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Author Topic: Mainstream: a revision  (Read 33870 times)
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #45 on: November 14, 2002, 03:59:07 PM »

Hi Ron,

A question for my addled brain:

Could we take a moment and remove the words mainstream and alternative from the discussion, and replace them, respectively, with "set" and "subset"?

I ask because a) "mainstream" and "alternative" seem loaded words for several reasons, and b) because that seems to be what you're saying.

Super hero comics are essentially a subset of SF genre, when we allow SF to be as friggin' broad a genre as it is.  When anyone assumes that they're favorite style of SF (comic book heroes) is all that matters, and builds a store as a shrine to that subset, they of course are cutting out anyone else who might be interested in *anything else* outside of that subset -- who still might be interested in SF.

By this light, when you set up poor ol' little D&D Fantasy against SF, Sex, Melodrama... And so on... Of course it's out matched.  But I'm not sure if the comparison is of much value.  D&D Fantasy may be specific to itself, but its clearly a subset of the SF/Fantasy shelves at the local B&N.

When it comes to RPGs, many people do assume that AD&D is RPGs (litterally, you can find dozens of people at any con who will claim this.)  And if more people don't like D&D, then they're never going to play an RPG.

So, I think an important question is: is the issue simply to open up the designer and retailer imagination to the larger set of genre/color elements than the redoubtable "Gather a Team, Loot Stuff" model.

That, to me, is a matter of sets and subsets, and leaves behind the murky claims of mainstream and alternative.

Also, I need to add that D&D is specific not only in it's genre conventions (a specific stew that might be classed within or agains SF, Sex, Melodrama...), but as a game itself.

The arcana of the spell lists, die modifiers and such make it the game it is... And a lot of people love it for that.  A game like Sorcerer doesn't have that, and a lot of people love it for that.

This then, moves us past genre and into mechanics -- which no one has addressed yet (if I recall) -- in part, I think because of the genre stuff at the head of the thread.

But, if most people might not like the rules arcana of D&D, but might like a cool, social storytelling-improvisation-thing (and who knows?), then that has nothing to do with genre, and everything to do with the difference between an art store stocking both charcoal and oil paint.  

I understand your point about flipping things over -- people who love D&D assume that Sorcerer doesn't sell as well because who needs that little game anyway, while you'll see Sorcerer just needing to get out to the world... But I don't think this has anything to do with genre and everthing to do with what the players are doing.

That to me seems to be what needs flipping as a standard assumption.

And this point isn't about sets and subsets.  This is about apples and oranges.  Or rather, G and N.

Take care,

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
talysman
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« Reply #46 on: November 14, 2002, 04:23:03 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hi folks,

This might help with John's conundrum ... remember, surrealism, fantasy (non-D&D), science fiction, adventure, historical, biography, sex, and humor are all mainstream.

So Toon is a mainstream-content game; so is (wait for it) ... Over the Edge. So is Zero. So is InSpectres, and so is Sorcerer.

Some of you might now be confused, because mainstream = "what everyone does," right? Wrong. It's what most people like. A given business, the RPG one for instance, may be saddled with practices that literally stifle the ability of mainstream-content consumers to perceive the mainstream-content products. It's exactly what happened to comics.

Nowhere in my definitions does it say that mainstream = sells widely for current games. I do suggest that certain modes of getting mainstream content to mainstream customers are currently largely untapped.

Best,
Ron


thanks, Ron. I did remember that you mentioned the point about humor, surrealism, etc., being mainstream (right in your first post!) and I would agree that TOON is mainstream. but, as I'm sure you'll agree, shelf space, marketing, and product development in the RPG industry concentrates on clones of one of the fringe games. I see TOON on the shelves only once in a great while. why? judging by the popularity of Powerpuff Girls, it should be a lot more popular. and why aren't the stores and publishers concentrating on getting more games like TOON and Sorcerer out on the market instead of the next WoD or D&D suppliment?

and when someone does promote a mainstream game, they tend to exaggerate the elements that would appeal most to the players of fringe games. even with all the mainstream RPGs that could be marketed better, I still think we could use more of them, and a greater variety.
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
talysman
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« Reply #47 on: November 14, 2002, 04:31:38 PM »

Quote from: Pramas

As to the selling of D&D and the like as special orders, sure, you could do that. But most D&D fans would go to typical game stores or their local Borders/Waldnebooks, where the books would be in stock and immediately available to them. Why would they want to patronize a store that is trying to marginalize them?


because it's clean.

because the salespeople smile instead of being surly.

because your girlfriend will go in with you instead of getting pissed and staying in the car.

maybe that's not enough, but it's a start.
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #48 on: November 14, 2002, 05:23:53 PM »

Hello,

Chris, you seem to be missing, or ignoring, the point of this thread. It is emphatically not to propose that "the mainstream store" come into existence. Page 45 is used as an example for its approach, not as a retail outlet per se. I've explained this already at least once.

Therefore, your plethora of reasons, some of which are valid and some of which seem questionable, for why such a store can't work, aren't to the point - no one is suggesting one or proposing to start one.

If you'd like to start a thread about this issue, please feel free, especially if you can articulate something to propose or suggest, rather than arguing against a nonexistent opponent.

Christopher, your "set" and "subset" are fine, but it's exactly the loaded nature of the terms mainstream and alternative that I'm proposing we exploit - especially because in this case, in doing so, we would not be lying.

Best,
Ron
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C. Edwards
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Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #49 on: November 14, 2002, 06:32:58 PM »

I want to offer up an example of a very similar retail approach, namely Criminal Records in the Little Five Points area of Atlanta, Georgia.  I don't have any "insider" information; I was simply a customer while I lived in Atlanta.

Criminal Records sales three things: compact discs (new & used), magazines, and comic books/graphic novels.  In each of these three categories they carry a very purposeful selection.  Purposeful in the sense that the items carried promote a certain in-store atmosphere, customer base, and overall store image in the minds of the consumer.

The store has a fairly small retail space, with a more or less equal distribution of that space among the three categories.  In the comics area there is space for the "standard" titles but at least half of the comics space is taken up by what most comic aficionados would consider very "fringe" titles.  This same pattern is seen in the cd section, a few "well-known" titles mainly surrounded by, well, the "cool" stuff.  The magazine section is built the same way, some more wide-spread titles amongst a more eclectic, and I think much more interesting, selection of magazines ranging from cardstock "punk" manifestos to high-gloss alternative art mags.

The store is clean, well organized, has knowledgeable and personable staff, and an amazingly diverse customer base.  I think that a good deal of the store's appeal is due to customers knowing that they don't have to settle for the same old thing, the staff can be frighteningly helpful, and that while some items may not be up your alley everything in Criminal Records is interesting enough to make you stop and go "hmmm".  All this gets passed on to friends, relatives, co-workers, etc., many of which at least stop in to give the place a look.

A store modeled like this could easily have a section of RPGs at least as interesting and diverse as the other sections, and they would sell.  While that may not be anyone's idea of a "game store", who cares?  These kinds of stores are as much about culture and lifestyle as they are about schlocking cd's to the masses.

And now inevitably, I'm rambling...

-Chris
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Pramas
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« Reply #50 on: November 14, 2002, 06:39:32 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hello,

Chris, you seem to be missing, or ignoring, the point of this thread. It is emphatically not to propose that "the mainstream store" come into existence. Page 45 is used as an example for its approach, not as a retail outlet per se. I've explained this already at least once.


Yes, and that's why I didn't mention it in my last response to you. However, several other participants in this thread had specific comments and questions about the retail model. I thought it would be polite to answer posts directed at me.
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Chris Pramas
Green Ronin Publishing
www.greenronin.com
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #51 on: November 14, 2002, 07:41:51 PM »

Chris,
Quote
Leaving aside the theorizing, the hard numbers just don't add up to success.

I think you're missing the point here -- yes, 1/4 to 1/3 of the revenue comes from "mainstream" RPGs and similar, and 80% of that comes from D&D and WoD.  Turn it on its head: D&D and WoD are responsible for 80% of the sales by alternative shoppers at a game store (1/4 to 1/3 of your shoppers), not the mainstream shoppers (the other 3/4 to 2/3).

If you go mainstream, your revenue INCREASES by promoting product lines that appeal to a larger percentage of the population than the few who are buying that 80%...because you're selling a different product in a different atmosphere which appeals to the larger segment.

It isn't feasible?  The hard numbers don't add up?
Yet...page 45.  Again, I'll say it, page 45.
It's a successful business model...not a fluke.

Think about it: "Mainstream" comics aren't sold at page 45, "mainstream" comics which provide 80% of a regular comic store's revenue aren't sold at page 45.

The hard numbers DO add up...else please explain why the page 45 philosophy is successful and works, when they avoid/ignore (except for special orders) the product which produces 80% of the revenue for the regular comic-book store?

For a game store, you don't lose sales by cutting out the 1/4 of the market you're currently pitching to, you gain sales of a similar sort from other items which actually interest the mainstream shopper, not the niche market shopper.
In total, your RPG revenue totals increase, no longer being restricted to that 1/3 to 1/4 of your shoppers, because you aren't selling to just that 1/4 of the shopping population of your store anymore, you're selling to the greater amount.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #52 on: November 14, 2002, 07:52:14 PM »

Hi there,

You know, Chris (Pramas), you're right. I was pegging you as the "won't shut up about the store guy," and I was wrong.

Chris E and Raven, check out my previous post, above. C'mon guys - it's not about the store. It's not about the store. If you wanna talk about that, start another thread, please.

Best,
Ron
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #53 on: November 14, 2002, 08:13:58 PM »

Sorry, Ron, feel free to break it off into a seperate topic.
I felt it was relevant since we're talking about numbers and audience here, regardless of the idea of the store itself.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
talysman
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« Reply #54 on: November 14, 2002, 09:53:56 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Chris E and Raven, check out my previous post, above. C'mon guys - it's not about the store. It's not about the store. If you wanna talk about that, start another thread, please.


in a sense, though, it is about the store. or, at least, changing marketing and publishing in such a way that such a store doesn't seem so fantastic.

even if you switch to talking about a purely internet/mail-order model, you're still talking about changing the website design and product inventory to reflect a similar change in the way "fringe" and "mainstream" games are sold.

the way I see it, RPG publishers who want to expand sales need to focus on "going mainstream". how do you do that?

make more mainstream games.

market those games as if you were speaking to the mainstream, instead of to the fringe.

if possible, broaden your inventory to related items of interest.
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
Jon H
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« Reply #55 on: November 15, 2002, 01:32:26 AM »

This maybe an oversimplification, but I think what Ron is getting at is this:

Pg45 took something marginalised and 'fannish' and blew it wide open, attracting a much wider clientele than their competitiors (apparently).  

We as RPG producers work with something marginalised and 'fannish'.

What can we learn from Pg45?
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quozl
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« Reply #56 on: November 15, 2002, 05:49:12 AM »

Maybe I'm being simplistic but if you want to change how your game is perceived ("it's not a niche product, it's mainsteam"), then why not change the label which is making others perceive you as a niche product?

In oher words, don't call your game an "rpg".  I think White Wolf actually did this by calling Vampire a "storytelling game" and it seemed to work.  Why can't we do the same?  If we want our games to be carried with the mainstream games, we should label them like the mainstream games.  (ie "Frankenstein's Monsters: Horrific fun for the whole family" rather than "Frankenstein's Monsters: A roleplaying game".)
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--- Jonathan N.
Currently playtesting Frankenstein's Monsters
Walt Freitag
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Posts: 1039


« Reply #57 on: November 15, 2002, 07:21:44 AM »

Marketing and store-presentation and delivery and labeling are all well and good, but isn't there a more important issue here?

Quote from: Pramas
The crux of your argument is that there is a large, untapped part of the general population that could get turned on to RPGs if exposed to the right game or games. Fair enough, I agree. The crucial question then is not, "Who's the real mainstream?" it's "How can we reach those people?"


I agree too. But I think the crucial question is, do "the right game or games" exist?

My considered opinion is that if it has a "rule book" that weighs more than two ounces, it's not going to appeal to large new parts of the general population, no matter what "it" is or what its subject matter. (Personal computers are a notable exception. But they were adopted with great reluctance and out of necessity).

Hence, my interest in RPG designs that shift the bulk of the content out of the "system" and into runtime situation-building tools designed to be handled individually and independently, like the cards in a card game (but without actually being a card game in the sense of Magic or Munchkin).

(The only difference between Trivial Pursuit and dozens of trivia games that preceded it unnoticed by the general population was all the others had [or in many cases were] books of questions, instead of questions on individual cards.)

- Walt
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #58 on: November 15, 2002, 08:11:04 AM »

Hi there,

John (Talysman), dude, please, all that belongs in another thread. I'd rather not have to lock this one, but I don't think I've encountered this much resistance about very basic Forge practices in a long time.

Jon (Hodgson), yes, that summarizes my position very well.

Quozl, I'm a little dubious about changing the names or terms for a given product, again, using comics as the example. All the pompous insistence on the term graphic novel, for instance, served no purpose but to alienate both comics readers who might like the real-mainstream content and non-comics readers from the medium. The effect was compounded by Marvel and DC pumping out hundreds of hastily-produced 128-page softcovers (effectively five-issue miniseries) and calling them "graphic novels," full of plain old standard superhero stuff (and bad at that).

Vampire's use of "storytelling" in its promotion, in my view, not only killed the validity of the term for potential new-to-RPG folks, but also for existing hobbyists. "Story" has taken on a bitter and unhappy connotation in our hobby. Despite all of my definitions and thousands of words and hundreds of hours spent on the topic, the casual role-player equates Narrativism with navel-gazing, non-dice-rolling, talky role-playing, specifically using White Wolf games. That's the result of the tactic you're describing, unfortunately. The mainstream vs. alternative distinction I'm talking about has to be backed up by the games' actual content and the experience of playing them, not by further terms.

Walt, I do think the right games already exist. A lot of them are slimmer than the RPG-ideal (in three-tier terms), yes. Many of them are right here on the Forge, although I can cite games back to 1980 or so. I also think you're throwing out the baby with the bathwater when you talk about slimming down system, in that the basics of (say) a Fortune-heavy role-playing system aren't as off-putting as many of us think - we are merely scarred by System-oriented Simulationist design, which, despite its virtues in its own terms, is not very effective for mainstream-friendly play. Games like Dust Devils and Universalis are exceptionally System-dependent, but they are also very accessible and intrinsically interesting, in terms of system. The more-or-less desperate "throw out the dice and numbers" trend in the very late 80s and early 90s is, I think, more of a punt than anything else and not necessarily the most mainstream-friendly approach.

Best,
Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #59 on: November 15, 2002, 08:16:58 AM »

Hi Ron,

Yes.  As I was retiring last night, it occurred to me you wanted to do exactly that with the terms.

I get it now.  Thanks for the reply.

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
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