Friday, May 1, 2009

Better marketing of Living Arcanis / Pathfinder Society /Massive Multiplayer RPGs to RPG Fans...

Sometime things don’t make sense to me. One of the greatest ideas that really does not make sense to me is the Living Campaign concept for RPGs that have developed into MMO. I mean I understand what they are, but I do not understand why they are so popular. The best way it was describe to me was “Kill monster, get treasure.” Simple and to the point. And when I played in them they were, kill monster, get treasure. Simple right? But if it was so simple, why don’t more people play in Living Campaigns? From a business sense it is an example of Seth Godin book, Tribes. OK I get that but why is it not marketed better to get more people involved?

The guys at Paradigm Concepts are friends of mine and I have had the pleasure to ask a lot of behind the scene questions about Living Arcanis. The one thing that always kind of got me “confused” (This really isn’t the right word, but it is the only one I can think of at the time) is how things are broken up game-wise. Paradigm Concepts has two big events at Gen Con and Origins which they run called a “Battle Interactive”. The Battle Interactive events have done very well for them. During the year they have adventure that people can download and play at their home games and have a great time. The guys at Paradigm Concepts are following the same game plan that every other company has been using when creating their own Living Campaign, including Paizo with the Pathfinder Society. The system works well and people are happy with the status quo.

But what if you tried something slightly different? What if you changed it up a little? What if you shook up the status quo? What if:
  • You had a one year long adventure storyline that ran from August through July. The year-long adventure / storyline would start at Gen Con with a big event and have its climatic end in Origins with a big event. The reason for doing this is it gives you roughly six weeks between Origins and Gen Con where you can build interest in the new year’s campaign by using what happened in the year ending event as the “spring board”. This basic market strategy has worked well for comic book companies for years (The Darkness Night and the Secret Invasion are prime examples of this.)
  • Instead of giving away the adventures for free like many Living Campaign game companies do, sell your adventures and a low and reasonable price. When you place a value on a product they are considered to be valuable. Paizo has done this with its Pathfinder Society materials.
  • During the six week period between Origins and Gen Con you release a free adventure / sourcebook that connects the previous year’s adventures and this upcoming year’s adventures. An even better to joint , you can connect the two conventions by the ending event being the lynchpin that starts the new year’s campaign at Gen Con. Paizo has done very well with this with their Pathfinder Companion and Player’s Guides lines.
  • You create a mid-point event that is held at a very special convention. This event is the “Empire Strike Back Moment” in the year long event. You would like to create a convention like Winter Fantasy or the D&D Experience where all the hard core support and fans of your adventure games series and company come out to play, then go back home to talk up it up to more people. If you want to take this one step farther and cause some business disruption and attack the position of the leader in this field (WOTC), I would have my event in the same hotel/location on the same day that the Winter Fantasy/D&D Experience is having their event. This is guerilla marketing and Business Judo at its finest.
  • When the previous year is over complete, you collect all the adventure into a HUGE book that you do as a Print-On-Demand Book and sell. Why POD instead of traditional printing? Because you save on having to put down upfront money for the printing cost. is a great choice for this.
  • In addition to the year long story line at Gen Con and Origins, at both conventions I would have “Contest of Champions” event. At this event, groups of four PCs/Players are put up against other groups of four PCs/Players in dangerous location (a la Tomb of Horrors) where they fight it out to gain points and the people with the highest point value go into the “Elite Grand Round” where they face off with some kind of super thingamabob for cash and game product reward. Everyone who plays gets a cool copy of an exclusive product that you can only get from playing in the con. Douglas Atkin’s The Culting of Brands was great for understanding this.
Simple tactics that can have a powerful effect on your sales by making your fans even more connected to what you do. Hope it works for you. Talk to you later…