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’.