Off to a great start, but I have a concern...

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Off to a great start, but I have a concern...

Post by Jester » Wed Sep 20, 2006 11:21 pm

Hi all,

I've been lurking around your website for the past few months, waiting for a full release version of your product. ;-) I've tested it out a few times, and it's really got a lot to recommend it! In particular, the lighting effects are fabulous, as is how customizable everything is.

I do have a couple of suggestions for upgrades/changes, and I'll put those in the appropriate thread, but I do have a big flashing underlined concern.

And that's your product price.

Your price has put you in direct competition with Klooge. I'm currently using Screenmonkey for my game, which is basic and slow, but has been working for me for a couple of years now, so I can take my time with an upgrade. Either product -- you or Klooge -- would be a big step up.

But their product would be a much bigger step up, and your prices are right in line with each other.

Don't take this the wrong way, but you're not even close to their league yet. You really should be under-cutting them, and by a good margin. They've got an established, mature product with a huge feature set. You (so far) have a delivery date that's slipped almost a year from where it started, and a feature set that makes it clear that you're gonna need another year to get into their league.

So, that's my concern. I need 10 floating licenses and a GM license. As it is, I'm gonna be paying $150 either way. So, is there a particular reason I shouldn't be looking at maturity and feature sets? You could make my choice (and probably, a lot of other people's, too) a lot easier by planting your pricing flag in the middle ground between Screenmonkey and Klooge, so why don't you?
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Post by heruca » Thu Sep 21, 2006 1:08 am

Welcome, Jester.

Regarding price, the truth is that these virtual tabletop programs have a userbase of hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand users if you're really successful, and that's over several years of building up to that user base. If you do the math, you'll see that there's not enough income to support even one developer full time for one year.

That means that the programs should actually cost a lot more than they do, to make up for the fact that they only sell a limited number (I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised of KloogeWerks wasn't more expensive before Fantasy Grounds, ScreenMonkey, and other commercial VTs came on the scene. Competition drives down prices).

I've set the price as low as I can, and I'm aware that it's priced in the same ballpark as (but a bit cheaper than) KloogeWerks and Fantasy Grounds. While I agree that those programs are more mature and full-featured in regards to rules-automation and character sheets, BRPG does things the others don't, or at least does them easier (i.e., without XML scripting) and that should also be taken into consideration.

I'll be the first to admit that BRPG is still rough around the edges, and needs time to mature and achieve its true potential. But I also don't want to be hiking up the price every time I add more features. So its really up to each person to decide when the product is mature enough and full-featured enough that it's worth it to them.

If you've been following BRPG's progress, you know that it gets substantially better every month or two. I haven't seen the other commercial VTs improve their products at this rate. And I hope people don't think that BRPG's feature set will stop growing as soon as v1.0 is out the door, because I intend to keep plugging away at new features and making the best tool I possibly can.

You're certainly not the first to complain about pricing, and I'm sure you won't be the last. But I believe BRPG is priced fairly, with a long-term perspective in mind (since I don't plan on increasing the price every time it gets new features).

My recommendation to you and everyone else is to try out all the programs that interest you and meet your needs, and buy whichever product proves best for you and your gaming group.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Jester » Thu Sep 21, 2006 10:48 am

I understand completely. I'm just concerned that you're not going to get hundreds or thousands of users if every one of them compares you to your competition and then finds out that you cost the same.

Everyone that buys software understands that major version upgrades are going to cost them a little bit of money, so I don't think you'd scare anyone off by changing your pricing when you went from 1.0 to 2.0, and/or asking your 1.0 version user base to pay a reasonable upgrade fee to upgrade to 2.0 (and 3.0, and 4.0). The trick is to:
a) start with a low enough price to bring in a really big set of potential upgraders; and,
b) make sure the major upgrade you're asking a little more money for is really major.

I myself originally bought NoteTab Pro 3.0, paid to upgrade to NoteTab 4.0, and am now staring at NoteTab 5.1 (for instance) trying to decide if there really is any difference between 5.1 and 4.95 (which I own) and therefore, whether I should pay to upgrade again. The upgrades from 4.0 to 4.95 were free. In the meantime, the cost of NoteTab Pro has gone from $10 (3.0 and before) to $20 (4.0) to $30 (5.0). Upgraders pay 50% each time.

NoteTab attracted a huge user base despite its initial lack of features thanks to its low price compared to the competition. It keeps getting better, the user base keeps getting bigger, and oh yeah, it keeps getting more expensive. ;)

Compare and contrast to TextPad, which hasn't been upgraded in a few years now. With TextPad, you paid one high price to jump in, but were promised free upgrades for life. "For life" is taking on a rather depressing tone of finality because the developer has stopped working on it and is trying to make money strictly on new purchasers.

I think you're going to be better off with NoteTab's straegy. You're going to need the continuing source of revenue from version upgrades, unless you plan on working on this program for five years because I pay you $150 this year. ;) The user base you're going after is small enough that you need to think of that, too.
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Post by tenkar » Fri Sep 22, 2006 9:56 pm

From where I sit the pricing is fair. All the VTTs on the marketplace approach things from a different angle. As was said earlier, it is up to the consumer to decide which is best for their style of play.

I own Klooge and Fantasy Grounds, but neither one is just what I want. I think Battle Grounds is closing in on what I want from a VTT... real close to pulling the trigger on this one and give it a real kick in the tires ;)

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Post by Omnidon » Fri Sep 22, 2006 10:47 pm

*agrees with tenkar*
Last edited by Omnidon on Fri Sep 22, 2006 10:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by heruca » Fri Sep 22, 2006 10:51 pm

tenkar wrote: I think Battle Grounds is closing in on what I want from a VTT
Be sure to elaborate on what it is you're looking for in a VT app. The more specific you can be, the better.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Dormouse » Sat Sep 23, 2006 7:21 am

The pricing of BRPG is certainly something that concerns me. All BRPG users have a vested interest in Heruca making sufficient money form it to keep working on it. At the same time, in terms of features etc & value for money it doesn't look very good against a lot of other programs that have one (or two maybe) full or part-time developers (eg Xplorer2, IDimager, Imatch, Dopus). But, as he explains, the economics of the whole thing is massively limited by the market & potential market being very small (atm at least).

Given the amount of gaming I actually do atm, I have to say that the price is really too high for me. The decision to buy BRPG was as much to support Heruca developing it as it was to buy a VT. But I have looked at the competition and it did not take me very long to dismiss Klooge, FG or OpenRPG. BRPG clearly meets my needs much better even if it does not have such a long list of features as Klooge. I don't think that Heruca needs to be much cheaper than them to sell, although it would be an alternative marketing strategy. I don't know how effective a lower price would really be. Would people switch from Klooge or FG? I doubt it unless they are already disatisfied. It seems to me that what Heruca is really doing is pricing himself as a Premium product (smooth, modern, easy to use, visually impressive) and, if he can get that message across, that will stand him in good stead in the future marketplace. It is certainly better for him to take longer to get to the first release than to release something that is deficient in its core functionality (features matter less because they can always be added to a great fanfare). The real threat in the market long-term probably comes from OpenSource, eg rptools.

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Post by Halebop » Sun Sep 24, 2006 2:33 am

Dormouse wrote:...But I have looked at the competition and it did not take me very long to dismiss Klooge, FG or OpenRPG. BRPG clearly meets my needs much better even if it does not have such a long list of features as Klooge...
This is my feeling too. I know Klooge has many excellent features and many happy users but it doesn't do what I'm looking for in the "core" of a VT. Those features become a moot point and any cost comparison becomes less relevent. The product does what I want and I can afford it.

Like any new product it might lack some features that an older product supports but also like many new products, it supports new features that aren't widely implemented elsewhere. There is some give and take in the equation.

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Post by Omnidon » Sun Sep 24, 2006 5:43 am

Halebop wrote:
Dormouse wrote:...But I have looked at the competition and it did not take me very long to dismiss Klooge, FG or OpenRPG. BRPG clearly meets my needs much better even if it does not have such a long list of features as Klooge...
This is my feeling too. I know Klooge has many excellent features and many happy users but it doesn't do what I'm looking for in the "core" of a VT. Those features become a moot point and any cost comparison becomes less relevent. The product does what I want and I can afford it.

Like any new product it might lack some features that an older product supports but also like many new products, it supports new features that aren't widely implemented elsewhere. There is some give and take in the equation.
Ditto ;-)

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Post by Jixxala » Sun Oct 01, 2006 10:32 am

This particular topic is of personal interest to me. Recently I hired an old marketing expert (worked for some really big name companies around the world, but he is a friend, so I got him on the cheap) for help with pricing of PGS.

He set the price scheme in line with the big boys, and I squawked. He said this "Do you have a quality product or are you just pretending to? If your product is what it claims to be and not an outright scam then price it accordingly. While everyone says they want a good deal, no one takes the budget bin seriously. People believe they get what they pay for. Lowering your price never really sells more units unless you need to bring it down to the price of comparable products." I still bawked on the price and he threatened to quit and not offer advice if I would not take it from a professional. When I mentioned it to my lawyer, he agreed with the marketing consultant.

Basically as a customer I want everything for free and as a producer I want each unit to sell for an infinite amount. The price which best compromises these factors is not the cheapest. Yes I know, volume makes up for higher profit margin. But underpricing is a serious concern for small business producing a first time product release.

It is my opinion that the wage H will make on the product versus the time invested is not a reasonable comparison, as it will be dismally low. If you compare the total number of units he is likely to sell, and double it, it still sucks. The product is great. The market will pay a reasonable amount for it. If you cut the cost I don't think more units will ship, or rather not enough to really matter. (A 5% increase in sales does not counter a 20% reduction in cost)

In short, the price is fine.
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Post by heruca » Sun Oct 01, 2006 11:30 am

Good post, Jixxala.

I'm conscious of the fact that the game engine will never recoup the development cost, but I'm hoping that what will help even out the balance sheet somewhat is sales of add-on content that will eventually be developed for BRPG. Adventure modules, token packs, art packs, animated FX plugins, etc.

These are all things that won't affect the buy-in price for users who are on a limited budget, but should greatly enhance the enjoyment of the game engine for those who can afford it.

In a way, it's similar to how video game consoles are sold at a slight loss, but the companies make up for that later by profits on the games they sell for it.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Full Bleed » Thu Oct 12, 2006 12:50 pm

Well, just to throw another apple in the cart... In my experience, sucessful marketting has less to do with price-point or the quality of the product... and far more to do with advertising and how well a product is "sold" to a target audience.

I can provide case studies for all sorts of sucessful companies that have picked up market share using price-point... or quality product... (AMD vs Intel is a big example.) But I can find plenty more companies that have failed in a head to head with the "establishment" even though they had a better product at a better price-point.

Whether or not BG sports a better price and/or a better product is no guarantee one way or another of success or failure. Nor is the philosophy that something should be priced at the same price as the competition or higher, just to create the illusion of parity or superiority, an "alway-win" plan of action.

Both approaches are really just one small facet of a marketting strategy, and certainly not a strategy in and of themselves.

The bigger question here is, "Where does BG really expect to make a profit? The front end or the backend?"

Because, while possible, it's certainly going against the grain to attempt both in a small, competitive, and unproven market.

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Post by heruca » Thu Oct 12, 2006 1:51 pm

Good points, Full Bleed.

What I'd really like to do is market BRPG to people that have never even considered a VT app at all. The VT market needs to grow (as does the pnp RPG market), and I suspect it will, as more RPG publishers begin to distribute their content digitally and perhaps even openly encourage this mode of play.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Omnidon » Thu Oct 12, 2006 3:03 pm

heruca wrote:What I'd really like to do is market BRPG to people that have never even considered a VT app at all.
And the people like me, who had all but given up on VTs :D

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Post by Full Bleed » Thu Oct 12, 2006 11:09 pm

heruca wrote:Good points, Full Bleed.

What I'd really like to do is market BRPG to people that have never even considered a VT app at all.
I think this is probably the way to go, though it involves figuring out how to communicate with those individuals (no small task.) There is most certainly a much larger market that knows nothing about VTT's than there is using them right now. I, for example, didn't know anything about VTT's 14 days ago, and have only educated myself to where I am now because I was looking for 3 things that I figured I'd need to play an RPG over the internet:

1) A good audio conferencing solution.
2) A sophisticated "white board."
3) And, hopefully, a good video conferencing solution as well.

I'd even sat down and began planning out how the above needed to be integrated into single application to produce a tool that players could use over the internet. I started by searching for opensource solutions and was pleasantly surprised that there were a number of tools already out there, and in development (like BG).

The VT market needs to grow (as does the pnp RPG market), and I suspect it will, as more RPG publishers begin to distribute their content digitally and perhaps even openly encourage this mode of play.
I believe it is essential that the PnP RPG market acknowledges that the decline in their market share demands a "killer app" for the digital market to make their products more viable in this day and age. They should be actively encouraging and supporting the development of these tools. The only reason I can think of for why they haven't been is because they haven't been properly sold on what these tools will mean to the future of their creations.

No one I know truly prefers MMO's to a good PnP game, but most would admit that convenience and real life issues do makes them an alternative worth considering. I began my search for VTT's using the principle that this does not have to be the case... certainly not if the right tool existed.

And, no offense, I'm still trying to decide if the right tool does... ;)

On the upside, of all the tools out there, I think BG seems to be the most the maleable. It also seems to have, in Heruca, a developer that is very open-minded about what BG should be, could be, and needs to be.

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Post by Omnidon » Fri Oct 13, 2006 2:13 pm

Very well said ;-)

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