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Author Topic: Going All Out  (Read 2369 times)

Posts: 14

« on: September 28, 2004, 08:33:25 PM »


You've saved enough money, met the right industry people, have a product that has offerings unique and desirable to a global market and want to take your game to the same levels D&D did.

How would you go about the following if you had the following money saved up: $100,  $1000,  $10,000




Im very interested in your comments.  For my case I have the 10K set aside for making it happen.  Now i want to getthis thing out the door.  Eight years is long enough :)

All that glitters is not gold. All who wander are not lost.

Posts: 78

« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2004, 11:13:29 PM »

Greetings Adorame,

I cannot answer your question, per se, but what I can do is share my recent, and horrifying, awakening with you.  And if I at all sound bitter it's because I am a bit.  The shock is still fresh from me learning all the things I'm about to tell you.  Go read that thread I just had on Distributors and you'll understand more.  Also, please understand that this is NOT IN ANY CAPACITY a critique of you or your game.  These are general statements based on the last week's worth of intense research I've done and things that I DESPERATELY wish I would have been told 2 years ago when I started all this.

If you read that thread you know that I went about approaching the RPG industry in "all the right ways".  I researched the industry, I researched my demographic, I compilated market data, and I made a game that not only kicks ass (in my very biased opinion) but was also designed from a marketing standpoint...I made a game that was designed specifically to sell.  But now that I'm ready to launch it I had a bucket of VERY COLD water dumped on my head.

That bucket was filled with "uh-uh, son.  Not right nows" and it seems to be universally true.  The main stream market will not support a brand new indy trying to drop into it...and there are no mechanisms at all that you can use, short of a couple hundred thousand in marketing money, to change it.

The distributors won't stock your product for more than 1 or 2 months before they expect consistent and profitable sales...so unless you can magically orchestrate a massive launch you'll make some initial sales and then scrape and scramble to stay in the distribution chain's eye.  The fullfillment houses are mostly sick of RPGs, and aren't making money on them as a whole, so you'll have trouble there, too.  RPGs also only account for a fractional percentage of retailer sales in the industry, so your units moved will be tiny as well.  Additionally, the mean average for quality vs. pricepoint has skyrocketed recently...a phenomina that even has the big boys stinging in retailer and press reviews, so you're also going to have to bring a high quality product just to play, and some kind of loss leader price vs. quality to really stand out.

Thus, my suggestion to you is 3 fold:

1)  Don't try and "drop" in on the market if all you have is your name alone.  No hot IP license or recognition to build on?  Don't try it.

2)  If at all humanly possible, license your game out to a major manufacturer, or at least try and get them to let you run on their inprint.

3)  Get ready for a LONG haul.

At the end of the day, when I finally cornered the right people and asked the right question, I found out the market, through its traditional systems, is effectively closed to the indy scene.  Sure, you -can- make it, but it's a real loooooonnnnngggggg shot.

Instead, I would look to unconventional, guerilla approaches and set your goals on establishing a company or branding long term, not trying to elevate a game in short order.  If you take that route you will save yourself a whole lot of headache.

But then, all that's just my opinion as a fellow noob...though definately one I wish I would have known a few years ago.  Take it as you will.

Game Monkey Press

"When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy." -Dave Barry
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2004, 04:54:35 AM »


Interesting analysis. Greg, what you see as a horrifying shock, I see as golden opportunity. Rude awakening, after all, is still an awakening ... the question is, into what?

I hope the following points are useful to a number of people who've arrived at the Forge lately, not just Adorame.

1. Success is defined by yourself. Nearly every bit of advice or "wisdom" you receive from others is filtered through two things: what they think you should consider success, and how they can be successful through you.

2. If your proposed success-concept includes sales, then profiting would seem a necessary component. Profit is a matter of return vs. costs. What sort of costs are you able to bear? What solid returns can you count on, and how many do you need?

3. The industry as defined by stores + distributors is an "industry." The quotes mean that it does not consistently reward all the members of the system through normal operation. There are many conflicts of interests among manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, and only rarely does a set of titles get released, end up in customers' hands, and also make everyone decent money along the way. Bluntly, the current three-tier does not work well, if at all. Someone typically gets screwed, and that's typically the retailer or the manufacturer.

4. The real industry, of which the three-tier is a stammering and secondary part despite its highly visible components, consists of people designing games and people playing them, with money reliably changing hands along the way.

Personal bias statement: success in RPG publishing consists of establishing oneself in the real industry and optionally utilizing the "industry" in as positive a way as possible. This is the history of Adept Press, for instance. I have a nice relationship with many stores not because I ever had a blowout sales month in any one of them (I'll eat the Diana Jones Award if any single store ever sold five copies of my books in a single month), but because the books' presence in the real industry makes their small presence in the retailers' stores consistently worth their small investment in it. They make a small but predictable profit; I get a few pennies and excellent promotion.

How to establish oneself in the real industry? Here's where all that "market research" gets tossed out the window, because it's based on exploiting the "industry" or being suckered by someone who got there before you. But it's where the Forge can help you a lot. For now, I'll merely say there are hundreds of ways, all based on the principle that people can get your game, they can play it, they can interact with you and with one another, and if you want, you get paid.

After that happens, again, if you want, you can enlist the "industry" and its most sensible members into your success. Those sensible folks (and here I'm referring mainly to some awesome store owners and to some levelheaded distribution stafff) recognize real industry success, and perfectly reasonably are interested in getting a piece of the action. This is a good thing and serves us all nicely.

The point, again: success in RPG publishing is not about (a) getting the book printed, (b) getting it into stores, and (c) hoping and praying that someone buys it. That's Heartbreaker logic. It will mulch your books, and mulch you.

Become an industry member first, which doesn't require anyone else's approval or permission or investment, at all. Then consider the "industry" later if you feel like it.


Posts: 313

« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2004, 05:48:56 AM »

Ron's post is right on target.

I too once had this magical idea that all I needed to do was get my book out to stores and then it would sweep the nation..... Wrong.

No matter how much money I had to spend on a roleplaying game release, I would do the same thing.

1) Play it. Run it at local cons. Run it with your group. Invite new gamers to give it a shot. Have fun with it. (If it fails here, your game may not be as hot as you think.)

2) Release it as a PDF. Spend as much as you can (if any) on art for at least a cover, get a decent layout (even if it's Microsoft Word), spellcheck and proofread over and over, build a website, and sell it using Paypal, on RPGNow, or some other PDF download site. Alternately, release it for free with a "shareware" type button -- donate $5 if you like it and use it. Or just require their email address if they want to download it, so you can get feedback and build a connection with the gamer who picked up your product.

3) Keep playing it.

4) If you build up enough steam, attend Gencon or Origins or other cons and offer your friends & customers who purchased the game to purchase a limited run print edition (with updates + latest material) -- even if you printed it at Kinko's or on your own printer and slapped a nice cardstock cover on it.... You do realize at this point, your game is literally "in print".

5) Repeat. Rinse. Etc.

There are so many options that I didn't even mention -- if you build up enough steam and you have a great following, then you can seriously do a 5000 print run and enter the "industry". By then, you have fans of the game, your game has been played, your game has been seen in a lot of places, and suddenly, that barrier into entry is no longer so high. Before that, there are still print on demand options to consider... or even just straight mail order from your house to their's.

This is my thought... this is my strategy. I love designing games, and truth be told, I don't want to do it any other way. I'd rather know my game is being played by 5 people... and know who those people are... than to know that my game might be being played out there... somewhere?


Serving imagination since '99
Eldritch Ass Kicking:

Posts: 236

« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2004, 06:57:43 AM »

I think it's important for anyone wanting to take their game to the level of D&D... to remember that D&D started out as a shoestring operation in some guy's spare room too. And it took a long time to get to where it is today.

Calvin W. Camp

Mad Elf Enterprises
- Freelance Art & Small Press Publishing
-Check out my clip art collections!-

Posts: 5574

« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2004, 08:47:00 AM »

To whats already been said I'll just add this.

Being Indie means recognizing that you don't need the "industry" in order to succeed as a Roleplaying Publisher.  Having or not having 1000s or even 100s of books in distribution is NOT a barometer of success.  Its pretty much completely unrelated to success.

Ramshead is profitable.  Universalis is a game that a good number of people play.  A good number of people enjoy.  And which has garnered me some nice critical recognition.  It also makes me money.

It makes me enough money that last year (and again this year) I had to work pretty hard to uncover enough expenses to wash those profits out so I didn't get hit with a larger-than-I'd-like tax bill.

Ramshead, by any definition important to me, is a success as a game publisher, and hopefully that success will continue and increase.  But all of those items I mentioned, I achieved before I sold book 1 into the three tier.  Sold enough copies to cover costs...yup.  Won an award...yup.  Got lots of amazing feedback from people having a blast playing the game...yup.  Even got some kudos from "insider" types.  Without distributors, without retailers (save a couple a sold direct to), and without "the industry".

WITH a lot of help and support from the Forge and players who liked the game enough that their word of mouth carried it much farther than I could have even if I'd thrown $10,000 into advertising.

Stick around, develop your own definition of success, and then figure out how to get there without the three tier.  The Forge can certainly help with that.

Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 1121

student, second edition

« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2004, 09:34:27 AM »

To agree with Ron and Ralph, the ten grand as a whole isn't what's going to do it for you.

If you really want to spend some money, spend it to get a small table at a small local con, where you can get some face time with new and diverse customers. Don't put the money toward ads in Dragon or the like. Spend it to be active.

Aside from all that, the best thing I did for my game, in oh so frickin' many ways, was to become a part of this community. Post, get to know people, and let them get to know you. This is an incredible resource for critical feedback and word of mouth.

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