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Not a Marriage

August 14, 2010

Years back, I coined this phrase, “It’s a game, not a marriage”, talking about how roleplaying together is not a marriage- it doesn’t have to last forever, and you can still be friends and not wah-wah-sad if you decide you don’t want to game together.

Funny enough, I find we keep running into this issue, over and over when it comes to business in rpgs as well. Whether it’s retailers, publishers, or distributors (repeatedly), we keep coming to this thing where when it comes down to numbers and business choices, the responses are anything but business-like.

Obfuscations, justifications, pleading, calling on people to have loyalty or duty, basically sentimentality?

It’s true you can sell a lot on sentimentality, but seriously, when the customers start getting down to numbers and brass tacks, and your service is not measuring up for their needs, making emotional calls isn’t going to help. Wish them well and don’t waste their time or yours- you got other people to sell to.

Back in 2005, Ben Lehman nailed it:

…I use IPR because they provide me with a useful service. They make lots of money for me and my company. If my situation were to change (as it may in the future, with Lulu becoming a better and better option), I wouldn’t hesitate to drop IPR in exchange for some other business model which was more convenient or more profitable for me. I don’t owe them anything other than what’s stipulated in our contract.

I cannot fathom a mindset that sees a distributor as anything other than a service provider. Frankly, from what I’ve seen amongst my colleagues (like, say, Luke with BW), RPG distributors are really shitty service providers at that. The idea that I should turn over my printing jobs to them out of some sense of duty is laughable.

Although close to the geek fallacy, I actually think it’s more a feeling of entitlement- the assumption the customers owe you their business just because you exist.

For the last few years talking about Racefail, when people have brought up, “Hey, I’m going to buy all these books full of awesome instead of these ones full of racist/sexist/heterosexist shit”, we see some authors jump up and go, “Buh-but, why are you trying to put me out of business?!? I have a family to feed!”. Aside from the O_o admission in that response, it’s the assumption that they were already OWED a sale and now you’re “robbing” them.

We saw similar antics from US automakers re: Japanese import cars, and now with music publishers being wiped out between independent distribution and peer-to-peer options – there’s messages about morality, supporting people, etc. and not much in changes to business plans.

Coming back to roleplaying… the sad part is that all of this is not news. This was Forge 101 back in 2001-2002: current technology makes retailers, distributors, and large scale publishers unnecessary and completely optional.

If you’re going to run a service that is no one -needs-, you seriously need to come with some A-game.

You can’t hope for the same crowd who cut their field by not needing these things to turn around and support you… “just because”.

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