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xiombarg
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« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2002, 05:59:49 PM »

Quote from: jburneko
Obviously, the system works because you've sited stores that are thriving off of it, but how exactly does that transformation take place?  Where do the new people come from?  If someone doesn't like comic books because they think comic books and super heroes are synonimous and they don't like super heroes, then how do they end up in these new "Page 45" style shops to see the variety, in the first place?

Ron obviously has a better handle on this than I, but one of the things he mentioned was, essentially, the "girlfriend factor". People who get dragged to the store because an SO or relative is into comics. If those sorts of people see something at the store that appeals to them rather than to the drooling fanboys, that's a hook into the industry.

Plus, don't underestimate people like you who, upon finding stuff you like, could go into such a store and find stuff you'd like that you'd never heard of previously. The fanboys know what they want -- the mainstream doesn't because they don't realize it exists. So it's more important to put the "mainstream" (i.e. non-superhero) stuff out there.
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Seth L. Blumberg
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« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2002, 07:28:04 PM »

Wow.

I want to print out this thread and staple it to the forehead of my FL{C,G}S owner.  Unfortunately, I don't think that would help (other than by relieving some of my frustration).
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the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue
Pramas
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« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2002, 08:42:43 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

This is a big deal. Even just the presence of such a storefront can bring people inside, if the urban white-collar employee sees it every day on their lunch hour, and if they see people "like themselves" coming in and out. And once they're in, if they like the feel of the place, then they'll drop back by ... or maybe pick up a copy of something that the nice staff member (who asked questions about their likes and dislikes) recommended, just on a lark.


The WotC retail stores were an attempt to do just that. The idea was to put gaming in front of the average shopper by putting nice looking stores in A list malls. The stores carried computer and family games, as well as RPGs, minis, and CCGs. There were big cool statues, the staff were clean and well groomed, and so on.

The only time those stores were successful was when they were sucking in Pokemon money. Since that fad waned, the WotC stores have been in trouble and it's an open secret that Hasbro would like to divest themsevles of the retail division.
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Chris Pramas
Green Ronin Publishing
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2002, 09:15:35 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
attempting to increase the hobby's presence in current non-gamers by attempting to attract them via D&D fantasy is doomed to fail.


Oh, yeah. I've been saying this for a couple years now. Glad to hear it from someone else for a change. Bravo, Ron.
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Jon H
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« Reply #19 on: November 13, 2002, 01:12:48 AM »

This is fantastic to hear.

A bit of anecdotal.  I have been, on and off, a Page 45 customer for years.  I lived in Nottingham,UK for some time.

Upon moving to a different city, and getting a job as the comics specialist in another comics and games store, I straight away was keen to build on the Page 45 model.  And it worked.  Sales improved seriously.

To break down the version of the P45 model we used, and to relate it to RPGs:

Understanding the realities of the market: Die-hard fans are a dwindling market.  Marvel comics preached to the choir for years through the 90s.  By the end of that time they could have put out blank pages with a number on the front and the hardcore fans would have bought it.  But that was a dead end market.  A constant stream of new blood is vital.

How I personally think this relates to RPGs:  Products that require a vast collection of supplements.  The idea that supplements prove a game is alive.  The urge to appeal to collectors.  The urge to stick to the same old 'geek-genre' approach.  Preaching to the choir.

Cleanliness/organisation: Very important to not put off new customers.  It also goes hand in hand with clear, well ordered presentation of stock.  To me, it was vital to present our store like any other.  Comic stores are all too often dark, smelly places unlike any other kind of highstreet shop - other than games shops and sex shops...

Possible relation to RPGs:  A raise in production values.  Why do many games have such low production values?  (I know there are good reasons for this to do with finance and expertise, but it's a nettle worth grasping IMHO)

Unashamedly targeting new customers:  I always figured that exisiting comic fans could find what they were looking for.  They know what 'DC' means, they know what issue number they want.   They know comics come out every Thursday, and that it's tough to get back issues.  New customers don't know any of this, and the whole industry is quite arcane.  To combat this, we produced a number of large posters detailing what different publishers produced, showed connestions between products: "Like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac comics?  Try Sock Monkey".  I also made posters detailing when comics come out, and the publishing processes that mean if you miss an issue it's tough for the store to re-order it.

RPGs related?: Absolutely.  How many games now rely on the fact that the consumer already roleplays?  Already knows what a polyhedral dice is?  How many new games rely on existing models of play?  When I first picked up D&D 3E I was shocked that the first page told you in very technical terms how to make a character.  Not "what is a roleplaying game", but an assumption that most people wouldn't need to know.  Ok, so the explaination appears on the next page, but the occultism has already occured.  Was this the best move for the product that represents RPGs in the public imagination?  It's easy for us to forget after years of gaming, just what it's like for a new gamer, or worse for someone that doesn't know they want to be a gamer.  How do our products encorage these people?

Promoting more obscure products/giving information:  Comics like Superman and Xmen broadly speaking sell themselves.  "It does what it says on the tin", effectively.  Given shelf space they sell.  Comics like Acme Novelty Library do not sell as well if just given shelf space.  We produced information cards detailing what individual comicbooks were about.  This easily overcame people's reticence to ask the staff.  Comic shops can easily become a breeding ground for cliques of customers, and it's easy to see how a casual browser wouldn't want to ask questions, for fear of looking stupid in front of a fannish audience.

RPG connection:  D&D is a by-word for rpgs in many people's heads.  The format of D&D appears the easiest to explain to a new customer.  But is it?  Why do I think that?  Is using Dungeons and Dragons as a model for explaining roleplaying games reinforcing a certain gamer stereotype?  

Display:  Something that Pg45 has always done in Nottingham was to have very impressive window displays.  Not of product, but (this is hard to explain) large purpose built, colourful 'sculptures', standees and displays that were based on comics.  So the window one month would feature a massive cardboard cut out of Jimmy Corrigan, or characters from Ranma 1/2.  Very attractive, very artfully made, and arty.  In a city with a large art college, and a huge population of students, this strategy was really impressive.

RPGs:  Related to production values, but also about who the target audience is. Are we selling to gamers, or are we selling to everyone? How does the appearance of our games relate to the wider audience.  Visually, do we fetishise a gamer aesthetic?  Does that actually alienate the wider audience?  How do our products reveal their content to the browser?  Artwork appears in a lot of games, and can be the hook that gets the product off the shelf in the initial browsing stage.  How do we use that to maximum effect?  


I could go on, but I'm less skillfully repeating a lot of what Ron has outlined.  My point is that I would love to see the P45 model adapted and used within the roleplay market.  Sometimes I perceive a willfullness on the part of certain gamers to keep themselves seperate, to keep their hobby and obscure and arcane thing.  And that's a shame, and not good for the indstry as a whole.

Another point I would like to stress, as Ron has inferred - Page 45 almost avoids competing with the more regular styled comic shops.  It places itself firmly and unapologetically in a different league.   The Page 45 model doesn't apologise for being different - it confidently creates a new market simply by its form and function.

I often wonder why as RPG producers we accept the 'niche market' and 'small slice of a small pie' viewpoint.  Is that what we aspire to?  Or what we have been taught to beleive by our contemporaries?

I realise re-reading this post, that i haven't offered much in the way of new material to the thread, and I haven't offered many answers, but I'm so keen on the page 45 model that I had to speak up!

(edited for clarity 11/13/02)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: November 13, 2002, 07:01:16 AM »

Hi there,

Jon, thanks! It means a great deal to me that you contributed to this thread. We might start a new thread about the production-value topic, which is potentially pretty controversial.

Chris, my beef with the WotC stores was that they were all sizzle and no steak, which is to say, middle-class legitimacy in terms of appearance and location won't mean squat if all you offer is D&D fantasy and if your staff doesn't know what it's doing. And yes, I know that the WotC stores carried extensive title lines (Sorcerer benefited from several of their locations, for instance) ... but many of them were staffed with people who knew one line of blurb advertising per game, if that.

Many variables are at work regarding commercial success, and frankly, most RPG-industry folks hare after One to Rule Them All, whether it's a game title or sales tactic, all the time. (That is, between bouts of running around trying to Vulcan nerve-pinch one another in high-school style gossip fights.)

Variable #1: appearance/location. The WotC stores missed the boat entirely on this one - the successful model is the hip record store in an urban strip, not a shoe store in a suburban mall.

Variable #2: staff. The WotC stores missed the boat on this one too - sure, you're not hiring gamer dudes who can't hold down other jobs or find anywhere else to hang out, but instead, you're hiring non-gamers who can say, "Hi! I'm Muffy and I'll be taking care of you this evening," but who can't direct customers to stuff they might like and actually close sales. All pleasantry and no punch won't do it. The store needs to hire hip and personable role-players, not slobby grognards no matter how cheap they are, and not brightly-smiling twerps who can't tell the difference between Zero and Rifts.

Variable #3: plain and simple informed bias in terms of stock. The WotC stores went for a full line, meaning, "We have it all," without concerning themselves with "what it is." The full line appproach means a cluttered kibble of stock and a confused staff who fall back on "top five" sales strategy. The successful model, instead, lets the sales people sell what the sales people bloody well like, as well as who can interpret potential customers' input regarding what they like.

Therefore it seems to me that the WotC stores were not following the Page 45 model in substance at all.

Best,
Ron
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #21 on: November 13, 2002, 07:46:40 AM »

Hey Jon,

Fantastic post. Having never seen a pg45 style store, it's strange and exciting to see you write of the nuts and bolts from firsthand. Seeing description of the way the posters work, that kind of thing, somehow renders what seems idealistic into thrillingly viable technicolor. I'd love to see even more detail, perhaps a map of the store, with some notes about product layout, and photos.

One thing I'm not sure I'm understanding is how we need to be thinking higher production value is important to a RPG retail translation of the pg45 model. How exactly can a title like Zot be understood as competing in terms of production value with stuff from Image? Zot, in my mind, competes in terms of ambitiousness. It seems to me that the primary job of the pg45 style store is to aid the potential customer in getting beyond surface characteristics as the primary factor in purchasing decisions. D&D3e, for instance, has very high production value.

One enormous flaw in the whole idea of a pg45 style RPG store, however, is the utter lack of appropriate product. Other than http://www.123.net/~czege/nicotinegirls.html">Nicotine Girls, I can't think of any game that could be shelved in the "sex" section, and Nicotine Girls isn't in print! Were I to try and run a pg45 style RPG store, anything larger than the size of my kitchen would be too much retail space!

It seems to me that The Forge booth at GenCon this past summer was an approximation of a pg45 store. The difference being that a great deal of the stocked product was available only then and there. Comics come out with regularity, so customers come back to the store with regularity. A small line of irregularly published Indie RPG's doesn't support serial customers. What we should consider is that the next step forward from running a pg45 type RPG store once a year, as a collective endeavor by the publishers of the product being sold, is a "store" that appears Brigadoon-like to present itself to potentially new customers, a store that travels around, perhaps as a weekend booth at summer art festivals.

Paul
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #22 on: November 13, 2002, 08:29:39 AM »

Hello,

Paul wrote,
It seems to me that The Forge booth at GenCon this past summer was an approximation of a pg45 store.

Shit! They're onto me.

Best,
Ron
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James Holloway
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« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2002, 09:55:24 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards


Variable #2: staff. The WotC stores missed the boat on this one too - sure, you're not hiring gamer dudes who can't hold down other jobs or find anywhere else to hang out, but instead, you're hiring non-gamers who can say, "Hi! I'm Muffy and I'll be taking care of you this evening," but who can't direct customers to stuff they might like and actually close sales. All pleasantry and no punch won't do it. The store needs to hire hip and personable role-players, not slobby grognards no matter how cheap they are, and not brightly-smiling twerps who can't tell the difference between Zero and Rifts.



This is a good point; of the three game stores within a reasonable drive of my old home, I always went to the one whose atmosphere I found least oppressive; one was a big slobby mess, one was a busy hard-sell kind of place, and one was... not, and that's the one I went to.

Now, I have two questions. The first is kind of rhetorical. Where do you find these "hip and personable" intelligent role-players without All The Money In The World (tm)? I love RPGs and I have customer service experience and I reckon I'm a pretty nice guy, but gamestores would have to be paying a lot more than they are to get me to work in one. Some bookstores do manage this, but even then it's a pretty hit-and-miss thing.

The second, more serious question is this: a lot of gamestores carry stuff that's considered to be "related": wargames, CCGs, and boardgames both modern (Settlers of Catan) and traditional (chess). My local one also carried darts and so on. Does this fit as part of the proposed new gamestore model?

Certainly, if you want to attract the diehard fans you'll want to be able to sell them their LotR cards and HeroClix and whatnot (oh, and warhammer of course) in the same venue. But even if you don't want to attract these guys, I bet that a lot of potential crossover gamers are out there playing things like Settlers or Cheapass Games, but are dissuaded from D&D or Vampire by some personal objection -- and don't get exposed to anything else.

Thoughts, anyone?

- James
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mearls
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« Reply #24 on: November 13, 2002, 12:35:53 PM »

Interesting discussion. Jared and I talked about game stores and what's wrong with them quite recently.

I think the Page 45 model is interesting, but I think this discussion misses what cuts to the heart of its success. It isn't the genre of comics they sell, but the presentation. Any product can benefit from intelligent, thoughtful sales people.

In most game stores, the owner expects the material to sell itself.

In most game stores, the shelves are cluttered, difficult to navigate, and messy.

In most game stores, the guy behind the counter has no idea what he's selling.

Until running a game store becomes a business rather than a hobby, these problems will persist. It doesn't matter what a store throws on its shelves if the people who run it don't have clue one about how to sell stuff. Hell, even the WotC store that used to be in the mall 5 minutes from my house had all these problems.
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talysman
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« Reply #25 on: November 13, 2002, 01:16:51 PM »

here's my observations of the three gamestores I go to from time to time:

store number one is a comic book chain store that also sells RPGs. they are a successful chain: I dunno when the first store opened, but I've been going to them for at least 15 years.

their approach to comics is definitely not PG45. they have the posters of wolverine, the plastic bins of backlog comics, and so on. they do have a lot of shelfspace for graphic novels, however, as well as stuff by wil eisner and alex toth, so you can tell they half-think about marketting to more than just fanboys.

their approach to RPGs is about the same, or worse. they devote less shelfspace to RPGs, of course, but they definitely choose to promote D&D and World of Darkness rather than other games. they used to have a couple shelves of GURPS, but they have cut this way back: you might see one or two GURPS books. there seem to be a couple 7th Sea books on a shelf, too. not much else: they don't even carry WotC's non-D&D materials or WW's Exalted.

store #2 is a genuine RPG/miniatures store with a few shelves of comics and other games. I like store #2, but they are definitely not Pg45-like in their approach to selling rpgs. lots of shelfspace for D&D and World of Darkness. they do carry a better selection of other titles than the comic store, however: Cheapass Games, a GURPS section, Eden Studios... they even had the d20 Afghanistan RPG. I bought Sorcerer through them and ordered Sorcerer & Sword and Sorcerer's Soul. still, unless you are looking for D&D, WoD, or Warhammer miniatures, stuff is not well-arranged. they're fairly clean, however, and have a lot of floorspace.

store #3 is a chain of game stores. they are almost a Pg45-type store, mainly because they focus on regular board games (Monopoly, Life,) party games, host-a-mystery games, puzzles, and the like. very mainstream in their orientation. they carry a small selection of RPGs. here, however, they fail the mainstream marketing test, because the small selection they carry is again D&D, some WoD, the Star Wars RPG, and Hackmaster. they do not carry indie RPGs or non-fanboy RPGs.

I am obviously not entirely happy with the store choices here. I'd like to see a store that marketted RPGs in a mainstream manner. I think the gamestore chain (#3) is close with its emphasis on puzzles and traditional boardgames, but they are a small shop (found in malls) and don't apply their mainstream focus when it comes to RPGs. they would be perfect for non-fanboy RPGs, because having non-rpg games nearby takes the geekiness edge off a game that just might appeal to a more mainstream audience. people just might want to play a game where they pretend to be sorcerers dealing with the moral quandries of binding demons if they don't automatically associate it with D&D, but instead associate with host-a-mystery games and Scruples.
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John Laviolette
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #26 on: November 13, 2002, 01:36:09 PM »

Hi Mike (Mearls),

You wrote,
"Any product can benefit from intelligent, thoughtful sales people."

I don't agree, at least not in the long term. A product benefits in the long term not only from intelligent, thoughtful salespeople, but primarily by delivering what it promises to the customer (i.e. why they bought it). It benefits even more by delivering unexpected benefits in addition to expectations. The in-store presentation is a powerful addition to this concept, but it doesn't replace it.

My primary point in this thread is to examine the concept of mainstream vs. the concept of alternative, and to identify which role-playing content is which. I'm discussing store practices as a necessary adjunct to this concept, in that coupling mainstream content (which Sorcerer is, and D&D fantasy is not) with professional mainstream presentation (specifically, that which is appropriate to a hip/fringe leisure activity) is powerful and long overdue.

I don't think that either the content or the presentation would do very well without the other.

Best,
Ron
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Pramas
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« Reply #27 on: November 13, 2002, 04:36:34 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Chris, my beef with the WotC stores was that they were all sizzle and no steak, which is to say, middle-class legitimacy in terms of appearance and location won't mean squat if all you offer is D&D fantasy and if your staff doesn't know what it's doing.  


The WotC stores were the only attempt we're likely to see in our lifetimes to systematicly redefine the hobby game store. Even with revenue streams from computer and family games and hot selling stuff like Mage Knight and Magic, they were not successful.

A "Page 45 Model" store for RPGs strikes me as an interesting topic for debate that would never, ever work in the real world. First, you need to find this mythical staff of hip, hard working, charismatic, knowledgable gamers who are sensitive enough to listen to what the customer wants and charming enough to make their first roleplaying experience memorable. Then you need to find games to stock your store with. If you turn up your nose at D&D, Vampire, Rifts, and so on, what would you sell? Now assuming you had enough stock and this staff and they worked real hard one day and conviced two new people to buy one core rulebook, your store would make about $25. Even with regular customers with pet game systems, the ecomomics of RPGs do not support this kind of store.



Quote
Many variables are at work regarding commercial success, and frankly, most RPG-industry folks hare after One to Rule Them All, whether it's a game title or sales tactic, all the time. (That is, between bouts of running around trying to Vulcan nerve-pinch one another in high-school style gossip fights.)


What do you mean?
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Chris Pramas
Green Ronin Publishing
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Eric J.
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« Reply #28 on: November 13, 2002, 08:00:45 PM »

I don't know about you, but I'm planning to live for a LONG time.
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greyorm
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« Reply #29 on: November 13, 2002, 08:11:20 PM »

First, to Chris
Quote
you need to find this mythical staff of hip, hard working, charismatic, knowledgable gamers who are sensitive enough to listen to what the customer wants and charming enough to make their first roleplaying experience memorable.

Yeah, but...pg45 does it.
A couple of my local Insurance Agencies do it.
The local car lot does it (no jokes about car salesmen, please).
Many door-to-door salesmen do it.
The local colleges do it (in their recruiting depts).

So I'm wondering why you think a staff with the qualities you mention are in any way mythical, since I see exactly this sort of staff working in every successful business every single day?

Considering this is the way to run a successful business: personable, knowledgable staff who can sell anyone anything, and MORE importantly, figure out and sell that individual what they actually WANT -- not just iceboxes to Eskimos.

Now on to Ron's lengthy dissertation...
I'll be the first to admit I don't get mainstream stuff...that's all there is to it.  I don't understand the appeal of things like "Seinfeld," "Friends," soap operas or sitcoms, the WWF and watching sports (not playing, but watching), or things like mystery/crime or general "true-life" fiction books.  I find this stuff dreary and uninteresting in general.

I'm not saying this to insult anyone who digs any of the above -- I'm pointing out that it is because of this that I don't comprehend the appeal on a personal level, though I can intellectually understand the appeal to an extent.

Now, given the above, I may not understand what "mainstream" means at all as you present it for this specific topic.  Thus, what do you consider mainstream RPGs?  And what are the actual, definitive qualities of a mainstream RPG?

How would I actually design a mainstream RPG?

I think you were meaning to say Everway is an example...but I'm confused, how the heck is it mainstream?  You also mention Kayfabe, which I understand has this appeal since it's wrestling, and wrestling is mainstream.

To clarify my confusion for you, I'm sitting here wondering: ok, wrestling = mainstream.  Does that mean you have to design the "Friends" RPG or "Sitcom: the RPG" in order to be mainstream?  Yet, when I consider that "Sandman" has been stated to be a mainstream comic I wonder how the heck it is.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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