The Business! It Burns!

Fred just laid down some serious business stuff over at the main evil hat blog, and as ever, it’s a great illustration of transparency.  Speaking as someone on the inside of these conversations, what you are seeing in that post is the same stuff we’re seeing when we talk, just without the threading.

Gist of this news is that we won’t be doing business with Diamond distributing.  This is really only a big deal insofar as Diamond is a (arguably the) comic distributor,  and it would have potentially meant getting the Atomic Robo RPG into comic book shops which is, as they say in the business, a lovely synergy.   Fred lays it out in great detail, but I kind of summarize it as follows – if a company can’t get it together to tell me how much money I owe them, how good a job do I think they’re going to do if they owe me money?

I don’t enjoy this part of the business of publishing, and I am lucky that Fred excels at it (along with Chris, Carrie and Sean) so that I get to putter about and just think about this stuff and try to learn how game development (as opposed to design) works.

But I still think about it.  I especially think about it when I go surfing about the  RPG kickstarters.

Some of them are rock solid.  John Wick’s Wield has already funded – some of that is name recognition, some of it is a clever pitch, and some of it is that he has a reliable product model.  A John wick game will (with few exceptions) run you 5 bucks as a pdf, 15 bucks in print, and scale up from that.  Those are tested and tried numbers, and they hold up really well for him.

Others are…not as solid.  Specifically, i will sometimes see an RPG price its core book at some crazy high number ($100-$150) because other kickstarters have successfully done so.  What they tend to overlook is that many of those kickstarters are for legacy products offering deluxe editions as a means to show love with money, not as a means to buy a product.  The Exalted 3 Kickstarter was egregiously overpriced for an RPG, but priced just right for something special.

Admittedly, not ever $100 RPG is a deluxe edition.  But the exceptions fall into one of three categories:

  • Novelty
  • Value
  • Brand

And the problem is, it’s unlikely your game falls into one of these categories.

I am not sure any product has succeeded on novelty since the first World’s Largest Dungeon.  The possibility of others exists, but bear in mind that novelty is not about it being good or interesting, it’s about it being something new and unexpected.

Value is a hard one to hit, but for games like WHRPG 3e, where the box has a LOT of stuff in it, it’s not unreasonable to hit the $100 price point.  But making something like that is not easy.

Brand is where you get things like name recognition (*cough*montecook*cough*) and licenses that people are willing (and excited) to pay for.

If your game has one of those things, then you might be able to get away with a crazy high price tag.  But if it doesn’t, then please please, do not use those games as a yardstick to judge yours by.


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