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.

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