Saturday, March 7, 2009

Value

I was planning on writing up a review today, but I think I will push that to tomorrow. I have a couple of smaller blog posts that I would like to make first before hitting my weekly product reviews. With all the excitement around mega-dungeons and old school, I thought I would post a couple of things first before hitting the review.

Before we get into mega-dungeons, I want to blog a bit about value. From a consumer perspective, value is what a consumer desires and is willing to pay for. I use the workd desire to include both needs and wants. Needs are the things that a person requires to survive, things like food, clothing, warmth and shelter. I will also use the term expanded needs to include things that are needed for a person to get and keep a job. These include education, transportation, special clothes, and other equipment or tools. While they are not specifically needed to survive, one needs them in order to make money to buy things to satisfy the basic needs. Desires also include the wants. Wants are basically anything that a person has a desire for, but are not directly tied to the basic needs. Entertainment and gaming falls into this bucket.

With this in mind, I want to hit on the concept of paying for value and how it relates to gaming. WotC recently launched its digital initiative that included Dungeon and Dragon magazines. The concept they had in mind was to create an online subscription service that folks would want to buy into. While I have no idea on the numbers of the subscribers that they have, their digital initiative holds no value for me. During the launch of 4th ed, they offered a free trial for folks to take a look, which I did, but there was not a consistency of content that was of value to me. Now it is fairly easy to point at the current short comings, but I think that one of the fundament issues with their digital initiative, is the complete lack of content for the earlier editions. They are focused on one thing, and that limits the possibilities of truly creating value for the hobby. To me, the value proposition is not there for me to invest in a subscription.

Wolfgang Baur kicked off this Kobold quarterly a while back (~ 2 years ago), and it has received rave reviews. His offering not only supports his Open Design work, but it also includes a wide variety of topics and supports several editions. He is creating value for the gamer with the depth of his offering. There is also the feel that this magazine supports the hobby, which is important to me. I usually buy the PDF version, and I have been happy with the content. I wish Wolfgang continued success with his project, as I believe that this is filling the niche that Dragon magazine has left.

I have been very impressed with the Fanzines that have recently popped up. Fight on! has lead the charge, and that has been followed by Knockspell and Weredragon. I would not be surprised to see more pop up. Fanzines offer a collection of fan created material, that are not necessarily tied to anything in particular. Fanzines offer value in a number of areas, which include a chance for unknown authors to get published, they generate interest in the game, and they push the more established magazines on the quality that they put out. They fill a very important role in any hobby, and are indicative of the over health of ours. I am buying the PDF's as these fanzines are of value to me.

This brings me to Monte and his recent announcement. Monte is basically a free lancer that has made quite a name for himself. The niche that he has filled with his own imprint was in providing different material that is a bit off the main stream path. He is style is a bit different, and that is by design. He is not an old school gamer, but I think he appreciates industry and its history, which he has been apart of. His newer products are very polished in terms of layout and art work, and he has access to one of the best editors in field. Just last week, he announced that he was going to launch a web site that offers a dungeon-a-day for a monthly subscription rate. He threw out a teaser on his blog, but until anyone sees his product, none of us really knows what’s included. There has been some discussion on the boards about his announcement, which has prompted me to write this blog. Monte is part of the industry, which means he is a professional and needs to make a living. He is trying to create value through this new project, and only time will tell if he can be successful. The ultimate question will be, do the fans believe that he is creating value to be worth the subscription price. He is surely capable of creating good content, but will it be deemed valuable?

James, over on Grognardia, looks to be doing something similar. Monte’s announcement has pushed him to seriously consider creating a site to post content related to mega-dungeons. James has stated that he is going to do this for free. Interesting. If James carries through with this, it does put pressure on Monte to deliver value over and above whatever James does, as if he does not, the customer base will flock to James’s web site. This will create an interesting dynamic. I want to go back to the statement about “free.” While I think it is an extremely generous offer of James to provide significant content for free, we need to consider what he is providing. It sounds like he is providing a dedicated website, he will invest a significant amount of his personal time, and he will have to generate content on a regular basis. As I stated earlier, this is a generous offer. But if indeed James does create value in this project, could he charge money. Absolutely, no question. Would he be successful if he did? I think he would. As I suspect he will not charge, I do believe that he will have a “donate” button on this website. If the content is good and consistent, I will probably make a donation, as this will be of value to me, and I want to show my support in his efforts.

As I have mentioned in my posts on various blogs, I think this is an exciting time for our hobby. The recent announcements have created buzz, which I think is a good thing. I do wish Monte, James, Wolfgang, and all the rest of the creators of content and value the best of luck, and I sincerely hope that this will ultimately create a stronger game as a result, and I believe it has already.

2 comments:

Joseph said...

I am very ambivalent about even asking this, since it may well be seen as being self-serving, but I am wondering how you would view the free offerings from myself and others such as Amityville Mike (of Stonehell fame) who are producing similar things and giving it away. Are we robbing our works of "value" because we are not charging for them? Or can things have value without having a monetary value assigned to them?

Mr Baron said...

That's a great question.

Things can have value and be free. Businesses decide to offer up freebies all the time for a number of reasons. The value equation comes from how much would a customer pay for it, regardless of what they actual charge or don't charge for it.

A couple of follow on points:

1) The blogs in the network, give away stuff all the time. Some of it has nominal value, and some of it has very significant value. I am always amazed at the quality that the bloggers put together. This is exactly why I donated to Jonathan over at Core Mechanic for his anthology project. I saw value in what he was doing, and I wanted to show my support, and I hope that there will be another edition next year.

2) For my comment on what James is doing, if he sets up a site that is dedicated to creating something similar to what Monte is doing, takes up a considerable amount of time and effort, and have consistently good quality and content, that service potentially has considerable value. Whether he charges anything for it, is a completely different question. If he actually gets this up and going, it is an interesting contrast to what Monte is doing, and I think that puts pressure on Monte to create incremental value as he is charging more than James is.

3). One of the great things about our hobby is that almost anyone can put a PDF together and put it up for sale on a number of sites for a couple of bucks. If they are creating value, then it is something to consider. There is obviously a threshold of value that needs to be crossed for such a product to generate sales, as that will be the ultimate gage as to the value that is created to the community at large. I do suspect that we will be seeing more and more of this, as our infrastructure easily supports this type of self publishing.