Author Topic: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)  (Read 4376 times)

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Offline Cory Magel

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Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« on: July 14, 2011, 02:22:06 AM »
Quote from: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address
Also, I wanted to highlight an email response I provided to a well-meaning fan who was asking if it was permissible for his GM to send to all his players pdf copies of the Rolemaster rulebooks he wanted to use in his campaign. Below is my response. I felt it was important to bring it to the attention of all fans and customers because our relationship with you is a two way street – We need to provide you with a product AND service that allows you to maximize your “fun time” with regards to your RPG hobby. In exchange for this, we need your feedback and guidance into what you want and need AND we need you to support the work by paying for it. Paying for the product and/or service is a fundamental cornerstone of our relationship with you. If you cheat, you will get a short term gain, but in the medium and long run, you will only be cheating yourself and your fellow fans.
(snip)
    Look, I know you all think you are saving money, but its stuff like this that will eventually put us out of business. The industry is in difficult straits and I have seen a calculation that something like 40% of sales lost over the last 10 years are due to this type of behavior – essentially piracy. The rest of course is due to the rise of electronic gaming.
    Here is the end game: If I can’t at least cover my costs and make a small profit, It will become some sort of free-ware. When that happens, there will be no more further professional creation – sure, you will get home-brewed adventure modules posted for free, but the development of the rules will stop, and high quality support product will be gone. However, if you pay for your entertainment (hours if not days of fun for the cost, in some cases, of a single movie ticket) then I will take a large portion of those profits and invest it back into the business to provide players with more game aids, support products, adventure modules, and the occasional new setting, etc.
    At the end of the day, it is up to you, the fans/customers, to decide what they want. Ultimately, your behavior will determine if you get “free but static” (and I believe a far poorer overall experience) or “inexpensive and dynamic” (far greater value for some money). As in all things in our non-magical world, you get what you pay for.

I wanted to say something in support of this... and I'm probably going to ramble a bit...

In a day and age where it's easier than ever to send an email halfway around the world with some wonderful song, or book, or whatever to a friend because it's so great you either had to share it with them or they were begging you for it it's easy to not realize you are actually stealing work.  There is, in my opinion, a huge section of the population that would never have considered going to a copy store and running off three copies of a book they just read and giving it to their friends.  Forget about the actual cost to make the copies - they knew it was wrong on a level they were not comfortable with, largely due to the fact that they had to take the time and effort required to make the copies.  It made them actually think about it.  A large portion of that group doesn't connect that action with sending off a copy of a book in PDF (or whatever) format.  It's so easy and seems so different that it just doesn't cross their mind that it is just as bad, worse in my opinion due to the domino effect, as running off physical copies ten or fifteen years ago.

Now, we could get into a discussion about Napster and 'big companies' and how the music industry moguls 'had it coming' and the like, but that's not what were talking about here.  You play Rolemaster (or HARP, or whatever ICE product) because you think it's better than, or at least as good as, the other system out there.  The publishers of Rolemaster have always been fairly small operations.  When hard times really hit the RPG industry Steve Jackson Games was considered one of the larger game companies after Wizards of the Coast.  When it was announced they had eliminated almost half their staff due to required cut-backs to remain viable how many employees do you think they downsized to?  Would it shock you to know it was around 25?  They were considered in the top three companies as far as size then.  Rolemaster was actually ranked up about 6th in popularity/success in those days.  Definitely in the top 10.  So, while they may have been one of the lead RPG publishers, they were by no means a corporate giant.

So, what it really comes down to is respecting the people who put the time end effort into the product and dealing honestly with them.  When I would get a copy of a music CD and found I loved it, I would actually go buy it.  The first Trans-Siberian Orchestra was an album I heard only parts of on the radio, then borrowed a copy from a co-worker.  I loved the stuff.  So I didn't burn a copy, I went out and bought it.  Why?  Cause they deserved it.  Yes, it would be nice if you could make a contribution directly to the artists and bypass the whole music company thing... but that's just not how it works.

Now, those who 'know me' (as much as internet friendship goes) know I had issues with the old ICE(s).  We won't get into it for the same reason I never truly tried to play legal hardball with them: Respect for the fact that there were other people who depended on a living from the functioning of the company and other authors that were hoping for a royalty check.  I am optimistic that the newest incarnation of ICE will respect the authors in return as much as they will their customers.  But for that to have a chance of happening the customers need to respect ICE and those who work, both directly and indirectly, for them.

If you love Rolemaster pay for the number of copies that will get handed out.  We all know that for every hard copy book sold back in the day something like three or more people were actually using it around the gaming table.  Now imagine multiple groups of people that only a single legal electronic copy was sold to.  Personally I think it's a mistake to publish unprotected PDF's for the very reason I mention above about the mental disconnect people have regarding the distribution of electronic files... but ICE has chosen to take the trusting road for the sake of the customers convenience of not having to deal with the hassles that protecting those files can bring.  So have the respect to pay for at least what you would have if you were still buying physical copies.

Ok. Soap box put away.
:D
« Last Edit: July 14, 2011, 02:27:11 AM by Cory Magel »
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Offline Raf Blutaxt

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2011, 04:17:55 AM »
The problem with pdf's is that there is no way to borrow them. Gaming has always been a hobby where books are passed around from GM to players and even to other GM's and that was never an issue as long as it was only one hardcopy that had to go back to the owner at some point. With pdf's you don't have that issue anymore, every copy is like every other and in no way different from the original. This becomes an issue since many groups, at least when they start a new game, have only one person, usually the GM who has bought into the gaming system and is trying to get the others to do the same. If he has nothing to show them, because he can't lend them his books, this becomes in fact something that could hinder the adoption of the game by this particular group.

From a legal point of view the issue is clear-cut, it is illegal to send pdf's around, it is stealing and that's it. But from a practical point of view it becomes a bit more complex. Still, if a group has adopted the system and is playing it for a long time, it is a matter of respect to buy these pdf's multiple times, but in the beginning it's a bit much to ask of a whole group to buy a large number of books, I think.
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Offline smug

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2011, 01:13:25 PM »
I'm pretty peeved with the pdf-only-can't-borrow-can't-resell model at present, thanks to RM Express Additions. The problem's not soluble without lots of DRM, though, so I guess we're stuck with this.

I am not an expert on the legal situation, but as I understand it, it varies from country to country in any case. But the point of the address message is really "we need you to buy stuff, please don't steal it" rather than a legal discussion that would in any case probably not be true across all markets, particularly on cases like printing multiple copies from a single pdf, and sharing those about (something that has long been done, back to the photocopy days, for spell lists and attack and critical tables).

ICE don't really have the luxury of the cheaper or free pdf models pursued by other companies; Paizo, for example, sell all their fancy RPG pdfs for $10 and still seem to sell a lot of hard copy (and the rules themselves are all OGL), but as ICE can't produce print runs their pricing differentials are effectively going to be constrained by the grim realities of PoD. Eclipse Phase is actually free on pdf, I think, but that'd mean people would just print their own and have it bound at Kinkos and no PoD monies for ICE.

I'm reassured that RM will be set free if it can't make any money, not because I want AA not to make any money but because I would hate for RM to disappear completely (something I believe Mr Seal has never wished to contemplate either). That's a really cool commitment.

I would note that, as a RMC fan, maybe I am more likely to get "static" in any case*. I'm happy to pay, of course -- I can afford it and I think that RMC/RMX is great -- but really I'd like to be able to buy all of it. However, as the bizarro WotC decision to pull all .pdfs showed, they have much less longevity for legal purchase then hard copy, which I can at least normally buy even if I pay more than cover price, when production and official sale ceases.

If stuff appears which I like, I'll happily pay for it. I do feel somewhat worried that the stuff -- that interests me, I mean -- might not appear, but I'm just an individual with my own preferences which certainly may not reflect the market. There's a trickier situation with stuff I like, written already, which won't appear, though, but it's hardly the first game in which that has happened (for pdfs, at least, all TSR/WotC stuff ever is in that boat).

*Although I'm not claiming this with certainty, or anything like that; if someone pitches an RMC idea which looks like it'll do OK, I'm sure it'll get full consideration. I've never, however, detected much enthusiasm for RMC/2 from some of the higher-ups, either the game or the tactic of reformatting RM2 into a new saleable form (pretty sure there was a GC editorial in which the wisdom of putting effort into that was questioned), so if efforts are focussed onto games in which I don't have much interest -- RMSS/FRP or HARP -- then I'm not going to be complaining that it was unexpected (any more than RMSS/FRP fans felt about the static nature of the book output for those games).

Offline pastaav

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2011, 03:50:20 PM »
I think selling DRM-free PDF files is the right way to go. If the DRM madness barely works for the major labels and has alienated lots of possible customers so that they stop buying anything, then how could it possibly work for a small gaming company?

I would never ever buy anything with DRM in it. The likelihood I would like to use it one some kind of reader that is not invented yet is substantial and with DRM in the product it is doomed to happen sooner or later that I can use by legally purchased copy. 

Truth is that fans buy material to support their company, but there is a catch. People only stay as active supporters if there is belief the company can deliver on their promises. So far I think the GCP is doing great...yet it of course the matter of getting the product work as PODs.
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Offline Witchking20k

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2011, 04:49:25 AM »
Whats DRM?
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Offline markc

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2011, 05:24:14 AM »
DRM= Digital Rights Management
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Offline smug

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2011, 09:51:39 AM »
And however it works, it tends to be restrictive of users, either to using particular software to play/read/explore the purchase, or in having to validate, etc.

In practice, I don't think that trying to stop people from printing and sharing pdfs is going to work, although sharing at least can be restricted with invisible watermarks that allow sourcing of the original purchaser of copies that end up being mass-shared (best you can probably do is refuse to sell them more stuff, of course, which is what Paizo do; not every rpg company has the resources to sue). You just have to generate enough sales, through goodwill and so on, to keep things afloat.

Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2011, 10:44:15 AM »
I fully understand, and sympathize with, the need to protect IP.

But at the same time, any resources for any RPG that can't be easily "passed around" between players and GM is rather an oxymoron. "Crippled", at best.

I won't claim to know any really good solutions for that. But I think I can safely assume that any solution that doesn't address both ends of that problem is doomed to fail.
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Offline Andraax

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2011, 11:13:07 AM »
The way that Steve Jackson Games has handled their PDFs is simple: no DRM, no watermarking, just telling people that they should not copy illegally and please refer people that want copies to their website. I occasionally do searches for PDFs of theirs available online (just to kind of keep tabs on it) and there is very little of it floating around. The website for electronic purchases keeps a "library" of the PDFs that you have purchased, and you can always download a new copy of anything you purchased at any time. This way, I don't need to keep my PDFs around all the time, I just download what I'm going to need for upcoming games, and wipe what I'm not currently using. Also, when updates are made to your purchased titles (errata, whatever) the copies in your online library are automatically updated and you're sent an email notifying you that there were updates.

Offline Cory Magel

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2011, 12:58:54 PM »
I think selling DRM-free PDF files is the right way to go. If the DRM madness barely works for the major labels and has alienated lots of possible customers so that they stop buying anything, then how could it possibly work for a small gaming company?

I haven't really seen anything about the DRM method alienating D&D customers to the point that they won't buy anything.  The reason WotC stopped selling PDF's (from their own PR person) is because they found they were being widely pirated even with protection... which is no real surprise - they are, by far, the largest system out there and you're going to see the piracy quite clearly as a result.  My main concern with the whole PDF issue is that leaving them completely unmarked, unprotected, etc, etc makes it so that even a good percentage of the honest people end up distributing them illegally (mainly cause it just doesn't cross their mind that they are doing something 'illegal').  When something becomes so easy to do there's a disconnect people have with it being illegal.

Really, I see little hope that electronic copies of things can safely be sold without losing sales to piracy.  Obviously electronic format is where we are headed and maybe they'll eventually have a method to reasonably control illegal distribution, but until that happens I suspect a lot of companies will lose a lot of sales resulting in the small guys potentially going under when they shouldn't have.  In the end there's just no way to stop it without a serious invasion of privacy on customers - even if you have the greatest protection in the world I could screen print and paste together an unprotected copy, print out and re-scan a copy, etc.

So Steve Jackson is right in a way... it comes down to honesty and, more to my point, respect for the people who's efforts you are enjoying.

I'm not quite sure how I'd handle PDF's myself if I were in a position to be making that kind of choice.  I suspect the first thing I'd do is provide a free PDF copy with every hard-copy just to encourage hard-copy sales.  Also, if feasible, include a unique 'watermark' type protection on each copy sold that can be traced back to the purchaser if needed and a legal warning regarding that (which would then imply you need to be able to verify ID somehow upon purchase - might be a hassle).  While the reality of the ability to hold someone legally accountable might be more trouble that it's worth much of the time the potential for being held accountable for your copy being distributed may curb a lot of the 'innocent' piracy.  I'd definitely make them searchable - to me they are largely pointless without that ability.  My standalone PDF pricing would likely be about 33%-40% of the hard-copy cost... I find it hard to swallow anything over a 50% price-point, after all once you have your online setup going you've eliminated printing, storage and shipping costs.  All that's left is some overhead for maintaining an online system (the only real ongoing long term cost), some employee hours and author payment - get greedy on your profits and you're probably asking to be pirated.  Increased sales will hopefully adjust for the lower cost and also drive visibility of the product and thereby hopefully create a customer for all your products.
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Offline Andraax

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2011, 01:17:21 PM »
Piracy will happen even if electronic versions are not provided. Many books (of all sorts, not just RPG) can be found online that were scanned / OCR'ed and shared out. I remember reading a study that links the level of illegal sharing with the attempts to prevent illegal sharing - companies that tried using copy protection (on CDs/DVDs), DRM, and watermarks to prevent illegal sharing seemed to have their stuff shared *more* as a result.

I mean, stuff was photocopied before there was the Internet, and people would hire scribes to copy books in antiquity.

Offline Andraax

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2011, 01:22:00 PM »
And, as an addendum to the Steve Jackson Games' approach, they have started producing RPG supplements that are PDF *only*. This allows them to produce very small supplements for a limited audience that they would not have been able to print economically previously. Some of those supplements have "gone the other way" - they were popular enough as PDF only that they were eventually granted a print run for hardcopy sales. They have a large number of GURPS supplements now that are under 32 pages in length.

Offline Witchking20k

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2011, 09:33:18 PM »
I think dealing in this kinda business would require a fair amount of "faith" in your clients.  Faith that they aren't going to pirate everything.

All kidding aside.  Those of us who love RPGs, buy them.  Amongst my circle of friends/players a few pirated versions of games float around; mostly because after we aquired them and read them, we weren't willing to pay for them.  Lets face it.  Being able to see the table of contents and the "what is roleplaying" section of a new game system is a far cry from being able to thumb through a book at a hobby store; the PDF is not a fair evaluation is most cases.  So, perhaps this is where the faith comes in...yup, you're gonna have piracy.  But, if your product is worth it; people will pay.

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Offline pastaav

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2011, 03:12:57 AM »
I haven't really seen anything about the DRM method alienating D&D customers to the point that they won't buy anything.  The reason WotC stopped selling PDF's (from their own PR person) is because they found they were being widely pirated even with protection...

I would say that is the true flaw of DRM...every DRM-scheme will be defeated unless the customers is forced to use a device that does not allow him to execute code of his own. You can't both allow the users machine to present the file and keep it safe from being copied. That is why DRM only limit your paying customers, those who want to avoid paying will always do so anyway. Having a product with DRM is a pretty fool proof way to make sure the product end up in torrents since there are lots of people who from friends have heard about the horrors of DRM and want something DRM free.

There are some corner cases when a person might decide to send a copy to a friend and that friend then decide to not buy the product. Still you have to wonder if that friend would have purchased it otherwise or if him using the PDF will make more inclined to buy the POD version at a later point in time.

Fundamentally I think each company working with intellectual property need to build a relationship and loyalty with the customers since there is no way we can ever enforce copyright without making a 1984-society seem like place of freedom. 
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Offline Cory Magel

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2011, 11:49:34 AM »
Unfortunately one of the problems with trying to look into the piracy is the complete guesswork that is going into how much it is actually impacting the companies.  No one has accomplished gathering any reliable information.  What little information I've seen from the RPG side wasn't really trying to discover how many electronic sales they were losing, they simply stated that their hard copy product wasn't losing sales - which is really a guess too.  Not only could they be making a lot more electronic sales, but how do they know they aren't still losing physical copy sales as a result?  Just cause they haven't dropped does mean you couldn't be selling more.  And the music industry even contradicts itself between it's various claims depending on the day and their current motivation.  The polls they've done are entirely suspect for multiple reasons.  Imagine asking a bunch of consumers in a poll if they've pirated products, do they really think the people that knowingly did are all going to admit it and that the people who don't even realize they are doing it are going to say yes?  Then there was a poll about if you lied on a poll asking if you've done it.  Like people are going to say "Ok, you got me! I lied when I said I hadn't done it!"

Fundamentally I think each company working with intellectual property need to build a relationship and loyalty with the customers since there is no way we can ever enforce copyright without making a 1984-society seem like place of freedom.

I think it's just classic how 1984 was one of the books pulled back from Kindle users without permission/notification.  Gotta love the irony in that.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2011, 11:55:57 AM by Cory Magel »
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Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2011, 01:39:02 PM »
The contradiction is at a very fundamental level, and wider than publishing and music put together. The contradiction is that the artist should be paid for his work, but art that can't be shared is meaningless. At some level, in any art form, you confront the realities of the tip jar. In any meaningful sense art can't be "bought" or "sold" by the original artist, the closest approach you can hope for is to try to find way to make people want to hit the tip jar. In pretty much any kind of economy, art and entertainment is still a luxury, by definition. The customer always has the option to stop buying, the hardships of that are not insurmountable.

What SJG is doing sounds impressive (to me at least) for just that reason. It appears to be approaching it from the honest and realistic foundation of, "How do we get people to want to give us more money?", which resolves to "Here are the benefits of getting it from us." They're connecting services to it.
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Offline Witchking20k

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2011, 02:33:19 PM »
SJG also owns a few titles that make them money outside of RPGs; Munchkin comes to mind.  So, they can probably better afford a different approach. 
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Offline Raf Blutaxt

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2011, 04:11:48 PM »
There are several issues here:

1. Predictions on how piracy impacts sales are always wrong because they take every pirated copy as a lost sale, which is by no means guaranteed. Most people who download a piece of music, a movie or an rpg would never have bought it in the first place, so counting them as lost sales is at least problematic.

2. DRM usually punishes the customers and not the people who pirate a product. The people who buy the product get additional hassles and are basically treated as suspects, while the people who steal something get the better experience. This is probably more of an issue with music or DVD's (remember all those extra "piracy is evil" trailers at the beginning you can't skip?), but at heart it boils down to the fact that companies don't trust their customers, which is bad for building up a
loyal fanbase.

3. Art has always been about sharing, copying music on tapes, recording movies from TV, lending or even photocopying books or parts of books and so forth. The realities of the digital age however have erased the loss of quality intrinsic in older methods of sharing and the entertainment industries have not yet found an adequate answer to this. The impression is that they suffer from people sharing their products, but making the sharing impossible is probably as harmful in the long run.
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Offline markc

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #18 on: August 02, 2011, 10:25:28 PM »
 UGH Java update ate my post.


1) Many people do not see downloading as piracy so they would answer no to the poll above. Even if the poll giver defines piracy for them they do not believe it or will not believe it.


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Offline smug

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Re: Aurigas Aldebaron’s Address (Comments)
« Reply #19 on: August 03, 2011, 07:57:46 PM »
A friend of mine works in the record industry and they're pretty gloomy about the future, at least the future being as good for them as was the past. Their ability to fund production of music for artists is going to be one of the casualties, which will result in artists who tend to require higher production values being priced out of the commercial CD market, or at least selling an inferior product.

My response to that is pretty much that people will still make music, and we'll still be able to buy it and watch it; as the Aurigas Aldebaran statement says, there'll be a hit to quality if the same lack of potential profitability happens to ICE and other games producers. At least Aurigas plan to set the game free, if that turns out to be the case, although I hope that it won't. I'll certainly buy product if I like it (it'd have to be RM2/C stuff, in my case, but I assume that others feel the same about RMSS/FRP material) -- I spend well over two grand a year on rpg stuff* -- and I hope that enough others feel like that for ICE to be viable.

*Stuff like Dwarven Forge and the like is expensive, of course. But I do buy rpg material too, have a bunch of Paizo subs, etc.