Astral TableTop is a free website that makes it easier to play roleplaying games online for gaming groups who like to use maps, minis and keep collective track of character sheets.
It’s now possible for DriveThruRPG publishers to sell Astral modules.
Astral has a marketplace for supplements, assets and adventures. One week in August, the virtual tabletop added more than 1,400 media assets to it. There’s plenty to find. However, the integration with DriveThruRPG is important for two reasons.
Firstly, there’s the brand recognition factor. Gamers on DriveThruRPG, searching for new games or new supporting material will see when there’s associated content especially designed for Astral, be reminded of Astral and perhaps consider that a boost for their chances of actually being able to play the game.
Secondly, DriveThruRPG has considerable market share and reaches gaming audiences that Astral might struggle to do alone.
Even before the lockdown, the virtual tabletop market was growing, driven forward by actual play shows like Critical Role and improved by competition induced innovation.
DriveThruRPG partnered up with Astral a few years ago and have been generous with banner advertising for the tabletop on their site. However, the inclusion of Astral modules in DTRPG’s catalogue will make gamers sit up and notice in a way that ads won’t.
The link between marketplaces and virtual tabletops is clear. Once you pick a virtual tabletop, you are inclined towards digital purchases that are compatible with that tabletop. It’s easy to see how Astral and DriveThruRPG can have a mutually beneficial relationship.
I spoke to Scott Holden, Director of Marketing and Publisher Relations at OneBookShelf (DTRPG’s owner).
Virtual tabletops have been improving steadily for years now. The VTT is sort of a new frontier, or maybe it’s more accurate to say an old frontier reimagined: Some of the earliest video games were text-based RPGs that grew out of tabletop games, so it’s rewarding to see this kind of video game-adjacent technology converging with pen-and-paper games again in this familiar but new way.
Especially given the current need for social distancing, we’re seeing the demand for VTTs really blossom. Some folks are happy to play using technology in this way, but newer converts are maybe a bit sceptical about what VTTs have to offer them. They want something as close as possible to the “pure” tabletop experience they already know. We think they’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn what Astral has to offer.
Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds, Astral’s main competitors, for now, both have deals with Wizards of the Coast and new D&D supplements tend to be made available for their users about the same time as D&D Beyond gets the book.
Wizards are taking something of a multi-platform approach to virtual tabletops, but only 4% of the 200 games on Friday of D&D Celebration 2020 will use Fantasy Grounds, 66% will use Roll20.
The potential sleeping giant in the ecosystem is Fandom Tabletop. Fandom own Cortex, the RPG system behind the new Dragon Prince RPG and Legends of Grayskull. D&D Beyond, which Fandom runs, is slowly adding virtual tabletop like features, such as a dice roller, and Fandom is actively working on an online marketplace for third-party Cortex publishers.
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