Friday, January 2, 2015

All for One or One for All: Streaming vs. Download Pricing on CGTrader


CGTrader is an online marketplace where designers of 3D printing models can sell their files as streaming or downloadable content. Comparing the designers price points for either option provides a unique look into this trade off. By comparing data on prices we can understand designers expectations about the files' usage. CGTrader was started in 2011 and currently lists 10,527 3D printing models, from 881 users, ranging from an Arduino case to earrings of these 1,329 models have priced download and stream options. In this post we will be looking at the ratio of the download price to the stream price for these models. The Download/Stream Ratio (DSR) is capturing expectations of:
  •  the number of times a download will be printed;
  • the expected value to consumers of modification;
  • security of the streaming option;
  • risk of downloaded file becoming widely circulated;
  • etc.
While these differences cannot be completely distinguished it is important to understand the DSR:

Rational Pricing (DSR> 1)


Basic economics predicts that the DSR should be greater than 1 because downloading the file encompasses streaming the file. We see that of the 1329 files 8.2% have a DSR less than 1. Additionally, those 1329 files were created by 193 designers of which 20.7 % have at least one incorrectly priced file. This points to designers misunderstanding the delivery system.

DSR by Category


The CGTraders files represent a wide variety of products and the pricing trends depend heavily on the type of file.



We see that Jewelry and Games & Toys are the categories that are most expensive to stream, while Hobby & DIY and House products are the least expensive to stream. This could be related to the level of complexity of the models.



The DSR provides insight into a more interesting trend. Miniatures and Art have the largest DSR, while Jewelry and Science have the lowest DSR. This could be driven by the fact that Jewelry and Science are more unique and users may not need as many versions.

At the other extreme Miniatures, Art and Hobby & DIY tend to be posted with more fear of proliferation to other sites and so the designers may be trying to capture more of the subsequent prints.

DSR decreasing in stream price





As the price of a single use increases we see that the DSR is decreasing (see the blue line above) with a 10% increase in the streaming price resulting in a 4% decline in the DSR. This could be driven by multiple factors relating to the various determinants of DSR:

  •  There is less demand for more expensive goods meaning that one user would need fewer prints
  • The value of customization is lower for more expensive products
  •  The designer has less faith in the security of the streaming option as the good becomes more valuable
  •  This relationship is most likely not driven by the risk of distribution because a higher priced good would be more likely to be circulated.

In total, this begins to sketch an interesting picture of the pricing process for digital content among 3D printing designers. This is a partial picture of the digital marketplace, but as 3D printing closes the gap between the digital and the tangible (private vs club goods) understanding the DSR (or similar measures) will become more important.

Technical note: While these results are presented as independent correlations, they all maintain a  similar interpretation when included simultaneously in a regression framework. These results are available upon request.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Dalia Lasaite and the team at CGTrader.

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