Thursday, April 13, 2017

GURPS and the SJG Stakeholder Report

My main interest in the SJG Stakeholders report is GURPS. Let's look at what it says about GURPS:

"Dungeon Fantasy - Our Kickstarter project to create a GURPS introductory box set has run into more troubles and derailments than we would like. A game that was meant to go to the printer before the end of 2016 is still clogging our pipeline and causing constant distractions. The project was not as far along in the process as it should have been, and miscommunication regarding the game components ballooned our costs. At the moment, barring a miracle, what would have been a profitable project is rapidly turning into a loss. This is becoming an ongoing problem for GURPS projects (see Discworld and Mars Attacks, below, under Failures)."


Double Ugh.

I'm not shocked, based on this Kickstarter update.

I don't really have any secret inside insight - I'm a freelancer, not staff. I do know Sean Punch really well, though, and know he's working himself to the very limit on this project. It's actually pretty upsetting as his friend to read about this kind of problem with the project.

The project will come to fruition, but it's not good for GURPS and no help to RPGs if this gets more and more expensive and costs the company more and more money to do it. Instead of expanding GURPS it could potentially contract it.

Again, no inside knowledge here. I repeat that because sometimes people equate "GURPS book author" with "company insider" and nothing could be further from the truth.

"Discworld and Mars Attacks - We published two new GURPS hardcover books late last year. GURPS fans celebrated, and the books turned out well, but their disappointing performance further supported the unfortunate realization that sales are no longer strong enough to make traditional distribution work for GURPS hardcovers. Today's cluttered market, combined with our insistence on getting it right, made both books expensive experiments that tell us one thing: Do not produce more GURPS hardcovers until we have guaranteed that the sales are there. Does this mean more crowdfunding for GURPS? Maybe! But until we see the retail sales of Dungeon Fantasy, we're holding off on any more printed GURPS releases. PDFs will continue, and we'll revisit the question of "print GURPS?" later this year."

My concern with this is that Discworld and Mars Attacks are interesting GURPS hardcover books, but they're both kind of niche. I'm sure Discworld is beautiful, and what I saw of it in playtest was excellent. But it's Discworld. If you aren't into Discworld, it's not really going to be something you want just because you play GURPS.

Mar Attacks, even more so. I'm interested in it, because I think it's kind of neat. But not enough to pre-order one from a so-called FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store) or a bookstore. I checked my loyalty card for what used to be the most local gaming store to me - one down the block from my MMA school. Last time I went was May 2015. The last time before that was November 2014 (possibly 2013 - when I came in that May they made a point of putting the year on it because we weren't sure.) My FLGS is

So the conclusion seems to be tha two niche hardbacks didn't sell very well, so GURPS books in general won't sell. It's frustrating. I felt some of that frustration when the call for pre-orders went out; these aren't books I need and I need my money more than books unless they make my immediate game better.

Overall, I'm happy they actually mentioned GURPS in more than in passing. I'm unhappy with the news about the line and the assessment of the line but I am glad to get actual news. I'm glad they'll make sure the DFRPG comes out - I've never had a boxed set with my name in the credits. I'll do what I can to make the DFRPG successful, because DF is the kind of GURPS book I want to how SJG make.


  1. It looks like they underpriced the box set and got caught up in the Kickstarter frenzy, where you want to offer more and more rewards that don't necessarily create profit. They need to move to print on demand, so they don't have stock on hand. It's the wave of um, ten years ago. As a writer and publisher, people do not want to pay high prices for digital. It sucks but that is the way that it is. They will pay a premium for physical content but $40 hardcovers are a niche market, themselves. $20-25 softcovers with PDF downloads included (maybe with a password code to the user?) would sell more.

    1. I think it wasn't that on the Kickstarter. That happened with Ogre. I think there was miscommunication about components and getting that right and fixed cost time and money beyond the budget. The price wasn't lowballed or the contents expanded.

    2. With the back of envelope numbers Doug Cole did it looked to me like the Kickstarter was (just) profitable. Of course that money would go straight into making more copies of the game to sell at retail (and direct and so on). And then you've got to make the profit there with much worse margins.

      I think though that Hardcover/box sets GURPS still are 100% viable at the Kickstarter stage.

    3. In fact the Kickstarter made more money than expected because so many bought electronic PDFs through it (or increased their W23 purchases). As it is I kind of wish I'd gone in for an extra box set. I even wonder if SJ Games should have tried to use the window of delayed production and increased retail price to 'encourage' that.

  2. Like you, I'm dismayed by the fate of the various GURPS-related projects. I can't say they're not trying to give the game a push, but between this and passing mentions by Phil that the PoD volumes aren't so far selling well enough to justify the effort, GURPS in physical form sounds like just isn't working out for them, and I don't see any new directions they'd try to branch out in so far as virtual products are concerned.

    Judging from the chatter over at, it sounds like they're running into enormous problems being heard. There are a lot of comments on the stakeholders report thread there which boil down to "I had no idea that GURPS books for Discworld/Mars Attacks were a thing." People aren't hearing about new products and it's in short supply in stores, and if they don't hear about or see them, they won't buy them. I fear that the success of the DFRPG depends on SJ Games physically getting product on shelves, and they're really struggling with that piece of the puzzle.

    I don't expect GURPS to just vanish if all of this doesn't pan out, of course, but I do worry about a slowly declining glide path.

    1. "I had no idea that GURPS books for Discworld/Mars Attacks were a thing."

      This is true everywhere. Every player and potential player I've spoken to has said this.

      None have said no thanks that's too niche for me.

      Now players don't (usually) buy books, but some of them GM too.

      Trying to explain RPG distribution to them has been frustrating, mostly because I don't understand it 100% either and they are used to the 'I go to the shop or order online and it arrives' mentality (and so am I because we live in 2017!)

      Lets go to the infinite world where DRPG was a Kickstarter (I understand DRPG is a licensed work and publication deals might not allow this). That marketing fires into you every time you go onto Kickstarter. Maybe a PDF of 'How to be a GURPS GM' is thrown in, maybe a pyramid issue. GURPS customers are told if they want more Hardcover books they need to back this.

      I in no way suggest the sales will set the world on fire (DRPG was mentioned in the DFRPG Kickstarter, but you couldn't order it). But the Kickstarter gages support and you don't move into other channels unless that support is there.

    2. I think almost no one would actually say "too niche." They just might not buy it, and effectively mean the same thing.

      The question is, now that they know, will they buy them? They are in stock online. I just think not enough will because those books have a narrower audience than many other GURPS books.

    3. You cannot buy DRPG in Australia*. Online or otherwise.

      And yes I know at least one who would have bought a copy (me!)

      *Except from SJ Games with the very high $50USD+ postage.

    4. That's too bad that you can't get it at a reasonable price. But again, one sale - I'm not convinced these are must-have titles that really show what the GURPS market and the potential GURPS market wants to buy. It just seems like a subset of a subset of the RPG audience, whether they know about it or not.

    5. well consider this.

      I can regularly get new players to a Discworld demo. Still haven't managed for DF or any other GURPS product. Not one game in six months has had enough players turn up to justify playing.

      DFRPG had something like 20 sales in Sydney. So one is a pretty reasonable sample size. I could also I believe add another DRPG, if it was available in PDF, and another if it was in hardcopy. That's my feel from the demos. Perhaps higher, but every one other than me is just speculation.

      Add to that the multiple other posters, from Sydney, on the forums who have also complained they can't get a copy.

      You're up to five or six. I think that's a pretty reasonable percentage out of the actual hard copy Sydney DFRPG sales that we have confirmed.

      Also consider this. I believe that one of the DRPG players I have has a copy of GURPS Martial Arts and so on. The rest certainly don't and have IMHO 0% interest. It's a niche product to them.

      I think DRPG is entirely as viable a product in Sydney as DFRPG will ever be.

      Discworld is IMHO more popular in Australia than the USA. Terry came to Sydney a bunch of times. And it was lines out the door kind of thing for autographs. And GURPS is probably relatively less popular here than the USA, just because of shipping if nothing else.

    6. Okay, fair enough. But let's say they aren't niche, they're front and center core GURPS with the most possible market penetration out of anything. They didn't turn out to be worth doing despite that.

      That's actually worse news, to me!

  3. Every RPG company wants to land a great bit of intellectual property to fire imaginations and open wallets. But both Discworld and Mars Attacks feel like weird vanity projects. I'm not aware anyone was really clamoring for either. I understand that not everyone can get Star Wars or Dresden Files, but surely there were better contenders than those two?

    1. The reason that DRPG happened is because Steve Jackson wanted it to happen.

      The reason GURPS happens is because Steve Jackson wants it to happen.

    2. I think we can take as a basis for discussion of SJG that things happen at SJG because Steve causes them or allows them to happen, though.

  4. Discworld is much more interesting to me than Dresden Files I admit. Pokémon or WinX Club top my list of 'I wanna see an RPG'

  5. Does anybody know if you can order more box sets through the kickstarter? (I'm a "I want it all" tier supporter, but regret I did'nt get a spare set for promoting it to friends) Or would it be better to order it at a FLGS?

    1. Apparently not, but you should ask SJ Games.

      Given the price increase I too regret not getting a second set, inevitably it would have proved useful.

  6. As soon as I saw this report, the first thing that went through my head was that GURPS is circling the drain. It's nearing the point that it will need an open license and SRD if it's going to survive at all as a SJG property. Not there yet, and maybe it will pull out of this, but I'm not betting on it.

    I've been saying for years that the decision to release every secondary supplement in PDF-and-maybe-small-print/POD-run only was a serious mistake. Those PDF supplements don't go on FLGS shelves, and so the bricknmortar shops don't order the rest. At the very least, long tail POD seemed like it was important, and that wouldn't have been too expensive if books had been approached with that in mind from the beginning. As someone mentions above, that's been the direction the rest of the industry (outside of Hasbro/WotC) has been taking.

    On G+, someone pointed out that what SJG really needs right now is a dedicated Kickstarter team, which I took to mean some people to ensure that KS campaigns don't give away too much to stretch goals and that the fulfillment phase doesn't go over budget. Kickstarter Producers, as it were.

    In any case, like you, this update left me very sad for the game.

    1. I think saying that its circling the drain is an overreaction. Its more a message of "dial down the hopes and dreams of yesteryear"

    2. It just seems like the message, year after year, is "dial down the hopes a bit more."

    3. On the other hand my hopes are usually met.

      There are already more PDFs than I could ever want/buy.

      Enough PDFs are released each year that I cant keep up.

      DRPG came out (even if I cant get a copy yet, my plan to get one is coming along).

      DFRPG will be delayed, but is coming out.

      A monthly electronic magazine comes out with an 'ok' percentage of articles I could find useful and allows new talent somewhere to go.

      I don't really want/need much else in the way of books.

      All I personally want is more GURPS games for me to play in and for me to GM.

      I don't see much that SJ Games book releases can do about that.

    4. Unachimba: Book releases on FLGS shelves - or even to Amazon or OBS (no other online outlets compare) - bring eyes onto the game. Eyes onto the game bring new players. New players mean more GURPS games for you to play in and you to GM.

      Also, I need to correct a statement I made above. Even Hasbro/WotC have gotten in on the POD method recently, with AD&D 1E, 2E, and 3.5E core rules all available POD from OBS (4E remains PDF-only, but who cares). I think that leaves SJG and Palladium (maybe Chaosium, not sure how they publish their print stuff) as the only formerly-major-publisher holdouts. Even White Wolf/Onyx Publishing is publishing POD versions of its WoD books and BESM on OBS.

    5. Ok, but almost all the hardcopy books are available on Amazon. It is likely the last few will go up for a trial at least.

      The DFRPG will likely make it onto some shelves in FLGS.

      GURPS has released two hardcover books over the last year that are sort of on Amazon (if you're in the USA at least). They are sort of in some FLGS.

      It is more that likely that not releasing hardcover books for so long has helped lead to this events.

      But the choice wasn't PDFs or hardcover. It was PDFs or nothing. And the one year it was almost just Pyramid or nothing.

      It's not a mistake if those were your only choices.

      And for that matter and as per the original post. For most people the FLAGS doesn't exist. So what shelves was GURPS supposed to be on.

      In Sydney FLGS certainly do, but the RPGs are hidden away in a corner. You're much more likely to see boardgames and think that's what the store is all about. DFRPG will be competing for some very tight space (even perhaps ironically competing with Munchkin!)

      Regardless GURPS was on shelves ten years ago. And I hardly had any games then either.

      The Con I'm at this weekend has Toon and Vampire the Masquerade. Those are 100% not on FLGS shelves.

      The determining factors for more players are not directly linked to games in stores.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...