Friday, November 11, 2011

Early Adopters, RPG Publishers and POD Technology

This, my readers, is opinion writing.

In this current economy, in this current market for the tabletop gaming industry, it is sometimes a fight for each and every sale that a publisher makes. More and more, there is a reliance on the early adopter, or the so-called "alpha gamer," to help create buzz and talk up your games online, in gaming groups, and other places to lead to sales. The right words from enough of the right people can lead to good sales for an RPG publisher. Early adopters can be very important, they are what drive things like Kickstarter projects to be so successful.

The problem comes when you kick the early adopters to the curb. Yeah, I know this is strong language and that is intentional.

I'm not going to crouch this post in vague language about "some publisher" out there. This is in response to the specific action of a specific publisher: Arc Dream Publishing.

Part of the reason for my making this post is because this isn't the first time this has happened. I know, there are many out there in gaming fandom who do not think we should talk poorly of publishers. "It's just a one man operation." "He's not in it for money, it's for the hobby." The same things we hear each time a publisher slips at something. Yes, we all do it, but for those trying to be a business, they should be treated like a business. Arc Dream Publishing is a business.

At GenCon Arc Dream was selling the new Fate edition of their Kerberos Club setting. It's a great book, and Mike Olson did a bang up job of creating his Strange Fate variant for the setting. I love the game, have spoken highly of it both online and off, and I have recommended it to a good number of gamers. GenCon was in August.

Thanks now to POD (Print On Demand for those who do not know) technology, Arc Dream is offering a revised edition of the Fate edition of Kerberos Club. Errors were found by those early adopters, and those who bought copies of the game because of the praises of those early adopters (myself among them, obviously). Yes, this means that a up-to-date ruleset is available for those currently purchasing the game...mostly due to the praise of the early adopters. Let me say that again: a new revised edition in just a couple of months. Yes, the technology makes doing this possible but does that mean that a publisher should do it? Could a simple booklet of errata have been done and distributed to old and new purchasers?

People get upset when a new edition of a game comes out in a few years after the game they purchased, but now we have that cycle shortened by technology to a few months. I know that some people will say that this is not a new edition. I say that if you are going to say something is revised, it is a new edition.

Part of the problem is that this is not the first time this has happened. A few years ago, also at GenCon, Arc Dream also released a new book...the Wild Talents Essential Edition (which I also purchased from them at the time it was first released). Quickly, it became apparent that there were a number of mistakes and errata threads started appearing on the Wild Talents mailing list, and places like RPGNet. Arc Dream compiled all the errata, along with some of their own, fixed the stuff in the new book and offered up a revised printing. What did they do differently back then? They made an offer that any one who bought the first printing could mail it back to them and get a copy of the fixed new printing.

What are they doing this time? Offering the new version at an additional charge. Yeah, it's only ten dollars. I realize that. It's the point of rushing something to press, to get the book out at GenCon (not once but twice) only to have it need to be corrected. Why? Because of that important buzz from early adopters and bloggers out of GenCon. How many times, however, are people going to be willing to be the early adopters when they realize that the books they are buying are just going to be replaced in a few months? How much good buzz is it when someone has to write a blog post like this about a publisher?

Yes, I am one man and one blog. I don't speak for the masses of geeks, dorks, or gamers out there in the world. I only speak for myself, and I think that this stinks.