As much as I think the reboot is a great thing creatively, I think the announcement that DC will now offer all of their digital comics on the same day of release as their print counterparts at the exact same price point is a seriously wrong business decision.
In their email to retailers DC Comics said, “No digital comic will be cheaper than its physical print counterpart at launch.” All those brand new #1s in September will debut at $2.99, the same price as their print cousins, and then in a month they’ll cut the price to $1.99. I shake my head in disbelief.
The whole reason to have digital versions of your comics is to grab the non-comic book reader. Non-comic book readers don’t care about getting a weekly Wednesday fix. They don’t care about how many Green Lanterns there are. They don’t stop in to dirty, smelly comic book stores. They are only interested in, maybe, getting a comic to read on their iPad because that Ryan Reynolds movie looks cool.
The whole $2.99 then $1.99 is meaningless and makes zero business sense. The average iPad user might take a look at the offerings, but if the choice is a fully iPad integrated Wired or Esquire magazine at $3.99 offering at least 30 minutes (or more) of reading (and cool videos too) pleasure or 5-10 minutes TOPS reading enjoyment of part one of six at $2.99 comic, the choice is clear. In fact, if DC wanted to really spark digital sales then they should have priced all their comics at 99 cents. It would have had the added bonus of freaking out the endangered species known as comic book retailers.
Scott McCloud of Understanding Comics fame, said exactly how I feel about the whole digital comic world, “I personally think that a 99 cents price point could be attractive for a one-off comics story. IF that comic was 50 pages long AND formatted to the screen.” Even then, I don’t think the price point works. If I were DC Comics, I’d have collections of storylines for $1.99 or even the more attractive 99 cents. The non-comic book reader would definitely pick up Batman Hush (12-issue and a relatively complete story) as a digital download for $1.99 and feel they received enough entertainment for the price. Basically, I’d break it down as $1 for six issues and $2 for twelve. It HAS to be complete stories or they won’t come back.
Whatever the business reason for not offering individual comics for 99 cents, it does not hold any water with me. I don’t care about the difficulties of the publishing world. They cannot be any more difficult than problems of software companies who continually offer a whole range of apps for 99 cents. DC Comics is not really in the business of creating comics anyway, they are a licensing and media company creating marketing briefs that are the basis for things that actually make them money like movies, television shows and pajamas.
I don’t need a focus group to tell me that average people will not buy, more than once, a digital application like a comic book, which does not offer enough of a return on monetary investment. 99 cents has ALWAYS been the threshold on disposable digital downloads. $1.99 and up and you are talking “real” money.
So far, I’m not seeing a ROI that helps expand readership. The audience is there, but not at the wrong price point. DC Comics could have thrown the retailers under the bus and pushed to a wider audience, but they did not. My guess is within five years, Marvel will reboot (or likely merge its Ultimate line with the regular Marvel U) and drop their pricing on digital downloads and then DC will follow suit. DC could have led the charge back into the mainstream with the reboot and pricing. Now, they will simply be wasting time with a too expensive product.