Author Topic: What's a roleplaying game worth ?  (Read 1627 times)

Tom

  • Member
  • Posts: 46
    • View Profile
What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« on: January 24, 2014, 06:52:09 AM »
It's been a long time since I posted about [explorers], which is now not only complete, but has someone interested in buying the rights to it and publish it.

Now I'm completely lost about the price. I have no idea how much I can ask - does anyone have experience or industry sources and can help me out with an estimate? What's a roleplaying game worth if you sell it to a publisher? Even an order-of-magnitude would help me a lot.

Eero Tuovinen

  • Member
  • Posts: 197
    • View Profile
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2014, 07:39:37 AM »
Hah, that's a pretty interesting conundrum. Bizarre, in fact.

Ultimately the answer is that it's worth whatever you say it is worth: there is no practicable market that could be addressed for price discovery. This is more like selling a heirloom than selling a car, so the negotiation has to proceed from motivations: how much you want to sell, and how much they want to buy. There is no guarantee that these two desires match each other; most of the time I would expect them not to, which is what makes this a weird situation.

One source for prices that might be even somewhat relevant is to consider work for hire. The difference is that when you hire somebody to work on a culture industry project, you get to decide what it'll be about; on the other hand, when you sell work for hire, you don't have emotional commitment to the work, and may thus be willing to let it go cheaper.

Another point of comparison are obviously book manuscripts and screenplays, which are regularly bought for culture industry purposes. A very common means of achieving economic sensibility in these types of deals is to profit-share in some way: this allows the business partners to make the difficult value-determination issue less pressing, as they no longer need to be able to predict the future value of the manuscript so very exactly.

In mainstream book publishing you might expect something like thousands of dollars in advance payment, and several percents of the net profits off the top. In a work for hire situation you might expect to be paid several cents per word, or more if you're being hired as an independent consultant (in which case you'd negotiate a fee for the project as a whole). Neither of these situations quite corresponds with yours, but you did ask for rough magnitudes.

Perhaps it'll help in figuring out the price if I say that I know some roleplaying game publishers personally (being one myself, albeit a small press one), and I can't think of a single one who'd be interested in buying a manuscript for more than a couple hundred dollars advance at most. (We're poor people passionate about our own projects, most don't have thousands upon thousands of dollars to throw at a risky venture like that; if we want to spend seriously, we'll spend on a project we control from the ground up.) On the other hand, a publisher is much more likely to make an agreement for royalties, which might in practice bring in something in the low thousands for you, if the product is successful. Depending on the exact nature of your project I thus would expect that if you were being paid without royalties, as a single-time payment, the numbers that wouldn't surprise me would be somewhere between $100 and $5000, with that upper end being reserved for some moderately serious projects. Any more than that, and I'd reread the press release to figure out why the publisher is overpaying for a rpg manuscript of all things :D

If you want any more exact discussion of the situation, we'll need three important data points: how expansive and ambitious is the game (word count of the manuscript might be a good indicator), what is the nature of the publishing plan (size of the planned print run might be a good indicator), and would you be remunerated primarily via advance or royalties. All of these influence the value calculations a lot.

Tom

  • Member
  • Posts: 46
    • View Profile
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2014, 08:35:13 AM »
Thanks, that helps a lot already.

I expect primarily royalties, but I want a small up-front payment as assurance that it's actually going to get published. Wouldn't want to sell the rights to someone who then just sits on it, and then I can't even publish it myself anymore.

The book is currently 187 pages, ca. 46,000 words.

Eero Tuovinen

  • Member
  • Posts: 197
    • View Profile
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2014, 08:59:30 AM »
Has the publisher published anything prior to this in the rpg field or some other field of publication?

Ron Edwards

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1417
  • The cold never bothered me anyway
    • View Profile
    • Adept Press
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2014, 11:05:02 AM »
Eero, hold off for a minute.

Tom, here are some ideas that may help.

1. MSRP, or Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price. This is what the book says on its cover. There are two factors in setting an MSRP.

i) The floor (lower end) is priced on its production and related costs: printing obviously, but also art costs and any number of other things. Most crucially, whatever is charged, it should return enough money above its costs to pay for producing another book. Anything less than that is digging a hole in the ground to re-fill it. Also, if one's floor is too high - results in a price that people won't pay for the content - than you have to scale back production features.

ii) Charging higher than the floor depends on the content. If it's about a famous person, by a famous person, depicts material people find compelling, or has some feature which is perceived as much more valuable than whatever it costs to provide it ... then one may raise the MSRP from the floor. The trouble this might run into is that people are assessing your book against similar books, and unless yours has features which are genuinely amazing and can't be found elsewhere, pricing higher than others may reduce sales.

2. Digital sales are a different thing - about the only standard everyone agrees upon is that they should cost less than their equivalent physical book. Clearly the same concept of the floor applies, though - if your art and other costs outweigh what you're charging, you're throwing money away.

As a final point, I suggest reconsidering selling your property out of your ownership. The only reason people want to buy it is that they think they can sell it for more than they're paying you. Consider that point carefully. Bear in mind too that if they promise great production and promotion, then at best those costs will be recouped by them before paying you anything ... so it's not like all that greatness does anything for you.

Tom

  • Member
  • Posts: 46
    • View Profile
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2014, 09:29:11 AM »
Thanks again, all of that helps a lot.

The publisher is trying to break into the roleplaying market, so they don't have RPG titles as of yet, they've apparently been around for a while doing movie scripts and TV series, etc.


I've just sent them an offer and will see what the response is. It's right that priorities matter, and frankly I don't expect to get rich so getting this published at all is my #1 priority, but of course, in the words of The Joker: If you're good at something, never do it for free. :-)

Callan S.

  • Member
  • Posts: 127
    • View Profile
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2014, 01:57:57 AM »
If you are still considering selling it, it's probably good to run an estimate of the number of hours you spent on the project. Then figure how much you think an hour of your time is worth.

It's not the most happy way of doing it, because possibly most likely you will not get the hours x worth sum. However it is useful to know how much you're undercutting yourself.

Joshua Bearden

  • Member
  • Posts: 110
    • View Profile
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2014, 08:52:48 PM »
Hey Tom!  Congrats on finishing and double congrats on eliciting this kind of commercial interest.  To help build your confidence for the bargaining process I should let you know that our one play test session made a serious impression on members of my humble role-playing scene.  It's been mentioned by other players a many of times since.  Despite a formidable list of indie games on our 'to play' list we are determined to go back and continue the adventures of our group of clones. I should say that months after playing, the element of your game that seems to stick in our minds is the way you structured "missions".  The rote assignment and mission schedule as an underlying framework for all standard adventures was really appealing. 


Callan S.

  • Member
  • Posts: 127
    • View Profile
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2014, 07:02:44 PM »
Sounds like more reasons to keep the IP!

Tom

  • Member
  • Posts: 46
    • View Profile
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2014, 11:10:41 AM »
Thanks for the positive feedback. I'm still negotiating. The issue in keeping the IP is that I don't have access to quality artwork or marketing, while the publisher has.

If you want to play again, let me know so I can send you the current rules, which have much evolved since then, and my own playtesting shows that they are pretty close to polished now.

glandis

  • Member
  • Posts: 140
  • But the dust, alas, does not command the wind
    • View Profile
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2014, 01:57:45 PM »
This may be obvious, but - Tom, with the game complete and the Sorcerer design-heritage a potential, um, attention-getter, have you considered a go at Kickstarting the art & printing? I mean, there are plenty of issues with doing so correctly, but it seemed worth checking to see if you'd thought about it. Done right (remember & charge correctly for shipping seems an important part), it shifts your risk of loss from "a bunch of your money" to some (significant-ish?) amount of your time.

Given the current state of RPG publishing, it wouldn't surprise me if your potential buyer planned a Kickstart of his/her own. Again, done right I'd imagine it's possible for a pre-order type Kickstart to pay off a modest purchase fee as well as fund art/printing.

Just some thoughts - unsurprisingly (given the Forge), I'm inclined to encourage continued creator-ownership, but I can understand the urge to get some money and let someone else handle the headaches.
-Gordon

Tom

  • Member
  • Posts: 46
    • View Profile
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2014, 03:22:13 AM »
Two points there.

One, I live in Germany and Kickstarter is one of those sites that think the world revolves around the US and the UK. Setting things up as a non-US/UK citizen adds even more headache. That said, I've run a crowdfunding campaign for my current primary project (http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/might-fealty) and was frankly disappointed, because I started that one out with over 1000 people who already know and love my online games. But more importantly, I understood the massive amount of time and work involved.

Two, [explorers] has always been a side-project. So yes, handing it off to someone else is what I want to do. Money is secondary.

Tom

  • Member
  • Posts: 46
    • View Profile
Re: What's a roleplaying game worth ?
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2015, 03:45:45 PM »
After all this time, an update: The game has, indeed, been sold to a publisher and they are in the editing process as I post this. I hope to see it out soon.