Ongoing vs Limited RPG design

The possible end of the current Star Wars license at FFG got me thinking about game design from a volume perspective. In the thread, several people were lamenting that, because it is an expensive licensed property, no game company seems able to make a truly sustained push to put out Star Wars material. But it got me thinking. How much material does anyone actually need?

Should more games use a limited series model instead of an ongoing series model. Dungeons and Dragons for example is an ongoing series. They will keep pumping out 5th edition books up until there is a new edition. WotC will constantly seek out new design space and ways to explore the franchise to create new products. But what about producing games on a limited series model. What I mean is, a game that has a road-map, a set series of books it plans to publish, with no real plan to go past that? Would such a system better benefit more niche games?

More thoughts as I think more on this.


Well, that was fun
Staff member
From the publishing POV if you have a limited release set, then you have to do something else afterwards. If you move on and devote your resources on new projects, it can create an impression that the older ones are no longer supported. It's a tricky line to walk.


Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I'm also thinking about the fact that if you print a core book that literally contains everything you have to say about that game, people will buy it (maybe) but that's a one time thing; there's no reliable ongoing source of income from it, once your primary market have bought their copies. If you're thinking small print-run, I think the margins get tighter and the purchaser-side prices get higher, but it's been a while since I gave the book business any thought, and even then it wasn't RPG books.


That approach has been done with a lot of games. Stormbringer, for example. The usual problem is a single book or small series of references on a single topic is insufficient to pay salaries.

The one group that has managed it well is GURPS. The supplement line is effectively one-off reference works for a particular genre/setting. They've made in volume of genre/settings what they've lost in producing for a single campaign.

That said, the model collapses completely when faced with royalty / licensing costs. It'd be really difficult to gain enough income to pay for the out of pocket expenses.


Mod Squad
Staff member
I think most games are effectively limited series.

For most games, each release beyond the first is going to a more limited audience - you get most sales of the 1st (typically core rules) book, and sales numbers will drop off from there. There comes a point where the producers are going to look at the curve and realize that the next book won't be worth its opportunity cost, and the series ends.

Most producers of games can't predict how long the series will be, so they don't plan on a specific length.