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: 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