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November 1, 1996: Best of Times, Worst of Times

 
Hello. This month we are presented with the idea that the industry is dying, the industry is thriving, the hobby is fading, and the hobby couldn't care less about the status of the industry. Which means, of course, rumors galore!

First, everyone seems to have a live game in the works. Chaosium has one coming, SJG is considering the idea, West End's Star Wars LARP is out there (along with its unofficial competition), and there's always White Wolf's Masquerade. Lots of LARPs, we'll see how this works out.

As I said on one public forum (shortly before being roasted alive for stating my opinion), there's are many different approaches to LARPs and LARPers are a strongly fractious bunch. One of the big issues is the level of simulation-- are You and your LARP character the same (i.e. live combat, real-world fasttalking required) or are you playing a Character different (oft better) than you (simulated combat, ability cards)? This one schism seems to make the "charts versus freeform" debate seem like a minor nit in comparison.

I think LARPs will only really succeed if the players actually can unite a bit. This, in turn, means the industry would have to listen to multiple opinions. But this goes against standard Sales techniques, where you must tout your system as being "better than the others, in fact, The Best Possible!". For games to improve, there has to be evolutionary advancement, cross-fertilization of ideas, and a willingness to change. I don't see that happening soon.

Which leads to another interesting point-- many of the larger companies are having hard times, while many smaller companies are prospering. (Realize we're entering serious "rumor only" territory for much of this). Now, as a caveat, success must be defined differently for each. For products of equal quality, a print run that keeps Event Horizon Productions in business would hardly sustain a TSR title, just because of the expectations and the costs and overhead associated. Also, small companies are used to running leaner, and working more unbillable hours to produce their excellent publications.

That said, rumor has it that West End is closing down all of their non-Star Wars lines temporarily, until they can afford otherwise. Hero Games, after their ill-received "books on disk" effort, is now beset by rumors of doom and shutdown. At the same time, though, their RTG "Fuzion" collaboration seems to be chugging along (after the Logo complains were resolved, or at least actively disavowed by Hero). So expect chaos for those who are actually involved in writing and producing materials, but little outward sign of change.

On the plus side, Pinnacle has been noisily happy of the success of "Deadlands" (which I must add, is a very cool work). Their post on Usenet mentioned they're nearly sold out, about 6 months earlier than expected. Imperium Games's launch of the new Traveller is off to a shaky-yet-strong start, including licensed products to be made by Gold Rush Games. So the second- and third-tier outfits seem to be optimistic. It's this optimism, I think, that will keep both the hobby and the industry alive.

Like it or not, the hobby and the industry are connected. Tracking the large companies lets you know how well the industry is doing, relative to the world at large. But looking at the success of the smaller companies is a good measure of how well the hobby is doing, and how varied we can get. And speaking of viability and success, I'm very curious as to how many people actually read this column. So, I'm running a contest. The 100th person who emails me (at contest@rpg.net) will receive a free game of their choice (selected from a limited list, which includes an autographed copy of my book, "Miskatonic University", *plug* *plug* *plug*). Note this is the 100th person, not the 100th reply, so one per person please, and we reserve the right to changes these terms at any time (just to keep us covered and avoid misrepresentation).

Until next month,
Sandy

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What do you think?

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All Soapboxes

  • See What Sticks by Sandy Antunes, 06jan06
  • Simple Gifts for Pre-Gamers by Sandy Antunes, 09dec05
  • Col vs Blog by Sandy Antunes, 04nov05
  • Running a First RPG for Kids by Sandy Antunes, 07oct05
  • Making It Pay by Sandy Antunes, 02sep05
  • The Hazards of Non-Combat Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 05aug05
  • Just-in-Time Pre-order Hell by Sandy Antunes, 01jul05
  • Cassandra's Industry Report by Sandy Antunes, 03jun05
  • Fiction or Non-Fiction by Sandy Antunes, 05may05
  • I am not a Storyteller by Sandy Antunes, 08apr05
  • A Better Job by Sandy Antunes, 01apr05
  • Advice For Working Writers by Sandy Antunes, 04mar05
  • Startup Fever by Sandy Antunes, 04feb05
  • Why Blogging is Lame by Sandy Antunes, 07jan05
  • Being a Pro Writer by Sandy Antunes, 10dec04
  • Viral Marketing Invitational by Sandy Antunes, 05nov04
  • The 24 Hour RPG Challenge by Sandy Antunes, 08oct04
  • A Decade of Distilled Advice by Sandy Antunes, 03sep04
  • Go Ahead, Hit Me! by Sandy Antunes, 06aug04
  • Promoting Yourself by Sandy Antunes, 09jul04
  • 10 Hurdles to Selling Your Game by Sandy Antunes, 11jun04
  • Let's Team Up! by Sandy Antunes, 07may04
  • Beyond Role and Pla(t)y(pus) by Sandy Antunes, 08apr04
  • Slow Improv and the Post-Kilgallon by Sandy Antunes, 05mar04
  • Paradox Redux by Sandy Antunes, 06feb04
  • Mad Scientists and the Kilgallon Paradox by Sandy Antunes, 09jan04
  • It's Not Your World, It's Mine by Sandy Antunes, 05dec03
  • Murphy's Law for Adventure Writers by Sandy Antunes, 07nov03
  • Eigentesting by Sandy Antunes, 09oct03
  • Atomic by Sandy Antunes, 05sep03
  • Is Writing a Commodity? by Sandy Antunes, 06aug03
  • Designing Amidst the Tides of Gaming History by Sandy Antunes, 08jul03
  • Buy This Book by Sandy Antunes, 05jun03
  • Hobbies by Sandy Antunes, 08may03
  • The Websites That Wouldn't Die by Sandy Antunes, 10apr03
  • The Path to Atrocities by Sandy Antunes, 06mar03
  • Cattle Mutilation: The Game Design by Sandy Antunes, 06feb03
  • Gaming With Children by Sandy Antunes, 09jan03
  • How To Be An Industry Poser, Part 1 by Sandy Antunes, 05dec02
  • all i game with, i learned from kids books by Sandy Antunes, 19nov02
  • TCG: The Total Cost of Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 10oct02
  • Game Publishing & The Law by Sandy Antunes, 06sep02
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants by Sandy Antunes, 01aug02
  • Buying Time by Sandy Antunes, 04jul02
  • April 10, 2002 13 New FAQs
  • March 1, 2002 Give Me A Closet
  • January 2, 2002 Let's Go Shopping?!?
  • December 13, 2001 Conflict, Ethics, Winning, and Money
  • November 13, 2001 Secret RPGnet Operations Document Leaked!
  • October 16, 2001 Leadership and D&D
  • September 4, 2001 Leading Industry Site Reports Secret: Sex Sells!
  • August 7, 2001 Any, Anyone Can Be an Internet Success-- Why Aren't You?
  • July 3, 2001 Fine Print, Part U
  • June 5, 2001 Fine Print, Part I
  • May 8, 2001 Pushing Limits
  • May 4, 2001 RPGnet State of the Union special feature
  • April 6, 2001 The Other Magic: Niche Hobbies and Other Markets
  • May 9, 2000 Running a Business as an Old Style D&D Party
  • April 14, 2000 First to Market
  • March 20, 2000 Labor Pains
  • February 15, 2000 One Trick Pony
  • January 6, 2000 Creativity is Bad, Hard to Sell, and Great for Business
  • December 14, 1999 Oranges versus Bananas: Entertainment Costs
  • November 2, 1999 Why Editors Lie
  • October 5, 1999 How to publish a quality game, accept criticism gracefully, and lead a happy life: Pick Any Two
  • September 7, 1999 It Takes a Village (to publish an RPG)
  • August 3, 1999 All Gamer Money Isn't Equal
  • July 6, 1999 Tides of Cash Flow
  • June 1, 1999 Ad-itudes
  • May 4, 1999 Who, What, Give me a Guiness
  • April 6, 1999 The GAMA Trade Show '99
  • March 2, 1999 Roleplaying would have saved Millions
  • February 2, 1999 Games That Won't Suck
  • January 5, 1999 Dangerous Games
  • December 1, 1998 Making Gamers the Old Fashioned Way
  • November 3, 1998 The $1K Company
  • October 1, 1998 So You Want to Start Your Own Company...
  • September 1, 1998 Holy Grails and Marching Morons
  • August 4, 1998 Gamers Must Die!
  • July 7, 1998 Profit versus Prophet
  • June 2, 1998 Acquire! Acquire!
  • May 5, 1998 Power
  • April 21, 1998 The GAMA Trade Show Report, Part 2 (eventually)
  • April 7, 1998 Schroedinger Games, or, the GAMA Report
  • March 3, 1998 Culling the Herd
  • February 3, 1998 Horatio Hornblower's RPG Company
  • January 6, 1998 Double Feature (Us and Them/A Clash of Images)
  • December 2, 1997 "How to Scam Games for Free"
  • November 4, 1997 "Women in Gaming?"
  • October 2, 1997 "Fear of a Gaming Planet" (Welcome to the RPG ghetto?)
  • September 2, 1997 "Rush" (fame and adoration in lieu of pay)
  • August 2, 1997 "For the Money" (convention mating rituals)
  • July 2, 1997 "Good Deeds" (the dearth of evil game companies)
  • June 2, 1997 "Dirty Laundry" (copyright and slander on the net)
  • May 2, 1997 "Communications Breakdown" (company and player schisms)
  • April 2, 1997 "The Quick and the Dead" (dying companies versus new ideas)
  • March 2, 1997 "It's All in the Timing" (on hype and late deliveries, and on genres)
  • February 2, 1997 "Insiders and Outsiders" (who's who and who uses the web)
  • January 2, 1997 "Fits and Starts" (web presences, print runs, live roleplaying)
  • December 2, 1996 "Procastination Season is Over" (delays and new products)
  • November 1, 1996 "Best of Times, Worst of Times" (on rumors, survival, and larps)
  • October 1, 1996 "Post-Con fallout and not that many new games"
  • September 1, 1996 "Our launch, news from GenCon, demos, new LARPS"
  • Our reason for existence

    Other columns at RPGnet

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