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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 32 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Poison Pages redux (split)  (Read 1186 times)
HiQKid
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« on: December 16, 2008, 06:03:16 PM »

*I noted the warning above - this thread's been quiet for quite a while. But I'm not sure my point is worth making a whole new topic, and I feel it's relevant to this thread. I can move it or remove it if anyone feels it's not appropriate.*

Regarding brick-and-mortar game stores, I started my roleplaying life in a game store. I knew the owner as a person I liked; almost, but not quite, a friend. I also knew him better than most of the other DnD players there.

Towards the end of the stores life, I found that many of my co-players had a dislike of this owner. After the store closed, my friend expressed this feeling to me - "It was all about business to him. He didn't care about the games. He even said so himself.".

I had to reply to him that, at that point, the owner had to be worried about business. I don't think anyone else saw it in the way I did...

But here's the thing - This guy, and probably a fair number of other owners, entered into the game store business as something they enjoyed... not knowing anything about business.

And then they got into the supplement treadmill, and the back-debt you mention here. And then they can't afford the extras they once offered (The above-mentioned small con, prizes for magic and other game tournaments, and other incentives). Then only the die-hard loyals bother shopping there. Then you can't pay your employees. And then you're the only person working there most of the time. And you're tired, and stressed, and this thing you used to love is killing you.

And it's really sad.

And I think it bears mentioning that, while it's not necessarily our problem or concern, many of the game store owners and employees I've met are real people, people who care about games like you or I. And it's easy to be callous and say "We don't need them"... but in some cases, they're goals and ours aren't that different, necessarily.

I'm not saying any of this is directly related to the forge or small-publisher games. But I think it's an important point: You can't run your hobby as a business. It's been said before, but... you can't expect to make money making roleplaying games. And if you do... chances are you'll get hurt.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2008, 06:29:31 PM »

The above post was split from Poison Pages.

When you really want to post to an older thread, always start a new thread with a link to the old one. It's easy, sensible, and required. "I'll do what you said not to, but hey, it's OK with me to fix it" is disrespectful to the community and a waste of my time. Please note, also, that you cannot move or delete posts here. OK, that's my moderation, and we move on - the Forge is not a typical internet place and it always takes a little time to get used to it.

I definitely agree with your comment in terms of the basic human problem of the retailer. You've probably seen in the thread that I don't villainize them. I do question their historical willingness to become subordinated to distribution, especially in a business in which contact with the customers (and what they really do) is actually pretty easy.

I also want to point to yet another way in which the "run a business vs. do what you love" dichotomy is a train wreck. Clearly, to run a business, you have to make sensible decisions - and yet, for many game retailers, when I heard them use that phrase throughout the 1990s, they were defending practices which are simply and only foolish, in business terms. Deep-order? Fail to assess actual use of the products? Chain yourself to a given company or distributor for the "deep discount" and thereby render yourself a shelf in someone else's mega-store? Accept terms of distribution without comparing competitors' terms, on a regular basis? All of these failed to make sense for comics despite the entire industry solemnly agreeing that it was the only way, and these same retailers were close enough to comics to watch the whole thing blow up in the mid-1990s.

Finally, I take issue with your final comment which is not only defeatist but inaccurate. Sure you can make money publishing role-playing games - depending both on you and on your games, certainly. One of the best ways to do that is to treat the three-tier distribution system as an optional servant, not a master.

Best, Ron
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guildofblades
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« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2008, 08:24:20 PM »

Well, I can now say I am playing ball on THAT ballfield. Though having seen the transitions in game retail from the publisher side from 1994 to, well, now, we're going about things pretty differently.

First, of course, is that game retailing is just part of the business. In theory, once our store matures into the local market, it should grow to become somewhere around 1/3 of the total revenue of the store. For these purposes, I am defining games retail as being games or game accessories that sit on the shelf for display and are ready to buy immediately. Games are off to a slow start, since the opening of the store. But much of that I am attributing to the wacky economy we have at present and the local fear about the fate of the auto companies. We're seeing similar spending behavoir with regards to local copy services, custom printed merchandise and some of the other local area offerings we have. Unless the whole national economy manages to slide into the second great depression, this phase will pass, so I am not overly worried about it. Its just skewing our numbers off what I believe they should look like longer term.

If the games and game lines we stock, we sell the rpgs, board games, card games, miniatures and assorted accessories. Well, and used novels and used video games also. Of the gaming stuff, we sell both new and used and also hunt around a bit for liquidation merchandise. Anyways, counting all used merchandise, our used stuff is maybe about 25% of the merchandise. We direct order from GOB Publishing, excepting some GOB Publishing PDFs which we print on site. We direct order from about 5 other companies at present as well as all of our dice. And we have a growing set of merchandise for sale that comes from publishers that we work with under our retail program. So by the end of the day, maybe about 25% of our for sale merchandise is being ordered from a traditional game distributor at present. If game sales ultimately level out at around what I think they should, that'll be about 8-10%% of total store revenues will be dependant on our ability to order from distributors. And frankly, WOTC products are currently in that grouping so they and a few other manufacturers could be moved to a direct ordering relationship as well.

The idea here is that our retail store (and hopefully eventually stores) will be near totally indepedendant on any one company or even any one category of gaming (ala, becoming a "miniatures" or "TCG" store). And its revenue should be fairly detached from any major industry events, such as a primary distributor going under or, say, Alliance becoming a monopoly, WOTC getting shut down by Hasbro and all its games ceasing publication, a GW store opening up next door to us, etc.

Some store pics.
http://www.guildofblades.com/gobmadisonheights-images.php

And yes, in spite of the fact we now are "in" retail, I'll stay true to my opinion that retail is not always right for a small publisher, and depending on how you get "into" retail, sometimes simply entirely wrong. Every small game manufacturer should begin with a strong method of handling direct sales and a good means to communicate with their most advid customers. That core of the business will see you through most of the radical climate changes that happen in the games industry, which sees a massive fundamental shift in the way it is structured and operates every 8-10 years or so (and sometimes less). Retailers, distributors, etc, might represent _A_ good means to grow and expand, but not without first having that stable core that is securely under your own control.

My opinion anyways.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
HiQKid
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« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2008, 07:19:21 PM »

I'm going to frame this mostly in reply to Ron. This shouldn't be seen as anything against you, Ryan, but at this point my answer to your post would sound pretty unfair: "It sounds like you've got a pretty good handle on things. I'll need to think on it a bit more, but thanks for the info."

RE Ron's comments:

Quote
When you really want to post to an older thread, always start a new thread with a link to the old one. It's easy, sensible, and required. "I'll do what you said not to, but hey, it's OK with me to fix it" is disrespectful to the community and a waste of my time. Please note, also, that you cannot move or delete posts here. OK, that's my moderation, and we move on - the Forge is not a typical internet place and it always takes a little time to get used to it.

Sorry about that. My initial thought was "This may be an interesting point, but I'm not sure it's worth an entirely new thread."... I'll keep it in mind for any future posts, though.

Quote
I definitely agree with your comment in terms of the basic human problem of the retailer. You've probably seen in the thread that I don't villainize them. I do question their historical willingness to become subordinated to distribution, especially in a business in which contact with the customers (and what they really do) is actually pretty easy.

Right on. "What they really do is actually pretty easy.": I agree. And this is what I mean when I say many folks who opened/ran game stores were not capable of doing so. They were decent people, sure, but they weren't competent business people.

Quote
Finally, I take issue with your final comment which is not only defeatist but inaccurate. Sure you can make money publishing role-playing games - depending both on you and on your games, certainly. One of the best ways to do that is to treat the three-tier distribution system as an optional servant, not a master.

Maybe I didn't phrase this right. I mean people who expect (maybe assume is a better word for it) to make money (particularly in large amounts). In terms of both designers ("Such-and-such a designer made a game and became successful. I'm just going to write this game and get rich.") and store owners ("Games are getting 'big' now! I'm just going to open this store and get rich."). I wasn't trying to say that there's no money to be had. I was trying to say, however, that A) you can't assume you'll do well and B) make sure you know what you're doing. Educate yourself.

What I'm saying, then, is don't mortgage your house to open a game store / publish an rpg. Especially without doing your homework. Take a good look at it, figure out what needs to be done. And then go for it.

- Alex
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All comments and questions very welcome.

Also, I hope anybody reading this's having a nice day. Honest.
guildofblades
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« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2008, 12:29:37 AM »

>>Right on. "What they really do is actually pretty easy.": I agree. And this is what I mean when I say many folks who opened/ran game stores were not capable of doing so. They were decent people, sure, but they weren't competent business people.<<

With regards to game retailing being easy, I disagree. But then, when retailers say game publishing is easy, I also disagree. From my perspective of having been/being both, they are both darn difficult if you are doing them as your primary career/job (ala, your income relies on it). They become slightly less difficult if they don't, but not easy. I'll grant, if you go into either thinking they'll be a cakewalk and don't do half the work you should be doing to try and see your company thrive, then yeah, it might be "easy", but it'll also likely fail and be gone without so much as a whimper. As for compentency, my experience has been the vast, vast majority of folks who start a small business just aren't competent to do so. Frankly, when I started publishing I too wasn't competent to do so either. Those that survive are those who work hard to learn and gain that competency.

>> I wasn't trying to say that there's no money to be had. I was trying to say, however, that A) you can't assume you'll do well and B) make sure you know what you're doing. Educate yourself.<<

I think you can go in assuming you will do well and indeed _SHOULD_ go in with that assumption. Because behind the drive to get into the business at all should also be the steadfast determination that you'll work your butt off and do everything necessary to insure you will do well. Knowing what you are doing is always extremely helpful. If one hasn't educated themselves properly before getting started that can make things a bit rough, but its rarely too late to start getting that education.

>>What I'm saying, then, is don't mortgage your house to open a game store / publish an rpg. Especially without doing your homework.<<

I think its safe to say, simply just NEVER mortgage the house on a game industry venture. Even knowing what I know now, I wouldn't do that. I'll always tell people its possible to succeed in the games industry and succeed well if you simply stay determined and learn from your failures, but the thing you can't estimate is _how long_ it might take to gain that success. It might not be at a pace that the bank will be happy with...

As for a response to my earlier post being unfair, go ahead and shoot. I realize that I am often posting from a different point of view these days and quite often suggest things that might be contrary to the generally accepted wisdom, but I do speak from my direct experiences and think those might yet have relevance to others navigating through our crazy little industry. But its perfectly ok for folks to have differing opinions.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
HiQKid
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« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2008, 07:50:41 AM »

Oh, no. I wasn't trying to imply that your post was unfair. I was saying that it'd be unfair of me to reply to your post, as I hadn't fully digested it yet. I still can't think of much to say on it (my fault, not yours).

Anyhow, thanks to both of you. Your replies have helped me see things a bit clearer, and I don't think we actually disagree on much here. I'd say it's primarily an issue of wording, as well as my relatively small viewpoint.

Thanks
-Alex
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Check out my blog, please: http://gamerstakewarning.blogspot.com/.
All comments and questions very welcome.

Also, I hope anybody reading this's having a nice day. Honest.
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