Thoughts on growing the RM and SW gaming community.


For those that feel like table-top RPG’s are a stagnant market or that there is no growth opportunity for ICE, RM or Shadow World I would point out two facts:

  1. There are an average of 27 new forum members per day on the ICE Forums. That’s not a lot but that’s incremental growth. Every new member will be able to see the development of RMU, the large number of resources in terms of thread topics, file uploads and Q&A’s that are available and the active participation of product authors. Being able to get quick and detailed responses from the RMU developers or Terry himself is pretty cool—especially to a new ICE customer!
  2. There are still gamers that haven’t heard of, or are not familiar with Shadow World! Even after almost 30 years. I recently saw this thread where several posters were completely unaware:

There are three basic ways to grow sales: acquire new customers (grow the game community), convert competitor’s customers or sell/upsell to your existing customers. Many would argue that growth in new table top players is stagnant, lost to new media and video games. But growth is occurring and RM and SW have a place in that market. Converting gamers to RM and SW is a bit easier—RM started as a modular “bolt on” product to D&D and SW has never really been stat intensive and can and has been used with a variety of gaming systems. Selling more product to current customers is the fall-back approach; what we call “low hanging fruit”. Publish a new product or revision and you’ll get a certain percentage of existing customers that will buy it—baked-in sales.

There is certainly opinions and criticisms of each of these approaches. Some argue that RMU won’t bring in new gamers; that ICE needs a simple introductory rule set. Others feel ICE just needs to push out more products in general. If there was one right answer, or if business strategy was that definitive than everyone would be a millionaire! The truth is that all three channels need to be explored and I think that ICE is doing a fairly good job given its organizational footprint and resources to bear.

There are new tools for small or emerging companies: social media, organic growth strategies, guerilla marketing etc. Putting those aside, there is one essential strategy for growing a customer base: from the ground up: “boots on the ground”. RM and SW need to be introduced locally, whenever possible. Gaming nights at the local library, game store or youth center. Tournament modules at gaming conventions etc. Other industries use “sponsorships”; this might be worth exploring. Having GM starter packs, online private forums and other tools to encourage local GM’s to adopt ICE games and use them locally builds a customer base. Reimbursing GM’s for travel and hotel costs at GENCON might pay itself off quite well.

Let’s look at another industry that has some similarities: rapid adoption, youth client base, local growth. I used to be heavily involved in the paintball industry. The sport grew rapidly in the 2000’s: tournaments were televised nationally, fields opened up everywhere, there were at least 8 glossy magazines dedicated to the sport and equipment companies had robust sponsorships for teams and local retail stores. Over time, the equipment manufacturers started their own retail websites and sold directly to their customer base. Once they captured direct sales and the associated retail margins they became less motivated to spend money on local sponsorship and player development. They became direct competitors of the local stores. While the economic crash was a contributing factor, since the late 2000’s the industry has shrunk by 80%. Yes, part of the issue was the wholesale/retail strategy of the manufacturers, but a larger part was a slower and more insidious feedback loop: there is no place to play paintball.  Store retail sales suffered, which reduced player development, field investments and local marketing. Because of this, fewer players participated in paintball and store sales suffered further. Local paintball businesses closed and there were less options to play and thus less players. Overall a self-fulfilling downward spiral.

What are the analogs to the gaming industry? Local development can be an effective strategy to growing a customer base. I don’t think RGP’s will see the same boom that we experienced in the early 80’s BUT…aging gamers are teaching their kids to play and creating a new generation of RPGers. It’s a slower process that requires a broader strategy than a top-down advertising or point of sale effort. Supporting gaming conventions, creating a GM starter pack, reimbursing experienced GM’s to attend every con possible, creating a “game ambassadorships” for targeted cities/regions—these are low cost strategies to build the game base. Growing the local gaming community grows the base, which then grows company sales. A virtuous feed-back loop.




7 Replies to “Thoughts on growing the RM and SW gaming community.”

  1. I friend of mine and I have discussed creating a sort of organized play focused on all the lesser-knowns. Events that are easy to join at a moment’s notice and don’t require commitment beyond 1 session are important for introduction.

    1. That is the sort of thing that can be easily supported if there were an online database of pre-gen characters at a variety of levels.

      The RM community is very active and supportive of ICE. If they held a ‘barn raising’ event and asked the community to create NPCs using the latest rule set, say Rangers on Monday, Clerics on Tuesday and so on. It would cost next to nothing to host them all as PDF documents.

      For a start up GM wanting to run a one off session they would be a great resource.

  2. I’ve mentioned on the forums that I believe one way of getting new people in is to make a Pathfinder (originally d20, which was started) SW Master Atlas. Then offer the purchasers coupons for RM/RMU. If you can understand Pathfinder, you can probably understand RM (Pathfinder – and D&D3.X – is waaay more complicated than D&D/AD&D.AD&D 2nd Edition ever were).

  3. I think that is a brilliant idea. Anything that allows ICE to tap into the far larger audience of Pathfinder will help bring new blood into RM.

    Selling SW material to Pathfinder players is equally brilliant as the creative element of the SW material is already done. It is just stats for Pathfinder that need doing.

    1. I think the original d20 atlas kept falling down in layout. Much of the stuff might still be reusable, as there’s a lot of cross-compatibility between D&D3.X and Pathfinder, although it would need reworking. And by someone pretty familiar with Pathfinder. Perhaps a Kickstarter to fund it?

      1. I think that is a very good idea. The kickstarter itself would help promote the project Pathfinder is a strong brand and would attract attention.

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