Monday, 12 November 2012

Overshooting the Market?

I am the Warden!!

A thought occurred to me earlier today while walking the dogs (as it always does) and I mentally broke down my objectives for the week. Am I expecting too much of Killshot?

Let me explain a little further. My editor, Chris, sent in the edits for Killshot Files #1 and this is what got the ball rolling. I've made a point to stay one issue ahead with article production so that as soon as an issue is released for sale, there are already articles ready to edit for the next. After quickly scrolling through Chris' corrections and suggestions, I started my final consideration on which articles should go into the second issue. All this while adjusting in the work required on the Adventurer gamebook, the BRG website, Killshot: Reloaded and its Kickstarter project, getting the house ready for winter (and a Canadian winter at that), putting up a door to my office, and many other upcoming events.

Now I want to make something perfectly clear at this point. I am not wondering if I've bitten off more than I can chew and thinking about cutting ties with Killshot or the ongoing issues of Killshot Files. Aside from the obvious benefits of putting these products together (and I should finally start making a profit on it by the year's end), the entire endeavour is a huge experiment and effort to gauge some future ideas. One of those ideas is the feasibility of releasing RPGs with only one or two core releases or as part of a large brand comprised of at least 6-12 products. Hence, Killshot Files.

You have to admit, aside from the ease of assembling one solid book for your game and moving onto the next project - freelance or personal - I have always been a huge appreciator of systems and settings with lots of titles in the bin. While we all know TSR's downfall came from overshooting their market with setting after setting after setting, each of them pumping out a dozen or so releases every year, is it near impossible to get out of the gate in today's market? Or is it only impossible as an independent publisher?

At first, I was about to type about the lack of independent publishers with significant product lines, but quickly corrected myself. Savage Worlds alone is proof enough of that (though it may depend on what you consider independent RPG publishing). A large number, if not the majority, of them release games as a core rulebook and the occasional supplement, including PDFs both paid and free downloads. Even some of the larger ones, such as Margaret Weis Productions and their extremely successful lines, provide only a couple of titles and a somewhat frequent support on their website.

Financially, it makes sense to release nothing but core rulebooks. You can't play a game without them and fans will buy them, even if it uses the same system as another game they already own. Supplements, adventures, and subscription-based support never pulls in as much or more than the core rulebook, so why not produce nothing but core rulebooks? From that perspective, I understand, and it is a possibility for future BRG products.

Eventually, there will be another project on my plate aside from assassins in the modern world and I'm seriously considering a one-off product. Still to use the Optional System, but launch the rulebook and cram it full of everything you'll need to take over from there and move onto the next project. Compare it with Killshot and analyze the results to make a dire decision on the future of BRG's practises.

If it does turn out that lone wolf games are the only way to make a decent profit in independent game production, my heart will drop. I'm sure there's no end to the fingers we can point in deducing who's the blame for this change in tactics or perhaps it's only from my perspective because my early years of roleplaying was playing with the big boys (D&D), but I would love to produce a game and watch it grow - blossom - into something truly extraordinary. On the flip side, how many of these games got to go out with a bang? If a product line exists only until sales drop below sustainability, would I end up beating my dream to death and still calling it healthy?

Sooner or later, we're going to find out.