Shawn barnes
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Hello everyone, I hope everyone’s having a great Friday (or whatever day you stumble upon this post). As it’s a slow work day for me, I decided to spend some time taking an in-depth look at Kingdom Death and how it compares to the retail industry as a whole.
EDIT: This quickly grew a lot longer then I has expected it to, for
which I apologize.

Preface


Who am I to write on such a matter? Why do I think I know anything about this industry? Well, I’ve worked in supply chain and retail logistics for three years now. The companies I’ve worked for work with manufacturers, vendors and retailers of all sizes. Specifically, it’s my job to write marketing content around the latest trends and goings-on in the industry. During this time I’ve gotten to also follow my passion, working closely with companies and retailers in the board game industry. However, TAKE EVERYTHING I SAY WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. I may know a little more than the layman when it comes to this sort of stuff, but I am no expert and all of this is just speculation. As I explore various aspects of the company, lord knows I’ll get off track. I hope you find some of this information educational, even if it doesn’t apply to KDM specifically. Personally, I believe every consumer should be educated on these sorts of things so they know how companies are marketing to them. So, please don’t think I’m trying to force my opinions, theories or knowledge on anyone. If anyone does have any questions though on any of these subjects I’d be happy to answer them to the best of my ability. You may not agree with everything I write, and that’s totally fine. Heck, even Adam’s even proven he doesn’t agree with some of these ideas.

Finally, I want to approach the rhino in the room. A lot of the concepts and assertions I’m going to address are, what some may consider, “corporate thinking” or “selling out”. In that, they’re focused on expansion and ultimately making money. A lot of people will probably argue that Adam has always (and probably will always) prefer being true to himself over making money. That’s totally fine, however I think there are ways to do both. Marc Ecko has a brilliant book on this very concept called “Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out”. Personally I think it’s a great read for anyone interested. Fun fact: Did you know the Ecko rhino logo came from Marc playing with Starwars toys with a rhino statue as a kid?

Brand Loyalty

Let’s talk for a moment about brandy loyalty. I’m sure most of you have your particular brands you choose over others. The concept of “brands” has stretched outside of just products though. For example, while you may not buy Target brand products, you may still prefer to shop at their stores. This is still considered brand loyalty and it’s what retailers of all types strive to achieve. With the (relatively) recent explosion in online commerce, retailers are scrambling to figure out the best way to retain your business. So, how does a company obtain your loyalty? Well through a number of ways. The simplest of which being you just prefer their products. The other obvious answer is that you prefer the company as a whole. For example, perhaps the company donates profits to a charity you really like. The next area of brandy loyalty is what retailers are most recently trying to master: brand experience. This is where a majority of my work falls under, so granted to say I’ve spent countless hours studying the concept and how companies are approaching it.

It may be obvious, but let’s just break down what the term brand experience means. Brand experience is the ways in which the consumer experiences the various aspects of your company. Perhaps it’s the ways they shop in your brick and mortar stores or maybe the way they interact with your websites. Regardless of what channel, there is an experience to be had and making that experience unique to your business results in brand loyalty. A blatantly glaring example of this is Apple. Apple has capitalized on every possible aspect of the ways customers experience their products. From the Apple stores to the Apple products, each and every step of the way is Apple-fied.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “How does this apply to Kingdom Death?” I’m not sure anyone would argue that Kingdom Death has a unique product and the cult following definitely adds to that experience. Furthermore, unlike most game companies there’s Adam, who certainly does things his own way. KDM is in the unique position in that we already experience the brand in a way like no other game company. Think about it for a moment. When you see anything KDM related you instantly know what it is. You don’t ask “What company made this?”

So, how can Kingdom Death push the brand to the next level? I would start by saying they should just remain true to what they are. For example, if one day Adam decided he wanted to make a card game about cute kittens, it would all have us scratching our heads. The next area I would suggest would be investing into expanding sales channels, but more on this later. Whether totally intentional or not, Adam has created a brand and an experience to go along with it, and as such there’s no reason to not continue investing into it in order to grow.

Retail Channels

I bet you thought you could get through this without me talking about channels didn’t you? Well you were wrong. Retail in general has recently seen major changes in various channels customers purchase through. A retailer’s sales channels were once all dissociated with one another, but are now all combining to create a single unified commerce. I won’t bore you with the details, but just think about how stores these days are allowing you to order online and pick up from stores. This concept is the perfect example.

But I digress. Let’s get back to the subject at hand: Kingdom Death and retail channels. First, something I’m very passionate about: local game stores. As Kingdom Death grew in size, the options for distribution became limited. The core game box is far too large for any retailer to carry too many of, since shelf space is both limited and valuable. I’m sure there are reasons unbeknownst to me as to why Adam has chosen a direct to costumer strategy (B2C), but I think this is an area that should still be explored. The success of the game has proven people want it, and I don’t think any sales rep would have any trouble proving to a vendor or store that copies would sell.

“But the game is too big to ship! Costs alone would be astronomical!” Let’s put this to rest right now. Yes, due to the size, weight and UPS and FedEx’s recent DIM pricing, it is costly to ship a core game. However, it’s a lot cheaper to ship multiple at a time and have them stored somewhere. Those costs are driven even further down when it’s a major company like Alliance Games (a games vendor) shipping them to their final destination. In case anyone isn’t aware, larger companies are able to negotiate shipping contracts and bring cost per parcel down.
Finally, selling through local games stores not only increases revenue, but also increases visibility and marketing. Can anyone that plays KDM (and has access to a local store) really say they don’t love the idea of KDM communities popping up? I would go so far as to suggest that perhaps the company should look into an organized play program such as Steamforge’s Pundit program or Privateer Presses’ Press Gangers (recently cancelled). Invest into the community of a product and it will grow.

B2C Distribution


I am in no way suggesting that Kingdom Death shouldn’t sell direct to consumer. On the contrary, I think they need to increase it. This means that they’d need to increase production to have enough stock so that products don’t instantly sell out as that have been, but investing into some demand forecasting could easily overcome that fact. Ultimately, in order to keep up and stay above water Adam is going to have to invest into the company as a whole.

Conclusion


Well this was fun. I certainly hope one or two of you choose to read it and find it interesting if nothing else. Like I said, take this with a grain of salt.
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I doubt anyone with experience with KDM's shipping would disagree with the idea that they need some better handle and control over that end of the business.

There are a couple of road-blocks for everything, however.

First was the limited capital investment from KS1. There wasn't enough just from the initial start-up to even finish the product without going back to their initial model of limited-run resin models and outside financing from Poot's own sources. This may or may not be somewhat rectified by the very large influx of capital from KS1.5...but the product demand has skyrocketed as well. $2mil plus whatever funding was enough to produce around 10,000 core games plus all the other expansions (I'm speculating about 4000-5000 per expansion, but that's optimistic considering how fast some expansions sold out).

Now he's looking at 23,000 core games to produce for the KS and for his own store, update packs, reprints for all 12 original expansions, pin-up reprints, new pin-ups, the gambler's chest, and an additional 14 expansions. All of this for a predicted consumer base of around 20,000 persons around the world plus whomever else becomes interested as the word spreads.

That's going to eat up a lot of the money just in production. Which leaves fewer options when it comes to doing something like running through game store channels. It may save him money in the long run, but in the short run he'll have to spend money to get stores interested in hosting his product, and that's money that eats into the build budget.

And getting hosted will probably be difficult. Like you mentioned, it's a big game. It's also a very expensive game. And a pretty rare game. Remember, only some 10,000 copies are in existence - world-wide. The scarcity of the game will diminish when 1.5 arrives, but, even so...30,000 some-odd copies across the globe isn't exactly like running water. The potential for theft is pretty large, and Poots isn't going to have a ton of replacement copies available if something like this happens.

Now, this isn't to say that it won't happen, even with direct shipping; but with the direct customer option there is a continuous log of where the packages are at all times, and theft is more likely to be followed up and acted upon.

Moving on to the organized play part: that's...tricky. The game takes a long time to go anywhere. I sat down with just one new player a few weeks ago and basically speed-ran him through 5 years of the game and it took us 6 hours. That's a good way to get people hooked and wanting to play, but not particularly feasible for a demo.

In many ways, people who own KDM are inherent Demos. If you walk into your local game shop with KDM and set it up, people will wander over. Some just want to get a glimpse of the elephant, some are interested in perhaps trying out the game, some just want to look at the models and then move on to their card tournament. But people do ask questions, and because most of the KDM players are really big fans, they get enthusiastic responses that highlight the game and recommend it to others.

With that kind of viral marketing, having an official demo traveling around is almost redundant. (Though I would love to do this if Poots wants to hire me! )

Anyway, what I'm trying to get at here is that a lot of KDM is counter-intuitive to a traditional game market model. By any commonsense approach, a $400 game that weighs in at 20 pounds and has semi-fragile miniatures that require DIY transportation and can require weeks or months to finish a play-through isn't something that really should have succeeded as well as it has.

But, it has, and word-of-mouth from first-hand play has expanded its consumer base from 5000ish to 20,000ish. Not bad, considering.

...I still desperately want him to update the logistical side of his business, though. Shipping can be a nightmare of wait-times with KDM.


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Justin N
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Interesting, but I'm not sure I agree. Part of Adam's brand is that it's a niche, boutique product. The more mass-market he gets, the more he loses that (and I might almost argue it's something of a myth- most boardgames don't have 20k copies in the wild, but this is a separate thread)). The brand is not particularly family-friendly, limiting its attractiveness to public spces for organized play (game shops, etc.). If he started to move away from that, toning down or removing the sexual and grotesque imagery, he would, again, be diluting his brand.

As you note, he seems to be doing just fine selling out whatever product he puts in his store direct to customers, so I'm not sure what he would gain by printing twice as much product to sell it into distribution at half of what he's getting now (and simultaneously diluting his 'exclusive' brand). I'm not saying he couldn't do some things better, but he seems to have a pretty good grasp on what makes his stuff appealing, and how to exploit that.
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I don't think trying to conceptualize the best business model is in any way a bad thing; we all want this to succeed so we can keep getting our Kingdom Death. As you your points, Adam is a brand loyalty genius (both in the ability to create it and to keep it), and I personally think that is a huge reason the 1.5 Kickstarter went stratospheric. I don't think the Kingdom Death line will ever see retail distribution (outside of owner/operators buying something like the retail pledge for their own stores), precisely because a huge part of the KD brand is being too intense for retail, if you will. It would undercut the mystique. (And it may really be too intense for most retail.)
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Nathan Ehlers
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I don't see the benefit of selling KD:M in traditional B&M retail locations. You point out that the size is prohibitive from both a shipping and storage standpoint. If a given shop can't stock very many units, then any given customer account at the distribution level isn't going to be very large. Additionally I don't see how brand loyalty will comport to retailing. For better or worse, Kingdom Death is an internet phenomana. It seems like face-to-face outreach would be building a new marketing initiative from the ground up. It would at best hope to harness the power of those who already own and want to run the game for strangers, but at worst be a significant money since in terms of time and product to convince retailers that it makes sense in their space.

I guess what I'm saying is KD has a good thing going that has very little to do with traditional avenues of selling products. I don't know that I see the benefit in trying to put it in a traditional pipeline. At the end of the day, it should be a numbers decision in terms of ROI. Without numbers to back up any significant change in a business model, there's not much to talk about it. I just have to assume that Mr. Poots is running his business to the best of his ability and making the right decisions to maximize profit based on his own balance sheets.
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Shawn barnes
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quixotic wrote:
Interesting, but I'm not sure I agree. Part of Adam's brand is that it's a niche, boutique product. The more mass-market he gets, the more he loses that (and I might almost argue it's something of a myth- most boardgames don't have 20k copies in the wild, but this is a separate thread)). The brand is not particularly family-friendly, limiting its attractiveness to public spces for organized play (game shops, etc.). If he started to move away from that, toning down or removing the sexual and grotesque imagery, he would, again, be diluting his brand.

As you note, he seems to be doing just fine selling out whatever product he puts in his store direct to customers, so I'm not sure what he would gain by printing twice as much product to sell it into distribution at half of what he's getting now (and simultaneously diluting his 'exclusive' brand). I'm not saying he couldn't do some things better, but he seems to have a pretty good grasp on what makes his stuff appealing, and how to exploit that.


We probably disagree on this, but I don't think it should be the goal to remain "boutique". I personally believe that if Adam doesn't try to grow the company and break out of that label then it's doomed to become stagnant and ultimately die (this would be years down the line just to be clear). As for the stock matter, typically in retail stocking out is generally a bad thing. Sure, we can sit here all day and discuss this point to it's dead in the ground. But I'll just point out the reasons why.

- Stocking out causes missed sales. Sure, many people will come back when a product is in stock, but many won't.

-Stock outs cause customers to lose faith in the company as a whole, and I've personally experienced this (I actually just yesterday wrote an article about this very matter). Normally with standard products (let's say milk) you'd just go to another store right? But you can't do that with KDM, so there's probably a larger % of customers that would still return. Ultimately it not only causes missed sales, but missed future sales. Think of how many people have posted about concerns regarding getting into a game if they can't get expansions in the future. I call it the "Moving Train" Metaphor.
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I know it's a selfish thought but I hope that it will never go through some other popular channels. This is because from what I've experienced in this world everyone judges everything - when they see it - and the result is that the creator/artist will undergo tremendous pressure just because there're too many testicles on a miniature. In my opinion, keeping the game niche and hard to find helps to preserve the artistic integrity of the product.
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sirgalin wrote:
I don't see the benefit of selling KD:M in traditional B&M retail locations. You point out that the size is prohibitive from both a shipping and storage standpoint. If a given shop can't stock very many units, then any given customer account at the distribution level isn't going to be very large. Additionally I don't see how brand loyalty will comport to retailing. For better or worse, Kingdom Death is an internet phenomana. It seems like face-to-face outreach would be building a new marketing initiative from the ground up. It would at best hope to harness the power of those who already own and want to run the game for strangers, but at worst be a significant money since in terms of time and product to convince retailers that it makes sense in their space.

I guess what I'm saying is KD has a good thing going that has very little to do with traditional avenues of selling products. I don't know that I see the benefit in trying to put it in a traditional pipeline. At the end of the day, it should be a numbers decision in terms of ROI. Without numbers to back up any significant change in a business model, there's not much to talk about it. I just have to assume that Mr. Poots is running his business to the best of his ability and making the right decisions to maximize profit based on his own balance sheets.


Obviously we are allowed to disagree on these matters, but let me pose a few counter points. Selling through B&Ms doesn't only sell products actually in stock, but also allows retailers to order through vendors. Is this ideal? Of course not, but offers customers the opportunity to save $40-$50 on shipping by ordering it from the KDM website so there's that obvious draw. So just because a store may not be able to carry several copies (let's say 2-3 at a time), it doesn't mean that's all they can sell.
 
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You may be totally correct in this thinking. I'm trying to think of an example of another product (like video games) to use as an example of why it's wrong, but I can't.
 
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shauni55 wrote:
sirgalin wrote:
I don't see the benefit of selling KD:M in traditional B&M retail locations. You point out that the size is prohibitive from both a shipping and storage standpoint. If a given shop can't stock very many units, then any given customer account at the distribution level isn't going to be very large. Additionally I don't see how brand loyalty will comport to retailing. For better or worse, Kingdom Death is an internet phenomana. It seems like face-to-face outreach would be building a new marketing initiative from the ground up. It would at best hope to harness the power of those who already own and want to run the game for strangers, but at worst be a significant money since in terms of time and product to convince retailers that it makes sense in their space.

I guess what I'm saying is KD has a good thing going that has very little to do with traditional avenues of selling products. I don't know that I see the benefit in trying to put it in a traditional pipeline. At the end of the day, it should be a numbers decision in terms of ROI. Without numbers to back up any significant change in a business model, there's not much to talk about it. I just have to assume that Mr. Poots is running his business to the best of his ability and making the right decisions to maximize profit based on his own balance sheets.


Obviously we are allowed to disagree on these matters, but let me pose a few counter points. Selling through B&Ms doesn't only sell products actually in stock, but also allows retailers to order through vendors. Is this ideal? Of course not, but offers customers the opportunity to save $40-$50 on shipping by ordering it from the KDM website so there's that obvious draw. So just because a store may not be able to carry several copies (let's say 2-3 at a time), it doesn't mean that's all they can sell.


But in the absence of a marketing program, will there be sales captured by the B&M that wouldn't otherwise be ordering from the website? I agree that if the consumer can save the high cost of shipping, that's great for them, but it's irrelevant for the KD,LLC if they were already making that sale. There's also something to be said about price points and the casual consumer. If KD:M is the most expensive game in the shop by 2-3x, who is the target audience for it? High end luxury goods are often sold in specific kinds of pipelines that aren't purveyed to the general public. Don't get me wrong, there should be a copy of this game on everyone's shelf! I just think there's some deep questions that only metrics can answer when you're talking about how a business positions itself in a marketplace.

Edit: there's also something to be said about profit margin. Right now Mr. Poots can reap the highest possible profit margin on each unit sold. To switch to a traditional distribution model, you have to show that the volume of units sold creates a higher net when taken with the lower individual unit price (to the wholesaler). So there's a functional assumption about the volume of KD:M units it's possible to sell. This relates to both the theoretical marketplace going untapped by not selling these games in every convenience store as well as the logistical issues of transport ion and retailing.
 
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BTW, my personal feeling on the matter, if we're playing arm chair consultant, is that Poots should license the core game and all the 1st gen expansions to a larger company like ANA. That way he could stabilize his cash flow and turn his entire attention to producing new content or working on his next project. Right now it seems like he's an artist spending too much of his time dealing with a retail shop.
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Shawn barnes
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sirgalin wrote:
BTW, my personal feeling on the matter, if we're playing arm chair consultant, is that Poots should license the core game and all the 1st gen expansions to a larger company like ANA. That way he could stabilize his cash flow and turn his entire attention to producing new content or working on his next project. Right now it seems like he's an artist spending too much of his time dealing with a retail shop.



Hm I've never thought about licensing. That's a good thought although I think we probably both agree on it never happening. Your second point "letting someone else do the selling for him" is another great point and I think holds a lot water. The less he and his team have to deal with the retail aspect, the more time they can spend investing and growing the company and product line as a whole.
 
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KDM has somewhere in the region of 20k sales. Worldwide that extremely small. What it does have is solid brand loyalty because the brand has proven itself to be of high quality and reliable.

KDM is $400 it is never going to appeal to the average board gamer. The best way to consider if a game could go retail is if that game could sit on a shelf and sell to people who went into that store without intending to originally buy KDM. I fear the answer is no it wouldn't. Thats without even delving into the dark theme and nudity.
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gorkel wrote:
KDM has somewhere in the region of 20k sales. Worldwide that extremely small. What it does have is solid brand loyalty because the brand has proven itself to be of high quality and reliable.

KDM is $400 it is never going to appeal to the average board gamer. The best way to consider if a game could go retail is if that game could sit on a shelf and sell to people who went into that store without intending to originally buy KDM. I fear the answer is no it wouldn't. Thats without even delving into the dark theme and nudity.


Can you expand on what you mean by "reliable"? Are you referring to replay value? IE you can rely on it being a good game years down the road after you've played it hundreds of times? Or on product availability reliability? Which I would have to disagree with.
 
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gorkel wrote:
KDM is $400 it is never going to appeal to the average board gamer. The best way to consider if a game could go retail is if that game could sit on a shelf and sell to people who went into that store without intending to originally buy KDM. I fear the answer is no it wouldn't. Thats without even delving into the dark theme and nudity.


Yep. IIRC, FFG was the first company to sell a $100 MSRP boardgame. Mansions of Madness 2nd edition sells for $100 MSRP, but Descent 2nd edition comes in a smaller box than 1st edition, and sells for $80 MSRP. Monolith, whose publisher is Asmodee, is selling Conan at $120, but isn't doing well at that price.

KDM isn't the only expensive boutique game that's priced out of retail. Cthulhu Wars and Mythic Battles: Pantheon are other examples. Distributors require a 40% discount from MSRP before they'll even look at the game. Retail shortages for Gloomhaven and Scythe *do* show retail demand for expensive KS games, and CMON seems to have retailers interested in backing their projects (retailers place a deposit). Maybe we will see boutique games in the FLGS in a few years.
 
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This is a good discussion, thanks for kicking it off Shawn.

Before I get into the meat of my comments, I want to say that I am not an expert by any means, but I do have personal experience with several aspects of production, distribution, and sales, that are relevant. I've work high-end retail (Dolce & Gabbana), and have also written for tabletop RPGS (Eclipse Phase as a freelancer with Posthuman Studios and as an owner/developer with Clockwork: Dominion), and managed a successful Kickstarter (fewer zeros than KD) that has brought a game into distribution with Alliance.

I'm going to start off with the comment that might get some pushback from the community: Kingdom Death is a luxury product, and has different brand and retail goals and considerations than mass-market products. I don't think that it would be good for the line or the company to go into mass-market distribution for several key reasons.

Brand identity as a luxury product:
Shawn rightly points out customer service considerations and the sense of a personal connection with the product as key factors for success. However, as a luxury item, there is another factor that matter as much or more: exclusivity and lifestyle.

A key driver of success for every luxury brand that maintains itself for the long haul is the fact that everyone who might want to get in, doesn't. (Please note, I'm not making any comment on the good or ill of it, just the long-established trends and metrics from luxury retail) The limited print run does the same work as the limited run from every other high end brand: even to shops that could probably sell more product, they'll send slightly less than they expect to move. That way there's always unmet demand, it fosters a chase culture among loyalists, and encourages high sell-through on short turnaround so you minimize warehousing, shipping, and internal stock management since there are fewer SKUs in stock. That's the base game and expansions.

However, they also need to pay bills, so there are always a range of products that are smaller, at a lower price point, and are mass-market accessible, but priced at a premium compared to most similar products in the marketplace. Usually the sense of exclusivity is maintained by keeping small-ish production runs, limiting the mass market line to fewer pieces than main line that are released on a slightly different schedule than their main line products (don't split the attention of your customer; give your truly loyal the chance to complete their collection with smaller fill-in purchases between major spends, give your entry level customer something big to get excited about and whet their appetite, then introduce something they can get in on and experience the quality so they hopefully save up and can jump on future main line releases). Since these are smaller and more regular, they are often either preparatory to or derivative of main line design to double dip on profit lines for design efforts. These are all the resin releases, which keep up a steady cash flow for the company, but don't water down the main line releases.

Only the most well-off and loyal folks are true completionists; this rewards them by being the elite-of-the-elite. All folks who regularly purchase the main line are elite compared to the mass market. The mass-market accessible releases allow people to start interacting with the brand aspirationally, and can grow new clientele when loyalists rotate away from the brand (as there is always churn, even at the top end).

Brand-wise, KD is textbook perfect on luxury brand development. They even have the emotional hook of the visionary designer/dedicated artisan (and Adam totally is, it shines through any time you talk to him, as I've been lucky enough to do at GenCon a few times).

Retail/Distribution Considerations
Without trying to imagine too many aspects of KD's corporate finances and accounting, it is widely known that the first KS funds didn't fully cover development and production costs, and the single releases as well as pre-existing funds were used to float development. We can take it as a given that there were financial constraints. As they finished selling through the rest of the production run that got more cash, the hot secondary market proves there was more demand, so why not open up wider distribution?

- Wide availability directly undercuts luxury brand positioning, so there's some risk of diluting the appeal if there's overproduction
- Keeping additional demand as hot as possible would guarantee high appetite for a second KS (which was clearly being planned quite a ways back, and production/shipping/distro of another core game run would have undercut this drastically)
- Distributors would expect a 55-60% discount on MSRP to take them on for distro. It's entirely possible that wouldn't leave enough margin for KD to make money.
- Producing for distro would have taken a huge up-front expense which may not have been financially viable for KD after delivery of the first KS, and KD as a company may have been unable or unwilling to take on the debt to fund it, especially if there would have been very reduced funds from selling to distro. (Don't forget could reduce all further cash flow and development long-term)
- Stocking anything other than just the core game in distro would be an huge risk and hassle; that's a lot of SKUs, all of which would need to be produced, picked up for distro, and sold. High-cost items for brands that aren't absolute sure things for a brick and mortar store don't get big buys, and so sit in the distributor's warehouse either racking up fees or delaying payment back to KD. That's all unnecessary risk since Adam already saw a proven record of near-instant sell-throughs on the KD shop.
- Retailers would take an huge risk to pick any up for retail sale for the reasons mentioned above. Now, that's less of a consideration as it's proven in the marketplace, and it's a chance to try to lure in customers willing to spend on luxury products. Adam accommodated this by allowing a retail pledge in this KS, which lets him test the waters for demand with no risk of misjudging the market (72 retailers backed, that's only 432 core games; not enough to justify a print run for distribution)
- Retailers would have little or no access to expansions after the first KS, and no access to individual resins, which limits the appetite as they would be taking on all the risk for an individual sale, and have no opportunity to develop customers in their store to buy multiple KD SKUs. Even if they got the core game, they would be directing them back to the KD shop for future purchases. (There's room to argue it might give KD more exposure, but there's no established luxury gaming brick and mortar stores, so it's outside the tried and true brand development strategy for luxury producers)


Now that KD is an established luxury brand, some retailers might start trying to keep small stock on hand regularly. If - and that's a very big if - Adam does decide to start building some other retail channel, I think KD would be best by managing those relationships directly as they grow. Honestly, they're better served by hiring staff to manage those relationships directly; the cost would more than be made up by the 15-20% profit differential between going to a distributor versus selling straight to the stores.

TL;DR - I don't think the brand will be well-served by ever going into mass market because of reasons.
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Amy (Other Amy)
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I think you've got it exactly, Nathaniel. Thanks for laying it out so well.
 
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I think in the future we could possibly see other KD-branded products on the shelves of FLGS, which aren't Monster, for example the deck-building game or the mass-market PVC game which Adam's alluded to, both set in the same universe but with different sensibilities from Monster, which would make them more palatable to "normal" distribution channels.
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Very well put, Nathaniel.

IMO, Adam probably could produce a $200 mass market version of the game using Narrative Sculpts (v Armor Kits) on a much smaller number of sprues, softback (v hardback) rules, a game board with an extra fold. Even so, it'd have to remove the Phoenix and Watcher, and use a much smaller (sideways?) card organizer to reduce dead space.

Functionally, it'd be a be a lot simpler to jump into, albeit with a shorter campaign.

Physically, it'd be maybe 1/2 the size of the current game box, which would be a huge help in terms of being something that a retailer could stock on their shelves - basically comparable in scale to the original KS pitch, before Adam expanded it via SGs.

Positionally, it's a C-klasse Mercedes to the S-klasse that's currently sold. Still premium content, just smaller and with a lower top end.

I think it'd be viable, and a great intro to KD:M. But I'm not sure Adam would want to do that. OTOH, if the $200 price point hooks people in, there's a lot of downstream sales potential to flesh it out.
 
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GrauGeist wrote:
Very well put, Nathaniel.

IMO, Adam probably could produce a $200 mass market version of the game using Narrative Sculpts (v Armor Kits) on a much smaller number of sprues, softback (v hardback) rules, a game board with an extra fold. Even so, it'd have to remove the Phoenix and Watcher, and use a much smaller (sideways?) card organizer to reduce dead space.

Functionally, it'd be a be a lot simpler to jump into, albeit with a shorter campaign.

Physically, it'd be maybe 1/2 the size of the current game box, which would be a huge help in terms of being something that a retailer could stock on their shelves - basically comparable in scale to the original KS pitch, before Adam expanded it via SGs.

Positionally, it's a C-klasse Mercedes to the S-klasse that's currently sold. Still premium content, just smaller and with a lower top end.

I think it'd be viable, and a great intro to KD:M. But I'm not sure Adam would want to do that. OTOH, if the $200 price point hooks people in, there's a lot of downstream sales potential to flesh it out.


I'd be afraid a $200 version as you described would canibalize sales of the $400 version. IMO, he would need to differentiate them a lot more than that.

I see a few reasons why people don't buy KDM: price, assembly, theme, play time, gameplay. If Poots were to release the $200 product you suggest, he is only partly getting rid of the price "problem".
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Nathan Ehlers
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$50 subscription service like Pandemic: Legacy? Each one covers about 5LY and comes with one mini.
 
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I believe that without KS 1.5 Adam would not have been able to afford to produce another batch of core games unless he took preorders months in advance which isn't ideal (of course its very similar to how people see KS though). We also know he started manufacturing before the KS even started so at best the lead time is 9-12 months for a print run of the core game - not something easy to keep in stock! Yes you can print a bunch extra copies, but at that scale (say 40,000 instead of 20,000) there is no bulk discount and it just means you have to sit on a huge amount of stock which is wasted capital and might even be above the total demand.

As to the resin runs that sell out rapidly, these have an even bigger bottleneck with production. Each kit is hand cast, the molds only last 50-70 miniatures, and it is a one man operation in France I believe that Adam works through. That is very difficult to scale up. He could look at manufacturing elsewhere, but resin by design needs a lot of care for it to be done to the high quality he wants and customers demand. GW tried mass production of resin and it was a total failure. With the more popular kits he now does reruns and sometimes takes unlimited preorders where the amount produced is how many were ordered, but too much beyond that is hard.

None of this is a matter of simply changing business strategy and offering volumes of product to retailers or whatever else might work well.
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Kain
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shauni55 wrote:
Wall of text

I think you need an editor , not to discourage you from making these write ups, but great deal of what you mentioned seemed like common sense. With you background I feel like you could share more in depth gearwork behind some of it.

Anyone looking for a summary, here you go:
Quote:

Preface,
I worked in retail supply and logistics for three years. I write marketing content around latest trends in the industry. Let me share some of my thoughts that you should ignore if you wish.

Brand Loyalty
Kingdom Death is a unique product and has a dedicated cult following that adds to the experience. The creator curates content in a very unique way. I think Adam can push it's brand to the next level.... by doing... what he's already doing.

Retail Channels
Downside of Kingdom Death appearing in retail format is that it's expensive to ship and store, but at large volume those costs go down. Retail would give it a wider market exposure and increase revenue.

B2C Dist.
Keep selling directly to consumer, spend more money on keeping up with demand.

 
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KevBelisle wrote:
GrauGeist wrote:
Very well put, Nathaniel.

IMO, Adam probably could produce a $200 mass market version of the game using Narrative Sculpts (v Armor Kits) on a much smaller number of sprues, softback (v hardback) rules, a game board with an extra fold. Even so, it'd have to remove the Phoenix and Watcher, and use a much smaller (sideways?) card organizer to reduce dead space.

Functionally, it'd be a be a lot simpler to jump into, albeit with a shorter campaign.

Physically, it'd be maybe 1/2 the size of the current game box, which would be a huge help in terms of being something that a retailer could stock on their shelves - basically comparable in scale to the original KS pitch, before Adam expanded it via SGs.

Positionally, it's a C-klasse Mercedes to the S-klasse that's currently sold. Still premium content, just smaller and with a lower top end.

I think it'd be viable, and a great intro to KD:M. But I'm not sure Adam would want to do that. OTOH, if the $200 price point hooks people in, there's a lot of downstream sales potential to flesh it out.


I'd be afraid a $200 version as you described would canibalize sales of the $400 version. IMO, he would need to differentiate them a lot more than that.

I see a few reasons why people don't buy KDM: price, assembly, theme, play time, gameplay. If Poots were to release the $200 product you suggest, he is only partly getting rid of the price "problem".


While I cut the price in half, I also greatly simplified assembly by replacing armor kits with narrative sculpts. Removing the Phoenix and Watcher reduced the campaign duration by cutting the tail off. Theme and gameplay would necessarily remain constant.

Compare with the D&D starter set - same theme, same gameplay, but abbreviated rulebook, simplified pregen characters & pregen module for a much reduced price. Template-wise, I'm pretty sure my proposed KDM starter gets it right for more than just price.
 
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- But you are missing a key point- Board Games are meant to be complete games in a way that a "starter set" for an RPG, CCG or Tabletop Miniatures game are not.

Creating an incomplete experience of KDM would not help it out- especially if it were priced above most complete board games.



-On retail channels- Shovel Knight is a decent example of a game that sold more because it made it onto different platforms and into retail channels.

The creators of Shovel Knight started it out as a download only game which works very similar to a direct to customers approach: customers find out about your game online, and go online to buy it (possibly on a console).

They eventually started producing physical copies of the game- which were prices a little higher than the downloadable version. These sold very well- because they were introducing it to a new market entirely (people who saw the game in the store were not the same people who found out about the game online). Even though it cost more at retail.


The example may or may not hold up for board games. We like to think we're a savvy bunch who follow KS news closely, but I'm sure there are a lot of people who aren't here who might be interested in a game but aren't normally exposed to them via online channels, or who are more likely to pick up a game at the game store than buy it online.

(by the way, the last is true for Cards Against Humanity- the game costs more in the LGS than it does online, and yet the game continues to sell very well through LGS channels).


A physical store doesn't necessarily have to provide a financial advantage to consumers in order to sell a product there.
 
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