Almost two weeks ago I received a notice from OneBookShelf about a change to their pricing model. Publishers could, in a large part thanks to Evil Hat Productions, now try out a Pay What You Want (PWYW)model of pricing.
I’ve long been a fan of this pricing model, as well as being very interested in what would happen in terms of sales if publishers started going in that direction. So I jumped at the chance. On day 1 I changed most of my titles that cost money (ranging from $0.50 to $3.99) to a PWYW model. The following day I uploaded duplicate copies of those that were also in print and set them to a PWYW model.
In a bit of my own self interest, here are all of my games – you can get them all for free, or pay what you want.
So what happened? Well first I got to buy my own starship, and then I noticed a huge increase in interest, and sales. More on the starship in a moment. Now, lets look at the first 13 days of May where I had my normal pricing model verses the first 13 days of June, 11 of which were entirely PWYW.
May 1 – 13 (Including free products)
Total Sales: 136
Total $ Gross: $6.98
Total $ Net: $4.54
Obviously, I’m not planning on retiring early on my game sales. I’m lucky in some ways in that I do this because I really enjoy creating games. Any money I make from them goes to one of three places. 1 – to buy stock art, pay for editing, etc. 2 – To The Wayne Foundation charity or 3 – To help pay the bills or buy new games. While I’d love to do this as my day job… yeah, no.
June 1 – 13 (including free products, or those that people chose to pay nothing for)
Total Sales: 345
Total $ Gross: $97.82
Total $ Net: $60.11
Now that had me feeling a bit giddy! For a moment I was contemplating lighting my cigar with a whole dollar bill. I don’t smoke though, and I bought a coffee instead.
So there is one outlier there, and here comes the starship. I was moaning about how I wanted to purchase a new Y-Wing for the X-Wing mini games but it just wasn’t in my budget. A kind internet buddy bought a copy of Argyle & Crew for $16 and told me to go buy it. So bought it I did.
With that in mind, my gross for the first two weeks is $81.82. Still, far, far better than the previous month’s first 13 days. Why? A couple of hypotheses come to mind.
- I’ve been underpricing my products.
- The hype surrounding the new PWYW model drives people to buy things they normally wouldn’t.
- More people would like my stuff but just didn’t know about it before (advertising).
- People who wouldn’t normally buy my stuff are taking a chance on something for free, and they paying for other products.
Let’s take a look!
1. I’ve been underpricing my products. I think this is probably a valid point. I tend to undervalue my own work a lot. Giving people the option to buy it at what they think it’s worth, or even get it for free, come back and buy it again lets them set their own standards in pricing. So far, on average (not including my starship purchase) people have paid what I suggest about 50% of the time. More than what I suggest about 20% of the time and grab it for free the other 30% of the time.
2. Hype. It’s a real thing and I think this is certainly a factor. What happens over the next two weeks, and then the next few months will give me (us) a much, much clearer picture of where this whole PWYW thing is going. I suspect that my sales will still be better than they were previously, certainly in number and possibly in gross dollars. But that’s a suspicion that has yet to be born out by the facts.
3. Same as #2 – with a bit of difference. There’s no easy way right now to search for PWYW products on DTRPG, but lots of publishers are talking about not only their, but others products. This helps us all but probably won’t last.
4. I think this is a big one. I’ve seen a number of instances where someone will download a product of mine that costs a few bucks for free, and then return with the same customer number and pay for a few more. That’s cool!
I like this new model. I’m not beholden to my games to pay my bills and provide my benefits and health care, so I may be able to like this new model a lot more than those who are. Regardless of how much money I make or don’t make, there’s been a real uptick in the number of people who have my stuff, whether they paid for it or grabbed it for free.
That’s the whole point, really. The more people who see my games and get to play them, the happier I am. Perhaps they’ll return later to pay for something else. Perhaps they’ll decide my stuff just isn’t their style – which is perfectly fine but now they’re not out a few bucks to realize this. Everyone’s happier.
So it’s been a short run so far and we’ll have to see where this goes in the future but for now, I’m thoroughly enamored with PWYW. I may further the experiment by taking my normally free things and making them PWYW as well, to see what happens.