Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Seventy-Five Bloody Pounds? (Slight Refrain)

Chris (Vaults of Nagoh) raised a interesting point in yesterday's comments that £40 for Space Hulk in 1989 equates to £78.80 in today's money therefore WFRP III's RRP of £75 isn't that far off and we've just temporarily forgotten how old we are now. I can assure you I bloody well knew how old I am this morning when the alarm clock went off at half-six....

Now that monetary figure is interesting, because on my wargames club's forum discussion about Space Hulk I worked out that Space Hulk 2009's RRP of £58.70 (note for non-UK readers; Value Added Tax got cut from 17.5% to 15% recently to try and stimulate the moribund economy hence why all UK high street prices look really odd now) was £39.72 in 1989 land. So who's right?

In all honesty I don't know. I thought my figure seemed low when I calculated it (for a modern GW sticker price to end up being only 17p off it's inflation-adjusted figure twenty years ago struck me as so coincidental as to defy belief - assuming it was £39.99 back then) and Chris's high. In defence of my figure I remember that in 1989 I could combine pocket money and birthday/Christmas money and get a GW game - at the equivalent of £80 this would have been an impossible dream and probably not even practical as a Christmas present.

Three GW prices have stuck with me over the years, lodged away in the back of my tiny, little mind.

For Christmas 1987 I had the hardback WFRP and it was £15. Christmas money went on 40k Rogue Trader which was £12.95 at a high street store in Wolverhampton which was cheaper than GW Birmingham - probably would have been another fifteen quider if I'd gone to the GW. In 1993 I went on the bus to the Merry Hill centre in Dudley and bought Space Marine for £34.99 - that was a big boxed set of lots of plastic so Space Hulk four years earlier must have been priced similarly.

Anyway you can't directly compare costs from then with those from now because the World has changed - improved computer use has certainly brought the cost of prepping manuscripts and the like down and while oil is dearer now, the plastic moulding technologies must surely be cheaper.

What's perhaps more important is to compare this £75 price with other equivalent prices that are around today. Last year I bought Trail of Cthulhu from Leisure Games - I thought it cost me £20 but was probably £25 since the Leisure Games website lists it at £26.99. So that's a modern RPG in the modern hardback book format of similar "physical" standing (i.e. binding type, paper quality, pagecount etc.) to every other similar game on the market and it costs a third of the price.

But WFRP III is full of bits - ToC is just a book. So the direct equivalent is probably something like Arkham Horror - Leisure Games price £42.99 and the beast is so heavy that they have to charge extra for postage. Talisman - £39.99. Space Hulk 2009 - a game so beautiful and with components of such high quality that the game is practically game-changing (sorry...) for the industry - £58.70. These are all bits-heavy games and they are all significantly cheaper than WFRP III. And it's not my fault (or your fault if you are another WFRP player) that FFG decided that the game had to have a million pieces of card. If BMW decide to gold leaf the interiors of their cars driving the cost up to astronomical levels they can't come complaining when I decide it's just too much to justify the outlay. I didn't ask them to do it.

Now there's another matter we have to consider with the boardgames - they are complete. WFRP III requires the players to use all manner of physical components, cards, special dice etc. and only provides for three. So it's technically a four player game alright, but one of those is the GM so effectively it's only a three player game. And what's usually declared to be the optimum number of players in a game?

That's right, four. Check every staged photograph of an RPG session. Four players. Check every made-up transcript of a session in every RPG rulebook. Four players. So either player four will have to go out and buy the "upsell" to join in or the cost of a set of bits for player four will go on the £75 cover price.

I think it's obvious what I'm getting at. This is shockingly expensive and can never be considered as an impulse purchase. It's not complete unlike all the other expensive, bits-heavy board and Eurogames. I feel this is going to miss it's target with such a whimper it will defy belief. FFG are attempting to sell an RPG that is so different to what has gone before that the old hardcore of woof-ruppers won't be interested and is so bloody expensive that newbies could buy three RPGs for the same amount or just buy one RPG and enough supplementary material for it to last them years.

It's £75. Yes the Euro price will probably be cheaper because Sterling is weak. But the price differential between all the other games on sale in gaming stores in Holland and Ireland (to pick two Anglophone examples in the Eurozone who will be receiving the same printing) will surely remain the same. Surely somebody must have looked at the costings and what they'd have to charge the customer, and sat down and wondered if the thing was too far removed from what people recognise as a pen and paper RPG and questioned whether this was a good idea at all?


  1. The three players is the thing that sticks out to me most of all; even Heroquest was based around four players and the GM. Three seems like such an odd number that it has to be deliberate. The optimist in me says it's because the game is designed for this number in some clever way, but the realist in me knows it's because they expect to sell expansions to accommodate extra players.

    I'm still interested in finding out exactly what kind of game it is, but I won't be buying it!

  2. "I'm still interested in finding out exactly what kind of game it is, but I won't be buying it!"

    Well at my local shop "It's not a boardgame!" shouted in a stressed voice has become something of a cult phrase. Just like 4E isn't a tactical skirmish wargame for figures on a gridded map :)

  3. Well, I have a hard time figuring out what it is from the information we have so far. It's not a board game, and I don't think miniatures have been mentioned at all in the promotional materials. What it looks like is some kind of collectible dice/card game with a narrative on top; only a sort-of-rpg, in the same way as Inquisitor is/was.