How well do you predict non-OGL/CC games will do?


log in or register to remove this ad


Maggan

Writer for CY_BORG, Forbidden Lands and Dragonbane
Disclaimer: I am a freelancer for Free League.

I think non-OGL/CC games have a good chance of doing well, but maybe not Paizo levels of well. But a smaller company is nothing to sneeze at.

Free League has been mentioned, both in the OP and in follow-ups. They are a good example of a company that thrives without the OGL as the primary driver of sales.

Free League had a turnover of 11 million dollars in 2022 (public information) and this is spread out over several product lines and only two of those are OGL (Ruins of Symbaroum and The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying). This might seem small in the grand scheme of things, but my belief is that this is phenomenal. Not every rpg company has to be WotC or Paizo to be profitable or to reach an audience.

The OGL is one part of Free League's success with The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying but certainly not their primary strategy to achieve profitability. I see it as a supplemental strategy, a way of genereating revenue from their other work that is already done for their other systems. So them moving to the OGL is a bit of a misnomer, since they haven't abandoned any other lines in liue of the OGL.

Instead they have built their success on Year Zero, a robust rules set that powers games such as Alien, Blade Runner, Mutant Year Zero, Forbidden Lands, Tales from the Loop, Vaesen, and Twilight 2000. Some of these were million dollar Kickstarters. In addition to these games they publish Coriolis and Dragonbane (with seperate rules systems) that are fairly successful even though they don't generate 5E numbers.

Free League also act as publishers for Mörk Borg, CY_BORG, Pirate Borg, Death in Space and Into the ODD. None of these are OGL (at least as far as I know).

There is a good business in creating and distributing games that are not OGL, and Free League is an example of this. As I said, they are not WotC or Paizo level but they are building a solid publishing business on the backs of games of their own creation, not on the back of the OGL.

There will always be demand for "something else" role-playing games. Not as big as for Dungeons & Dragons or deratives, but big enough for it being worthwhile to publish those games.
 

Yora

Legend
To me it really never mattered how any publishers positioned themselves in the discourse about the RPG industry and their reception by the outspoken segment of customers. Unless the publisher seems like really horrible people, all that I care about is whether the game looks like something I want to run.
Outside of that, what even constitutes "doing well"? Is it about making the publishers a lot of money? That really doesn't seem like any kind of metric that should be relevant to people enjoying a game.
 

aramis erak

Legend
2. As others have mentioned, White Wolf was the darling of the late 90’s, but it wasn’t Fantasy. Its theme was different enough that it could become The Modern Gothic Horror TTRPG. Similarly, Traveller and Star Wars were the “Space for Serious Folks” and “Space Opera” TTRPGs. Rifts was the “Post Apocalyptic Kitchen Sink” TTRPG. Cyberpunk was the “Gritty Dystopian Future” TTRPG... and so on. All of them were to some degree popularized by the cultural zeitgeist of the time outside TTRPGs - they had a built in young adult audience.
Marc Miller has never intended Traveller to be for serious sci fi. It was intended to emulate 50's and 60's text space opera. Isaac Asimov, Doc Smith, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, CJ Cherryh, Larry Niven, etc...

And has influenced later Space Opera, too... explicitly so the works of Jeff Swycaffer and Chuck Gannon. (Chuck's also authored a number of articles expanding MegaTraveller in the official publications: JTAS, Traveller's Digest, Challenge.)
 

aramis erak

Legend
Disclaimer: I am a freelancer for Free League.
Which makes the assertion about Coriolis below an eye opener...
Instead they have built their success on Year Zero, a robust rules set that powers games such as Alien, Blade Runner, Mutant Year Zero, Forbidden Lands, Tales from the Loop, Vaesen, and Twilight 2000. Some of these were million dollar Kickstarters. In addition to these games they publish Coriolis and Dragonbane (with seperate rules systems) that are fairly successful even though they don't generate 5E numbers.
Coriolis' mechanics are almost pure Year Zero Engine. Reading Coriolis, having run Alien, T2k4, Vaesen, & Blade Runner, and read MYZ, Forbidden Lands, TftLoop, & TftFlood, as well as the YZE SRD... the only reason for it not being labeled YZE is that it predates MYZ. (Much like how Cortex System as a label starts with Serenity, but the system starts earlier with Sovereign Stone). Complete with pushing rolls. T2K 4e is way further from MYZ than Coriolis is.

That they have one engine with multiple adapted flavors is a strong strategy. One used as well by Modiphius, with their 2d20 engine.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
There is a good business in creating and distributing games that are not OGL, and Free League is an example of this.
Thanks for the info, but I have to ask. Would you agree that most of that success is due to IP, and not the rules system? So, rather than say "Non OGL games can do great!", it's more of "as long as you have a popular IP to sell the game on."

For example, as is, my system (GEAS) isn't a blip on the radar, and if I did a KS I'd probably be lucky to get 500 backers. But if I had the same system, but set it in the world of Middle Earth, it would be exponentially better.

Then, once you get the fanbase from those IP, it's much easier to get that fanbase to buy other products.
 

mamba

Legend
Thanks for the info, but I have to ask. Would you agree that most of that success is due to IP, and not the rules system? So, rather than say "Non OGL games can do great!", it's more of "as long as you have a popular IP to sell the game on."

For example, as is, my system (GEAS) isn't a blip on the radar, and if I did a KS I'd probably be lucky to get 500 backers. But if I had the same system, but set it in the world of Middle Earth, it would be exponentially better.

Then, once you get the fanbase from those IP, it's much easier to get that fanbase to buy other products.
I’d say starting without name recognition for the designer(s), engine, or IP is a tough spot. Hard to gain traction.

If you have at least one of those, you are much better off (engine only counts if it is your own, not based on someone else’s SRD)

Of course you still have to deliver in any case, but the recognition gets you jumpstarted
 


Maggan

Writer for CY_BORG, Forbidden Lands and Dragonbane
Thanks for the info, but I have to ask. Would you agree that most of that success is due to IP, and not the rules system? So, rather than say "Non OGL games can do great!", it's more of "as long as you have a popular IP to sell the game on."

For example, as is, my system (GEAS) isn't a blip on the radar, and if I did a KS I'd probably be lucky to get 500 backers. But if I had the same system, but set it in the world of Middle Earth, it would be exponentially better.

Then, once you get the fanbase from those IP, it's much easier to get that fanbase to buy other products.
I’d say that the most important ingredient for Free League success is business savy and being an early and successful adopter of Kickstarter. This made it possible for them to build a company that was trusted with other people’s IP.

Even if the IP thing came later I do suspect that it is a big part of their financial success, especially the Alien rpg. But it’s a complicated formula.

As for the MYZ system being a factor I think that leveraging it for several games is an advantage for them, at least a greater advantage than the system itself so to speak.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top