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Fantasy Grounds Virtual RPG Tabletop
BeAuMaN 28 sep 2012 om 8:07nm
Will the Fantasy Grounds monetization model change when it comes to Steam?
I would definitely be interested in Fantasy Grounds being added to Steam.

This program is one of the best virtual tabletops out there, granted, that was after they fixed all of the bugs over its long lifespan. There's also a pretty sizeable community that develops free ruleset adaptations for the program as well.

That said, the main sticking point for Fantasy Grounds has been the price. But I'm not going to just say "Oh, it's just too expensive"... rather, I think that the monetization model will need to be changed once it moves over to Steam, to take into account a broader audience.

So, indulge me a bit while I talk out my backside here (Call me on any shenanigans, Doug). When Fantasy Grounds was created and priced, it seems to have taken into account 2 things:

1.) The current pricing of video games and other software in 2003-2004
2.) What your typical real life tabletop gaming group would spend on the tabletop gaming hobby.

When you look at the pricing from that perspective, it's actually relatively cheap. Pricing for software around that time ran rather parallel to their pricing, depending on what software market you use as comparison, and pricing for Video Games were still fairly standard around that $60 and down. But that's fairly well known. Moreso the focus on pricing is the second point I made earlier. Many people who haven't really done much in the way of tabletop gaming in real life have no idea how much people actually spent on this hobby. You had the full color hardback books, which, in the case of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, the Player's Handbook ran for about $35, and the Dungeon Master's book for $40 or $50, plus the Monster Manual and all of the campaign and supplement books... Then there were the figurines, which ran anywhere from $10-$100 (on the low end of the spectrum) a piece, depending on quality, material, and that's probably unpainted. Add in the costs for everyone driving to the same location, whether that be someone's house, or the local game shop, the cost of all the money you'd spend on food (We're talking 4-6 hour gaming sessions here, food is a must).

With all that taken into account, I reiterate that the pricing was pretty fair. But, that was then. Now, as far as the current market goes, things have changed greatly in both the video game and tabletop gaming arenas. Prices have dropped neccesarily in many cases, and monetization models have changed. It's also worth noting that the price for your software hasn't degraded all that much since launch, unlike video games in the conventional monetization model, where they eventually end up in the $5-$10 bargain bin.

So, where I'm going with this is:

Are you planning on going with a different monetization model for Fantasy Grounds on Steam? For example, maybe going primarily with a single license type that has both player and GM enabled, drop the price to reflect that everyone needs one of these to play, and make the DLC cheaper by requiring that all players own the DLC to play with it? Maybe a more decentralized model?

As I said before, your monetization model works for the old-timers who have played and/or still play tabletop gaming locally. But I don't think your pricing model will work as-is for attracting a broader customer base who are new to tabletop gaming. I just don't think many people outside of the tabletop gaming community would buy your product with the your current monetization model. If your answer to that is that you're primarily targeting tabletop gamers, then why even put your game on Steam? To be honest, while I love Steam, I don't think it would be worth your time and money putting your game on Steam simply to take advantage of the multiplayer and social aspects; especially if speculation is true that Steam may charge you somewhere around 25-40% per sale. On top of that, your product is already known as a premiere virtual tabletop gaming software in the online tabletop community as is. I may be wrong, but I doubt you'll be getting many current tabletop gamers that you may have missed already.

Steam is a wonderful tool, but it only works as well as you wield it. To be rather successful on Steam, I believe you generally have to embrace many of Valve's philosophies on marketing and monetization.

I apologize ahead of time for frontloading some of those arguments, but I figure I might as well lay enough out right now as this is in comments. I suppose I'll go ahead and copy-pasta this into Discussion?

Finally, I'll tack on a bit of personal experience: While I'm able to get tabletop players I knew to buy player or full licenses, getting people that I only know online to buy licences is a bit harder. This is even harder when we're down a player or two, and we're trying to get other people online that we know outside of the tabletop community to play, and . If it were tabletop, we'd have them simply sit in, fill out a character sheet, borrow some books, and we'd be introducing them to the game. You can't really do that with Fantasy Grounds, unless you own an ultimate license or you go ahead and spend $24 buying them a player license (Sure, there's volume pricing, but if I'm buying people licenses, I might as well go for the ultimate).

Anyhoo, I hope this spontaneously written wall of text might be helpful in some way.
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Smiteworks  [ontwikkelaar] 28 sep 2012 om 9:17nm 
Cal-l, this is a subject that we have discussed many times internally and many times on the forums, IRC, and in person at conventions with customers and prospective customers. It is something that we continually re-evaluate. When Moon_wizard and I acquired the company in 2009, we floated some discussions on this and on the option of doing a much lower cost subscription model. The thinking was that the sustained income would fund future development and the cost for entry would be substantially cheaper. The existing community was overwhelmingly against this concept, but perhaps there could be multiple options where someone could choose to buy it or subscribe to it.

Aside from that, there are a few other points that I'm not sure I completely agree with based on my own experiences. Most bargain bin games that sell for $5-$10 are games where the development on those stopped 4-5 years ago or were never very popular to begin with. Development on FG has continued up to today and will continue in the future.

Tabletop gaming products are still quite expensive and it's not that uncommon for a book to sell from $30 - $50. Gas prices have also risen, so the short trip across town every week adds up pretty quick. Furthermore, the ubiquity of high-speed Internet and low cost, powerful PCs and laptops makes it more likely that people can game in the comfort of their own home.

We do see that a lot of potential buyers on Steam would only be interested in FG if it was at a greatly discounted cost. I'm not comparing this to our Ultimate license, though, because I don't think any other game on Steam allows players to cheaply by a game and host a multiplayer FPS game for people that haven't bought the software themselves. That's kind of unique to FG and VTTs. At the end, I think it may actually benefit the GMs running on Steam to limit the player pool to people who have actually vested enough in the game to not just sign up for a game, hop in, and then drop out.

Is ~$40 the right price for the GM version with all those considerations? Maybe not. I personally don't care much for the experience given with the Lite license. I realize most players won't ever GM, but I think they would greatly appreciate the creative/building aspect that's available there and could be encouraged to GM if that was built into the product for all versions. I don't think the Lite license experience is bad. I just think the Full license experience is way better and is truly superior to other VTT options.

We've discussed internally about dropping the GM price down some and then completely dropping the player license option. With enough stats on expected Steam users, this might be an option. We've been locked into the current pricing structure while we finished out our contract with the original FG owners, but we will have more freedom here at the beginning of the year (possibly sooner.)
BeAuMaN 29 sep 2012 om 10:06vm 

As for the pricing on current tabletop books, to me it seems to be developing more into a dichotomy, being the PDF price and the Physical price... which as more publishers adopt PDFs, I imagine the Physical price will continue to climb, but I've seen a lot more tablet/laptop usage over in my area for local tabletop RPG gaming (Central California). And true, gas prices are going up, so playing online will become cheaper.

I'd really be happy if you did just drop the lite license with the Steam debut. I can tell you that after about 8 months of VTT gaming with my current online group, that a couple of the players, with very little or no GMing experience, stepped up to the plate and started GMing. Sure, that may be a rare case, but anything that facilitates that smooth transition from player to GM would be wonderful I think, especially since the community as a whole will benefit from having a larger pool of GMs.

But, with Steam's always on experience, you can sort of transform the lite license a bit. Why not instead sell 8-hour player passes? Make them (relatively) cheap, as a way for groups to be able to pull in new players with little to no risk. The group gets to evaluate an extra player, new players get to experience a game played in Fantasy Grounds (and perhaps play their first Tabletop game) with little out of pocket. And then when you make your debut on Steam, you can hand a number of these out to your current customers who register their copy of Fantasy Grounds on Steam, as both a thank you and as a means to promote your product to new players on Steam. Granted, I don't know how this should interact with DLC.

I just see that your debut on Steam can firmly establish you as the de-facto VTT. Especially if you accompanied it with a marketing blitz, including youtube videos with how-tos and of full games played on Fantasy Grounds, as I've seen a few from the community that are well done. As you expand your playerbase on Steam and pull in some more statistics, that will really drive that selling point home to Tabletop RPG creators about putting their ruleset on your system will put it in front of a large online audience.

Anyhoo, thanks for the reply and everything, hopefully a lot of the people badmouthing you on pricing will take a look over here and have a more civil discussion.
Darkus 30 sep 2012 om 7:46vm 
The current default price of FG is almost totaly discouraging when you are outside of U.S., like here in Brazil, the price DOUBLES when converted from US Dolar to Brazilian Real, so we generaly end using some free tabletop software or using some IRC plugins and Skype.

If the price was more affordable almost everyone here will buy FG.

Or maybe the GM license has some stuff from ultimate, like host 2 or 3 free player sessions, or has a affordable subscription option ($7 max), so ppl outside U.S. will surely use FG to play their favorite tabletop game.
Laatst bewerkt door Darkus; 30 sep 2012 om 7:46vm
BeAuMaN 30 sep 2012 om 10:09vm 
Hmmm. So I'm just using xe.com for reference here, Darkus, but you're saying that when going from $39 for the Full License, it comes out to 79 Brazillian Reals, or 158 Brazillian Reals?

Is this including the huge tariff (60%?) that Brazillians pay on imported video games? I remember reading about this as a problem.
Devil Man X 1 okt 2012 om 12:09vm 
The current pricing system is quite outlandish. While I recognize that the price of books can be quite high you are not buying books. You are buying a virtual product. The cost of entry is quite high alone then adding DLC packs is just insane. Again there is not a direct pricing scale between virtual goods and physical items. However it is important to point out that physical goods should be more expensive as they not only take all the developement time but also have the added cost of the physical components and shipping.

In response to this -
Origineel geplaatst door Smiteworks:
Most bargain bin games that sell for $5-$10 are games where the development on those stopped 4-5 years ago or were never very popular to begin with.
There have been a great deal of amazing games that released or eventually dropped to the $5 to $10 range that directly contradict what you say here. Terraria being an obvious example. There are a great deal more that are under $20. I'm not trying to be an ♥♥♥ but making a point.

I don't think you will find any real success on steam unless or until you get under that $20 price point. I would suggest $19.99 for GM and $14.99 for players. Not only would that create a more presentable entry point but would help drive sales. Terraria for example could have been a $20 game and still have sold well but at $10 it was a steal and that drove it to ludacris heights in sales. The same for Dungeon Defenders, Torchlight and many others. I might be wrong but to really do well you need to hit that sweet spot between content and price that creates value.

No matter if that is at my suggested price, your original pricing or something in the middle, if you don't hit that sweet spot you simply won't move product no matter how good it is.
Laatst bewerkt door Devil Man X; 1 okt 2012 om 12:12vm
Smiteworks  [ontwikkelaar] 1 okt 2012 om 6:12nm 
Devil Man X, thanks for the feedback. We look forward to hearing from the Steam dev team on the issue as well -- if we get enough momentum. I agree that there probably is a sweet spot and we just need to get some good solid numbers to use for our predictions. I'd really be interested in any stats on the number of people who vote versus the number of sales. If we get enough confidence that the market is big enough to support the drop in price with volume, then we would love to do that. There are plenty of success stories we hear about where a company made that gamble and it paid off. I just wonder how many failed attempts occur that we don't hear about.
J-Boy85 2 okt 2012 om 5:00vm 
Long time user and i think this is one of the most useful programs on my PC. I can't even remember how many years ago I purchased it. Living away from a large gaming group I've found a regualr game, gotten involved with the Pathfinder group and really seen characters develop when I have a schedule that doesn't allow a game to be scheduled the same time. So overall I recommend this to everyone remotely into tabletop.

But it never occured to me to put this on Steam. I mean, it's not really a game in the way I think of them, it's more an operating system for tabletop games. And since people are using it to play D&D, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds etc it becomes a copyright issue. If it launches on Steam and the gaming poplation explodes how will we track who has legitimate copies of products to run games? And how will a gaming community that uses Steam as a one point stop feel about logging in to another site and purchasing .pdf's or visiting a game store just to use a feat or character class? Now I do feel that Smiteworks does deserve some recognition and I do wish that they got some kickback for Herolabs and the .pdf's I've purchased specifically to use for their system but this seems like quite a difficult thing to bring these different publisher's together. These things need people thinking way more outside the box than I could and for the sake of traditional RPG's and continued development of FG I hope they can be conquered.
Smiteworks  [ontwikkelaar] 2 okt 2012 om 9:05nm 
J-Boy85, thankfully, we have existing licenses with more than a dozen different publishers, so when you buy the DLC for a Savage Worlds setting, we pay royalties back to Pinnacle just like if they sold another print or PDF copy of the book. Now, there are several larger gaming companies that don't currently have a license with us. Both of the top two have been very friendly with us in discussions so far and our hope is that the expansion of possible users now available within Steam will push it over the hump and get them to sign up with us in the same fashion. We have lots of plans that I think can truly revitalize online tabletop RPG play. This is a pretty big step in the right direction.
Ardem 8 okt 2012 om 1:23vm 
A computer game you can get tens of hours of enjoyment, with a VTT you can get Years of enjoyment. I personally do not think the price is really compartible.

However I think the pricing model should be for steam a one size fits all, which is around $25-30 dollars for a GM/Player model. I think it unfair the GM get slugged higher then the players. I think on average there is 5 players and 1 GM, based on the current pricing model and accepting more players I think $29.99 on steam is an appropriate figure. However $39.99 is not unreasonable when looking at entertainment value.

Raven 9 okt 2012 om 7:19nm 
So, I have one question that popped up after reading over the previous discussions. Does FG, or will it if it is greenlit for Steam, require a subscription fee? Personally I have never been a fan of the concept of paid subscriptions for online games.
Smiteworks  [ontwikkelaar] 9 okt 2012 om 7:53nm 
If we ever come out with a subscription model, it will be an alternate option for players or GMs to use instead of buying the license out right.
Raven 9 okt 2012 om 9:18nm 
Excellent, thank you for the quick response. Upvoted. =)
Sir Xezeqeel 10 okt 2012 om 12:17nm 
I don't know what the price will be good in the U.S. or Western Europe because i don't live in this countries. I do not earn the $ or €. I do not have to pay for food, maintenance, taxes, etc. in this currency

I can say what price will be good in eastern Europe. First a few facts.
I am a student. My monthly funds at ~1000 PLN = 314$ (xe.com) (and yes I work for this funds)
$157 = all housing bills
$94 = food for moth
$40 tickets, books, cloths.
We have average $23 each moth left.
So I don’t but Fantasy Grounds (assume that the costs is $40)
But wait I can buy Borderlands 2 (original Steam key) for $15 and buy a lot of beers for $8 rest or I can buy 2 RPG Books.

Another problem is that for Steam $50=50€
Borderlands in Steam shop = 50€ what is 204PLN
I can but Borderlands 2 in my country retailer for 50PLN. (region free)
But If I buy key from Russia retailer I will pay less. (region locked – but in this region there is also my country so why not?)
The problem is that not all of games/software are sold in this way. I doubt that I could buy in this manner Fantasy Grounds. Its like indie software so nobody wants retail it in my country. :/

I know you also have to pay bills, buy food etc. So your software can't be sold for less than you need spend for life (which is more expensive) and other many things (new dice set, rpg books :P)

I become GM 7 years ago. From this time I get a lot of RPG books. When I don’t have money and my players very want play some setting we just shared the cost for all of us. We cant do this with software license. Most of my friends are players and GM of others settings. And I know much more then 5 players.

So I just give you a tip. If you want get more money for selling Fantasy Grounds just try sell it for different price for different region.

Btw. if you would like to translate Fantasy Grounds on Polish just send me text for translate (I do it for free, maybe someone will benefit). I may not be fluent in English but i have a lot of rpg experience and players who will do anything exp points. :P
maybe you would be interested in some of the game systems from Poland like Wolsung, Klanarchia, Neuroshima and much more.
Budai 28 dec 2012 om 6:16vm 
I would like to weigh in here on the monetization costs here. Echoing what Beauman said, DnD books cost well up to $50-$60 per book, but at the same time, these books are hardback and have over 200 quality pages in which most pages have full colour illustrations. The reason why the books are so expensive is cause they are of high quality print and build but also the market for said items is also small, so due to the lack of customers the price goes up to recoup the costs from having a small consumer base. This is an understandable fact of the business that we have come to terms with.

I would too also like to see how you plan on changing your business plan for steam. Would you also be charging for later official rulesets and expansions to the game in the form of DLC? I would be happy to spend about $4 for a new ruleset to be integrated into Fantasy Grounds, but anything over would I wouldnt really buy into. That being said, I would expect for the GM to be the only one who needs to buy said rulesets and everyone can play from the host who has said ruleset just like physical DnD. One method I could see working for Steam is $25 for the player client and then have a $5 DLC to upgrade it to a GM client, that way you get all the players you want, and the players who end up wanting to try some gming can quite easily upgrade their client via DLC. This seems like the best way to integrate Fantasy Grounds into Steam. That way will also encourage more people to buy the player clients, cause a GM client without players is useless, which means people with the GM clients will encourage their friends to buy the player clients so he can run his online campaigns. I am not sure how your ultimate version will work into this though. I'm assuming the only difference between the full license and the ultimate license is the ability to host games for people who have not bought the player clients? Don't think that version will integrate well with steam.

Also, having tried your demo client, I can see the potential of this virtual tabletop, I would however suggest that being on Steam, it will need to be easier to control as you will be approaching a new audience via Steam. Just adding icons on the tabletop for all the windows you need and [x] on the top right of each window wouldn't go amiss, a Resize function for every window wouldn't hurt either. I accidently closed down my character sheet during character creation and took me a while to figure out how to get it back. I think it just needs to be a bit more intuitive for the wider audience Steam will reach.

Valve also use alot of crowd sourcing for making money with Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. They allow the community to make them content, then the best of that content gets sold through the in-game store, making the content makers money while Valve skim a bit off the top of each sale. I'm sure you could do something similiar through the Steam workshop, maybe with small pre-built one-off adventures that an unprepared or novice GM can pay 99c complete with maps, tokens, etc.

Steam has made its mark in the gaming world today by selling its games in massive sales up to 90% off, so obviously volume of sales counts more than the cost per unit. I'm not saying sell your software for a pittance, but selling more units for less is better than selling less units for more.

That is just my two cents. Hopefully you can figure out how you'll adapt to the Steam consumer base.

Laatst bewerkt door Budai; 28 dec 2012 om 6:38vm
Darkus 4 jan 2013 om 10:09nm 
Origineel geplaatst door BeAuMaN:
Hmmm. So I'm just using xe.com for reference here, Darkus, but you're saying that when going from $39 for the Full License, it comes out to 79 Brazillian Reals, or 158 Brazillian Reals?

Is this including the huge tariff (60%?) that Brazillians pay on imported video games? I remember reading about this as a problem.

Luckly there's no 60% import tariff for virtual purchase on Steam/gog/desura/gamersgate/etc, only 0,38% called IOF, the import tax is only for physical goods mailed from outher country, so it's 79 Brazlian Reais, quite expensive for a tabletop RPG related stuff here.
Laatst bewerkt door Darkus; 4 jan 2013 om 10:25nm
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