Saturday, 24 January 2009

Indie Game Designers in a Recession

Under the current global economic conditions, I've begun to wonder about the viability of RPGs as a revenue stream.  Admittedly, they aren't a  prosperous revenue stream in the first place, but with the recession now upon us I feel that this has some wider implications.


If I look at the relationship between RPG Supply and Demand, I suspect that we have more supply than demand.  The IPR practice of taking stock as consignment is clever and lets them ride out these fluctuations.  Keeping 200 copies of Spirit of the Century on the shelf was a good idea 6 months ago.  Today, keeping 200 copies of other (less popular) titles on the shelf is going to cause cashflow problems.  We are in a situation of over-supply, I believe, but I don't think this is a problem for the indie game designers.


Indie games are designed and published with small scales in mind, and most importantly with few overheads.  The typical indie game designer does it with spare time, while being supported by a full-time or part-time income.  The cost of living is off the books, so to speak.  The very model used for publishing (print-on-demand, or PDF distribution) is actually the salvation of the indie game designer under current conditions.  Small print runs using POD, or even just selling PDF copies means low production costs, and it means that the designer/publisher can attempt to balance supply with demand.


The impact on the commercial RPG publishers isn't so rosey.  Already there have been retrenchments at WOTC.  The fear that spare cash will dry up has struck already.  That's sad for the staff who have had to go - no argument there.


But this allows the indie designer a glimmer of idealistic hope.  Design games because you want to, not because you need to.  Make the games interesting and clever.  And if you're really idealistic, make them cheap for people to buy.  After all, if we all lose our jobs, a good game of something cheap will let us spend time with friends without feeling compelled to spend lots of money in the process.

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