This is Audio EXP for the 18th of January 2020, and the title of this episode is ‘The big money week for RPG news’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #27]
Two things have kept me busy on Geek Native this week; RPG news about money and a stream of good looking and geeky trailers hitting the interwebs.
I’m going to start with the news that might have fallen under the radar.
Did you know that two of the original adventures for D&D are back in print? And by print, I mean; digital format.
The two in question are Palace of the Vampire Queen and The Dwarven Glory.
The originals came out in 1976 and 1977. Now, there was an adventure included in the original Blackmoor expansion. That was the Temple of the Frog, and that’s the title that gets to be the first-ever published adventure for D&D.
However, Palace of the Vampire Queen and The Dwarven Glory are the first third-party adventures to be created and sold. The company that made them is Wee Warriors and TSR themselves ended up doing the distribution.
Last year, Precis Intermedia – once known as Politically Incorrect Games – bought the Wee Warrior catalogue and have been re-releasing the adventures.
Right, let’s talk about money. Right now over at the DM’s Guild, you could save $1,830. How? Buy all the bundles in the Fight Fires With Games collection.
There are actually eight bundles in this collection. This means you don’t need to splash the $150 you need to scoop them all. For example, the fantasy supplements bundle is worth over $470, and it can be yours for $30.
It’s great to see so many DM’s Guild creators, big and small, line up to help efforts in Australia. The fires are still burning, and there are years of recovery ahead – that’s if recovery is even possible.
If you listened to last week’s Audio EXP, you’d know the Chaosium help lead the charge with a charity offer first. Green Ronin followed suit, and there’s a 20% discount on the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook with 30% of proceeds going to the fire effort.
Another money story that’s had broad appeal this week is the most recent analysis of tabletop game projects on Kickstarter.
A company called ICO Partners did all the hard work. They tallied up the value and number of games projects on Kickstarter, and when they shared the data, they broke it down into categories.
Geek Native focused on the tabletop data and drove in a bit deeper.
I can tell you that the second half of 2019 saw the most money raised for tabletop game projects than ever before. Over $95 million was found by gamers.
There was a record number of projects to tempt us with too. 1,391 of those projects succeeded and 727 failed.
Now, the success rate does usually dip in the second half of the year, and that’s what happened again in 2019. Symbolically, it means the success rate is back below 2:1.
It’s easy to imagine 2020 bringing in more than $100 million of tabletop game pledges. What a time to be a gamer, eh?
Two companies stood out as doing especially well with money this week.
The first is Hero Forge. I don’t think they’ve had a smooth ride of late, but they teased us with the possibility of colour custom minis for Hero Forge 2.0 last week. The Kickstarter launched this week and firms up that promise.
At the time I’m writing this script they’ve over $1.6 million in pledges and about 19,000 backers. That’s incredible.
The other company is Games Workshop which, I think, has made record profits.
Online sales are up to £24.2 million. Store sales are up to £45.3 million and the trade division – selling minis to other stores for resale – is up to £76.1 million.
They even managed to double their licensing fees to £10m, and that reminded everyone there’s a Warhammer 40K TV project in the works.
Investors are super-pleased. The Games Workshop machine has become very good at turning investment into profits. Furthermore, investors like things like scale and barriers to entry. Games Workshop dwarves their competitors so dramatically that they’re almost impossible to compete with.
That rather smoothly brings me to a story that didn’t get as much coverage in tabletop games news as I was expecting. Riot Games have announced they’re going to do more board games.
So, in the same week that investors were wowed by Games Workshop and their lack of competitors, a 2,500 employee company reminded the world that it intended to get serious about tabletop games.
Yeah, I know. Board games and Games Workshop style wargames aren’t the same, but they end up in the same section in Kickstarter, are sold in the same shops and do overlap.
Games Workshop can’t be complacent. There are intelligent and innovative companies out there that might try.
There’s Asmodee too. After Hasbro, Asmodee is the second-largest game maker, and it overlaps more significantly with Games Workshop. In fact, this week Asmodee announced even more purchases of games makers.
Gamers, though, would probably have been distracted by the news coming out of one of Asmodee’s largest companies: Fantasy Flight Games.
Last week Fantasy Flight Interactive was closed, and the news broke that employees in the RPG department were being laid off. This created lots of speculation about the future of those RPGs.
This week, a spokesperson for Fantasy Flight Games confirmed that three RPG lines would carry on for now.
That’s good news, but even if we count Star Wars as one line, there are nine different RPG ranges listed on Fantasy Flight’s site.
It seems likely that the RPGs that’ll continue, for now, are Star Wars, Genesys and Legend of the Five Rings.
So, does that mean it’s all over? Not quite. Fantasy Flight announced that the Star Wars Destiny game would end and the organised play for it come to an end.
It’s only speculation, but it looks as if the less profitable parts of the company are closing down.
You know what, there’s even a money and profit angle on the D&D leak news.
D&D’s mysterious March book turned out to be Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount.
Wildemount is part of Tal’dorei, and that’s the setting Critical Role plays in and created.
It turns out that Matthew Mercer was working with Wizards of the Coast for the last year and a half on this.
Now, as the news broke three things happened. They happened in this order; first, there was disappointment.
It wasn’t a quiet disappointment. I saw hundreds of gamers taking to the web to complain. They didn’t want a Critical Role book, they wanted another book. They didn’t agree on what book they wanted, but they knew they didn’t want another Tolkien-style western fantasy.
Dark Sun was a popular mention.
Then, the second thing that happened was Matthew Mercer taking to Reddit to share a heartfelt post in which he said it was okay to be disappointed. It was his usual charismatic self.
This rallied Critical Role fans and others to express their support for the book. Why can’t people just be allowed to enjoy things, they asked. It’s a good question.
The third thing that happened is people began to wonder about the timing. You see, Matthew Mercer had been working with Green Ronin on books for Critical Role. The Tal’dorei campaign setting book came out years ago. I bought a copy this week, and it looks good.
The press release at the time spoke of the intention to do more than one book. Of course, that didn’t happen.
So, if Mercer has been working with Wizards of the Coast secretly for the last 1.5 years does that mean he was two-timing on Green Ronin?
We don’t know, but the speculation has worried some gamers.
I think it’s unlikely Green Ronin will say anything too.
Wow. That’s some famous publishers and big names. I’ve noted in the past how much easier it is for big companies to get media attention. To try and balance that Geek Native’s Patreon supporters get to pick an indie publisher every month for us to focus on.
The winner of that poll this month is Gypsy Knight Games. Call it perfect timing or call it horrible timing, but Gypsy Knight Games is no more – they rebranded to Independence Games this month.
You might imagine the use of ‘Gypsy’ had its problems for them but there were other reasons for the rebranding too. I talked to Jon Watts about that.
I guess one of the reasons is that Gypsy Knights initially started as a third-party publisher to support Mongoose’s efforts with Traveller.
The two companies fell apart, and not in a particularly clean way either. Independence Games’ sci-fi titles no longer use Traveller, and use the Cepheus Engine instead.
Sticking with sci-fi settings and game systems, I reviewed Lancer this week and loved it. It’s an easy game to learn and a very difficult one to master.
It merges narrative role-playing with tactical mech warfare. You get to build an interesting PC while also getting to custom design your mech.
I think it’s worth checking out.
The EN World community voted on the best podcasts of 2019, and Zero.Blue.Origin is an actual play podcast of Lancer. So, if you don’t have the cash or the headspace to read a new RPG perhaps that podcast is worth a listen to as an alternative way to check out the game.
Now, I want to quickly run through some of the many trailers that caught my attention this week. You can find them all on YouTube, by searching for Geek Native trailers or checking out the show notes.
I think my favourite, so far, is Netflix’s trailer for October Faction. The parents are monster hunters, in secret. The family has just moved to a small American town, and their teenage twins aren’t happy about it. Feels like a perfect set up for a dramatic encounter with monsters if you ask me.
I also liked the energy of the Stargirl trailer. You’d think I’d be tired of all these CW superhero efforts yet and, yes, I’m miles behind in all of them, but the will is still there. Give me time, and I’ll watch them.
I might not get the chance with Stargirl, though, as no UK network or streaming platform has picked up the show yet.
Morbius the Living Vampire is getting a movie too.
It’s someone other than Marvel trying to do a Marvel movie. History isn’t with them, but I’ll admit the trailer looked pretty good. As it stands now, I’m going to give the movie a chance.
I might even see if I can find Venom and give that a watch.
There is an actual Marvel trailer to watch too. It’s the second Black Widow trailer. It’s okay. Feels like they’re holding back a bit, after all, they don’t need to reveal all their good stuff to persuade people into the cinema. Black Widow’s many appearances in the earlier Avengers movies have absolutely earned the character my attention.
Not all superheroes are owned by DC and Marvel. One of Valiant’s biggest titles is Bloodshot, and this week we had the second Bloodshot trailer with Vin Diesel.
I want to support Valiant, so I’ll try and make time for this movie as well. It doesn’t quite feel as slick and as graceful as a Marvel effort, but that’s no reason to give it the cold shoulder.
In the States, TNT will air a Snowpiercer TV series. Here in the UK, it’s been picked up by Netflix.
I’d say that’s a good sign for the show. Netflix stopped buying the rights to anything that’s not bolted down years ago.
Plus, it has Jennifer Connelly in it, and she’s an incredible performer. The original Snowpiercer comic is outstanding too, ahead of its time in many ways.
We’re about to get more Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The trailer for part 3 looks okay. I thought they had a challenge with part 2 and did a pretty good job. I think they’ll have an even bigger challenge with part 3. I mean; what’s left for Sabrina to do without the show twisting into something else entirely.
I’m happy to find out.
Lastly, as my wildcard suggestion, Netflix has a show called Ragnarok coming up. It’s a Danish show set in Finland. Set in contemporary times, it’s a good versus evil supernatural showdown and a possible end of the world.
That’s a wrap for this week. Take care.
Thoughts? Can you contribute to this article? Share your insight in the comments below.