During a seminar at GAMA Trade Show 2019 on Tuesday, March 12, Asmodee North America announced that it had a new distribution deal with CMON Limited in which it would distribute titles from CMON to retail outlets in North America.
CMON would still be responsible for running and fulfilling its own Kickstarter campaigns, but once a Kickstarter is complete, any remaining product would enter the distribution chain via Asmodee NA.
One odd thing about this deal is that in December 2018, CMON announced that it had entered into distribution agreements with GTS Distribution and Southern Hobby Supply, so that as of January 1, 2019, U.S. retailers would be able to order CMON titles from these distributors in addition to getting them from ACD, Alliance, and Peachstate Hobby Distribution. Asmodee, however, has an exclusive distribution deal with Alliance Game Distributors — a deal put into practice in August 2017 — so after only a few months of carrying CMON titles, GTS and Southern Hobby Supply lose access to those titles once again, with ACD and Peachstate also having the CMON lines cut from their catalogs.
While this change in distribution practices might seem like a radical departure from previous practices, it's not out of the ordinary as in many European countries one of the branches of The Asmodee Group is already distributing titles from CMON Limited.
Funko believes that everyone is a fan of something, and this acquisition allows pop culture enthusiasts to display their fandom through multi-player interaction comprised by their favorite characters and introduces Funko to an entirely new demographic, ardent board gamers.
"We've always been incredibly impressed with FPC's portfolio and have witnessed the company make a name for itself on a global level," said Funko President Andrew Perlmutter. "As we expand our product portfolio, we believe this acquisition is in line with what we are doing with apparel, accessories and Funko Animation Studios. The games category is another avenue to deliver pop culture to our ever-growing fan base. FPC's nearly two decades of experience in developing high quality games will provide us added expertise as we leverage our existing IP and licensor portfolio into this category."
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and the Company does not expect the acquisition to have a material impact on its financial performance in 2019.
Who doesn't love to display their fandom via multi-player interaction?!
• In late January 2019, Hachette Livre, the largest book publisher in France and the owner of the Hachette Book Group in the U.S. along with many other imprints, has "entered into exclusive negotiations with Jean-Christophe Gires and Stéphane Gires, the founders and directors of Gigamic, with a view to acquiring 100% of their company's share capital", according to a press release on the Hachette website.
Gigamic was founded in 1991, launching the company with the abstract strategy game Quarto, which I fondly recall demoing and selling at The Game Gallery in San Francisco. It was a different era then! Currently Gigamic publishes about fifteen new titles annually, with sales of more than €15 million. An excerpt from the press release:
Stéphane Gires, who is 56, will continue to manage the business that he has successfully built up with his brother.
For Hachette Livre, which already publishes party games (quiz games, etc.), and which added mobile games to its portfolio in 2016, this investment is part of a strategic decision to explore the leisure activity market that sits alongside publishing, in particular all the segments of the consumer gaming market.
"We are delighted to welcome Gigamic and its great team, whose skills are naturally closely aligned with our content creation activities for the consumer market. Like all the entities that have joined the Group in recent years, Gigamic will be able to pursue its development while retaining its creative autonomy", said Arnaud Nourry, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hachette Livre.
"Our many discussions have confirmed that our companies share the same DNA in terms of ethics, innovation, management and trust in our existing personnel. Gigamic is becoming part of a major French group and a market leader, which delivers a strong message to our employees, our customers and our suppliers. We feel very confident and motivated for the future", added Stéphane Gires.
• Stepping back one month further, in mid-December 2018, Greater Than Games acquired Nevermore Games, stating in a press release that "The acquisition of Nevermore Games is the culmination of several months of conversations between Nevermore Games and Greater Than Games. As our companies undergo this transition, Greater Than Games looks forward to supporting the Nevermore Games product lines and fan base."
• For an industry move in the other direction, we have this statement from Dutch publisher White Goblin Games in January 2019:
During the previous year, we signed a deal with the Chinese company Yoka Games to produce a new localized edition of our game Bali in China.
At the time that we signed the deal, we were unaware of the previous and current history of Yoka Games, but it was recently brought to our attention that Yoka Games has been plagiarizing famous games such as BANG! and Lost Cities for many years.
Yoka Games has proven itself to be disrespectful of intellectual property rights and the work of other companies and designers. We firmly condemn this attitude, and for this reason we have decided to end our partnership with Yoka Games.
• On Sunday, January 5, 2019, game designer Michael Stackpole resigned from the Board of Directors of Game Manufacturers Association, a.k.a. GAMA, a position that he's held for eleven years as an Emeritus member following a three-year term as an elected member. Here's an excerpt from his public resignation letter:
I feel the Emeritus role on the board is a crucial one, since board turnover requires a repository of knowledge so we can avoid the pitfalls of past mistakes, and maintain the benefits of what we have learned in past times.
I regret that I must now tender my resignation from that post.
I have not reached this decision based on any political divide within the Board. I have come to it because the Board is broken. Since June, the board has had more meetings than ever before, and has done less than ever before. In one recent meeting, it took the board 45 minutes to word a resolution empowering a committee to hire a lawyer to negotiate with another lawyer. Three-quarters of an hour, in a meeting scheduled for two hours, which stretched to four.
The board is broken when the organization's membership indicates its will; and then the board commissions a poll to second guess the membership's will. When that poll comes back confirming what the membership wants, the board hires a lawyer to tell them they can ignore the membership.
The board is broken when it, having previously enjoyed robust and detailed discussions about GAMA harassment policies, down to the minutia of the structuring of an investigative team to be in place at our shows, chooses only to censure an officer who physically assaulted a female security guard.
The board is broken when, in wishing to discuss me in email, without my being aware of the chain, they actually send it to a list which includes me. (Thought I'd let you know about that so you didn't think your emails were leaked to me.)
• In the "What did Asmodee buy this time?" slot in these round-ups, we have the news that in January 2019 The Asmodee Group acquired Bezzerwizzer Nordic, which is primarily known for the trivia party game Bezzerwizzer and dozen other titles that bear the "Bezzerwizzer" name, a word derived from the German "Besserwisser", which means "smart aleck" or "know-it-all". An excerpt from the press release announcing the deal:
Established in 2006 by Birgitte and Jesper Bülow, Bezzerwizzer is one of the leading game publishers in the Nordics with its main titles Bezzerwizzer and Hint. Asmodee already distributes both games in Nordic countries.
"We are excited and proud to become part of Asmodee. Having built a strong Nordic position in trivia and party games, we are ready to bring our games to players in other parts of the world as a member of the Asmodee family, who shares our dedication to high quality board games." said Jesper Bülow, Bezzerwizzer Nordics CEO.
Bezzerwizzer becomes Asmodee's 14th studio and brings its expertise in developing successful trivia games with creative developing & marketing teams to the Group.
Asmodee has offices in 18 countries: USA, Canada, France, UK, Germany, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Poland, Chile, Belgium, Brazil, Taiwan and China. The company also relies on 14 publishing studios spread around the world and distributes products in over 50 countries.
Fourteen studios! Many publishers don't even have fourteen games in their catalog...
• Uwe Mölter is retiring from AMIGO Spiel after spending 25 years at the company as a game editor. Titles he's worked on include Bohnanza, 6 nimmt!, Wizard, and Elfenland. More recently, he brought ICECOOL to AMIGO, where it won the Kinderspiel des Jahres in 2017, and in 2018 he oversaw Krass Kariert, which won the 2018 Fairplay A la Carte award and Tief im Riff, a children's game that was claimed a Spiele Hit award from Austria's Wiener Spieleakademie.
• Netflix is being sued for trademark ingringement by Chooseco, the publishing company that holds the "Choose Your Own Adventure" trademark, over Netflix' use of the term in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch in December 2018. The lawsuit itself doesn't relate to the game industry in any way, but in the legal complaint filed by Chooseco, the company notes that the licensed Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger title from Z-Man Games has "sold over 150,000 units since its launch in June 2018". Thought that sales figure would be interesting to note since Z-Man usually doesn't publicize such things. (HT: Chris Cieslik)
(While cleaning up ahead of 2019, I ran across this first item in a Sept. 2018 draft. I was sure that I had published something on this topic, but nope, I had done everything except actually publish it. Here it is now, followed by other items rediscovered in my inbox.)
• Changes are taking place at the Game Manufacturers Association, a.k.a. GAMA, with Executive Director John Ward due to be replaced when his contract ends. Here's a press release that GAMA issued on August 24, 2018:
The Board of Directors of the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) has passed a motion electing not to renew the current employment contract of its Executive Director, John Ward.
John Ward has served GAMA in the Executive Director role for ten years. He led the organization through a difficult time by building its annual events — the Origins Game Fair and GAMA Trade Show — and retiring its debt. The Board thanks John for his service and wishes him the best in his future endeavors.
In looking ahead to the next ten years, the board's vision is to build a trade organization that supports the businesses of its members by promoting tabletop gaming more widely than ever before, collecting and making available useful and up-to-date industry data, educating members about opportunities and best practices, and sharing ever-increasing resources among the membership. In the spirit of the organization's purpose, mission, and vision — updated in 2016 by a special committee whose work was ratified by the membership — the board sees GAMA providing exceptional educational programs and opportunities, organizing high quality information and resources into accessible hubs, promoting gaming as quality social entertainment to the widest possible audience, and more.
GAMA is the non-profit trade organization of the hobby games industry. Its mission is to be the essential nexus for new and experienced game industry professionals, and its vision is to see a game on every table and a table for every gamer.
An Executive Director job description and call for applicants will be posted on the gama.org website when the board is ready to consider applicants. The board encourages all enthusiastic, qualified candidates to apply. The board also thanks the outgoing Executive Director for agreeing to help during the transition period.
The board of directors always welcomes both members and gamers to contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org about any matter of concern, or any suggestion for improvement. All emails are read and entered into GAMA's records.
A Special Membership Meeting has also been announced. Its agenda, in part, is to hear feedback from GAMA members and the public in service of the board’s values of consensus and transparency. The meeting will take place in Columbus, Ohio (where GAMA's staff and office are located) on September 24, 2018 at 1:00 Eastern time in the Union Station Ballroom of the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Members may also attend by teleconference.
Further information on this option will be posted at gama.org prior to the meeting. Members of the Board of Directors are elected to two-year terms at the organization's Annual Membership Meeting each year at the Origins Game Fair, save the representatives of the Retail members and Wholesale members, who are elected to one-year terms at the GAMA Trade Show.
The GAMA bylaws vest in its Board the responsibility to hire the organization's Executive Director to carry out the day-to-day affairs of the organization. The non-profit's bylaws are available online at its website, gama.org.
Jeff Tidball, a member-at-large on the GAMA Board of Directors and COO at Atlas Games, has written about his vision for GAMA and what it can do to achieve its mission, purpose, and vision, noting that "GAMA could perhaps do all of those things given enough time, but it can't do any of those things without the will to do substantially more than put on two conventions a year. In my experience, that will is simply not there at present." As for Ward's impending replacement, Tidball writes:
I wasn't on the GAMA board ten years ago when John Ward was hired as its Executive Director. Many people, some of whom were intimately involved in the hiring process, some of whom were on the board at the time, many of whom were acquainted with the state of GAMA at that time, have assured me that John Ward was the best candidate for the position of ED when GAMA faced existential crises of finances and responsible organization. I believe them.
It's been suggested that because John was the right person for that job, ten years ago, he must therefore still be the right person for the current job. There's a logical disconnect there. The right person to turn a company around is not necessarily the right person to envision its future. The right person to fight a war is not necessarily the right person to rebuild the landscape. And so on. The skill sets are different.
Circumstances change, and GAMA's have changed. The change is largely thanks to John Ward. The board gives him credit for what he's done and applauds what he's accomplished. So make no mistake: I thank John Ward for the hard work he's done for GAMA. At the same time, I believe that a new voice and skill set would be better to lead GAMA for the next ten years.
• In July 2018, German publisher Hans im Glückannounced that its distribution agreement with Schmidt Spiele would end after 2018, with Asmodee Deutschland serving as HiG's distributor in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland starting on Jan. 1, 2019. An excerpt translated from the press release: "Since many of our games are aimed more at specialists than random shoppers, we are happy that they will eventually be available again in smaller games stores. We share many views and approaches regarding the marketing and viewing of each game with Asmodee."
Asmodee already distributes HiG titles in the U.S. and France, and Asmodee Digital recently released a digital adaptation of Carcassonne for multiple devices.
• In October 2018, PSI — which is a distribution company of sorts that helps game publishers place titles in the hobby market, specialty toy and game retail channels, and mass market — announced that it would start representing the works of Facade Games, which makes sense as titles like Salem 1692 and Tortuga 1667 have a great mainstream-friendly look that would attract casual buyers.
• Ares Games has released a few titles in the U.S. that originated from Pendragon Game Studio, such as Last Friday and Stay Away!, and in 2018 it extended the partnership between the two companies, with Ares distributing English-language titles produced by Pendragon without necessarily co-producing a version themselves. As part of this new arrangement, Ares is distributing two Pendragon titles that previously had only limited availability in English: 2014's Hexemonia from Fabio Attoli, and 2015's Waterloo: Enemy Mistakes from Aldo Ghetti and Paris Poli.
• CMON Limited has signed distribution agreements with both GTS Distribution and Southern Hobby Supply, so as of January 1, 2019, U.S. retailers can order CMON titles from these distributors in addition to getting them from ACD, Alliance, and Peachstate Hobby Distribution. The press release announcing this deal also states that "There are no other changes currently being made to CMON Inc.’s unilaterally adopted brand protection policy (MAPP)."
As often happens at the end of a year, I discover all sorts of interesting game-related articles in my inbox that I had forwarded to myself and meant to read but didn't. Here's a sampling of them:
• In October 2018, Nathan Beeler and Jonathan Franklin posted a pair of articles on Opinionated Gamers about an Amazon game day that they had attended, with this being an event hosted by Amazon in the giant greenhouse spheres they'd built in Seattle, with game demonstrations courtesy of Asmodee representatives.
They write that the purpose of the event seemed unclear as surely Amazon wasn't providing this space as a mere courtesy to Asmodee and surely Asmodee hadn't rented this massive space in order to demo a half-dozen upcoming releases for a dozen-ish media people. Part two details the games played, while part one speculates on why this event was held in the first place and what it might indicate for Amazon's future place in the game industry.
[Lang had] been contemplating on whether it would be possible to create a booster-pack of cards or, even better, some physical component by which each instance of the product would be completely distinct (that is, one-of-a-kind in the world). It would be something that a player could claim only he/she owned. Eric felt this would bring about a sense of product engagement and wonder to games that had never been seen before. Wow....
I suggested perhaps we were thinking too small. Perhaps we could create an entire game that was unique, not just a component. If the design was built from the ground up with such a concept in mind, we should be able to craft a completely unique product by clever assortment of different (traditionally produced) components.
Eric immediately took this variation of his idea and began to run with it. Perhaps each game represented a unique planet in a galaxy that would be colonized by players? Perhaps we could augment with a digital interface?
Petersen committed to figuring out the production difficulties of creating such a game could be overcome by FFG and parent company Asmodee, while Lang developed his concept — only for Lang to be hired full-time and on an exclusive basis by CMON Limited in 2017 before finalizing that idea. The unique game concept would then be incorporated into a Corey Konieczka design that eventually became Discover.
Independent of this, in 2015 Garfield approached Days of Wonder with a head-to-head card game called "Technic", and the DoW rep suggested Garfield approach FFG since Days could not do justice to what he had in mind:
Technic was a head-to-head game involving a single random deck for each player, with a fun, if early, game design. But here’s the kicker: each deck was envisioned to have a completely unique collation (from a fixed pool of cards). The contents of each deck were not to be customized by players whatsoever, not before, not during, not after, play.
What more, Richard's prototype included random name generation and procedural illustration of card backs for each deck. In other words, each deck would have its own unique name, its own unique art, and its own unique play personality!
While KeyForge was developed by Garfield and an internal FFG team over a two-year period, it's amazing to see how much of Garfield's original concept survived to publication. The article features lots of fascinating details about the production of these games, the details of which are unlike anything else ever released. Oh, and Lang shared this article on Facebook in Oct. 2018 with this note: "For anyone wondering whatever happened to that secret 'Project Pandora' from years ago, here's an excellent article from FFG's own Chris Petersen. (Aside: I'm still working on Project Pandora)"
Bottom Line: This is the model when you desire control, but want to minimize risk. I love overseeing art direction, finalizing a game's design and rules, and I'm willing to handle shipping and some of the more menial tasks like customer service. But, I don't want to lose thousands shipping games to distributors, or take time off work to hopefully convince retailers my game is worth signing. This is the model for having control, focusing on design, but also, being willing to break even, or earn a small profit at best. This is low risk/low reward/high satisfaction.
Ideally I would have read this post before his deck-building game SPQF hit Kickstarter in mid-2018 since he apparently has no copies for general sale right now (based on listings at his website), but perhaps he'll make another run of the game available down the road. Sorry to tease you with a game that might be difficult to find! I love designers who take the self-publishing model to heart to create something that would be unlikely to appear from a larger, more traditional publisher.
After a few weeks discombobulated by multiple conventions — including our own BGG.CON 2018 in mid-November — Scott Alden, Steph Hodge, Lincoln Damerst and I have returned with a new episode of The BoardGameGeek Show, and given that I had just come back from PAX Unplugged 2018 and seen examples of marketing both good and bad on the floor of that convention, I thought it would be interesting to talk about that topic.
00:32 Introductions 01:20 BoardGameGeek 2019 Support Drive has begun 04:29 Support us as well through our BGG Store 04:00 What have you been playing? 04:08 Stonehenge and the Sun - Naotaka Shimamoto - itten 07:30 Underwater Cities - Vladimír Suchý - Delicious Games 09:48 Eye My Favorite Things - Daiki (Nilgiri) Aoyama & ぺぺR (Pepe_R) - するめデイズ (Surume Days) 11:25 PUSH - Prospero Hall (Forrest-Pruzan Creative) - Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH 13:26 Chronicles of Crime - David Cicurel - Lucky Duck Games 18:30 Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game coming from Emerson Matsuuchi and IDW Games in 2019 19:29 NSKN Games and Board&Dice have merged 20:38 Changing publisher needs and strategies with the onset of more mergers 25:09 Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood of Venice board game comes to Kickstarter 27:43 How (not) to market games at conventions (examples from PAX Unplugged and elsewhere)
• Polish publisher Board& Dice and Romanian publisher NSKN Games (which has an office in Poland) have merged, with the new company retaining the Board&Dice name. From the press release announcing the merger:
We have both worked together on many fields, we are friends outside working hours and what's probably most important — both companies have excellent and successful games in their portfolios. We want to move to the next level in the board games industry and we know we can do this together by joining our potentials under one refreshed Board&Dice brand.
From now on every new game and reprint will be published with the new logo of our combined forces.
What are those new games? Some already have listings in the BGG database, while others are expansions for existing titles, and still others are complete mysteries right now. These titles are:
• In the category of older news, in August 2018 Asmodee — still owned by the equity firm Euraozeo at that time — entered exclusive discussions to acquire Kids Power International, a Taiwan-based board game distributor that operated under the brand GoKids and that had begun a partnership with Asmodee in 2011. Here's an excerpt from the press release, which I happened to run across on the GoKids website while looking for something else:
"Our vision of getting people together through a fantastic entertainment experience will be strengthened as we become part of Asmodee. The passion for telling incredible stories is mutual. We are very happy and proud to join such a great and experienced team" said George Tsai, CEO of GoKids.
The acquisition of GoKids allows Asmodee Group to strengthen its product line and consolidate its leading position in Greater China. It is also a stepping stone in the Group's international development in Asia.
"After 7 years of successful partnership with Gokids, I believe this acquisition will accelerate our presence in Greater China, particularly in the family and education segments." said Frederic Nugeron, Regional Manager Greater China of Asmodee Group.
The press release was also posted on Asmodee's Chinese website, but not in Eurazeo's media center. I wonder what else was acquired along the way that we don't know about yet...
• Continuing along these lines, in May 2018 U.S. publisher University Games acquired The Haywire Group, which had been founded in 2005 by Barbara and Michael Fisher. An excerpt from the press release announcing the acquisition (PDF):
"We are honored to have the great assortment of games from The Haywire Group join our stable at University Games. I hope that the rest of the world enjoys Flickin' Chicken as much as I do, and who doesn't like a good game of Shaboom?" asked University Games' co-founder, Bob Moog...
University Games will expand the reach of the Haywire product line to include international markets in Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand in 2018 and then additional international markets in 2019.
The press release notes that "The Haywire Group is the 12th acquisition for University Games", which was founded in 1985. University's most recent acquisition prior to this was of UK publisher Paul Lamond Games in October 2017.
• During Chicago Toy & Game Week (ChiTAG) in mid-November 2018, the winners of the Toy & Game Innovation Awards (TAGIEs) were announced, with Don Ullman and Bob Driscoll winning the "game innovator of the year" category for Don't Step In It!, the 2017 fake dog poop avoidance game from Hasbro.
Over the course of the four-day event, at least six small companies were targeted in various ways and suffered losses of cash, product and personal effects. One individual was apprehended in connection with a particular event, but the cash had been taken by an accomplice and there was no recovery. Although security at the show and the Essen police were notified, there was not much recourse to take and to these companies, often run by families, friends or even individually, these are heavy costs to bear.
In total, these six companies listed below lost more than $20,000, although totals are not final. These are small to medium sized companies, run by a handful of individuals, often just family and friends in some cases. SPIEL is a year-long preparation process, and the profits from this show are sometimes the life's blood for the company, allowing them to continue creating and publishing the games their customers love.
Recovery efforts are underway. All the companies agree that the largest concern is bringing to light the need for changes and improvements in SPIEL's security, but recouping these losses follows closely behind.
To make up from its loss, Japanime Games is running a "Robbery Recovery" effort in which supporters can donate funds to the company in exchange for "thank you" gift packages. Artipia Games, which had its entire cash register stolen, is running a special Kickstarter campaign — "A Fair, a Robbery and a Promo Pack" — that contains six theft-related promos for six of its titles and that ends on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018.
• Old news, but in July 2018 Steve Jackson Games CEO Phil Reed noted that the company was "evolving" and "adapting" in response to the current marketplace for mainstream and hobby games, and Reed's statement about that marketplace will likely feel familiar to all publishers, designers, retailers, and distributors throughout the world:
From the gamer's standpoint, we are in a Golden Age. The combination of crowdfunding and low minimum order requirements at factories means that more and more new creators are releasing their own games. And some are very good, no mistake about it! Others, not so much. Some Kickstarter projects vanish after funding, and some produce a pretty product with no play value. But customers and retailers can't tell which is which until it's too late.
This has led to a situation over the last year or so in which the "New Releases" shelf is swept clean every week or two to make way for yet newer material. Unsold inventory increases at the retail and distribution level, and that expense inevitably rolls back on the publisher.
This has affected the market in two noticeable ways: many older games are selling fewer copies, and publishers have to print smaller numbers of new games because of how quickly they become "old." This leads to a treadmill effect in which a publisher tries to release more and more games while spending less and less on each one. That's bad for both the publisher and the gamers.
Rather than join this treadmill publishing model, we are choosing to strategically adapt by putting more focus and support on our core franchises/titles while limiting new title releases until the correct market environment presents itself. Unfortunately, this also means reducing staff, cutting down overhead expenses, and limiting our presence at conventions, so we can focus on what we do best — create the games our fans have enjoyed for decades.
Some of the staff left go by SJG have already found positions elsewhere in the game industry: marketing director Rhea Friesen joined CMON Limited as Director of Marketing in August 2018, Hunter Shelburne is now with Pandasaurus Games as of September 2018, and press and retail liaison Ariel Barkhurst is now Marketing Manager at White Wizard Games as of October 2018.
For other changes in how SJG operates, you can compare its introductory project on Kickstarter in 2012 — a giant new version of OGRE that netted more than $900,000 and launched all kinds of spin-off projects — to its 2018 slate of eight Kickstarter projects. The board game Triplanetary, which had its first new edition in 35 years, had 866 backers, with the remaining stock of the game pushed out to distributors. SJG has no more stock in reserve, so once retailers sell through, the game will be unavailable once again, an exemplar of the modern game market in which, as Reed describes, "publishers have to print smaller numbers of new games because of how quickly they become 'old'". Better to apologize to people for being out of stock than to stare at a warehouse full of boxes because banks don't accept apologies for payment!
The problem was that while [CGF's Ed] Carter may have known something about retail, he knew next to nothing about the logistics of game printing, shipping, and customs. "Ed wanted to do something that was completely different," [CGF's former general counsel Christopher] Rao added. "He said that all games will come with worldwide free shipping. I don't know if it's immediately obvious how big of a headache that is. We were sending games to Singapore and to small eastern European countries and stuff like that. So it's tricky. There's different import export laws in all of those countries."
To tie back to the previous item, Steve Jackson Games is currently running a Kickstarter project for Munchkin Steampunk: Girl Genius, with one of the achieved stretch goals being a Munchkin coin that features Phil Foglio's artwork. Multiple people have complained in the comments of that KS that the coin doesn't feature Girl Genius lead character Agatha Clay:
Furthermore, I for one, would happily wait another year to get a coin with Agatha on it to tie it to this kickstarter. Would it be rude to ask for it to be put to a vote? Delay the coin, to have a Girl Genius themed image on the coin that we got with our Girl Genius Munchkin set?
...it's not out of the realm of possibility that you could ship the rest of the project, then stick the correct coin in an envelope and mail it out a year later. I think most of us would be quite satisfied with that.
SJG CEO Phil Reed has had to quash such requests repeatedly: "This would balloon costs. Shipping, as we've made no secret, is an expensive nightmare these days. And simply mailing a coin sounds easy, until you find yourself mailing them and running into postal headaches."
What's the easiest way to throw money away for no gain whatsoever? Doubling the number of mailings required to complete a project. Thankfully some companies do know "the logistics of game printing, shipping, and customs"...
Sometime in 2018, KS backer Zach contacted the Washington State Attorney General's Office about this campaign — the Washington State AG having had some success with suing Kickstarter campaign creators for not delivering on promises — and on Nov. 11, 2018 Zach noted that in October 2018 he had received a response from Soda Pop Miniatures to his complaint. He posted this response publicly (PDF), and here's the most relevant section for KS backers:
Initial Funding was able to cover initial development as well as the company's annual overhead for the end of 2015 and all of 2016. However, the project changes and additional development required (as outlined above) required us to use remaining funds towards our annual overhead for 2017, essentially exhausting the funds earned from Kickstarter. While also not being able to bring the product to market for 2017 retail sales.
With a significant amount of the project's development complete, the majority of production was expected to begin in November 2017, which we communicated with backers via an update.  The products that we were able to complete development of during 2016 - 2017 were shown in an update to backers in early 2018.  Unfortunately, the funds we anticipated to have in place in order to begin manufacturing did not materialize.
Required Funds to Complete Project
With the Kickstarter funds expended it was upon us to be able to self fund the necessary cash needed to complete the project. The remaining estimates for completion of the project are shown below.
• Monster Fight Club is a new game publisher launched in October 2018 by game designer John Kovaleski following his departure from Gale Force Nine, the company that he founded and ran for twenty years. Kovaleski is joined by fellow veteran GF9 game designer Aaron Dill (co-credited with the game design of most of the GF9 gaming range) and former GF9 operations expert Peter Przekop, who has been in the hobby game industry for over twenty years. Asked why they've split from GF9, Przekop (who serves as spokesperson for MFC) said, "Our departure from Battlefront/Gale Force Nine was completely amicable. There were some factors regarding our office space in Virginia that required some action, and we felt it would be a good time to split off from the company and focus on our own projects and ideas."
In addition to developing its own hobby game products, Monster Fight Club is forming an in-house digital design studio and a master-class resin casting facility and is partnering with other hobby game and entertainment companies to provide creative and manufacturing services.
As for previously announced titles from GF9, Przekop said, "I can no longer officially speak for Gale Force Nine, but I know that they have a robust schedule of games and game expansions to release and future plans for other games. Our Virginia-based design team has long completed work on crew expansions for Firefly Adventures and the new board game, D&DVault of Dragons. Before we left the company, we completed designs for two player expansions for Star Trek: Ascendancy as well as work on a small expansion for another GF9 board game. (I don't know what they have announced, so I don't want say what it is.) Work on the Doctor Who expansions and the Aliens game [Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps!] was being handled by another team within the company, so our departure should have no effect on those projects. We're excited to see all of those projects on the tabletop upon their eventual release."
The intention of the Foundation is to promote education through scholarship endowments, funds to schools for purchasing alternative materials for education, and hopefully in the near-future, funds for teachers/school administrators to go to conferences to learn how to use games, group projects, etc. in new ways — because the world is constantly changing.
I want to do that through producing games and books — just like a normal publisher. The difference is that the profits aren't going into my pocket — they are going back out there to do good.
• On September 19, 2018, investment firm Mason Wells completed its purchase of jigsaw puzzle and board game manufacturer Buffalo Games for an undisclosed amount. From the press release:
Mason Wells, along with Nagendra Raina, Chief Executive Officer of Buffalo Games, and other members of the management team, acquired the business from the founders, Paul and Eden Dedrick...
Founded in 1986, Buffalo Games is the largest manufacturer of jigsaw puzzles in the U.S. and a leading provider of party and board games for adults, children, and families. The Company designs and manufactures millions of puzzles each year at its Buffalo, New York headquarters...
"The last few years we have seen Buffalo Games achieve rapid success in both the board game and jigsaw puzzle categories across the retail landscape and, in particular, with mass market and online retailers. Buffalo Games' biggest asset is our team and innovative culture that nurtures creativity and consumer engagement in a fast-paced and fun environment," said Raina. "This partnership with Mason Wells will continue to accelerate growth and open up new opportunities for us. Importantly, it will allow us to extend our strong innovation and growth platform, and further strengthen our deep relationships with our retailers, licensors & inventors. This is an exciting time to be a Buffalo Gamer."
• Goliath Games has acquired MacDue Toys & Games, which was founded in 1980 (the same year as Goliath) and which the press release describes as "one of the top ten companies in the Italian toy market". An excerpt from the press release:
Goliath and MacDue are pleased to announce their cooperation for the Italian market. Goliath, global leader in the toy and game industry, has decided to invest strategically on the Italian market, relying on the distribution expertise of MacDue Spa, a company with a history of toy & game distribution for over 40 years.
"We are delighted to welcome MacDue's team to the Goliath family. Having done business together already for many years, they are an excellent fit for us, similar family business principles and with already many products that we also sell in the rest of the world. With our recent acquisitions and European success, it made perfect sense to take this step", said Adi Golad, founder of Goliath. MacDue, currently the exclusive distributor for Italy of the Maisto, Bburago, Polistil and Rubik's brands, will support the launching of Goliath Italy in the distribution of the vast Goliath portfolio — including Otto il Maialotto, Mr Ficcanaso, Acchiappa il Coniglio, Triominos, Sequence, Rubik's Cube and "Essere o non Essere".
• Panda Game Manufacturing has job openings for an account manager, a project manager, and a pre-press specialist. For details on what qualifications you'd need to apply for these positions, head to the PandaGM website.
• In mid-September 2018, UK publisher Games Workshopannounced that it had signed a lease for its five hundredth "Warhammer and Games Workshop" store. From the announcement:
It's been a busy few years for our stores, with dozens of new shops popping up across the globe, in Europe, Asia and America, including the much-anticipated opening of the Warhammer Citadel in Texas.
This new 500th Warhammer store will be located in Hong Kong, China, situated in the Amoy Plaza shopping centre.
I'm clearing house in the wake of SPIEL '18 as many things were pushed into a bucket labeled "later" while I tried to keep up with everything related to that show. Thus, the items below might not be recent, but I still think they're of interest:
• On his blog Go Play Listen, designer Chris Marling advises us that "variability doesn't equal replayability", pointing out that "[d]esigners and developers are flogging themselves to death creating variants which can be set up 'X' different ways for games which will likely sell a maximum of 5,000 copies and be played once or twice by each purchaser". An excerpt:
If you look at the games that have stood the test of time, they haven't needed this kind of variety to make their reputation. Poker, Chess and Go – or modern classics Pandemic, Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne – couldn't be simpler on setup and components. They rely on simplicity, randomness and interaction rather than powers, variable setups or asymmetry. Even Catan, with variable setup, uses everything in the box. Classic modern war and board games that have been in print for decades are usually similarly unburdened. Most games don't need it to be successful.
• In an article on Opinionated Gamers, Chris Wray introduced the concept of the Rule Quality Index (RQI). Says Wray, "RQI is simply the number of ratings a board game has [on BGG] divided by the number of rules threads a game has inspired. It's a crude way to evaluate the problem, but it's the best method I could think of." The problem to which Wray refers is one of rulebooks that make it difficult for one to play the game, something that seems antithetical to what a rulebook should do. An excerpt:
I was recently chatting with some fellow game reviewers about Charterstone, a game I gave a negative review after struggling to figure out how to even play parts of it. They seemed skeptical of my criticism, so I pointed out that, despite it having only about 5,600 ratings on BGG, it already had more than 740 rules threads. That's shockingly bad: there's a rules thread for about every 7.5 ratings.
Wray included all types of caveats for his measuring system since not every player rates their games on BGG. He also noted that legacy games seem particularly prone to rule questions, possibly because each playing of such a game has more relevance and consequence than something that's a one-off experience.
• The graph above comes from Reddit user Shepperstein, who downloaded BGG data for board games released between 1990 and 2018 that have at least twenty ratings in order to visualize how board game categories on BGG relate to one another. The graph below indicates how games within categories relate to one another in complexity (with larger nodes indicating a higher average complexity) and in ratings (with redder nodes indicating a higher average rating).
Designer Oliver Kileyriffed on Shepperstein's work to create a relationship chart of his own that merges information related to both categories and mechanisms to see how these overlap and get a better understanding of how such things could be reorganized. An excerpt:
In the dead center are a few big communities, including card games and the obviously associated hand management, along with Dice and press your luck type systems. Some of these, like cards and dice are so ubiquitous across domains of games that it's not at all surprising to see them in the middle of the graph with connections to just about everywhere. I tried excluding them from graph and it basically had no structural impact at all, more or less confirming this assessment. Of course you get things like "take that" games and "trick-taking" games [that] are very closely associated with card games, so I left it in for clarity and completeness.
I also thought it was interesting to compare opposite sides of the graph. Wargames are directly opposite to Children's games. Highly thematic games in the Fantasy/Fighting, Science fiction, and Cooperative realms are all opposite to Economic (euro-style) games and abstract games. Likewise, games that focus on area control/majority elements and derive much of their deep strategic play from spatial positioning and the like are opposite to party and deduction style games, which emphasize an entirely different sort of player-to-player interactions.