Starfinder: Is it going to fail, split Paizo in half, or succeed?


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Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
bluesman95 wrote:

TSR did star frontiers in 1982 i dont think it really caught on.

I loved the setting for Star Frontiers and it actually had a pretty good ship/vehicle/power armor crafting system (if you included the articles from Dragon magazine). It had decent support and right before it died, they published what was supposed to be the first in a series of new rules updates (Zebulon's Guide). Unfortunately, I think it got killed when Lorraine Williams took charge of TSR and switched the sci-fi focus to Buck Rogers.


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Fair enough for the comments on Bestiary compatibility. I wouldn't want the Paizo people to not update their Starfinder monster blocks to a more modern, easier to use format just for compatibility reasons and I don't think they plan to. If the conversion to and from is simple enough than there's still no reason to not have a common Bestiary line though right? Just include the conversion rules as an Appendix.

thejeff. One difference is that the current plan according to Paizo for Starfinder is that magic has 'taken a step back' to allow space for technology to step up. A magic less Starfinder will have a lot of tech toys baked in to take up the slack and so should be a different, more robust, situation from magic less Pathfinder.

The Exchange

thejeff wrote:
Theliah Strongarm wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
Richard Redmane wrote:
The "general failure" of Sci-Fi RPGs is a bit of a stretch. Shadowrun is now on it's fifth edition and Traveller has gone through how many editions now? And there are others that can found if one digs deeply enough.
Well as I said, I'm not very confident in the claim and am prepared to be proved wrong, but FWIW I don't see the multiple editions of traveller and Shadowrun as a success (especially given those two, in particular have gone through multiple owners). Rather, I see it as indicative of a passionate but not very large section of the market.

Might be more simply put as the "general failure" of RPGs that aren't D&D. (PF kind of sneaking in there - though how it'll do in the long run is still an open question.)

Everything else is pretty much a niche of a niche.

That's a pretty broad statement to label PF and D&D as the best RPG's out there and then label everything else as... meh. I, personally, have seen some very good games that aren't D&D or PF.

I wasn't speaking of their quality, but in market terms.

PF & D&D aren't my favorite games, but D&D has absolutely dominated the RPG market for basically its entire existence - with the exception of PF and I think Vampire may have passed it during 2E's decline.

Point taken.

The Exchange

Hmm wrote:

The End is Nigh!

Doomsayers have always amused me. I think there's another way of looking at this. The end of the world is always happening, but it's that very process that makes it begin anew. Opening up your wings, and leaping off -- that's how you learn to fly.

If you never try new things, you become like a bleached gnome. I like that Paizo is developing a new line. It can bring in fresh blood, and help grow new talent.

Hmm

Very... poetic.


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My concern is that I remember being a Warhammer fan back in the 1980's thinking that Rogue Trade and Warhammer 40k were neat and all but such a niche that it would never seriously threaten the fantasy genre.

Yeah...no. Sometime in the mid 90's the sci-fi line (40k) overtook the fantasy line and the fantasy line never recovered. The fantasy setting was still incredible but it never got the support it once had.

Last year Games Workshop the company behind them killed off the fantasy setting and brought it back with such a crappy setting that I refuse to even acknowledge its existence let alone buy anything set in it.

I realize Pathfinder is a somewhat different position but still...


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Robert Little wrote:
bluesman95 wrote:

TSR did star frontiers in 1982 i dont think it really caught on.

I loved the setting for Star Frontiers and it actually had a pretty good ship/vehicle/power armor crafting system (if you included the articles from Dragon magazine). It had decent support and right before it died, they published what was supposed to be the first in a series of new rules updates (Zebulon's Guide). Unfortunately, I think it got killed when Lorraine Williams took charge of TSR and switched the sci-fi focus to Buck Rogers.

One landshark to another, I believe that is the case. At least, I was super-psyched when I saw the little "Volume 1" at the bottom of the cover copy, and gradually became super-disillusioned over the course months (if not years) when no Volume 2 was forthcoming.


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bluesman95 wrote:

TSR did star frontiers in 1982 i dont think it really caught on.

There's enough of a current fanbase to support a web magazine, at least up until a couple of years ago, over 30 years past its release date.

Star Frontiersman Magazine


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Theliah Strongarm wrote:
So, I really got excited when Starfinder was announced, as were most of you. My question though, is PAthfinder and Starfinder split Paizo in half, so say one half doing Starfinder, while the other half is doing Pathfinder? In that case, does that mean the average rate of products for both franchises will be halved? And, will Starfinder flop before it gets out of the gate? Or will it get a reasonable fan database and succeed?

It will sell enough copies to pay for itself financially and be technically called a 'success' in PR blurbs, but will lag behind and just be 'that other game' that never gets any love, and never be updated after PF2 hits.

As for splitting the 'community,' nah. Most of its sales success will depend heavily on the existing Paizo community to buy in blindly.

TwoWolves wrote:
There's enough of a current fanbase to support a web magazine, at least up until a couple of years ago, over 30 years past its release date.

?? Pretty much anything ever published for pop culture has a fansite on the internet. That isn't a sign of success or catching on. Just the nature of the medium.


Hmm wrote:

The End is Nigh!

Doomsayers have always amused me. I think there's another way of looking at this. The end of the world is always happening, but it's that very process that makes it begin anew. Opening up your wings, and leaping off -- that's how you learn to fly.

If you never try new things, you become like a bleached gnome. I like that Paizo is developing a new line. It can bring in fresh blood, and help grow new talent.

Hmm

Not to mention that Paizo has done nothing but Pathfinder for about eight years. Nothing. I know for certain I've been waiting for them to branch out into the sci-fi genre for at least five of those eight years. That's nearly a decade's worth of adventure books, Ultimate Whatever Guides, and a convoluted atlas I'm still trying to straighten out in my head. Pathfinder has enough of a backlog to keep fans busy for a couple years at least.

Liberty's Edge

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Split... but not in half.

Starfinder really sounds like a super niche product.
It's not a generic sci-fi ruleset (like d20 Future) and really sounds like it will be as much a campaign setting. The star-magic class they teased in the panel emphasizes that.
So that really shrinks the potential audience and puts it in competition with Numenera, Traveler, and other non-franchise sci-fi RPGs. Sci-fi RPGs are tricky in that regard...

From the start, Paizo has been reluctant to repeat the errors of TSR: splitting the audience by releasing competing campaign settings or versions of the game (Basic, Advanced, SAGA). But this feels like exactly that: a new incompatible campaign setting *and* a semi-compatible rule system.
I imagine, at the design stage, it made sense. Because it's so different there's less direct competition as a setting (attracts different people and scratches a different itch). And by making it backwards compatible, it can be splatbooks for Numenera and the two will work together. It was a way to produce more content for the Pathfinder RPG without directly adding more bloat, since - as a different "game" - it could be ignored.

In practice, it will likely be less compatible than initially planned, as game designers like to design games, and will undoubtedly have trouble resisting the urge to tinker and "fix". Little things like, oh, monster math, could be tightened. But that really hurts backwards compatibility.
And the audience still has to choose which products to buy with their finite money.

The catch being people don't have unlimited free time and most gamers can only play a single game at a time. They have to pick a side. People who opt to start Starfinder will likely do so by decreasing future Pathfinder purchases.


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Voss wrote:


TwoWolves wrote:
There's enough of a current fanbase to support a web magazine, at least up until a couple of years ago, over 30 years past its release date.
?? Pretty much anything ever published for pop culture has a fansite on the internet. That isn't a sign of success or catching on. Just the nature of the medium.

I didn't say "fansite". SF has dozens of those. I said "Web Magazine", which is to say over two dozen PDF issues that are available in commercial streams, not just their own site. You can get them at Drivethru RPG, for example. It's not the same as Life magazine (or Mad magazine, for that matter) but it's a whole lot more than a blog. And most of the content is reader-submitted, so it's not just one lonely fan with a computer cranking out his houserules.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It was mentioned at a panel at PaizoCon that they use almost the 'Civilization' method of world-building.

ie, Paizo starts small on a thing (or why for a while Varisia looked like the nexus of *everything* Pathfinder) and then expands outwards from it as there is interest in a given area.

Interest indicated by sales, backed by support, grows the world in different directions.

One of the things brought up there was the concern about Starfinder and the interaction with Golarion, and 'are they done with Golarion' and the answer was a resounding 'no'.

They have at least three largely untouched landmasses out there to play with on Golarion, and part of 'Distant Shores' was to try and gauge interest in them, much like 'Distant Worlds' touched on interest in 'space' campaigns.

So I don't suspect based on that atm that there's going to be some sort of Schism at Paizo.

Just call it a hunch.

"Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan." -- Admiral Painter (to Jack Ryan), Hunt for Red October


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Wild success that will consume Pathfinder, thus preventing anyone from ever doing a fantasy campaign again as everyone will be playing starfinder. Other hobbies will be affected. We will all just go to game stores after work and do nothing but starfinder for the rest of time.

Resistance is futile.


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Jester David wrote:
The catch being people don't have unlimited free time and most gamers can only play a single game at a time. They have to pick a side. People who opt to start Starfinder will likely do so by decreasing future Pathfinder purchases.

Nice theory, however your argument here hinges on something that can't be proven or if anything is a false statement. Sales of Product A (Pathfinder Coke) will decrease with the arrival of Product B (Starfinder/Pathfinder Spirte) is a statement that assumes that there isn't a body of customers only interested in Product B and could care less about Product A.

Listening to you doomsingers try to argue economics is amusing. Product diversity is never a bad thing, if anything the opposite is usually true. There is no perfect pepsi only perfect pepsi's...


TwoWolves wrote:
Voss wrote:


TwoWolves wrote:
There's enough of a current fanbase to support a web magazine, at least up until a couple of years ago, over 30 years past its release date.
?? Pretty much anything ever published for pop culture has a fansite on the internet. That isn't a sign of success or catching on. Just the nature of the medium.
I didn't say "fansite". SF has dozens of those. I said "Web Magazine", which is to say over two dozen PDF issues that are available in commercial streams, not just their own site. You can get them at Drivethru RPG, for example. It's not the same as Life magazine (or Mad magazine, for that matter) but it's a whole lot more than a blog. And most of the content is reader-submitted, so it's not just one lonely fan with a computer cranking out his houserules.

Huzzah? Fan magazines are a big part of popular culture and go back to the 19th century. And again, the pervasiveness of the internet seems to be changing your standards. Anyone can plop 'magazines' on sites like Drivethru. It's a "commercial stream" in the least sense of the word. Literally anyone with a connection can try to sell just about anything for money on the net.

It isn't a sign of popularity or anything else. Lots of local and small institutions turned to the 'net for 'publishing' their newsletters. So instead of one lonely fan (not something anyone ever claimed), it could be a couple dozen fans. Or even a couple hundred fans. That still isn't indicative of lasting success for a game. That goes to very few titles in this industry.

Liberty's Edge

Richard Redmane wrote:
Jester David wrote:
The catch being people don't have unlimited free time and most gamers can only play a single game at a time. They have to pick a side. People who opt to start Starfinder will likely do so by decreasing future Pathfinder purchases.

Nice theory, however your argument here hinges on something that can't be proven or if anything is a false statement. Sales of Product A (Pathfinder Coke) will decrease with the arrival of Product B (Starfinder/Pathfinder Spirte) is a statement that assumes that there isn't a body of customers only interested in Product B and could care less about Product A.

Listening to you doomsingers try to argue economics is amusing. Product diversity is never a bad thing, if anything the opposite is usually true. There is no perfect pepsi only perfect pepsi's...

Your analogy is deeply flawed.

First, it is easy to alternate between Sprite and Pepsi. Second, in consuming a Pepsi, it is gone.

Pathfinder is a product line of RPG books. And a mature one at that. Continuing sales of Pathfinder was going to be difficult in a vacuum as the consumer base is reaching (if not already reached) saturation. Few RPG lines continue indefinitely without an edition reset. Paizo has been dodging calls for an edition reset for two or three years now...
Putting out any product that compete with Pathfinder is a gamble plain and simple.

Second, gamers are not going to continually buy books just to read and own them. People buy games to play. You can get one or two sales that way, but it's not sustained. The company can't bank on collectors buying all their product out of brand loyalty or a gotta-get-em-all mindset. There's a few out there (we gamers are an obsessive bunch) but not many.
The big sales will be people playing the game. However, finding time to game can be tricky. Like many gamers, I would *love* to game twice as often. But getting two games going is tricky, as is alternating systems. It's fun in theory, but in practice you get rules muddied in your head.

Unless Paizo can double their fanbase and greatly increase the number of people buying their books then it WILL cost the, sales.

Product diversity is good. Self-competition is bad. As was demonstrated very clearly by the bankruptcy of TSR despite owning the two best selling RPG brands.


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Personally, I've been preparing to end my subscriptions to all Pathfinder products for the last two months, as soon as Hell's Vengeance ends, just to make sure I get all the products. Mostly because the last couple of APs have irritated me, and the ones for the next year look like they'd bore/annoy me even more. So I was done. I was fully, utterly prepared to end things and not look back.

Then they announced Starfinder. Which is something I have been tinkering with in the back of my head ever since I played Dragonstar nearly ten years ago, but never could get myself to figure out fully. I'm going to get it. I'm going to subscribe. And this actually is net gaining sales from me, at least, because they created something new that I actually like.


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Richard Redmane wrote:

Nice theory, however your argument here hinges on something that can't be proven or if anything is a false statement. Sales of Product A (Pathfinder Coke) will decrease with the arrival of Product B (Starfinder/Pathfinder Spirte) is a statement that assumes that there isn't a body of customers only interested in Product B and could care less about Product A.

Listening to you doomsingers try to argue economics is amusing. Product diversity is never a bad thing, if anything the opposite is usually true. There is no perfect pepsi only perfect pepsi's...

A long shift of doomsinging can work up a powerful thirst. Just remember that you can always stop by for a refreshing chalice of communion wine Spite™. Mmmm, lemony-limey! Also, try new sugar-free Spite™, sweetened with Schadenfreudecralose!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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Richard Redmane wrote:
Jester David wrote:
The catch being people don't have unlimited free time and most gamers can only play a single game at a time. They have to pick a side. People who opt to start Starfinder will likely do so by decreasing future Pathfinder purchases.

Nice theory, however your argument here hinges on something that can't be proven or if anything is a false statement. Sales of Product A (Pathfinder Coke) will decrease with the arrival of Product B (Starfinder/Pathfinder Spirte) is a statement that assumes that there isn't a body of customers only interested in Product B and could care less about Product A.

Listening to you doomsingers try to argue economics is amusing. Product diversity is never a bad thing, if anything the opposite is usually true. There is no perfect pepsi only perfect pepsi's...

I don't think that is the proper plural for Pepsi.

Silver Crusade

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Every time I see this thread name, I think of Mitch Hedberg:

"They either loved us or they hated us. Or they thought we were okay."


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

When I first heard of Starfinder, I honestly didn't know what to make of it. It did have me intrigued and after spending a bit of time reading all the information available I am now excited by the potential that Starfinder brings. Pathfinder has always been one of my favourite rule systems. I drifted away from it a few years back looking for something more modern day. Starfinder with its science fantasy focus seems to be exactly what I am after.

I believe Starfinder will be a success and it will help Pathfinder. The key is Pathfinder compatibility. The ability to borrow from Pathfinder, and with minimal conversion, be able to use that material in Starfinder is at the top of my please do list. As this has been stated as a priority design goal of Starfinder, I'm satisfied it will happen and eagerly await the release.

In the meantime I will be catching up to everything I missed in Pathfinder. So in a way Starfinder is already helping Pathfinder. It has ushered me back and has me buying and enjoying Pathfinder material once again.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I don't see hardcover Starfinder books hurting Pathfinder too much. Pathfinder I feel has honestly reached a point of its development cycle where most of the low-hanging fruit have been picked, and and only producing 2 or 3 hardcover books a year for Pathfinder, allowing at least 1 Starfinder hardcover a year or something, wouldn't hurt the game, and may even help its long term viability.

I do worry about the AP lines however; People's budgets (not to mention time) stretch only so far, and I don't see myself having the money and time to subscribe to both AP lines + CS. I would imagine that I would probably only subscribe to Starfinder when the Pathfinder AP line covered a topic I wasn't interested in (I unsubscribed for the current AP because I am not interested in evil campaigns).


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Theliah Strongarm wrote:
That scares me. A lot. I am a HUGE advocate of Pathfinder.If they shut Pathfinder down, I might just shut down and cry.

If Paizo were to shut down Pathfinder, they'd be closing their doors the day after. So...not going to happen.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm going to try to subscribe for both.


Is Starfinder going to be, in part, the proving ground for future mechanics of a PF2?

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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Rovewin wrote:
Is Starfinder going to be, in part, the proving ground for future mechanics of a PF2?

You're not the first to speculate that.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Lord Fyre wrote:
Rovewin wrote:
Is Starfinder going to be, in part, the proving ground for future mechanics of a PF2?
You're not the first to speculate that.

Practically every non CS book for the last few years gets this speculation.

Creative Director, Starfinder Team

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Look, if Paizo splits in half, it's inevitably going to be Upstairs vs. Downstairs. You'd think that we down here in the pit would have the natural advantage, being on the ground floor and controlling the stairwells, but that's underestimating Customer Service's willingness to use Cosmo as a human shield as they rush the barricades...

Seriously, though: If we thought there was *any* reasonable chance that Starfinder would fail or split the company in some terrible way, we wouldn't be doing this. As somebody who's put 12 years into Paizo, and whose ability to not sleep outside in the rain directly depends on its profitability, I'm certainly not eager to throw caution to the wind. So while I know I'm a biased source, I hope that helps put some minds at ease. :)


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I would imagine that Starfinder, if it is successful, will warrant an increase in Paizo's staff proportionate to success. If it is wildly successful, I imagine Paizo will see a significant increase in staff so as to not overwork their employees and split their productivity. This means, hopefully, that if we all do love Starfinder a lot of new designers and developers will get to see their dreams come true working on a game that they love, whether it be PF or SF.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

I pointed out before, the thought that TSR went bankrupt because it had several different lines is about as flawed as stating Coca Cola has been going bankrupt since the 70s since it sells other drinks besides Coke.

It had NOTHING to do really with it's competing lines, that was a misconception put out by Dancey, most likely due to trying to promote D20 and WotC D&D over TSR AD&D in the long run (IMO).

TSR had problems because it had several problems (some of which, I predicted Paizo will or is currently starting to have presently, a phenomenon which actually may also be one of the items that could be inspiring them to look for new pastures. It probably isn't, but it could be an inspiration for them to even try to branch out to try SF. Afterall, SF itself, as many have pointed out, goes directly contrary to what Dancey's theories stated about branching and breaking the product line into multiple lines of sale).

If anything, TSR had problems with bad business practices, and bad budget decisions. For example, if it costs you $50 to create a product, does it make any sense to sell it for $20? You are literally losing money for every sale you make.

Then, on top of that, you produce 10K of that item, meaning you spent half a million dollars. You sell it for $20 a pop, but of course you only make $10 of those back (if you are lucky) meaning you actually are losing $40 per sale. Then, on top of that, you then suddenly get returns from the booksellers of half that product, meaning that they paid you 100K, and you suddenly owe 50K back to them, and you suddenly are $450,000 in the hole. Toss in another 50K in warehouse fees eventually, and that entire profit making venture actually cost you half a million dollars against the 100,000 that it made overall (and only 50K to you!).

That's the type of bad business practices they were utilizing, expand that same situation across 30 products in a year and suddenly you've lost 15 million simply by doing business as usual. (Math is off a little bit, but I think you get the point)

Even without many of the other problems that TSR dealt with, that alone would bankrupt most normal companies, much less TSR.

TSR had multiple problems, but splitting the lines wasn't really what I would count as a direct cause. YOu could see it indirectly, but that's only because they didn't do proper R&D and surveying market metrics in regards to their sales to determine likely returns and sales of a product. Budgeting was a much bigger problem than what Dancey stated...

At least from what I've heard from those who were connected to it and also those who have been connected to Hasbro who ALSO looked over records (prior when they were considering the acquisition for almost a decade to when they actually decided it was worth buying).

Then again, as I said, I went into more detail on other items that brought about it's downfall from what I gathered from another person connected to some of that stuff in a thread I wrote a while ago...


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

My above thing said...

I am wondering if I'll keep a subscription up with PF or not, or swing directly over to SF instead. I cannot honestly say whether I'll have subscriptions to both lines, or if I am eventually going to switch to one or the other.

I don't see that I'll have time to spend on both in all honesty...and for me, with the bloat PF currently uses and attaches to it's APs (like I own all the books APs list that you need to run them with the newer APs...actually, I do own most of them, but that's another story...it's the fact of having to USE that many books to run an AP), if I HAD to make a choice (and right now, I don't), it probably would actually be to go all in with SF at this point and if I had to drop one, it probably would be PF.

But I'm unusual, and what I might do normally isn't indicative of the general rpg buying public.


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GreyWolfLord wrote:

I pointed out before, the thought that TSR went bankrupt because it had several different lines is about as flawed as stating Coca Cola has been going bankrupt since the 70s since it sells other drinks besides Coke.

It had NOTHING to do really with it's competing lines, that was a misconception put out by Dancey, most likely due to trying to promote D20 and WotC D&D over TSR AD&D in the long run (IMO).

I don't know if he said it also, but for what it's worth Lisa Stevens was the person at WotC responsible for going over TSR's records and working out what went wrong.

It's correct to say that there were lots of bad decisions in TSR's later years. However the fact is that the existence of "market splitting" product lines (as opposed to what they are hoping for with Starfinder/Pathfinder) was a major factor. I'm pretty sure Lisa or Vic once stated it was THE most significant factor in TSR's downfall.

Liberty's Edge

GreyWolfLord wrote:
I pointed out before, the thought that TSR went bankrupt because it had several different lines is about as flawed as stating Coca Cola has been going bankrupt since the 70s since it sells other drinks besides Coke.

And as I pointed out, a drink business and a book publishing business are so unrelated comparing the two is essentially meaningless.

It's not just apples and oranges, it's apples and cubical quartz blocks.

GreyWolfLord wrote:
It had NOTHING to do really with it's competing lines, that was a misconception put out by Dancey, most likely due to trying to promote D20 and WotC D&D over TSR AD&D in the long run (IMO).

Competing lines is the conclusion Dancy came to, and one shared with Lisa Stevens, the CEO and head honcho of Paizo.

So it's pretty relevant to the conversation, and not just one person.

GreyWolfLord wrote:
If anything, TSR had problems with bad business practices, and bad budget decisions. For example, if it costs you $50 to create a product, does it make any sense to sell it for $20? You are literally losing money for every sale you make.

That was also *a* product. (Okay, I believe there was two) Not every one of their products lost them money. It was an anomaly.

(But it was emblematic and the result of other problems in the company.)

GreyWolfLord wrote:
TSR had multiple problems, but splitting the lines wasn't really what I would count as a direct cause. YOu could see it indirectly, but that's only because they didn't do proper R&D and surveying market metrics in regards to their sales to determine likely returns and sales of a product. Budgeting was a much bigger problem than what Dancey stated...

Probably. Budgeting and the like wasn't a non-factor. There wasn't a single cause for the collapse.

But splitting the audience and self-competition didn't help. That increases costs while reducing total profits. For a publishing company like TSR or Paizo, it's a risky move.

GreyWolfLord wrote:

For example, if it costs you $50 to create a product, does it make any sense to sell it for $20? You are literally losing money for every sale you make.

Then, on top of that, you produce 10K of that item, meaning you spent half a million dollars. You sell it for $20 a pop, but of course you only make $10 of those back (if you are lucky) meaning you actually are losing $40 per sale. Then, on top of that, you then suddenly get returns from the booksellers of half that product, meaning that they paid you 100K, and you suddenly owe 50K back to them, and you suddenly are $450,000 in the hole. Toss in another 50K in warehouse fees eventually, and that entire profit making venture actually cost you half a million dollars against the 100,000 that it made overall (and only 50K to you!).

Your numbers are waaaay off.

If a product costs $50 to make, it *should* have a sticker price of $250 since the store, distributor, manufacturer, and publisher all take a cut. TSR makes the boxed set, pays someone to print it, and then sells it to a distributor, who sells it to stores.
If the product was selling in stores for $20 that means the retailer gets $8 and the distributor gets $4. Which means TSR was selling the $50 product to the distributor $8, and losing $42 per sale.

Said boxed likely retailed for $40. Which means it *should* have cost $8 to make, generated $8 of profit for TSR and the distributor, and netted the game store $16. To lose money, the boxed set just needs to cost $16+ to make.
Kinda.
But TSR starts out products in the hole. They pay their staff and then recoup losses from that $8 per sale. In theory, a product should sell enough copies that they recoup their initial investment and then make a profit. So a product can lose money even if the publisher is making money IF the product can't sell enough copies to offset the development costs. If TSR only made $4 per sale they might still end up in the hole.

I don't know exactly how TSR lost money from sales: if they lost money on each sale or couldn't sell enough to make money. But given the smaller numbers on the publisher side, it cost money, but likely only a few tens of thousand dollars. A buck or two lost each sale. Almost certainly not millions.
Very likely, the product could have been $2 or $4 more expensive at stores and generated a profit.

There were some other products that also lost money for other reasons. Such as Dragon Dice. Which they were making money on, but printed too many sets and thus couldn't not recoup the invested printing cost (and, as you say, warehouse costs kicked in, since they overprinted).
But one of the big reasons you can't sell enough copies of something is... *drumroll* dividing your audience. So that's still a factor.

GreyWolfLord wrote:
At least from what I've heard from those who were connected to it and also those who have been connected to Hasbro who ALSO looked over records.

Such as...?

Again, the people who have gone on record have also looked at the books (Stevens, Dancy) disagree. And, from what they have said, TSR record keeping was incredibly shoddy, so they pretty much had to collate the corrected records, so they didn't really exist prior.

Unless you have someone else other than "friend of a friend" this is just speculation.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Jester David wrote:

Your numbers are waaaay off.

If a product costs $50 to make, it *should* have a sticker price of $250 since the store, distributor, manufacturer, and publisher all take a cut. TSR makes the boxed set, pays someone to print it, and then sells it to a distributor, who sells it to stores.
If the product was selling in stores for $20 that means the retailer gets $8 and the distributor gets $4. Which means TSR was selling the $50 product to the distributor $8, and losing $42 per sale.

Said boxed likely retailed for $40. Which means it *should* have cost $8 to make, generated $8 of profit for TSR and the distributor, and netted the game store $16. To lose money, the boxed set just needs to cost $16+ to make.
Kinda.
But TSR starts out products in the hole. They pay their staff and then recoup losses from that $8 per sale. In theory, a product should sell enough copies that they recoup their initial investment and then make a profit. So a product can lose money even if the publisher is making money IF the product can't sell enough copies to offset the development costs. If TSR only made $4 per sale they might still end up in the hole.

I don't know exactly how TSR lost money from sales: if they lost money on each sale or couldn't sell enough to make money. But given the smaller numbers on the publisher side, it cost money, but likely only a few tens of thousand dollars. A buck or two lost each sale. Almost certainly not millions.
Very likely, the product could have been $2 or $4 more expensive at stores and generated a profit.

I told you my numbers may be off some, but that is NOT actually wrong numbers, those numbers I stated were intentional to illustrate just how badly some decisions were going at TSR at the time.

You may be right, they may have been a better idea to try selling it at $250, but yes...they would spend $50 on creating a product and then sell it at $20 and such crazy things like that.

Seriously.

That is actually one major point MANY people overlook (but actually mentioned as one of the big reasons why TSR had problems by some that I know from Hasbro who were following this type of stuff...and felt that TSR was a toxic company at that time).

One prime example is that they came out with a book that was written. However, it was delayed and the print up and layout was changed costing more money. Than someone decided at TSR that they really needed to have leather covers (yes, that's right...leather covers). Then they printed 5000-10000 of these suckers. I think the actual number sold before the books were returned was around 3000-4000 (memory is FAR more hazy on this particular one...so can't say that's an accurate amount of the numbers...but if I recall it was a pretty big loss).

Another example, they have 4 people working on a various line which should take 2-3 months. Instead, it they keep kicking it back and changing things so those 4 work on it for six months. Just salary (30K) and benefits (15K) alone cost 90K, and that's even before printing costs or other factors are taken into account. Then, they actually don't go all out with the print line and only print 3000 copies. It's a smaller line, so not unexpected...but they are selling them for 12.95 (~$13 USD). It's obvious that even if they sell out, the entire revenue of the line will make around 40K (actually around 39K) with around 20K of that going to TSR maximum (more like 10K). Even if they had only kept to the original timeline...it's doubtful it could have made it's money back.

There were far more than just two products. Sometimes entire LINES were massive money tossed down the drain (cough...Buck Rogers...cough) and that type of stuff simply drags a company down.

As I have stated, this was just one problem (but one that would have sunk most companies by itself alone, there were OTHER things that also came out that I have stressed far more in the past as a heads up towards Paizo...but this one item of costs vs. sales is really not one as Paizo doesn't seem to have that problem as far as I can tell).

That's the type of decisions that were going around and anyone at TSR could see the problems with it at the time, and any observer from other companies that may have even had an interest could see it occurring.

That type of business practice spells BIG problems. If you see something that doesn't seem to add up or seems wrong with that picture, you are absolutely right...as most everyone else could see it too except for the ones making those decisions at TSR at the time.

It's a miracle WotC picked TSR up (maybe they didn't see these problems right off the bat, or maybe they were delighted with the D&D name, whichever it was, they actually took a very toxic company and turned it around very quickly). I don't think most would have touched it with a 10 foot pole at that point to even test the waters.

At least IMO.

My connections actually were those working at TSR at the time and a (now former) exec from Hasbro. Not that it matters, because that's NOT the POINT I was trying to make at all.

The point I am trying to make, though I have also pointed out the rather ironic change of stance from Dancey's statements concerning splitting the lines in regards to Paizo's current splitting the lines when it was announced in other topics....

Was that in truth, splitting the lines really WON'T matter if Paizo makes good business decisions overall. In fact, if it follows TSR's early years (1975-1982) route, it may increase revenue.

This is because splitting the line isn't inherent to splitting your profits.

If it is handled well, it can actually mean expansion and increased business.

It just matters HOW it is handled. TSR did it poorly in the 90s, I expect that Paizo will handle it much better (or at least that's my hope). Many companies have split their sales lines before with great success, there is no reason to think Paizo cannot do the same.


Voss wrote:


Huzzah? Fan magazines are a big part of popular culture and go back to the 19th century. And again, the pervasiveness of the internet seems to be changing your standards. Anyone can plop 'magazines' on sites like Drivethru. It's a "commercial stream" in the least sense of the word. Literally anyone with a connection can try to sell just about anything for money on the net.

It isn't a sign of popularity or anything else. Lots of local and small institutions turned to the 'net for 'publishing' their newsletters. So instead of one lonely fan (not something anyone ever claimed), it could be a couple dozen fans. Or even a couple hundred fans. That still isn't indicative of lasting success for a game. That goes to very few titles in this industry.

Why don't you plant your goalpost firmly in the ground and quit moving it around. Define "popularity" and "catching on" instead of hand waving away any evidence you don't like.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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The big problem that TSR created with multiple campaign settings is that it caused a majority of D&D players to identify solely with one of those campaign settings to the exclusion of the others. So when they put out a book with a Greyhawk logo on the cover, Forgotten Realms players wouldn't buy it, and vice versa. And because they were frequently supporting several active campaign settings simultaneously, that meant that each book they released under a campaign setting banner would be purchased by a minority fraction of the potential D&D buying audience. And the more settings they supported, the smaller those fractions would be. And those products cost the same to write, edit, and illustrate whether they were selling to a huge number or a small number, so fewer unit sales mean less profitability.

Let's call this Situation #1: Cannibalism. If people are choosing your product A in preference to your product B, and those people would have purchased product B if product A didn't exist, you have created an inefficiency. And when you expand the choices to A, B, C, and D, you have an even bigger inefficiency.

That's the down side. On the plus side, each campaign setting *should* also appeal to some number of people who simply wouldn't be playing D&D at all if that campaign setting didn't exist.

Let's call this Situation #2: Acquisition. When people are choosing your product A in preference to not buying any product from you, that's just a straight-up win.

Of course, in real life, it's not one or the other—it's a mixture of both. And that ratio is key—if you are acquiring more people than you are cannibalizing, maybe it's worth the inefficiency. But if you are cannibalizing without significant acquisition, you're probably making a mistake.

So let's say you're publishing a fantasy-dominant setting like Greyhawk. Maybe supporting a horror-themed setting like Ravenloft alongside it provides more acquisition than cannibalization. But I'd bet that supporting a setting like Birthright alongside Greyhawk probably led to significantly more cannibalization than acquisition.

The introduction of Starfinder will cause some cannibalization, as some players stop buying Pathfinder books to buy only Starfinder books. But I believe that it's going to be relatively small. (Frankly, I expect the number of Pathfinder players we'll lose to Starfinder will be way smaller than the number of Pathfinder players we've lost to D&D 5th Edition.) Thematically, the Starfinder setting is more of a departure from the Pathfinder setting than say, Forgotten Realms is from Greyhawk. So we hope that a lot of people who aren't currently buying Pathfinder—likely people that prefer SF to fantasy—start buying Starfinder.

But another key to all of this is that we're not expecting Starfinder to be as big as Pathfinder. It's got a much smaller team producing a much smaller number of products, and that has two huge effects: first, it limits our exposure to cannibalism; and second, it means that we don't need to achieve a Pathfinder-like level of success for the line to be worthwhile. It's lean and mean, and it's going to stay that way, at least until we are able to see the effect that it has on Pathfinder and on Paizo.


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Does that mean the Starfinder team always has to wait for the Pathfinder team to go through the boxes of donuts before they get any, so that they are always left with the plain cake ones?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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I left out a noteworthy situation—Situation 3: Overlap. When people are buying product A *and* product B from you, that's obviously pretty good for business.

I expect that there will be some pretty good overlap between the Pathfinder and Starfinder audiences. And Starfinder's leanness helps keep that feasible—adding a single AP volume every month is something people might do. (Adding every Dragonlance, Dark Sun, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and Al-Qadim product to your regular Greyhawk purchases... not so many people would or could do that. And yes, those really were all supported simultaneously!)


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I for one will deffo be buying from *both* product lines at least initially. I may drop off on Starfinder after awhile, as I'm way more of a fantasy guy, but SF can count on me buying *at least* its first AP, in full. And if I go nuttsballs for Starfinder, I'll follow it to AP #2 and beyond... While still buying as much Pathfinder as I currently do.

I.e. - I will be an exemplar of Vic's Situation 3, above. Overlap.

Interesting sidenote?: i'm one of those happy Paizo customers (I'm sure there's more than just me) who doesn't even *play* RPGs anymore. I just love reading the good words and ogling the pretty pictures. I buy Paizo stuff purely to read (and gawk at).


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Marcus Ewert wrote:

I for one will deffo be buying from *both* product lines at least initially. I may drop off on Starfinder after awhile, as I'm way more of a fantasy guy, but SF can count on me buying *at least* its first AP, in full. And if I go nuttsballs for Starfinder, I'll follow it to AP #2 and beyond... While still buying as much Pathfinder as I currently do.

I.e. - I will be an exemplar of Vic's Situation 3, above. Overlap.

Interesting sidenote?: i'm one of those happy Paizo customers (I'm sure there's more than just me) who doesn't even *play* RPGs anymore. I just love reading the good words and ogling the pretty pictures. I buy Paizo stuff purely to read (and gawk at).

I still play a bit, but the reading material is my main motivator also.

I'm definitely going to subscribe to Starfinder for the forseeable future (at least the first two years) and I have zero expectation my group will ever actually use it.


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Terquem wrote:
Does that mean the Starfinder team always has to wait for the Pathfinder team to go through the boxes of donuts before they get any, so that they are always left with the plain cake ones?

This is why each member of the Starfinder team should keep a sekrit hidden jar of Nutella for just such emergencies. It would also prove a source of high-energy nutrition in case House Upstairs lays Sutterfell under siege and the team has to wait until the nanotriops finish chewing an escape tunnel.


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I'm actually somewhat surprised a significant number of players were lost to 5th Ed; not because I think it's bad, but because to me they play differently enough that I purchase and play both of them, albeit not always at the same time.

I imagine Starfinder will do well because it is different enough to attract players who have never played PF because they don't like fantasy games, but also have a lot of PF players pick it up because it's related directly to the lore and stories that they love. As stated previously, Paizo is also playing it smart by not going all in on their new project at first, and is willing to let it grow along with its fan base. If it explodes and stays at a high subscriber level I imagine we'll see a lot more products released for it, if it stays as a niche project we'll probably get a few more books and that's about it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I'll definitely be buying the hardcover (and possible future hardcovers)

Whether I pick up AP's will entirely depend on the subject of the AP (which is my default setting now for Pathfinder). My guess is I will probably not subscribe to two AP's at once, but may subscribe to a Starfinder AP when I don't like the subject of the Pathfinder AP line.


I will definitely pick up the hard cover... in its second printing. i will go digital for first printing and print out the sections i most commonly need for a three ring binder. Too many wild alterations running around Paizo products as errata and revisions for me to want a physical copy of a first edition anymore.


In all honesty this will be a split for me. Between third party stuff and the things already out I'm finding it very hard pressed to desire more material. If the hardcovers go over some drastically new territory then maybe but my Pathfinder collection is getting a bit bloated to the point where I'd be busy with it for quite a bit before I get bored. I still have a few APs on my shelf to run before I finally get into Iron Gods or whatever is coming out soon.

Starfinder is new ground so will need some expansion eventually which I'm all aboard for so unless something particularly exciting is happening in Pathfinder I'll probably cancel my subscription to the RPG line and throwing down for a Starfinder Sub.

For me its not really a money or bloat situation. I just have a lot of stuff to use and that stuff already lets me play nearly whatever kind of game I can think of so its becoming more and more difficult to even imagine what new pathfinder books I'd even care about.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:

The big problem that TSR created with multiple campaign settings is that it caused a majority of D&D players to identify solely with one of those campaign settings to the exclusion of the others. So when they put out a book with a Greyhawk logo on the cover, Forgotten Realms players wouldn't buy it, and vice versa. And because they were frequently supporting several active campaign settings simultaneously, that meant that each book they released under a campaign setting banner would be purchased by a minority fraction of the potential D&D buying audience. And the more settings they supported, the smaller those fractions would be. And those products cost the same to write, edit, and illustrate whether they were selling to a huge number or a small number, so fewer unit sales mean less profitability.

True, but what occurred is the same thing that could happen to any company that splits it's lines if it does mad business decisions. It's not the splitting the line that causes the problems, but the business decisions behind it.

For example, if Paizo prints Star Finder, and prints off a 5000 copy run, and they only sell 200 copies, that would lose money.

Most likely, the people in charge of budgets and money would catch this and decide Star Finder was a bad investment to continue.

Or, perhaps Star Finder sells well, but then the AP with it does not. So Paizo keeps the core Star Finder book in print, but ceases the AP volumes.

In addition, I don't expect Paizo to print enough copies of Star Finder or invest enough to actually sink the company.

Those are wise decisions that I would expect of Paizo if Star Finder is unsuccessful.

TSR did NOT make wise decisions. Instead, they'd double down (and who knows why the leadership made some of these decisions against any business sense).

In some lines they had a pretty good following with a lot of crossflow of audiences (Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance). In other areas, they weren't doing so hot.

Unlike what I expect Paizo would do, for example, let's say TSR printed a campaign setting we'll call birthright. They print 8000 copies of the original rules. They sell all 8000 to the stores, with return copies of 3000. Instead of using that as a metric, they decide they'll print 7500 copies of the next supplement.

That's a bad business decision.

Or, they might decide that the audience may actually be smaller, and only print 2000 copies...but have the time investment cost them MORE than what they'll make from that investment. They lose money.

That's a bad business decision.

There were other bad decisions that TSR made in the 90s in regards to the lines being split, but I see it as those bad decisions were what caused TSR to sink.

So, indirectly (as I stated above) one could plausibly see it because it's split the line, but in truth that's only an indirect reason. The real reason is bad business decisions.

It's not a matter of split lines like Dancey really made it out to be (IMO), but HOW you split the line and how you handle it. If you make bad business decisions in regards to each line (for example, continuing to sink money into a business line that is only losing you money that's a bad decision) of course it's detrimental, to any business.

Others would say it's two sides of the same coin that we are discussing...however...if you can expand your audience (which you've pointed out in your post) splitting the line in the right manner can actually be good for business and a great way to expand beyond what your audience was before (for example, I think Paizo has already split it's line into expanding into other audiences with it's PACG).

Anyways, I expect (or at least hope) Star Finder to do well, and that Paizo has invested wisely with it.

I just think that Dancey's prior statements were misleading, and because of how misleading they were, is a primary reason Paizo is getting flak today for splitting (or other business terms would be expanding) it's lines between Pathfinder and Starfinder in threads today.

Of course, Paizo has ALREADY technically expanded (the aforementioned PACG, the comics, etc) it's lines, and thus far it's done it more in an early TSR method (for example when it created Greyhawk, then Basic, then AD&D, than B/X and it's "fad"/explosive years) rather than the 90s TSR forms.

Hence, my point is that Dancey's statements, while indirectly addressing the cause, really can't be applied straight up to Paizo or any company that is "splitting" it's lines up.

In fact, at least to me, it's not even a reason for concern.

I don't expect Paizo to make the same bad business decisions that were made at TSR in regards to spending and costs (and if Paizo does, well...enough people have shown concern I can't imagine Paizo would, especially since I expect the CEO to already realize the mistakes of TSR and avoid them, at least on that front).

The entire concern about splitting the line I think is something that people (at least at this point) don't even need to be concerned about...unless it's to point out the irony of what Dancey said vs. what has occurred when other companies "split" their lines successfully.

Then again, some might say I'm just addressing the other point of the same coin.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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Torbyne wrote:
I will definitely pick up the hard cover... in its second printing. i will go digital for first printing and print out the sections i most commonly need for a three ring binder. Too many wild alterations running around Paizo products as errata and revisions for me to want a physical copy of a first edition anymore.

I will just point out that each person who does that effectively delays that second printing from happening. And if a large enough number of people did that, there would never be a second printing.


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Vic Wertz wrote:
Torbyne wrote:
I will definitely pick up the hard cover... in its second printing. i will go digital for first printing and print out the sections i most commonly need for a three ring binder. Too many wild alterations running around Paizo products as errata and revisions for me to want a physical copy of a first edition anymore.
I will just point out that each person who does that effectively delays that second printing from happening. And if a large enough number of people did that, there would never be a second printing.

No, yeah, i totally get that it is a Catch-22. But i still have books sitting on my shelf that wont ever get pulled off of it again because it is too much of a hassle to check through and see what the most current revision is. i will be sticking to digital copies until at least second printing and if a second printing doesnt come out then i will resign myself to digital copies only or printing my own and putting them in binders. I dont want to derail Starfinder but please understand how very frustrating it is to know the chunks of money put down to get books as they first became available only to find the errors in what you wanted to use or to have huge chunks of the most popular material in them be changed by errata or FAQ between the first and second printings.

Community Manager

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Removed a post. Comparing buying decisions to willfully putting oneself in harm's way is unnecessarily hyperbole. Keep it civil.

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