Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pre-Orders, Ransoms and The RPG "Business"

Although pretty much all of a blog is a statement of opinion, this much is more so than usual.

The RPG industry is a niche one, and it is nowhere near as large as it was during it's heyday in the 80s and 90s. This ends up meaning that, a lot of the time, companies are strapped for the cash that is needed to get products developed, written and eventually produced. This can be done a couple of ways: the publisher can reach into their own pocket (either business or personal) and pull the money out, hoping that the money will be made back in sales, or they can organize a pre-order or ransom to get the money together to fund getting the book made.

Neither of these practices are bad, although with the habit of RPG publishers going out of business there can be risks for the consumer participating. All of this is a good faith agreement on the part of the consumers and the publisher that the money will be used for what the publisher says it is going to be used for, and the consumer will receive a book at the end of the process.

Lately, however, this process seems to falling down on its face. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, "Anyone can take a reservation but it is holding the reservation that is important." This year at GenCon a few publishers have debuted new books that have been brought to market due to ransoms or extensive pre-order support from early adopter consumers. This isn't a bad thing, however, as new product is a good thing for publishers to have. The problem comes up that these books have been sold without first fulfilling the orders of those who ransomed or pre-ordered the books. That, in the opinion of this blogger, is a big no-no.

In some cases, on the backend there have been issues with hired warehouses not properly or completely fulfilling the orders of a publisher's customers. Ultimately, however, this is just an excuse that needs to be overcome to maintain the goodwill of a customer base.

Goodwill is important in this entire process. Geeks tend to be overly forgiving towards RPG publishers because they are blurring the lines between "these people are my friends" and "these people are a business that I have given my money to" and think that friends should be forgiven their trespasses. It is important to remember that these two thoughts should be kept separate from each other, and these businesses need to be treated like businesses.

Now, I personally no longer take part in ransoms or pre-orders. Yes, I've been burned (and keep getting burned on one that I have been involved with) and because of that I no longer have the faith or the good will to believe that a publisher will meet their obligations. Once a product is done and in the stores or on the table, I will be there with cash in hand to pick up a copy but not before hand. Not again.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Judge rules Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany are derivative characters

A federal judge has dealt another blow to Todd McFarlane in his long-running copyright dispute with Neil Gaiman, ruling that the characters Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany are mere derivatives of their earlier creations.

In a decision filed Friday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb declared that the three characters are simply variations of Medieval Spawn and Angela, co-created by Gaiman in 1993 for McFarlane's Spawn series. Therefore, McFarlane has until Sept. 1 to provide Gaiman with an accounting of money earned from Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany. As co-owner of the copyrights, Gaiman is entitled to one-half of the profits.