Chinese Government Burns Cthulhu RPG Print Run

The Sassoon Files is a Call of Cthulhu sourcebook Kickstarted by Sons of the Singularity... and printed in China. This week, they reported that the Chinese government had ordered the destruction of their entire print run.


sassoon.jpg


The Sassoon Files
is a Cthulhu mythos campaign set in 1920s Shanghai.

They wrote to their backers on March 22nd -- "We have suffered an unfortunate and unexpected setback with the off-set print run. On March 20th, the Chinese government ordered the destruction of our books. Although the printer returned our deposit, we need to find another printer and this will result in a delay in fulfillment. We are committed to completing the print run and fulfillment."


[video=youtube;G9Urosc-JEY]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9Urosc-JEY[/video]​
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
While narrowing the scope of the subject (printing nerd-stuff in China) may be useful for the discussion, and left vs. right is totally useless; I think there's a risk of making the discussion too narrow.

There are known problems printing in China, beyond government oppression. From copyright issues to moral and ethical issues to market economics issues. Whenever I see a person or a company who has opted to print in China and *something bad* happens to their product. I just SMH.

To reference @VengerSatanis above, suggesting an increase from 5 to 15 on printing costs, I think that's reasonable...when we're talking about a book that costs $10 on retailer shelves. But we're not really talking about those kind of books (and @VengerSatanis if you are, then fair enough), we're talking about books that usually cost $40+. Further, the "costs" of production are almost always borne by the consumer, or made up for in mass-production. Since we're talking about small runs: that means the consumer bears these costs.

But now we're talking about books that have gone from 30/35/40 or 50/55/60. What at first looked like a 300% increase is now only a 30% or less increase. Which is quite frankly, how much many of ya'll outside the USA will pay in shipping, import, or VAT costs anyway.

There is danger in prioritizing "cheap" on the marketplace. I had a discussion recently with an MTG player who laughed at the idea of buying cards locally, in fact, laughed about it in the local store. Saying they always go to online retailers to get the cheapest deals (and online retailers are not innocent in this discussion). But in doing so they are undermining the places that support the hobby itsself. The places to get new people into the game, the places that host games, the places that open their doors to players.

TLDR: if we can leave left vs. right out of it, there's good room for discussion on gaming in the context of global market theory; without losing sight of the larger picture that this issue is not isolated to gaming.

I think you miss the concept that if everything went with locally sourced, more expensive options, we couldn't afford much at all. When you focus on a single product, especially a luxury item, you can make the mistake of generalizing that one case to a broader argument, but that fails. You can argue from the general to the specific, but going from the specific to the general is rarely correct.

In this case, you neglected that the end cost of the book is both the cost of production and the profit for the creator. And that the price of luxury goods like RPGs are fairly inelastic -- the sales I can get at $40 are not the same at $50 and certainly not what I can get at $60 -- so there's not as much room to increase prices to accommodate higher costs and pass them through. Your analysis reads like you've gotten Econ 101, maybe 102, under your belt and have a basic grasp of things, but have never actually had experience bringing product to market or operating a retail outlet beyond maybe working the register. I've done ordering and had to manage cash flow, both at a retail game store and for multi-million dollar projects. A 300% increase in a cost that ends up being 1/4 or so of your final retail price is murderously big in a thin margin market like RPGs. That cost alone can mean the difference between living okay on your sales and having to have a day job. You don't get rich in the RPG market, despite selling what are luxury goods.

Even with the risks posed by printing in China, it's still one of the best options for smaller players. If you're big enough to leverage volume, it becomes less because you can get more local printers to give better prices and you're saving more on shipping costs and lead times. But, unless you're big enough that a thinner margin will be evened out with volume, you can't just say 'the consumer bears the costs' to justify a $10 increase in costs. That's probably more than the anticipated profit on a $50 dollar book. Recall, the seller takes profit off of that before the distributor takes profit off of it and then the creator get's their cut. This isn't a perfectly elastic market where the demand is high enough to justify a 25% increase in price (at $40 starting price).

Any time you start thinking "this economy stuff is obvious and everyone's doing it wrong, it must be for bad reasons, I'll educate them!" stop and consider that you're trying to tell people who's livelihoods are on the line and who are probably at least as smart as you how they should be spending their money because you, who have no skin in their game, know better. This is actually a good lesson for any field -- if you think it's obviously simple but no one who does it for a living seems to be aware of how obviously simple it is, you're almost always wrong about it.
 

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Hussar

Legend
If you think increasing the price of an RPG book by 30% won't harm sales, I'm going to respectfully disagree.

Now, as to supporting your FLGS goes, well, that's a whole 'nother can o' worms. And, I would argue that it's one that is somewhat orthogonal to the censorship issue.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
But now we're talking about books that have gone from 30/35/40 or 50/55/60. What at first looked like a 300% increase is now only a 30% or less increase. Which is quite frankly, how much many of ya'll outside the USA will pay in shipping, import, or VAT costs anyway.

Yes, that is what many outside the US will have to pay in shipping... except that they now have to pay that *AND* shipping.

There is danger in prioritizing "cheap" on the marketplace.

There is a danger in not doing so.

You see, I already have more games than I am going to make serious use of in my lifetime. But, my disposable income is not infinite. I might pay $30 for an occasional supplement that I won't really use. But as the price rises even a bit, the chance of my purchasing it drops very, very quickly. I suspect tthat, in general, most gaming materials are already priced about at the top of what the market will bear.

But in doing so they are undermining the places that support the hobby itself. The places to get new people into the game, the places that host games, the places that open their doors to players.

Meanwhile, exactly zero of the people I play with learned to do so in a FLGS. And, as a middle aged gamer, I am unlikely to go there to dredge up new young folks for my table. That'd be kinda creepy.

In the end, most of us ar enot wealthy enough to purchase for altruistic reasons. If it does not fit our personal needs and budgets, it isn't gonna happen.
 
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I

Immortal Sun

Guest
In the end, most of us ar enot wealthy enough to purchase for altruistic reasons. If it does not fit our personal needs and budgets, it isn't gonna happen.

At the end of the day 100% of RPG purchases are luxury items. When you've already decided you're going to spend your disposable income on a luxury item, quibbling about the price isn't productive to the process. Nothing here is a need. If the choice is between RPG Book and food, it's food, hands down, every time. If the choice is between RPG Book A and RPG Game B, asking "can I afford that" is the wrong question.

Meanwhile, exactly zero of the people I play with learned to do so in a FLGS. And, as a middle aged gamer, I am unlikely to go there to dredge up new young folks for my table. That'd be kinda creepy.
Meanwhile, at least 3/4ths of the people I know who play learned to do so in a store. I learn a new game about once a month in my store (because there's a guy who knows every game ever) because thats why i go there​. To learn and play games.
 
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I

Immortal Sun

Guest
I think you miss the concept that if everything went with locally sourced, more expensive options, we couldn't afford much at all. When you focus on a single product, especially a luxury item, you can make the mistake of generalizing that one case to a broader argument, but that fails. You can argue from the general to the specific, but going from the specific to the general is rarely correct.

In this case, you neglected that the end cost of the book is both the cost of production and the profit for the creator. And that the price of luxury goods like RPGs are fairly inelastic -- the sales I can get at $40 are not the same at $50 and certainly not what I can get at $60 -- so there's not as much room to increase prices to accommodate higher costs and pass them through. Your analysis reads like you've gotten Econ 101, maybe 102, under your belt and have a basic grasp of things, but have never actually had experience bringing product to market or operating a retail outlet beyond maybe working the register. I've done ordering and had to manage cash flow, both at a retail game store and for multi-million dollar projects. A 300% increase in a cost that ends up being 1/4 or so of your final retail price is murderously big in a thin margin market like RPGs. That cost alone can mean the difference between living okay on your sales and having to have a day job. You don't get rich in the RPG market, despite selling what are luxury goods.

Even with the risks posed by printing in China, it's still one of the best options for smaller players. If you're big enough to leverage volume, it becomes less because you can get more local printers to give better prices and you're saving more on shipping costs and lead times. But, unless you're big enough that a thinner margin will be evened out with volume, you can't just say 'the consumer bears the costs' to justify a $10 increase in costs. That's probably more than the anticipated profit on a $50 dollar book. Recall, the seller takes profit off of that before the distributor takes profit off of it and then the creator get's their cut. This isn't a perfectly elastic market where the demand is high enough to justify a 25% increase in price (at $40 starting price).

Any time you start thinking "this economy stuff is obvious and everyone's doing it wrong, it must be for bad reasons, I'll educate them!" stop and consider that you're trying to tell people who's livelihoods are on the line and who are probably at least as smart as you how they should be spending their money because you, who have no skin in their game, know better. This is actually a good lesson for any field -- if you think it's obviously simple but no one who does it for a living seems to be aware of how obviously simple it is, you're almost always wrong about it.

I'd flaut my credentials on the subject but I lack the energy. This is a gaming forum. At best, light discussion. I've spent time writing essays detailing the ins and outs of political, social and economic theory only to get one or two sentance responses, folks taking snippets out of my posts out of context, or skimming it and replying to what they THINK I said based on my previous points of view too many times to worry about investing in who knows more about what.

But if the end of the day is a little hand-wringing and nothing changing, why is this a thread? Isn't the point of "news" to bring attention to issues that potentially need rectifying? If you're not interested in rectifying the issue because China is the only variable your system will accept, then just say that.
 

I

Immortal Sun

Guest
If you think increasing the price of an RPG book by 30% won't harm sales, I'm going to respectfully disagree.
I didn't say that. If you think that's what I said then the problem is with your thinking, not my writing.

Now, as to supporting your FLGS goes, well, that's a whole 'nother can o' worms. And, I would argue that it's one that is somewhat orthogonal to the censorship issue.
Not really. "Support your local FLGS" is no different than "buy local". It's just a term gamers feel more acceptable digesting. We can debate the details of macro vs micro economics, economies of scale, international trade relations, trade wars and any number of things like that until the cows come up. But fundamentally you're saying the same thing. Amazon has better deals, but the FLGS is necessary to the health of the hobby. China has better deals, but may be unhealthy for the hobby.

It doesn't really change because of the scale. People just like to think it does in order to make themselves feel better about their own choices.
 

Yaarel

He Mage

Even as we speak, Google is not relevant to this discussion. It was a *game book* from a small company that got burned. Is Google producing RPG books? No? Then it isn't relevant here.

Folks - yes, this is a news report about a government action, so it is hard not to be commenting on that government. But please keep it at least in bounds for a board that is focused on discussion how to pretend to be elves, please and thank you.

If you say no, that is fine. I was just referring to the wider context of Chinese censorship policy. The article said the authors of the game were surprised by what happened, but this actually goes on routinely in China.
 
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MGibster

Legend
At the end of the day 100% of RPG purchases are luxury items. When you've already decided you're going to spend your disposable income on a luxury item, quibbling about the price isn't productive to the process. Nothing here is a need. If the choice is between RPG Book and food, it's food, hands down, every time. If the choice is between RPG Book A and RPG Game B, asking "can I afford that" is the wrong question.

It's not necessarily about what the customer can afford it's about what they're willing to pay for. Price, perceived likelihood of playing the game, and the amount of storage space available in my home are the primary factors I use to determine whether or not I will purchase a game. When the price of a game is above $60 I balk. I could afford to purchase Warhammer Fantasy 3rd edition but I wasn't going to spend $99 on it.

Meanwhile, at least 3/4ths of the people I know who play learned to do so in a store. I learn a new game about once a month in my store (because there's a guy who knows every game ever) because thats why i go there​. To learn and play games.

I wonder if this is a generational thing. Back in the 80s and most of the 90s, the various game stores I went to in Dallas really didn't offer space for people to play RPGs and barely had any space for war gaming tournaments. This changed in the mid-1990s when Magic became very popular and suddenly many stores had space for people to play games.
 

I

Immortal Sun

Guest
It's not necessarily about what the customer can afford it's about what they're willing to pay for. Price, perceived likelihood of playing the game, and the amount of storage space available in my home are the primary factors I use to determine whether or not I will purchase a game. When the price of a game is above $60 I balk. I could afford to purchase Warhammer Fantasy 3rd edition but I wasn't going to spend $99 on it.
Which is one reason I go to my FLGS, because the guy I know there knows just about every game ever. So when I walk in and he's got time, we play new games. If I like the game, I buy it.

I know my budget. I also know what I enjoy. Asking myself "can I afford that" is the wrong question.

I wonder if this is a generational thing. Back in the 80s and most of the 90s, the various game stores I went to in Dallas really didn't offer space for people to play RPGs and barely had any space for war gaming tournaments. This changed in the mid-1990s when Magic became very popular and suddenly many stores had space for people to play games.
Maybe. I admit I got into tabletop gaming via Magic.
 

Hussar

Legend
I didn't say that. If you think that's what I said then the problem is with your thinking, not my writing.

/snip.

Y'know, it really, really doesn't matter how right you are. If someone is misunderstanding your point, the problem lies in your ability to communicate and, well, being right but no one understands what you're saying is not really any different that being wrong. At the very least, it's about as useful.

As I understand it, you stated that a 30% increase in price will have little impact on sales. Now, since other people have also interpreted you to mean that, it would behoove you to restate your point in such a way that it clarifies your point, rather than digging in your heels and shouting from your soapbox.
 


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