Oh my God, a post about the business of indie games!

Well, with all the crazyness surrounding the cancellation of GenCon Oz and the… rising… of the Uprising event, it’s been a while since we have had a post about game design or indie publishing. This brief note is to point you prospective publishers towards an interesting post and discussion on the pricing and sale of indie games. It is from Two Scooters Press who have just launched the very cool Blowback RPG. The comments in this linked post get passionate, but I take it as a good sign – passionate people make this hobby go ’round.

This post is interesting stuff, and hits on something I learnt when I published Space Rat – at the price point I decided on I couldn’t sell the game to a distributor and make a worthwhile profit! Unless you are dealing in large numbers, or you can get a book printed really cheap, distribution is a killer for micro-press. On the flip side, getting the exposure that a company like IPR can offer is really difficult without them! Anyway, read the post and comment back here to let us know your thoughts on how you intend to work out the price of your game, or what you think a “reasonable” price for an RPG is.

About Nathan
Hey there! I'm a writer, father, geek, teacher and gentleman creative. Looking for my next adventure now...

5 Responses to Oh my God, a post about the business of indie games!

  1. Raymunji says:

    This was a really good read, publishing cost and distribution cost are things I only first thought about after a seminar at Gencon last year hosted by yourself Nathan. When I finally pull my finger out and finish one of my many ideas to the point of publishing and distribution I think I am going to need to take a very long hard look at options and decide if it is worth producing a hard copy (book) or just a softcopy (PDF). While the book is much more appealing to buy as a consumer, it’s a physical thing you can hold it, you can feel its worth as you skim through the pages. Where buying a pdf doesn’t give you that same satisfaction sure it’s great to have them at the gaming table to quickly check a rule out, but have you tried to read a 200 page pdf, it’s a nightmare I have just recently bought a couple of pdfs’ these are only about 90 pages but it’s the same deal if I want to read it I either have to be in the study on my pc far away from the rest of my family or try and read it on my laptop so I can sit out there with them and to do this so I can see more then 4 lines at a time I have to rotate the pdf 90 degrees clockwise and hold the laptop on the side so the viewing area matches that of a normal page.
    (sidenote: yes you could print it out but then what is the point of the pdf if you are just going to print it out and staple it together, also I have looked at buying an ipad or kindle to read them on but then I have just paid $700 to read a $15 pdf)
    However from a profit point of view does it make much sense for and Indie game publisher to produce hardcopies anymore? If the profit margin is so low.

    Cheers Ray

    • Nathan Russell says:

      Printing your books is expensive. For me, PDF’s are the future. I might do some POD (print on demand) through Lulu or DriveThru RPG. The exception will be wargame rules – I think this market is less PDF friendly (this isn’t based on anything but my gut feeling). Distribution is easier and overheads are lower with PDF. Profit margins can be greater with PDF’s but the downside is that (like traditional publishing) the book market is bigger than the PDF market. What do others think?

      • Elizabeth says:

        Elizabeth from the linked posts here! I hope I can shed some light on this.

        Profit margins on my game are atypically low, because it’s full-color, on extremely premium paper, and a non-standard trim size. For a typical black and white game— or even a black and white game with a couple pages of color inserts— you can expect a much higher profit margin.

        We make $20 of profit from each sale of Mist-Robed Gate ($8 when we sell to retailers), and $16 (or $6 to retailers) on It’s Complicated Revised. With the right printer and the right form factor, selling physical copies is absolutely a way small-press publishers can make money.

        If you do decide to go PDF only, please, PLEASE make use of the medium. Bookmark things, highlight things, leave annotations for your readers— hell, embed a demo video if it will help. Don’t just make it a print document that you didn’t print, and people will appreciate the document for what it is, instead of grumping about what it’s not.

  2. Nathan says:

    Thanks for bringing your perspective Elizabeth. I totally agree with the need for PDF’s to take advantage of the technology. After spending quite a bit of time reading PDF’s on the iPad, the difference between the readability and use of texts with and without hyperlinks is enormous. More game PDF’s should use embedded media! I guess it is a lack of expertise that we have not seen this in any great measure, yet.
    I recently found a PDF (the name escapes me right now) that has a link to the start of each chapter at the bottom of every page – a small but very helpfull addition.
    What do people think is essential in a PDF, what would be nice, and what would be “icing on the cake”?

  3. Raymunji says:

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Thanks for your article it was a really great read, and I appreciate your honest approach, it is hard to give an honest opinion this days without having the entire internet community come down on you that you are wrong no matter what the subject is.
    I love the idea of an embedded video in the pdf I had not thought of that. It’s a really great idea, if there was a tricky mechanic involve or one you get asked about a few times during play testing just add a small clip to show how it works. I also agree totally in regards to bookmarks and embedded links they are a must are for any kind of electronic documents, one thing I would love to see is links in text when something says (see page 26 for more information) you should be able to click this and it take you to page 26. Or clink the link and an exert of the text from page 26 pops up this way you don’t lose your page and have to try and find it again. I am one of those people who must read the referred text and then go back and continue to read, I know it probable take me twice as long to read the document and there will be a number of things I read twice.
    It would be nice to have these if you can wait till you reach page 26 that’s cool just don’t click the link, but for those like me its nice to have, I mean they have already spent the time working out what page needs to be referenced why not just add the link.
    Anyway that is my 2 cents.
    Cheers Ray.

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