I guess a lot of you have read the discussions in the blogosphere lately where "experts" of all kind explain why the hobby industry is doomed, or not. It started when James Mishler laid down his version of things. Naturally people started arguing. This first post, percolated in my mind a bit before I decided what to make of it. Then he replied to some selected individuals and the points they brought up. Now it started to get interesting, since some of the people who replied are pretty thick in the middle of the actual production of games themselves. Now I just read his final word on the matter, and I'm not all that impressed.
Frankly, anyone who waves around words like Great Depression like James does need to chill. His knowledge of how to produce a RPG, and the steps needed and their relative costs, is probably ok. But, an expert on global economy he is not. His view of the greater economic trends is extremely limited, based entirely on the US and frankly something a publisher of books, magazines and games should keep away from. You think you know something about publishing games, being on the inside of the hobby for many years? I think you are right! You think that makes you an expert on macroeconomic problems? I don't think so.
So, would that damn the man? No, probably not. But, the fact that his analysis is really limited and he is obviously talking about things he isn't an expert on (unless he has unmentioned experience in politics and running a big company) makes you wonder how much he is off the mark.
Do I mean that everything James say is false? No, the sad fact is that most of what he say is probably correct. But, a while ago Joseph Goodman posted his analysis of how well D&D4 is selling, and is basically boiled down to "I know more than you since I have data to prove it, but I'm not making that data public". It's a situation most often reacted to by "Put up or shut up". Rightly, people were annoyed by his attitude. Now look at the attitude of James Mishler. He calls Gareth Skarka for "King of Snarks". Dude, who is being snarky now? If you want to be believed, scale back on the hyperbole.
Are roleplaying games to cheap? Well, considering how many hours of entertainment you get from a core rulebook they surely are. Since that is not a very convincing economic argument, how about this one. If the pay for the most well paid contributor to a game book is paid less than it takes to make a living, nobody is going to make a living out of writing game books. That's all there is to the whole debate. Now, you have to decide if you think it makes sense for people to expect to make a living out of writing for games.
How about pdf's then? Well, I've written already about the total cost of a pdf buy. I still stand by those conclusions that it makes little sense to buy a pdf for the prices you pay today if you have to foot the bill for printing yourself and get a less attractive product. You say that is intentional to make me buy the hardcopy book? I think the idea is flawed. Erik Mona and John Wick will soon have had core books out there for a deep discount. Time will tell how that pans out.