CK2 Publishing Diary #1: Pricing Jade Dragon

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Hello everyone!

I’m Gustav “Gruffa” Groth, Product Manager for CK2. I’ve previously written a dev diary about what goes into releasing an expansion from the publishing point of view. You can find that dev diary here.

As you may have already inferred from reading the title of this post, this is not a dev diary, and I won’t bring up any new features or content in the upcoming expansion, Jade Dragon. Instead, I will talk about how we determine the pricing of CK2 expansions, and reveal the price of Jade Dragon. You can expect more publishing diaries from me in the future, because we’d like to shed light on the publishing operations behind CK2 and have opportunities for discussions about related topics with the community. Please note that dev diaries will continue to be posted in the same manner and frequency as usual. Publishing diaries are an addition, not a replacement. ;)

Let’s jump right into it! It’s my honor and pleasure to announce that Jade Dragon will be available for purchase for $14.99.

Why $14.99? There’s no exact science to pricing, and there’s no right or wrong answer to what the correct price is. I’ll attempt to summarize our method below:

Who makes the decision?
The price point decision is taken by the CK2 product team. I described the product team in further detail in my previous dev diary, but in short it consists of the Product Manager, the Product Marketing Manager, the Game Director and the Project Lead. This combination of people represent all aspects of the development team and the publishing organization and should be able to make the best informed decision.

Estimating value
For every new expansion that’s being planned, the game designers attempt to estimate what the perceived value of the expansion is to the player. They break it down into its features and how impactful each feature will feel. Using this method, each expansion receives a “value score” which can be compared to the value score of our earlier expansions. By looking at the reception (forum discussions, reviews etc.) and financial performance (revenue) of earlier expansions, we can evaluate whether or not you found their value-to-price ratio fair.

Pricing as means of communication
Using the abovementioned method, one may argue that the price levels could be more flexible. The majority of expansions have been priced at either $14.99 or $9.99. Why are all CK2 expansions (Way of Life being the exception) priced at a multiple of 5? The reason is that the price point itself is a very effective way of communicating value and help the player manage their expectations. Having a wildly varying mix of odd price points such as $8.99 or $12.49 would be confusing to both the player and ourselves. If we’re good at being consistent with the amount and quality of content in $14.99 or $9.99 expansions, players know what they can expect when they see those price tags. Now, getting that consistency is an area of improvement for us, but know that we’re doing our best.

Why $14.99?
Given the “multiples of 5 rule” described above, one might wonder, why wasn’t this priced at $9.99 or $19.99? The simple answer is that when Henrik Fåhraeus and Alexander Oltner designed Jade Dragon, they had $10 worth of gameplay systems, and $5 of cosmetic as well as musical content, in mind. Together, these add up to a value of $15.

We first experimented with including cosmetic content in the expansion itself with Monks & Mystics, with good results. Why did we do that? Throughout CK2’s lifetime, we have tried different ways of adding cosmetic content to the game. There have been portrait, unit and dynasty shield packs. Later on, we graduated to releasing content packs alongside the expansions. And the list of DLC kept growing… We’re aware that the extensive selection of DLC is prone to discourage new players from getting into the game, and old players from returning. Therefore we have taken action to slim down the amount of DLCs available on the store pages, like bundling them into collections and the like. These measures would lose their meaning if we kept throwing new, small piece-meal DLC onto the, now cleaner, store pages. That’s why we opted for this method.

Wrapping up
That was all I had to say about pricing this time. I look forward to releasing Jade Dragon and see what you think about it! I have to run to a meeting now but I'll be back in an hour to answer any questions you may have! :)

Cheers,
Gustav
 

FrancescoT

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Why $14.99?

I've always wanted to ask to someone in the field if, psychological pricing speaking, there is any difference in ending the price between .99, .98 or .49 :D .
 

Wixelt

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Can we have it in the UK using the old exchange rate?
 

Asiak

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I care not about the price.

You've been hyping this since June, the dev diaries are winding down, we've seen most of the major content and it looks polished enough.

Still there is no release date.

I'm also disappointed by the words "later this year" because I don't think I was unrealistic to expect this in early to mid November, and later this year kind of implies December.
 

sreckom92

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I'd prefer a separate content pack.
Well, I don't have much issues when cosmetic packs are bundled to a relevant DLC.
Jade Dragon brings attention to Tibet and the surrounding area. Chinese and Tibetan portraits fit well with the general theme of the expansion.
Same with Russian unit packs that came along Third Rome expansion for EU4.

That's kinda alright.
But the way you bundled German and English portraits with Monks and Mystics is...disgusting to say the least.
Please don't do that again.
 
Last edited:

Telenil

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I think everyone is waiting for a release date more than anything else, but more insight is always welcome. Thank you for this explanation.

I agree with bundling cosmetics with the expansion. My first impression when seeing the shop pages was "do I have to get through all this?" I found what I was looking for of course, but it was less intuitive than on other games.
 
Last edited:

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So how much do you figure rally points are worth?

How much of the $10 "gameplay systems" are rally points?

What should be a basic UI function is being sold as a premium "gameplay system."
 

Gruffa

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I think everyone is waiting for a release date more than anything else, but more insight is always welcome. Thank you for this explanation.

I understand that you're eager to know the release date. Trust me on this, I'm dying to tell you as well. You'll have to trust that we have good reason to have you wait just a little bit longer. ;)
 

Asiak

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So how much do you figure rally points are worth?

How much of the $10 "gameplay systems" are rally points?

What should be a basic UI function is being sold as a premium "gameplay system."

Ya know as much as I personally don't care about rally points, I have to agree with this and spin it off into a mini tangent about where things fall on the patch / DLC line.

But rally points are the current example of this but they are not the best example of this.

From least pertinent example to most pertinent example I would point to:

- Being able to change to your capital's religion through decision being part of the DLC side of Rajas of India. This is a basic behavior that a person might do and doubles the possible emergent storytelling. It is also a simple matter of utility that I feel like it should have been on the patch side because it is needed more than you might think.

- Custom kingdom creation being part of the DLC side of Charlemagne. This in my mind is filed under basic desires of the player that at some point a good amount of people will want to form their own custom kingdom. I also consider it a basic behavior in a game simulating the medieval period.

- The removal of crown authority being on the DLC side of Conclave. I would make the argument that the previous crown authority was never ideal, was too easily manipulated and should have been removed and replaced even for people who didn't buy Conclave. My hatred and dislike of the old crown authority aside it's really a matter of, new players will forever be confused by the tooltip and what they need to change laws. Now I like many understand what an If statement is and know what is required per what DLC you have. But the reality is it was an awful system that only causes confusion by being left partially in.

But do you know what my top example is?

- The fact that ally army control came on the DLC side of Monks and Mystics. I was honestly a little beside myself with confusion and annoyance. Because that is the definition of basic feature, similar but even more so then rally points in my mind. That is a basic functionality of war of any conflict where you have an ally, where you have reached out and need an ally that you are able to communicate with them. To actually effectively make use of their forces as you the commander need. To perform the basic human function of communicating with your ally, and you thought this basic activity that is sometimes fundamental to war should be on the paid side.

I'm not one of the people who disparages the current Paradox DLC style / policy. I am one of the people who simply wants the game to continually be developed and improved upon. I also recognize that there is the paid side and the free side and that the paid side is what enables the free side.

And I understand, or at least assume, the motivations behind each of these very pointed and tasty features being put on the DLC side of things. I understand that core feature changes and map changes are typically patch side and additions are more DLC side.

But beyond that I don't think I'm making a leap when I say the things I complain about here are the bits of spice that you toss onto the DLC side to make some of us salivate.

And I accept that I really do. I as a consumer fully accept that every round you take some juicy leg and toss it onto the paid side to try and entice a few more people. I understand this because you are a business and I accept this because in general the rest of DLC / patch divide is fair and balanced.

But a re-evaluation needs to be had as to what that one piece is, and is it a basic feature that really should be available to everyone?

Things like custom kingdoms and changing to your capital's religion are trifles really that simply clamp down on a player's desire.

But things like rally points and more specifically ally army control are basic and needed features that should really be on the patch side because the game needed them.
 

Castorem

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The cosmetics should be separate like in the earlier DLCs.
 

Wixelt

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Asiak

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The cosmetics should be separate like in the earlier DLCs.

There are really good arguments for both approaches.

Packaging things together cuts down on the "DLC bloat" that people have validly complained about, it's convenient and most of them are themed with a DLC anyway.

Packaging things separate simply gives people the option to not buy the content packs if they don't want to.

I can see how it is a nice option but I don't see it as necessary. Not over cutting down on the very real perception of there being hundreds of small DLC for these games.
 

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I understand that you're eager to know the release date. Trust me on this, I'm dying to tell you as well. You'll have to trust that we have good reason to have you wait just a little bit longer. ;)

The price seems reasonable. Is the 'delay' because of the converter to the new EU4 map? By that logic one could expect Cradle of Civilisation to come out earlier than Jade Dragon. Anyways, can't wait to play this expansion.
 

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On stream, Henrik mentioned that JD was originally going to be much larger: a full-sized China expansion. A past dev diary also confirmed this. However, the team ultimately decided to go with something smarter.

Had we gotten that complete Asian expansion - dreaded and anticipated in equal measure - how would it have been priced? It's safe to say that it would've been enormous, far beyond even the scope of RoI. Might that have been the first $20 or $25 expansion? Further, are any "huge" expansions still a possibility?
 

Keizer Harm

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I disagree with merging DLC and content packs together. I joined CK2 in 2015, when there were already dozens of DLCs released (including cosmetic ones). I began browsing the forum for list of recommendations, and ended up taking a half-dozen "mechanics" DLCs, including Charlie and Sword of Islam. I liked what I had bought, and slowly bought the little content packs with them when I could afford them. It was a really comfortable way for me to get into the game at my own pace, without feeling like I was spending €250 at once. I still haven't got the Metal music packs to this date, but am otherwise up to date.

When you are buying DLC, and you don't know too many about them, you will want to go for the cheapest ones first. Merging content packs with DLC increases the price per purchase. Therefore, you are making it less likely that recent DLC will be amongst the first few bought by a new player. If you were to do the same with CK3, and produce €20 DLCs from the start - I can see a whole bunch of people turned off by the price hike.

And now, you are not solving any problem that you can solve. You say the list is getting too long. News flash: it is already crazy long. You already need to scroll through it on Steam, and the combined value is already shocking. You are not making the list any shorter. You are only increasing inconvenience for both old and new players.
 

Castorem

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There are really good arguments for both approaches.

Packaging things together cuts down on the "DLC bloat" that people have validly complained about, it's convenient and most of them are themed with a DLC anyway.

Packaging things separate simply gives people the option to not buy the content packs if they don't want to.

I can see how it is a nice option but I don't see it as necessary. Not over cutting down on the very real perception of there being hundreds of small DLC for these games.
The loyal customers should be the target - by giving us more choices of what to buy and what not to. Not everyone's got 15€ lying around their house for a new DLC, I'd much rather just buy the main DLC for 8 or 10€ and when I have some spare cash I'd maybe buy the cosmetics also. I never even used to buy anything but the portraits and now I feel as if my hand was being forced to spend money on things I don't want.

They should have just stuck with the previous model. There are already tons of DLCs - a few more aren't anything more than a drop in the bucket - if someone new interested in the game comes, will they really care whether it's 30 or 25 DLCs? If they start up a new game - sure, create a model that you think is best, but changing it so late into the process is both pointless, while limiting and confusing some of the buyers as the newer DLCs all have the cosmetics included, but a newcomer still sees 25 DLCs of which the latest ones are 25% more expensive. I believe it was a bad decision on Paradox's part.

For example I still haven't bought M&Ms for this very reason, I'm waiting for a 75% discount, because, I'm sorry, but the content just isn't worth 15€. I'd love to buy the German & English portraits though, sperately, on those I'd love to spend my money, but not willing to pay 13€ extra weight for features I couldn't care less about. It probably wouldn't upset me as much, if it had been this way from the beginning, but the fact that they changed it from a model that worked really well for many people just makes me bitter.
 
Last edited:

Snake_Squeezins

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I was surprised and a little disappointed that today's Dev Diary did not have a specific breakdown of the value of each particular component.

Here's a link to an EU4 DD from about 2 years ago where Wiz went into great detail on how some of the then-recent DLC had been priced:

https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/index.php?threads/eu4-dev-diary-december-3rd-2015.894626/

I know you mention today that DLC pricing is "not a science", but the DD above clearly ties DLC prices to specific deliverables.

Some follow-up questions:

Is the DLC pricing model for CK2 different than EU4 and other Paradox games? More specifically, does each Paradox game set its own prices independently of each other game? (It seems so based on your DD, but perhaps the committee that you mentioned then has its price point vetted by execs further up the ladder.)

Alternatively, does Paradox have a single, uniform policy on its DLC pricing?