Thursday, October 06, 2011

Pricing the Digital Ink

To keep a theme running I'm once again going to go on about comics. Yes OK I'm missing my weekly trip to the store to pick them up, and then get home and devour them over a coffee.

Moving at the end of August means that I've not been in a brick and mortar store since DC's whole new 52 kicked off. Just in case you have no idea what I'm talking about, DC has rebooted their entire universe and every single issue was a new number 1 from the very beginning. Sort of. OK it's not that simple but I'm not interested in that right now. What I'm here to get at is Digital Comics and pricing.

This a subject that's up for a lot of debate at the moment as DC went same day and date for digital as physical release. Lets not get started on how stupid a term Day and Date is either. Marvel have responded with some titles but as yet not every book is same day. But the prices? That needs addressing. And I'm going to have to speak in US money, because getting the conversion for comics is proving too difficult in press releases.

A lot of the problem is that the companies are looking after the stores rather than just focusing on what makes sense. I understand this thinking to a degree. Comics have sunk in popularity over the years, the new stands don't exist any more, everything has revolved around the direct market to sell the monthly magazines. If it wasn't for the direct market the comics industry would probably have collapsed in the 90s speculation crash. But that model is slowly failing with big name stores such as Atomic Comics closing its doors among plenty of local names.

However, one of the aims of digital comics is to attract new readers, because we're a dying breed and if we can get people who would never set foot into a comic store to check them out on the app store we're onto a winner. But to offer them at 3 or 4 dollars a pop is ridiculous when your average joe can just head over to games and pick up Angry Birds or Hard Lines for $1. Hell, you can pick up an animated show for that price.

There's going to be a huge amount of money being saved from printing with digital sales, but you want them to pay the same? Ridiculous. Except when it comes to protecting that other business that kept you alive for so long.

So that's Marvel's stance of put both version out at the same price and keeping it that way ridiculed. DC and Image have it slightly more sane, price it the same for the first four weeks then dropping a dollar. Anyone hardcore to get it day of release pays the same no matter where they go so brick and mortar isn't being undercut, but those random people who go skimming find decent prices after a little bit of time has passed. Honestly, how many people go into a brick and mortar store to pick up a two month old copy of Captain America on a whim?

Matt Fraction's creator owned Casanova series doesn't get it's digital release till two weeks after the physical, but 3 dollars cheaper at $1.99. Once again, protecting the brick and mortar stores, but with sensible pricing for digital.

Dark Horse offer comics at $1.49, which seems like perfect pricing, though I can't seem to find if its same day or not. If it is they're seriously undercutting the direct market, but on the flip side the creators get more money from digital sales and really I'd say that's the more important aspect. The people making these stories are in a better position to keep making them. Dark Horse doesn't just stop there though and a number of first issues are free.

Free first issues just make sense, it's the reason I read Umbrella Academy and Morning Glories. I want to say Atomic Robo too, but that might have been an FCBD release. I get that on initial release they wouldn't be, but six months after the fact, why not? Those going to buy it already have, why not try and tempt some people into it giving it a try and they might just pick up the rest of it. How many games have you picked up cos you've played the trial/lite version and figured why not? Same principle.

I could keep going on about the different approaches, the implications of piracy and the loss of advertising. But if you want to garner new readers and not just entertain the existing, and dwindling, fan base you can't charge the same as in stores. Even most hardcore fans feel that prices are too high anyway.
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