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Author Topic: Have we already reached everyone?  (Read 5341 times)
lumpley
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« on: November 03, 2008, 02:00:55 PM »

Here's Jesse from another thread:

...what I've observed is a general attitude that "everyone who can be reached, has been reached." 

...just last con I ran a game of Primetime Adventures and had 5 people who had never played before.  About half had heard of the game and owned it but just hadn't played.  That game generated at least one highly enthusiastic sale from someone who hadn't ever heard of the game and wandered in on curiosity from the description I put in the con book.

That happens about once a con for me.  By no means am I reaching people by the droves.  However, I continue to do this is the face of growing resistance.  I am repeatedly told that I'm fighting a losing battle.  That's there's no one left to reach.  That I'm opening myself up to disappointing play for no good reason.   It's very disheartening.

My observation is that over the past 5 years, as long as I've been involved in this little slice of the hobby, the audience for our games has been growing steadily and substantially, with no real sign of falling off. Certainly my games' sales point to that. Also my local indie rpg scene, which just grows and grows. In fact, our audience has grown about just as fast as we can logistically support. We have to keep inventing new ways to keep up with demand!

But I hear this too, sometimes, that we've reached everyone we're going to reach, that now we're just selling to each other instead of reaching outward. Am I living in happyland, la la la, out of touch with reality, that I think this is nonsense?

I do. I think it's crazy nonsense. I don't understand why people say it.

Hell, I've heard people say it who first heard of our games less than six months ago. What on earth?

-Vincent
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Seth M. Drebitko
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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2008, 03:08:26 PM »

I think the problem is not who the movement is able to reach but who the movement is trying to reach. Look at most threads regarding marketing the number one and some times only thing pushed is get active with the indie community itself. It's mostly just a mixture of people being to lazy to aggresivley market to non gamers or "traditional" gamers to instead choose a smaller sure thing. This is just the opinion of a casual observoir though. 
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MicroLite20 at www.KoboldEnterprise.com
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Cynthia Celeste Miller
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« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2008, 03:12:12 PM »

I've heard people spouting off this manner of nonsense too. Often, the ones saying it are the kind of people who only play games made by White Wolf, Wizards of the Coast, Palladium, etc. and that more or less makes up their mindset about games. If a game isn't a high-budget book sold in all the book chains, then it mustn't be that great a game. So, obviously, small press indie games aren't going to reach new audiences because people want all the flash (with or without substance). At least that's my experience.

But to answer the original question, there will always be new gamers to reach. As long as gaming hobby exists, new people will be attracted to it... many of which will gravitate toward cool niche games that the big companies wouldn't touch. It's like with music. As long as there is underground music (death metal, punk in the '70s, etc.), it will appeal to a certain portion of the masses. The same thing goes with indie gaming.
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Cynthia Celeste Miller
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Cynthia Celeste Miller
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« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2008, 03:19:12 PM »

I think the problem is not who the movement is able to reach but who the movement is trying to reach. Look at most threads regarding marketing the number one and some times only thing pushed is get active with the indie community itself. It's mostly just a mixture of people being to lazy to aggresivley market to non gamers or "traditional" gamers to instead choose a smaller sure thing. This is just the opinion of a casual observoir though. 

To be fair, it's not always easy to market to non-gamers, primarily due to the costs involved. Aside from going to non-gaming forums and hyping your product or utilizing banner ads, there's really not many ways to reach other audiences affordably.
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Cynthia Celeste Miller
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iago
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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2008, 04:07:38 PM »

I think it's worth at least acknowledging the idea that the RPG market is not infinite in size.  That's just common sense.

That said, it might be effectively infinite for a reasonably solid, successful, intrinsically sales-generating property like Dogs in the Vineyard, et al.

To draw first from my own data, Spirit of the Century has sold less than 4,000 copies so far (print and PDF combined).  Given the likely "cap" size of the market can best be gauged in terms of how many copies of D&D sells, 4,000 copies may well be a fairly small percentage of potential already-existing RPG buyers -- and it's taking us over 2 years to hit that mark. 

For the sake of discussion, let's estimate the real size at, say, 40,000 customers (this could be wildly off, but it's solid enough for discussion purposes).  If I've got another 18 years to reach the other 36,000, I'm probably going to feel like the market's infinitely sized, at least in a practical sense.  If I had a kid today, that kid would be in college before the product "saturated"!

I seem to recall Vincent saying that Dogs in the Vineyard consistently sold around 700 copies a year for four years, so similar math could be inflicted upon that product.

But to get a little understanding of the guys "spouting off this manner of nonsense", if they're doing initial print runs sized at 8,000 to 20,000 (I don't know if they are, but let's suppose they do to get a sense of that perspective), their single print runs and expectation of sales represent a significant percentage of the market.  For them, the market would be a lot more palpably finite.

But to us folks in micro-press land, I just don't expect we'll feel the same as them.

I'm not sure it makes either party "wrong". It just means they're feeling different parts of the elephant.
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Seth M. Drebitko
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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2008, 04:39:18 PM »

  Well I did not mean so much that it would not be hard to do but the indie “front” is really on the bleeding edge of “traditional” marketing and I have actually found it easier to introduce them to inde games than traditional games, or traditional gamers to indie games for that matter. For example my fiancé who refused to ever consider playing D&D was excited to play Universalis and was interested in mortal coil but is now playing D&D and very pleased with it.
  I think it is just a matter of determining what types of people might be interested in your games design goals and socialize and chit chat with the about it as you get to know the community. Maybe your game has a wicca bend get to know some groups near you go to some of their events (I speak broodly because I don't know much about wicca) and generally socialize about what you do, if they start to get interested they may be able to better help get more wiccans interested.
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Pelgrane
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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2008, 04:43:21 PM »

Hell, I've had game designers contact me in the past couple of months who hadn't heard of any indie games! Also, a  large proportion of IPR's customers are new customers every time, which might mean something.
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Jake Richmond
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« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2008, 08:22:26 PM »

I've had a lot of luck finding new audiences by making games that do not focus on rpg layers as their target audience. Panty Explosion is very successful because it appeals to (or at least tries to appeal to) manga readers and anime fans, horror and suspense fans (or alternatively, fans of absurd comedy) and (I think most importantly) young women. I've ad similar success with my other games. It's obvious to me that someone who isn't into manga, anime or j-horror might not ever be interested in Panty Explosion. But since there are a huge, huge number of people who are interested in those things, making a game that targets that audience seemed like a really good idea.

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Panty Explosion Perfect, Sea Dracula, G x B, Classroom Deathmatch, Ocean, Modest Medusa, Cel*Style
greyorm
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« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2008, 03:18:39 AM »

No, we haven't.

We haven't reached everyone yet. I say this because there has been some talk that the indie scene has reached everyone interested at this point, and that there's no room to grow or new people out there who can or wish to benefit from what we've learned. This is nonsense.

I say it is nonsense because you can still find this sort of thing on the internet:

Quote
"Ergodika  the Science Fantasy, Role-Playing Game (RPG) was a critical success, but a fiscal failure. After spending (1995-2005) over 10K attending conventions, hiring artists, printing books, consulting attorneries, advertising in magazines, as well as, renting and designing a website, Abbadon sold only about twenty copies of this game (<$300). Fourteen surveys were returned from Ergodika buyers; as rule the game was strongly received. In addition to these meager sales, about 100 print and electronic copies of  Ergodika RPG were given away as promotions. Regrettably, it appears that electronic media (video & computer games) are eliminating table top or traditional gaming.

Face-to-face or pen-n-paper Role Playing Games have had flat and declining sales for years. It appears that Abbadon entered the industry at the WRONG time with a good product. For more detailed philosophical discussion on RPGs one can see the author’s columns in Alarums & Excursions trade magazine. For now, we will cut our losses and not pursue this financial sink hole. Traditional RPGs are being forsaken by such established industry leaders as Fantasy Flight Games and Games Designs Workshop."

The above is from a company (which looks instead to be an individual presenting himself as a company) that pulled its RPG off the market after they lost 10k trying to sell it, and did everything you shouldn't do when you try and publish an RPG as an independent. Sadly, their conclusions based on their experience and the results of their own business mistakes are just utterly wrong, especially in light of their idea that selling twenty copies of their game over ten years and a handful of glowing customer surveys qualify as "a critical success".

Now, the above is a small, unknown company with a poorly designed site that screams "unprofessional" -- which isn't an attack, just an observation for my next point -- but even small, professionally-conducted companies who seem to know what they're doing haven't been reached either, as evidenced by the same claims and behaviors coming from places like Red Spire Press, who recently announced:

Quote
"...the gaming world has changed a lot since the initial release of the Player's Guide. There's not much room for small publishers and the CRPG market continues to eat away at pen & paper products. Anyways, RSP is shutting down."

There are so many problems with claims like these.

Not much room for small publishers?

I see successful small publishers everywhere! From "indie" publishers associated with the Forge to "indie" publishers elsewhere. Just take a look at the list of publishers on RPGNow! Many of those are small or one-man outfits, and many of them quite successful. To say nothing of the one-man publishers associated in common perception with the Forge, and the success of the so-called "indie alley" at Gen Con. There is a thriving market of small publishers.

Other markets eating away at pen and paper gaming?

You know, I heard the same excuses over ten years ago when Magic:the Gathering came out and an RPG product failed. That CCGs were "eating the PnP market". And I heard the same sort of excuses back in the days before CRPGs and CCGs, when other reasons were found to explain the supposed end of the RPG hobby/market. Yet, "somehow", the hobby is still here, going as strong as ever, with numerous small press companies making decent money selling their games and products, existing in the black or better, year upon year, and doing better than basement start-ups have ever been able to do previously in such large number.

I further note there is clearly a thriving market for pen-and-paper games, and though most of that market is untapped by small press companies, many small presses do fine on the relatively small share of that market aware of them. But despite all this, small-press companies still find excuses for failures despite our knowledge that a creative can make money writing and producing gaming material, without breaking the bank and without needing to throw in the towel for bullshit reasons like "the gaming industry is changing and computer games are stealing our market share".

It isn't and they aren't. We know this. The numerous successful indie games that have come out every year for going on the last decade have proven that. CRPGs and CCGs only "steal" your market shares if a small press follows an out-dated, broken model of production and distribution. Which (clearly) many creatives are still doing!

Thus, equally clearly, we haven't reached everyone we can. There are still people out there dumping tens-of-thousands of dollars into a product, and upon failing to make that amount back or gain a break-out success that out-does D&D itself or even just pays for itself, declare the RPG scene is dying and that small presses can not help but be failures, blaming everything from video games to card games to current economic conditions or the price of tea in China.

First, if you're a small publisher, that isn't the way it has to be. Don't be the guys above, and don't do things that way. Second, if you're a small publisher, help others discover the way it used to be done is not the best route to success as a small publisher, and help explain how to succeed, starting with how success is not defined as how well a publisher does compared to the 800-lb gorilla in a niche hobby industry, nor especially by trying to do things the way the gorilla does them.

Consider: the fact that I, a relatively unknown creative, can pay my web-hosting fees and still have money left for a couple of RPG-related buys with what I am making from one product shows that small press games can and do sell and don't necessarily bleed the creative's bank account dry. The fact that my other product, which is again relatively unknown and isn't hawked at conventions or through expensive advertisements, sells enough every quarter to pay printing costs for itself shows the same thing.

Yet in the above examples I cite we have products, one supposedly professionally produced and cared for given the amount of money spent on it, the other an award-winning design crafted with professional detail and care, abandoned because they aren't making money for their creators. What?

How can I make money doing what I'm doing, and these guys not doing what they're doing? How can they NOT be making money in this market?

Clearly, we have not reached everyone we can.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2008, 12:25:12 PM »

The existing games marketing is darn near infinitly large in relation to the marketing power that most any small press or indie company can wield.

Here is an example. Our leading board game, The War to End All Wars has now topped 8,000 sales (over several editions) since 1998 and all the games of the Empires of History game line are collectively hovering at about 80,000 sales. That's not shabby. Now, having opened the new retail store, right here in the Guild's virtual backyard, of all the customers who have wondered into the store, about 3 of them had even heard of the Guild of Blades previously and only 1 of them was familiar with the Empires of History line.

So at 80,000 sales collectively for games in that line, we've penetrated so little of the overall player base for games that only 1 customer who has walked in our store in over 6 weeks had any familiarity with the line. And we opened up in a metro area that has something like 4+ million people within a 30-45 minute drive.

That means 80,000 sales is barely scatching the surface of the overall active player base for games and the overall active player base for games has barely scratched the surface of the overal potential player base for games amng the broader populace.

Reached everyone that could be reached? I would bet every penny I own that would be impossible. But one might have to conceed that its possible a majority of people that could be reached easily may have been reached for a particular single venue. Which simply means its time to broaden the venues for marketing said product.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
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Jake Richmond
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« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2008, 04:16:48 PM »

Quote
But one might have to conceed that its possible a majority of people that could be reached easily may have been reached for a particular single venue.

I think that's true. I think that just publishing a game, talking about it on your blog, hanging out at a few different community sites and going to a few conventions can only get you so many customers. If you want to move beyond that then you must try a new approach to find a new audience.

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Panty Explosion Perfect, Sea Dracula, G x B, Classroom Deathmatch, Ocean, Modest Medusa, Cel*Style
greyorm
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« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2008, 05:41:11 PM »

I think that's true. I think that just publishing a game, talking about it on your blog, hanging out at a few different community sites and going to a few conventions can only get you so many customers. If you want to move beyond that then you must try a new approach to find a new audience.

While that is true, I don't think it is true in this case. That is, I don't think we've completely tapped the venue. Especially small presses such as the one I indicated above, who think the market has dried up when they haven't even penetrated the existing small-press gamer market (let alone the larger gamer hobbyist market).

I think "moving beyond" is a slippery slope that should be avoided in the "we've reached everyone" discussion, because it is too easy to say, "we aren't selling well, so we must have reached everyone in the current market, we should expand" when that is likely not the problem.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2008, 08:59:17 PM »

I don't think the current "indie-market" has been saturated.  But I do think its become more discrimenating.

I've been saying for the last few years that the "If you build it they will come" era of indie design is over.

The "holy cow I've never seen that before" effect now requires something a hell of a lot more than it did back when Universalis, Dust Devils, and My Life with Master were new.

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guildofblades
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« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2008, 09:09:25 PM »

>>I think "moving beyond" is a slippery slope that should be avoided in the "we've reached everyone" discussion, because it is too easy to say, "we aren't selling well, so we must have reached everyone in the current market, we should expand" when that is likely not the problem.<<

I'm not so sure its a matter of "expanding" per se, but rather trying to market to a "different" group of people or venue instead. For instance, when we first began our Empires of History line of games we marketed them aggresively at players of Axis & Allies, since the games were essentially A&A variants. In reality, the games were sort of a mixture of games like A&A and more traditional hex and counter wargames. They made some in roads to the A&A player base, sure, and they made some inroads to the hex and counter players as well, but they never did a whole lot more than scratch the surface of either consumer group. Not crunchy enough for the hex and counter group, no fun plastic minis and toys for the A&A crowd. Was there a market there within each group for the games? Sure. But was it the most fertile ground for them. No. That proved to be a broader base of consumers who were interested enough in history to be interested in historically themed games, yet not yet wedded to either of the above mentioned formats.

So, a "different" venue proved the better venue for us. That is not to say we now ignore the wargamers or Axis & Allies players, but we know where to focus the bulk of our energies for continued growth. It could very well be the publisher in question made some inroads with the indie consumer base, but to really hit their stride they might have to keep searching a bit to find a different venue they may be both more fertile ground and a larger park to play in.

Going to sell your product where all the other small companies have trodded before might seem like good common sense on the surface and it likely is, at the start. Its tried and true. But if all 500-800 companies are hitting that same target, as you might imagine, no matter how fertile ground, that's a lot of noise in the pipe to compete with.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
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Jake Richmond
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« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2008, 11:54:46 PM »

Quote
While that is true, I don't think it is true in this case. That is, I don't think we've completely tapped the venue.

Of course. And we all do a lot more then what I described to promote our games.

Quote
I think "moving beyond" is a slippery slope that should be avoided in the "we've reached everyone" discussion, because it is too easy to say, "we aren't selling well, so we must have reached everyone in the current market, we should expand" when that is likely not the problem.

I think what I'm trying to say is the opposite. Not  "we aren't selling well, so we must have reached everyone in the current market, we should expand", but " the current market is a great place to sell our games, but it's not where our target audience lives. We need to find our audience and market to them directly". This is truer for some games (mine for example) then others. Matt and I never really tried to market Panty Explosion to gamers. We focused all our energy on pushing the game to anime, manga and j-cinema fans. And that payed off. Panty Explosion sells really well. It sells well in the traditional gaming market as well, but that was never our priority. This wasn't a case of Matt and I trying to break into a mainstream market (or, I guess, a different hobby market). Instead we identified where our customers where and went directly after them from the beginning. If we had just stuck to the gaming market Panty Explosion would have never been more then a marginal success.

Now what you're sayiong is that the gaming market definitely has sales in it, and it's foolish for us to think there's nothing hear and try to move on to greener pastures, right? I agree with that. Totally. But there are plenty of games which are going to find a much larger potential audience outside the traditional gaming market then in it.
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