ranted about capitalism before, and so far as that goes, I have to disagree with JB on this score. Capitalism has made our country great, but greatness isn’t measured in the philanthropy of our wealthiest. It’s measured in the breadth of our wealth, and in the fact that a truck-driver and factory worker can pool their money, buy a nice home to raise their daughters in, and give those daughters dance lessons and horseback riding lessons and send them both to college, while still having enough left over for when the Red Cross calls for donations in response to disasters around the world. Granted, most of that happened midway through the previous century, but it did happen and it did happen in America, and it happened because of capitalism.
But I’m not writing now to disagree with JB, but to agree with him. Capitalism works best when buyers and sellers send clear signals to one another. Unfortunately, advertising is frequently a murky business. But when you buy something, especially when you buy a lot of it, that’s a signal that’s heard loud and clear. You’re saying you value that thing, you’re saying you want more of it. You’re making it possible for the people who made it to spend more time (time they might otherwise need to spend keeping the lights on and putting food on the table) making more of whatever it is you liked so much before.
This gives you power as a consumer, power you need to wield responsibly because, yeah, it really is voting. And, at the end of the day, what products rise or fall is entirely up to what you buy and what you pass up.
I used to love reading DRAGON magazine. I never had a subscription, but I probably should have through my junior high years, when I purchased three of every four issues published. It was a fun read, with a wide range of articles, some of which had nothing to do with D&D, and saw me through brief periods of gamelessness. But, as time went on, I read it less and less. During my college years, it was an occasional read, and I was down to probably buying two a year. By the time 3.5 came out, I was buying maybe one every two or three years.
And here’s where things get interesting. I was still playing a lot of D&D back then (usually two games per week, and rarely as few as one), but I wasn’t buying much of anything. So far as the market was concerned, I was invisible. TSR and the others couldn’t tell what I wanted because I wasn’t buying anything they were selling. So far as they could tell, I (and, apparently, many others like me) simply vanished. In response, TSR flailed around; they tried making a CCG thinking maybe we’d left to play Magic, they tried converting Ravenloft into a gothic setting to lure us away from White Wolf, they made new game systems thinking maybe we were just tired of same-old D&D.
Nobody seemed to know much of anything about this hidden market, lurking about playing old games and having fun, until the OSR popped up. And then, as if from nowhere, there were magazines like Fight On! and games like Labyrinth Lord seeming to spring up out of nowhere. Only it wasn’t “nowhere” really; we’d been here all along. We’d just been ignored.
“we don’t need no stinkin’ industry” talk that sweeps through the blogosphere every now and then. The truth is, we are the industry. Or we can be. The barriers to entry are pretty low these days in RPGs. There’s nothing stopping any of you from throwing together a module, a supplement, heck, even your very own boxed set. Raggi’s shown that you can push pretty damned close to industry-standard visuals and production values. He’s about sold out of his original run on his box. Swords & Wizardry did damned well with their box sets, too.
You think WotC hasn’t noticed?
Seriously, where do you think the idea for a nostalgia-focused boxed set came from? Sure, they may have come up with it on their own, might have realized the conventional wisdom about boxed sets was flawed without having watched what’s happened with Mythmere and LotFP, but you really think they haven’t noticed? You really think our enthusiasm and productivity didn’t plant a few idea-seeds?
So WotC’s come out with their boxed set. I’m pretty sure we’re not the target audience; it may have Elmore on the cover, but it’s 4e inside, and we all know that. Sure I could have bought it, but instead bought the LotFP boxed set which costs more than three times as much. Why? Because the WotC box isn’t much use to me, but I’ll play with the stuff in the LotFP box.
Really, how much more of a “duh” decision could it be? ;)
And I’ll likely also buy the more-than-double-the-cost-of-WotC’s-box Pathfinder GameMastery Guide because it looks like a great companion to Gygax’s DMG, the most used and abused book in my gaming collection. And I’ll almost certainly be getting JB’s B/X Companion because my players may be using Labyrinth Lord’s rules, but I’ve got Moldvay’s and Cook’s books sitting on my desk right now, and I reference them nearly every game.