Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Something I Should Have Done a Long Time Ago...


artwork by llyn hunter. i've stolen it and i have no intentions of giving it back.
check out more of her work at llynhunter.com


Ptolus.

Okay.

Since I was the lead on the still largest book in gaming history, let me try to give me two cents on what I think is a vastly superior, yet doomed to not making any money, product.

For starters, while I have little reason to belittle Monte online, I'm not interested in glad-handing him either. He'll get no special treatment from me here.

He's turned from the industry, anyway. So what I have to say about his book matters very little.

Heck. I don't think he even knows who I am.

Okay.

In terms of sales, the WLD did very well. I won't go showing those numbers off online, but it outsold any d20 books we'd done in 3 years prior.

Some of it I'm sure was the smart marketing of the book, but I can predict with some accuracy that a small percentage of sales were due to solid material and the ENWorld thread that supported the product.

Few companies have the marketing moxie of Monte Cook. He's a machine. He may not be my favorite writer, but I must admire his ability to sell himself. A gift that few, if any, game writers possess. Even the best of us in the industry can't do it.

Sidebar: I tried to pimp myself at GenCon as a frelance art director for companies who cannot afford it. Even with my track record, no one wanted to hear anything even close to bragging at their booth. Gamers just seem to shun that sort of behavior. Reminds me of the insults to keep one humble mentality often used in the military.

Anyway.

Monte's book looks great. I'm sure it's chock full of great content. I haven't actually touched a copy, nor did I see anything other than the book at a distance and the PDF spreads online, but I think the book is a major achievement.

But it's a little too late.

2006 is not the year you release a $120 book into gaming that's tied in anyway to RPGs. Unless you're Luke Crane and you only expect to sell 1,000 copies of your ground-breaking, full-color, Print On Demand game, you have no place trying to pump a 600-page book into this glutted, bloated marketplace.

Not another fantasy world, anyway.

While I don't have the numbers in front of me, I'll bet that the revenue stream from RPG sales is 35% of what it was in the year following the release of 3.0. Even if you could capture 1% of that, that's still only 3,500 customers (taking into account the approximation of 1 million PHBs sold).

I don't have specific figures in front of me, but that's certainly enough information to go on about whether or not a product of this magnitude is worth doing... especially TWO YEARS after the release of the WLD.

I'm not being arrogant. I'm being pragmatic.

And the 1% of gamers picking it up, is also a lofty expectation. I know of NO ONE that bought this.

And I know a lot of gamers.

Again. I don't have Monte's numbers in front of me, either. So this is all speculation. But I didn't see the clammor for Ptolus that I saw for products 1, 2, and 3 years before. Certainly I'm not "in the know" like I used to be, but all I have to go on is what I see and hear from people at places like GenCon.

Bad timing. Just, bad timing.

Lastly. I don't care what your logic is. Ptolus is a horrible name for a product. It's hard to pronounce, it doesn't really mean anything, and from the neophyte's perspective, it's a book about... anything?!?! There's not even some cool marketing jargon tied to it. And if there is, I've not heard it.

If we'd named the World's Largest Dungeon, the Prison of Mizzle-Mux, how many few copies would we have sold? Half?

I don't think that's an unfair approximation, either.

Naming your product is as important as any other bit of Marketing you do.

Arcana Unearthed would have sold more copies (probably) if it had been called Handbook for the Player, in my opinion.

So. I'm going to say. Ptolus is a dumb name. It could be the greatest book in the history of gaming. But it has a dumb name.

And I can't excuse it. Hell, even if it were an Acronym for something.

Nope. Nevermind. That would have been worse.

How can the marketing giant of the internet make this blunder?

Okay.

I had to get that out.

Good luck with the book, Monte. I HOPE it does really well for Myrmidon, but I can't say with any certainity that the industry is going to be very forgiving about these two very large scale "misses."

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