Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tearing Down the Walls

When I was talking with all of the other publishers at Pete Figtree's last Hangout with all of those other publishers, there were a few things that came up that I want to talk a little bit more about. Here's one.

While we were talking about the advantages of Createspace in order to get on, I mentioned that when Oz the Great and Powerful came out, I got a notable surge in sales from that corner. (When I'm able to get caught up on my quarterly sales reports, you'll see the numbers.) I think most of the reaction I got from that statement was because the other publishers hadn't made a strong effort to reach outside the hobby.

To be clear, I don't think this was a flaw in any of their business or marketing plans. They have all done very good work and have found their own success and happiness, and I'm certainly not trying to stomp on that for them. And also, it is certainly true that selling a new game to an existing gamer is much easier than taking people off the street and turning them into gamers.

But I knew an RPG set in the land of Oz could be different. Nearly everyone knows about the Wizard of Oz. Even if they've never gotten around to watching the movie or reading any of the books, they all know about the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West and her Flying Monkeys. So part of my design process was to make sure the game was accessible to everyone who might want to play.

By and large, the strategy has worked. I've been interviewed on the Royal Podcast of Oz and the Atomic Array podcast. My game has been reviewed in Fight On! magazine as well as the Baum Bugle (a publication of the International Wizard of Oz Club).

For a little while there, I was the only Oz RPG on the market. But then competition started appearing. First Oz: Dark & Terrible, and now Savage Mojo has a project in the works. Now I realize that they are not really competition at all, because we're not competing for the same niche. Those products are trying to appeal, not only to a "more adult" audience, but to a specifically gamer audience. They make changes to the setting that make it feel a little more comfortable to action-movie oriented gaming sensibilities. Their iconic character is the Tin Woodman: strong, armored and ready to fight.

My iconic character is Dorothy. She's just a little girl from Kansas with no secret ninja training or magic powers. It's her heart that sets her apart. Her ability to make friends and stand up for what she believes in are what makes her special, not her ability to wield a railgun. And so it is in Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Friendship is how characters grow. A well placed Impress action can turn the tide of battle, or end it altogether.

So to all of those indie designers out there, here's a little bit of advice. As part of your design process, put a little thought into who else might be interested in playing your game.It can lead you in some interesting directions.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Best Things In Life Are Free

Last night, I was honored to attend another one of Pete Figtree's Google+ hangouts. This one featured a roundtable of self-published game designers. Sorry about the lack of advanced warning, but it was something of a spontaneous decision on my part. It was a lot of fun and a learning experience for everyone involved, I think. And a learning experience for you, too, we hope.

And for those who are interested in how Pay What You Want is working for me, it's actually going rather well. I've been getting a nice little bit of traffic to the game. It's also been bringing in some money, which is always nice.

Now, I'm not as brave as Ben Gerber (one of the other panelists from last night), who put his entire product line on PWYW. I also don't have as deep a catalog as he does. But I will show you how my numbers compare.

First off, the equivalent period last month. (May 11-20th)

Total sales: 2
Total $ Gross: 15.98
Total $ Net: 8.26

Now Ben has more free products than I do, so even though I got less traffic than him during this period, I still managed to out-earn him because every transaction brought some money in.

Now let's see what Pay What You Want has done for me. (June 11-20)

Total sales: 57
Total $ Gross: 35.96
Total $ Net: 23.37

Note that these numbers only reflect PWYW purchases. There has been a little activity in other quarters, which is good, but not accounted for here.

Now, I did not experience anything to confirm Ben's first hypothesis (that he made more money because his customers thought his product was worth more than he was originally charging for it). Only one of my customers paid the regular price for AiO with everyone else paying some lower value. The most common price paid being $1.00.

I think the other three do have some value, though. PWYW is the new hotness, so all the trendy people are jumping on it. The front page attention I got from having to create a new product was probably a big part of my sales spike right there. And since a PWYW product is basically a free product with a tip jar (Thank you Fred Hicks for that metaphor), it means that a lot of people are trying things out because they don't have to put money down before they see if a product is any good. And then they can pay what they feel is a fair price for a product once they have made a decision about what a fair price is.

Whether this turns into a viable business model remains to be seen. But I am looking.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Filling Up The Magic Bag

One of the reasons for my silence over the last few weeks has been because I have been trying to focus on writing The Wizard's Magic Bag. And I think I can safely say that I'm 90-95% done polishing the text that originated from the blog, making it a bit less casual, but hopefully easier to read.

Now I'm just thinking of what I want to add. Because if it was all blog stuff, it wouldn't be worth it for you to buy it. I do have some things that I want in there, and I am working on getting them in, too.

But what would you like to see? What magical thing would you like to accomplish in your games? What magic item from the stories excited your imagination? Or maybe you'd like to see me import a magic item, rule, or idea from one of your favorite games into Oz.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Your Oz, Your Price

I know I haven't posted much lately, and with news like this, you're probably disappointed that I didn't mention it sooner, but life has a way of biting me in the butt.

Earlier this month, OneBookShelf, the guys who operate RPGNow and DriveThruRPG, implemented Pay What You Want pricing on both sites. This is mostly in response to Evil Hat, who wanted their Fate Core products available on that basis. But they did allow other publishers to use the feature.

So I decided to give it a try. After a couple of hiccups, I finally got it rolling on Tuesday. I wound up having to set up a new product, because PWYW didn't want to work on a product with a print option. Which means that at least part of the uptick in activity that I've noticed over the last few days has been because I've gotten back onto the front page again.

And what sort of activity am I getting? Well, a lot of people are grabbing it for free. That's to be expected since Pay What You Want can mean paying $0.00. But at least some people are paying for it. Some are paying 5 cents, others 5 dollars. It will be interesting to see how this plays out long term.

Here's a link to the Pay What You Want edition of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.
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