View Full Version : The Online Approach

2011-09-01, 06:32 PM
D&D 4e pretty much soured most people on this concept, by making a service that sucked, and failing to deliver on things promised for it. But I'm not sold that an electronic format has to be an automatic failure for a tabletop. Indeed, I think there's a lot to speak in favor of for it. It greatly reduces overhead in terms of needing to worry about things like printing, shipping and distribution if you can just handle the majority of your stuff electronically. Portable internet capable electronic devices are becoming more and more common, and are replacing dead tree format books in most areas.

So here's the question: Would a game marketed primarily from an electronic standpoint, with the dead tree books being basically extras that you can pay more for to get access to fluff/ideas/pretty art work?

Here's the scenario I'm figuring. The basic package is you pay 5 dollars a month. This gets you full access to the game's electronic library, which you can access online while you're paying it. The electronic library has all of the books in core rules format, stripped of fluff and the like (a la the SRD), easily available and searchable by anyone subscribed. The game is marketed and sold from this perspective, no 50-100 dollars to get into the game and try it, just 5 bucks and you have the full set of rules for the month.

If you cancel, you lose access to the books. However, the money you pay in sub fees can be used to buy permanent copies of the pdfs for your own use. Say 10-15 dollars for the pdf. So if you have the sub for 3 months, you have access to all books online, and also can now go grab one PDF which you've already paid for with your sub. The PDF has the full art and fluff along with the rules that are available as a part of the subscription.

Specifically you'd want to make sure the e-library stuff, and the pdfs, are compatible with Kindle, Pads, and Smartphones, so people can easily access the information anytime (but of course still available on regular computers/laptops for those without. And if they don't have internet at all... they're not your target audience).

You then sell the hardcopy books as a novelty item. Not actually needed, but some people prefer them so they're available. You print fewer of them, so they will cost more than your 20-30 dollar D&D book (probably closer to 40-50 dollars), but that's okay since the book isn't actually necessary or intended to play. You could probably allow people with subs to put their sub money towards hard cover books as well, rather than just PDFs. Of course, players could choose to buy pdfs and books as a lump payment in addition to (or instead of) the sub money.

Basically the point of the sub would be to give people easy entry to the game, there is no steep buy in. Pay 5 bucks you have everything you need to play. If you like it, you can keep paying, but the money's not going to waste, the longer you stay in, the more stuff you get out of it permanently.

If you plan to make program tools, such as a character generator, map/monster creator, or the like, then you could make these a part of a premium package, for a few extra dollars a month get access to these online tools. The tools are also available for download for a fee (probably around 20-30 dollars). To make such a package more enticing, possibly also release some fluff material/articles, or free adventure modules (say one full module released each month).

Last note: The service should have a limitation of 4-5 associated devices. Many users will probably eat through this with just their own laptop/desktop/phone/etc. Allow extra devices to be bought at an extra dollar or 2 a month per 5 extra devices. This way the whole group can get a single sub that will work for everyone for a few dollars more rather than everyone needing to get their own. In the end a full group of 5-6 people is still likely paying less than a single person's monthly WoW Sub.

This is similar to the D&D 4e model, but there are key differences:
-For the love of god don't charge for a service with the promise of programs that will be available at a later time that never actually get finished. Make sure your programs are done BEFORE you offer a premium service.

-There is nothing available from the sub that you can't outright buy. You want the character builder and nothing else? Sure, buy it for 30 bucks. But the sub is likely going to be the better deal for most people.

-You want to make sure you have a backlog of modules written before the service begins being offered. Preferably at least 3-4 months worth. That way you have a bit of leeway and can get them out on time more reliably.

-The money you pay into a sub isn't wasted. If you cancel your sub, or the company goes out of business, you don't suddenly lose all of your money. You still have all the products you actually paid for, you just had access to a wider library of products you hadn't paid for while your sub was active.

The point of the sub from the producers, rather than being a supplementary income stream, would be a guaranteed income stream. It is much easier to budget when you know for a fact you have X amount coming in every month from subs. Basically it is guaranteed sales of a product you're producing.

As an aside, I do feel it's worth noting that I have no experience marketing or selling products. This is my brainstorming of how a RPG might successfully be sold as an electronic format, something of an evolution from the current format of buying blocks of dead tree. It is also worth noting I personally have no RPGs I'm planning to start selling, so I'm not asking for help with marketing a product, I'm just tossing out ideas.

So now what I'm curious about is if the playground can give me the 101 or so reasons why this wouldn't work?

2011-09-01, 07:09 PM
This sounds like a pretty appealing idea to me; presuming that it's a game I'd really like to try, and that I could get a group together for, I'd accept such an approach in a heartbeat.

As far as problems go, I can only think of one: the lower entry cost could mean that you don't get as large an immediate set of sales, which could lead to decreased revenues that you might need to advertise your RPG, depending on your approach. On the other hand, increased raw numbers of people investing, due to the lower barrier to entry, could make up for that.