Author Topic: Economics of Publishing  (Read 384 times)

dubsartur

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Economics of Publishing
« on: February 07, 2022, 11:43:39 PM »
One of the things which fascinates me about RPGs is that they show how publishing works terribly as a capitalist enterprise.  Steve Jackson Games' annual report to the stakeholders reminded me of the issue.

Roughly ballparking things they have said over the years, SJG earns ~$300k/yr selling RPGs and ~$1m/yr selling card game Munchkin which make fun of RPGs and pop culture franchises.  Twitch says it pays the Critical Role vlog $5m/yr for their videos of celebrities playing RPGs (about as much as SJG earns from all its tabletop games and publications combined).  So there is no money in actually making the RPGs, but a lot in pop culture about RPG culture.

Nonfiction books have the same issue: writing a really good factual book does not predictable pay better than a rushed-together one.  The problem is that to evaluate the worth of information, you need that information (whereas I can evaluate a widget without owning it, and someone can use information about the widget to decide whether to buy it).

Further Reading: The Economics of Publishing (2018)

Ben Riggs, Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons and Dragons (2022) https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Dragon-History-Dungeons-Dragons/dp/125027804X

Jon Peterson, Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons by (MIT Press, 2021)
« Last Edit: February 08, 2022, 12:01:16 AM by dubsartur »

Jubal

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Re: Economics of Publishing
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2022, 12:11:53 AM »
Quote
So there is no money in actually making the RPGs, but a lot in pop culture about RPG culture.

This is quite an interesting point - but maybe it's just always true of more things than we expect. Look at the amount of money in community sports versus the amount of money in watching and commenting on and making secondary games about professional sports. The financials will always lean towards the things where people can dip into easy personal connections and where people will keep going back for more of the same (whereas I for example play RPGs quite a bit but I don't actually spend much on them. because I don't need tons of sourcebooks, I can write my own rule tweaks and modules quite happily).
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psyanojim

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Re: Economics of Publishing
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2022, 04:41:27 PM »
I'd be curious about the COVID impact on recent numbers though - I imagine sellers of physical games that require physical groups of players will have suffered badly compared to online/remote stuff.

I like the points in some of the linked articles though - especially ones like survivorship bias in things like surveys of author salaries (ie authors who quit entirely dont get polled, leading to a skew upwards in reported numbers)

As a mathematics geek myself, survivorship bias is one of my favourite statistical failures ;D

dubsartur

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Re: Economics of Publishing
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2022, 02:38:52 AM »
I'd be curious about the COVID impact on recent numbers though - I imagine sellers of physical games that require physical groups of players will have suffered badly compared to online/remote stuff.
My statement about the low earnings of SJG's RPGs and higher earnings of Munchkin is based on their reports, and statements by staffing, for the past 15 years.  For the past five years or so, their flagship RPG has one full-time employee who can barely afford a shared apartment in Montreal.

Playing RPGs over video or audio chat was popular 15 years ago, and it exploded since.  Critical Role is one of the many podcasts and vlogs of people playing tabletop RPGs together.

Edit: I know several other small RPG companies which are one or two people plus contract workers such as Gaming Ballistic and the Taylor Corporation.  I think game designers today are often 'migrant workers,' working on a roleplaying game full-time for six months or a year then moving on to something else then coming back after a few years to write some adventure modules or a splatbook.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2022, 04:20:10 AM by dubsartur »

Jubal

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Re: Economics of Publishing
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2022, 09:37:55 PM »
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I imagine sellers of physical games that require physical groups of players will have suffered badly compared to online/remote stuff.

I'm not entirely sure - the last couple of years will have had a lot of families cooped up together, so that might actually generate more demand for 2-4 player games. I've not decreased spending on boardgames etc, new 2 player games have been pretty good presents for e.g. my sister and her partner. So board and card games that need 6 people or are party-style, which usually comprise a lot of sales, might take a hit, but there might have been a counterbalance effect over lockdowns where demand for games people could play as a family unit or with a partner got pushed up.
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...