Recently I stumbled across a great post over at Grimwell’s awesome blog called nobody rides for free. It’s basically a discussion of why WotC would charge money for their upcoming “Gleemax” service. To quote Grimwell:
When someone says “I don’t care if they cover their costs.” I hear “I don’t care enough about their product to care if they go under.” As the title of this entry says, nobody rides for free. Companies that fail to make profits quickly fail to make products — because they are closed.
So if you like a product you had damn well better care if the company that makes it is covering their costs. Businesses are not charities, and if they go out of business, that ends the product cycle. Period.
There’s more to his post (go read it!), some thought-provoking devil’s advocate replies, and great responses from Grim.
I had to respond, and then post my response here, because this is an argument I’ve come across before in other forms and I have strong feelings about it. Here’s what I said in response to his post:
This reminds me of the old argument about how tabletop company X is trying to ‘rob’ its customers by ‘forcing’ them to buy endless supplements.
Which always kind of got my blood boiling a bit (no, I was never employed by those companies, but did freelance for a while, and had a friend who was a line developer at White Wolf for a while).
First, since when are they forcing anyone to buy anything? Buy the supplements you want; ignore the rest.
And second, how the heck else are they supposed to keep their doors open and pay their staff? The money has to come from somewhere, and if it doesn’t, that game you so love goes out of print and eventually you can’t get it any more except by shelling out $100 or whatever at an ebay auction. Yeah, that’s SO much better.
Part of it, IMO, is that folks constantly confuse what they want to pay for something with the value of something. The value of something is a much more complex issue that’s partly how much you’re willing to pay for it, and partly how much it cost to provide, and partly how much it costs to keep in operation. When those various aspects of value don’t jibe at all, then you have a problem that causes products to sink. If we all could pay what we want to pay for things, everything in life would be free. Nice thought, but impossible goal.
Another part of it is the current attitude of entitlement that infects so many people. “I want it, therefore I’m entitled to have it” seems to be the prevalent attitude. It doesn’t matter who else is put out or has put huge amounts of time & effort into what you want—if you want it, you should get it for whatever you’re willing to shell out, right? That’s the attitude that really seems to be at the heart of the problem, and the one that makes me throw up my hands in disgust.
If you don’t think something is worth the price, don’t pay for it and don’t use it. I really think it’s that simple. If enough other people agree that it isn’t worth the price, the product will fail and you’ll be proven right. Otherwise, if you really want to use it, pay up. The only time I can see a decent argument against this is when you’re talking about vital services like power, basic food & heat, and gaming doesn’t fall into that!
To me, “I wouldn’t pay more than $5 a year for that” or “I wouldn’t pay for that service” is a perfectly valid argument. But “they shouldn’t charge for that” doesn’t make sense, because it doesn’t take into account any of the other aspects of the situation.
On an almost-related note, I’ve been using the bar code scanner I got to enter books into my LibraryThing catalog (semi-relevant because the ability to BC scan is what pushes some people over the edge into using LT’s fee-based service over other sites’ free services). I have to say, it’s a joy to use! I had some trouble at first until my husband figured out that I was trying to go too slowly. I’m used to finicky devices that you have to be slow and careful with. As it turns out, you’re supposed to whip this thing across bar codes with great speed! Wheee! I entered about a hundred or so books in last night in the maybe 30-45 minutes before I went off to an appointment, and most of that time was spent running back and forth to my bookshelves.