted By: Colin_FredericksThe Princess Game was three dollars. Wrote it in about a month, got some fairly inexpensive art from iStockPhoto.com, printed it at KaBlam (who do comics printing). 24 pages, full-color, three bucks without even going for any bulk discounts.
    It looks like Ka-Blam charges two to three dollars for that sort of thing. Is that $3 for the actual retail price of the game, or $3 for what Ka Blam charged you? Is there any difference? Did you actually make any money charging that little?
  • I didn't make any money off it - I think the price was about $2.60 per copy plus shipping - but had I actually gone into some real production and gotten a bulk discount, I could have sold it for a reasonable percentage profit. I only had 20 copies made.
  • Yeah, at Scoutbooks you can get 500 32-page booklets for $2 each, but that's basically zero profit. To get closer to $1 a piece, you have to print closer to 1000, and even then you're not making anything. So, if it's a print product, you basically have to consider it a marketing or non-commercial endeavor, which is fine. For PDFs, where you have no up-front production cost, even $3 starts being profitable, especially because you're likely to get a lot more sales without the need for physical distribution. The internet can reach a lot more people that you can, personally, and it seems silly to pay $3 postage for shipping on a $3 booklet.

    If we're talking about D&D, I'd include a mostly pre-genned character with some choices between powers, a prestige class which you could upgrade to after 3 sessions, a few introductory encounters, and GM guidelines for making additional encounters, all in a small 32-page booklet. If you want to play with other folks, you have to either all be the same class -- a detachment of paladins, a cabal of sorcerers -- or you have to buy a different booklet with another class in it (the encounters in the other booklets would also be different and kinda class-specific). It would probably look much more like a hack of Dungeon World than D&D, but that's cool. If there were maps included, I'd put them in the middle of the booklet, so you could tear them out easily as double-sided spreads, probably 2 sheets worth, so four double-sided spreads (8 single pages) worth of maps for encounters.

    That sounds pretty fun to make, actually. Somebody should start a contest, but require all submissions to be compatible with Dungeon World, Dungeon Squad, Red Box Hack or some other indie remix of D&D.
  • I don't think there is anything that I could possibly do to add $2.99 to the value of a game that I had made ;)
  • You could staple three dollars to it.
  • Posted By: J. WaltonYeah, at Scoutbooks you can get 500 32-page booklets for $2 each, but that's basically zero profit. To get closer to $1 a piece, you have to print closer to 1000, and even then you're not making anything. So, if it's a print product, you basically have to consider it a marketing or non-commercial endeavor, which is fine.
    I think you're underestimating what you can do with a home printer and a long-armed stapler. Seriously, you can make things look pretty good, for very little cost.
  • edited March 2011
    <blockquote>Seriously, you can make things look pretty good, for very little cost.</blockquote>

    Or at least more loved.
  • edited March 2011
    Posted By: Graham
    I think you're underestimating what you can do with a home printer and a long-armed stapler. Seriously, you can make things look pretty good, for very little cost.
    This may indeed be a point at which POD doesn't make any sense, or even getting an actual print run. Even with home printer ink being ludicrously expensive, you should be able to print a 16-32 page booklet for less than a dollar (assuming you already own or have access to a decent printer).
  • If you planned on doing home printing of booklets it would probably be beneficial to set yourself up a continuous ink system.
  • I'd print it at work after hours.
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