2012-03-21 : Monster Mania Con: barriers to interest

Going to Monster Mania Con and failing to sell games cut years of wishful thinking and plans doomed to failure out of my future. I'm going to tell some more details.

We had a sign that said "Scary Games" (thanks to our dear friends of the Final Girl Support Group), and it worked, it caught their interest. We had people stopping and saying "games, huh?" and "really, scary games? How scary?"

When we said the words "roleplaying games" to them, they visibly lost interest. On Friday we led off with "you're familiar with roleplaying games?" and it didn't matter whether they answered yes or no, as soon as we said the words we lost them. Once we just stopped saying the words, they started sticking around long enough for us to talk to them about the games.

The fact that the games weren't games, they were books, was the next barrier. Eppy's Jenga tower was as always a draw, but the connection between the tower and Dread, the book, wasn't one they could easily make. We'd put the book straight into their hands and run little on-the-spot demos, as is right, but when they'd flip through the book you could watch the incomprehension settle over them. Most of them then were like "huh okay," put it down, walk away.

A few of them, the little demos and our enthusiasm carried them through. The final killer was price. The $10 and $15 we were charging for Final Girl and Murderous Ghosts was really tough, but a couple of people were willing to risk it. Dread, at over $20, no way.

There were some solid moments of connection, though, in the little demos. Scary games have an audience there, I'm pretty sure, if we can get the price down and make them evident as games.

1. On 2012-03-21, Vincent said:

Down here, Frank T says: I'll bite. Do say, Vincent. What are those favorite features of role-playing?

Here's one that makes sense to talk about in this thread. One of my favorite features of roleplaying games is that they can be actually scary. The best scares in horror films aren't visual, they're situational, conceptual - the visuals aren't scary by themselves, they communicate the scary idea. Roleplaying games let us create and share scary ideas of our own, for each other, right now.

Like, there was this moment in one of the 3-minute Murderous Ghosts demos I got to run at the con. The random congoer I was demoing with said something genuinely scary, all live and unrehearsed. You could see her think of it, get scared by it, then say it, and she could see us all respond as it scared us in turn. It's a neat moment.

The scariest board game I can think of is Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, which is scary for a board game. Saying "scary for a board game," sadly, is the same as saying "not actually scary."


2. On 2012-03-21, Timo said:

So, here's an interesting parrallel:

My lady friend Gina is not an RPG player, nor are her friends.  She'll play video games, and board games, and I got her to sit down for one and a half games of Murderous Ghosts, which were kind of awkward and didn't run great (we're going to try again with other two person games as well).

Gina is also a social worker, and at one point she picked up Rory's story Cubes to use with her clients (  That evening we had some of her friends came over, and all excited she showed them the cubes.  I was busy in the kitchen, but I listened as they proceeded to use the cubes to create two stories, one after the other.  Seeing how much fun they were having, I thought "Hey, how about Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple?  It's very similar to what they just did with those dice!"

I suggested it with initial mild interest, showed them the book, and suddenly there was no real interest, the subject was changed.  It wasn't the art, because they all said the art was neat and kind of cool.  They were over in theory to play boardgames, so it can't be the idea of games themselves .

I think there was some sort of switch: when playing with the story cubes, they were all just being silly and goofy.  When they looked at Do, they thought it looked/sounded complicated, intimidating somehow.  I don't know, it was odd.


3. On 2012-03-21, Chris Chinn said:

Making them evident as games has two hurdles - one is a tiny speed bump, the other is a big one.

The easy one is selling a specific conflict and situation trumps selling a general activity.  "What is this game about?"

a) "You play people in a magic world who fly around and try to solve problems" vs.
b) "There's a child trapped in a flying whale.  Only you can save her."

Specific situations give people better hooks to buy into or not, and while the flexibility of any given rpg to be about many situations is a strength for long term play, it's too abstract and meaningless as a selling point to non-roleplayers.

The difficult hurdle is that outside of roleplaying, all games are based on objects/cues being moved/manipulated.  Even if I don't know the rules to a game, I can start figuring out strategies by watching how the people move pieces, take tokens, roll dice, etc.

The fact that you're running down a dark hall under an old gas factory, chasing a voice you trust more than the slow shambling thing with a rusty sharp metal thing sticking from it's arm would be immediately gripping - if it was visible.

Maybe it means some games need more visible tokens at least, to point to as a form of game activity (see D&D and miniatures, for example).

Or maybe it means entertaining summaries put up online, such as what folks are doing for Dwarf Fortress games - where the highlights of the story are put together as a form of promotion:


4. On 2012-03-21, Troy_Costisick said:

Heya Vincent,

I have a few thoughts on this.  First, I have to wonder if Monster Mainia Con was the right place to get the books in the hands of your target audience.  If $10 was too much to spend on a piece of entertainment for the con-goers, would any RPG of good quality be right for them?  Wouldn't part of your target audience be "someone willing to spend $10?"  I'm not asking this to be snide or anything; I'm asking genuinely.  Indie publishing had done a great job of lowering the costs to produce a good quality game, but at $10 you're starting to bump against the lowest limit where a large enough profit can still be made.  Did you guys happen to do a half-price discount the last day to see if it really was price that kept some of the con attendees away?

Second, do you think using the term "Story Game" may have been a more effective marketing technique than using "roleplaying game?"  I don't know how much of a negative connotation RPGs have anymore thanks to stuff like WoW, EverQuest, and Final Fantasy.  But do you think Story Game might have hooked them better?

Third, I know that Paul Czege has spent a TON of time selling RPGs at non-RPG conventions.  Or, at least he used to.  I have no doubt he has some really good insights into how to appeal to non-gamers.  Have you had any conversations with him on the topic?

Fourth, as usual, everything Chris said makes perfect sense to me.  Vincent and/or Chris, do you think if the books were in a box it would have mattered to the con-goers?  Would that have looked more like a game to them?




5. On 2012-03-21, Frank T said:

@ Vincent: Yeah, that's something I like about role-playing, too. Not necessarily with the scariness, but with something that's imagined, right there and then, and shared, and totally gets under your skin. Interestingly, in my experience it is also something that many die-hard trad gamers dislike, and/or feel very uncomfortable about.

@ Chris: To make it look more game-y, you could use cards to print character stats/information and rules summaries on. Tokens for currency. A lot of artwork and colored dice. But then, that's expensive.


6. On 2012-03-21, Bret said:

Troy, I think the $10 minimum price tag means we need to look at other ways of producing RPGs that are less expensive, not that we need to give up and say, "Welp guess they're not going to buy our books." I'm actually working on an RPG right now that I'm pretty sure I can make a good margin on with a price tag of $5. I'm not so sure it's a good sell for the Monster Mania crowd but we'll see.


7. On 2012-03-21, Eric E said:

I think both Bret and Frank are onto something here.  Lowering the costs to something someone would drop some con-change onto is a good idea.

The other is that to a lot of people, $10 is a lot for a book.  I know this may seem crazy.  It does to me, as I read a lot of novels and try to buy new works, in addition to being raised on $20 TSR books.  However my wife, who both games and reads to a lesser extent, $10 sounds ludicrously expensive for a novel.  And that's a self-contained experience, with an RPG you have to bring more work to the table, not to mention getting other people together to play it (which somehow increases the cost of the book to her, as opposed to me where the cost to enjoyment is theoretically split).  She is too used to walking into a half-price and spending 5-8 dollars on a hardcover and a buck on a paperback.  But if you package in doodads and whatnots, then it's different.  She feels like she is paying for SOMETHING.

From a creative standpoint (I write fiction) this strikes me as crazy, as those doodads were just printed en masse by someone.  But whatever.

However, what does work with her, I've found, is the bait-and-switch maneuver.  Present cool looking thingie (book/game/whatever), demo it, when they ask for the price, tell them the realistic number which is too high, see the light dim in their eyes, then say "but I have these copies of an old game I still stand by here for a song!  Buy one of these, take my card, and if you really enjoy it order my new one."

Don't know how applicable that would be in your case, but it's what I've seen.


8. On 2012-03-21, timfire said:

I don't know, I'm real skeptical that a $10-15 price tag was/is that much of an issue. I mean, basic Monopoly costs $12 (at Target), with the specialty versions going for $20-25.

Maybe $10 is a lot for an impulse buy of a weird book/game/story-activity-that-I-don't-really-understand. But in the big picture? $10-20 is comparable to other mainstream games.


9. On 2012-03-22, Vincent said:

I would have thought the same. Turns out that we were competing with $5 DVDs.


10. On 2012-03-22, Troy_Costisick said:

Brett, an Amazon ebook costs ten dollars and it's not even a physical object.  The new hot mommy-secret-pleasure novel, 50 Shades of Grey, costs about ten at Wal-Mart.  Most board games are ten to twenty, with high end games like Axis and Allies being fifty or sixty.  You are definately right that we can make games for less, but I think the production values would be quite poor.  And if we want to attract people to the hobby, don't the products need to be attractive?


11. On 2012-03-22, Troy_Costisick said:

Sorry, crossposted with Vincent!


12. On 2012-03-22, Darcy said:

Hey Vincent,

This ($5 DVDs) sounds a hell of a lot like my experience at the Toronto comic con (FanExpo, I think).

It was 1 part autograph madness and 1 part retailers dumping lost leader items to sucker you into their booth and hook you on pricier items.

What about non-con venues for outreach?


13. On 2012-03-22, Josh W said:

Timo, that thing about the story dice sparked something off; I have friends who love being imaginative but get performance anxiety easily. The more I tell them about how I like designing games the less they want to play them!

Not because I'm boring or baffling, (though of course I sometimes am) but because having the idea that someone has designed something for you to play can mean that you should step up your game in turn. You should play seriously, like a sport, not like mucking about.

So for those people, I want to make a game that's one third oblique strategies, and one third archepelago, one third set of random tables, but somehow designed to avoid obvious pitfalls.

Index cards with mechanics explained in nice easy terms, if you get it, play with it, if you don't, flip it over and play with the next card. Place cards down on the table if you like them and keep using them. A game designed to be humble and put people at their ease.

Course for other people, they want a game that's like books they like, private but full of life. The only way you'll play those games with them is in the same situation they would show you their favourite book, but the game that would put them at ease would be the exact opposite, a game that is full of obvious passion. Sometimes those are the same people!

This isn't about the monster con people at all but whatever!

Actually, about the monstercon stuff, have you thought of selling it as the occult...?


14. On 2012-03-22, Jay Loomis said:

Hey Vincent,

Did you get a read on how many of the folks you talked to were into any kind of games at all?

It sounds from your description like you were having to deal with the coldest of cold sales. If the idea of getting together with friends to play some sort of game is foreign to somebody, I can understand why they would have a hard time getting into an RPG of any sort, by whatever name you call it.


15. On 2012-03-22, Shane said:

$5 DVDs? So compete with something else. In enjoyment time your thing oughta be more akin to a dvd series, or the dvd player itself. I'm sure there are things these fans drop a lot more money on than cheap movies.

I knew someone who made quilts and sold them for cost of material at the local market. Lots of people liked to see and touch and tell her they were gorgeous, but very few bought. On the advice of a friend, she tried doubling the price - sold like hotcakes.

Although I think we're raking through the ashes of something you just now said was a "wrong way, go back" sign. Are these discussions helpful? (I certainly find them interesting).


16. On 2012-03-22, Frank T said:

The people who ducked out because $15 was too expensive most likely spent more than $15 on their dinner the same day. How does that fit together? Well, most people have a budget for a con. They spend money on tickets and food, probably on travelling and maybe lodging, and they have reserved a certain amount for buying stuff at the con. So, $15 spent on that funky book with the scary game inside is $15 less to spend on other stuff. As Vincent points out, that other stuff may just be 3 obscure B-Movies.

So, do you trade the stuff you originally intended to buy for something you were just introduced to and ? now comes the point ? you found mildly interesting? Here?s a hard question for Vincent and everybody else who wants to attract non-gamer audiences. Remember that thrill you felt when you were first introduced to RPGs? How often do you see that thrill in the non-gamer types when they give it a try? How often do they show more than mild interest? The assumption that they will play again, by themselves, with their other non-gamer friends, and get hooked, and come back for more ? how often have you seen that actually realized?

I?m not trying to be a dick here. You don?t need my blessing but you have it anyway, and I?ll be happy if I?m wrong. Here?s the ?but?: in my personal experience, the people who dig role-playing are a certain type. Even if they are not part of a subculture, still they are not just ?any given horror fan? or ?any given Buffy fan? or ?any given LotR fan? or ?any given World of Warcraft player?. Not by far.


17. On 2012-03-22, Meserach said:

The things, is you don't get to decide what you're competing with; the consumer does. Is it unfair that you potentially unlimited entertainment is being compared against a DVD you watch once and last an hour and a half? Maybe. But if that's how people are thinking, you have to work with that and not against it (short of some kind of incredible marketing effort to convince people that what you have is a boutique product).

The most instructive comparison I can think of is to video games. For the longest time, and still today, the price point for a videogame was around $50. But in the recent years, with the internet exploding the usual costs associated with distribution, publication and retail, many videogame developers have explored far more radical - radically low - prices.

Provided (obviously) your per unit costs (printing, essentially) are such that you can still make a profit on each item - don't sell at a loss, ever - deep discounting is worth serious consideration. Especially at a con: nothing brings people in and also convinces them to actually make the purchase then offers like "50% off usual price, but only today!"


18. On 2012-03-22, Eric E said:

@timfire That $12 for monopoly you're talking about includes a lot of "stuff".  There's plastic houses, and a metal car and horse, and lots of paper money.  Not to mention a board and dice.  It has a lot of content for that price.  A $15 RPG manual is just a book.  You're not really getting anything for your money.

From the perspective of an outsider that is.

You can't even compare the prices with a $9.99 ebook, because people who have ebook readers are already readers.  They already plopped down a chunk of change that says that they are suck book-lovers, that they love the text of a book more than people who love nice leather-bound covers and things to put on their bookshelf.

Vincent is trying to sell to outsiders here.  To outsiders 9.99 still sounds like a bit for a text file.  I mean, come on, you can't even put it on your bookshelf for display!  They can go to half-price books and get tons of hardcovers for less than that.

@meserach Sales are also good.  Steam's mega-sales have caused me to spend a lot more on video games that I'll never have time to fully play than I would ever have before.  If you calculate price/enjoymenthour, their sales have significantly decreased my leisure expense efficiency, but if I start up Steam, I still have a good chance of buying something.


19. On 2012-03-22, Julia said:

It seems to me that it would be likely that the buyer of a $5 DVD has already seen the film and just wants to add to his collection, or is making a cheap impulse buy, or both. Would you consider a horror rpg at a horror convention an impulse buy? Can you realistically be profitable by slashing prices? And profitable could mean, "cutting your price and taking a preliminary financial hit in order to make inroads with the consumer, with the hope that you can make repeat customers." Sure some of those repeat customers will probably come back looking for more $5 games. Is slashing prices and taking a loss a risk worth taking for unproven long term gain? And there's always the stigma of a cheap thing. Cheap doesn't always mean "good." It often means "crap" or "disposable" to a consumer (if my $5 DVD breaks or is a poorly pirated copy, no big deal. I've seen the movie a dozen times). Lowering the price might be a good thing in the long run, but the price should be still be sustainable and not counterproductive.

At a convention you have less than 15 seconds to make your pitch—to even convince someone to spend 10 minutes with you in a demo. You have much more time to make that pitch and answer questions on a forum, blog, podcast, website, etc. People who read your blog know you love horror movies, but people read your blog generally read it because they want to read what you say about RPGs, not horror fiction and media outside the context of gaming (well, maybe some of us do). So how much outreach to the "horror community" did you do before you went to the convention?  Did you go to their online communities and affiliate yourselves with them? (Hi! We're horror fans, too. We write rpg's. We're going to be at Monster Mania Con demoing some of our horror games. Do you have any questions now? Who's going? Those of you who have been, what should I expect? I'd love to meet you. I see that you like [your favorite horror movie], too. My game follows a similar thread in that...)

Let's call Monster Mania "Rome", horror fans are Romans, and gamers are Greeks. Now it may be that you're of Greek and Roman heritage, or maybe your an ex-patriot Roman living among Greeks. Whatever. When you go to Rome, do you show your Roman roots when you sell to your fellow Romans or do you act like a Greek who wants the Romans to buy your stuff? I'd bet that the Romans would be more likely to buy things—new and different things at a reasonable price—from other Romans, even if those Romans have been living abroad for many years. Before you ever went to GenCon, how active were you at the Forge?

If you didn't make in-roads before you went to the convention, it's not surprising you got an icy reception. You didn't have enough time to convince them that your cool thing was something of value to them. Maybe you also came off as gamers who wanted a piece of the horror action rather than horror fans wanting to share their gamer action with other horror fans. I don't think selling your game for cheap would have made a difference if people still saw you as not one of them.


20. On 2012-03-22, Moreno said:

I don't know if I am showing a personal bias here or if it's common thing, but I think that horror fans are intrinsically less attracted to role-playing the stories they like than anime fans or fantasy fans or western fans or whatever.

The thought of being a knight in shining armor, or a powerful mage, or a Western Gunslinger, or a (fun) anime character, give the impression of...  fun. Of play.  "play pretend", laughing.

The idea of being a normal person eviscerated by a monster... less so.

Someone find this fun, right: Call of Cthulhu is a successful game. But for a game so well-liked and famous, with the amount of citation from Lovercraft in movies and books, why is played by so few groups? Less than something like Exalted that nobody, outside of gaming, never even heard of? (and Call of Cthulhu is much simpler to play and describe than Exalted)

To be clear: I agree with much of what Vincent said here. It's the particular example that I find a little misleading: no kind of presentation or game would have been able to sell role-playing to horror fans like you could do Anime fans.


21. On 2012-03-22, Bret said:

Julia, I'd been to Monster Mania before! There's not really the kind of tribalism you're describing. There are all kinds of people there and it's not a one-of-us/not-one-of-us thing. There are normal looking folks, there are people with piercings and dyed black hair, there are people pushing baby carriages and old ladies with grandkids. So it's more about in-the-moment grabbiness and interaction than it is about, I don't know, posting on horror movie forums before we go.

And I'm not talking about slashing the prices of games to cut into profitability, I'm talking about making games that are inexpensive and still profitable. That's my plan! But The Final Girl will still be $10.


22. On 2012-03-22, timfire said:

@Eric E: I get the point about Monopoly or whatever board game containing lots of stuff, which increases its perceived sense of value. But my point is that people pay more for comparable products all the time. The official Skyrim game guide is, like... $26.99 msrp. "Poker for Dummies" is... $16.99 msrp. (Both of those books can be had for cheaper through discounted means, but I would argue that's another issue.)

Now, to deflate my own argument, most "Choose Your Own Adventure" books and its various rip-offs seem to be going for $7-9. I think it's important to note, though, that most of those are targeted at kids, which I think deflates their perceived value.

I found a few more adult-ish looking CYOA clones on Amazon that were going for $10-14. So I would argue that Murderous Ghosts' price point is probably on target.

I suspect Julia is probably on to something as to MG's poor showing at the Con.


23. On 2012-03-22, Vincent said:

Frank: Yes! Exactly. The question I have to ask myself (and Eppy and Bret and anyone else who feels like it) is: pursue this new audience, taking on all of the many challenges that'll include, or not? It shows every sign of being very difficult, and no sign of being rewarding enough to warrant it. But yet...

Julia, Tim and others: Remember that price was the last put-off, not the first. The people who balked at the price had already been drawn in by both the promise of "scary games" and our explanations and demos. They were holding the books in their hands, thinking about whether to buy them, and they asked us how much. They were exactly the people that price would make a difference to.


24. On 2012-03-22, Alex Abate Biral said:

Vincent, sorry if this derails the discussion, but what are Dread and Final Girl?


25. On 2012-03-22, Vincent said:

Julia, Tim: Also, Bret's right. Nobody rejected us as outsiders, not one person there. That just wasn't part of it.

"Well you should have made inroads before you went" is nice, but as far as I can tell, the way we make inroads is by going to the con. My guess is that if we do nothing else but just keep going, by our third or fourth con we'll be having moderate success, just because people will gradually realize that we're there. It was the same at the Forge booth at GenCon (only easier).

If we're also able to make games that are more obviously fun and priced as impulse buys, my guess further is, we'll do even better. It seems a pretty safe, obvious guess to me!


26. On 2012-03-22, Eric E said:

@timfire Skryim game guide and Poker for Dummies aren't games, they're game accessories, to be sold to people who already like the game and want a larger investment.  It makes that game's price point variable to capture a market that may be willing spend additional cash for either additional power (a guide makes the game easier) or additional involvement (a guide shows you a lot of things you might not have seen otherwise).

I'm not saying Murderous Ghosts price point is wrong.  I'm saying that it is not at the right price point for selling something to someone who is a) at a convention, and/or b) is an outsider to gaming.  I buy the ebooks of novels.  I don't think $12 for Monopoly is something I should spend my money on.  I'm the primary audience for a $15 RPG.  The problem is Vincent is trying to sell something to someone more like my wife.  Someone who in a gaming environment will game, but needs to be introduced/placed into that environment.

I'm sure people aren't selling CYOA books to horror conventioneers.  Not even the adult ones.  They're probably selling them to people who remember them as a child (I picked up my first few copies at a library, and my collection of Lone Wolf ones, which are a D&D/CYOA hybrid, from half-price for a couple of bucks each when I was a kid).  And even then, they have a price-point variance.  I just searched for the most recently released one children's CYOA, and it's $7 new or $3.19 used.  Any new or on-the-fence buyer has access to a lower price point, and only people who know what they want will be buying a new copy of the newest release.

@Vincent Have you considered creating some kind of pamphlet or quarto-style game.  One that could be produced for dirt cheap and sold like some kind of fan-zine or sampler comic at a convention?  Something so simple it's almost just a scenario?  Something like what Chapass games would sell in a white paper bag even?  I'm thinking a publicly listed $5 item that you sold at conventions for $2.50 with a big, if you liked this go to my site and buy one of my deluxe games advertisement on the back?


27. On 2012-03-22, Vincent said:

Alex: Not at all! Here's Dread, and here's The Final Girl.


28. On 2012-03-22, Vincent said:

Eric: Good idea, yeah.

Jared's Parsely games are utterly wrong for this crowd, game wise, but product wise they're good to consider.


29. On 2012-03-22, Alex Abate Biral said:

Thanks! Dread looks pretty fun, and I will certainly take a look on Final Girl too. Funny how I got the name right away once I saw the image on the site.

By the way, Vincent, do you mind if I ask you why you want to reach a wider public? Personally, I am the kind of person who would probably go for a smaller, not wider public. But your posts got me thinking that this might actually be a great idea. That trying to make a gae that reach a very different set of people from yourself might give you insights you wouldn't get otherwise. Insights which in turn might help you make better games all around, and not just for that puplic. But what about you? Any specific reason for trying to expand?


30. On 2012-03-22, Julia said:

Bret, I'm not really describing a type of tribalism, though I see how what I said could be interpreted that way. You see a diversity of people at a game convention, at an anime convention. They're all there because they all like this particular thing: games or anime. What they look like and what their social-economic status isn't really relevant. My comments and questions were more directed at the problems of selling at a convention:
—You have much less time to make your pitch to people who are completely unfamiliar with your product. You have more time to make your pitch online, beforehand. So you court your potential customer before you see her in person.
—Based on the experiences that you and Vincent have shared, it sounded like you were, by a few people, viewed as outsiders. Now you're both saying that wasn't the case. Okay, cool. I'm a little confused, but cool.

Vincent: If you're there just to sell to people making impulse purchases (like $5 DVDs), making a relationship with that customer base beforehand is probably a waste of time. The price is more important. And if your intention is to just sell to horror fans who attend horror cons, then yes, you don't need to do anything other than show up at horror cons. Going to a con is just one of the in-roads. If you participated in discussions on the Forge before you went to GenCon, then you made in-roads with the community that the Forge serves (as being a big part of the community, for certain), and so of course it was a little easier for you to sell your games at GenCon.  I recall getting similar advice before I went to GenCon to try to sell my game. I was pretty much a non-gamer outsider not just to the "indie rpg" community, but the rpg community as a whole. It definitely worked for me.

The gist of these past few blog posts seemed to be asking how do market your horror game to horror fans. One way, as I see it, is to show your love of horror and build a relationship with other horror fans outside of the microcosm of a horror convention. There seemed to be a broader question, too: How do you sell rpgs to non-gamers? Not pursuing the potential relationship you can have with non-gamers around things you both enjoy seems both counterintuitive and self-segregating.


31. On 2012-03-22, Jay Loomis said:

Also, Vincent, it seems like what you ran up against is an initial hurdle thing. As others have said, con-goers often have a budget planned out ahead of time. Like, "I have $25 dollars for DVDs, $20 for posters," etc. From what you've said, the folks at the con were totally not expecting games to factor into their experience at all. If you and enough other people commit to serving that audience, you can start to change the expectations, but it'll take a while.


32. On 2012-03-22, ndp said:

Another possible vector: this is an X, and it comes with a game.

This is a DVD, and it comes with a game. This is a CD, and it comes with a game (Ribbon Drive!). This is a rad horror art poster, and it comes with a game.

(I'm deliberately not saying "This a book, and it comes with a game", BTW)

Obviously, an approach full of crazy hurdles. And this treads into licensing territory, as well. But it seems like an approach vector that may be worth looking at, to me.


33. On 2012-03-22, Vincent said:

ndp: Yes! We tossed around a lot of ideas along exactly those lines. This is a t-shirt, and it comes with a game.


34. On 2012-03-22, misuba said:

Do people at a horror-fan con have a need to make scary stories themselves? It seems like plenty of people are willing to make some for them.

The people who want story games most will either be people specifically interested in it as a craft and a hobby, or people who feel that making stories themselves is something that can help them get what they really want.

In the latter case I'm thinking sci-fi fans are a way better bet than horror fans. I can't think of any equivalent in the horror world to the campaign to save Farscape.

Also, on the pricing thing, I wonder if the word "game" doesn't make people think "childhood" and thereby make them forget that there's been 15 or so years of inflation since then.


35. On 2012-03-22, Bret said:

Julia, I wasn't ever treated as an outsider. But when I talked to people about RPGs they were like "wait, what?" I was there in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre shirt and was able to chat people up about favorite movies and recommendations. Maybe by a few people we were viewed as outsiders, but that definitely was not the larger experience I've had at the convention. Our games are outsiders. :P

But that's good advice! I've been posting to some horror communities and used to write reviews on a site, but never in a way where I had a thing to plug. It's definitely something I'll be looking into.


36. On 2012-03-22, Joe said:

I like the idea of extra objects packaged with the books.  I wonder if a deck of Murderous Ghost or Final Girl playing cards with creepy imagery would get more attention from this audience?

I wonder if considering a reverse scenario would be helpful: how likely am I to buy a non-game object at a gaming con?  Past experience tells me that I will come home with many RPG books and a boardgame or two, maaaaaybe some new dice, but not much else.


37. On 2012-03-23, Tim Ralphs said:

Forgetting the horror fans, I would buy Murderous Ghost playing cards.


38. On 2012-03-23, Frank T said:

Here?s a story. In Germany, we still have got real pulp fiction, historically called Groschenroman (dime novel). It comes in weekly issues of stitch bound booklets of some 60 pages (small print, two columns) which sell at EUR 1.50 anywhere you can buy magazines and newspapers. They are self-contained novels but often part of a series. A large part is romance but there is also space opera (Perry Rhodan), crime (Jerry Cotton), Western (Lassiter), horror (John Sinclair) and post-apocalypse (Maddrax).

The guy in charge of Maddrax happened to be an enthusiastic role-player. So he got someone to make a little Maddrax RPG. When Maddrax started a new cycle in 2007, there was a special issue, priced at EUR 3.00, which included a second booklet with the RPG. I do not know the print run but it must have been tens of thousands. To repeat: tens of thousands of copies, sold to people who are already fans of the source material, at EUR 1.50! And they had to buy it if they did not want to miss the start of the new cycle! Also, in three of the following issues there were brief scenarios for the RPG included. The role-playing community was very excited about it, as can be seen from Settembrini?s blog post.

Nothing was ever heard of it again.


39. On 2012-03-23, Eero Tuovinen said:

I've done a bit of this sort of thing, too, within anime and boardgamer scenes. Vincent, here's my conclusion about the proper marketing strategy for non-rpg outreach:

The hobby convention for whatever hobby is dominantly a local phenomenon. The rest of the visitors are hardcore. This means that you'll get the same people coming in every year. What you need to do is focus on outreach over sales until such a time as you've actually convinced people that they want to spend money on this new thing. Takes a few years, certainly, simply because people are hidebound by nature. Of course this only makes sense for a convention that's close by to you and you enjoy visiting over the long term; forget things where your travel expenses outstrip your initial profits.

Outreach looks like this: you have a game that can be played as a fun pastime for free during the convention. You have some free pamphlets that direct the interested people to your chosen Internet information sources on the hobby you're selling. You also sell product, but that's just for the repeat customers and the rare first-timers who don't get scared by the price point. Over a few years you'll find that the germinating process you've started convinces people to spend some money on this thing, too, now that they've seen that it's a thing.

Of course, doing outreach has its expenses, which you should attempt to externalize: let volunteers run your free entertainment games, and let the convention provide you with free space for your free entertainment; no sense in you paying for the space you use to introduce the rpg hobby to people. If you can manage to have free GMs/faciliators and free space for them to work in, then you can have a functional crowd-handling workflow: you can catch people, give them a pitch, turn them over to the gaming department, and if they find that they like it, they can come back to you and make some purchases or not. Of course the return per customer will be small, but the point is, you don't have to spend a lot of time on each individual, because you've externalized your generic "here I'll play this game with you for half an hour to show you how fun it can be" to your not-for-profit general outreach department. Note that the outreach department doesn't have to worry about sales, they're here just because they love gaming and want to show the mainstream how cool it is.

If, for a given non-rpg convention I want to visit, I have to choose between the outreach department or running a sales booth, I'll go with the former: it's more useful to everybody involved, and I'll have a shot at getting my travel expenses paid by the convention, too, because now I'm a culture activist and not a salesman. It's simply more sensible to try to get people to try the new hobby by enabling them to try it for free. They'll be capable of buying e.g. game texts from the Internet afterwards, but they'll only do that if they already had a fully immersive and enchanting experience of play in the convention itself.

Note that most conventions are starved for programming relevant to the interests of whatever crowd they're attracting. With a little forethought you can set yourself and your GM crew up as a desirable addition to the program. Conventions actually pay to have people come in and do content for their visitors, so positioning your outreach more as a cultural good for the event than a sales opportunity for yourself might make much more sense.


40. On 2012-04-14, scott slomiany said:

As someone who has worked on a Monopoly licensed product in the past, the Hasbro people a fully aware that a majority of Monopoly games are sold never to be played—they are sold primarily as gifts (which are then tucked into a closet, forgotten, forlorn). So the comparisons of the markets are a bit different....Monopoly aren't really design and targetted as games...they are are sold and marketted as gifts that just happen to to have game peices and rules.


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