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What to Think?

Started by hoefer, September 11, 2009, 10:12:56 PM

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First, it was really nice to meet many of you in-person at GenCon!  Thanks for sitdown Ron -very helpful/insightful...

To business...
I took a break from "working" on game stuff after the convention and am just now jumping back in.  My main issue is trying to figure out where to go from here.  I have been running official events using my gaming system for over 3 years now, this was the first year I actually had shelf space in the exhibit hall for my game.  My events always go swimmingly (not bragging on myself here, just setting the stage).  I would say out of the 5-6 events I run at a con all of them end with the players seeming well entertained and 3-4 of them end with the players saying things like, "I really like your mechanics" "That was one of the best gaming session I've played in a long time" or "I really like this game do you have a booth."  HERE'S THE ISSUE: Even amid this positive atmosphere of excitement and enthusiasm, I only barely sold enough copies of my game to pay for the shelf space (technically after I give the State it's sales tax I will be $6 in the hole).  Out of the ~32 people that played in the events, only 3 of them directly purchased a book.  Is this a normal showing?  Should I chalk up the cold reception to the economy (I guess here I'm asking if other people had poor sales)?  Should I chalk up the lack of sales to lack of exposure (I'm trying to get the word out about my product but it takes a lot of time to build a following)?  Is it essential to have an actual booth/booth presence to sell at the hall? (I had my stuff at the GPA booth, and they let me predate the isle occasionally but a demo at the booth was near-impossible ) or Should I consider the positive responses to be disingenuous?  I'm pretty good a detecting flattery, but perhaps just liking a game experience isn't enough.  Or maybe I'm a good GM, but that doesn't translate to a desire to purchase the game...

I know these are largely wandering thoughts here, but maybe soem one out there has a similar anecdote or some advice/insite they can lay on me.  Thanks all!

Louis Hoefer
Whole Sum Entertainment


I have no idea about Gencon booths but a 9% hit ratio sounds like a pretty successful sales ratio in other contexts. Were you expecting more than 32 players? What sales conversion ratio were you anticipating?
James R.


Quote from: Noclue on September 11, 2009, 11:59:54 PM
I have no idea about Gencon booths but a 9% hit ratio sounds like a pretty successful sales ratio in other contexts. Were you expecting more than 32 players? What sales conversion ratio were you anticipating?

I guess that's what I'm trolling for here.  Is 3 out of 32 reasonable or is that pathetic?  Going in, I was aiming to sell 10 books and pay for the print run.  I guess this number was naive.  It wasn't based off anything other than hope.  It just seemed like such a small number...

Since the con, I've been trying to think of things from the perspective of the event attendees.  When I go to a con and play an event, if I like the game and think my group might give it a try I usually buy it.  Now, I only try 2-3 new games each con and typically only walk away with 1-2 new products.  I am pretty typical in this regard?  Most the people I game with opporate this way...

Occasionally, if I play a game and like it, I still might not buy it because: (a) I feel it's over-priced (b) I feel it needs some supplements that aren't currently available (c) The chance of getting my group to play is minimal (d) I can get the product through some other venue at a better price (e) some other purchase exhausted my funds for that convention (f) I already have a game like it, though maybe not as good,  and have invested a decent amount of time/money into it. -So, I'm kicking around these notions in my head wondering if those are the issues that kept more players from making a purchase, or perhaps 3 out of 32 is as good as it gets and I'm just torturing myself doing this autopsy when my energies would be better spent else were...

Louis Hoefer
Whole Sum Entertainment

Ron Edwards

Hi Louis,

It was fun to meet you too.

I can go by what happens at the Forge booth. Basically, either a game sells damn well off the demo tables, or it doesn't. I'll leave out the situations in which it's not been demo'd well or consistently or both. So, sticking to the situations in which the game is visibly on the tables, and visibly being played, and visibly producing fun play ... still, it doesn't always move at the counter. Mostly, but not always.

It may seem vague and frustrating, but my only advice is that every single RPG has its own unique "how to move it" profile. That profile has everything to do with who might enjoy that game, for real, not merely as a me-too clique purchase, for instance. I know that merely occupying shelf space, either physically or on-line, is not enough. I am also optimistic enough to think that many current games do have a potential audience for both purchase and play out there.

But figuring out that profile and applying it ... well, even though I've managed to do well with at least some of my titles so far, I can't say there's a formula. It's still a developing art, basically.

Best, Ron


Selling three copies of a game without tending a booth is pretty good. When I take my Matrix Games to Gen Con I only make a few copies of each title because I seldom need more than 3 to 5.

I think the period of my hobby that was the most fun was when I ran games at the con. That didn't serve my goal of popularizing my game so I knew eventually I'd be working the dealers hall. That is not as fun. As of now you've not jumped the tracks yet. Unless your personal goal calls for that you may be at a good level. You could happily refine your game futher for years to come if that gives you the most pleasure. It's not all about dollars and cents.

Chris Engle
Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games

Andy Kitkowski

Quote from: hoefer on September 11, 2009, 10:12:56 PM
Is this a normal showing? 

As others have noted, there's no 1to1 correlation between Fun Demo and Buying Game.

My relevant question would be "How much is your game?" If it was $15-20, then your numbers seem a little low to me. If it's $30-35 or more, then I don't think those numbers are low: I go to the waterpark, I like to go down the waterslide, and it's fun as hell when I'm sliding, but when it's done I don't turn around and purchase the waterslide.

If you have an expensive game, then there's more you have to consider than just running fun sessions at cons.

The Story Games Community - It's like RPGNet for small press games and new play styles.


Points well made Chris and Andy...

I guess I'm not sure where to go next.  I do love this game, but on the other hand, delivering it at the quality I want to produce it in (art, number of supplements, bound-book format) is going to eventually require me to make more sales/profit (the date at which I need to make a return seems to be getting nearer all the time...).  Beyond this, I already have a new product in mind/development that is going to require some capital to get going too.  So, I guess even the aspect of this being a "fun thing to do" is a bit perplexing.  I love making games.  I want to continue to make games, but to do that in the format that I enjoy requires me to expand my sales.  So I'm wrestling with concern over whether the initial sales should be a hint that the product is not marketable, is marketing fine and just needs time to grow, or is not being marketed well.  Chris, at what point, or why, did you make the jump from running games to having a booth?  Were you selling games out of someone else's booth back when you were running them?  Did it lead to a drastic increase in sells?  Did you couple it with having GMs run your games while you sold from the booth?

Cost-wise I was selling the book for $30 -a little high for a softcover (according to my gamer buddies) but reasonable when looking at content/volume (again according to my gamer buddies).   I might be a mutant, but I normally won't bat an eye at a con over any book below $45 (this seems to be the new going-rate for hardcover game books without major distribution channels).  I am by no means wealthy, by con purchases (for me) are only a couple-time-a-year event.  Most my test players and gaming buddies indicated that $40 was the threshold beyond which they became hesitant to try an new RPG product -a small survey sample to be sure, but it seemed a reasonable response to me...

Looking at this thread, I'm coming to think that 3 sales directly related to ~32 players isn't so bad for the first shot out of the gate (I guess we all can't be Luke Cranes...).  So, now I just need to figure out my selling strategy for 2009-2010.  Let me know what you guys have found useful.  I'm thinking direct from play sales is probably the way to go (since that's the main source so far) -but it's a b*tch finding Cons that are reasonably close to Indiana here in the Fall.  What are some of the better sites for locating cons?

Callan S.

Hi Louis,

Did you get around to talking with all 32 players after each game, individually? Or do you mean some gave feedback after the game had finshed and you were wrapping up?
Philosopher Gamer


Obviously, I couldn't talk with every player (some were moving to other games after mine), but I would say a safe estimate would be 60% of the players who played took at least a few minutes to talk with me about my game and my company.  I didn't approach the players directly unless they seemed to be hanging out waiting for me to finish packing up, I just talked to them as they came up to me afterwords or during the restroom break.  I had an intensive 5-15 minute conversation with at least 1 of the players after most sessions -usually about the setting or self-publishing in general (again these were player-initiated).  I had prepared actual surveys for the players but I sort of wussed out on using them (I felt thins would take away from the come. play. have fun. atmosphere I like to exude during conventions). 

By all accounts these conversations were overwhelmingly positive about the adventure and the game itself.  Flattery?  Nicety?  I don't know, but it sure didn't seem insincere.

Louis Hoefer