Where We're Going #3
Feature by Howard Thompson
The Space Gamer No 3 (1975)
WHERE WE'RE GOING
Customer Service: There's no way around the fact that we were three weeks late with TSG #2, four weeks late with THE YTHRl, and about a week late with this issue. Business operations should ideally be invisible to our readers. Quality output should appear on schedule, plop, plop, plop in your mailbox without you having a second thought as to how it got there, except that you wanted it. We failed that this fall and excuses don't help.
What has happened is that our work has expanded faster than available time. That accounts for, but doesn't excuse, late TSG's. THE YTHRl was substantially finished in the summer and set aside for later publication. When it was pulled out in September we saw it with fresh eyes and couldn't resist a 'few' improvements. Those 'few' improvements rapidly escalated into a full-blown revision of the game and a rules re-write. It isn't that the game wasn't good as it was. Seeing it again after a lapse just made some changes seem right to make the game do what we wanted, only more clearly.
Delay just isn't good for anybody. But, in this instance, the basic game system has become even cleaner and simple; optional rules were added; we got the well-conceptualized Winchell Chung rules cover; and we saw how we could do two-way die cutting on the counters from the War of the Wizards game. You end up with a better game, more for the same money, from the delay. We'll still try our damnedest to be on schedule in the future. As it is, we're very proud of the way THE YTHRI turned out. Now we know a cooling-off period makes for better games.
Pricing: With this issue we've decided to go to $5 for six issues of TSG, with a renewal for six issues at the $4 rate we'd already announced for January one. Current subscribers as of December 1, 1975, will be allowed to extend their subscriptions for an additional six issues at the $3 rate until December 31, 1975, as long as you don't go for more than issue number 20. The last issue number of your subscription appears in the upper right hand corner of the mailing label.
We wanted a fairly inexpensive communications vehicle in TSG and everyone wants a low price. However, the consensus seems to be that subscribers want us to do more, even if the cost is a bit higher. $5, with a $4 renewal price, is still pretty cheap (try it in 1967 dollars), but it will allow us to do a few more things. Most improvements will come with a larger circulation forcing our unit cost down and our increasing experience with publishing a zine. We'd like to grow up to the visual impact of some of the better-done s-f zines with a variety of material. For you gamers who aren't familiar with s-f zines, you don't have any idea how poorly put together some of the gaming zines really are.
Another pricing issue concerns our discounts. No, we aren't giving them up! It's just that some publishers don't offer wholesale terms and shipping arrangements attractive enough for us to carry their games at a discount. This is particularly true of SPI and Avalon Hill boxed games. The lack of favorable discounts plus the mailing and handling charge for boxed games is just too much to allow a discount to our subscribers. TRIPLANETARY is another game we'd like to carry, but our discount is just not favorable. Economics is the main reason we do not sell some games. The other chief reason is that some games aren't well done and we feel it unfair to offer them as if they were reasonable quality. Another factor is that after we carry a game for a while, the volume of orders for it slips and it begins to be harder to justify the discount to you.
In the feedback this time we ask if you'd be willing to buy some games from us at full or only nominal discount, like 5%. If you are, then it means we can eventually offer very good s-f games on the market and make TSG truly the only thing an s-f gamer really needs. When you buy from us by mail, you would get at least the same price as other mail dealers and you'd be directly helping a strictly s-f&f operation. We will still offer out 15% or so discount for every game we can buy economically. What will probably happen is that after we've carried a title for a while, the 15% discount may slip to 10% to reflect the cost of handling smaller volumes of more, different games.
1976: Only a few things are really definite for 1976 right now. We can continue TSG at least as good as it is now even if we don't get a single other subscriber. At least four TSG's will come out in 1976. We will also publish at least one staff game design and one outside design. That represents the bare minimum we can do in our conservative cash and carry approach to future planning.
Much more likely, even in a very conservative scenario, is that we will roughly double the size of our customer base and business during 1976. That means we have to put our business operations of producing and processing on a more professionally efficient basis in order to reach the goal of 'invisible' customer service. We'll have to do a bit of mental juggling to keep TSG informally a possession of our customers while striving for Vulcan-like efficiency in operations. But, we're starting to be able to juggle gamer and s-f fan needs in the same zine, so we can probably manage efficiency and informality too. If it's true that we're all a little schizophrenic under the skin, then maybe we can put that to work for us in a kind of split-personality approach. Or, maybe there's nothing contradictory at all in easy-going informality hand-in-hand with diligent efficiency. Hope so!
Everyone is sure to note the number and variety of contributions this issue. We hoped our reader participation goal would be achieved, but it's the kind of thing you don't know 'til it happens.Even though we goofed printing the 1¢ /2¢ rate instead of 1/2¢ /1¢, we're sure to get a lot of variety, imagination, and thoughtfulness in material. TSG is your magazine in many ways and we'll hang loose as we'd hoped.
There's no editorial this issue. Maybe "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" is a sort of editorial comment all in itself. Editorials will appear in later issues, but not necessarily in everyone. We'd like to make 32 pages or more in 1976 and maybe go bi-monthly as early as next fall. Right now, about all we're looking forward to is a year-end breather to let 1976 have a chance to gel in our minds and to catch up on some of the really great mail y'all send. See you in the new year...good gaming!
Retroreview Note: Occasion typos, such as the misspelling of 'gel' as 'gell' have been corrected through the above feature.
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