I sat down at New York Comic Con with a senior Marvel executive who expressed frustration at DC’s Hold-The-Line-At-$2.99 initiative, not for any competitive reason, but that they had taken money out of comic stores by selling some of their best selling titles at that price point, without increasing sales by a commensurate amount. And that a $3.99 price wouldn’t have affected sales.
Certainly, it seems to be a lesson that DC have been learning, increasing the number of titles they sell from $2.99 to $3.99. And the best selling books for both DC and Marvel are $3.99.
It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the $7.99 editions of Detective Comics, Amazing Spider-Man and the like topped the charts, with extra content.
DC’s digital-only titles have been shifting from 99 cents to $1.99 and still does well.
And the All New Marvel NOW relaunches have seen Captain Marvel jump from $2.99 to $3.99 along with X-Factor.
So as the industry norm gets closer and closer to $3.99, the question is, who will jump to $4.99 first?
In the older days, it would be the non-Big Two publishers who would explore higher price points first, often with higher production values or claiming lesser economy of scale. But right now, the indie price point is $3.99 with many publishers like Image and Dark Horse pushing for $2.99 and $3.50.
$3.99 has been seen as the maximum price to ask for a 20-24 page comic book, and the industry has punished those who transgress it. But that’s been the same for quite some time. Years. That was the price of New Avengers in 2009. That is the price of New Avengers in 2014. And inflation, lower than in previous decades, is still affecting the price of fuel, paper and labour. Add to that the reduction in advertising in comic books, something has got to give.
So who will pull the trigger for $4.99 first?