Having already gone on far longer than I expected when I started writing this up, I’m going to wrap up the True Story of True20 at last. When I last left off, it was the fall of 2005 and we were getting in entries for the Setting Search. I’m not going to get into the decision making involved in the Setting Search, as that was a public contest and it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on it in this venue. Suffice to say we got enough good entries to fill out both the core book and the True20 Worlds of Adventure book we planned for summer ’06. The rest of the process was expanding the rules, editing the book, getting the art, laying it out, and sending it print. Nothing really out of the ordinary there.
Moving into 2006 then, it was just a question of maximizing the impact of the game’s launch. Of course, we would do our usual rounds of PDF previews and online hype. We also had Dragon’s announcement of the Setting Search winners in January, which was a nice bit of PR for True20. As we considered what else we could do, we also had another outstanding issue that needed resolution. Namely, what were we going to do for people who had bought the previous PDF?
Our standard operating procedure is to provide people who buy our PDFs with free updates when a product gets revised. That’s usually when we fix bits of errata though or make other small changes. In this instance we were taking a no frills 96 page PDF and blowing it out into a fully illustrated 224 page core rulebook. If we provided the new core book for free, that’d be giving away an awful lot of content.
We batted around several ideas. We could simply give everyone a discount coupon and let them upgrade at their option. We also considered splitting the book into rules and settings, then giving away the rules as a free update and charging for the settings. We didn’t feel like that’d be fair to the Setting Search winners though and the whole point of having the settings was to provide examples of how you can use the True20 rules to model very different genres. A final option was to simply treat this as a new product and not give any special deals at all.
In the end I kept coming back to the free update. That would be a great way to thank the early adopters of True20. It would surely cost us some money in the short term, but the long-term benefits seemed to outweigh that. We had sold an awful lot of that PDF, so providing a free update to all those purchasers would be great, targeted marketing. We hoped that when those folks saw the full core book in PDF form, they’d happily go to their local game stores and pick up a hard copy.
With that in mind, we stopped selling the old PDF in January. Anyone buying it a month or two before the game’s full release would not be an early adopter by any definition. Then we waited until just a few weeks before the print version was going to release and sent out update links to all previous purchasers. The idea was to get them pumped up about True20 just in time to talk it up at their local stores. We hoped this would help create a consumer demand that’d “pull” sales through the three-tier system when the core book launched.
We also launched a dedicated website, www.true20.com, and did a bunch of previews in this period. Hal, Rob, and I attended GAMA Trade Show in Las Vegas in March and promoted the hell out of True20. Shortly after all that, the book finally came out. At Green Ronin HQ there was much rejoicing.
We had hoped that True20 would be like Mutants & Masterminds, but the instant hits are few and far between. Initial sales were good but not through the roof. And that’s what brings us to the current phase of True20’s lifespan: the push. Now the game is out and retailers have had a chance to check it out and see the demand. It’s up to us to keep pushing and make it clear this is a release with weight behind it. The dedicate website is a good indication of that, but just a start. We released a fast play a few weeks ago so people would get a taste of the game. Along with that we released a free True20 version of my Death in Freeport adventure to give new purchasers something they can do with the game right away. Meanwhile, work proceeds on the supplements and the True20 Bestiary goes to print very soon. Damnation Decade, our 1970s scifi freakout setting, is also coming out soon and includes a True20 appendix. True20 Worlds of Adventure is on track for a July release. All this product and activity is meant to show distributors and retailers that True20 is a major line and should be treated as such.
Will it work? Well, that’s the unwritten next chapter of the True Story of True20.