FSpaceRPG article

Status: Official

As has become a tradition I give a review of the year at this time of year, so here it is.

2009 has been a very busy and hard year.

Sales have slumped at OBS amid a decline in major new releases during the course of the year. We’ve released a lot of titles, but they tend to be low value counter products, or re-releases of old versions of current products. As we are reliant on new release purchases to generate exposure for further sales, we’ve not done so well. And it is also harder to get into the various OBS email newsletters as more players are in the market and more regular releases happen. A slight rally at Xmas time has helped calendar year end sales - wait for announcements a few days into the New Year for progress.

I’ve also been reading that while rpg ebooks sales have been increasing, the overall roleplaying market is declining. Not enough hard data exists.

On the flip side it has been a year of intense effort in a number of areas to get our products available in more forms, and to counter Google’s actions and prepare for them to offer commercial sales. Many books are available as print on demand, our Mobipocket/Amazon and iPhone ebook collection has grown, and we’ve dived into paid applications on the iPhone. All these efforts may take a while to see some positive result, but it is all the activity we need to diversify, deliver where customers might be interested and reacting to market influences that may impact us (positive and negative).

The real reason for the poor result on OBS is really a result of my inability to work on major book releases because of the turmoil of this year with my job at Wellington City Council and the resultant redundancy in August. This could have some far reaching implications if I can’t secure a decent income. But in the short term it has given me the free time to make some massive strides in other activities, such as the iPhone work, and getting all those Beta docs done.

How did 2009 measure up against my intended plans.?

The website has advanced in some areas with some nice functionality added over the year. No progress has been made on the major GIS endeavour however. Ad revenue has not progressed much further since the results near the beginning of the year - but I think I might know why. Average visitor traffic has continued to increase according to Google Analytics.

We’ve also moved to a modern server at the end of this year, which should serve our purposes for another 4-5 years. The move has certainly reduced the level of spam I was trying to manage, and that is a good thing from a time management perspective.

I had hoped to publish some scenarios this year, but never got around to it. A goal to shift to 2010. The same applies to the catalog books, and our intentions with TayanaRPG. Stockart and typefaces have also been neglected.

The iPhone ebook development, and the recent tangent into useful generic apps involved unplanned work, but has resulted in positive revenue contributions at a time when other channels aren’t going well. The results of this are fantastic, and have been the focus of the use of some of my social media promotional activity on Facebook. It has also built up some useful experience which could see these projects taken to other platforms like Nokia, Palm and maybe Android based smartphone systems. What has been most interesting about this, is that the Apple iTunes channel represents a channel where some non-fiction books have been selling, lending some measure of success to diversifying outside normal gaming activities.

Gameboard pieces and maps have been the mainstay of my new releases this year. I’ve generated quite a few sets, and more will come in the future. For this year however I think the progress was what I expected.

Development of art has progressed as I expected for the year. A few new compositions have been done, while lot’s of enhancements to our library of images have contributed to graphics found in new releases. This is all helping towards my vision of an all colour Concise Rulebook, but I still have a long way to go. I certainly have all the right tools to progress art at this time. The new MacBook Pro laptop purchased this year was the key to replacing the loss of the work machine, and taking things further. The old HP tablet has certainly helped during the interim period and was used to do a couple of the counter products during the interim, and has been key to my efforts for Mobipocket books. It will continue to be helpful in the future.

I’m pleased Stephen managed to get his Martial Arts book done, and he has been working on more new material, which when ready will be a great boost to the game.

I think the year has been a very mixed one, but does show that I can’t rest on existing products and continue to have the game pay for it’s normal operating expenses. I’ve yet to build up a strong enough portfolio of products to do this. But this may not be far off if I can deliver all those partially finished products in my repository.

The key will be to look at the financial result at the end of March. It might prove to be a better year than predicted.

Our hopes of a paid Traveller product range haven’t met with success, as approaches to Marc Miller have resulted in no response. It may be time to abandon such a pursuit and just focus on reuse within FSpace as planned. Under current terms it is possible to release ‘fan’ level Traveller material, and OBS is a channel to do this. We currently use the freebies (largely taken by Traveller players) to get our mailing list of customers bigger. TMS might suit that. I still have some issues to work out.

Using the D&D components of Tayana as well has shown a bottleneck. Written using a mix of 1st and 2nd ed AD&D and elements of D&D, this material is about 1/3 of the literature on Tayana before I began porting it to be it’s own game. My initial checks as noted in an email yesterday shows some of the issues, but doesn’t shut that door. It just needs carefully considered work, rather than an easy option.

I think 2009 has set a solid platform for the years ahead, and allowed for explorations of some avenues that will be important for the future.

What I’d love to know is what you all think of the happenings in 2009.

Do you think I did enough?
Were there things you think I should have done differently?
Good points?

Categories: Development

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