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Mergers, Splits, and Distribution Deals: Changes at Lone Shark, Queen, Cheapass, and Asmodee

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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• Designer Mike Selinker has resigned from his position as president of Lone Shark Games for reasons he explains on his blog, with explanations of further changes of how the publisher will operate in the future in a second post:

I've been doing three jobs: president (the guy who runs the company), chief creative officer (the guy who makes sure we make cool things), and lead designer (the guy who invents the cool things we make). I love the last of those, like the second, and have complex feels about the first. Regardless, I've come to dislike all three of them happening at the same time. I've become something of a bottleneck with everything direction-wise and creative-wise going through me, so that had to get changed...

Lone Shark had built itself up as a company that could very quickly turn around events and online games, and yet our core production of internal projects was slower than ever. All of this happened [while] the rest of the game world was cooking. Our friends at Exploding Kittens and Secret Hitler showed the way: announce it, fund it, make it, ship it. It seemed obvious, yet whatever it was I was doing wasn't that...

Dropping the presidency let me commit Lone Shark to a new principle: We won't accept your money and trust until we are close to ready to manufacture something. I've now set standards like "75%+ of art in" and "pencils down on game design" before we'll run a crowdfunding campaign.

Not the logo
• In August 2018, I noted that Greater Than Games had made a deal to acquire Cheapass Games, "with the merger likely being completed in early 2019". That deal has now been completed, although a now former Cheapass employee notes that a more accurate representation of the deal is that Greater Than Games has acquired the publishing rights to titles from Cheapass Games.

• "For the last several years, new releases from Queen Games have at times been difficult to obtain in the United States and Canada. We believe this is an important market and have been working to rectify the situation." Those are the opening lines to a press release that announces the founding on Queen Games US and the hiring of Ryan Bruns, formerly of Mayday Games, as full-time director. Bruns will join the two part-time staffers already working for Queen in the U.S. to increase the presence of the company's games in North American retail outlets.

As part of its efforts, Queen Games has launched an online store to make its Queenie expansions more available to those who can't attend game conventions, while also allowing for preorders of upcoming reprints.

• And we'll close with the Asmodee section of these types of posts, this time with Asmodee North America changing its relationship somewhat with Alliance Game Distributors. Here's the press release sent out on Thursday, May 30, 2019:

Asmodee North America (ANA) and Alliance Game Distributors (AGD) have announced the next phase of their longstanding distribution agreement as both companies continue to evolve to best support the ever-growing market.

Effective as of July 1, 2019, ANA will expand their direct relationship with certain key retail partners, offering support through their own, newly-formed, in-house sales team. AGD will continue to serve as the exclusive distribution partner to General and Specialty Game Retailers, providing the experience and excellence in service they are known for.

"We are excited to continue to work with such a key trading partner as Asmodee North America," said Daniel Hirsch, President of Alliance Game Distributors. "We look forward to continuing to provide the Specialty Market with the highest level of service, marketing, and sales efforts for all of ANA's product lines."

"ANA and Alliance's distribution partnership has been strong, and we are proud of the work we've done and will continue to do together," said Andre Kieren, Head of Distribution for Asmodee North America. "Everyone here at ANA is excited for this new phase in the distribution deal where we will serve certain key retail partners directly with a dedicated sales team while the majority of our retail partners remain serviced through Alliance."

This announcement of an evolved distribution agreement comes as the summer convention season begins, with key releases coming to market, including the follow up to last year's innovative Unique Deck Game, Keyforge, Keyforge: Age of Ascension from Fantasy Flight Games; the anticipated latest release from Days of Wonder, Corinth; a new edition of Z-Man's beloved Love Letter; and the silly, cooperative game of Quirky Circuits from Plaid Hat Games.
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