Hard Out There For A Pimp

So much-belated Origins 2014 after action con report GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I think this may be shorter than usual, but I do have a tendency to say something like that and then write something like INFINITY pages, so we’ll see. I always have trouble hitting the mark between “short enough to read as perfunctory” and “really freaking long”

This year we were at Origins, running demos, and selling games. By we I mean the End Transmission Games crew, myself, Mikaela, and Rachid Yahya tagged along to help us out (thanks again, Rachid!). We were able to hold our heads up proudly because the Systems Malfunction setting book for the Singularity System is finally done after about a year and a half of sweat and toil and cat herding! Go buy it! Now!! Buy two of it!

Our pal Jason Walters of IPR/HERO Games/Blackwyrm Publishing invited us to join our booth to the three that IPR/Blackwyrm had to form an island, and we were happy to do so. It was a nifty arrangement and I’d love to do something similar in the future at Origins shows yet to come.

Following a meeting with Jason Pitre at the con, we have applied to join the amazing Indie Game Developer Network, home to many cool dudes and ladies what makes the indie RPGs. I sincerely hope we are accepted among their ranks, because it seems to be our last shot at having a sales presence at GenCon this year, without which we’re DOOOOOOOMED…not to have a sales presence at GenCon this year. Which would be terribly unfortunate, as our books are already headed there, and so are we.

Now on to the topic of… SALES, SALES, SELLING AND SALES

Sales were…not great, but not terrible. At least that’s my gut feeling without access to sales data for any companies of our size in our position…and without knowing for sure of any companies that are exactly our size and in exactly our position. Sales is a tough topic. As I said to many people and had said to me by many people over the course of the con, selling an RPG is a lot like selling a car. To someone who already has several cars. That they don’t ever use.

Basically, what I am learning is that our company sells the majority of our products during conventions. A lot of this is hand sales, us actually selling things AT conventions. This can be ascribed to A) Mikaela being i) a pretty girl and ii) actively outgoing, and please note that the latter of those two things is literally no less possible for me than the former, and B) game designers excitedly talking about their products to potential customers. But not all of the sales that happen DURING conventions happen AT the convention. We also see huge spikes in our online sales during cons. Which is weird but not really…I guess some of the dozens of people that take a business card and say they’ll “check us out online” do just that, and like what they see.

Besides conventions, we do most of our sales through DriveThru RPG, a huge online megastore of all things vaguely roleplaying related. While we are fortunate enough as of this writing to have an awesomely high publisher rating on DriveThru RPG and numerous very favorable and flattering reviews, DriveThru does not do anything to actively promote are products like they do for larger and better known companies. I think the number of sales we have through DriveThru have more to do with the degree to which DriveThru has cornered the online RPG Market.

Our sales on “indie” venues like the indie RPGs un-store and Indie Press Revolution are much more disappointing, especially since these are “indie” venues and as a publisher, we are as “indie” as you can possibly get. In fact, to quote MC Frontalot, with only a pinch of irony,

Unpromoted,  don’t know how you found me.
Soundly situated in obscurityland,
famous in inverse proportion to how cool I am,
and should I ever garner triple-digit fans
you can tell me then there’s someone I ain’t indier than. 

IPR who is our distributor (kind of), for instance, does not (perhaps “can’t” is the word to use?) carry our products at national conventions because they don’t sell well enough to justify taking up shelf space that could be used for the “mainstream” “indie” RPGs (to what degree is that an oxymoron?) people are literally flocking to buy (cough). From a purely capitalistic perspective, this makes perfect sense because it makes financial sense. It’s just the fact that places like IPR present themselves as advocates for independent creator-publishers just as much as they present themselves as business ventures that makes it a hard pill to swallow. When you’re so Indie (read: unpromoted, unadvertised, unknown) that self-identified Indie venues can’t carry your shit because it’s too obscure, it starts to feel like a real Joseph Heller, by which I mean a Catch 22. Of course, it’s not like the big guys are looking out for our interests either…or even know we exist. Oh well, not whining, just philosophizing. 

But we’re pursuing avenues to try and raise awareness of our brand and all that other…corporate shit…that I despise…because I’m a flaky tortured artist creative type and all I know is to mak gams, not to mak money *le sigh*. Anyway if you’re reading this and you weren’t yesterday, then maybe something’s working.

And then there’s the big old fashioned national Distributors that are still in many ways the gatekeeper to FLGS (Friendly Local Game Stores) sales and that whole huge market segment (not everyone buys on the internet or at cons), but that’s such a big topic it will have to be saved for another post.

So that about raps up the recap of Origins and the thoughts stemming from it. We learned our lessons from last year, we brought a lot less books, and we sold a great big mess of them, in person and (I’m presuming, if things go like they usually do during cons) online. We put a ton of business cards in a ton of hands and had a ton of interesting conversations and made a ton of contacts, just like last year. As far as our public awareness, we are still somewhere between “way under the radar” and “totally unknown” but hopefully rising on the graph. Anyone into us know is into End Transmission Games before it was mainstream. Or “indie”. Or whatever it is sells thousands of games. 

There is a new S P L I N T E R product on the horizon! Finally! It should see release in the next few weeks, maybe I’ll blog about it first! We are also planning our very first KICKSTARTER. I will definitely be a-blogging about that soon.

Till next time!

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