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71. Why the most expensive larps are great gateway drugs

There are several larps out there right now which cost a substantial amount of money, compared to what a “high-end” larp cost five years ago.

College of Wizardry costs 420€ for the Early Bird ticket. InsideHamlet is 390€. New World Magischola is 575$, and the really wild stuff like Roadtrip is 1200$ for the basic ticket.

To a lot of people, this is a significant amount of money. But to others, it’s cheap when you consider what you’re getting. A skiing vacation is almost impossible to do for that price (at least if you live in Denmark!). Disneyland easily swallows more money pr. person going, and that’s got 16 million visitors a year, just in California. And let’s not even start on what a Superbowl ticket costs even without getting there or having a place to stay.

No, there’s plenty of much more expensive stuff out there, but that’s not really the point I’m trying to make. What interests me is that people who do New World Magischola this summer as their first larp pay 575$ for it, and are (hopefully) happy about that experience.

But there’s more… much more

Afterwards, they realise that there’s a whole world of larp out there. Black Friday. Legion. Hell on Wheels. The list is long and awesome. And because many of these are volunteer productions, the prices are (comparetively) low.

Now imagine you’ve just been to Witcher School, and have taken your first step into the world of larp. You’re flushed with excitement at discovering that there’s more out there. A wide range of cool stuff that beckons you.

For the newly minted larper, it’s welcome news that most of it is in a similar price range or cheaper. If you felt comfortable spending around four hundred euros on a gothic horror trip with the Demeter, you don’t think InsideHamlet (which costs roughly the same) is expensive.

And when someone tells you that you can play De la Bete in Czechia for significantly less, it’s “Woohoo-where-do-I-sign-up-and-how-can-it-be-so-cheap!?” time.

The reason is quite simple. If you have an amazing experience and pay 4–500€, you know have a gut reaction that this sort of experiece can cost that. If you see something similar at 7–800€, you’ll probably think it’s a bit expensive, while the 150–200€ option will seem delightfully low in price.

It’s natural, and is not a larp-specific thing, but it does impact our hobby when our high-end productions also function as gatekeepers.

It’s also the same thing those of us who didn’t start here are struggling against. I’ve been part of consciously pushing the larp price envelope since 2004, and it’s been the same every step of the way.

In 2004, I was part of the team that did Time of Legends 7: Grey is the Sun. It lasted five days, included all food costs (players made their own food, but we supplied an abundance of raw materials) and cost the staggering amount of 400 DKK (55€). And quite a few people thought is was expensive.

This was because most larps at the time were cheaper. At the time no one had done a larp that cost more than 1000 DKK in Denmark. The first time that happened was about five years later – to the best of my knowledge, at least.

But back in 2004, it just wasn’t done. Larp wasn’t that expensive. I’d go on bar-hopping trips with people who would gladly drop 400 DKK for a night on the town. Then I’d be told that those 400 were too expensive for a five-day adventure with food included. By the exact same people.

Much has happened since

Today, the bar has moved significantly, but the underlying issue is still there. A 150–200€ larp is no longer extreme, but a 700€ price tag raises some eyebrows. The 55€ event that made people rage fifteen years ago? It’s laughably cheap, but still there. Which is super cool!

Does this mean that prices can just continue to go up, and nothing will change? Of course not. There is a huge difference between a 55€ larp and a 575$ one. A factor of ten matters. But it matters most to those who came early to the party. For those who have their first larp experience at New World Magischola this summer, a lapr at that price won’t be unreasonably expensive. If it was, they probably wouldn’t have taken the risk of going.

No, in fact, these people will just be positively suprised when they learn that there’s other stuff out there that’s great as well – and cheaper.

So no matter what you think of the prices of “expensive” larps (blockbuster larps tend to fall into this category, but not exclusively), you should applaud them for bringing in fresh players who don’t mind the cost.

Ironically, since we’re still expanding the scope of what’s possible, the newcomers of two years ago are now sometimes the nay-sayers of today. Someone who went to the first College of Wizardry (180€) will probably feel that the current price (420€ for the Early Bird ticket) is too expensive.

The good news is that these players are perfectly in tune with larps that would once have been seen as crazily costly (200–250€). Now, these are seen more as high mid-range productions.

And the result?

International blockbuster larps are on the rise. The pool of larpers going to high-end events is expanding. And one day we’ll hit the price point where larp organising is sustainable. There will even be a day where being part of a larp production team is a decently paid career option. But that’s a subject for another blog post!

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Written by

Director, The College of Extraordinary Experiences & Coach at McKinsey

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