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Thaenor

Chaosium closes it's office and warehouse

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Looks very much like they are consolidating their business with the new senior staff's location. No doubt they will be considering every product line as part of their on-going business rationalisation. The monographs have gone in printed format (mostly) and may only be available in POD/PDF from now on if they even continue selling them. I fully expect that they will focus on the lines bringing the most to the bottom line (CoC and Runequest/Glorantha material). I suspect that the BRP line is very much up in the air, there is a hard core of fans on this board but I'm not sure how much of a profit centre BRP actually is. With Alephtar having to retrench and change much of ttheir published material I can see that Cubicle 7 and their Laundry line may have to make adjustments as well unless they get some form of exemption as they do a lot of CoC material.

Not sure at all where this business plan will leave MW. I suppose it depends a lot on the person who is the champion of the line inside Chaosium and the proposals for bringing financial improvements to the line. I'm guessing that promotion is likely to be relatively low priority for MW and advertising dollars, such as they are likely to be, will be focused on CoC and Glorantha as the lines likely to contribute most to the current very sorry bottom line.

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They should adapt Magic World and fold BRP into it or vice versa. Give one a re-edit and release it free as a Core Rules book. Much like Design Mechanism has done with RQ6 Essentials...create a lead in line for their eventual resumption of publishing Runequest that unifies RQ6 rule-set with Glorantha.

COC and Glorantha will be the focus going forward for sure.

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MW is no.t a replacement for BRP as it is pretty focused on fantasy and thus not an entry level product in the same way BRP is the lead-in to not only fantasy but supers, SF etc. If MW is not a viable product line and financially able to bring dollars to the bottom line then I can't see Chaosium continuing the line.

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Office and warehouse space is costly, so it makes sense to shut them down.  More money to pay writers, editors, artists, printers, and shippers.

No idea what they'll actually do, but I hope they keep both BRP and Magic World.  BRP is a nice generic system that goes beyond the (mostly) fantasy focus of RuneQuest, while Magic World is a specific build of BRP that's lighter-weight alternative to RQ.  If they're keeping Call of Cthulhu 7 and RuneQuest 6+, they clearly have no qualms about multiple variants of the same system.  That said, though, I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't some sort of convergence at some later date.

The only real issue is profitability of each line: CoC has been their cash cow, RQ is (I guess) doing well, but new MW stuff has been back-burnered for a while now and BRP support has been sporadic.  Writing new stuff costs, and even keeping a book in print costs.  PDFs can keep already published books available indefinitely, but given Chaosium's financial situation and limited staff, it's likely that BRP, MW, and even CoC 7 (once printed) might languish for a while as they try to make money on RQ Glorantha.

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Whatever happens to the various iterations of the base d100 rules sets as brands and IPs, I'm sure the new management team has the best interests of Chaosium, it's history and the core game experiences of CoC and Runequest more generally in mind.

I wish them well as they traverse as new era for the company. It's now more than ever that the market is volatile. Trying to find a course in it must be difficult. 

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"End of an era... start of a new era!

End of an era... start of a new era! As part of Chaosium's restructuring, we have made the difficult decision to close our office and warehouse in Hayward, ending the 40 year physical presence of the company in the Bay Area, California.

Chaosium has a global fan base, and the principal officers of the company are located across the globe. Our Axis Mundi is now online. And at conventions. The true spirit of Chaosium is present at your gaming table, collectively summoned by your gaming group.

The truck has been filled with artifacts from the past four decades (here's Rick loading the company cockatrice). Rick and MOB are heading out on their thousand mile journey north, via Arcata to drop in on the President Emeritus, Greg Stafford..."

The wording of the announcement seems strange to me, especially that second paragraph.  I can understand Chaosium personnel being sad and nostalgic about leaving the place they've been for decades.  However, the announcement is less "...but we're relocating to our new Moon Design headquarters to keep on trucking" and more "We're fading into the mists like Dian Fossey's gorillas or King Arthur at the end of the musical Camelot."  I've had internet and cell phone services from entities that were located only online.  Hard to get good customer service from a company that has no physical location you can phone call or write to.  I've also written for entities that existed only as a web site and e-mail address -- and vanished without a trace overnight.  If Chaosium now exists as a spirit I summon to my gaming table (via seance?) that essentially admits that they're, um, dead.

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Mike Mason is in the UK; Dustin is in Texas (and was in Colorado before that); with Charlie and Meghan gone only Ben, Ken and Nick are in the Bay Area; the Moon Design crew are from various locales across the globe as are the Design Mechanism chaps...

Many current RPG publishers have no fixed offices - Green Ronin to name but one. And many small businesses in other fields now eschew the millstone of office / warehouse overheads. The question is how well it is managed of course...

 

cheers,

 

Nick

Edited by NickMiddleton

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The virtual office is probably a good move if it can work for them. With technology it can work well for the private sector.

But what needs not to be virtual are the products. Whilst I love pdfs and tablets, hard cover well made books are not only a delight, but a physical presence on the shelves in game shops. Chaosium needs to do everything it can do to raise the profile of Chaosium products both online (ie: OneShelf, Amazon,etc) and in the actual game shops around the globe. Otherwise it will fade into the mists of memory just like seneshal's reference to the Arthurian Cycle.

Although I love the production standard that will be CoC 7E, I am confused why they are persisting in disimilar systems for their main BRP game lines. Personally I feel the way forward may be to consolidate the MRQ D100 SRD mechancs as the core BRP rules, making it more or less consistent with RQ6, Renaissance, OpenQuest, etc. The mechanics feel like a freshened up version of classic BRP, and I would like perhaps a generic version of those rules if a new version of BGB ever is published (? Worlds of Wonder line perhaps). I would even like Call of Cthulhu to be built along these lines (hence my enthusiasm for the upcoming 'Raiders of Ry'leh' rules being funded via Kickstarter)

Although I do understand that this is not to everyone's tastes. The BGB has its place, and I was happy with the release of MW, but I just can't see too many lines being supported. To this end it makes sense to have at least one set of core rules, and then the other lines are more genre specific rather than having too many differences in actual game mechanics.

In a perfect world, none of the settings and lines would disappear, although this is unfortunately far from the reality if Chaosium is to remain a viable company.

Edited by Mankcam

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I work from an office building most days, but "work" with others online who are all over the United States.  The key is communication.  Email, instant messages, phone/video conferences and you can work rather closely together, even if you have never met.  Is it really as good as having most everyone in one location?  No, but it is very feasible. 

I would expect a bit of a "learning curve" for this new Chaosium and many game product lines are going to be put on the proverbial "back burner" for the next year or two.  If I was Chaosium, I would avoid declaring anything "dead", but actions will speak louder than words as time goes by.  That said, I don't know how keeping things available in PDF format would not be a good idea from both a PR and profit perspective. To be clear here, I mean the products that Chaosium really doesn't want to continue or focus time and energy on should at least remain available in PDF format.

Edited by ORtrail

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"Virtual" is a synonym for "not real."  A real publishing company puts physical books on store and library shelves, with electronic copies being a bonus side product for the handheld gadget crowd -- regardless of what their office or non-office structure is.  Chaosium's "realness" has been shaky for the entire time I've been active on these boards.  Appearances of the flagship product, Call of Cthulhu any version, on actual store shelves in my non-virtual world have been sporadic, as have appearances by support products by Chaosium, Cubicle 7, Pagan Publishing or whoever else.  RuneQuest 6 has popped up twice then vanished.  "Astounding Adventures" hung around briefly.  No other D100 titles, period.

Meanwhile, my local game stores have product by Hero Games, which went "virtual" some time ago, and by Palladium, which hasn't put out anything new since the late Eighties or early Nineties.  Shoot, FGU is a forgotten historical relic, but I can still order actual physical games from them.  The point of this isn't to kick Chaosium while they are down,  but as Mankcam has noted there is no substitute for physical product on physical store shelves where real-live customers can discover it and shell out hard, cold cash for it.  To survive, Chaosium must put product on the market and see that it is advertised and distributed, whether it is the long-awaited CoC 7th or quickie scanned reprints of RuneQuest II (the original one) or leftover "Cthulhu for President" mugs.  If they're emptying out the warehouse anyway, ship those puppies to some venue that will sell them, even if it is a regional truck stop chain.  RuneQuest 6 or its reintegrated Gloranthan version, no matter how wonderful it is, can't remain an elusive prestige product.  It must become a well-distributed mass market commodity that can catch the public's eye and enthusiasm.

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The issue with physical product in (US) game stores is the system by which they arrive there. I believe that virtually everything goes through a distributor (and there are only one or two left). These 'distributors' act as a gate keeper in that they provide a list of upcoming material that they can supply to stores who order the numbers they think they will sell and no more. If the game store doesn't recognise a game or any blurb doesn't catch their eye then the goods don't get ordered. If someone has asked about an upcoming product a store might take notice and order such an item if the customer(s) ask enough times.

Now these game distribution companies don't make it easy for a small organisation to get product into the chain (you need an ISBN at least which is not cheap in single/small quantities)) and by squeezing the producer for 40% or higher discount off retail really cut into the profitability of a print run and make it harder to make enough for a new product. Companies who have a web store can at least sell direct and retain enough of the retail price to fund future work. Some companies rely on direct sales for much of their revenue as pricing a product will be a difficult task when buyers whine about lack of colour and not enough pages and expensive retail pricing.

 

Now returning to lack of product on store shelves we can assign blame to the store for not knowing enough about the market to order regular supplies, the buyers for not purchasing enough to turn over stock at a reasonable rate, the distributors for restricting games from reaching the marketplace or the producers for not being larger organisations and having the financial structure to wave a wand and get full colour product onto the shelves for people to get their grubby fingers on by making promotional material that causes people to flood their FLGS demanding product.

 

Where do you think the problem lies?.

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A long time ago we used to get CoC stuff from an old comic shop in a back alley, in a dingy part of town, in a back room, under a table, hidden in a box. That was late "90's, since then I have only ever seen one single Chaosium product (not used) in a local game store and that was CDA and I bought it instantly. I was wondering to myself the other day, "where did I get RPG stuff before I had internet?" I really had to think for a minute. Walden Books/ Borders used to sell DnD and WoD stuff, even Star Wars d6, but never CoC.

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RuneQuest 6 or its reintegrated Gloranthan version, no matter how wonderful it is, can't remain an elusive prestige product.  It must become a well-distributed mass market commodity that can catch the public's eye and enthusiasm.

Nor is it. We are distributed by Alliance and Warpath in the US. We have our own online store and have physical product warehoused at the Bang facility in Minnesota. However, nclarke is completely correct in his summary. Distribution is complex, expensive and difficult to attain. We have just - after 5 years of trying - received a listing with Esdevium in the UK (they completely control UK distribution; without it, you're screwed over there). You cannot simply dump product down somewhere and hope it will sell, because it won't. Your inventory represents an investment and when it becomes untrackable or unsold, it's a loss. You need to control your sales channels very carefully.

Roleplaying games will never be a mass market commodity. Their appeal is too limited, their (apparent) complexity too weird for the mainstream consumer. This is a simple reality and publishers have to live within its economics.

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Nor is it. We are distributed by Alliance and Warpath in the US. We have our own online store and have physical product warehoused at the Bang facility in Minnesota. However, nclarke is completely correct in his summary. Distribution is complex, expensive and difficult to attain. We have just - after 5 years of trying - received a listing with Esdevium in the UK (they completely control UK distribution; without it, you're screwed over there). You cannot simply dump product down somewhere and hope it will sell, because it won't. Your inventory represents an investment and when it becomes untrackable or unsold, it's a loss. You need to control your sales channels very carefully.

Roleplaying games will never be a mass market commodity. Their appeal is too limited, their (apparent) complexity too weird for the mainstream consumer. This is a simple reality and publishers have to live within its economics.

Again, nothing I've said is meant as a kick against you or Pete.  I want you to succeed.  Obviously you have personal experience with distribution chains while I do not.  However, I'm speaking now as a customer, one of the guys you want to persuade to put down the better part of a day's wages to acquire the book(s) you've worked so hard to write.  If I wasn't a regular participant on this website, I would have never known that RuneQuest 6 or Monster Island, etc., existed.  If I wasn't already a role-player, I wouldn't have gone to my local store and seen it (fleetingly) on the shelf.  And to succeed and prosper, you've got to do better than to go after aging old farts like me.  You've got to create new gamers, catch the attention of people who don't normally browse RPG.net or other role-playing websites, people who don't know that Chaosium or RuneQuest (or any version of both) ever existed.

Romance novels and Harley Davidson motorcycles are also niche products.  Yet, I know they exist.  They are available locally through multiple venues.  I am perhaps not the target market for either, but if I wanted to, I could get my grubby paws on them today.  Geek culture (including role-playing) is becoming increasingly mainstream.  You (and small publishers generally) must find a way to make your role-playing products generally known and generally accessible to potential purchasers.  You've got to find a way to turn your Faberge eggs into Big Macs.  You've got to put on your Henry Ford/Bill Gates/Ray Kroc hats, your goal being to put your creations in every garage, on every home desk, on every lunch tray.  If traditional distribution venues -- Alliance, Warpath, Esdevium -- aren't working for you, find a way to bypass them.  Think outside the box and search for other venues than bookstores, comics and game shops to sell your product.  It can be done.  The makers of Super Beta Prostate and Dinovite pet vitamins bombard me constantly with the fact that their products are available.  I've never seen their stuff at my local health food or pet stores, but I know how to get it if I want it.

To succeed you've got to ditch this "Geez, we're a niche market" nonsense.  Think BIG, dream BIG, plan BIG.  You must believe that you can get a copy of RuneQuest on every home bookshelf.  Your ultimate goal, of course, is to overtake D&D and Pathfinder in sales,eventually to buy out Paizo and Hasbro.  You've got to start thinking that way.

 

Edited by seneschal
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 Your ultimate goal, of course, is to overtake D&D and Pathfinder in sales,eventually to buy out Paizo and Hasbro.  You've got to start thinking that way.

 

With this you win the Positive Thinking Award for 2015, Seneschal. You have to know this :)

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With this you win the Positive Thinking Award for 2015, Seneschal. You have to know this :)

Actually, I got things out of sequence.  Outselling D&D is merely a stepping stone.  Our goal, remember, is to put a copy of RuneQuest 6.x on every home bookshelf.  D&D and Pathfinder combined haven't yet managed to do that.

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With the announcement that Ben is no longer with Chaosium I would pretty much give up on MW as a thing for Chaosium. I remain (very) cautiously optimistic that a re-issue or compilation of WoW will mean that BRP won't die completely, which I would actually see as a step forward in terms of making the game more accessible.

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With the announcement that Ben is no longer with Chaosium I would pretty much give up on MW as a thing for Chaosium. I remain (very) cautiously optimistic that a re-issue or compilation of WoW will mean that BRP won't die completely, which I would actually see as a step forward in terms of making the game more accessible.

Did the Moon Design reprints actually stop Chaosium RQ2 from dying completely in any meaningful sense, or were they just a collector / nostalgia item from Grognards, and a resource that got used with later systems?

Bluntly, there was a line editor for BRP / MW and now there isn't; and the way that was chosen to be announced was with no mention of BRP or MW. I remained a loyal Chaosium customer throughout the first decade of this century largely because of two people - Dustin (who always did his level best to be communicative and helpful, even when head office tied his hands) and Ben, who despite not working for the company throughout that period, remained infectiously enthusiastic for the core games / settings they HAD produced that I loved. The company also did the BRP monographs (RQIII reprint) and the BGB project in that period.

I think beyond residual PDF sales of scans of old product, and perhaps collectors reprints of a few items like Worlds of Wonder, "BRP", "Magic World" and anything other than Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest  or Glorantha at Chaosium is done. I don't care for 7e Call of Cthulhu; RQ6 is just a touch too fiddly for me and Glorantha is not a world that fires me up anymore (hasn't been for decades if I'm honest)... So I expect I'm done, as well - I still have my books, I can still run the games I want to but I see no prospect of me investing any significant money in the likely future Chaosium product lines, given the direction they are headed. Which is a bit sad, but neither entirely unexpected nor really earth shattering.

I'd certainly like to know what happens to the (very small) list of things I've done for Chaosium over the last five years or so now mind, especially the as yet unpublished stuff for the Magic World creatures collection which I assume has been cancelled.

Cheers,

Nick Middleton

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Bluntly, there was a line editor for BRP / MW and now there isn't; and the way that was chosen to be announced was with no mention of BRP or MW.

It is rather a poor choice of words to refer to Ben as an "hourly employee" as if he were no more than a temporary agency worker who would have been let go sooner or later anyway, rather than being - if only briefly - line editor for BRP and MW.

Frankly, in the light of earlier assurances to the contrary this makes Chaosium's announced plans for the future a "wait-and-see" proposition.

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With the announcement that Ben is no longer with Chaosium I would pretty much give up on MW as a thing for Chaosium. I remain (very) cautiously optimistic that a re-issue or compilation of WoW will mean that BRP won't die completely, which I would actually see as a step forward in terms of making the game more accessible.

Yes this is sad news.

Ben Monroe has been so enthusiastic with his love of BRP and he did a good job putting Magic World together. I especially love the simple char gen in MW, that is truly a gem that deserves to be highlighted. But all in all, MW is a solid release, and has alot of potential as a line. Ben is right to be proud of his work with this.

 I wish Ben all the best for future endeavours; I just wish it would be with Chaosium, he would certainly be an asset to Moon Design.

A true Champion of the Balance.

This really does not bode well for MW or classic BRP at all now.

 

Edited by Mankcam

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Although Ben Monroe is no longer a paid employee of Chaosium I can see that he might be used on a freelance basis to work on products as he has done for a time previously. With Essen the week after next and some Moon Design folks attending The Kraken in Germany before that I can't see a lot of information coming out until late October as the effects of the relocation and restructuring settle down.

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