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Subject: Suppose I go "ROGUE" ? rss

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Steve Wood
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Hi, Guys

Always a great chat in here and tons of good advice among the game design community, so here's one for you.

As many of you know, my game has been a Kickstarter success - but soon that part ends and the business is born.

I have been crunching LOTS of numbers. Everyone says that there is no money in this and at first I thought they were wrong but in fact, they are right - unless your game becomes the next M:TG

I want to sell my game for 50 bucks. The game store wants it for 25 - I have to go through a Distributor to GET to the game store - the Distributor wants it for 19...they cost me over 12

Leaving me, the guy who spent YEARS on this, very little money. After Kickstarter I will have 2000 games (maybe fewer) available to sell. If I sell all of them to the Distributors I will barely have enough to do a second printing. And I'm at over 60,000 on KS right now with more money from my partners on top of that. It's all accounted for (no pun intended) and I have to pay income tax on every scrap left.

So what most companies would do is raise the price of the game, right? Surely the gamers will pay extra to make up for all of the lost profits? No?

OK, how about I do this (and here we come to the point of the thread - finally)

Cut out the Distributor

Cut out the Game Stores

Cut out the Online Stores who will only underbid me on my own product

Sell it myself, ONLY from the EPG site

By being exclusive to MYSELF I can afford the marketing to drive people to my site. By not giving away most of the profit to two different sets of middle men I can afford to give the discount to YOU. I can give you free shipping (or highly discounted) and bundle my expansions in ways that make my pricing fair. I have shipping resources and volunteers. I have done my homework and I feel I can handle customer service. Yes, I will sell a lot fewer games in my first year but for the same money and the opportunity to build things and sell more as time goes on.

First, let me say that this is NOT in stone. I am exploring possibilities and asking you for Pros and Cons. I did not intend to insult anyone who owns a FLGS or OLGS, etc.
I do not plan to "price fix" - I am considering this so that I can offer guys like you a good deal and also make enough money that I stay in the industry and continue to provide this to you.

That being said, I highly value your opinions and upcoming debate over why anyone would or would not want to stick with conventional distribution.

When Kickstarter is done, I'm going to write you guys a great guide to it. I have done a lot of things right but a LOT of things will be different next time. Hopefully you guys will benefit greatly from my experience.

and....Discuss!



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Travis Worthington
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I think you need to decide if you want to become a game company, in which case you need to figure out how to work within the store/distribution system, or if you are all about one game then you can probably manage to sell some percentage of the remaining games direct via websites and conventions, etc.

If it is costing you $12 to make the game, then the retail price should be at least $60. You've already seen the basic math work out to understand why.

Edit - if you are going for a reprint, then you absolutely need to go through distribution. Kickstarter is a single shot - very unlikely that you will ever see anywhere near that kind of direct re-orders through a single channel.
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Drew Dallas
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I guess the question is how many sales do you think you can get from here on BGG that aren't already kickstarter backers, because that is the issue you are going to have. In order to get those sales from your website you are going to have to advertise and most likely that is going to involve paying money to run ads frequently. The distributors and game stores take a large cut because they are providing an invaluable service, word of mouth, getting the game in front of potential buyers, and running demos. Your website isn't going to have the reach to bring in the number of new customers you are going to need to make it worth it to you yet IMO.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Steve --

I have to admit: I did not back you.

But it's not that I did not want to back you. I'm just not able to do it: finances are rough this year. I really really wanted to get at least the Captain level and get a personalized ship, too.

That said: you are an inspiration. I have absolutely no doubt about it. You will be setting an example -- and it may very well be ground breaking. And it could also be easily back breaking.

So I want to encourage you. Pray about this. I know I will.


I also know Travis is giving great advice. So you'll definitely want to hear him out. There's going to be some interesting discussion.

You've seen the support behind your product demonstrated by your experience at Kickstarter. Even if it doesn't continue to be financial support, you've got a lot of morale backing you up.


...
But...
...

Make this your own decision.

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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Sounds to me like you're focussed on the money, not the game, and if I had signed up, that would worry me. I understand people have to eat, but if that's what you're thinking about, I have to wonder how much energy you have for the creative process and the support for you product upon release.

I don't pay much attention to kickstarter, and don't know anything about you, but this thread could be a poster child for why I have reservations. I have to question the long term prospects of a system that allows you to raise money before having your business plan worked out.
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Travis Worthington
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Sphere wrote:
Sounds to me like you're focussed on the money, not the game, and if I had signed up, that would worry me. I understand people have to eat, but if that's what you're thinking about, I have to wonder how much energy you have for the creative process and the support for you product upon release.

I don't pay much attention to kickstarter, and don't know anything about you, but this thread could be a poster child for why I have reservations. I have to question the long term prospects of a system that allows you to raise money before having your business plan worked out.


your post makes little sense. He has been focused on his game for years, and that is what the kickstarter campaign is all about - making that game a reality. Now he has a decision to make - is Escape Pod Games all about Gunship: First Strike! or does it become a game company.
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It's a lot of little work here and there to do it yourself. And storage too. So you have to consider if that's worth it to you. If so, go for it. But it would not at all be fore me. If I couldn't automate it (beyond a kickstarter-like campaign), I wouldn't do it. But then, I never thought I could make anything close to my what I do in my current career designing board games (which is good pay, but nothing crazy-good). And I don't want such a beloved hobby such as board game design to become a chore. It sounds like you want to do this full time. So maybe it is the right step for you. Though if you do go for it full time, make sure you have more equally good ideas to get off the ground. The guy who commented about a kickstarter campaign blowing your average sales numbers away is absolutely right.
 
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David Boeren
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The only person I've heard of to do what you're proposing is Sirlin, you can try asking him about it.

He started selling the Yomi full box for $100 retail, and you could get it online for around $68. Then he apparently didn't like that and yanked it and now only sells it direct. Catch is, he still charges the full $100 plus shipping. People complain about it constantly in the Yomi forums and Sirlin pretends he can't understand what they're complaining about and keeps twisting the subject around to something else.

It's kind of worked for him for two reasons:
1. He already had a personality cult going beforehand due to his blog and work with Street Fighter, so people were willing to follow him into a fighting card game.

2. He put it on normal channels long enough to get the word out before he yanked it. But, this trick may only work once.

Now, you've got #2 covered. Kickstarter will get the word out. #1 though, I don't know. People know who you are from the Kickstarter, but really mostly just the people who either pledged the Kickstarter (who already have a copy) and the people who looked but didn't pledge (who are maybe not likely to buy it later). I don't think there's enough visibility to the general public to really cut much.

If you do do it though, be prepared to either drop the price somewhat or else listen to constant complaints.

Personally, I'd stick with the normal route of selling. Do you want to be an online store owner or do you want to be a game designer? Any time spent on one is time directly taken away from the other. You've already seen from your Kickstarter project how much effort it takes dealing with artists, printers, ordering components, etc... That's all time you're not playing and designing games. Is the added money worth all that extra work, or maybe just put in a few hours overtime if you need to and keep doing what you enjoy?
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Paul DeStefano
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Escape Pod Games wrote:
the guy who spent YEARS on this, very little money


Welcome to the world of game design.

Now consider how many hundreds have LOST money.

You're ahead of the curve.
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Brook Gentlestream
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I think there was a blog on TMG that touched this subject. They suggested that for one of their games, they were able to sell 150 games direct through pre-orders. They expected if they really tried, a company could directly sell to 250 customers only through their website and their own publicity efforts.

Then they analyzed a distributor/consumer model.

They figure a gamestore can sell maybe 10 games a year.
A distributor can probably sell direct to about 250 customers, so about 250 stores.
You can probably get a few different distributors, in various countries. Let's say 5.
So, now we're looking at 5 distributors x 250 stores/distributor x 10 sales/store= 12500 sales.

Those are fairly conservative numbers. I don't think they are very accurate - just a simple model they used to explain why people go through the distribution channels, even if they have to sell the game for about 40% the price to those distributors.
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Greg R.
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Artipia Games also does this and they mainly cater to the Euro market.

Another thing you should consider is the possibility that you "went overboard" with Gunship. Not that we backers don't appreciate it but maybe in future game creations you can scale it back and/or figure out ways to cut costs but still put out a quality product.

One thing is for sure, if your going to go "rogue" and do it all yourself, DO IT ALL YOURSELF. Figure out what and how you can manufacture at least 70% of the game yourself. Unless your ordering at least 10000 units from China, I doubt your going to turn a profit.
 
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Cat Lord
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TurquoiseKnight wrote:
Maybe in future game creations you can scale it back and/or figure out ways to cut costs but still put out a quality product.


Unless the game changed severely from when I last read the rules, it's primarily cardstock. It does not paint a good picture for games with more parts than generic tokens you can buy by the baleful.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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T Worthington wrote:
Sphere wrote:
Sounds to me like you're focussed on the money, not the game, and if I had signed up, that would worry me. I understand people have to eat, but if that's what you're thinking about, I have to wonder how much energy you have for the creative process and the support for you product upon release.

I don't pay much attention to kickstarter, and don't know anything about you, but this thread could be a poster child for why I have reservations. I have to question the long term prospects of a system that allows you to raise money before having your business plan worked out.


your post makes little sense. He has been focused on his game for years, and that is what the kickstarter campaign is all about - making that game a reality. Now he has a decision to make - is Escape Pod Games all about Gunship: First Strike! or does it become a game company.

Sphere's not talking about the game. He's talking about the business plan.

I wonder if he has any idea how much trouble it is to warehouse thousands of games and take orders for single copies for months on end.
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Dan
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My first thought when I see a game only available from the original company is that the game wasn't good enough to get distribution, so it's probably not that good of a game.

There's plenty of other games that have proven themselves.
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Aaron Bohm
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Your other option of course being to sell your design, future designs, or services to an existing company. You may actually get paid less for this but there is also less cost, less risk, and usually you can work out royalties that may end up lasting for a while.

Otherwise there is nothing wrong per se with your ideas, after all existing Board Game companies such as Steve Jackson Games and Tasty Minstrel all came from somewhere and mostly the same way: creating a sucessful game, self publishing, and developing from there. It's the execution of that plan however that's probably the tricky part. Oh, and it probably gets increasingly harder to do this as time goes on and the existing companies become more established. For instance you don't see too many new car companies popping up.

At the very least, if you've considered all this and prefer going solo hopefully you've at least worked out setting up an actual company, LLC perhaps, to lower personal liability and minimize taxes.
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David Boeren
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ytter wrote:
My first thought when I see a game only available from the original company is that the game wasn't good enough to get distribution, so it's probably not that good of a game.


That and "paying full shipping for one game from a company too small to negotiate a discount is going to make it cost me an arm and a leg".
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Steve Wood
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I appreciate all of the feedback so far - it all makes sense.

No, it is not just about the money. Getting the game published at all was a HUGE part of the joy of this for me.

But the bottom line is that unless it can sustain itself financially, it IS just a hobby and not a long-term career.

I would prefer to be a self-sustaining company and not just the guy who's on Kickstarter every 6 months to launch yet another title. Kickstarter may not last forever, or they may change it to keep it from being what it is today.

Right now I am still on the fence. But it's great to see supporting reasons for and against and I am noting them all, so keep it going.

Thanks!

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Steve Wood
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Sphere wrote:
Sounds to me like you're focussed on the money, not the game, and if I had signed up, that would worry me. I understand people have to eat, but if that's what you're thinking about, I have to wonder how much energy you have for the creative process and the support for you product upon release.

I don't pay much attention to kickstarter, and don't know anything about you, but this thread could be a poster child for why I have reservations. I have to question the long term prospects of a system that allows you to raise money before having your business plan worked out.


No no - I do have a business plan. And a full plan to support the game. The plan is to go the traditional route, sell to distributors, etc. What I am trying to do here is take a look at my options, because the numbers are really terrible. The reason I'm focusing on the money right now is that I have a few weeks while I wait for Kickstarter to end. The game is done and ready to send to China. Just trying to see if others have self-distributed and how it is perceived my the gaming community. I am 100% on board with you that people SHOULD have a business plan before getting all of the money. Unfortunately, there is no real way for Kickstarter to enforce this. And no matter how good your plan is, there are always hurdles that you were not expecting as you grow through the process. I have a ton of energy for the creative process, more than I know what to do with!
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David Boeren
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Escape Pod Games wrote:
But the bottom line is that unless it can sustain itself financially, it IS just a hobby and not a long-term career.


Good luck with it. Honestly, I think very few people can turn boardgame design into a career.

I had a part-time game design consulting job for a game company and thought about trying to turn it full time but no matter how you looked at the numbers it would never pay anywhere near what my regular job did. I'd love to do it, and maybe one day when I can retire I'll use up all my free time designing games but for now there are bills to pay and mouths to feed, you know?

Of course, it helps a lot if your current job pays really badly - then game designing doesn't look like so much of a drop in salary
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PhantasyIV wrote:
TurquoiseKnight wrote:
Maybe in future game creations you can scale it back and/or figure out ways to cut costs but still put out a quality product.


Unless the game changed severely from when I last read the rules, it's primarily cardstock. It does not paint a good picture for games with more parts than generic tokens you can buy by the baleful.


Look at FF and what they did to Lord of The Rings. They took out the plastic and replaced them with cardboard tokens and stands, and they cut the thickness of the game board down. Now the game is being sold in Target. They're obviously making money on it or else they would have chosen a different game to sell in a big box store. They did the same thing with Runebound and Deadwood. Yes, us hardcore gamers/collectors wouldn't buy the cheapy versions but the masses will for $29.99 a pop.

Ultimately, unless your Reiner Knizia, the only way for board game companies to make money is to publish a collectible, living game like MtG, Heroclix, Pokemon, etc., OR, keep production costs way down so you can sell the game at a reasonable price and make at least a 300% return. Remember, family buyers are the money making market. If kids get crazy over a game and the parents don't get sticker shock, your gonna make money.
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I'm not speaking with any experience here, but it looks to me like this...

Standard approach: very low margins
Rogue approach: very high risk

The question I would ask is, do you want to be a game designer? Or have you put in the years designing, and now you want to get as much return as you can on that time and effort?

If you want to be a designer, take the standard approach to publishing and get back to designing. It may mean you have to focus and tighten up your design process so you don't spend years on something, knowing how thin the margins are going to be. Unfortunately, that just seems to be the state of the industry.

If you want to focus on this game, then sure, take the risk and do it all yourself if you want. I wouldn't expect to have much time for design and development though, not if you're handling every aspect of being a publisher and retailer.

Escape Pod Games wrote:
If I sell all of them to the Distributors I will barely have enough to do a second printing.

Why is a second printing a foregone conclusion? It seems like many games never see another printing. Maybe you should see how sales go before making that decision, and that money could go towards design and development of other products (or, y'know, food ) instead.

I wish you the best whatever your choice. You're walking a fine line and I applaud you for considering a new approach.
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Steve Wood
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Good points. I do have a few things going for me that others may not. Let me outline these so you can take them into account when offering your valued opinions...

1. I have a good full-time job with semi-flexible hours and schedule. I also have a wife who works part time and can help me with the shipping, etc.

2. I work for a sign/printing/marketing company. Sales, marketing and shipping is what we do. I have access to wholesale pricing, equipment and a huge 8' x 24' table any time that I need it. I can come in early, stay late, etc. and put games in boxes - no big deal. Post office is right down the street.

3. Working there means that I know people who run ALL kinds of businesses. Getting a good deal on a storage unit is no problem.

So, storing the games is covered. So is shipping them. I don't think it would be so many shipments that I would no longer be able to find time to design new games. Heck, if it is that would be a GOOD thing and I could employ someone to run that part.

If doing it myself meant not being able to design games any more - I do not think I would want that -at any cost. Let's call that a potential Con.

Definitely do not want to give the impression that the game was not good enough for distribution, although this could be explained right up front. "We've cut out the middle men to save YOU money!" Potential Con.

I think a good compromise would be for me to go ahead and ship my first huge batch of Kickstarter orders and see what kind of experience that is. Then maybe try to run it myself for a few months and then decide.

I guess the part that really bugs me is when the online guys sell at dirt cheap prices. I know that YOU guys love it but the people who lose in that situation are the publishers and the local stores.

One last thing because I gotta get to bed...what if the core game was sold through distribution but I handled accessory sales exclusively? Things like the custom boards, and expansion components such as extra cards, etc. Or will they blak at that and want a piece of it all?

Thanks again!

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Escape Pod Games wrote:
I want to sell my game for 50 bucks. The game store wants it for 25 - I have to go through a Distributor to GET to the game store - the Distributor wants it for 19...they cost me over 12


Surely there are some online games stores whose owners frequent BGG and will take some of them directly from you without going through a distributor? Having your game available from more places will almost certainly get more of them sold.
 
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Escape Pod Games wrote:
One last thing because I gotta get to bed...what if the core game was sold through distribution but I handled accessory sales exclusively? Things like the custom boards, and expansion components such as extra cards, etc. Or will they blak at that and want a piece of it all?


This is the way I had planned to go. Publish the main game through a standard publisher, and then release mini-expansions over the internet print-on-demand. It allows me to better customize the expansion packs, so that players can buy just the components they need without having to buy them one at a time or invest in the "big box" all at once. Then again, this too, might be an option better left for the publishers to decide on. But it seems to make sense to me in terms of best balancing the customer service / profit potential / risk of loss.
 
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Steve Wood
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Friendless wrote:
Escape Pod Games wrote:
I want to sell my game for 50 bucks. The game store wants it for 25 - I have to go through a Distributor to GET to the game store - the Distributor wants it for 19...they cost me over 12


Surely there are some online games stores whose owners frequent BGG and will take some of them directly from you without going through a distributor? Having your game available from more places will almost certainly get more of them sold.


Certainly - and I could also contact game stores directly as well. Not sure if they will talk to me, though...

Here is my beef with the online guys. They don't seem to care about making much profit and they sell a 50-dollar game for 26.00 and throw in free shipping to boot.

Now who is going to come to my site and pay even 40 dollars? No one.

So at that point I am forced to deal with the distributors. It is kind of like price fixing but in reverse.

There's just something about it that doesn't sit well with me.
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