I last spoke to Phil Reed, COO of Steve Jackson Games, at GenCon in 2011. We discussed e23, Steve Jackson Games’s DRM-free PDF e-book store, which had expanded far beyond its original intended goals of just republishing out-of-print stuff to publishing in-print stuff at the same time as or even before it came out in print.
I caught up with him again at GenCon 2013 for another brief interview. We touched on e23’s ongoing success, but Reed had more to say on the subject of Kickstarters—something that was on the minds of a number of other writers and industry professionals at the con this year, including Michael Stackpole.
Me: I am here once again with Phil Reed, the COO of Steve Jackson Games, and basically last time we spoke, we talked about the success of e23.
Me: What have you been doing in the two years since then?
Phil: The two years since then, we’ve been working primarily on completing our OGRE Kickstarter project and the only work on e23 really has been outside of what I normally do. My involvement has basically just been looking at financials and making sure we keep everything moving and everybody getting what they need.
Me: So Steve Jackson has been doing a Kickstarter also, for OGRE?
Phil: We ran a Kickstarter project last year. It closed in May 2012 at $923,000. Here at the convention we have the first finished copies of the new OGRE Designer’s Edition, which is a board game over 28 lbs in weight.
Me: Is that what you were doing the Kickstarter for?
Phil: That was the Kickstarter project, yes.
Me: I’ve noticed a lot of people in publishing and in gaming are all starting to do Kickstarters.
Phil: Yes, because it’s a fantastic marketing tool and it’s a good way for gamers to tell us if this is or is not the game they want.
Me: Do you think there’s any danger of “Kickstarter fatigue,” in which people get tired of seeing so many Kickstarters and just don’t invest?
Phil: I think there is, but I think as long as people keep getting really cool games out of it, it will keep the excitement up. All we need, though, is about three or four really high-profile bad disasters to happen, I think that Kickstarter fatigue will start to roll in. But so far we’re not seeing that.
Me: You don’t think it’s just a fad that will die down in a few months or years?
Phil: I think as long as people keep getting the games they want and they’re happy with the games, we’ll see it just continue to grow.
Me: Has Steve Jackson Games looked at any alternate electronic formats besides PDF for their books?
Phil: No, not at this time.
Me: But e23 continues to be a success?
Phil: Yes. e23 continues to be profitable, it continues to do well, and we continue to publish new material. We have GURPS Zombies, which I think will be out within the next 30 days.
Me: And you’re still not seeing any overall problems with piracy?
Phil: No. It’s going to happen. We’ve never done DRM or any sort of file locking because we trust everybody, it’s gonna be fine. Anybody who’s going to steal your material is going to steal it no matter what you do, so why punish the normal user.
Me: And of course if somebody passes on your material and someone else likes it, they might buy themselves some of it.
Phil: I hope so.
Me: And you’ve been seeing an uptick in sales out of this?
Phil: I actually don’t look very closely at that. All I know is that it continues to be profitable.
Me: All right. Well thank you very much for speaking with me, Mr. Reed.
Phil: No problem.