We only send out major updates via email. It prevents us from ever hedging into spam territory.
I appreciate that. However, I think "we won't make the promised date" (in March) is major news, in the way that it prevents the "you expected to have you book by now. well, uh, just wait another two months" (in early June). In the latest mail you don't even offer an explanation; if I had not been reading here, that would be frustrating.
Note that I don't object the delay -- I know what you have spent the time on -- but the lack of communication for non-forum-readers.
We've updated posts before and receive complaints that we didn't send out a completely separate update. We've sent out completely separate updates and been accused of spamming, or worse, drawn more ire than we would by simply staying quiet until we have an update.
It's unfortunate that some folks don't seem to appreciate an honest update. Of course, admitting management mistakes will always hurt to some degree; imho, doing so as early as often it the most professional and courteous way. But then, I am no professional so I can't estimate the repercussions.
We like the benefits of post-production review as well, but the reality of that scenario is that the finished books wouldn't arrive for months afterward. Even if we instituted a rigid schedule and stuck to it, I'm not sure we'd come out ahead. In this modern age of immediate gratification, anticipation fatigue comes on very quickly and has a dramatic impact on the health of a brand.
no one accepts that they have to wait more than 4-6 weeks for something they've paid for.
You opened preorders in August 2011, five months before expected shipping which was originally January 2012, iirc. That's already well over four to six weeks, so that time frame seems to be a non-issue at this point. So you opened preorder to early; as far as I can tell, at which point this happens is largely independent of the development process; that is, you can do the same process as for MAG but just open preorders later, and you are golden.
What I specifically don't think we'll be able to do much anymore is post-production proofing. I'd love to, I really would, but it demands that a product essentially be trapped in that limbo between digital and print for what the market is telling us is an untenable period.
I see the problem. What about you release your "beta" version properly, but digital only with guaranteed updates? That would be different from what you did with MAG mostly by name, but still. Imagine you had started "presale" when you had the first document. You would have been on the market, people had play"tested" and then you could have done the revision on the market. Of course you have to communicate that strategy to early buyers so they know that glitches are expected and they should report them. This way, you might be able to combine immediate gratification ("Oh, cool, there is MAG! Pay! Download! Play!") with a more slow-paced, community-supported refining process that leads to a (better) printed book.
This is my first experience with Crafty and you come out of this on average scale. I like the product, I like the participation, I don't like the (in hindsight) impossible shipment dates. I think you tried to tread a middle ground that does not work; you announced early, at a point where you did not even have a beta product, but promised dates, too. From my experience (as a customer), if you announce early everything but "it's done when it's done" has to fail (note how exceptionally well Blizzard has been doing with "it's done when it's done"; they have built a reputation for taking their time but always delivering quality). The opposite approach is to announce only when you have something to put hands on. If you want community participation, it has to be the former (unless you start using for instance some private forum for community testing).
I can only speak for me, but I would have liked "Here you can preorder, here you can participate in the process, it's done when it's done" way more than what happened now -- happily waiting for the promised dates, telling other Mistborn fans they can expect playing the RPG by then, and being disappointed.
(Note also the difference in perception of the final shipping date: "Well, finally
, it's about time!" vs "Oh, cool, it's there already?")
Note again that I am not pissed and not even really disappointed. I approve of publishers taking their time to do it right; I have played to many (video) games that sucked until months after release (and patching print books is horribly hard). I just think you should be upfront about that from the start.
PS: I don't even know whether the instant gratification paradigm applies to your target group. P&P RPG is, after all, the opposite of instant gratification as far as gaming goes.