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Subject: PR Disaster? rss

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Ed Carter
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darksurtur wrote:
Lame. Here's a recipe for a PR disaster:

First, ignore major organizational and logistical problems and hope no one notices (as if a week of work in late December would magically make the games appear on time). Then point blank tell us that the company you own and founded and we gave tens of thousands of dollars to is at best the second or third business priority you have. Next, continue to fail to relay any of this to customers ON PURPOSE out of embarrassment until shamed into it by an email request. Finally, send out a massive missive that obfuscates how late the game will actually be. This for a game that has already been designed, playtested, and published several times.

shake


Guys,

To be clear, plenty of these concerns are legitimate, and some of them mirror closely the internal discussions we've been having over the past couple of weeks.

And yes, a clear risk to the company has always been that as an independent consultant I cannot always give Cambridge Games Factory the focus it deserves - I learned a long time ago that senior management takes a dim view of me missing deadlines because I'm working on my own company.

But the update was always coming after Christmas (once I'd had time to investigate), and I certainly never dreamt that the games would "magically appear" following a week of work between Christmas and New Years - I just believed that in a week I'd be able to get a clear understanding of what had gone wrong and come up with a plan to fix it.

Based on what I knew coming into Christmas I was expecting to be able to knock a few heads together on the team and announce a release delayed to February (not April). Unfortunately, with both Chinese New Year and the length of the production cycles, when the real date came back from the printer I knew we needed to take some pretty radical steps to make up for it.

Note that it is costing me, personally, almost $10,000 to upgrade to Heiko's insanely expensive card stock and give away over 2000 free games. I guess one day when the company makes a profit I may get it back, but that is not likely to happen any time soon.

The announcement was delayed because it needed to be right - and I needed to be confident that the team was actually able to deliver on our promises this time. There were a few critical steps that I wanted done (e.g., how long does it take to send in a list of IDs for geek-badges?) and given our recent track record I was a little reluctant to announce giving away over 2000 copies of PLATO 3000 until I had confirmation that we had a signed publishing agreement for Utopian Rummy - luck I did since we spent the last 24 hours rushing the document back and forth via email so we could get it included in the update.

Incidentally, the team raised the same issue that "How Late" was buried in the text of the Kickstarter announcement, which is why we also put THE SHORT VERSION to quickly explain what was going on to people more interested in when than why.

So yes, I completely recognize this situation had the makings of a PR disaster; but I hope our actions as a company will help avert it by making it extremely clear (both to you and the CGF team) how seriously I take this latest lapse.

Cheers,

Ed Carter
Managing Director
Cambridge Games Factory
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Justin Fitzgerald
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Bah, we waited for what, 1.5 years on Eminent Domain? Didn't care about that, don't care about this either. At the end of the day, quality of the final product reigns supreme, not adherence to timeline.
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Dan Williams
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I think Ed will now be able to teach a graduate level course in "How to Contract Out a Manufactured Product in China." Sure, it's disappointing, but look at Steve Jobs. His career was primarily failures before he hit his stride. I'm giving him a pass, and look forward to some awesome cards, but hey, I'm a card snob.
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Dan Williams
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And to paraphrase an old story, let he who has done this successfully cast the first stone.
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darksurtur
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I wrote the PR disaster post. I appreciate the specific reply and applaud your openness, but I think there are some lessons to learn here that you might be missing.

1) It's ok to send out updates saying that things are in flux and that more information will be coming later. Updates do not need to be crystal-clear and 100% correct, as long as they are upfront about the unknowns. Gamers are used to delays, and face it - %*&^ happens. But not communicating about problems is far worse than saying "We are working on it but just don't know" or "There are problems - more info incoming." Silence allows people to imagine the worst-case scenarios, such as deliberate hiding of major problems or absconding with money or using the cash to pay off existing debts. It also implies a lack of real concern for your customer base and a lack of professionalism when it comes to the myriad aspects of running a game company, particularly public relations.

2) I do not need or want martyrdom as a response. The upgraded card stock, in my opinion, is appreciated but totally not necessary, especially given the enormous added cost. I know what I pledged for and simply want that product sometime soon, or regular, succinct progress reports. In truth, however, I have trouble understanding how this game can be costing you money (if that is what you are implying) given the upfront cash from Kickstarter. If it is the KS extras and the new freebies, nix them and spend the cash on employee PR training or a part-time assistant for your company.

3) Which brings me to what I do consider a big issue - making Cambridge Games second fiddle to your "day job." I understand that in many way that is a reality given the low margins of board games. But it is not what I want to hear, as it comes off as A) a go-to excuse for any problem that has or will come up, B) a lack of seriousness about the company (I understand the fiscal risks you have taken; I am talking about psychological commitment here), or C) an inability to find good employees or delegate tasks properly. This is where I have some serious concerns about the health of the company. If you can't be 100% committed to it, then the company needs to stop being 100% reliant on you for proper decision-making and damage control. So I reiterate - spend your money on employees and training at this point, as this will provide far better returns than more extras and physical upgrades that many may not even notice.
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Justus
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Hey Ed, I very much appreciated the update. Obviously getting a free game I was already interested in helped ease the pain a lot, but just knowing what is going on is the most important part of the message.

Good luck, I imagine its a lot more stressful on your end! Just get it right!
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Justin Fitzgerald
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How exactly is this post supposed to be helpful? I mean really...

darksurtur wrote:
If it is the KS extras and the new freebies, nix them and spend the cash on employee PR training or a part-time assistant for your company.


I understand why you'd be frustrated but this post (and the above is merely one example) is an unhelpful attack, nothing more.
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Justin Fitzgerald
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Hey Ed,

If I might ask: What the status is for those of us who only ordered the expansion for I.V. edition?

Justin.
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Timo Stepper
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Until now I`ve backed almost 50 Kickstarter projects and what I´ve learned so far is that it takes a lot of time to bring a boardgame to life (even if it already exists). So I don`t mind if it takes you another 6 months or a year as long as everybody will receive their copies sometime in the future.
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Joe Hill
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cambridgegames wrote:


And yes, a clear risk to the company has always been that as an independent consultant I cannot always give Cambridge Games Factory the focus it deserves - I learned a long time ago that senior management takes a dim view of me missing deadlines because I'm working on my own company.

Ed Carter
Managing Director
Cambridge Games Factory


Here's the key statement for me. I understand that you guys have "real" jobs outside of CGF. Knowing that I'm willing to cut you a lot more slack than a company like GMT (the comparison was made in the other thread). GMT has a full time staff of 8 or more employees. CGF is labor of love.
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darksurtur
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KakarisMaelstrom wrote:
How exactly is this post supposed to be helpful? I mean really...

darksurtur wrote:
If it is the KS extras and the new freebies, nix them and spend the cash on employee PR training or a part-time assistant for your company.


I understand why you'd be frustrated but this post (and the above is merely one example) is an attack, nothing more.


No, actually it is a list of specific suggestions. Suggestions always imply imperfections - I don't see how it is an attack to imply the need for PR training after a self-admitted "situation [that] had the makings of a PR disaster."
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James
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I'll speak just for myself. I'd prefer to receive a product that meets quality expectations and is error free later than I expected rather than an on-time with flaws. I know that this statement opens me to up to a charge of "false choice!" Honestly, with issues of production in a different continent as just one element in this process, I think for all intents and purposes a rush on delivery puts a realistic strain on quality control. There is a certain Fantasy Flight thread which is long and getting longer about a game that was published and purchased on time that was not ready for prime time. I'm glad I didn't buy it.

Transparency and frequent updates are a good thing, especially for people who have already put their money and subsidized your product, I won't argue that. If I had called this process a "PR disaster," though, I might upon further reflection have felt that to be an overstatement.
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Justin Fitzgerald
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So Ed announces, "Okay, I know I said I was going to get you guys a bunch of extras, well I can't, instead we have to spend that money on PR training and hiring a part-time assistant." That's what you're suggesting. Here let's just handle this the simple way:

Poll: How would you like your money spent?
So Ed may have fallen into the trap of replying to someone who is dissatisfied. It happens if you haven't had your PR training yet. Perhaps that's the solution to Ed's problem. Let's see what the community thinks.
If you could go back in time and tell Ed to spend his money more wisely, what would you have asked Ed to do what the money we've all spent?
Do his best in getting the game out within an achievable timeframe with the extras we were promised.
Get PR Training for his staff. Oh wait, he doesn't have full-time staff, so maybe a part-time assistant too.
      129 answers
Poll created by KakarisMaelstrom
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Ed Carter
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KakarisMaelstrom wrote:
Hey Ed,

If I might ask: What the status is for those of us who only ordered the expansion for I.V. edition?

Justin.

Hi Justin,

The cards are on a boat with Barons and Pala, arriving in Boston on Jan 23rd. Give it a few days for customs clearance and they should be with you at the start of Feb.

Cheers,

Ed
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Mark M
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It's not like we pre-paid for a $40,000 luxury car that hasn't arrived, it's a $40 board game. This is my first Kickstarter project - because I love the game - and I have a completely workable game already so I'm not sweating it. I actually feel sorry for them to keep kicking in additional promos. I'm expecting a 20 lb box to arrive sometime this year. I don't see that it's our place to critique whether people are doing things full-time, on weekends, etc. If they ultimately deliver that should be what matters, and we will be on the front end of those that have it.

Only concern that the card stock won't be so thick it can't be shuffled - ala Mystery Rummy games, etc that I think are flat unplayable.

Edited for typo
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Jim Smith
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Oh, Ed. I totally appreciate your commitment to resolving this issue and the vast personal pledge that you've made to resolve it, but I feel REALLY BAD that you feel you have to resort to these measures.

Personally, I don't need another game to apologise, and since I plan to sleeve all the cards the moment I open the box, the increased card quality is a wonderful but unnecessary gesture.

I propose we re-task this thread as a 'Let's get Ed some cash back' campaign. I will gladly waive the receipt of the free game and hope that many of you will be understanding enough to follow suit. Please post here if you feel the same so hopefully the number of free games will plummet accordingly.

All the best, Ed, and thanks again, you crazy crazy lovely man.
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Jonathan Harrison
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I'll happily forgo the free additional game if it means CGF will have additional cash on hand. But if they've already started printing (say) an extra 1,000 copies of the game (beyond what they think they'll timely sell) especially for Kickstarter GTR supporters, not sure that swearing off one now will save them any money if they just have an extra copy they're not sure they'll be able to sell.

Ed, if you haven't printed the extra copies already, feel free to leave mine out (I know one won't make a difference, but if a lot of people feel the same ...).

More so because I don't want CGF to take a hit on their saleable copies of this game. If a lot of us Kickstarter GTR supporters try the new game, decide it isn't for us, and dump ours on the market, CGF may have trouble over the long term selling their retail copies of the game we got for free. I'd hate for that to happen.

I've waited longer than this for games. Sure, I don't pay GMT until my game is about to ship, one to four years later. But I knew that going in.

And I knew going into GTR that I was paying up front. And I know with any project, GMT or otherwise, that there's a nearly certain chance of unforeseen delays. I viewed it as entering P500 with my money up front. I knew it going in.

So good luck, Ed, and thanks for going the extra mile to make this right.
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If I had my chest open and was waiting on the table for a donor heart and the guy with my new heart in a cooler stopped to have a few brews, THEN I might get upset and make some suggestions on how he could improve his performance.

But, aren't we just talking about a game? Or am I missing something?

I, for one, certainly think that "Day jobs" take precedent over anything except family. Without the day job, there can be NOTHING else.

Obfuscate? Damn, where's my dictionary! zombie
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Great Update. Love the fact that I'm getting more stuff. No worries about the delays. This is commonplace in the Hobby, so you don't look any worse than anyone else.

I can see how frustrated you are, and I think that's just being real.

You don't have to formulate every thought. People will understand or they won't. I just don't anticipate your next Kickstarter campaign to be as successful.

Sure it stinks to wait this long, and sure it's kind of shennanigans that your earning a percentage return on all of our initial investment, but you made it right by giving us a free game and some premium cards. Kind of excited now to see what premium card stock feels like. It'll make it out eventually.

Having never played Glory to Rome, I'm fine with all this. It'll be a real treat when it shows up.
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Just want to chime in with a big thanks Ed for the update. And I also feel the added extras are unnecessary, although I can't speak for the group that is part of my order.

For me, all that was needed were regular updates.
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Mark Brehob
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Thanks for the update. While I'm quite sad this is going to be so late and I wish the update had come sooner (even with a lot of question marks), the delay isn't the end of the world.

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Everyone but Ed: Based on the previous history of Kickstarter projects, the previous history of game companies in general, and especially the previous history of CGF, you should not be surprised.

Ed: [Various rhetorical questions involving obscene and profane metaphors elided] You need to delegate. I find it hard to believe you can't spend a half hour a week checking up on your company that owes $75,000 in product to its customers. If not, someone else needs to be the boss. I thought Wake was running things. If not him, someone else needs to be responsible for running your company.
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Christopher Watkins
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onetonmee wrote:
Just want to chime in with a big thanks Ed for the update. And I also feel the added extras are unnecessary, although I can't speak for the group that is part of my order.

For me, all that was needed were regular updates.


You are the sweetest person in the world then...

Willing to let me borrow 5,000. I'll pay you back in 6 months with 0% interest.
 
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Jonathan Harrison
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Because he totally paid $5,000 himself for his game. I paid $40 knowing I'd be waiting a while. I'm out of pocket money that I expected to be out of pocket. I've missed playing GtR for several months during which I thought I'd be able to play it. But it's not like I won't be playing it for the rest of my life. I just played other things while I waited.
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HuginnGreiling wrote:
I'll happily forgo the free additional game if it means CGF will have additional cash on hand. But if they've already started printing (say) an extra 1,000 copies of the game (beyond what they think they'll timely sell) especially for Kickstarter GTR supporters, not sure that swearing off one now will save them any money if they just have an extra copy they're not sure they'll be able to sell.

Ed, if you haven't printed the extra copies already, feel free to leave mine out (I know one won't make a difference, but if a lot of people feel the same ...).

More so because I don't want CGF to take a hit on their saleable copies of this game. If a lot of us Kickstarter GTR supporters try the new game, decide it isn't for us, and dump ours on the market, CGF may have trouble over the long term selling their retail copies of the game we got for free. I'd hate for that to happen.

I've waited longer than this for games. Sure, I don't pay GMT until my game is about to ship, one to four years later. But I knew that going in.

And I knew going into GTR that I was paying up front. And I know with any project, GMT or otherwise, that there's a nearly certain chance of unforeseen delays. I viewed it as entering P500 with my money up front. I knew it going in.

So good luck, Ed, and thanks for going the extra mile to make this right.


I'm personally very dissatisfied with the delay, but I've got to agree with Jonathan here.

I didn't ask for and honestly don't really want another rummy game. I'd rather have a copy of Barons, which looks like it might be more my speed. There is a very high likelihood that I will sell and/or trade Plato 3K. This may well hurt CGF directly. By giving out so many copies for free to people that don't want them (by which I mean didn't specifically take action to acquire them), you are ensuring that CGF will be competing (in the BGG segment of your market anyway) with all of the new-in-shrink and like-new secondary market copies that will inevitably be floating around. I don't know how practical it would be for you, but the safer decision may be to give away copies of games that you've already published and already made your profits on. Or, hell, maybe not. I don't know CGF's market. Maybe BGG is a really tiny part of it.

The most expensive card stock is something that some will appreciate, and some won't, if it makes it harder to shuffle. I sleeve my cards, so I may not even notice. I have little to no idea how Chinese manufacturers work, but I'd prefer to see any "extra" money go into speeding production and/or delivery.
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