Monday, March 5, 2018

My Life as a Gamer: Palladium's Robotech Loss Signals Existential Problem

I put out the word over the weekend that Palladium Books lost the Robotech license. Again. By the end of this month they have to liquidate all of their existing RPG and miniatures game product (including the PDFs), which means a fire sale is coming. The long and short is that Uncle Kevin severely under-estimated what making a miniatures game would entail, under-estimated the costs, got himself caught up in the chaos, and fucked it all up big time until it blew up in his face.

This reminds me of the "Crisis of Treachery" where we learned that Kevin mixed personal and business assets together, such that when he ran into this financial chaos previously it threatened to destroy him personally. If not for the massive bailout by the members of his personality cult that he calls his fans, Palladium would've ceased to exist years ago.

I expect that Uncle Kevin will find a way to keep Palladium running despite himself one more time, but that this is the last time he's endure this sort of thing. This is the second time his own faults and flaws have driven him to disaster within a decade, and for all that Palladium has a track record of endurance over the decades the conditions have so changed in the field that sticking to the old model has already ceased to be long-term viable, and the long-term will soon be the short term.

There is no way out for Palladium so long as Kevin remains the shot-caller and refuses fundamental reform of both product and business model. As much as Wizards of the Coast and Paizo get shat upon, justly so, they both have made moves in this direction; if not for the poz spoiling the results, their one-two position would not only be unassailable, but no competition would be commercially viable and thus most would cease to exist.

There is no law that requires Palladium to exist. If Kevin can't do what must be done, then shut down it shall, and Palladium will fall upon a heap of dead companies. Losing a piss-easy license, after fucking up a successful Kickstarter campaign, are tells that a company long past its prime has finally faced an existential crisis that cannot be ignored if it is to be overcome. If Kevin had a clue, he'd abandon licensed product altogether and recommit the company to RIFTS, Palladiun Fantasy, and Heroes Unlimited- in that order.

And doing that requires something else: a move away from the print-centric paradigm of old, and towards digital-primary where the audience (and the money) now lies, because monetization now has different options than back in the 1970s when Palladium first launched. If Kevin can't do that, then the wise thing to do now is to cash out, shut down, and retire. The Internet Changed Everything, and only those willing and able to accept that fact will endure going forward.


  1. As with comics, the smart money left print RPGs some time ago.

    1. The smart money left tabletop RPGs some time ago. The only real use for them now, in business terms, is as a IP farm league. Anything that hits like D&D should shift immediately to vidya and refocus there.