Thursday, March 15, 2018

What a Tabletop RPG Needs To Be Now: Part 5

All this effort doesn't mean a damned thing if no one knows you're there. That's what the hustle is about.

Tabletop RPGs rely on The Network Effect for their value. That's why very few tabletop RPGs are actually worth playing; you're going to have a hard time justifying your existence to users of the dominant network.

This leaves you with a choice: target the dominant network of users, or target a different demographic that the dominant network does not serve or satisfy. Your response to this choice will influence how your game develops, as you will change your rules, mechanics, and content to match the targeted users' expectations in order to fulfill their demand (and thus make sales, converting potential to actual users).

Okay, you do that. Now what? You have your System Reference Document up. You have a site for people to follow. You start building up an email list so you can guarantee contact to your users. You have your first few content products available at Amazon. How do you get more people to give your game the time of day?

In the old days, this mean hitting the con circuit and doing demos in store. This isn't important anymore. It's nice, but don't bother unless it is literally not at all an inconvenience. Just as most prospects shop at Amazon, most of them spend time online to socialize. That's where the eyeballs are, so that's where you need to be.

You may hate social media, but for you it's your equalizer. Just as you had better be blogging daily, you need to make use of Twitch, YouTube, etc. because online Disney and Bob are on level ground. This is not just you doing those things; it's also you showing up on others'. Find the podcasts that cater to your niche, and show up on them on the regular. Use the social media to drive traffic to your site and get folks on the list.

You need to get used to audio and video. Learn how to sell, how to demonstrate, how to pitch. Then start cutting videos explaining how your mechanics work. Do it live on Twitch. Archive it on YouTube. (Lather, rinse, repeat- especially if other platforms replace these two.) Keep your videos like this short; organize them into a playlist, and then embed it on your site.

Got a Discord server? Get one; it's free, fantastic, and easily-managed so it doesn't turn into a sewer. Combined with a Twitch channel, you have all you need to run online games before an audience- thus making demo games easy and convenient in a way that the old in-store and con hustle never was.

The point here is that you have a full toolbox of applications and services available now to allow you, the individual, to compete with the big boys and--at the least--make them fight for their position. It's never been better to be a small outfit or one-man band than here and now. The downside is that you have to assume all of the responsibility to make it succeed and keep it going, so you've got to learn a hell of a lot more than just how to design an entertaining game and write its technical specifications in terms that a user--a normie, inevitably--can readily comprehend.

Sure, the Network Effect is real, but your ability to make it work--coming and going--to your benefit has never been better. That said, there's a clear pattern to real lasting success; certain sorts of games are proven winners, and certain approaches are proven winners. You're not going to get anywhere reinventing the wheel, so you'd better know what works before you get into this. That's tomorrow's post.

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