Thursday, August 18, 2005

Economics...Games...Movies...and Comic Books

In an earlier post I commented on the potential death of a Roleplaying Game Company named Decipher. During the comments, Cinerati member David N. Scott forwarded some complaints regarding the high cost of edition 3.5 of the Dungeons and Dragons game ending his comments with an "I dunno there was a pretty quick turnaround time between 3rd edition and 3.5." He was correct, as far as his statement goes, which is to say compared to TSR's earlier update schedule, an average of 10 years between editions, he was right. But I think my point got lost somewhere in the shuffle.

My point was that even the 3 year turnaround was a pretty lengthy one in the game industry. Magic the Gathering, the penultimate Collectible Card Game, is on its 9th or 10th edition and Twilight Imperium, one of my favorite war games, is on its 3rd. Both have been around for approximately 15 years or so. Not to mention Fantasy Flight Games boardgame Runebound which came out last year, but already has a Second Edition (with significant changes for the better I might add).

I also wanted to point out that while RPGs are expensive, they are trust me, that they are not more expensive than they were in the past. Now thanks to Poliblogger I have some supporting evidence. He provided this link to Economic History Services, provided by Miami University and Wake Forest University, which gives the real value in 2003 dollars of money from any date in US history.

So that Dungeon Master's Guide, 1st edition, that cost $15.00 in 1982 was the equivalent of $28.60 today (according to Consumer Price Index Adjustments) or $50.62 as share of GDP. The $19.95 Second Edition Dungeon Master's Guide from 1990...$28.09 Consumer Price Index. How much is a 3.5 edition Dungeon Master's Guide? $29.95, unless you buy it at Amazon where it is dirt cheap.

All this is well and good, even fun, but doesn't completely address David's larger point. Which is that Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary who produces D&D, has produced a great sum of material in the past two years and that much of it was reprinting of 3rd edition books. This is a partly true statement, they have in fact produced volumes (an average of 2 rulebooks a month these past two years), but as I own the books I can actually say that very little in the new books is reprinted from the 3rd edition material. Yes the Complete Warrior does update information from Sword and Fist. But Sword and Fist was a paperback "perfect bound" book which cost $19.95 (close to $15.00 on Amazon) and was a black and white printing consisting of 96 pages. Whereas the Complete Warrior is $26.95 ($17.79 on Amazon) is hardcover, full color and 160 pages. There is a great deal of new material in Complete Warrior, in addition to the updated material, and I think it is a value. The same has been true of all of the new Wizards of the Coast 3.5 material.

Having said this though, I do come back to the 2 rulebooks a month statement. That's $50 to $60 dollars a month if you want to buy all the books. Naturally, given the modular nature of Dungeons and Dragons, you don't need to buy all the rulebooks that come out. In fact, if you remove setting specific books the average drops to one a month or even one every two months. All said, most Roleplayers I know are completists and this can burn a hole in your wallet. I say, most I know, because the sales figures don't match my experience. DM books sell worse than player books, settings books sell worse than DM books.

I guess this is a long way of saying I think that both David and I are right. Yes Wizards prints too much stuff to keep track of, but I think the prices per item are very reasonable.
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