Yeah, i know with my current schedule of posting weekend freebies, it appears I am focused on free stuff.
Truth is, price is just one factor I look at when I make my purchases. Cubicle 7 has sucked 55 bucks from me with 2 PDF purchases: Starblazer Adventures and Legends of Anglerre. I got majorly screwed when I picked up this piece of sh!t for FG2 a while back. What a painful waste of 20 bucks. Then again, I bought into the Dresden Files Preorder, and I couldn't be happier.
Here's the deal as I see it. Most of the QUALITY free stuff available hits one of the following categories (with some major overlap): OSR or the Classics Re-imagined, The Full Piece Company Sample, and the Hobbyist Publisher.
Most game companies these days are run by hobbyists, so this category will overlap with the other two in most cases.
OSR games tend to have a no-frills FREE PDF. In these cases I've bought the still low prices art-filled PDFs, but its nice to have the option not to have to. The vast majority of OSR adventures are not free (but there are some quality free ones to be found).
The Full Piece Company Sample that is given away for free is the typical retail loss leader. I spent 8 1/2 years working retail for a major NYC Department Store... I sold electronics, men's clothing, candy, the bargain table. The major sales had items that were sold at cost or less to bring people in to buy higher profit margin items. Some RPG companies do something similar. Heck software companies do that daily at Give Away of the Day.
Many of the hobbyists are just happy to see their work being read, used, praised and critiqued. Some might be building up their resume for a shot at the big(ger) time.
Then you have the handful of companies that are not one of the elite, yet they are still trying to make a living (or supplemental income) off of their hobby. God bless them. They are aiming high yet the market makes their prices seem out of whack, excessive even to some.
That's the market. You can't change it. Either make yourself stand out from the crowd and justify your price, join the crowd and adjust your price, or find your own solution.
I spend a good time of my shopping at Indie Press Revolution. Very little free. Most of it is what I would call "premium pricing". When there arent too many low priced items to shop against, the prices seem fair. When you price yourself against free and low priced, you can price yourself out of competition.
95% of free is total crap. 50% of the not free RPG gaming material is easily total crap.
I don't like crap. I doubt many do. I cull through the crap to post items that I think have value, whether they are free or not, so others can avoid crap. It takes a lot of due diligence before I'll spend my cash on something to check it out.
I'm not trying to demean the time or effort that writers, artists, publishers, programmers, etc put into their work. I'm just reminded of a recent thread on EnWorld. A certain new publisher was selling stuff on RPGNow. His writing was atrocious, his editing worse, his art was computer manipulated to hide the plagiarism, and his data was stolen word by word from computer games. His books were "premium priced". He was reported and after a long couple of days his items were removed.
No consumer should have to buy something like he was selling. And his selling that sh!t (beyond just crap) devalues other products that are worth their premium pricing.
Not sure if this became a rant or not. I know pricing of products is a very personal thing to publishers... its their bread and butter. Thing is, as a consumer, if I can get value for free I will. If I can get an awesome product for a premium price that I can use and afford, I will. Same goes for a great product at a reasonable price.
Who decides what price is reasonable? What price is premium?
The customer. I always hated that little f'er when I worked retail, cause the bastid changed his mind constantly. ;)
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