Price vs Value – putting a price on events.

Price vs Value

If you have been reading the blog posts that I have written over the last 2 years that we have been running ObSec then you will know that I am all about transparency. If there is an issue then I would rather address it openly, share my thoughts, feelings, and ideas behind the decision making process so that everyone know what went into making that choice. I hope that I am never in a position where I feel that we need to defend a decision or choice but I am always happy to share what led us to where we are. Having said that, this is an issue that I am pretty passionate about so I may be at risk of jumping on my soapbox here. Please excuse me if I do, I promise I will try to reign myself in.


I have been hearing from a couple of people that Southern Hemisphere Open is expensive when compared to other events. There are two main points there, firstly I think that most events that are run in Western Australia (including ours) are totally under-priced and under-valued. As tournament organisers we share a partial responsibility in that by not sharing with our attendees what actually goes into planning and running an event. The second point that needs to be addressed is that SHO is not going to be like anything WA has ever seen before! In order to pull an event like this together there are significant costs (seriously tens of thousands in venue hire and that is before we look at table hire, chairs, booths, and the million other things that need to be hired) and the way that we make this affordable is by sharing that cost throughout the gaming community by way of a (in my opinion) pretty reasonable door price.

I have always thought that tournaments in WA are incredibly cheap. Those of you who know me, know I was a belly dancer for 17 years, during the July long weekend I generally attend a Middle Eastern dance festival and I would think nothing of paying $40-$70 for a 2 hour workshop. Over the long weekend it was pretty easy to drop $1000 on workshops, performances, studio session etc, and that is before I got into the bazaar where I could buy costumes, accessories, CDs, DVDs, zills etc. So for me the idea of paying $50 for a full day event (the cost of a one day event at SHO with your day pass) seems like it is pocket change!

Please note, that I am in no way discounting that times can be tough, money can be tight and $50 can seem pretty darn expensive if you are in a position where you are deciding whether to buy bread and milk this week or go to a tournament – pick the bread and milk! Always pick feeding your family and keeping a roof over your head over events!

Let’s be honest here, table top gaming is not a cheap hobby! Let’s be real, $50 in the scheme of M’s hobby equates to one can of game specific spray paint and 3 or 4 model paints. That’s without even buying the model! $50 for a full day!

I honestly think that information around how tournaments and events are under priced in WA warrants further discussion, I personally do not think it is ok that tournament organisers are giving up a HUGE amount of their time to run tournaments, the events aren’t breaking even and so it is costing the TOs or the clubs money to put on events so that players can spend the day having fun. It’s hard for me to write because I’m not a tournament attendee so I am at risk of sounding very judgemental but I don’t believe that the world owes me anything, I don’t believe that someone else should have to subsidise the cost of my having fun. I take my hat off to TOs the world over because I know just how much time, energy, effort, mental and physical strength it takes to run and event but honestly, I beg you STOP running events at a loss! It is setting attendees up to expect to pay next to nothing for an event. As TOs we need to be putting a fair price on events so that the costs are covered and TOs time is being renumerated. I had the audacity to say this out loud to a group of gamers and one of them said to me ‘why should he earn money putting on an event? I’m not going to go to an event if he’s going to earn money from organising it!’, after I picked my jaw up off the floor I said ‘he is the one doing the work, he is the one who has put the time, energy and effort into creating this for you, taken time away from his family and away from his life to put this on for YOU and he should be financially renumerated for it!’ I wonder whether this same person goes to McDonalds and says ‘will the franchise owner earn money from my buying this meal because if he will I may as well go home and make my own sandwich.’ So while I believe that TOs should be paid for their time, at the very least it shouldn’t cost them money!

Before I get off my soapbox, and I will get off it soon I promise, I also had a TO tell me that attendees expect to be given gifts for attending. This blows my mind! As if it isn’t enough that it is costing the TOs money to run an event, they are also expected to give the attendees gifts to thank them for coming? I hope that what players get from our events is a really positive gaming experience and, although we are giving away some free dice this weekend at War Calls, thank you for attending gifts aren’t required to make the event enjoyable for the players. Players expect low cost and gifts because this is what TOs are giving them. In my opinion TOs are setting unrealistic expectations. If TOs keep running events that cost them money and giving the players gifts then this is what players come to expect. We need to be working together to come up with a fair and reasonable price that isn’t going to exclude players but that is reflective of the work that goes into running an event. In my opinion a one day event should not be less than $50 and I still think that is very good value for money!

I have also heard ‘Wow there are 50 players at $35 a head, they are making $1750 in 8 hours from this event.’ While that would be brilliant, sadly it isn’t the case. Once you take away the cost of the hall hire, the insurance, the licences, advertising and promotion, medals/prizes, scoring software and don’t even get me started on the cost of the boards and terrain, lets just say that $50 that I talked about M spending on paint doesn’t come close to how much is spent on painting one table of terrain. Running events is not a lucrative business and an event is not 8 hours. Firstly most of our events actually run close to 12 hours by the time we set up and pack up but we also have to book the hall, advertise and promote, write players packs, put the tickets up for sale, check the ticket sale is working, up date players packs, answer endless questions around the event (most of the answers are in the players pack but it is just easier to ask us than check the players pack, seriously people, read the players pack!!!), follow up with players, chase army lists, check army lists, check and repair the terrain, build new terrain, load players into the software, pack the trailer, set up the room, TO the event (this is the visible part that looks like a lot of chatting to players), repack the trailer, get home, unpack the trailer, check all the results, up load the results, write blog post wrap ups of the event and these are the most visible part of running the event, this doesn’t include the things like; check that you have all the table numbers, got enough pens, buy a raffle prize, buy raffle tickets, check the emergency exit and emergency muster point of the venue, is first aid certificate up to date, check the first aid kit, liquor licence, food licence, order the medals, pick up the medals, choose a new style of medal because the one we have been using for 2 years is no longer being produced, charge the square reader in case anyone wants to purchase with credit card. The list of jobs that go into organising an event is huge. I haven’t worked out how much time running one event actually takes but if we were conservative and said it was the equivalent of 2 weeks full time work each for M and I that is 160 hours behind the scenes to get an event ready. So lets imagine that a TO is actually making a profit of $1750 for an event (which remember they aren’t because of all of the costs I already spoke about, but lets say they were), $1750 over 160 hours equates to just a little over $10 an hour. Pretty far below minimum wage in Australia isn’t it.

I hadn’t actually intended to write that about the events, I was going to write ‘the cost of events in WA is something that warrants a more detailed discussion however that may be something to cover in a future post’ but hey, my fingers started to fly and out it came. I know when M talks about it he will talk about the fact that 15 years ago tickets cost $x and if you take inflation into account then we should be charging $y. I can’t ask him what those $ amounts are at the moment because he is on the laptop in the other room recording a pod cast. For me, inflation doesn’t mean anything, it comes down to how much do I value something. If I value it I will pay a higher amount, if I don’t value it then I will think it is too expensive. How much joy does it bring me, what do I get out of it? For an event we hope that you are getting a chance to play multiple events, have fun, increase your social circle and actually have a reason to play with those bloody expensive armies that you have purchased. How much is that worth to you?

To M it is worth a lot! He has travelled to Poland, Las Vegas, the Eastern States and we are intending to head to the UK next year as well, all so that he can play table top gaming on the world stage. To attend events like the Las Vegas Open it wasn’t cheap! The US$45 for the 3 day pass $80 for the 2 day ticket and $25 (I think) for the one day ticket were the least of the financial burdens. We had $1500 for air fare, $ for accommodation, insurance, and all of the other costs that are associated with travel. All up lets say it cost $3000 for him to go for the 3 day event. For M that was worth every single cent. It is an experience that he will never forget and we were really fortunate that we could afford for him to be able to do it (he also has an amazingly supportive wife and he should be very appreciative of her encouraging him to go while she stayed home and dealt with the horrors of 2 out of 3 kids starting a new school alone, don’t even get me started on when he went to Poland and left me pregnant and solo parenting 2 kids while he went off to play with toy soldiers – let’s see how much of my writing he actually reads 😊) – Thank you sweetie, M! We are well aware that for many gamers in WA popping over to Las Vegas for a week to play in a 3 day tournament is very much unaffordable (plus some gamers partners are not as easily convinced that they should give their partners a leave pass to pop over to the other side of the world to play table top games). So if Mohammed can’t go to the mountain lets bring the mountain to Mohammed. We decided to attempt to create WA’s first table top gaming expo.

Southern Hemisphere Open is not like anything that we have experienced in Western Australia before! To date, events in WA have been somewhere between one and four gaming systems (I’m just trying to do a mental count of how many events Outpost had at their Skulls event, I’m pretty sure it was 4 per day but forgive me if I am wrong) run in a local hall, community centre or a pub. I am not in any way shape or form saying anything against those events, we run 6 or 7 events in a local community centre, what I am saying is that SHO is going to be significantly different.

For a start there will be over a dozen formal events over the weekend and we have space for 350 players each day! The local halls here have an absolute max capacity of 80. Can you imagine gaming in a room with 350 players? The energy in that room could power a small country if we had some way to harness it! We have scheduled all of the events to have long breaks between rounds so that everyone has time to visit the expo space which will mean everyone will have time to check out the clubs that will be there, to check out the demo and intro games, to have a look at the air brush demos, the painting workshops, to enter the painting comp, to listen to the panels, and fully participate in the expo.

So for $50 for a day, $100 for a two day event or $150 if you go to some combination of 3 days worth of gaming over the long weekend, you are experiencing a professionally run event/s, workshops, panels, and one, two or three full days emersion in the table top gaming world. Compare $150 to the $3000 that M paid to go out to Las Vegas. Compare it to the costs that the gamers from over east are paying when they attend given they have to pay for air fare, accommodation, car hire or taxi to the event and $150 doesn’t seem like a huge amount to pay. Compare the $150 with the price of a concert ticket that lasts 2 hours, compare it with 1 GW get started box, compare it with the core rule book and a starter unit of your gaming system, compare it with 1 big box set in your gaming system, if you play 40k space marines you can get a tactical squad, a rhino and maybe a couple of paints, hobby supplies you can get a can of spray paint, 3 brushes, 10 paints and 2 washes and that isn’t enough to paint a full army! $150 is pretty reasonable for 3 day, 12 hours a day, of gaming experience (it’s a little over 10 weeks away, put away $15 a week for the next 10 weeks and you have the $ to attend for all 3 days!). And did I mention it is going to absolutely ROCK!

We want to have you at SHO, we want this to be an amazing event that puts WA on the gaming map and we know that there are heaps of gamers out there that have already bought your tickets, so many gamers that haven’t yet got your tickets but fully intend to and a hand full that are saying the event is too expensive. We also know that we can’t and wont please everyone no matter how hard we try and how much we want to but I thought that it was worthwhile addressing and given I have now written close to 3000 words which is longer than half the essays I had to submit for uni it appears it is something that I am more passionate about than I realise.

If you haven’t got your tickets for SHO head on over to Eventbrite and secure your tickets now! We really look forward to seeing you there!!!