Writers -- Full-time to Freelancers
A second, but no less major issue, at least for RPGs, is that we have changed the way we work with writers. We no longer have half a dozen-odd full-time writers but instead a hand-picked set of freelancers (none of whom we would have been able to tempt away from their Real Life work anyway!) who are absolutely, 100%, completely dedicated to the games they work on – people like Colin Dunn, who is Mr 2300AD, and Don McKinney and Rob Eaglestone who work alongside Mr Miller on Traveller. This means the quality of work we receive for these games is second to none, done by people who want to write this material because they have a real passion for it.In essence assuring us that the quality will be at least as good as during their best days, but not necessarily on schedule.
The flip side is that freelancers will never work as fast as full-time writers, as Real Life all too often intrudes. This, in turn, results in slower release schedule; but, we think, better books overall, the effect of which you will already have seen with titles such as Solomani Rim, Deneb Sector, and French Arm Adventures. In those terms, we are satisfied that the books being produced today are every bit as good as those from our Gareth Hanrahan/Lawrence Whitaker days (for my money – and it was – the two best writers in the RPG industry today). There will just be a few less of them.
RPGs -- The Digital Shift
The current RPG market is miserable. There really is no other word for it. I was talking to the owner of a certain well known RPG company just a little while ago, and he mentioned that he had sold a few hundred of his latest release. We agreed it was a good total in this day and age for the average RPG product (not saying his book was average but… oh, you get the point!). Then he dropped the bombshell; he had reliable information that his book had outsold the latest supplement of a very well known, not to mention market-leading, game.Interestingly insight on the RPGers vs. wargamers, and juicy news from the chat with 'other industry bigshots'. I know I'm primarily PDF these days. I just don't have the space for more books, and the only option for the collector in me is electronic.
If the top tier games are selling at these levels, then something is seriously wonky in the market.
That is not to say that good sales are impossible. Publishers can still get into decent four figure ranges on new releases (our own 2300AD is a good example). But it is not the norm. Most RPG books these days are being bought by just a few hundred people, no more. Think on that for a moment…
On the other hand, RPG sales among PDFs, spearheaded by DrivethruRPG.com, are fairly booming. Which, of course, brings us to the inevitable question; is digital taking over?
For our part, we now look at each and every book as it goes through layout, and do a lot of soul-searching as to whether it should be given a full print run. More and more often, the answer is starting to be ‘no.’
Now, before anyone panics, you will always be able to get Mongoose books in a printed edition. Not going for a full print run still means we will do a limited run to supply our mail order customers, and you will be able to get our entire range printed (even books that are officially OOP) via Drivethru – more on that later too. Just to be clear, I’ll repeat: You will always be able to get hold of Mongoose books in a printed format!
However, the tipping point between digital and print has been reached among RPGs. The days where we automatically printed x thousand copies of all titles are long, long gone.
What is really peculiar is that while a large number of roleplayers have embraced PDF books, wargamers have not – and the difference is staggering, especially when you consider the relative sizes of the two markets. And yet… to my addled mind at least, it makes more sense for miniatures games to be presented in PDF format. Instant updates, errata fully integrated into the core rules, every time; yet it seems miniatures gamers are just not keen on this new-fangled technology! Perhaps Games Workshop’s efforts in this area will have an effect. We’ll be watching closely, in any case.
Fortunately, Mongoose is looking to upping the quality of PDFs available.
PDFs -- A New Standard
We have been on DrivethruRPG/RPGNow for many years and, throughout that time, many employees of Mongoose have been responsible for uploading PDF files – resulting in many different ways of doing them. This year, we decided to standardise them all, adding bookmarks, making sure the pagination was correct, that art was at the right resolution, and so on and so forth. We are just coming to the end of this now, and will be uploading the results before Christmas. Expect a ton of updates if you have purchased any of our PDFs, and feel assured of consistent quality if you are looking to pick up any more.It's nice to see that -- and if that helps when people search for things on RPGNow / DriveThruRPG, great!
For more news on individual RPGs, check out this link to the State of the Mongoose 2012. As an armchair gamer, the Solo Traveller initiative sounds great!