Brave Halfling Publishing's John Adams talked about why his Swords and Wizardry White Box box isn't going through distribution. He originally had the explanation on BHP's site, but that seems to be taken down, and now just present in the comments of one of Grognardia's posts about the project, here. What's in that box?
- 6" x 9" Game Box (This is an actual game box manufactured for just this purpose)
- Four Rule Booklets (Characters, Spells, Monsters, & Treasures)
- A digest-sized copy of Matt Finch's, "Quick Primer for Old-School Gaming"
- Ten of Marv Breig's 3" x 5" Index Card Character Sheets
- Set of Polyhedral Dice
- Pad of digest-sized Graph Paper
The Primer is a 13 pages, the new version of White Box 111 pages... in full-size format. I don't know how they're formatting the booklets, but let's assume you're getting the same format, so double the pages.
So 28 pages for the Primer, and 4 56-page bookets. Plus the other stuff. Plus artwork.
(edit: Got the actual figures from the comments:
I'm going to make some wild guesses concerning the box in my commentary here. For example, I have no clue about how much of a profit margin BHP have allowed themselves with this thing, but since John says, "And even if the publisher takes the base cost of all the parts of a boxed set and then sets the retail price by doubling it," let's pretend that's what happened. The original price was to be $29.95, so let's say his costs per box are a cool $15. Going by his 40% figure for the percentage of retail price that a publisher gets (which is cut even further if using other services as well, not to mention the publisher eats the cost of shipping to the distributor)... this box, with the above contents, with the assumptions listed here, would have a retail price of $75 if you bought it in your local store. That's more than Arkham Horror, a game that comes with a board and a billion cards and pieces and a big glossy rulebook, all in color.
That's not anybody, not the printer, BHP, the distributor, or your local store price-gouging, that's just the reality of short-run printing. Especially with boxes.
Every single thing you buy in a store has had these markups made.
$29.95, an amount that seems large to those of us that remember the days of $12 hardcover AD&D books, $12 Mentzer box sets, and $6 modules (all of these retail prices that have gone through the channels listed above, not direct-order only prices), and them printing tens of thousands of copies of each item at a time). I've been a price complainer as much as anyone in past years, but reality is reality. THAT WAS OVER A QUARTER OF A CENTURY AGO.
$29.95, an amount that is so obviously not overpriced if you've looked into these things. And that's with black and white artwork on the box (which, looking at the artwork, I'd guess to be about 1.25" thick), and just headings colored on the booklets. That's with a 6 piece unmatched dice set. That price would have been higher (maybe much higher) with a 7-piece matched dice set, and if the cover of the box looked like the cover of the PDF.
As it is, John took a huge risk. Maybe this last 50 that sold out wasn't such a big risk since the high demand was already established, but let's just say that the 75 that was announced as added to the print run was a doubling of the original print run. $15 x 75 = $1125 risk.
These are exciting and scary times.
One thing I hope that comes out of this is that the businesspeople that control access to the stores look at this and get the stick out of their asses about "digest size" and "black and white." John wasn't kidding about that. I had some discussions where I was told black and white art wouldn't cut it for retail. Death Frost Doom's cover is black and white, and will stay black and white. I've sold over 300 copies with just a handful of vendors, very limited availability and accessibility for it. You'd think that shows that if it were available from your local game store in print with no shipping fee, it might move a few copies.
Maybe they don't sell as well as colorfulwowiezowie full-sized books, but the option of low-price booklets should be there, in retail. Maybe nothing so slipshod as my original Creature Generator or Fantasy Fucking Vietnam, but certainly something like Rients' Miscellaneum of Cinder (those would be dirt cheap to print in bulk) or McKinney's Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer should be impulse-buy RPG items in stores.
But you need to "product-ize" a book to get it that far, and it's really impossible to make a few-dollars item in RPGs these days. Not to mention when you realize that spending money can allow you to manufacture something really really cool, with hope that the market will bear it.
(of course, I have no idea how Goodman Games is making a single penny off of the Dungeon Alphabet, with it being hardcover and full of name artists... or how Maliszewski and Rogue Games are making any money off of The Cursed Chateau at their prices either, but hey, more for us. Both of those are available at Noble Knight right now, by the way)
My interest in all this should be obvious, and I'm watching the events with a keen eye. I'm going after expensive art talent, going to have a full-color box cover, full color booklets inside, a matched 7-piece set of dice, and a ton more handouts. And I want to push it into retail. I hope my risk pays off just as well as John's...