I was reflecting on some recent acquirements which, though very happy with, I had the same complaint with: they both seemed too expensive. And the more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that maybe the problem wasn’t the price, but my expectations.
I’ve been buying RPG books from Wizards of the Coast since 3rd edition premiered in, what 2000? In that time, they’ve set a price point in my mind. $30 for a hardcover, full-color book; somewhere in the neighborhood of 250-300pp for “core” books and 150-200pp for “supplements.”
Now, of course, they have the unique benefit of a market that’s vastly larger than any of their competitors, and economies of scale bring the prices for their products down significantly.
The two items I’ve gotten recently which bring this sense of the “worth” of things are Cthulhutech and the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion.
Quality-wise, the Cthulhutech core rulebook looks like anything WotC might have put out. Hardcover, about the right size, full-color. However, its MSRP is $50, which is about $15 more than I would usually be willing to spend on something like that (and ignoring the fact that whether you buy your stuff online or from a brick-and-mortar store, nobody pays full MSRP…).
The Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion is comparable to the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition in form factor. The only qualitative difference between the two is that the Fantasy Companion has a glossy cover and the SWXE has a matte (which I vastly prefer, for both tactile and aesthetic reasons). The two books are similar in size and quality, both digest-sized paperbacks of around a 100 or so pages, give or take (I’m too lazy to go check at the moment). The SWXE’s MSRP is $10, which I recognize as a complete bargain, while the FC’s MSRP is $20. Given that I think the former is a bargain and the latter feels overpriced, I guess that sets my expectations for a product of this magnitude at about $15.
And now the real fun thing, which hadn’t even occurred to me until I actually started writing this post, is how I think about prices. For example, up above where I was talking about the expectation WotC has set for me? I realized that the core rulebooks for Fourth Edition were $34.95, while the supplements are typically $29.95. But in my mind, I think of both as being $30. And, indeed, as I think about it, if the Fantasy Companion has been priced at $18, I don’t think I’d have had any sticker shock.
I guess what it comes down to is that I think of things in $10 tiers. If something costs $x0.00-$x8.99, I tend to mentally round it down to $x0; if it costs $x9.00-$x9.99, I round it up to $(x+1)0. This is something I’ve been aware of for a long time; my disgusting levels of credit card debt in college can attest to how difficult it is for me to keep track of how much I’ve actually spent.
Hmm… So what’s the point of all of this? I’m not really sure. It certainly ended up going a different direction than I’d intended. C’est la vie.