When Companies Show Fans They Care
I’m continually impressed by how involved Pinnacle Entertainment, creators of Savage Worlds and Deadlands, gets with their fans. On their online forums, most of the staffers post regularly and there are even two dedicated forums where fans can ask specific rules questions and within a day will get an official answer from a Pinnacle staffer. When I went to GenCon last summer, I went to the Pinnacle Entertainment booth and got the privilege to have a twenty minute conversation with Clint Black, creator of Necessary Evil (a Savage Worlds supervillain campaign I’ve been wanting to run, and he gave me some great tips on running it and talked about his inspiration behind it). I’m continually impressed by their commitment to the fans and I think it goes a long way to not only build public relations with them, but also to get in touch with what the fans, which is an invaluable resource.
Tonight, I decided for the first time to join The Back Room Chat, a weekly chatroom for fans to talk about Savage Worlds and its licensees. There were about 15 users logged in, and surprisingly three of them were Pinnacle staffers: the aforementioned Clint Black, his wife and writer Jodi Black, and Pinnacle Vice-President Joel Kinstle. They were there directly talking with the fans and, in Joel’s case, making terrible puns. I even mentioned Bookery in Fairborn, Ohio at one point, the world’s largest gaming store with buildings on two sides of the street. The Pinnacle staffers they started coming up with all kinds of crazy ideas on how to get from one side to another (including zeppelin rides). Clint even said that the two sides reminded him of West Side Story and said that next time I go there I should sing:
When you’re a Geek,
You’re a Geek all the way.
From your first d8 roll
To your dice rolling tray!
Tonight was a special night on the chat room in that Paul “Wiggy” Wade-Williams of Triple Ace Games (who used to work at Pinnacle himself) was on to talk about what his company was doing, such as the upcoming supplements with All for One: Régime Diabolique, a supernatural Three Musketeers-style setting. Just for logging on into the chat, I got a free 25 page PDF from Triple Ace Games about how to use resource management in fantasy campaigns. And later on, they did a drawing for a $60 gift card voucher for their online store and a second drawing for free shipping! I didn’t win either, but I was still incredibly impressed. All this, just to say thank you for being a fan! How awesome is that?
Now I’m not saying that all RPG companies need to start giving away generous gift cards to their fans (although that would be very nice), but I have to say that I feel much more positively about both companies because their employees spend time personally talking with the fans. There are other companies whose products I really like, but I feel they’re rather out of touch with their fans, largely because they do a poor job of communication about their products (does that One Ring a bell?)
As an interesting aside, I’ve heard of many old school gamers fondly remembering Gary Gygax as a person who was fun to be around. Many of their stories are not about the early days of TSR as a company, but of being a player in a game GMed by him or of getting to have a conversation with him personally. Maybe Gary and the Pinnacle staffers know something that other RPG companies have forgotten: there is a tremendous value in having a personal relationship with the fans of your game.