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Why Magic World Failed


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17 hours ago, Rick Meints said:

Here are some of my thoughts on Magic World. Most of its launch, support, and marketing efforts predate the current Chaosium management team. You can refer to us as "nu-Chaosium" if you wish, but it seems that those few who cling to that term use it in the pejorative. I can't really speak about what was done before mid-2015 because I wasn't involved in business decisions, and although I followed much of what Chaosium has been up to since about 1979, I can't remember anything related to Magic World showing up in my in-basket, social media, or similar. When I became involved with deciding what Chaosium was going to publish in mid-2015, the Magic World line was in a state of flux. We had 4 manuscripts (in various states of completion) on offer, yet no money to spend on them. That sucks when you want to give creatives a fair return, but we had to make payroll at the end of the month and also print thousands of books for the CoC 7th edition Kickstarter backers who had already spent over 600K of their money. When a Magic World book typically sold 500 copies in a year, paying a fair and decent rate for a forthcoming manuscript meant spending all the money we could probably expect to earn in the first 6-12 months of sales of that book, at best breaking even. That was money we didn't have to spend. Trying to boost the prominence of Magic World could not be a priority. Saving the company and fulfilling the Kickstarters was. In the end, I think we did ok.

I believe most discussions around why Magic World failed has more to do with decisions made by old Chaosium rather than by new Chaosium (both used in a non-pejorative way) since by the time new management jumped in, Magic World had already failed. Sure you might have taken some heat because you were the ones to bag the line but you could only make decisions based on what was on the table at that moment.

I still believe @Jakob had a good idea about using the MW text as a Fantasy SRD.

Edited by DreadDomain
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Here are some of my thoughts on Magic World. Most of its launch, support, and marketing efforts predate the current Chaosium management team. You can refer to us as "nu-Chaosium" if you wish, but it s

No one buys a game if they don't know there's a game to buy. Magic World wasn't promoted or supported in any significant way. So why would sales be anything but low? Most of us only knew about it beca

AS Ben has pointed out - the original plan as far as he was aware was to produce a low cost entry game, comprehensive and concisely laid out (channelling the games fore-bear Elric!, rather than the lo

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I never would never blame it on the newer management.  By the time they took over MW was on hospice, the company was in dire straits.  So they did make the best possible choice.  Its just a shame a neato game didn't make its child survival rolls.

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6 hours ago, Rick Meints said:

... You can refer to us as "nu-Chaosium" if you wish, but it seems that those few who cling to that term use it in the pejorative ...

I've stopped using the term since you mentioned this some time back.

Nevertheless, I really *HATE* surrendering such a very USEFUL turn of phrase to the trolls & the haters!


(FWIW)
(n.b. maybe it's just a self-fulfilling prophecy, as you discourage all Chaosium's well-wishers from using the term, leaving only the perjorative ... )

😉

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43 minutes ago, g33k said:

I've stopped using the term since you mentioned this some time back.

Nevertheless, I really *HATE* surrendering such a very USEFUL turn of phrase to the trolls & the haters!


(FWIW)
(n.b. maybe it's just a self-fulfilling prophecy, as you discourage all Chaosium's well-wishers from using the term, leaving only the perjorative ... )

😉

We prefer to be called "Chaosium". 

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5 hours ago, craigm said:

Thank you for this clarification.

I know that speaking about the future is something that is best left for professional prognosticators and not forum-postings that suddenly become sworn vows to fans who take everything as gospel, but wondering if there might be some small life in this line as a form of Fantasy SRD or small POD line. I know that the immediate answer for the POD is likely "we still are paying to store current unsold inventory" but it feels like this was a good idea that never got its due that could have a comfortable life inspiring future folks who love BRP and fantasy but want to tweak it outside of established Chaosium properties.

No answer needed; just some rambling thought of someone who felt this candle could have burned brighter than it did.

As noted back in 2016 when we announced Chaosium was no longer actively supporting Magic World, we're fine with stuff coming out as a fan work or under license by another publisher if there is such interest. 

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1 hour ago, MOB said:

As noted back in 2016 when we announced Chaosium was no longer actively supporting Magic World, we're fine with stuff coming out as a fan work or under license by another publisher if there is such interest. 

Give me some time to read and chew on the book.  Btw when can we expect a fan works section for BRP ala miskatonic repository?

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2 hours ago, soltakss said:

Not me, you are the new improved Chaosium.

And it's certainly better than being "turgid-era Chaosium". (Mea culpa!)  "Doldrum-era" probably would've been more appropriate anyway.

!i!

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Ironically MW took the guts and substance of the Elric! rules and tweaked and improved them (from adding Crossbows and Fantasy staples to streamlining character generation and adding wonderfully whimsical rules for intelligent talking animals) but didn't take the presentation and fluff (broken record time: layout and presentation of Elric! is still THE BEST I've ever seen even if I don't personally like some of the bigger illustrations). And by not doing the 'soft' stuff so well wasn't taken seriously for the hard 'stuff'. By concentrating on Content over Style the Content was lost.

I thought it was going to sell like hotcakes because frankly I was the target market. Unfortunately there weren't enough people like me to make a big enough target market.

IF IF IF IF the publisher had enough resources at the time for a sustained release schedule, and the layout had been the same as Elric! and more people wanted the same things as me and the zeigeist had been different, who knows?

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10 hours ago, g33k said:

I've stopped using the term since you mentioned this some time back.

Nevertheless, I really *HATE* surrendering such a very USEFUL turn of phrase to the trolls & the haters!


(FWIW)
(n.b. maybe it's just a self-fulfilling prophecy, as you discourage all Chaosium's well-wishers from using the term, leaving only the perjorative ... )

😉

Until Rick's post, I had only considered the term as a way to differentiate the new management from the old  management, no more, no less. I had  seen it used in a pejorative way but had also seen "Chaosium"  or "new management" used in a negative way so I never read too much into it.

Anyway, now that I know that the term may hurt some feelings, I'll make sure not to use it.

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Not to put too fine a point on it or dwell on it, people are welcome to use whatever terms they want, as long as they do so in a civil manner. I just find it odd that saying "nu-chaosium's latest books are X" is somehow more clear than just saying "chaosium's latest books are X". Present tense is present tense, past tense is past tense.

Regardless, feedback on our products is good, and welcome. None of my feelings have been hurt. It's all part of the job.

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4 hours ago, Rick Meints said:

Not to put too fine a point on it or dwell on it, people are welcome to use whatever terms they want, as long as they do so in a civil manner. I just find it odd that saying "nu-chaosium's latest books are X" is somehow more clear than just saying "chaosium's latest books are X". Present tense is present tense, past tense is past tense.

Regardless, feedback on our products is good, and welcome. None of my feelings have been hurt. It's all part of the job.

Its good to watch history, to seek to learn from it, even better to learn from others follies.  To say that you guys avoided some of  the same follies if the previous version of chaosium is a massive understatement

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10 hours ago, Rick Meints said:

Not to put too fine a point on it or dwell on it, people are welcome to use whatever terms they want, as long as they do so in a civil manner. I just find it odd that saying "nu-chaosium's latest books are X" is somehow more clear than just saying "chaosium's latest books are X". Present tense is present tense, past tense is past tense.

Oh, absolutely. To be honest, I do not usually use that term and like I said above, I only think it makes sense when used to make a distinction between old and new Chaosium. "New Chaosium" or "New Management' latest books" don't make any more sense. Chaosium it is. 

10 hours ago, Rick Meints said:

Regardless, feedback on our products is good, and welcome. None of my feelings have been hurt. It's all part of the job.

Apologies, I have overstated it. Allow me to rephase in a more sensible way. Now knowing the the term nu-Chaosium may be seen in a negative way, I will avoid using it in the future.

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On 1/26/2021 at 3:09 AM, Jeff said:

We prefer to be called "Chaosium". 

While that's a (very) fair point, the transition to the MD team running things is... well, kind of a big deal, from the fan POV.

I assume it's a big deal from your POV, too!

An easy term of art to reflect the simple fact that today's Chaosium is very very much not the Chaosium of 7 years ago... that's something worthwhile, to fans who comment on the company, who want to respond (FrEx) to other fans griping about "olChaosium" behaviors and dissatisfactions, etc etc etc.  Who don't want to deliver a paragraph (or three) precis of the company's history, just to HAVE that conversation.

Which is why I mourn the loss of "nuC" (that, along with my aforementioned hatred of ceding ANY terms or memespace to the trolls and the haters).

But @Rick Meintshas mentioned more than once that he mostly sees the term used negatively, and dislikes it; so I've (not without regrets) stopped using it.

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18 hours ago, Rick Meints said:

... I just find it odd that saying "nu-chaosium's latest books are X" is somehow more clear than just saying "chaosium's latest books are X". Present tense is present tense, past tense is past tense ...

That may have been a reviewer from the Department of Redundancy department?


I find  "nu-chaosium's latest books are X" to be a useful differentiation from "chaosium's latest books are X".

Much of the good things that are true of your products are not (reliably) true of the products from the prior decade (or two (or three...)) .  Sufficiently so that "Chaosium's books are X" is IMHO not functionally useful, unless "X" is some simple factual bit, like "generally use BRP/d100 or derived mechanics."
 

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Any discussion of nicknames here is inextricably tied up in professional reputation.  I've always perceived the prefix "nu-" as, at best, a back-handed compliment -- technically correct, yes, but trite and diminutive.  What I find odd, though -- and this is central to discussion of the OP -- is the lament for a period with a reputation that the company is working very hard to outlive.  I am still angry about a certain book that I bought from that era, and while I regret that not all of the scattershot of creative ideas could be carried forward under new management, I don't regret the renewed focus on professionalism.

So what went wrong with Magic World?  In my less-than-informed opinion?  A deficit of professional planning and management.

!i!

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2 minutes ago, Ian Absentia said:

So what went wrong with Magic World?  In my less-than-informed opinion?  A deficit of professional planning and management.

!i!

Sadly, this part of your post could be applied to almost everything Chaosium was doing at the time. There just seemed to be no rhyme or reason, and many of the products released at the time looked pretty amateurish compared to what the licensees were putting out at the same time. I remember browsing through Chaosium's Atomic Age Cthulhu (CoC supplement) and Miskatonic River Press's Tales of the Sleepless City and marveling at how sophisticated the layout was in the latter, and how shabby the Chaosium book looked by comparison.

But those were the "bad old days" and thankfully Chaosium has rocketed into the 21st century with regard to the look of their books.

I can but wonder wistfully what a revamped Magic World line might look like if it were produced by Chaosium today. Sigh.

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I think Magic's World's "failure" stems mostly from the fact that it came out at a time when Chaosium didn't really give much support anything other than Call of Cthulhu. Strombringer went though five different editions (including Elric!) but didn't really start to get support until Elric! It's become fairly obvious that a game system needs to have published adventure to thrive. All the big RPG lines have lots of adventures that people can buy and run. Games without that end up being niche games in a niche hobby.

Another thing that probably hurt MW was the BRP "Big Gold Book". For someone who owned the BGB,or even a previous edition or Strombringer, Magic World just rehashed stuff they already had. There wasn't all that much that was unique to Magic World.

 

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Magic World's main claim to fame was that it was the closest thing to Elric! that was in print at the time. My main campaign is a Nehwon swords and sorcery game using Elric! rules. I have two copies of that game, and my friends have a couple more. I didn't really need to buy Magic World (though I did anyway).

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19 hours ago, Questbird said:

Magic World's main claim to fame was that it was the closest thing to Elric! that was in print at the time. 

Yes, and that's what probably hurt it. Because if...

19 hours ago, Questbird said:

 I have two copies of that game, and my friends have a couple more. I didn't really need to buy Magic World 

 

So those who would appreciate it the most probably already had a previous version of the game. 

I suspect the main reason why Magic World was released was because Michael Moorcock licensed out Elric to another company, and Magic World let Chaosium reprint the game rules by removing all the Elric/Eternal Champion specific stuff. It's one of the pitfalls of licensed characters and settings - they can be taken away.  Stormbringer was always the neglected child at Chasoium. RQ was their main FRPG, until the Avalaon Hill deal went sour. Then CoC became their bread and butter. 

All things considered, I think we were probably lucky that Magic Word made it to print.

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