*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
August 27, 2014, 12:56:16 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 27 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: 1 [2]
Print
Author Topic: Have we already reached everyone?  (Read 5215 times)
jburneko
Member

Posts: 1429


« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2008, 01:24:59 PM »

Raven brings up an interesting point.  My original comments were largely about the ideology of socially aware play from the more universal issues of healing gamer culture social contexts down to hocking my own play preferences as "an interesting thing to try."  Gamer culture is still infused with so many broken ideas about role-playing being a social dodge if we all just "stay in character" and GM does a good job of playing social nanny.

But Raven's point is about the commercial ramifications of independent publishing and it's probably one of the major faults I have when I play games at cons.  I forget to mention that detail to people who aren't familiar with the game.  It harkens all the way back to Ron's "Nuking The Apple Cart Essay."

But that raises a question in my mind.  Most people self publishing still have day jobs.  Even the creators of Spirit of the Century, Burning Wheel and Houses of the Blooded still generate a personal income from some where else even though those games appeal and sell well among core gamer culture.  I wonder how many of the people who sink 10k into a game and then fail would want to continue to publish their game if you took away the dream of generating a living wage from their company?

Jesse
Logged
greyorm
Member

Posts: 2293

My name is Raven.


WWW
« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2008, 09:08:53 PM »

But there are plenty of games which are going to find a much larger potential audience outside the traditional gaming market then in it.

Total agreement. I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

I wonder how many of the people who sink 10k into a game and then fail would want to continue to publish their game if you took away the dream of generating a living wage from their company?

Excellent question, Jesse, and it makes a great point.

If we ask the field of literature how many writers would continue to write if you took away the dream of making a living wage from writing, what would the answer be? Well, in the literature field, a minuscule number of writers make a living from writing, but it is furthermore common knowledge that you don't make a living from writing. You write because you have a need to write.

If someone doesn't know this, and thinks that being a published author means they can quit their day job, they are quickly set on the straight path by a more experienced and knowledgeable author. So how many potential authors give up on writing because they know they can't make a living doing it? I confess I don't know. I'm just gazing into my magical navel.

(I do wonder though, how many of those who would sink 10k into their product, once appraised of the realities, would be willing to sink a few hundred into their game instead and make steady money for gas and soda, rather than an outright living?)

Regardless, I think one important bit to note is that the literature field tells its members the truth about writing and making a living, and doesn't tend to let misty-eyed dreams of self-sufficiency linger within its populace. Which, as Jesse points out, is exactly the opposite of what is found in the tabletop game field where the same idea is widespread but rarely shot down by established "pros", and when the reality is stated, it is often disbelieved and even argued against (as we've seen here on the Forge more than once).
Logged

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
eyebeams
Member

Posts: 93


« Reply #17 on: December 06, 2008, 05:58:19 AM »


Regardless, I think one important bit to note is that the literature field tells its members the truth about writing and making a living, and doesn't tend to let misty-eyed dreams of self-sufficiency linger within its populace. Which, as Jesse points out, is exactly the opposite of what is found in the tabletop game field where the same idea is widespread but rarely shot down by established "pros", and when the reality is stated, it is often disbelieved and even argued against (as we've seen here on the Forge more than once).

Actually, I write for a living. As a field, writers get together and talk about how to write for a living. We even discuss standards for the rate you need to write for a living, and often belong to organizations where membership is divided between those who make a living and those who don't.

Anyway, 10K? It's nothing. It's enough for a group of guys to publish ashcans and get wasted at half a dozen cons, rent booth space and then write it off. 10 grand, easy. And since you have to have your public statements jibe with your balance sheet, that's what they say.

A better test case for a high end new entry would be Mind Storm Labs, assuming that the RPG isn't an IP test for other media. They spent an epic amount of money on Alpha Omega, including their site,  a full fledged ARG, SEO, social media campaigns and demons in go go boots rocking the con booth, all for a game that breaks many trade standards and general ideas about what's supposed to work.

To my mind, the key to sustained success is to create *autonomous* play networks. That means people are playing your game who you haven't met, and forming communities you don't necessarily know about. This is where you have to develop your agenda. Are you interested in selling the game, or an inroad into an existing scene? Which comes first? If it's the community first, you're depriving your audience of their creative agency and putting the emphasis outside the natural social medium of play, away from conventions, meetups and other forms of contrived social interaction.

At this point you will look at the username and figure this is a mere broadside, so allow me to give you an example from D&D (I could pick WW too, but there are two examples I can think of, and I couldn't choose as of the time of writing and express my thoughts with economy).

It's no secret that almost every iteration of D&D has been less of a boom and relied on more and more organized play to support it, reaching the zenith (and apparently, failure) of DDI. Organized, sanctioned play is kind of like that alien in Cosmic Encounter that beats you by giving you a lot of useless presents. You're burdened with the standards of the community and marketing's expectation of a demonstrable return, and your wider network includes experts and sub-moderator figures. Your character moves from a hero to a chump in Adventurer City, you have to buy books just to have a conversation and the combined effort cuts into play time and enjoyment, and you lose touch with that segment of the population that doesn't know what a "Gish" is.

If you set the context of play as something you pay to do and follow an extra layer of mediation to do, those elements will dominate and contain the game. At the same time, you want to help these communities grow on their own, find people and bring your game into a normal social milieu: the same one that has card games, movie nights and pub trips, along with maybe a bit of IM on the side. The trick to making this happen is something that people (and companies of all sizes) generally have a hard time getting the hang of. Brick and mortar stores help. So do university groups and more hand-off setups, like Facebook groups. Get away from mentoring, and stop trying to convince RPGNet that you should be loved. Instead, get your new customers to talk to each other *without* your continued help and advice, so that they can take ownership of their community and define it in their own terms, instead of replicating yours.

Obviously, people like me find your community (and please, lose the reflexive handwringing about how it's All Individuals - it is, and it's still a community) alienating - but I own a number of games from it because they have real artistic merit. You don't have to take my word for it; you just have to read the results of one of your sorties into other RPG communities. This is not because these people are stuck, set in their ways or suffer from brain damage, spiritual pollution or a profound separation from God. It's also not because of *you* - not directly. It's because this is the natural effect of communities. Your challenge, as I see it, is to create avenues where customers can create places apart from you, develop their own ideas about your materials and run with them, turning the game into a medium for expression, instead of an affiliation with an entrenched scene. One way to do this is to get serious about building communities game by game, instead of by school of thought. Another is to provide extended support, even if informal, for existing games, and use email and other tools to get the word out about updates. I've already mentioned some more "hands-free" forms of social networking, but there are others, and they can be defined outside of your internal categories to jibe with a game's content.

Failing to do this has been a problem for most game companies. This is not some special failing on your part. People want their hands on the tiller, and want to really tell everyone what their game and scene is all about, but mentoring is something adults ask for - not what you pull them to. Create, provide the tools, make introductions, and become the audience of your audience.
Logged

Malcolm Sheppard
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #18 on: December 06, 2008, 07:35:57 AM »

Hi Malcolm,

I see no broadside. That is a wonderful post and I agree with every word, especially this part:

Quote
To my mind, the key to sustained success is to create *autonomous* play networks. That means people are playing your game who you haven't met, and forming communities you don't necessarily know about. This is where you have to develop your agenda. Are you interested in selling the game, or an inroad into an existing scene? Which comes first? If it's the community first, you're depriving your audience of their creative agency and putting the emphasis outside the natural social medium of play, away from conventions, meetups and other forms of contrived social interaction.

Unless the independent scene can sustain what it achieved in 2000-2004, and continue to operate as a wave-front "out there," then it's bullshit. My criticisms of the Play Collective and Story Games are based on exactly that point. I include websites and forums in your category of "contrived social interaction" too.

I've made a lot of decisions about running this site over the last two or three years, all of them based on full agreement with what you're saying. The result doesn't surprise me: newcomer-activity has jumped up a quantum in quantity and quality, whereas insider-indie reaction has included goosed shock and high-school level perceptions of betrayal (OK, to be fair, a lot of great and constructive responses too, but not from the same people).

Thank you for posting that. I hope it becomes a reality check for those who need it.

Best, Ron
Logged
guildofblades
Member

Posts: 309


WWW
« Reply #19 on: December 06, 2008, 09:37:21 AM »

>>Which, as Jesse points out, is exactly the opposite of what is found in the tabletop game field where the same idea is widespread but rarely shot down by established "pros", and when the reality is stated, it is often disbelieved and even argued against (as we've seen here on the Forge more than once).<<

As one of those established pros, who started, well, lets just say at a much more basic entry point, I would have to argue the case that it IS totally possible to make a living in the hobby game industry. Killing peoples ambitions by arguing otherwise doesn't really help anybody or the industry. It is totally possible, just not easy. And it should always come with a bit of factoids such as:

1) It almost doesn't matter how much money you throw at trying to grow your hobby games publishing company, it WILL take time to grow. It takes time to learn the mistakes that you need to avoid, it takes time for your first game to enter the market and for word of mouth to help it grow. It takes time for your company to develope a recognized name within the industry. And it takes time to establish sales channels and reliable production processes. Throwing a lot of money at it to speed things up _can_ speed things up a bit, but frankly, not a lot, and it simply makes every learning mistake more costly along the way.

2) Its amazing easy to blow through money if one is not operating from a base of experience that has learned to balance capital against realistic returns. In my  time in the industry I have seen a good couple hundred companies come and go, all spending a disproportionate amount of money trying to drive rapid rowth, relative to expected growth on what would be realistic growth. It is for this reason, other than someone with the experience of Steve Jackson, Peter A and the like, anyone starting a company in this industry is usually going to be better off starting small and growing slowly as they expand their games catalog, publishing experience, distribution vehicles and brand presence.

3) Its very unrealistic that anyone is going to grow themselves a pull time paying gig in gaming through the self publication of a single game or a single game line.Unless your game is one of the seldom few to catapult into the top 5 games within the category it sells under (RPG, Card, Board, etc). Even strong sellers like BESM which topped over 30,000 units in sales with the last edition released by Guardians of Order wasn't enough of a base to sustain that company. I would say an independent designer can make some decent money with a successful game or game line, but to operate a stable company that can pay them a living wage year in and year out, the company needs to operate a whole catalog of games and it needs to market and sell them in cost effective ways. I don't care if a single game was the greatest thing since sliced bread, its just not going to sustain a whole company by itself.

4) If you want to publish a game and make a few bucks, there are plenty of resource here at the Forge and a few other places to set you on the right path to self publishing without mortgaging the house. Unfortunately all too often I have seen folks express the sentiment that they want to publish games full time for a living, but they don't want to do those pesky non game design tasks like accounting, production management, marketing, pick and pack for shipping and order management, etc. They just want to "design games" and "be in charge". Honestly, even should somebody start with a 10 million dollar capital reserve, if they want to run a company as above, I think they will eventually fail. If you want to run a publishing company, then YOU need to run the publishing company. You need to understand its core operations and nearly every nut and bolt therein. And without a doubt, you have to have an intimate relationship with all aspects of the financials. Even a couple of the long running, well established RPG publishers in our industry tried handing off the financials of their companies to employees so they could focus on game design and distribution and in both cases that decision about tanked the company. If "employees" could be trusted to operate and grow your business for you so you could just do "game design", odds a pretty darn good those employees would be operating and growing their own business instead of just working for you.

A designer needs to make a choice. Which is more important. Designing for fun and maintaining their exacting vision for a game and perhaps making some nice side money in the process. Or operating a company for a profit and perhaps for a living. Thw two goals aren't always mutually exclusive and they sure can intersect a lot of a company is structured properly for that purpose, but I guarantee there will always be a point where these two priorities conflict in interest. Prioritizing the vision over the business necessities too often might very well mean achieving or maintaining a company able to support its staff will be impossible. Prioritizing the business needs over the game design elements might mean you have to make compromises on how the game is designed and/or published. Chosing one priority over the other is not wrong. Its a personal choice based on the goals of the individual and its up to them to decide where their priorities lay. I just think it is important to recognize the points of conflict that can sometimes exists between these two priorities because I guarantee its sure to happen at some point (and likely at a lot of "some points").

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
Logged

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
greyorm
Member

Posts: 2293

My name is Raven.


WWW
« Reply #20 on: December 07, 2008, 10:25:24 PM »

Actually, I write for a living. As a field, writers get together and talk about how to write for a living. We even discuss standards for the rate you need to write for a living, and often belong to organizations where membership is divided between those who make a living and those who don't.

Malcolm,

"EXACTLY!" Very illustrative of the difference between writers and their communities/lists and the willfully-ignorant dreaming (young) designers will often espouse and viciously defend in their communities/lists, even to older and wiser heads who know you aren't going to go out there and write the next D&D overnight, or create a stable full-time business with just one game product you do nothing but "create" for (and ignore the complexities of the business and networking sides).

Also, not sure why any of your statements would be considered a broadside; it's an absolutely great post! Very much in-line with the thoughts and arguments I've been making in other (non-gaming) communities about the way to create and maintain audiences in saturated and poorly sifted markets.
Logged

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Pages: 1 [2]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!