What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Immortal Figures: Gods of Olympus

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Problems with the Second Hand RPG Market

The past few weeks, I've attempted to sell and thin my gaming collection -- something which can be a huge pain to get set up and organized.  I've opened up with a selection of items and, while I've had a couple of inquiries, not much success recently in terms of closing a sale.

That said, I have not been reaching the widest of audiences either and I've avoided popular destinations (at least they were in the past) such as Ebay.  Decisions to avoid commercial marketplaces such as that was simply financial.  Ebay will take a cut and, the last time I used them to try and sell something, they will still nominally charge for posting in the first place -- even if the items doesn't sell.  In the end, Ebay always wins.  Now, I know my prices are good, very good but the cost of shipping is always an issue for me.

You see, I'm proudly Canadian and reside in this country.  However, the cost of shipping is high and this seems to be a major deterrent when your primary consumer base is in the United States.  This is not to say that postal rates is higher than other countries.  Most countries seem to have comparable rates... with the exception of the United States it seems.  Their shipping rates to international destinations are high, and a bit higher than others but domestically speaking, their rates are ridiculously low compared to, well, Canada for example.  Obviously, I can't compete with those shipping prices and, despite low prices on the items I try and sell, when you factor in shipping, the deal rapidly loses its appeal.

How do I try and offset this?  Bundling several items together.  Usually, these are thematic or just part of an existing series, but the goal is simply to provide a better bang for the buck where shipping becomes less a concern given what is being offered.  It doesn't always work though.

But those are just small factors when we look at trying to offload second hand books.  Simply put, the market is FLOODED with material.  We can certainly thank WOTC and the OGL for this if we look at anything connected to D&D 3.x and d20.  Some venerable RPG shops still have tons of NEW d20 product which have been essentially sitting on store shelves for the better part of a decade!  Many stores have done what they could to sell this material off and the smart ones saw this coming.  In other cases, distributors got stuck with this burden of material and many ran into difficulties along with a large number of new d20 publishers hoping to ride the wave brought about by the OGL in the first place.  Need to sell some third party d20 material?  Best of luck with that -- it will be a challenge unless it's from a recognizable and sought after product typically by one of the few of those startups that managed to weather and survive the d20 collapse.

Speaking of start-ups.  The companies that have sprung up and continue to do so with the flowering of the OSR movement is also something of an issue.  While there are some that stand up from the crowd, I couldn't help but notice new announcements of new publishers and imprints in any given week it seems.  I don't always have the time to frequent Google+ but, I did a couple of times in the past week and I've noticed 3 such announcements.  Of course, this still goes back to the idea of: "Do we really need another clone"?  In the end, Arcana Creations is just another example of one of the many start ups that have come up over the past few years but the pace and number of these has certainly increased.  Why would this be an issue?  Well, if we consider the primary goal of some of these new companies, it's to develop something similar to what we've seen before.  These are the so-called retro-clones.  Interestingly enough, this was a positive thing and made compatible rulesets a lot more available than what have been a long time out of print.  I think this is a positive thing and when WOTC pulled the plug on older PDF versions of their gaming library a few years back, the interest in these games probably surged.

The reprints we have begun to see for the past year and the re-release of these PDF materials is probably due in part to the success the OSR has been experiencing.

The result of this?  Older material are no longer sought after the same way it perhaps once was.  The reprints are cleaned up but unabridged versions of the texts and those older books were also so massively produced back in the day that they can be gotten very inexpensively (barring a few exceptions).  In some cases, these reprints may be even more desired such as is the case with the Unearthed Arcana which actually corrected the errata.  Unless you are a collector or completest of sorts, PDFs may also suit you just fine compared to tracking down a physical copy.  Then there is the offerings available thanks to the OSR.  I think it is a safe thing to say that there has been a general shift in attitude towards these offerings and some are just as happy if not happier with what's being offered now.  As for a second hand market for the OSR -- frankly I haven't seen much evidence of one.  Why?  Because 9 times out of 10, the product is POD and unless there is a limited factor 'built-in' to such a product, there is no reason to believe they will suddenly disappear.  Even if they did, there would be another small publisher to step up and take it's place.

The print on demand model coupled with affordable desktop publishing and Kickstarter have all create shifts in the RPG hobby and these effects trickle down in one way or the other to the decline of a healthy second hand market.  The constant demand and flood of all this gaming material continues to come in at a rapid pace and older releases are just pushed aside.

Imagine what things will be like when 5th Edition is finally released.

So, in short, unless you have an item that is greatly sought after, selling them may be more difficult than one might originally think and it's more likely that three-quarters of those books will earn you pennies on the dollar more often than not.  Sadly, large used gaming retailers won't offer much more than that either which begs the question... what other option is there?

There isn't much of one at the moment or at least none that I can think of.  Much like comic books, it might be easier to just sit on them for years before trying again.  There was a d20 collapse and I expect there will be the something similar happening soon though the impact will be entirely different (a topic for another day).  In the coming weeks, I will try once more to offload some stuff (some which hasn't been listed yet) and, once done, I will consolidate what I have left and be satisfied or accept pennies on the dollar just to clear some shelf space.  Who knows?  What is old may once again become new and desired.

M