I’m not saying that there are no dual-class Gamer/Entrepreneur characters out there. They exist. I even think I’m one of them, but that’s because I am a gamer and have run my own business, separately, without combining the two. (Well, we did discuss playing Axis and Allies at my espresso stand.) I still have a lot to learn, which is why I’m in college right now.
As a whole, the gaming industry is fucking awful at marketing. From TSR’s failure to appeal to gamers that were loyally buying their products to White Wolf failing to run what is essentially a LARP event in a bar, there are quite a few stories and examples of this. ADB is no exception. Just watch this engaging and exciting video, designed to get stores interested in their products:
You don’t have to watch more than thirty seconds of that to get the idea. (I really like the bits where he drops the boxes all over, and the fact that he is so obviously reading from cue cards.) These guys are terrible at marketing their games. They hit up the blog’s readers at least twice a month for “marketing ideas,” as if adding MORE gamers to the mix is the solution.
Say what you want about Wizards of the Coast, they are fucking awesome at marketing their products. The rollout for 4th edition was masterful, and the way they have chosen to incorporate changes in Magic to make it more accessible and sell more product have made them an example to be followed. Why can they do this? It’s simple, and you’ve probably already guessed: the gamers don’t go anywhere near this shit. They have marketing people, who are good at marketing, and pass directives down to R&D, design, and development to make the games marketable.
This is how a good business runs. There’s a saying: “Cooks make the worst restaurant owners.” It’s true. A cook can’t run a restaurant any more than a pilot can run an airline. You need someone who is good at running a business, not making a game.
The President of ADB, Steve Cole, exhibits a lot of self-awareness here at how awful he is at running his company:
I think my greatest failure in running ADB, Inc., is in failing to account for things that obviously need to be done (and done early in the priority list) but which are not on the “time budget” for work to be done. Now, there will always be things one cannot predict (say the warehouse burns down and we have to spend a lot of time with insurance claims and figuring out what to replace) but that’s normal and you cannot plan for it. The big issue right now is that the Mongoose Joint Venture is eating up 80% of my design time. (Checking ships is taking a lot longer than it we calculated to take. Reviewing their rulebooks was thought to be a matter of a couple of hours a week but I’ve spent about six hours this week and that only caught up to the third draft; I haven’t read the fourth. While it makes perfect sense that I will spend less time writing the 40 pages of background their rulebook needs than I would have spent fixing something they wrote, there were no hours in the budget for me to do that. (It will take only about 10 hours since I just have to string together and write-through existing background from SFB and the RPG books. Even so, this obviously represents poor planning on my part.) There is also the issue that I keep scheduling unfinished projects based on a guess of the work it will take to finish them. If it’s a project that Steven Petrick and/or I are doing, we can get a pretty good guess. If it’s a project someone else is doing, we have a tendency not to guess very well. (That, and sometimes we don’t get documents from the outside designer as fast or in the form that we expect to get them.)
– from the Federation Commander Blog
For fuck’s sake, if you can’t spec a job, you should not be in charge of costing that job. The second-largest problem ADB has is this sort of failure of time management. From what I can tell, they don’t even properly cost out their jobs – Cole is an engineer, not an accountant or manager. Oh, look, another quote:
What we do is figure the cost of printing and paper (we print our own books), multiply by a secret number, then compare that to other books.
What. The. Fuck. This is literally pricing juju. To clarify, let’s review how this should work. Let’s say Badwrongfun, Inc is thinking about producing the Ultimate Guide to the Austrian Maritime Authority. If I’m in charge of speccing this job, I’d make a list of all the expected costs for the product. It might look like this:
Now I know the expected cost per unit. While the ACTUAL cost may be far off of this, I can figure out how much I should charge for this book based on how much profit I want/need to make. Let’s say I want to make ~$4 a book (100% profit over cost), and the online vendor I use takes 20%. I would price this at $9.95.
There’s no voodoo there. It’s just math, and it’s how any good business should be run.