Measuring Success: The First Six Months

BrokenRuler_logo_websiteheader_Oct2015_noshadow

It has been exactly six months since Broken Ruler Games was relaunched and the time has come to look back at those early days to see where things have progressed to date. Yes, exactly six months to the day.

Pay no attention to the date of this post!

Hello again, loyal readers and casual Googlers. This is BRG’s big cheese, Todd Crapper, here once more to review the numbers that have been flying across my screen these past few months. As this latest update in the Measuring Success is arriving a bit behind schedule and there’s still plenty of work ahead on the High Plains Samurai Kickstarter, let’s jump right into the fray, shall we?

Cutting Up The Numbers

Below are the total sales for both OneBookShelf sites (DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and affiliates), the Open Gaming Store, conventions, and direct sales between September 20, 2016 and March 31, 2017.

Product Total Sold Gross Sales Earnings  
Killshot: The Director’s Cut 20 $86.12 $50.39  
PDF 18     **listed as Silver Best Seller on DriveThruRPG
Hardcover B&W 2     1 print demo ordered from Lightning Source
Hardcover B&W + PDF 0      
         
Killshot: An Assassin’s Journal 5 $0.00 $0.00  
PDF 5      
Softcover B&W 0      
         
Killshot: Direction 0 $0.00 $0.00  
PDF 0      
Softcover B&W 0      
         
Killshot Files #0 22 $2.00 $1.17  
PDF (Free) 22      
         
Killshot Files #1 5 $6.00 $3.64  
PDF 5      
         
Killshot Files #2 6 $17.47 $10.22  
PDF 6      
         
ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition 0 $0.00 $0.00  
PDF (Free) 0      
         
Ironbound 101 $5.83 $3.49  
PWYW 48      
Softcover POD 0     limited to 5 copies only for PbP playtesters!
Blessed and the Damned 53      
         
ScreenPlay 32 $189.20 $129.75  
PDF 23      
Softcover POD 2      
Softcover POD + PDF 4      
CreateSpace / Retail 5     for backers/playtesters/patrons only!
         
Dial M for Monster 18 $68.50 $40.08  
PDF 16      
Softcover POD 2     1x POD proof ordered Sept. 2016
         
High Plains Samurai 911 $0.00 $0.00  
Rehearsal Edition 911      
       
TOTAL 1146 $365.12 $238.74  
         
Killshot Directors Kit (Bundle) 5    

With only one new paid release in this period (Dial M For Monster), these are decent numbers. Considering how ScreenPlay quickly lost steam after a strong release and Dial M (to be blunt) failed to click with classic monster movie fans in October, these are good to see and a positive sign moving forward. Killshot continues to hang on and Ironbound refuses to go down (much like the magick hunters themselves).

This is also the first time I’ve been able to include sales from multiple sources and not just OneBookShelf sites. Broken Ruler Games is now a proud member of the Open Gaming Store, Composed Dream Games Marketplace, the IGDN (providing access to some American conventions with plans to move into retail distribution as well), and we’re also available in at 401 Games in Toronto. A brick-and-mortar store selling physical copies of ScreenPlay! Always brings a tear to my eye. Plus there was a copy sold at BreakoutCon. Oops, there’s another tear.

What really stands out over these past six months is that nice big number next to High Plains Samurai: The Rehearsal Edition. 911 downloads. In one month. Wow! And that number is soon approaching 1,000. Compared to the 645 downloads of ScreenPlay‘s Rehearsal Edition during the initial playtest campaign and during ENnies voting, roughly four months of availability, and that’s a big leap. Clearly the concept connects with people enough to add it to their catalogue; the question becomes whether or not it will be enough to make a healthy portion of them want to help expand this project into something bigger and wilder. Time will soon tell.

Tightening The Focus

dialm_finalcoverThese numbers have brought something to light: open ended products do not sell as well as detailed concepts based on a particular genre. By this, I mean products with a clear direction and theme in mind, such as a game about robot hunters on Mars versus a game about telling a story around a campfire. Killshot is still selling (and selling better than ScreenPlay) after four years and HPS‘ initial downloads prove that case. While Dial M provided a clearer idea of the system than the ScreenPlay core rulebook, it was not unique enough to stand out in the crowd. At this point, the only two products consistently getting clicked are the modern assassination RPG, Killshot, and there appears to be strong interest in Samurai‘s mad mash-up. Perhaps more than the positive signs, it’s the negatives telling me BRG needs to consider a greater focus on more unique concepts than open-ended, “do-it-all” systems.

ScreenPlay and Dial M For Monster are currently financial losses and it looks as if it will be a while before they break even. Those are strong negatives as far as aiming at similar projects in the future. It’s not to say such products will never be on the menu again, just that there will be some smaller budgets attached to them. Much smaller. It will mean smaller page counts but it also means future ScreenPlay treatments are still possible with the rules left up to the core rulebook. Maybe a collection of treatments. If anything, it’s a worthy experiment that will help shape BRG’s future (even if the result was less than hoped).

Getting Ready To Unleash The Samurai

hpslogo_kickstartermay2017

As mentioned above, we’re closing in on the Kickstarter launch of High Plains Samurai and all wheels are spinning in that direction. Seeing such impressive numbers for the free playtest have been incredibly encouraging… but the low number of survey results have skewed that sentiment. To date, there has only been one survey result completed for HPS but there are a couple factors to consider. First, this first quarter of 2017 has been Kickstarter season (one we were originally due to be part of were it not for the scheduling change and I’m very glad HPS wasn’t trying to compete with so many other amazing games during March). There’s been a lot of new stuff coming and going. ScreenPlay‘s playtest was released in October versus HPS‘ in March. Obviously, this time difference is huge and has been noted for future playtests. The downloads suggest HPS definitely appeals to a wide audience; without the feedback, it’s hard to tell if it actually resonates with people.

Another crucial factor is that getting feedback on anything – let alone a playtest – is difficult in the best of times. What I had hoped was a working formula has now been revealed to have been a lucky fluke with ScreenPlay… or maybe it’s more of the audience each game attracted. ScreenPlay definitely struck a chord with the story game crowd, Samurai has appealed to a more traditional RPG audience (or perhaps a hybrid crowd, such as Powered By The Apocalypse fans). Even people who playtest something face-to-face with the creator can be loathe and unable to provide detailed feedback, but I’m happy to report there are some playtests in progress at the time of this post and there should be more to work from going into the Kickstarter campaign. The initial response to this game is still very strong and I should have BIG NEWS for the launch party (to me, at least, because I get to fan gush when the time is right). Stay tuned for that.

All that aside, revisions have been made to the Kickstarter’s goals and stretch goals in light of this shift in playtest results. For starters, I’ve adjusted the goal to a lower $3,000 (Canadian) to fund a “basic” version of the game and by that I mean a 96-page edition containing the complete rules and basic setting material with an appendix for the Black Scorpion storyline and a host of supporting characters from around the One Land. This will at least give me the satisfaction of knowing I can publish HPS in a way that I would still be proud to slap on the BRG label and provide something magical for people to play. At $6,000 (still Canadian), we will produce High Plains Samurai: Black Scorpion’s Revenge, the true version of the game I’ve always intended. At nearly 160 pages, this will contain everything from the “basic” version plus incredibly detailed guidelines for directing/playing HPS and a chapter for each of the six major locations in the One Land. Within each of those chapters, a series of scenarios will provide story beats to help your group play out your version of Black Scorpion’s Revenge, the main storyline that threatens to wipe the One Land from existence. At $10,000… you know what, let’s leave that one for now. Yep, I’m teasing you.

My Money Where My Mouth Is (or Do You Want To See The HPS Kickstarter Budget?)

Due to time constraints and wanting to get this post out the door before the end of April (sheesh!), I’m going to skip the fourth component of this post… for now. Seeing as I’ve been open with my sales figures, it seemed only fair to be as open with my Rehearsal Edition/Kickstarter budget for High Plains Samurai. How much I’ve spent to date to create the version that will exist as of May 30th as far as editing, artwork, marketing, and more. Time permitting, that will happen before the launch. Otherwise, I will make a point to include it during the campaign itself.

Until then, if you have any questions, comments, or random swear words to throw my way, I’m always game to hear from you. Thank you for your support so far as BRG continues moving forward and I hope there’ll be some crazy numbers to show you next time. Like numbers with four digits. Whaaaaa….?!!

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Measuring Success (or How Well ScreenPlay Sold)

(This is the second draft of this post written from scratch. Something about the chart above is really throwing off WordPress and anytime I attempt to select more than one word, it scrolls straight down to the bottom. Therefore, to keep it simple and avoid a third attempt, all links are provided at the bottom of this post.)

Another fiscal year has come and gone and this one is extra special. As detailed in my personal blog, Broken Ruler Games is now an actual business. Licence and everything. Which means apologies must be made for any ruse or hand waving magician-ry of the past four years. Yet what made the goal of starting BRG remains and fuels the engine of this next step.

It meant creating a clean and accurate slate as a business rather than part of freelancing. Only a month ahead of schedule, it was time to see how well ScreenPlay has fared and discover the aftermath of 2015’s Bundle of Holding.

Let’s See Some Numbers

Yes, let’s start with that. Below are the sales/downloads for everything in the BRG catalogue from October 2015 to August 2016.

Product Total Sold Gross Sales Earnings
Killshot: The Director’s Cut 36 $259.21 $140.08
  PDF 25
  Hardcover B&W 4
  Hardcover B&W + PDF 7
Killshot: An Assassin’s Journal 6 $10.17 $5.95
  PDF 6
  Softcover B&W 0
Killshot: Direction 2 $7.15 $4.18
  PDF 2
  Softcover B&W 0
Killshot Files #0 42 $9.78 $3.98
  PDF (Free) 42
Killshot Files #1 16 $19.94 $11.67
  PDF 16
Killshot Files #2 16 $57.22 $33.47
  PDF 16
ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition 645 $0.00 $0.00
  PDF (Free) 645
Ironbound 444 $64.46 $37.72
  PWYW 231
  Softcover POD 5
  Blessed and the Damned 208
ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition 92 $444.44 $260.01
  PDF 75
  Softcover POD 5
  Softcover POD + PDF 12
  Hardcover POD (playtesters exclusive) 11
TOTAL 1315 $872.37 $497.06

Starting with highlights, the numbers for both ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition (not including additional downloads during ENnies voting, which were provided on Google Drive instead of RPGNow – the original provider) and Ironbound are impressive. Those are loads of opportunities for people to discover ScreenPlay with little to zero cost (and risk). Did it translate into the desired number of ScreenPlay core book sales? No. Based on the initial launch, core book sales have dropped nearly 70% in August compared to May 2016. Even the Christmas In July sale did not improve sales. There are still sales taking place with 11 PDFs in August and a couple POD sales.

There was also no carry-over from the ENnies nomination. A couple hundred more downloads, yes, but there doesn’t appear to be any impact on core rulebook sales.

The true test will be the October release of Dial M for Monster (slated for layout this weekend). At the very least, it will make for a geiger counter of a specific concept over a universal system. And whether or not people like to play old drive-in movies for Hallowe’en as emphatically as they did in playtesting.

Overall sales were down 50% from the previous year. Killshot sales dropped significantly, down by more than 90% from 2014-15 and the main cause is the Bundle of Holding. Oh, how could you, sweetest moment of BRG’s short life. The BoH was an amazing opportunity and it was also a swan song for this edition of the game. At this point, it seems to be cooling down to a slow trickle… but this is after three years in the spotlight. For my first original design, this is truly amazing and I’m happy to report over 1,000 copies of Killshot: The Director’s Cut are resting on bookshelves and tablets all over the world.

Perhaps this means it is time to take another crack at Killshot Reloaded in the near future…

Um, Great Time to Start a Business, Huh?

It does seem like going +1 forward on BRG after a year like this may not have been the smartest move but it’s all skewed on one major factor: the Bundle of Holding. For a small indie publisher such as BRG, gaining access was fundamental to last year’s success. Yet such a thing cannot be expected as a regular feature. When I look at the total earnings BRG has accumulated in four years, 2015-16 was on par. 25% of its total earnings were made in the last 11 months and that means we held our heads above the water as the cruise ship took off without us. Thumbs up!

There’s also the price points between Killshot and ScreenPlay, with the latter priced at half that of its violent older brother. While ScreenPlay’s numbers were not what I hoped, those for Ironbound are very promising and I am considering a possible Ironbound sequel once it reaches 300 downloads.

Here’s what this teaches me. For the past four years, Broken Ruler Games has been a development studio with help from Mystical Throne Entertainment and operated on soft launches and zero marketing. Promoting, yes, but promoting is when you connect with an existing audience (Twitter followers, email subscribers) and marketing is reaching a population outside of that. Plus it’s only been available on OneBookShelf sites – that’s going to change. A lot is. It has been a learning experience these past four years and there’s a very good indication this could grow into something more, something with a bit more muscle going into the bigger picture. I’ve been having fun with BRG and creating games for people to play; now it’s time to take it seriously.

Are you ready?

Un-Broken Links

To read my personal blog post on turning BRG into a legit business (that sounds kind of mafia, doesn’t it?), click here.

You can read more about ScreenPlay, Ironbound and Killshot by clicking on them words.

Discover all about the Bundle of Holding and pick up some sweet bundle on their website.


Todd Crapper is the Owner/Lead Designer/Jack of All Trades for Broken Ruler Games. Basically, anything you see written with that blue target and snapped ruler on it was written by him. Including this. He’s writing about himself in the third person. Weirdo.

Measuring Success: The Sales Giveth and They Taketh Away

BrokenRuler_logo_websiteheader_Oct2015_noshadowThe trick to having an open door policy to your sales numbers is leaving the door open no matter what the place looks like inside. That means if things are messy and not exactly what you’d like people to see, you should have considered that before sticking the welcome sign out front. What I’m trying to say is that while our last rendition of Measuring Success showed some really happy numbers, today’s update is going in the opposite direction.

Lately, I’ve heard a few other indie RPG publishers lamenting on online sales recently, including disappointment over the ever-popular Christmas in July sale on all DriveThruRPG sites, and BRG’s numbers tend to back up that sentiment. There are other factors to consider (there always are), such as the massive surge in sales gained through last summer’s Bundle of Holding offer and the sheer fact that our only current product line, Killshot, is three years old without any recent additions. There’s no denying Killshot has not exactly been top priority in our marketing lately as all our focus has been on our second child, ScreenPlay, and its upcoming free playtest release. (See, we did it again!) With that in mind and as the end of September brings about the end of a fiscal year, I’ve had a chance to take a good look over the sales figures of the past year and have started to use them as guidelines for how we’re going to approach ScreenPlay‘s full release in 2016. What that exactly entails will also depend on how the Rehearsal Edition’s release plays out, so there will be no details on 2016’s plans today. For now and in light of the fact that the opening pitch now a week away, I’m going to simply post this past quarter’s sales totals, stay calm and carry on.

Killshot: The Director’s Cut
Total 3rd Quarter 2015 Sales – 7 (all PDF)
Total 2015 Sales – 585 (583 PDF, 2 print on demand)

Killshot: An Assassin’s Journal
Total 3rd Quarter 2015 Sales – 0
Total 2015 Sales – 1955 (1954 PDF, 1 print on demand)

Killshot: Direction
Total 3rd Quarter 2015 Sales – 0
Total 2015 Sales – 0

Killshot Files #0: Redemption
Total 3rd Quarter 2015 Sales – 8 (all PDF)
Total 2015 Sales – 55 (all PDF)

Killshot Files #1
Total 3rd Quarter 2015 Sales – 0
Total 2015 Sales – 31 (all PDF)

KIllshot Files #2
Total 3rd Quarter 2015 Sales – 2 (all PDF)
Total 2015 Sales – 33 (all PDF)

Measuring Success: A Breakdown of the First Half of 2015

Every now and then, you’ll find an indie publisher posting their sales data (money and all) direct on their website for all to see. The biggest one of them all would be Evil Hat Productions, currently the mecca for all indie publishers looking to make it big. Those with business degrees would wonder why someone who do such a thing and give away any potential secrets to their success or reveal how poorly they’re doing in the market, but that’s the thing about indie publishing: we all ride on everyone’s success. Besides, the motto around here is “breaking all the rules,” so it’s not like we’re about to do what’s proper.

As the Big Cheese around here, I’ve been meaning to get around to posting these at the start of every quarter (April, July, October, and January) since our merger with Mystical Throne Entertainment. It’s just never panned out that way… until today. So when I say these are the figures Broken Ruler Games produced in the first half of the year, there should be a clarification that these results are actually what’s gone down since the merger back in late November of 2014. In essence, this is how things have fared with BRG since we started bunking with MTE. A fair warning that I will not provide any $ with these totals as anyone can figure those out if someone was really set on it and as BRG is in a partnership, such figures were deemed irrelevant and improper for this post.

Let’s Start From The Top, Shall We?

First off, the total figures from November 23, 2014 to the end of June 2015. Plain and simple, a total of 2642 purchases – downloads, freebies, and POD sales –  took place (not including bundles, of which there were 26). Of those, 1933 were made available at no profit to us whatsoever for a charity bundle back in April of this year and 541 came from the recently exhilarating Bundle of Holding last month. Here’s a breakdown of exactly what was purchased, regardless of source.

Killshot: The Director’s Cut
Total Sales – 578
(576 PDF, 2 print on demand)

Killshot: An Assassin’s Journal
Total Sales – 1955 (includes the 1933 for the charity bundle)
(1954 PDF, 1 print on demand)

Killshot: Direction
Total Sales – 0

Killshot Files #0: Redemption
Total Sales – 47 (all PDF)

Killshot Files #1
Total Sales – 31 (all PDF)

KIllshot Files #2
Total Sales – 31 (all PDF)

Before vs. After Partnership

As noted above, BRG formed a development partnership with Mystical Throne late last year, thereby allowing myself to move away from the day-to-day requirements of publishing and carry on with game design and project development. Not a day goes by when I’m not thankful for that and to prove how effective and agreeable a decision that was, I’m going to share one tiny dollar sign with you.

$40

That’s the exact difference in net earnings BRG has collected since the partnership formed compared everything else before hand. Yep, in only seven months and a few days, the partnership has allowed us to make almost as much as it took in 2.5 years trying by myself. Which is why today’s lesson is always learn how to chew your humble pie and know when to turn to someone with better skills than you.

While I will admit the biggest difference was participating in the Bundle of Holding, no doubt about it, for otherwise that difference would be closer to $600 but even with individual downloads alone there are 667 more copies of Killshot products on people’s computers since the partnership than beforehand. Even if a large portion of that boost came from a charity bundle and not a dime into our coffers, that’s a significant number more gamers with opportunity to discover our work (and we were able to help out a family in dire times, making it well worth the extra dust in the wallet). In short, there are now 4,609 editions of Killshot around the world as of the end of 2015’s first half. All in all, this year’s turning out Broken. (Wait, does that sound right?)

Up And Coming? Why, ScreenPlay’s Playtest Edition, Of Course

ScreenPlay's cover revealed!The time has come to start filling the virtual shelves with more than just Killshot products. It’s time to start moving forward with our next game, ScreenPlay. At this time, I’m cracking away at a special Playtest Edition of the storytelling RPG system with plans to launch this sneak peak by Autumn of this year. And by Playtest Edition, I mean a glimpse at what the game is about with enough detail to break it out at your table (complete with advice for Directors and Writers crafting their own tales and an introductory, grim fantasy treatment called Ironbound) and incentives for readers and players alike to help fortify this game into something stronger than I could ever imagine. Think of Kickstarter-style rewards without having to shell out money and instead sharing your feedback. Details to come as they become available, so stay frosty on that by keeping an eye on our ScreenPlay page.

For now, that’s everything… oh, wait. There is one more thing I’d like to announce, something a little more personal and fitting to this section. There’s a new body here in the Broken Office and while his skills won’t be put to the test for many years to come, there’s a new member of the team here nonetheless.

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My son, Logan. And yes, his dice are already on order.

Sincerely,

The Warden
Proud Publisher and Papa
Broken Ruler Games