Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Marketing the OSR, Part 3 of 4: Three Target Audiences

Three Target Audiences

There are at least three distinct sorts of people that could conceivably be brought in as OSR players. The first are people who are already gamers, are aware of the differences between the retro-clones and more modern RPGs, and have made a deliberate and informed choice to play the former (and not necessarily exclusively, either; too often the decision is painted as an either-or proposition, when it most definitely doesn’t have to be). For them, a broad comparison between rules is a good thing to get them hooked.

The second are people who are already gamers, are interested in games that are new, and are willing to give a new title a try for the sake of novelty, as long as it isn’t too expensive. The key here is that “new” is a relative term, and just because a given rules framework goes back to the 1970’s doesn’t necessarily mean that someone born in 1990 has ever played such a game themselves (or even knows what they're like). It’s new to them, and they won’t care that it’s “based on the 1974 rules set” or whatever. For them, a clear explanation of the rules, without comparison to others (past or present) is a good thing to get them hooked.

The third are non-gamers. They don’t know, and don’t care, about the historical antecedents of a particular game’s rules. They might not even know the basics of what an RPG is like. The fact that it is a clone of the LBB’s is completely irrelevant to this population; for them, a high-level introduction of what an RPG is, and why it’s fun as a general thing, and why game X is fun in particular, is a good thing to get them hooked.

Those last two, I think, contain an important lesson that is often lost by those creating and promoting OSR games. A lot of people don’t care that a game is part of the OSR. It’s new to them and that’s enough. But even having a good game isn’t enough. You have to get that game out in front of the target audience; let them know it exists, and then help them realize why would want to play it. This is a fundamental truth for any game publisher, and is no less true for OSR publishers.

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