Neal's Last Words
by Byron "Neal" Massey
This column is kind of special - it's an open letter to Ryan Dancy.
Ryan is the promotional wizard who runs Five Rings Publishing Group.
They recently sold out to WotC, and Ryan is now in charge of five
cool games: Vampire: The Eternal Game, Dune, Legend of the Five
Rings, Rage, and Netrunner.
Dear Mr. Dancy,
I know you play Netrunner. I know you understand its beauty, elegance
and complexity. I'm sure you've seen the InQuest magazine article
that rates it a 6 out of 6. So I won't waste your time going over
all that again.
What I will waste your time doing (wait a minute...) is giving
you some tips on keeping your awesome CCG business record intact.
That means taking Netrunner out of the closet and putting it in
the hands of science fiction and computer fans all around the world.
I am sure you have considered a lot of these ideas, but I hope the
layout will help you see the clear path to success that your bosses
at WotC couldn't follow.
Celebrity EndorsementsYou need Bruce Sterling, William Gibson,
Neal Stephenson, et. al., to endorse Netrunner. They might ask for
a lot of money. Whatever you spend will come back to you double.
These are the men who created the Netrunner genre. They can sell
the card game.
Cyberpunk MediaThat means ads in the backs of paperbacks from big
companies like Ace publishing and Ballantine SF, etc. It means film
ads in theaters where they are showing science fiction movies. Again,
very costly, but WotC has made no attempt to reach the huge science
fiction fan base. They are out there, playing Star Wars and Star
Trek (maybe) and wondering why no one can give them a good CCG.
Science Fiction Conventions I'm sure you can imagine the sales
impact of a Netrunner match between Larry Niven and Poul Anderson.
It doesn't really matter if they are great players. If they (with
some assistance) are having fun playing in front of a big crowd
of fans, the cards will sell. Guaranteed. Offer them the same honorariums
as the guest of honor. All they have to do is play 4 or 5 games
of Netrunner and talk about it with people who ask.
Empty the Warehouse The huge overprinting of v1.0 cards is just
a red mark on a ledger somewhere. There would be more value in giving
those cards away than storing them. WotC had a free card program
for a while, but it was so poorly advertised it didn't begin to
have an impact. Commit yourself to giving away half the current
stockpile and holding back the other half for sales once the game
takes off. Free cards really do prime the pump.
Organize World Championships They can be held at WotC the same
weekend as the Magic championships. You can use the rating system
that Matthias Nagy is maintaining, to select candidates. You can
also have regional winners from tournaments organized by the Top
Runners' Conference. All they need is prize support and advertising
to quickly overtake Battletech as WotC's junior partner.
(You knew this was coming)
Get Silent Impact PrintedThere has never been a card game like
Netrunner, where fans keep playing and recruiting 18 months after
the last expansion was released. Sales are actually increasing!
A new expansion would definitely set the tone for your big push.
Just make sure it is well thought-out (unlike Proteus). The cards
are already written, just waiting for cardboard to hold the text
Don't be Like Your BossesThey have managed to keep the Magic ship
afloat and send out the Battletech lifeboat without losing anyone.
It's time for you to surface the Roving Submarine of Netrunner and
show them the true art of war.