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Author Topic: Indie Effects on Existing Industry  (Read 15735 times)
clehrich
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« Reply #30 on: January 29, 2003, 08:43:59 AM »

Jack,

I'm not saying that they're not whining, or that they're right about Indies.  What I'm saying is that it's not all the BRC's fault.  What worries me here is that we're setting up a deep antagonism between Indies and BRCs, and that's really not good for anyone.

To put it very directly:

The BRC guys are apparently saying that the problem is the Indies.  I think they're wrong, and I've tried to supply a hypothesis about where that idea came from.  We want to quash that rumor: where is the real problem, is there anything that we can do about it, and what can or should the BRCs do about it?

The Indie response, in this thread, is, "Ha ha, sucks to be you, we hate you anyway."  This is not helpful.

We're all part of one industry, like it or not.  If we don't like the way the industry works, laughing at the big-money guys isn't a good way to fix it.  The problem is getting people to buy games, preferably ours (whoever we are).  This will not be solved by internecine conflict.
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Chris Lehrich
Ben Morgan
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« Reply #31 on: January 29, 2003, 08:52:15 AM »

This whole thing sounds a bit like Microsoft whining because people can buy a computer and install some other operating system than Windows.

Or Pepsi getting nervous because Pathmark decides to devote a foot-and-a-half of one shelf to Canfield's Diet Chocolate Soda or Vernor's Ginger Ale.

In other words, just a bit ridiculous.
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-----[Ben Morgan]-----[ad1066@gmail.com]-----
"I cast a spell! I wanna cast... Magic... Missile!"  -- Galstaff, Sorcerer of Light
Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #32 on: January 29, 2003, 09:00:24 AM »

Quote from: clehrich
The Indie response, in this thread, is, "Ha ha, sucks to be you, we hate you anyway."  This is not helpful.

OK, on this we can agree.
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Matt Gwinn
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #33 on: January 29, 2003, 09:31:52 AM »

Quote from: clehrich
BRC: “There, there. Those goddamn Indies. Don’t worry, we’ll fix ‘em.”

That, in essence, is my theory of why this BRC guy thinks the Indies are at fault. I really don’t think it’s because we’re outselling them, nor because the BRCs are just whiners.


I don't think that's necessarily the case, at least as it pertains to my friend that I had the discussion with.  It's more a problem of too many games in the system clogging it up.  He doesn't have a problem with indy games, so long as they do their own thing and don't integrate themselves into an already screwed up system.  He's actually all for people designing new games and making a go at it.  He's just opposed to them using the same distribution system.

Quote from: clehrich
We're all part of one industry, like it or not. If we don't like the way the industry works, laughing at the big-money guys isn't a good way to fix it. The problem is getting people to buy games, preferably ours (whoever we are). This will not be solved by internecine conflict.


This is where part of the problem comes about.  Some of the big fish don't consider us to be a part of the industry and don't think we deserve to be part of it because we haven't payed our dues.

Quote from: Julie
p.s. Reading the arguments about the indie competition preventing the livelihood of other, more deserving individuals reminds me of similar arguments made as to why women shouldn't be allowed to enter the workforce.


During the previously mentioned debate I made the remark that requireing Vanity Press publishers to use alternate methods of distribution was the game industry equivalent of separate water fountains.  I think I went to far with that one, but it seems equivalent.

,Matt G.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #34 on: January 29, 2003, 09:33:40 AM »

Hi Chris,

Your perception of the communal response is, I think, not accurate.

Let's take a look at my response: No one owes you a living. What's the implication, to the BRC guy?

Is it, "Fuck you and your stupidity?" No, it's not. Perceiving (inferring) it this way is quite the low-self-esteem thing to do and receives a shrug from me.

The actual implications are:

1) Scale back your publishing ambitions such that they are not your primary source of income. Please note: this is not saying "run it like a hobby with no attention to profit." The career/hobby dichotomy is a false one.

2) Discover means of promotion and sales that focus on end-use customers rather than the distributors and retailer-advertising. Establish a community and communication system for these end-users.

3) Do, however, develop and strengthen three-tier ties and means of distribution that reflect actual sales and use; establish personal contacts with those reliable retailers who understand the audience for your game.

4) Discover and participate in the subculture of multiple-reciprocal ties in publishing. Tundra Sales Organization is one example; the Forge itself is another.

5) Define "success" for yourself in a directly-assessed, realizable way. Neither market-share (selling more copies than some other company) nor "just get it on the shelf" are recommended.

6) Understand and consider the options of ownership: self-publishing, freelancing, leasing, and so forth. Choose the one you want and understand its implications.

The real point of all the responses so far is to say, "Learn." Every assumption in the BRC comment is incorrect. Anyone who states it needs to learn some things. The first thing is my initial comment. The second things are listed as #1-6 above.

Some final points: Jack, I've always been forthcoming about Adept Press finances. I put $5000 into the company as seed money, mainly for the first printing. After that, every single Adept expense has been paid for by Adept profits. Those expenses include three supplements (art, layout, printing, etc), one mini-supplement, half the cost of last year's three-booth space at GenCon, last year's trip to Origins, last year's trip to Las Vegas for the GAMA Trade Show, server space costs, the second printing of Sorcerer last October, and various promotional efforts. They do not include a paycheck for myself; Adept Press is a business, but it's not my job.

Adept Press is still in the black.

Best,
Ron
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contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #35 on: January 29, 2003, 11:30:32 AM »

IMO, and you won't be surprised to hear this either, I agree with greyorm.  This is the normal operation of the system, and so to a large degree business as usual.  Industrialism finds most of the physical problems of production trivial, its access to markets that counts.  Technology moves so fast that the barrier to entry steadily falls, and the relative profitability of existing machinery drops.  Competition for market share stimulates overproduction that clogs the channels.

In Britain we have more cars than we dispose of, more fridges than we can dispose of, and the EU certainly has more food than it can dispose of.  Now we have more games than we can dispose of, what else is new?

Its also correct to point the finger at the big companies, but not in a moralistic way.  The little companies and private presses are doing exactly the right thing, exploiting new technology to gain a competitive edge.  They're getting relatively more bang for their buck - consider that the Connections forum here is duplicating many of the de facto services that a publisher would have carried out in say, oh, 1970, and for which it could take a cut.  In many cases, IT in one form or another has been the particular catalyst that changed the dynamic.

Of course the other alternative to clogged channels is to expand the market.  Here I feel that the cynicism in regards mainstream bookstores is misplaced, for several reasons.  All these stores are facing much the same problem - overproduction means demand is quirky.  What they want is a flow of new quirky things; Blackwells on Tottenham Court Road has a section for kitsch stationary, a section for "toy" books or various sorts, one for fantasy fiction.  In fact it even used to carry some RPG's, but stopped - a half shelf of a few mainstream products didn't attracte RPGers, and not many others were interested.  But sorceror wouldn't look out of place in such an environment, or something like whispering vault.  I mean, they even cater to comics fans somewhat, and have star wars technical diagrams and similar sundries.  This is where the small press should be, IMO.

[as asides from even my own digression, I think developing RPG's in paperback format is probably a good idea, and that Civ 3 came with a 232 page manual]
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Pramas
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« Reply #36 on: January 29, 2003, 11:35:17 AM »

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Quote from: Pramas
Quote from: Le Joueur
... Why don't they slash their overhead and work outsourced with a boatload of freelancers; if they focus on finding reliable talent and use their expertise in marketing and presentation, they can make their skills payoff more than the volume discount used to.


... Most RPG companies already outsource writing and art to freelancers.

...The rest will be done by freelancers, as will all the art, all the editing, and some of the graphic design...

How about freelancers in marketing and presentation, which seems to be what Fang is talking about. People who sell the books rather than the people who put the books together in first place.


On rereading what Fang said, I'm not not sure what he was saying (since he uses "they" throughout and you can read who "they" are two different ways). To answer your question, yes, there are some people/companies that you can go to for sales and marketing. Green Ronin uses Osseum Entertainment for sales and fulfillment and they've done a great job for us. Liz Fulda does freelance marketing under the name Sphinx Group. Aldo from Wingnut does sales and fulfillment as Impressions. Outfits like this are a relatively new development (last three years or so), but they can take be very helpful to small companies. I am not, by trade, a salesman. The Osseum guys are and they do a much better job than I did in GR's early days.
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Chris Pramas
Green Ronin Publishing
www.greenronin.com
clehrich
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« Reply #37 on: January 29, 2003, 12:42:07 PM »

Hi Ron,

I'm really not making the argument you think I am.  Let me try to rephrase.

The claim has apparently been made that "the indie industry is clogging the channels."  This doesn't appear to be true.  So where does the claim come from?  I have tried to suggest one way that it might arise.

Now this claim has largely been described as "whining."  The big companies have been compared to Microsoft, the Evil Empire of the computer industry.  Several people have, however, remarked on this response as "bashing" and so forth.  I think there is a good bit of truth to this: the idea that White Wolf, for example, has (1) nearly total control over what consumers buy, and (2) enormous monetary and other resources to force that down your throat (i.e. that they're like Microsoft) is silly.

The related argument, that it's all free trade and hip-hoorah for capitalism, does not make sense to me economically.  Lots and lots of people are attracted to this hobby in the first place by things like Vampire.  We do not have the resources to accomplish this goal, i.e. of drawing people in from nowhere.  So we are to some degree reliant on the advertising capability of larger companies.  If we then steal their readers because our games are better, great.  If they whine about that, it's their own damn fault as everyone says.  But I really doubt that the big problem for White Wolf is that everyone in Vampire campaigns has decided to switch to Sorcerer.  Wonderful game though it is, I just can't see it having that big an effect on WW's sales.

All I'm saying, then is:
(1) It's not a good thing if a lot of folks out there, including for example those initially drawn to the hobby by (say) White Wolf, think that Indie games are bad for the industry.
(2) If we want to improve matters, bashing the big companies isn't really going to help much.  As a politer variant, telling them to stop whining and get out of the business is not terribly helpful either.

I think the ideal situation is a healthy, successful, growing business of big companies.  They draw lots and lots of people in, and get them hankering for more.  Then these people start increasingly saying, "You know what?  This was okay when I was 13, but now it stinks.  Isn't there something better?"  And they come over to the indies.

There is a third category here, which I haven't discussed because I don't know anything much about it, of people who really honestly believe that their start-up business of cranking out d20 supplements is going to put their kids through college.  If those people whine, I have less than no sympathy.  I much prefer Fang Langford's complaint: "My game design is slow because I have a real job and responsibilities."  Annoying it is (I mean for Fang), but those are reasonable priorities.  If White Wolf were actually saying, "We're starving to death in the gutter because of you indies," I'd laugh with the rest of you.  But I really don't think that's the case, do you?
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Chris Lehrich
Le Joueur
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« Reply #38 on: January 29, 2003, 01:11:49 PM »

Quote from: Pramas
Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Quote from: Pramas
Quote from: Le Joueur
... Why don't they slash their overhead and work outsourced with a boatload of freelancers; if they focus on finding reliable talent and use their expertise in marketing and presentation, they can make their skills payoff more than the volume discount used to.

... Most RPG companies already outsource writing and art to freelancers.

...The rest will be done by freelancers, as will all the art, all the editing, and some of the graphic design...

How about freelancers in marketing and presentation, which seems to be what Fang is talking about. People who sell the books rather than the people who put the books together in first place.

On rereading what Fang said, I'm not sure what he was saying

What I said?  I said 'times are a changing, anybody who wants to do business the old fashioned way better get ready to go the way of the dinosaur¹' (mostly because of print on demand and internet advances).

With the above, I meant that instead of depending upon 'what worked before' (such as volume discounts and few competitors), the company in question ought to take a hard look at 'what they're good at' and jettison what they can get for cheaper no matter what that is. ' Do what yer good at and buy the rest cheaply'...good advice?  I'm surprised at the mythology behind whatever 'that guy' thinks; aren't the supposed villains in his complaint just as subject to market saturation as he is?  (No matter who 'the big guy' is, or 'the little guy,' both face the same market; any complaints about being 'forced out' are just whining on either side.)

Quote from: Pramas
To answer your question, yes, there are some people/companies that you can go to for sales and marketing. Green Ronin uses Osseum Entertainment for sales and fulfillment and they've done a great job for us. Liz Fulda does freelance marketing under the name Sphinx Group. Aldo from Wingnut does sales and fulfillment as Impressions. Outfits like this are a relatively new development (last three years or so), but they can take be very helpful to small companies. I am not, by trade, a salesman. The Osseum guys are and they do a much better job than I did in GR's early days.

A wonderful model.  Technology is destroying the advantage of vertical integration as quickly as it eats the volume discount percentage.  (My business philosophy is 'let them get bigger, that just creates more niche markets.')  Now what was the complaint again?

About the only kinda complaints I will tolerate are ones like...

Quote from: ...where clehrich
I much prefer Fang Langford's complaint: "My game design is slow because I have a real job and responsibilities." Annoying it is (I mean for Fang), but those are reasonable priorities.

But then that's just me.

Fang Langford

¹ Always trying to stay one step ahead of the paleontologists (they finally caught up with my 'dino-fuzz' theory - their name, not mine), I expect any day now their going to discover that what really killed of the dinosaurs was...(wait for it)...

Lack of Oxygen.

So far every scenario they've given would have been much harder on the smaller, wetter animals, yet throughout the supposed 'period of extinction' it was strictly the large land animals (and their air-breathing aquatic brethren) who took it on the chin.

As corroboration, I recently saw the skeleton of the Triassic equivalent of the alligator; now I'm no scientist, but the rib cage was in exact proportion to the modern animal.  I find it hard to believe - given the square-cube law - that that creature could keep so much more meat oxygenated with such lung capacity.

But that's a subject of a totally different forum.
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greyorm
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« Reply #39 on: January 29, 2003, 01:45:59 PM »

Quote from: Matt Gwin
He's just opposed to them using the same distribution system.

To me, this statement says it all: despite Rich's protest, it obviously it IS about capitalism or free trade marketing...or rather, the understanding of such and how it works.

The complaint voiced by this individual was, to paraphrase, "Sure, you can publish paperback novels, but we want you to sell them to people who don't buy our paperback novels." Nothing more, nothing less. I honestly have to scratch my head at this because it's like any company going to their competitors and saying, "Gee, guys, you've really cut into our market recently...maybe you could stop selling so much product?"

Why? Because he doesn't want me to compete for his company's customers. My product is taking money out of his pocket...wait, that's simple economics, though! All other things being equal, two similar products will always take money away from one another. Hence, what I stated about a Socialist system: if you don't like this fact of free trade, you can always try Socialism and monopolies.

Compare, for example, established group A who produce widgets complaining that upcoming group B who produce widgets is selling to group A's market. Group A states that group B has created a "flood of widgets," which is bad for the market as a whole!

However, the last time I checked, basic free trade doesn't care about the market as a whole...it starts and stops with the widget producer. Group B is looking to get a piece of Group A's action. If Group A wants to hold onto their widget sales, they'll need to do something to get more people to buy their widgets, or they'll have to start laying people off.

You can't avoid this without getting rid of the competition...there's simply no other way around it in the business model we're talking about. Trying to bully or convince other companies into leaving your market -- such as through demands for "industry standards" or emotional appeals (ie: "I can't feed my kids because you're selling the same product!") -- is one way to secure the market...its also called monopolizing, and its illegal.

Let's ask: does group B have anything against group A trying to make a living selling widgets? No (though obviously it would be easier for group B to sell their widgets if group A went out of business and were thus the only widget supplier in existance...and vice versa, which is where the complaint of group A actually stems from).

When group A complains about sales by group B, who has upset the established market, group A is showing they do have something against anyone else trying make a living in the same field. Simply, group A wants the whole pie without a fight, and screw anyone else who tries to take a piece of it.

However, in a capitalist economical model, anyone and everyone can try to take a piece of the pie you have your finger in, because it isn't your pie...there is no established channel through which funds are "supposed to" or "should" flow.

Thus whining about this and moaning about people "stealing" or "diluting" or "diminishing" "your" money/customers/etc is inane and shows a complete lack of understanding of business. As well, appealing to concerns about "the market" is a dodge of the issue, because ultimately the one appealing to such is trying to make sure they retain their market share.

Ask yourself, or the complaintant: will the established company put themselves out of business in order to secure or balance the market? Undoubtedly not; yet they expect others to do so? Simply, the complaint is asking everyone else to take an action that the company itself would refuse to take.

So back we go to the idea that group A wants the pie and is saying "screw you" as much as the upcoming companies are saying "screw you" back by continuing to produce.

Is this some sort of slam against "the establishment" or does it create a divide between indie publishers and the big companies?

I really don't see a judgement of the big companies at all in this thread or us vs. them rhetoric. We're talking about a specific individual's comments. This could as easily be some indie publisher railing against the big companies for making it hard to get any shelf-space with their "overpriced, glossy garbage" as it is some established publisher railing against indie companies for taking up "their" shelf-space with "cheap, amateur garbage."

Is this or any of my other statements some-sort of "hip-hooray" for capitalism or free-trade? @#!!! NO! It is, however, the way things work; it's reality...and you're right, Rich, it doesn't make sense economically, which is precisely one reason why I'm anti-capitalist.

But your "ideal situation," while certainly logical from an overall market-standpoint, is flawed because it requires that small companies restrain themselves (for this noble market goal) and just let the established big companies crank out the product and pull in the majority of the cash...it doesn't allow for growth or competition.

It requires a synergy between competitors, and we don't live in an economically synergistic society.

And I also agree with you, Rich, how do we -- as a hobby -- attract more individuals to our hobby? That's a good question, but one we have also addressed before in previous threads here.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Pramas
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Posts: 53


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« Reply #40 on: January 29, 2003, 01:53:10 PM »

Quote from: talysman
I'm just not seeing a huge quantity of small-press d20 in the stores. when I go to my favorite, best-stocked gamestore, I see:

    [*]a whole lot of WotC d20 stuff;
    [*]a whole lot of d20 stuff from other major, pre-d20 companies (White Wolf, Chaosium;)
    [*]a lot of d20 stuff by a small number of companies whose history I'm not clear on, but I suspect had pre-d20 existence, based on the breadth and (physical) quality of their product lines;
    [*]hardly any d20 stuff from new companies with small product lines.
    [/list:u]


    The first thing to remember is that games and companies can be very regional in appeal. There are some stores that still kick ass with Shadowfist, while others don't stock it at all. While you may not have seen it, that doesn't mean it didn't get into the channel.

    Here's a list of d20 companies that did not exist before August, 2000, whose products I have seen in stores (and my store samplings come from Seattle, Vancouver (BC), Minneapolis, Chicago, Boston, NYC, DC area, London, and Leeds).

    Auran, Bad Axe Games, Bard Productions, Bastion Press, Citizen Games, Dark Portal Games, Fiery Dragon, Gaslight Press, Goodman Games, Guildhouse Games, Hammerdog, Living Imagination, Mongoose, MonkeyGod Enterprises, Mystic Eye Games, Natural 20 (via MEG), Necromancer Games, OtherWorld Creations, Pandahead Productions, Paradigm Concepts, Perpetrated Press, Privateer Press, RPG Objects, Scarab Games, Second World Simulations, Thunderhead Games (absorbed by MEG), Troll Lord Games, Tyranny Games, United Playtest, and Viking Games.

    That doesn't take into account pre-existing companies that have done d20, like AEG, Atlas, Fantasy Flight, WW, and most lately GOO and even DP9.

    Most companies above have at least two releases under their belts. That's a lot of game books. Individually, those companies don't affect the system but collectively they do.

    Quote
    heck, when you go to secondary channels like comic book stores and Barnes and Noble. you see no small press stuff at all, d20 or non-d20. you see WotC and White Wolf and maybe Chaosium or some other major RPG publisher.


    No surprise there. The book trade is difficult to get into and has its own peculiarities (and dangers, like returns). The book trade is also roughly half of WotC's business, which is one of the ways it stays on top.
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    Chris Pramas
    Green Ronin Publishing
    www.greenronin.com
    Jason Lee
    Member

    Posts: 729


    « Reply #41 on: January 29, 2003, 02:24:09 PM »

    First of I agree the statement probably isn't true...In my local game store I see WW, WotC, GURPS, Palladium, Chaosium, AEG, and the remains of FASA almost exclusively.  There are a few other bits and pieces; like games on consignment from a dying distributor.

    But, let us suppose for a moment it is true.

    I hate to suggest this kind of behavior, but I'm going to stop being an idealist for a moment.  Big companies have some common solutions to this 'small company threat' issue.

    Threaten the channel's pocket book.  If you don't put only Windows on your systems then Windows will cost more for you, if we even let you have it.  Technically illegal in the US, but easily greyed if done correctly.  Especially if not done to fellow big companies that could fight about it.

    Push out the small companies with volume.  Apparently, White Wolf wants to be the #1 third party supplier of D20 products; probably because they know might makes right.  If the retailer sees a line of two products from Mom & Pop studios and a line of twenty products from WW, his best chance for supported sales is getting the customers into the bigger line.

    Buy the small company.  If their product is squishing yours, then you could be making that profit instead.  If their product is just cutting into yours, then you can shelve it or neglect to promote it; making it as if it never existed.

    I bet there a more excellent methods I've neglected, but I'm really not a very good cutthroat capitalist.
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    - Cruciel
    Walt Freitag
    Member

    Posts: 1039


    « Reply #42 on: January 29, 2003, 03:57:28 PM »

    Hmm, the devil seems to be having some trouble finding an advocate here. I'll see what I can do.

    One more shady practice can be added to Cruciel's list: Sell your product for below cost to drive competitors out of business. Which at least under some circumstances is considered an unfair business practice and is even occasionally illegal.

    That gives at least a remote thin straw to grasp for the idea that underpricing one's products might not be entirely ethical.

    And if one further describes pricing so that the profits, even over the long term, are extremely unlikely to ever compensate the publisher for the time spent developing the product, as "underpricing," well, then, it's clear that most of the indies are bound to burn in hell for their sins.

    I can think of many counterarguments, but as the devil's advocate it would be unethical for me to speak against my client's interests. So I'll let others try.

    - Walt
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