Pricing, Media, and the Fear Of Commitment

Ive been thinking about the different media economic models out there, especially games and e-books.  I think I've discovered a barrier to customer involvement that is often not explored.

Fear of commitment.

Think about what happens when you start reading a series of books – you're making them a part of your life.  You're talking about them with friends, paying money, using time, keeping up on the plots.  IImagine what this will be like in an age of serial e-fiction, where your commitment is more on a weekly basis or so?

Many MMO's and games with subscription fees require a commitment.  You're paying money, getting involved with a game and fellow gamers.  In fact you have to play to get your money's worth, or you're just waisting that subscription.

A few observations:

  • How many times have you heard someone doesn't want to "get involved" in a TV or book series because of time or other involvements?
  • How many times do you see people grind away at subscription games because they feel some vague sense of commitment and investment?
  • When it comes to MMO's all I play now are free/fremium ones.  I found that past MMO's that were subscription based definitely felt like a commitment.
  • Have you ever gotten a lot of DLC for a game?  Did you feel you had to – or did having a good game already seal the deal?

How much is this fear of commitment keeping people from being involved in a given piece of media?  How can you, the person in geeky media careers, deal with this?

I'm not sure I have a solution, but as I've thought it over I think this is a barrier many people don't realize can affect them.  I doubt its a massive definer of people's market choices, but I'm sure it's significant enough to warrant thought.

A few thoughts:

  • I think free-to-play, free book chapters, etc. really help people "ease into" a product before they make a commitment.  One of the most delightful marketing tools I saw in the past was when the first Doctor Who novels hit the US – and chapters of several were released in a promotional packet.
  • Pricing and subscription plans need to address the commitment fear for e-books, books, games, etc.  I'm not sure on this either, but I think monthly subscriptions are the biggest turn-off.
  • Pricing and subscriptions also need to deliver benefits to people so they feel they get their money's worth.  However that can actually be overdone – if an e-book subscription also gets you access to an online community, does that feel like even MORE commitment?

So keep this in mind in your geeky jobs – are you making sure that what media you work in addresses the fear of commitment people have?  Is it not a factor – or one that has blindsided you?

– Steven Savage