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RPGs, writing, and money

June 22, 2011

If anything, I’m a fan and a gamer above all else. I’d like roleplaying to do well for what it can, I’d like gamers to have fun gaming, etc.

Years back, Ron Edwards pointed out that the 3 tier model of distribution was destroying the ability for publishers to stay afloat. Problem was, a lot of people were invested in the idea of “real publishing” meaning you had to go through that system, and that anyone saying anything else was a crackpot (see also: music publishing).

As more folks, published, though, we saw a lot of data indicating that indie publishing was solid for a small hobby- you could make games you wanted and not lose money:

A few years of the Forge Booth Sales
The Collective Endeavor’s post on first year sales
Ryan Dancey’s Guesstimates on indie sales
Lumpley Game Sales in 2006
Lumpley Game Sales 2010-11
Evil Hat Sales 2007
Evil Hat Sales 2010
Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple Kickstarter

As this was going on, in parallel, the situation for the mainstream, or “traditional” publishers was not looking good at all.

Sales were definitely larger than indie games, but the fact was the writers were at the mercy of the publishers who were at the mercy of the distributors. I’d often go to convention panels and hear designers and writers talking about 3-4 cents a word is “good money”. (In the 30’s and 40’s, 3-4 cents a word is what pulp writers got paid.) It’s 2011, and it looks like nothing has changed.

It’s not that I’m “Go Indie!” because it’s some hip bullshit. It’s “Go Indie!” because I want creators to get paid for their work, I want creators to own their work, I want gamers to be able to try out a variety of games and not the 4 that the chain store/distributors will carry, I want games to be full of variety and options, I want good designers to be able to keep making games.

ETA: 3.5 Private Sanctuary’s Paizocon Podcast on Small Press Publishing

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