The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Eulogy : The $50 Price Point

I come not to praise the price point, but to bury it. I’ve recently bought (or contemplated buying) Struggle of Emipires ($60), War of the Rings ($60), 7 Ages ($70) and the monstrous Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition ($80). In the past, $50 was the upper limit of Euro games apart from very small companies or extravagant novelty games that require real craftsmanship (Crokinole, Master Thief, etc). Of course, exchange rates play a part, too.

In general, this doesn’t bother me. By any measure, I’m doing well. (By historical measures, I’m fantastically rich). Storage space constrains me, not money. But not everyone shares my tastes or affluence. I got into gaming while a student, and I doubt I’m alone. Mass market games have a price ceiling around $20 (look at Monopoly, Apples to Apples, etc). Heroscape costs more, but crosses over with a massive toy factor that most boardgames lack.

I think boardgames are following a ‘speciation’ trend caused by the explosive availability of information. There are more games, for more tastes. As we become more discriminating (caused in part by demographics, and in part by our ability to sift through games via Boardgamegeek and the like), print runs drop while the number of title grow. So the overall ‘pie’ of boardgaming is sliced more thinly. This reduces economies of scale, which drives up print costs. Coupled with normal inflation and recent exchange rate issues, the upward pressure on game prices looks reasonable to me.

I wonder if prices will drive away new gamers, or quality will compensate? I suspect not much will change. Prices matter, but board games compete against expensive hobbies (like Computer Games and Collectable Card Games) where dropping a $50 or $100 or more for the new system or expansion happens frequently. I’ve seen roleplaying books hit $40, too. Last night saw the boardgamers roughly on par with the Magic players, roughly on par with roleplayers. We definitely skewed older, but I think most everyone had spent quite a bit on their game of choice. I don’t think it will kill, or even change, gaming much.


Written by taogaming

February 7, 2005 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Ramblings

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3 Responses

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  1. If all Euro games cost that much I would never have started gaming. I live in Israel, which is, while not impoverished, at a very unfavorable exchange rate with the rest of the world. $20 for a game represents 6 months worth of thought.

    The 30 games or so that I have come from birthday and channukah gifts, trading, and game group contributions.

    $50 or more for a game is untenable at the moment.

    I’m sure the same is true for the silent majority of people even in America and Europe. Do you see the general residents of inner city or rural America being able to afford a $50 game, rather than just pay $15 for Monopoly? Remember what the average salary is for most people, and compare your own to the average. I’m sure that you will find yours is quite higher than average.

    If the game industry is to spread, it has to stop being simultaneously snobbish about how much better its games are, and in turn exclusive in the way it produces them. Retail Settlers are cheaper material for $12.50 and San Juan and Geschenkt for $3.00 and you’ll see the better games spreading.


    Yehuda Berlinger

    February 8, 2005 at 1:38 am

  2. Interestingly, I think this has significantly changed (along with other factors) the after market for games. I have been able to find a number of games on boardgamegeeks for trade or discounted prices. Even vendors now sell used games for less.

    I’m not disagreeing and saying it makes these prices okay from ao worldwide perspective mind you, just that some new markets have been generated for these products.



    February 8, 2005 at 8:09 am

  3. Yehuda, What gives you the impression that my comments were how the world ought to be? I’d be perfectly happy to see cheap games, and better games for the masses. I just don’t think it’s a particularly workable business model, and that the ‘speciation’ of game companies will proceed apace.


    February 9, 2005 at 4:07 pm

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