Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category


PDF Game Pricing

April 21, 2014

10 years ago, rpg PDF pricing was kind of a big issue.  A lot of folks wouldn’t pay more than $5-10 for anything, and there was many who argued because they weren’t getting a physical object that had printing costs, the price should be super low.

But now I’m thinking about the way in which a lot of folks use PDFs in play: one person buys it, and shares it with their group.  To be sure, publishers would prefer every member of a group to buy the PDF, but honestly, this is only a little different in function than “have a book, share it” (in the short term… I’ll talk about long term further on).

There’s some advantages PDFs have in this way – everyone can look at the rules, everyone can poke at making characters, long before the actual game session.  This lets you just get into play faster when it comes time to play.

I remember seeing a couple of people surprised that folks were willing to pay $20-30 for some PDFs.  Some of this, of course, is the fact we’re looking at E-book pricing where $10-20 is not unheard of as a norm for books that have no artwork, etc, but the other part is that price is basically divided out amongst the group.

“Yeah, I paid $20 but now we ALL have the rules and can use them”.

And I’m wondering how much it just makes sense for publishers to simply price along these lines at this point – assume it’s going to be a group price, and charge a little more (obviously, not 4-5 times the book price) and go with it.

Now, the long term issue is that the play group will probably split up or overlap into other groups, and you have folks who are taking those PDFs and sharing them again.  At that point you’re now back to “hope someone will support me and buy a PDF or a hardcopy” amongst the group.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to any of that, other than, keeping up a presence, making good games and relying on your fanbase to buy in.


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”.


Dominating in “None”

May 12, 2009

Big thanks to digital_femme for hipping me to Ghost in the Machine: Digital Multiculture – which pretty much sums up the same stuff we’ve been saying forever.

I couldn’t help but think of the very same things I said on the Bear’s Grove Race & RPGs podcast last year.


4E: Can I has playaids?

June 9, 2008

As a game, 4E looks like it’s got a lot of good things going on. I am surprised, though, at a lack of support for three sorts of play aids which I think are pretty much going to be indispensible to play.

Power Cards

Cards detailing the powers seems to be the most obvious necessity to play. The fact that WOTC guys were using index cards and fans are making their own is kind of disappointing. I’m not even asking for printed cards, I’ll take PDFs and print’em myself.


Second, though there are D&D minis, the random collectibility factor of the minis game is at odds with the needs of the D&D roleplayers. (There is a reason GW doesn’t sell randomized Warhammer figures, and that’s cause it would piss off the player base). Minis in general are an expensive hobby to follow, it’s irritating that I ultimately have to rely on resellers if I want 12 skeletons, or goblins, or orcs or basically any kind of common creature that does show up in D&D.

Does the minis game bring in that much more money than the rpg? I don’t know, maybe. In which case, maybe us roleplayers could get printed pogs or something like John Harper’s Tokens, in which case, you don’t really have crossover with the minis guys.

Or maybe the thought is that the online play will quickly eclipse face to face play? It’s hard to say, especially since us mac-users have no mac friendly map programs to work with… (and 20% of the market doesn’t sound like all that much, until you think about how much of that 80% is business use computers and not personal use…)

Condition Markers

Third- tracking conditions! Though the many designer and playtester blogs show them using Alea Tools’ markers it seems strange that WOTC didn’t think about having their own set of markers, especially since their own minis are not metal- why not just have some plastic stackable disks, pack’em in with your power cards and sell it as a kit? (or, more ambitiously, maybe include an adventure, the dungeon tiles to play it, and the minis as well?)

What will be interesting to see is if:

a) the player base is left to flounder and come up with their own solutions (what’s the RPGA doing, anyway?)
b) Some savvy 3rd party company slaps together a bunch of tools and play aids into a single package
c) WOTC produces something, akin to the dungeon tiles, and whether they do so within the next year, before the player base has already established their own solutions and decides to hold onto their money rather than buy another product that came too little too late?

I don’t mind a lack of play aids when I’m playing some small press game that exists as a single print and not a line of products. The fact that WOTC hardcore playtested it, and intends to run D&D as a product line, and isn’t taking advantage of it is strange to me.

Oh well, I bet a year from now we’ll see which way it goes.

ETA 2/2/2010- Noticed a bunch of folks landing on this page- obviously, WOTC has both started selling their own power cards, giving print out options from their builder, and done away with the randomized minis. So, yay. Late, but yay.