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The Store

Started by greyorm, November 15, 2002, 02:00:52 PM

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Over in Mainstream: a revision, Ron says specifically it isn't about the store.  I'm in some disagreement about this...after reading everything being said about turning things around, attracting a greater number mainstream shoppers to the hobby via new, non-alternative material instead of what currently dominates, I have to wonder: if we start producing for these clients, how do we then sell to them?

That is, create as many mainstream-appealing games as you want, if you don't have a proper venue for targeted sales, you won't sell or change a thing, thus making the entire exercise ultimately futile...and you might as well go back to making niche games and competing for niche dollars.

Simply, I don't care how much you develop and package things for a mainstream audience, if that product isn't displayed to that same segment of the public in an appealing, open manner, it won't change a thing.  
You'll have a lot of good ideas and lots of dusty packages on the shelf.

It IS about the store.
Imagine: page 45 goes ahead and prints this "mainstream vs. alternative" letter in Cerebus...but turns around and keeps selling the SoS ("same old shit") because it is more profitable, because the majority of a comic seller's business/profit comes from the SoS.

Where is the power in the distinction now?  Nowhere.
Even if they're right, even if it IS backwards, they haven't put their money where their mouth is.  The market appeal might be there, but the market isn't.

However, here's the thing, YOU CREATE THE a business owner.  Your business decisions and presentation target a specific subset of people, and you had better be in charge of targeting that subset instead of leaving it up to fate and whim.

Currently, the comics market targets pre-teen/teenage fanboys, but by changing their presentation and altering the product appeal to attract and service a different clientele, say typical older female shoppers, that's who their clientele becomes.

Chris (Pramas) claims the model given won't work, that a store which tries to do this would fail; but if the model won't work, then neither will this grand vision of the future, where RPGs (as a whole) break out of their niche and gain a wider appeal through the creation of more mainstream product.

I refute this, and have over in the other thread, pointing out page 45 as an example of this whole idea successfully at work, along with the other stores pointed out by various individuals.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio


I agree... it's certainly possible to break out of the niche feeling RPGs currently radiate and aim for a wider audience.

examining from the retail side, I mentioned one chain of stores that actually almost has a Pg45 model: a chain of mall stores called Gamekeeper. they emphasize puzzles and traditional boardgames, but carry rpgs. as I mentioned, I don't think they market the RPGs quite right, since they concentrate on exactly those marginallized games we're talking about... plus, although the rest of the store is nicely done, the rpg display is sloppy; unless you are looking for rpgs, you wouldn't know they had 'em.

you can basically tell that the store is not interested in promoting rpgs, but I say it's possible to carry this idea further: have a larger rpg section, stock more mainstream rpgs, maybe even arrange the inventory by subject instead of by game type.

this would work with some hobby stores I have visited, for example. again, these stores mixed more mainstream non-rpg products with rpgs, but tended to concentrate on the big rpg names. what I would like to see is, for example, a store with historic games, novels, and nonfiction books in one section. that way, someone looking for models of WWII aircraft or coffeetable books about D-Day might bump into GURPS WWII or Godlike.

examining the issue from the publishing side, I do think RPG publishers try to market games to the D&D/WoD crowd, even for games that aren't clones of those games. in many cases, it may be subtle: bragging about how many different kinds of spells you can cast in system X, which is really meant to be a game about characters making decisions between walking the path of the magician versus living a normal life. also, Ron mentioned the fetishism involved in superhero comics; I think there's something analogous going on in rpg art as well. why don't more medieval fantasy games focus on artwork that resembles medieval woodcuts or tapestries instead of pictures of half-naked chainmail babes?
John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects:

Ron Edwards


Durned if I can tell what you're asking in your post, or if you're not asking anything, what you're presenting for discussion. Can you help me out with that?


MJ Stahl

I used to live in Cincinnati, OH where we had a store called 'Games People Play' and it held many of the items previously discussed in this thread.

But I see a major problem with this type of store layout. Offering more mainstream games is a great draw, but not offering and upsell potential and widening your market as well as your sale poses a problem.

For example. Let's say you have 'Medival Merchant' (a merchant strategic board game from Rio Grande Games) shelved, or on a tombstone with some added POP (as if it was just released)... why not display maybe a Venitian merchant RPG next to the board game product? Why not educate the employees on sales techniques for games of immersion (RPG's) and games of strategy (board games) and how they fit together.

Everyone one fantasizes so that is a reason to sell.

Of course there are probably a multitude of factors that play into this... like margins, exclusivities of display, etc, etc.


You're right, Ron, it is muddled and directionless.

I think I realized that when I posted it...Had I thought about it, I would have waited to post that until it was more concrete.

Once my sleep-deprived brain kicks in I'll give you know something more meaninguflly coherent (I haven't slept more than 8 hours in the last three days, I think...hence I'm noticing my thinking/decision-making is a little fuzzy).

Apologies, I'm normally more careful than this.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio


Quote from: greyorm
I refute this, and have over in the other thread, pointing out page 45 as an example of this whole idea successfully at work, along with the other stores pointed out by various individuals.

Page 45 is an interesting example to be sure, but I stand by pessimism that this model could work for RPGs. Page 45 sells something entirely different than RPGs, a point which can't be overstated. No one needs to teach you how to use a graphic novel, whereas most people learn RPGs just that way. I'd also point out that Page 45 was able to capitalize on the rising tide of the graphic novel. There was, in other words, something happening within the comic industry that made their model more viable than it would have been previously. I do not see anything happening in RPGs of similar importance.
Chris Pramas
Green Ronin Publishing

Le Joueur

Quote from: PramasI'd also point out that Page 45 was able to capitalize on the rising tide of the graphic novel. There was, in other words, something happening within the comic industry that made their model more viable than it would have been previously. I do not see anything happening in RPGs of similar importance.
Unless we create that (which is what I thought Ron was suggesting).  As designers, we could create the "rising tide;" if not us who?

Fang Langford

p. s. I freely admit I thought all the store talk is premature, but the design talk isn't.
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!

Ron Edwards

Hi everyone,

Let's all shut up until Raven tells us what he's talking about. Until that happens, this thread will be one of those bullshit "Well I think" muddles that won't accomplish anything.



After twelve hours of sleep, my head's a little clearer this morning.

Simple, here's the deal from above, short and sweet:
A venue of distribution is necessary for any idea; if that venue is either not the point or unworthy of serious discussion, or if it is not economically viable, then why are we discussing the original idea?

Doing so is a waste of time because theories are all great and fine, if -- and only if -- they actually hold true in practice.

Practice, in the case of this theory, is the display and promotion of works created by the theory, to test and see if the terms are confused and different designs will appeal better, as theory states.

So, it isn't really a question as much as it is a refutation of points about "what it is about" and viability.  If there is a question in all of it, that is directed towards Ron as a query of how to actually engage in meaningful practice of the theory?

Note that I do not consider meaningful practice of the theory to occur in the design stage...that is, while you can design a game to be mainstream instead of alternative, the test of whether the terminology holds true and mainstream buyers will latch onto the product does not occur during design, it occurs during and after purchase.

If we do not discuss the store or viable marketing alternatives to the current model (which fails to  target the necessary clientele), or if we ignore such "for the moment," we may end up with a great deal of work done and no or little result.

Thus, why AREN'T we discussing the store?
The store, IMO, quite obviously appears to be what it is about, in the long-run, or from a view of practical application.  What is the current reasoning behind avoidance of talking about a store/the economic and distribution aspects of the theory?

If it is "getting ahead of ourselves," why?  (Considering it is ultimately the litmus test of the entire exercise)  If it simply doesn't matter, why and how?

It was maintained that "the Store" isn't important (because that isn't what "it" is about), and that "the Store" is not viable economically...but in both these cases it makes pursuit/time investiture in discussion of and design with the theory ultimately futile and meaningless.

So, if we are not dicussing it because it is not considered to be an important part of or worthy of integration into the main body of the theory, when its importance cannot be understated, why is that?
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Ron Edwards

Hi Raven,

Your concern is addressed, I think, by the following points.

The "It" that seems to have bugged you refers to the topic of my previous thread, Mainstream: a revision. The topic of that thread was not the game store. That does not mean that a game store (or "the" game store) is an irrelevant topic, but it does mean that discussing it in that thread was off-topic.

That's especially important to the mainstream/alternative issue, because of people's tendency to confound several important issues. I listed some of them in a related thread, specifically stuff like independent/non-independent ... and most especially, mode of distribution.

Clearly the mode of distribution is a crucial, major, central issue in discussing role-playing. That's basic economics and values in tandem, and it applies to practically anything produced and used.

I am completely convinced that several related variables interact in such a way that most people involved in the role-playing hobby cannot think clearly about them. We need a clean sweep, regarding all of these variables in isolation, in order even to begin discussing things like stores and packaging design.

Three of those variables have been raised by me in the last few days: (1) examining the term "mainstream," with special emphasis on the idea that the answer includes what we, the hobbyists, tend to call "alternative;" (2) the role of the primary venue for role-playing culture, the game store, in the actual practice of the hobby, phrased as a constructive suggestion; and (3) a look at how we actually, in real life, construct our hobby in social terms.

Two more variables exist that need to be worked through in terms of shared impressions and debate, before I even begin to think of asking questions about stores, packaging, promotion, and similar issues at this website. I have endured hundreds, if not thousands, of posts of pure repetitive, directionless, gut-reaction noise regarding these issues since I began publishing Sorcerer and other games, back in 1996. These five topics I am in the middle of raising are the barest, baby-step beginning of my attempt to change this incredible wall of static into some meaningful discourse.

Until I get all those five topics articulated here, until people have had a chance to work through their preconceptions and (in my view) badly-warped values regarding them, and until we can all look at all five active threads at once, I am not going to get rolling about "the store," or "the cover," or the "reach the customer" or whatever.


Matt Snyder

Raven brings up one of the two points why I have not chimed in on any of the "Fantastic Five" posts by Ron (three thus far, correct?).

My own game, Dust Devils, has been discussed by some in a thread about how a "mainstream" game would be packaged (i.e. marketed). But Raven has nailed why I haven't chimed in on that discussion. It's because I don't see the practicality in discussing the matter. Yet.

I could be that I'll see plenty of reason later to discuss it. But right now, even if I did win the lottery and have the means to actually print / package Dust Devils for the mainstream, I've not idea where to even begin. There just isn't any obvious means I can see to pursue.

Perhaps Ron will change my conservative mind about that. Ron brings up the second of two points why I have not yet chimed in here. That is:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Until I get all those five topics articulated here, until people have had a chance to work through their preconceptions and (in my view) badly-warped values regarding them, and until we can all look at all five active threads at once, I am not going to get rolling about "the store," or "the cover," or the "reach the customer" or whatever.

See, Ron's already admitted that the jury's still out on the real meat of these matters, and posts are just missing the whole point. Because it doesn't exist yet. The one that really bugs me is the Social Context thread, which wasn't supposed to be a "profiling" kind of thing. And yet, it is . . . at least until Ron chimes in again. I just don't like the feeling of "set 'em up, knock 'em down" on that thread (and, yes, I KNOW that isn't Ron's point or intention -- just that the whole thing seems like pissing in the wind to me until Ron chimes in again).

Ron, I really want to read all of these things, and I can only sympathize that you've not yet had time to get to all of them. Until then, my thoughts -- especially those concerning Dust Devils, which you've cited as a good "mainstream" candidate -- are fool's gold.
Matt Snyder

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Matt, although I am playing the "Godammit, there's a big picture card," I can't say that big picture is entirely clear to me yet. I know what questions I'll be asking at the end of the five threads, and I know where I stand on them currently, but there's a reason why I put all these things out as threads rather than as an essay. People's input on them is very important; I am learning a great deal from all of them, and the fifth thread's content depends heavily on substantive interactions within the preceding four.

I agree with you about the Profiling aspect of the Social Context thread, but that should change soon - I hope, internally, rather than directed by me. In fact, I'd appreciate it if someone like you (i.e., deliberately going for a point-based approach rather than a descriptive one) would contribute to it and provide a comparative conclusion for us to discuss.

Raven, with any luck, my recent "money shot" post on the Actual play in stores thread should provide some insight relevant to your inquiries on this thread. As you can see, however, that post raises more questions than it answers.


Le Joueur

The Store

So I turns to the wife and says, "What would the ideal game store be?"

"Caribou Coffee?"

We got into a discussion about the differences between all media and gaming.  Ancillary to that, what kind of retail facility would be necessary to support that.  One thing you must know is that we live just down the street from The Source, Hobbies and Games, home of Atlas Games, so our perspective is skewed by familiarity with that.

See our main thought is that gaming isn't about 'story' presentation (at least not in the linear media form), so a theatre doesn't work at all.  Gaming isn't about rulebooks, so a bookstore model isn't a good fit either.  What is gaming then?  Our answer is 'a set practices centered on an imaginary model performed by a group.'  So the ideal store would not only offer the merchandise, but also instruct the practice somewhat.  If anything the martial arts studio strikes the best cord, but 'teaching gaming' probably wouldn't pay the bills.

So then what?  "Caribou Coffee?"  One of the things we liked best about Barnes & Nobles stores when first encountered them was those comfy chairs.  I heard some commentary that they were bad business sense that the store should focus, like Disney, on getting them in, getting them through, and getting them out.  I disagreed; I felt giving people a place to 'fall in love with reading' or more specifically, 'fall in love with the product' was a great idea.  (They love it; they buy it.)

So, in order to best vend gaming, a set of practices, would be to provide space to practice them.  (Remember the martial arts studios?)  Even though it was originally a space for sand tables, then card games, The Source, Hobbies and Games has evolved just such a space.  In fact, even now, this long after the original Magic: the Gathering push, you can still see them in there after closing still playing (I haven't taken the time to see what).  The Wizard's of the Coast store at the Mall of America has a similar space for computer games (they even run network game tournaments) and I think it configures to play card game tournaments too.

So what would be the ideal role-playing gaming shop?  Take one measure, function space, add staff mentors, retail product support, and probably just a tish of coffee shop (perhaps host a Caribou emplacement like some grocers do), mix well (and with more retail experience than I have) and voila!  (Or at least, that's our idea.)

Fang Langford

p. s. Certainly staff/product selection is important too, but until you get past the intrinsic differences between gaming and books (or board game/toy stores), you're just fine-tuning potentially the wrong model.
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!


Well since this is turning into a "fantasy store" thread, I may as well offer mine:

Call it Eclectic Entertainment or somesuch.  In addition to the ideas already mentioned previously, stock videos that relate to rpg's such as Hong Kong fantasy martial arts, anime, obscure sci-fi and other stuff not easy to find in other video stores.  Sell pizza in addition to rpgs and other games and do what other pizza places do, DELIVER!
--- Jonathan N.
Currently playtesting Frankenstein's Monsters

Ron Edwards

Hi Fang,

Beauty. This is why this "store" thread, which sprung off from the Mainstream: a revision thread, was a tad premature when it began - it's linked to the topic of the Actual play in the stores thread, which is precisely where your post brings it.

I agree with you - as I read it, the point is, if the store is selling role-playing games, it must also be a venue for role-playing.

All sorts of counter-examples spring to mind - people don't watch videos in video stores, for instance. However, I think the basic approach is sound insofar as the activity of role-playing is necessarily social. I'm thinking also of some interesting supporting examples ...

- modern bookstores provide space to hang out and read, as well as to socialize
- record stores play music all the time, and in some cases permit people to listen to music privately or semi-privately
- both of the above often provide coffee/etc and provide some social space