Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Castle Keeper's Guide: Pdf Pricing---EPIC FAIL

It's the long awaited tome---the DMG for Castles and Crusades, essentially. Thought to be DnD Vaporware, it finally arrived. I got my credit card out, assuming I would have it on my screen in mere minutes.

But a pdf priced at $31.99? Seriously?

After what Paizo did, I seriously doubt anyone can ever get away with charging more than 10 bucks for a pdf again and hope to make decent sales. For 10 bucks I'll buy anything in pdf format, sight unseen, just to take a chance. A pdf purchase is ultimately a gamble, and at 10 bucks a good one. For 32 bucks I want a goddamned hardcover book with 3-d chicks in chainmail bikinis showing me just how cold it is outside.

Granted they give a preview of the table of contents on the sales page, but without actually thumbing through the whole book in a store (right, like gaming stores exist anymore) I'm not sure of the content and if it will be useful or not. But 32 bucks isn't worth the gamble.

That being said, the guys at TLG are among the coolest guys in gaming. I like their attitude and wish them all the best. I wish they would do an alternative to the Siege Engine thing, as I don't like it in the slightest, but hey, what can ya do.


Clovis Cithog said...

Adamant entertainment prices all their PDFs below $3

their is NO way that
the castke Keeper guide is
10 times more valuable then one
of their egood to excellent PDFs

the flip side - few are going to make a livable wage writing RPGs

Joseph said...

Yikes indeed.

mxyzplk said...

Totally agreed though I don't think Paizo caused it - I never paid more than $10 for a PDF before or after, they were just smart enough to figure out the breakpoint and get in under it.

Tim Shorts said...

I'll wait for a print copy I think. The length it time it took has me a little apathetic towards where a couple years back I would have snatch up a print copy (not the PDF). I don't buy PDFs that are over 50 pages just because I don't like reading it on the computer. I hope it rekindles more interest for C&C because it was the system that got me interested in old school gaming again.

8one6 said...

If someone is charging more than $15 for the PDF of a full sized gaming book (by full sized I mean something longer than 128 pages) I'm not likely to pick it up, and that's for a book from a company I trust to make decent books.

JDJarvis said...

Since the CKG is clearly unnecessary to play C&C (people have been playing without it for 6 or so years)it does seem a might ballsy to try to charge $31.99 for the pdf.

Anonymous said...

They might very well be the coolest guys in gaming, but they have been awful businessmen and publishers from day one. I'm always surprised to hear Troll Lord still exists when someone mentions it once in a great while...

Akrasia said...

An absurd price for a PDF!

And the book is 4 years too late (for me at least).

But I agree that the guys at TLG are decent chaps (except for Peter Bradley).


"They might very well be the coolest guys in gaming, but they have been awful businessmen and publishers from day one. I'm always surprised to hear Troll Lord still exists when someone mentions it once in a great while..."

I couldnt agree more. I've lost all desire to buy the book or the pdf now.

John Reyst said...

Also, as if the ridiculously priced PDF wasn't bad enough, for anyone who cares about it, there's virtually no open game content in the book. C&C wouldn't exist without the OGL so you'd think they'd show a little generosity with it. Doesn't look that way.

Anonymous said...



seriously doubt Ill be paying ANYWHERE NEAR 30 bucks for a PDF.

Nor if it was below 10... or better around 5 bucks..


There were stupid to even advertise that totally ridiculous price... particularly when the PATHFINDER hardback (much thicker, much better art, complete rpg in one book ! - well.. you might want the bestiary... or just use the PFSRD for free) goes for only 31 bucks on amazon with free shipping...

Utterly and completely STUPID.

They might as well have advertised: "Look what idiots we are ! Go ahead and pirate our PDF...

Anonymous said...

I just have the opportunity to take a look into it:
It is a ~290 pages book full of interesting and useful content - without fillers. I don't know if it's worth the price, but it is nonetheless a very GOOD book.

Badmike said...

Anyone bothered to count the spelling errors and typos yet?

Chris Tregenza said...

Interesting that you should publish this just after I had posted my 3rd and final article on PDF Pricing

I think a post-script might be needed referencing your post. said...

This is just about every publisher's greatest fear. That a few companies will charge a low amount for their PDFs and customer's will then demand that low price for all PDFs. In the long run that $10 price for PDFs could be a final death blow to the industry.

When you're dealing with a large market like Pathfinder, you can afford to offer a lower price and sell alot, especially if the book has wide appeal. But when you move to smaller markets like Castles and Crusades, Traveller, Mutants and Masterminds, Spycraft/Fantasycraft, the pool of customers is smaller, thus you need to charge more to recoup the cost of producing the book (let alone make a profit).

If customers start demanding Pathfinder prices but have a Unisystem player pool, you could see those game systems die off.

But this is just one publisher's prospective.

Dale McCoy
Jon Brazer Enterprises

Anonymous said...



get back to me when there is some data on how many people BUY this PDF and how many people HAVE it in a couple months.

at a 9.99 price point I'd expect it to sell fairly well. At 30+ dollars they will probably sell ONE for every 1000 people that end up getting it.

A missed opportunity due to TLG's greed and stupidity.

Retarded to think a black and white pdf is worth even 20 dollars.. let alone 30.

what a sad joke.

John Reyst said...

Even given the fact that Troll Lord Games apparently dislikes the OGL, I might have considered purchasing it if it were $5-10. At the price the PDF is at right now they've guaranteed that the 5 people out there who have been waiting for this will fire up their bittorrent client in a few days.

JoetheLawyer said...

Comments I just made on the TLG Forums:

Being the guy from the blog, I thought I'd chime in. First, just to answer Treebore's point, you don't need to be a fan or player of C&C to get use and enjoyment out of the book. I don't like the siege engine, sure, but I do like the style of the Troll Lords. Like I said, they are some of the coolest guys in gaming. In a DMG type book, I think there might be plenty of useful info for me to steal for my own game. Just because you I like the SE, doesn't mean I dislike other aspects of the game. I don't think Steve wanted to limit his sales of this book to just people who play C&C and like the Siege Engine.

My thoughts on the 10 dollar pricing are this: I don't have a game store anywhere nearby. I don't know what I'm getting if I plunk down full price for the book---whether it will be useful or not---worth the hardcover price. I can't tell from the table of contents how good the contents are. However, I assume I will be getting something useful out of it, and I can bet I would be willing to pay 10 bucks for that useful info. I'll even pay 10 bucks to take a chance that there is something useful in there, and not be too pissed if there wasn't anything good. It's a gamble I'm willing to take.

Let's say it turns out that there is tons of of useful stuff in the book. If that's the case, the 10 dollar purchase just lead me to buy the hardcover book, which I never would have bought sight unseen. TLG makes even more money off of me. This is what happened with me and Pathfinder. They got a ton of hardcover sales after people first checked it out by looking at the 10 buck pdf which they would never have gotten otherwise.

Some of the posters in the comments on the blog basically said they could just download for free via torrents. Now some would do that anyhow, regardless of price, but many people have a twinge of guilt, and if an affordable pdf were available, they would pay for it rather than steal it.

I think TLG is passing up a good opportunity here to get potentially more sales, and garner some goodwill after the long wait for the book. I don't feel that pdf sales at a low price would substantially cut into book sales. In fact, it may help it, as in Paizo's case. Every pdf sale is essentially free money, on top of book sales. You may not get as much as if you sold it from your own pdf store, but still every penny of what you do get is free money. If you think based on your data that pdf sales would cut into book sales, then so be it. It's your business decision. I just know that Erik Mona had to work really hard to convince Lisa Stevens CEO of Paizo to do the cheap pdf. She was skeptical as hell, but it ultimately paid off really well for them. She was very happy with the result. She later made all their hardcover book pdf prices 9.99, when she initially hadn't planned to. If it cut into the sales of hardcover books to do so, I doubt she would have done it. And I know that she is the type that makes hardcore number crunching-based business decisions.

Anyway, my 2 cents. I figured I ought to come over here and make myself available for an ass-kickin', rather than hide behind a blog.

Oh, and Gideon, I don't know who slammed you in the comments. I don't know who you are man, so I have nothing bad to say about you.


Chris Tregenza said...

An epilogue to my PDF pricing series featuring your blog post:

PDF Pricing – An Epilog or How You Can Sell PDFs for $31.99

R. Lawrence Blake said...

I was shocked to see the price of the CKG pdf. When researching for an answer, I saw this on the Troll Lord's forum:

"The pricing for the pdf version comes with a lifetime's worth of free updates. When newer, updated versions, whether through errata, corrections, grammar, or just added material, comes out then we supply an instant file to the customer. Previously we've always charged for 2nd printings, 3rd printings, etc. The electronic market, being a different animal allows us to give you, the consumer, a constantly updated file.

This text is at the bottom of the RPGNow CKG page, I suppose I should move it up.

NOTE: The electronic version of the CKG comes with a lifetime's worth of FREE updates. Anytime we update the file, with corrections, modifications, or errata we'll send you an updated file. If there is a 2nd printing, your purchase today allows you a FREE updated file."

For me that kind of takes the sting out of the price. The only way you'll get a corrected/modified hardback is to buy it again.

Da' Vane said...

Whoa! $30 bucks? I don't know how Troll Lord Games are justifying that sort of cash, even with their Lifetime Updates Policy...

At DVOID Systems, we publish our D-Jumpers Volumes at £10, which works out at about $15, but at least we have the excuse that we are British.

The exchange rate means that we have a reason to charge slightly more - PDFs at under $10 means we're producing products at £6 or less, and as such, we'll end up going out of business. After all, some of us would like to be able to eat in our own respective economies, however crap they may be.

Yet, we include Lifetime Updates with all our products as standard. It's not factored as extra into our pricing, and nor should it be. The ease of updating such digital products are one of the primary advantages of the media.

If Troll Lord are trying to pass this off as a feature which warrants the increased price tag - then this just makes their pricing fail even more EPIC.

Sorry, but no - as a fellow digital publisher, there is no way Lifetime Updates justifies such a price tag, and if you are so eager to give your money away, there's plenty of other developers out there that don't believe in taking customers for a ride in this way.

Steven D. Russell said...

As a publisher people can take my advice with a grain of salt.

I think its too high I think it should be $15-20 which would put it inline with Eclipse Phase, Vampire, Mage, and Dresden Files, all of which are about the same size and are platinum best sellers as PDFs.

But there are books who are in the top that are $60.00 (ptolus) and a few others.

For all the bemoaning I would not be surprised if 60 to 90 days from now the price was dropped.

Also comparing it to Paizo is unfair since C&C will be lucky to sell 10% of what pathfinder did as the Retro market is much smaller than the Pathfinder market. Basic economics says if you have a smaller demand for a product then the price for the product is higher, due to a lack of competition.

I have books that range from $.99 cents all the way up to $29.99 as a pdf. Guess what even though I have sold more of the $.99 product, and the $9.99 product, and the $19.99 product, the $29.99 made me more money.

Anonymous said...

"But I agree that the guys at TLG are decent chaps (except for Peter Bradley)."

Pete's a Douche.