Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

It\’s All About Pen, Paper and People.

Mercenary

Posted by Nathan P. on August 3, 2006

Lots of shtuff in the blog-o-sphere is making my brain swirl today. We got Phil Reed on “Forge Games” Are Not “Indie Games”, the announcement that IPR got the Ogres Choice Award for Most Influential Company and this RPGnet thread titled The Forge Manifesto?.

I self-identify as an independent RPG publisher. I’m pretty secure in that self-identification, so lets leave that aside for now.

Am I an indie publisher? Am I a Forge publisher? Where do I lie on the “fringe <–> mainstream” continuum?

More and more, I’m looking at these questions less and less as identity concerns, and more and more as marketing concerns.

In a marketing sense, Indie Games are a brand. Whether this is a good or a bad thing, eh. Personally, I think that the self-publishing community is healthy and prolific and self-supporting while being mutually supportive, and thats awesome. Are there people that buy Indie Games like theres people that buy d20 Games? Yes. Definitely.

Do I want to market to those people? Thats the question that I’m trying to answer with each of my products. Being an active member of the Forge and Story-Games and an infrequent poster to RPGnet, and my games being carried on IPR and Key20 positions me in a certain way in the community. Honestly, if I wanted to deny the Indie label and try to refocus my outlets to other market segments – that would be a lot of work. Would it get me more sales? I don’t know.

And let’s not forget the fact that IPR as a whole probably grosses more than many “second-tier,” if not first-tier, large-press RPG publishers. Let’s not forget the fact that a number of individual independent publishers probably move more books in a year that these publishers, and that they make money on every sale. So it’s not like the Indie label is a bad one to have, in terms of moving product.

But it’s a little sad, that in the end, it all comes down to the green.

7 Responses to “Mercenary”

  1. Honestly Nate, for me, it has nothing to do with marketing. I want people who like indie games to buy Burning Empires and I want people who like mainstream games to buy Burning Empires. I want people who don’t care about the distinction at all to buy Burning Empires.

    I just don’t see it as a concern for the end consumer, unless the end consumer makes it one for himself or herself.

    For me, being indie is important for the guy that wrote the game. I want the guy that made it to be the guy that profits from it most. In this day and age, with the technology at our disposal, there is no very good reason against it.

    Does that mean that I look down on the guys that sell their work to other publishers? Not at all. I respect some of those guys a very great deal. But I do think some of those guys could be making a great deal more money from their work.

  2. luke said

    Hey,

    What Thor said. Also, as a small press publisher I entreat you to never ever take on a label. Simply do not concern yourself with external labels and classifications. Concern yourself with creating your own unique “brand.” A brand that contains quality work from an interesting perspective. Focus on that goal and maintain control/ownership of your IP and you’ll be fine.

    If you worry about labels and flamewars, you actively detract from time that could be spent designing.
    -Luke

  3. larsbendybendy said

    The “Forge games are not Indie games” issue just ignores the concrete definition on the Forge site: it’s a game owned by its creator. It’s a technical matter of intellectual property. The guy just didn’t read the article and made up his own definition while claiming that the Forge’s definition is “shifting and undefinable” when really the dude just could have just read About the Forge and known what it meant. He just didn’t want to go look. I mean, it’s the first link on the page. That makes me raise an eyebrow at his expertise on the matter.

    I’m not concerned with any marketability of my indieness; you can’t buy cred. It’s like making up your own nickname.

    I’m more concerned that interested parties see, purchase, play, and discuss my games than that my games be seen and compared to Misery Bubblegun or With Great Power… In fact, it makes me nervous to compare my games with theirs, and aside from the games mentioned in my bibliographies and Special Thanks pages, I don’t want them compared to anything before they’re played.

    Identity politics are suck. They’re by nature divisive. I’m not above using them for my purposes I suppose, but I consider things like that a big black hole of guilt by association.

  4. What Thor and Luke say is good. I also disagree with a large part of it.

    The important bit of indie-game-publishing is that you make it, you profit from it. Great. Loudly declaring yourself an indie publisher is kind of counterproductive to that, because it will relegate you into one part of the market and you will lose sales. On the other hand, quietly, modestly, and selectively explaining that you are an indie publisher will get you sales and not lose them. It’s a balance issue, and neither extreme — being a partisan or eschewing all labels — is the best route. Finding the middle path, where you can collect labels (like indie, cutting-edge, quality, reliable, and so on), is the best way to foster your brand.

    Just because your games are indie doesn’t mean they’re nothing else, too.

  5. As far as I’m concerned, and also the definition espoused in The Forge Mission, ‘indie’ means that the author of the game also owns and controls the game.

    It has nothing to do with mainstream vs. fringe. For instance, I would consider Burning Wheel far more mainstream than fringe.

    It also has nothing to do with any particular “style” of game or rules considerations.

    While I’m a huge advocate of creator-ownership, I think using it as the basis of your marketing isn’t that effective. You can achieve the same miniscule effect, and a lot more, by making the brand about yourself. “A Nathan D. Paoletta” game or a “Joshua Bishop Roby” game creates a far more potent brand than claiming it’s an “indie” game.

    Hell, no one is able to agree on what the fuck “indie” even means. Does it mean that you own the game? Does it mean that you’re fringe? Does it mean that the Forge made your game and you just slapped your name on it?

    Let your fans worry about how to label your game. They’re the only ones that can do that effectively anyway. Your fans will decide whether you are indie, just as your fans will decide whether you’re cutting edge, quality, reliable or anything else.

    My suggestion is that you concern yourself with expressing the concepts you wish associated with your game. Those concepts will become the building blocks of the labels your fans will attach to you. Spend your time and effort on telling people how best to play the game, how you play, and how they can get their friends to play.

  6. Ah, but the fear of being tagged with a label that I actively don’t want – that is quite a fear.

    “Come check out these new Indie games!” is a powerful statement, for good or ill. Or both.

    I dunno. I am a lotus flower floating on the water. Thank you guys for the comments of wisdom.

    See the green arrow? That’s all I gotta say, man.

  7. larsbendybendy said

    “A Nathan D. Paoletta” game or a “Joshua Bishop Roby” game creates a far more potent brand than claiming it’s an “indie” game.

    I think this is really true. I think it’s a good lotus flower to be.

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