What follows are some thoughts in regards to +Christopher Helton 's ENWorld article on Why We Need To Pay What Games Are Worth, Not What We Think They Should Cost. The Tavern's link to the article is question has generated 32 comments at the time I type this and the ENWorld article has 270 comments. It's obvious that it's subject that touches on us all and I've read some great comments on G+, The Tavern and ENWorld.
I think Chris' article is misnamed, because what he is really saying is that the price of RPG products should reflect the cost involved to produce them. Cost to produce and "worth" are two wholly separate issues. It is quite possible to spend more creating something than it's actual value.
What is something worth? That is subjective. While I find Frog God Games products to be well worth my investment as gaming material, others find them to be to expensive. I've heard many a Tavern reader suggest that FGG should offer a POD option for their books to make them move affordable. They want the product but aren't willing to pay the price the Frogs are asking. Still, the Frogs seem to do well with what they publish. They have an established customer base and a quality level to their finished product that exceeds that of POD.
What something is worth or valued at is, in the end, determined by the consumer and the producer. Ask too high a price and you limit your pool of prospective buyers. Sell at too low a price and you may never make back your investment.
I remember speaking with +Doug Kovacs at NTRPG Con in 2014 and remarking at the prices for his art, especially the original art pieces. To my eyes, the prices seems low, but I assume Doug knows his market. Maybe I overvalue art, as it's a skill I lack (even if both my parents are artists) but greatly appreciate. Maybe my assessment is correct but there is less of a market for original art than there is for written RPG material.
There is a reason Kickstarter is used so successfully by the Second Tier Publishers (I'm defining First Tier Publishers as WotC and Paizo for the purpose of this post) - it allows them to control cost and get an accurate print run estimation. Frog God Games, Goodman Games, Troll Lord Games, Pinnacle and others, especially those that do NOT offer Print on Demand, need an accurate assessment of the demand for their newest releases. Bringing those projects to Kickstarter allows for that. Dead stock sitting in a warehouse is minimized and a greater share of the final price of the product goes into the hands of the publisher.
PDF and POD publishing has been a godsend to the self publisher, the vast majority of whom are writing and publishing in their spare time.
No one is getting rich off of creating RPG material. Many are supplementing their "normal" salary. A few are making a living off of it. That is the general rule of being a "creative".
My sister is a published author. Her novel, The Hollow Ground, was a best seller on Audible. Her second manuscript is making the rounds hoping for a contract. In the meantime, she work as a college professor. Would she like to be a full time author? Yes. Will she ever be? Who knows.
Again, value is set by the market. While it should reflect the "cost" of creation to some extent, no one should be guaranteed a certain ROI on their creativity just "because". Not all creative works are equal, and effort does not guarantee quality. In the end, quality work has the most worth.