Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to you support RPG retailers? The better question is do RPG retailers even want your third party product?

I was having a discussion with Black Diamond Games on Facebook and I asked the question: Many retailers complained about third Party Publishers and the Glut of 3.5 product. How will you avoid this from happening with Pathfinder and 3.75? Here is the conversation on this subject:

Black Diamond Games: I can tell you third party 4E products tanked hard, so now that we're commited to Pathfinder, I'm extremely wary of third paty products, especially since they resemble the 3.5 glut so much. I suppose one solution is for publishers to put out... uniquely Pathfinder products (such as spells or combat maneuver poducts - I would buy your cards as a product, character sheets, etc.), products that are not rules specific (for example, the new GF9 mats usable by 3.x/4E/PF), or some type of "helper" accessory (like HeroLab, a huge seller with Pathfinder). Putting out rules for PF is playing against the systems strength.

Michael Azzolino (A Fan of Black Diamond Games): I think game consumers looks at third party products in a completely different way as a result of the 3.5 splat madness! I for one, never use any 3rd PP that change or introduces new rules. I only use them for flavor, and even then it's rare. Part of what I find attractive about PFRPG is that they are setting heavy and rules light (up to the point of the APG release). I predict a fair amount of power creep as a result...

LPJD: OK now here is a more specific question: What qualifies as 3PP to you? Monte Cook has done work for WOTC, Paizo and his own Malhavoc line. Do you consider him 3PP? Wolfgang Baur with Kobold Quarterly?

Michael Azzolino: I consider anything that isn't written specifically for Paizo to be 3PP. Without a doubt, Monte and Wolfgang have serious pedigree, but unless they are doing freelance work for Paizo, it's 3PP.

Black Diamond Games: If it's not Paizo, it's a 3PP and customers will flee. Put Monte Cook's name on a Paizo product and some people will flock to it just for that (a few, like myself and Michael). I would personally carry Malhavoc as a PF line and I carry Kobold Quarterly when I can get it.

LPJD: Then the question I have as a 3PP, how could we or even why would we support retail locations if their customer base doesn't want our products?

Black Diamond Games: I don't know. What kinds of products sell now?

LPJD: For me in the PDF arena, we released a new setting for Pathfinder inspired by Dark Sun & Ravenloft called Obsidian Twilight that has done well. I also have a line of Feat PDF that have done very well. Product that do well are thing that can be used in anyone home game with ease and little changes. Paizo's Adventurer's Armory is a great example of this.

Black Diamond Games: Adventurer's Armory is player candy. I would like to see a world building book, ala Gary Gygax (currently going for $75 on eBay). I would like to see a creative location book.

So the question is if retailer can’t sell my products, why would I care if they go out of business and just sell directly to customers who want to purchase? Retailers complain they are not getting sales and are losing them to online sales. Third Party Publishers are complaining they are not selling enough products in the retail locations or in some cases they can’t get their product into retail locations. We both have the same problem, but neither of us work together to solve the problem. And that is what is wrong with the RPG industry. No one wants to take a chance on anything due to the fact they might lose sales and that is what is killing both of us. Talk to you later…


  1. Just a thought to consider: the 3.0 and 3.5 glut may have been bad enough that it may have damaged the reputation of 3rd Party Publishers to a point where the PF consumer is avoiding them like the plague (unless it's a well known name with a reputation for quality (ie Monte Cook))
    The well might be dry.

  2. A good retailer will ask: "Am I leaving money on the table?" Is there something I'm missing that would satisfy the insatiable needs of my customers? Would it make me money? Is it even available?

    We learn this a few ways: We take chances, like bringing in small quantities of product to see if they sell. We ask questions, figuring out what the customers are playing and buying from other sources. We play ourselves. Would I use this in my game? Would I actually buy this product with my own money? Then there's the irrational to contend with. Have they been burned in the past and thus see all 3PP as dangerous stuff the DM won't allow or the player's will ridicule?

    On top of that, the recession has changed spending habits. Many pre-recession RPG products, I think at least 30-40% were never bought to see the table. They were ideas books, casual reading for inspiration, etc. They were not directly applicable to the game at hand. Those sales have stopped cold, at least in my store at full MSRP. Perhaps most make better low cost PDF's to a fringe market. It doesn't mean game stores are turning their backs on these publishers. More than anything we want them to put out something our customers are clammoring for.

  3. @Gary: I just have to wonder as publisher what is the future of RPG in game stores going to look like? So many people are buying online to save money over their local retail store. The "Living campaign" events do help bring people to stores but I think there needs to be more of a hook for gamers to game at retail stores.