Friday, March 27, 2009

RPG Business

This Discussion. I really should not comment, so I'll comment over here.

1. What is Between the Lines. A new Setting? why would the OP want a new setting. GURPS can do any setting and its players play any setting that tickles their fancy. What is really frustrating to many GURPS lovers is actually the Market for RPGS. Its golden age has been almost 25 years gone. There are many and strong factors that are contributing to its weakening grasp, despite it new freedom to play the game.
1.1. Virtual Table Top. WotC has the business strategists and experts to see this is the direction in where gaming can reclaim some of its lost market. If they are the industry leader and see that this is where it is going, then why isnt SJgames going there? We'll get to the reason soon.
1.2. Ebooks. Many have moved to EBooks, SJgames has their e23 and Drive Thru RPGs caters to this market as well. EBooks saves money in costs: in inventory, printing, and publishing. It allows for a wider distribution and shores up most of the advantage the Internet could provide, but that's only as far as the Internet goes.
1.3. MMO. White Wolf has moved to computer gaming. It's success is not as remarkable as those who are firmly entrenched in the industry but you don't see them doing very well either.
2. Developing a Settings. Lets go to the reason I shouldn't post this on the forums. Its the Money! It takes Money to develop a setting. It takes skilled people organized, scheduled, planning, execution and deadlines to make a setting... and what will it achieve relative to what the problem really is? I'm a fan, but I know how it is to tunnel vision and think of the games in my own distorted view of the world. Facing reality and facts would be harsh and painful, but you need it if you want any Idea, worth believing, to have a fighting chance.
2.1 Escalating Standards. WotC has escalated the Standards of RPGs. It is more visual now than it was informational. Its not about rules, its about ease and quality of fun. There are escalating and changing standards that cannot be solved with a new setting. Asking for a new setting is like asking GM, Ford and Chrysler to make a new car that will save its industry. Changing how it is organized, how they make money and its sustainability is what will make GURPS thrive or survive the change of a new generation.
2.2. Outsourcing. Strangely, with the costs of producing games, inherently Gaming has a lot to gain by outsourcing many of its aspects. Unfortunately it is the FUN of making it, which will "never" let it take this advantage. Re-organize it, break down the elements into what just needs direction and what can be done by someone else, and let higher levels of standards cull its previous weaknesses. The Global market, is a two way affair and the current culture will not be ready to take advantage of this.
2.3 Returns. Let us say one creates a really good setting and it meets all possible realistic expectations, then what? Make a good setting, you create buzz for as long as the setting gets support, people try, and people can play it. But given the factors that are affecting RPGs from being played, a new setting does not solve any of these problems. Still it becomes an exercise of futility.
3. Where are the RPGs in markets. Where are they? Markets are the first priority. If you want GURPS to succeed then where are its possible avenues of expansion? If you look at GURPS carefully it has many unique product strengths that gamers may appreciate but a business strategist will find useful in deducing what market it will choose to enter.
3.1. Product Strength: Versatility. Compared to the Industry Leader and many of its competitors GURPS claims to be something of "an" RPG. It claims to be Generic and Universal. It is a product that is Designed to be Tailored to a target market. This is IMO its key product strength when considering where it can possibly go and how sustainable it will be.
Ask yourself, How would people in the growing Middle Class of China and India think of a fairly cheap game, that has tons of replay value, and attaches itself to many of its easily identifiable Icons (like History, Pop Culture and Literature)? RPGs are all about Role-playing but different Cultures and People have their own style of Role-Playing, how would it work if WotC tried to sell DnD to India? It would have to sell DnD for Indians and make DnD more Indian. Compare that to GURPS, which already has GURPS India. Compare it again to GURPS, who also have GURPS China?
Businessmen and SJGames is a business have to Create VALUE for their product. Creating Value is not just making a product but allowing possible consumers to identify the product as it is for them. RPGs are versatile, you can sell it as a learning platform. One can sell it as a cheaper alternative to more expensive games with only paper and pencils as their primary operating capital. It can work the way it worked for the American Middle class when it first emerged. RPGs have been a mark of the Geek culture that it can be a marketing platform for Geeks of other cultures and other countries.
3.2. Technology. Add some technology in the mix. Virtual Table top but with a more GLOBAL market. It may not be an MMO but it will be an interesting ball to get rolling. If people from other countries gamed together? Will that increase its market? Will that be a good thing? And how could you spin that?
Repercussions. New market means New Cultures. Within the natural Culture of RPGs, it has been already saturated. If it were to grow in another culture, expect that culture affecting the way the game to be played. That Culture that will entertain RPGs will be in dialog with another culture and certain elements will mesh well, some cannot be practiced and a lot of unpredictable things will happen. The Certainty about it is that, the Game will Change. It will change in a way, the traditionalists will not like or possibly abhor.
Personally I welcome this change. Because, RPGs can't just stay the same in the next era to come. It has to grow. it has to adapt and through it, we understand what unchanging element underlies the hobby that so many feel strongly for.
4. Conclusion. I don't think RPG will change much or will take on these changes. Culture is a very irrational thing. It will reel back when it sees anything different. It doesn't look forward to potential change. A culture open to change is still a bit too far a way. The generation that created the hobby or the companies will not be inclined to move or innovate of this moment. There is so much too lose in the status quo and more likely an RPG from outside the west might be the one to come along and take advantage of this market.
Personally I have no mind for that. I've long ago made peace with what I know cannot change within the hobby. I feel that is because I understand its real place in my own life and I'm not so blinded by my zeal for it anymore.

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