Our First Year On the Onyx Path and We Stop at the Janus Statue: 2012 Retrospective

So here we are on January 1, 2013 and Onyx Path Publishing has been in business for a year. A good time to invoke Janus and look at our past year, and a bit at what 2013 can bring.

First off, we achieved our first goal and actually announced that we were in business, and that we were licensed by White Wolf and CCP to create and publish nWoD, cWoD, and Exalted tabletop RPG products; that we are the owners of the Trinity Continuum and Scion game-lines, and that we’re interested in publishing new games like Cavaliers of Mars. An enormous amount of behind the scenes negotiating went on to get us to that announcement and it was a huge relief to finally be able to talk about this new venture. We also announced the schedule and finally everybody could see that we were serious about nWoD and cWoD living together with cool projects for both of them, and were serious about a new edition of Exalted.

Internally, Onyx’s goal for the year was to get the processes put together to deliver some great new books for the WW settings. Sure, a lot of us have over 20 years of experience, but fitting those experiences into a new business model is a brand new thing. We had to incorporate an approval system with CCP, and reactivate relationships with a lot of writers and artists that we hadn’t been able to work with for years. These were both good things, but they took time. Fortunately, we had an established partnership with DriveThruRPG to get the projects into people’s hands (or at least on their hard drives), and the ability to deliver both PDFs and excellent quality Print On Demand physical books. But I had one concern: how we were going to get Werewolf 20th Anniversary Edition to folks? And then, early in the year, an answer arrived that changed a lot of how 2012 turned out for Onyx Path.

Even in 2011, Eddy, Justin, and myself, were watching with some interest a new crowd-sourcing site called Kickstarter, and in a whirlwind series of Skype meetings Justin and I decided to take the leap to doing our first KS with Deluxe V20 Companion. To me, Kickstarter is a triple win for Onyx Path: it creates, focuses, and encourages community communication, it minimizes the up-front risk in terms of both money and determining amount of interest, and it provides a framework for delivering these physical book rewards. When we started, nobody really knew much about what worked and what didn’t on KS, at least in terms of RPGs. It was nerve-wracking, exciting, and eye-opening, and as the successful funding goal was reached, it was clear that Kickstarter was an excellent addition to Onyx’s business model. The final piece of the puzzle, as it were, for the creation of our RPG projects.

So what worked this past year?

- Our Kickstarters for the Deluxe Editions of V20 Companion, Children of the Revolution, and W20 (as well as the start of the Mummy: The Curse KS) were all successful, and we’ve continued to improve on how they work, the rewards, and very importantly the stretch goals which enable us to add in new products we couldn’t have as part of the regular schedule. We’ve also continued to improve on the way we deliver those rewards to backers, with better speed and organization.

- We have successfully published Fiction again as part of a coherent plan to add in more fiction in conjunction with the game books- and we have added EPub and Mobi formats. Silent Knife and the God Machine Anthology were just the start of what Fiction can be. The Strix Chronicle Anthology and a passel of W20 fiction are a great part of that in 2013.

- Masters of Jade kicked ass in terms of interest and sales, but Shards of the Exalted Dream blew the doors out. Not only did they clear the path for EX3, but those products were a great place for John and Holden to practice their developers’ skills before the behemoth that is EX3.

- After years and years of asking for the books that weren’t finished as of the end of cWoD, we put out Convention Book: NWO. On time.

- nWoD had a set of releases that ran through several of the lines with the Werewolf Translation Guide, Blood Sorcery, Victorian Lost, and Left Handed Path. This was important in terms of illustrating how the various nWoD lines will continue to be supported even as we move into 2013’s big Chronicle books.

- Although not yet released, Onyx’s first electronic product, a 10-sided Dice Pool Rolling App, has been created and is in testing. Just the start of adding electronic products that enhance and support the RPG experience.

- We have started discussions on the re-imagining of the Trinity Continuum with Ian Watson as overall Continuum developer (the Uber-Developer) and John Snead as Aeon developer. Similarly, I’ve been in talks with Scion developer Joe Carriker and several other folks about getting it reset for a new edition in 2014. As many of you have mentioned, working out a system that allows huge differences in power levels is a goal for both groups of game designers.

- We have an Onyx Path website with updated info, a matching OP Facebook page, Facebook pages, blogs, and Twitter feeds for the major projects, and a weekly Monday Lunch Meeting blog for the week to week updates on where things stand. Again, the start of more and better communication between us and you.

- The last year enabled me to work with a lot of friends and amazingly creative folks whom I wanted to work with for years. Some of those creators will continue on with us in 2013, some will move on to other projects, and some of them went beyond expectations and have been truly instrumental in helping to build Onyx Path Publishing and will be folks that you hear about more and more through the next year.

 What didn’t go as planned or we could do better in 2013:

- A lot of books slid out of 2012 schedule-wise, and unfortunately they were our big releases: Mummy: The Curse, W20, Exalted 3rd Edition, and a couple of V20 books. While I’ve tried to present to all you folks both the reasons for these delays in my weekly Monday Lunch Meeting blog and the fact that we have to expect that the schedule isn’t written in stone for a company just getting up to speed and which values quality over strict adherence to the schedule, it’s still not what was intended. And in addition, the delay of the first book in a line also then domino-effect delays the next books.

- We didn’t communicate well with our community during the first KS for the Deluxe V20 Companion, and our failure there left a bunch of folks feeling angry and cheated. Which was and is the exact opposite of our intentions in doing the Deluxe editions in the first place. We wanted to provide a Deluxe version of the small follow-up book to V20 that we were already doing once we heard so many V20 fans wanted a matching version. Again, although I explicitly said the KS’s were an experiment and a learning process, that doesn’t make anyone feel better about that particular book. I’m hoping that folks can see how we applied what we learned (through backers’ comments and the post-release retrospective we did live) to the next couple of Kickstarter campaigns we did.

- More Marketing! And I don’t mean gimmicks or tricking people into sales, I mean more and better communication and getting the word out to the far-flung fantastic fan-base of ours. There are still a significant number of folks out there who have written off WW as dead, who don’t even know that the books they love are available as PDFs on DriveThruRPG as well as in Print On Demand versions of physical books that are as easy to order as a book from Amazon. And that there are new books for the WW game-lines they followed. Never mind anything about these Onyx Path guys. Now that we have a working creation process for the games, my intention in 2013 is to up Onyx’s visibility and build on the start we’ve made via more convention presence, more ads, and more demo team activity.

- More utility on the Onyx Path website. We cross-post, but there are still broken parts there that need fixing, and I need to get more content up there. Ian Watson, Web Sire, has some cool ideas for things we can add as well.

So there you have it. In general, I’m thrilled by the positive response so many of you shared with me this last year for the mere existence of Onyx Path Publishing, and even though it was a bumpy year that didn’t go perfectly as planned, I think that we are off to a great start. (Of course, I haven’t been through a full year up through tax season, so maybe I’m over confident). Some seriously great books are getting ready to come out in early 2013; we have some awesome books later in the year including Demon: The ???, and Mage20th, and more that I’ll let you in on later this month, and we’re pitching the 2014 Schedule to CCP. Thanks to some valiant efforts by the likes of Stew Wilson, Matt McFarland, Rose Bailey, Ryan Macklin, C.A. Suleiman, and especially my clutch hitter, Art Director and Graphic Designer Mike Chaney, books are being pulled back to release dates that at least resemble the Schedule. Good stuff is a-comin’.

RichT

  23 comments for “Our First Year On the Onyx Path and We Stop at the Janus Statue: 2012 Retrospective

  1. January 1, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Outstanding stuff, Congratulations to you, Rich and everyone else who made this happen. I thoroughly enjoyed Victorian Lost, Blood Sorcery, and God Machine Anthology.

    Out here in the L.A. area, the Dead Gamers Society is ready to help with any demoing and any marketing efforts.

    • richt
      January 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      I know and appreciate all the very vocal support from DGS- we’re going to rely on organizations like your to help get the word out.

  2. January 1, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    2012 has been one HELL of a year for OPP… you even made it through the Apocalypse. ;)

    You’ve accomplished a hell of a lot (Let’s not forget your presence at Gen Con, your number of public panels and forums at conventions, Q&As and more online.) From a customer-side, one could easily forget that while the products are familiar, the engine that is making them is a brand new one with some similar components, but how it works is all new. Things seem to be going better (though admittedly Rita didn’t help anything) and I would expect 2013 to run more smoothly too.

    The stuff that didn’t run so well? Well, maybe I’m more forgiving than some, so I understand some stuff is missed by folks with differing expectations, or that stuff just happens you can’t avoid.

    However, one gem in that, that I couldn’t agree with more, is your concern and understanding that there’s a need for more marketing and a visual presence. Obviously things have changed a LOT in the last 10 years and White Wolf books aren’t lining the shelves of every gaming store anymore, and OPP can’t throw Succubus Club parties at every convention, etc., but a precision, scaled-back, and targeted campaign of electronic and physical marketing is important to let old fans know that the White Wolf brands (and those now owned by OPP) are not only available again, but have new life breathed into them.
    HOW that marketing materializes will likely be trial-and-error of convention appearances, local/global/special/specific events, flyers, mailers, partnerships, web advertisements, fan-loyalty-encouragement and social media attention (to name a few.) As an advertising/marketing person, I look forward to seeing what you come up with and what works. :D

    So, here’s to 2013! Here’s to seeing more out of print books being made available again, to new books being created, to old concepts and new finding new life, to successful partnerships, to fun games, good friends, great events, successful business, and an overall great time in this coming year.

    Cheers, Rich and Onyx Path Publishing!

    • richt
      January 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      Thanks, man- your support this whole year, especially during the W20 KS, was one of the fun parts of this crazy thing I started.

      • January 4, 2013 at 9:46 pm

        I am extremely humbled and happy to hear that, Rich.
        I can be pretty intense sometimes and can be very “visible” (i.e., posting constantly, trying to invoke conversation, doing my best to correct mis-information [from others, or myself], etc.) when it comes to something I attach myself to, and I never wanted to step on your toes during the process of W20, or the 20th Anniversary of Werewolf: the Apocalypse in general.
        That my “help” and presence was something positive for you during this year makes me feel good about the energy and effort I put into spreading the word, and doing what I could for your projects.
        If there is EVER anything I can do for you guys that is within my sphere of things I can do, let me know. :) I’m glad you/we made it through 2012. Now on to the good stuff in 2013! :D

  3. January 2, 2013 at 6:00 am

    Jahresrückblick und Vorschau von Onyx Path http://t.co/wsVDmLvM

  4. January 2, 2013 at 11:15 am

    You’re producing an app? Excellent! I love app support, especially official app support.

    I’m glad you’re upping your marketing.
    Do you have any thoughts on how to get new players into OP games and not just the old guard?

    • richt
      January 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      We’re going to keep moving towards more App support as we get the skills and connections in place to do so. As for new players, I have a lot of thoughts and one of them is to make Apps that enhance and build on the core RPG products. We have to deliver our amazing settings and game-lines to people in the way they are getting their fun.

  5. January 2, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Our First Year On the Onyx Path and We Stop at the Janus Statue: 2012 Retrospective via @TheOnyxPath – http://t.co/WYjZptVP

  6. January 2, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I have been greatly pleased with what this year has brought. Everybody at Onyx Path has proved to me that the company is more than capable of continuing on my favorite game line. Thumbs up all around and I can’t wait for more good stuff this year.

    • richt
      January 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Thanks! I’m glad to hear it and I think this year promises to be even more fun-

  7. January 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I have one major beef with Onyx Path, and that is that my copy of V20 companion was still sent to the wrong address despite a month’s worth of emails that I had moved. I had to send a friend on a special trip to pick it up, else I would have been out a book AND the money. Otherwise, great job and can’t wait to see what else you have in store for us. Can’t wait for the Dice App also. Eagerly awaiting Mage 20 and hoping for a Demon 12th in 2014.

    • richt
      January 3, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      Once again, I can only apologize that wires were crossed there. Part of our learning experiences this year were in working with shippers that actually listen to us.

  8. Eric Crabtree
    January 2, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Congratulations. As a WW fanboy since the beginning I can honestly say I love not only the stuff you guys put out but the dedication you put into it. Don’t worry about the bumps in the road cause perfection takes time and effort. Looking forward to what you guys bring to us in the future. Even though it’s not much to say but Thank you for the work and effort you guys do. We really do appreciate it.

    • richt
      January 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Thanks for understanding and your support. We might not hit perfection, I don’t know anybody who does, but we certainly rum real hard towards it!

  9. Alex Brown
    January 3, 2013 at 5:43 am

    I play and follow many different games and game companies. With the except of Wizards of the Coast, no company gets things out exactly when they plan(unless, of course, they plan for huge delays). One company I have seen has a good way to handle this: Catalyst Game Labs. Their motto is “It is out when it is out, and we don’t give a release date until it is in our warehouses.” After things like the Leviathans fiasco, and various other products that got delayed through no fault of their own, it makes perfect sense. I would rather know what you are working on, and hope to see it soon, then to see you set a date and make a shoddy product to meet that deadline.

    That said, I will say that I would like to know if there is going to be a way for your books to be sold through distributors to brick and mortar stores? I, generally, prefer to support the local store I play at then have to buy POD books shipped through somewhere else. The people who prefer to support their local store is probably going to be your biggest sticking point if you cannot find a way to keep your books in the distribution channels.

    • IanW
      January 3, 2013 at 5:51 am

      Alex, we’ve been out of the traditional print industry (and thus out of physical stores) since 2010. Buying from DriveThruRPG isn’t an issue of not supporting local stores, simply because we’re not there anymore, no more than buying from ThinkGeek is somehow not supporting your local gift store, since ThinkGeek’s items simply aren’t available in physical stores.

      You can continue to support retailers and still buy from us.

      Regarding whether or not we’ll return to stores, please see the Print portion of our FAQ.

    • richt
      January 3, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      Ian pretty much sums up where we are, but let me add a couple of things. First, let me state right now that the Retailers I have met in a professional capacity are Good People. If you have a friendly local game store, please buy from them and encourage other people to do so as well. That’s why we included a Retailer Tier in the Mummy Kickstarter, because I had enough interest from them that it seemed worth it for both sides (even if we couldn’t give them quite the discounts that a distributor might). So you might see some of our books in stores in the future.

      And that’s the other thing: the old way of doing business just didn’t make any sense when we got out of the distributor/retailer conga line of pain several years ago, but that doesn’t mean that other methods of getting our books into your local store won’t appear in the future. And if they make sense for us, we’ll use them- and get all kinds of emails about how we “promised” never to be in a store again, etc. The market is constantly evolving- like who had heard about Kickstarter two years ago?- and we’ll keep doing what we have to do in order to get the games you love into your hands.

  10. Telperion
    January 3, 2013 at 6:10 am

    My first impression of The Onyx Path was that of some new subsidiary of WW bent on resurrecting cWoD. Since I’m much more interested in nWoD games, I completely ignored anything Onyx Path related for almost a year until the Mummy KS came around, because of this. Sure, there were a lot of really long threads on the WW site, but I just figured you guys were cross-posting stuff throughout the website to get visibility to these new products.

    After backing Mummy I have been very pleased with the work you are doing. It took me while to start coming to this site for regular content updates and news, so I sincerely hope you continue to update it. I’m one of those people who doesn’t subscribe to twitter, and have limited use for Facebook. So, having this site here, and keeping it up-to-date, is in my mind critically important. I’m now much more confident about the future of c/nWoD than before, and I’m also planning on getting into Exalted, because of all the good things I’m hearing about the planned reboot of that game.

    Thank you for a great year!

    • richt
      January 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm

      Glad to have you on board! Keep an eye on the link to the weekly Monday Lunch Meeting Notes- they’re hosted on the WWBlogs site, but they give the best idea of where things are with the projects we’re currently working on.

  11. January 4, 2013 at 7:10 am

    As an Onyx Path fan, you shouldn’t miss this post: “Our First Year On the Onyx Path and We Stop at the Janus… http://t.co/Apkct495

  12. James D
    January 5, 2013 at 10:52 am

    After finding out about V20 from Justin Achilli’s website, I was floored. More cWoD material! (Not that there’s anything wrong with nWoD. I buy both lines, but your first love is always special.) I ordered the V20 book and I’ve been so impressed with the quality of the work, I’ve shelled out for the deluxe editions of every Kickstarter since and see no reason I won’t be doing so for M20, Exalted, etc.

    Everything starts off a little rocky, but the amount of effort that everyone involved with OPP has put in seems to have really paid off. I love the more open development model that you all are following. My current group is anxiously awaiting the M20 line and for the first time in a long time, I’m buying tabletop books on a regular basis again. Here’s to a great first year and hopefully we’ll be seeing OPP putting out 20th anniversary editions of Requiem and all the other lines.

  13. fabio85_gomes
    January 7, 2013 at 10:18 am

    It was a pleasure to see the onyx path becoming reality. I’m quite happy on how things are faring in general. I admire the effort to be always creative, and at the same time be respctful to fans and custumers. I enjoyed all the material produced so far.
    As someone living far from the US, the print on demand is still something complicated. Shipping, customs, may be a big problem as the price and time to receive the books increases. Maybe some official retailers to intermediate these transactions in our country could be good. Has this option been ever studied?
    Thx,and if you need help from Brazil, you can count on me!

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