Monday, December 14, 2009

Expanding the Demographic

It was no secret when I designed OVA, I wanted to make the game accessible to anime fans. Not just gamers who happen to like anime, but the kind of fan whose only experience role-playing was on a free-form message board. There are tons of anime otaku out there who are keenly interested in telling their stories, but have never heard of this kind of gaming, or have been frightened off by RPGdom's more complicated inhabitants. (I mean you, Dungeons and Dragons. I still haven't forgotten THAC0!) OVA focuses less on lots of funny dice, experience levels, and pages of battle tactics in favor of making it easy to be exactly the character you want to be, and I think that's a clear step in the right direction.

But, having spoken with many, many players of the game over the past years, by and large the people who play OVA are the same gamers who play most other pen & paper RPGs: 20–40-something males. That's not to say my faithful readers aren't great people, as I'm very lucky to have such devoted, creative, and wonderful fans, but it certainly goes to show I didn't quite succeed at my goal.

The rules are even more streamlined now, which is a plus, but I think the key is getting the book where the anime/manga fans are. These days, that's the bookstore. Sprawled in the aisles, blocking all the new releases, you know who you are! With OVA next to Naruto and Fruits Basket, I think a curious manga fan will be more likely to come across it.

Of course, getting a book on the shelf is easier said than done. Book store distributors are notably unfriendly with companies with small catalogs, which essentially requires me to team up with another, larger company. We'll just have to see if that pans out.

But there's more to this goal of expanding readership than that. I know countless people out there are already role-playing, using Internet chatrooms and messageboards as a vehicle for their creative impulses. How does one show them the magic of gaming? Maybe more creative marketing is in order. Any suggestions out there?

Fukiko exemplifies a possible demographic. Then again, when a magical locket lets you transform into Lovely Savior Myu Myu and fight crime just like the comics, who needs a role-playing game?


  1. Well, there is a crazy idea that comes to mind.

    You already know where the manga fans are... and they're not sprawled in those aisles reading game rulebooks. They're reading manga.

    The Dungeons and Dragons sample characters have books of their own... why couldn't the OVA characters we all know and love have their own manga?

    Well, I'm sure there's lots of reasons, but... well, there you have it.

  2. It would all depend on who controls the Intellectual Property of the characters involved.

    Perhaps in the back (front?) you could have gameplay tips/stats/etc.

    The real big problem to any paper product you might have is that there's no guarantee that it will go in the anime/manga section.

  3. Oh, heh, just thought of it.... Maybe publish an art book? In the stores that I frequent, the art section tends to be right near the manga, perhaps do to the many how to draw manga books. It also gives an opportunity to show off the art that might not make it into the rulebook.

  4. Print the rpg in a similar size to a manga book like ghost in the shell aswell and that should help it fit on those manga selves easier, also see if a manga distributor like viz or yen press would be interested in printing it for you that way you'll get there expertise on the manga distro side of things.

  5. Random Trivia: Some years ago Seven Seas Entertainment expressed interest in publishing the OVA Role-Playing Game and even including stats in their manga titles. However, the Borders buyer at the time, Seven Seas' primary doorway into the market, had recently been burned by unsold BESM d20 books and wasn't interested in another "risky" anime RPG. That shut down that idea rather quickly.

    But it's still a good idea that I'd love to explore at some point. As for publishing actual OVA's a great idea and one I certainly have thought about, but producing an entire volume of manga at the quality I'd like would be a substantial investment far outweighing the RPG it would promote.

    As for where it's shelved, of course there's no way to tell. But I've generally found if it has anime on the cover, it gets shelved in the manga section without questions asked. Artbook? It's not in Art, it's in Manga. Learn Kana and Kanji with cute anime artwork? It's not in Language, it's in Manga. Of course, that has a lot to do with who publishes it, too. Getting a deal with Viz or Del Rey would be cool in that regard...but I wouldn't hold your breath. Maybe I should contact Yen Press. I mean, if Seven Seas was never know.

    Finally: Artbook! Actually planned, but only in a small "The real fans may want a copy" sort of way. OVA doesn't have the clout to produce a full print-run artbook, I don't think. You may pick up a game you never heard of on a whim. An artbook for a game you've never heard of...I'm not so sure. But expect to see it some day, with some extra art from artists old and new!

  6. Oh, and as said here, OVA actually will be manga-sized – Well, at least like the over-sized manga you see from time to time.

  7. Hmm! I dunno, I buy artbooks for random stuff I've never played all the time. I also go looking for stuff I see in art books all the time. (You know what I mean, those art books with works from various things, by various artists, like the Comickers books?) I don't know if I'm alone in this sort of thing, though. It might be worth exploring, seeing if there are other people who do this kind of thing?

    OH! I had another idea a while back, but I don't know if I posted it, because I was having a lot of trouble posting on here for a long time.... Have you ever seen the Iron Claw or Jade Claw rulebooks? At the beginning of every chapter, they have 1-2 pages of comic... I wish I had an example. Anyway, putting something like that in a rulebook or artbook could be a way to generate interestin in a manga fan that picks up the book. "Oh, look, something to read! Hmm, I wonder what this game is about."

  8. Actually, I believe you have said something about this, either in one of the comment threads here or over at the Wise Turtle Forums. Like I said before, there will be a short manga insert replacing the previous edition's "Example of Play." Not quite the same as the mini-comics that were used in Ironclaw, but not entirely dissimilar either. Hopefully it'll be pretty eye-catching!

    By the way, I also like perusing through these art collections myself. Maybe there's a bigger audience than I thought.

  9. I love ixloriana's idea about the characters having books of their own! It'd be really fun to read different manga starring the sample characters, and then like a big crossover thing once you introduce them all in their own books. Sorry, comic nerd self overpowered the rest of me.

    I also think a simplified (possibly diceless?) version could be made available for message board games, like with special attention to how dicerolling and turn order would work. I got my little sister and her friend into D&D a while back, but they had both been RPing online systemless for quite a while. Even a free pdf might convince some people to buy the paper or full pdf version of the game.

  10. You should team up with Mongoose/Flaming Cobra. Ads on the major forums (ENWorld,, Game Do/Game Board Geek, Flames Rising, Pen & Paper Games...). Also, look into a bonafide Manga/Anime distributor. Get the book near the Manga displays as well as in the RPG section.

    How do Libraries get books? Get a couple copies into the major city's libraries.

    G4? What does it take to get an ad targeted at gamers? Interview? Couldn't hurt to contact them.

    Find anime/manga podcasters. Start generating buzz, give out some free copies in exchange for interviews.

    You should be reading anime/manga forums and making new friends. Get into discussions, make sure there is a link to this blog.

    My buck fifty...

  11. All sound ideas. Before embarking on my blogging journey I was actively participating in the community of my chosen topic (2D MORPG). After months of tracking the scene, preparations were complete and I was ready to create a blog. Becoming well acquainted with shakers and movers greatly increases the chances of exposure as well as advertising. No ass kissing required.

    I'm sure Clay is already a part of many anime/manga forums and web sites. I did not learn of the Maid RPG until I read the Revised Edition blog. Very interesting game!

  12. Chris: I'm considering a highly pared back version of OVA that demonstrates the very basics. Just enough to get newbies into the game without forcing them to purchase an expensive book. The PDF version of such a thing would in fact be free.

    Trentin: Thanks for all the great suggestions. While some might outsize my pocketbook (Advertisements on G4?) there's some sound stuff in here. I added a link to this blog on my signature based on your advice. Maybe I really should start frequenting some anime forums, too...

    Nicholas: Actually, that's not quite the case...I tend to hang around RPG sites (console and tabletop) more than I do good ol' otaku hangouts. I suppose it's time to change that!

    And glad you discovered a new game through here! I know many people have found OVA through equally spontaneous means.

  13. What about contacting Dark Horse for publication?

  14. I think having an interview/ad on Anime News Network, Anime Nation, and Crunchy Roll would be profitable; those seem big anime sites/hangouts to me. is a big video game (mostly Japanese video game) art site (some large & pretty piece on their banner could turn some heads).

    I'm wondering how many video game RPGers OVA could hook? & may be worthy banner spots, too.