‘Making money’ selling digital RPG products is tough. It’s certainly possible, if approached properly, but if you want to see more than a token return on your products your best bet is to go print. The demand for digital RPG products is growing, but the digital side of the industry hasn’t matured fully. Yet.
It’s easy to see how iPods and file-sharing services are killing off the market for hard copies of music CDs. But, RPGs are books. They play more by the rules that govern that industry and the fact remains that most people still like to hold their books in their hands. Stacks of sliced-up dead trees aren’t very portable – you can’t fit 1,000 of them in your pocket – but ‘screen resolution’ is never an issue. And while the new ebook readers will certainly solve this issue eventually, for now there is no way to replicate the experience of holding a book in your hands. Most people simply prefer printed books.
For RPG publishers intent on reaching more than a few hundred gamers, this means that local retailers are very important. They represent – for now – the easiest way to get in front of a large number of potential customers. Some publishers are experimenting with direct-to-consumer sales, but most cannot replicate the reach they get when utilizing the network of gaming stores.
Given the current market, it seems that playing at a local retailer would be the best way to interest new people in a game. So I wonder… How many people actually play at their local retailer as opposed to somewhere else?