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Author Topic: Cartoon version Engle Matrix Game rules PDF available on RPGnow  (Read 2556 times)
MatrixGamer
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Posts: 582


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« on: November 17, 2006, 12:21:29 PM »

This post serves two functions.

1. It lets people know that a free PDF version of the Engle Matrix Game rules are available on RPGnow.

That is important. It's marketing. But I'm not holding my breath on hordes of people rushing out to acquire it. It just gets the word out.

The more important part is #2.

2. Marketing - yuck! We all hate it - but it is vital for our games to be played.

For me the stumbling blocks are mainly internal. My fear of marketing (borne of not understanding it) makes even the smallest steps seem impossible. When I do do steps they tire me out and I don't follow them up. So whatever good that comes from it is washed away with the next tide.

Sustainability! That seems like the most important step to me. Whatever I do needs to be sustainable. For me that means making each step small. For instance writing this pretty short message. The next thing is keeping my expectation low. In the past I wanted the world to beat a path to my door to demand my next game and pay me mucho bucks for my present games. I wanted to be acclaimed as having made the next D+D. Of course that didn't happen. It wasn't going to. BUT talking to one other person - that is possible. Which is what I'm doing here.

If you care to, please share your own experiences with building up and maintaining morale and effort in marketing. This is a self help thing. I've shared my anxiety so you can to. (My psychotherapist side is showing here - I'm about to go run my addiction group now.)

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
guildofblades
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Posts: 297


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« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2006, 11:46:12 AM »

Hi Chris,

Well, yeah, marketing is a rather complex process and quite possibly a field more complex than that of creating and publishing games myself. Though I don't share your same lack of enthusiam for the effort. In fact, I rather enjoy it.

I thin part of the problem is that you are looking at your need to do marketing as a daunting task that you must merely undo to help sell products. While that is strictly to, it can certainly be viewed in another manner. Many people enjoy creating games because it provides them a creative outlet they can then share with others via way of providing those games to the gamers in their own gaming groups or perhaps going the publishing route and trying to share them with a much broader base. Well, marketing is a form of creative output that you also got to share with a large number of people. I tend to enjoy it as much as the game design process. Yes, to most gamers I know that sounds wierd.

In principle for us companies with small to non existant marketing budgets the process of marketing must be conducted differently than that of the large companies. Large companies establish a marketing budget then set aside money to several different areas such as advertising (various mediums and venues), perhaps buying premium shelf places, co-op advertising funds, in store displays and merchandising, public relations efforts, etc, etc. As a smaller company with limited resources in both manpower and capital you can't afford to do one shot marketing. You need to build a marketing infrastructure.

Marketing Infrastructure. What is it?

Well, just like in game publishing as a publisher you find that you have more options and often more sales when you are able to produce more products and increase the size of the catalog you have to offer. View your efforts to build your marketing infrastructure in the same way. You want to establish marketing efforts that once built, stay in place. This lets you then go on to build more marketing options and thus build upon the total sum of your marketing reach.

Some basic real world examples:

1) Marketing your website. You get your site listed in various search engines. Those are listings that tend to stick around. Get some links and reviews on various related sites to point to your site...most content ends up getting archived as it gets old and thus sticks around also. You establish some banners on your site and maybe join banner exchanges or banner swaps with other publishers...again they stick around. Each and every thing you do that sticks around will build upon the reach you will have.

2) Every product you produce should also have some marketing in them. Could be a simple as marketing sure the consumer ends up knowing your web URL. Maybe basic branding like establish your logo more prominently. Advertising in the books or games. As products, thats marketing that sticks around...though its long term use is only as useful as the consumer finds the game product (frequency of use).

3) Shelf place on retail stores in marketing reach. As are product listings in online stores. Though I can only really consider them lasting listings and thus worthy of being part of your infrastructure if that product placement is not something that is an ongoing drain on your other efforts. Hence why the Guild of Blades eventually pulled our products from distribution channels, then efforts to maintain them there where too time consuming and detracted from our available time to go on and build more permanent marketing presence.

4) Bill at Hinterwelt continually focusses on driving his fans towards some sort of online character generator utility or something like that. It a tool that encourages those consumers to come back over and over again where his site, forums, or whatever get additional opportunities to market to them. Thus active forums and mailing/discussion lists can also be considered infrastructure.

5) The online computer games the Guild of Blades is currently developing is merely a huge effort at building a very powerful bit to our infrastructure and reach.

What is not infrastructure:

Short run advertising. Run an ad for 1,000 banner or 10,000 banners or whatever. That presence only lasts as long as your impressions and disappears the moment it runs out. TV, radio and newspaper advertising is much the same. Print ads in magazines and such where the consumer might use or reference often can sometimes have longer shelf lifes. Basically, if its a short term presentation in front of consumers eyes, its short term advertising and not building upon your infrastructure. I'm not saying you shouldn't conduct such types of advertising efforts, but when you do the ultimate goal to to reach new potential customers and to drive them towards a part of your established lasting infrastructure. Get them "into the system" so to speak.

My examples are certainly in no way complete, but rather merely common ones meant to illustrate the point.

So marketing is not just "trying to sell stuff" but rather the process of building a powerful reach. Advertising is what you do with that reach. Advertising I often find boring, but marketing I enjoy a lot. Thats why Google just paid a HUGE sum to buy YouTube recently. YouTube developed a LOT of reach.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
MatrixGamer
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Posts: 582


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« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2006, 06:28:57 AM »

1) Marketing your website.
2) Every product you produce should also have some marketing in them.
3) Shelf place on retail stores in marketing reach.
4) encourages those consumers to come back over and over again
5) The on line computer games


Thanks for your feedback Ryan. Just to reassure you, I'm not as down on marketing as I sound. That is an expression of my fears, which are real enough, but I'm not stopped by them (anymore). Let me run through your list to review what I've done.

1) I've had my web page up for 8 years and it shows up on search engines on the first page when my name, the company name or Matrix Game are entered. There are also many other MG sites done by other people in English and Spanish that form a community of interest.

2) I always put my contact information on products, as I do on emails (Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games!)

3) I've never managed to crack stores. I've done very little distribution sales. Like many others I've not found the distribution system to be friendly waters. I heard the horror stories of distributors saying that companies were out of business rather than fill orders (I don't know if they are true). So I was always leery of pursuing them till I felt I was ready and could sustain effort.

There have been some very good critics of the utility of the distribution system for Indy Games here on the Forge. I think they correctly point out that the three tiered system does not serve small companies well. They take a cut of a small pie (or cookie) and give little in return. It is real easy to say that the system is broken because of this. I don't agree with that though. The distribution system works best when used by efficient well oiled machines. They want steady, reliable streams of products made to a high level of quality, that appeal to the mass market. (Japanese ninja dwarfs with mowhawks and tattoos!) If you can make that for a profit at the low margins available then it pays. Clearly it works best for those most geared that way. From a production point of view I watch these companies and try to learn from them even though I know in my heart of hearts that I not willing to play that game.

4) I need something on my web page that does this - as well as a steady supply of changes on the page. I've not managed that up till now. We do play on line Matrix Games on the MatrixGame2 yahoo group. We are about to start Austerlitz, a war game, (we just wrapped up Lost Survivor - a take on two popular TV shows). I would love to have a computer moderated MG but I'm no programmer and it would be a hard task anyway.

5) On line games run by the computer - a long term goal but I'm not at all clear how to get there.

In the past I put out a newsletter (first Experimental Game Group 1989 to 1994, the The Matrix Gamer 1999 sporadically till now - both available at Mag Web on line) I ran games at conventions for years and now have a booth at Gen Con. So I'm around. I think the next network to build is with the internet media. If I make steps I feel comfortable with and stay active things happen.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
guildofblades
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Posts: 297


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« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2006, 11:26:23 AM »

>>There have been some very good critics of the utility of the distribution system for Indy Games here on the Forge. I think they correctly point out that the three tiered system does not serve small companies well. They take a cut of a small pie (or cookie) and give little in return. It is real easy to say that the system is broken because of this. I don't agree with that though. The distribution system works best when used by efficient well oiled machines.<<

Well, having spent years trying to work that system, at times with some degree of success, and having watched it dramatically deteriorate from 1998 to present I can say its fairly broken. But you are right, the system does work best for the multi million dollar companies...but even a broken clock is right two times a day.

Creating online games is not easy. Not games with any degree of visual components or any level of processing sophistication. I too an not a programmer, though I studied a bit of it in my school years. I know enough to sort of understand what the programmers yack about and provide input.

The big thing about creating an online game, coming from a print publishers background, is what is the goal of the game? The computer gaming market is HUGE and migrating more production to it can certain yield some higher profit potential. 1483 Online was originally put online at a human moderated play by e-mail game merely as a means to get some extra profile for our 1483 Board Game Series. It didn't take us very long to realize that the 1483 intellectual property held more total potential and reach as a computer game and that it could thrive as a business of its own and board game sales to the same crowd would be gravey.

That being said, we're not looking to merely shift into being a computer game publisher to abandon hobby games and the market whence we came. So instead we're going to build our online gaming network, but also use that network as gateways to funnel people towards our print games. We are pursuing this as a primary business route "instead" of bothering with the distribution chain as a business multiplier. We regard ourselves as a fairly successful independent company with a strong reach in direct sales. Now we're looking for those tools that we can add to our marketing infrastructure that can propel us to the next level. While I value the reach store presence can give our company and we do sell to retailers directly, I don't believe the retail side of the market is in a state that can remotely justify the effort that would be required for us to gain a strong presence within it. In good ol business speak, its just not a good ROI compared to other marketing opportunities.

You don't need to be a programmer to get your games computerized. You either need a LOT of money to hire programmers or you need to find some talented programmers who believe in what you are trying to do. But if you are trying to get them to see the $$ potential, you need something more to your computer game concept than just using them as adverts for your print games.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
daMoose_Neo
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Posts: 890


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« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2006, 07:55:21 AM »

Suggestion regarding getting the games online, for both Ryan and Chris: neat little company called CCGWorkshop. They also have a companion site/system for board games. Cool folks, Simon Woo(Novelty) on the site manages most of the projects. They offer a virtual tabletop for just about any kind of game out there. I think they're working on developing bots to play, so right now the "adversary" is other human players, but its a neat thing they have going.
For publishers who sign with CCGW, they'll list your game as one of the pay-to-play titles (I haven't asked for p2p, I use CCGW as a promo tool myself, so free = better chance folks will try it) and you'll get a cut of the revenue when people play your titles.
And they're not small frys either; they're the official online system for Vampire: The Eternal  Struggle and have had some decent blurbs in InQuest from time to time, so theres a good bit of traffic heading that way to boot.
Look them up on http://www.ccgworkshop.com
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Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!
Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2006, 09:02:51 AM »

Quote
There have been some very good critics of the utility of the distribution system for Indy Games here on the Forge. I think they correctly point out that the three tiered system does not serve small companies well. They take a cut of a small pie (or cookie) and give little in return. It is real easy to say that the system is broken because of this. I don't agree with that though. The distribution system works best when used by efficient well oiled machines. They want steady, reliable streams of products made to a high level of quality, that appeal to the mass market. (Japanese ninja dwarfs with mowhawks and tattoos!) If you can make that for a profit at the low margins available then it pays. Clearly it works best for those most geared that way. From a production point of view I watch these companies and try to learn from them even though I know in my heart of hearts that I not willing to play that game.

I don't want to side track the discussion, but I do want to offer a different data point.  I've seen this sentiment expressed by a number of folks in a number of different forums, but it just ain't so.

Yes there are horror stories out there...what methods AREN'T there horror stories for (heck, I've had people refuse to buy direct from me because I used paypal and they'd heard all the paypal horror stories)...so take those with a hefty grain of salt.

Here's a model that DOES work very well and doesn't involve multi million dollar companies or games targeted to the mass market.

1) Design a quality game
2) get a core group of people who actually play it, like it, talk about it, and support it
3) make direct sales (or semi-direct sales like IPR) the foundation of your model and revenue stream
4) hook up with a fulfillment house that knows how to market to distributors (like Key20)
5) consider all distribution sales to be gravy...icing on the cake.

That model has worked very well for a number of indie games, including Universalis.  Roughly 1/2 my sales volume and 1/4 to 1/3 of my profits have come from distribution sales.  Would Universalis survive and be totally profitable without those sales..yeah.  But man the extra couple of grand sure is nice.

Once you've done 1-3...doing 4 & 5 is a pretty low risk expansion.

The mistake, the pitfall, the danger to indie designers is skipping 1-3 and jumping straight to 4 & 5...especially if done in conjunction with a ridiculously sized print run of an unproven game.


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