Some Truth About Audience
Posted by Nathan P. on December 6, 2008
There’s a really great thread at the Forge that’s currently active: Have we already reached everyone? People are talking some good stuff about the “audience” (you’ll see why there’s quotes there in a sec) for independently-published games, whether the market is saturated (answer: no), &tc. And then Malcolm Sheppard comes along and drops some serious truth.
Now, Malcolms a really smart guy who is really good at taking an, uh, adversarial tone with, well, everything. But this post is respectfully written and really one of the best breakdowns of one of the biggest issues I think self-publishers face. You should really read the whole thread, but you should really really read what Malcolm has to say if you’re interested in putting your game into the marketplace. But, this being the internets, here’s what I think is the most meaningful part:
Your challenge, as I see it, is to create avenues where customers can create places apart from you, develop their own ideas about your materials and run with them, turning the game into a medium for expression, instead of an affiliation with an entrenched scene. One way to do this is to get serious about building communities game by game, instead of by school of thought. Another is to provide extended support, even if informal, for existing games, and use email and other tools to get the word out about updates. I’ve already mentioned some more “hands-free” forms of social networking, but there are others, and they can be defined outside of your internal categories to jibe with a game’s content.
This intersects neatly with a lot of my personal evaluation of myself as a publisher and my goals for Annalise. Basically, the system of advertising and selling to the communities represented by boards I frequent and the online social groups I inhabit isn’t something I’m interested in. I’m starting there, because it’s safe and comfortable and, frankly, doesn’t involve that much effort on my part. But it’s not only a small community in terms of bodies and sales numbers, it’s also constantly taxing on me, personally, to deal with the expectations and assumptions made by individuals in it.
This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate all of the positive responses and the material gain that I’ve had from these communities. I have nothing but love in my heart for that. But it’s time to go elsewhere, I think for everyone, in one way or another. For so long we’ve celebrated the close links between creator and audience (sorry Paul, but I do think there are differences, at least these days). But there’s something to be said about having distance between them.
I’m not beholden to you because I wrote something that you’re playing, just as you’re not beholden to me by playing something that I wrote.