W. Eric Martin
Steve Jackson released his annual stakeholder report for Steve Jackson Games in mid-April 2013, with the bottom line coming early in the report: "We were profitable in 2012, on the highest gross ever: just over $7 million, a $2.5 million-dollar increase over 2011!" What's driving sales for SJG? The usual suspect: "The Munchkin line, including the Munchkin Quest boardgame, accounted for about 75% of our sales. Munchkin is now available in 15 languages, with two more licensed." Elsewhere in the report:
-----—"Sales of dice games stayed strong, accounting for 8.35% of total sales. Zombie Dice was our #4 item, ranked by dollars."
-----—"We raised nearly a million dollars with the Ogre Kickstarter (more on that below). That was a dramatic upward tweak to gross sales, but if we hadn't been working on Ogre we would have shipped Castellan and more Munchkin in 2012, so the Kickstarter income was not as huge a distortion as it might first appear." And then this on Ogre: "If it were sold at a normal gaming markup over print costs, it would probably go for around $400, but retail for the base set will be $100. And it will be at least seven months late, and it totally wrecked the 2012 schedule and is impacting 2013, and it just about drove Phil Reed and Sam Mitschke mad as they managed the project, AND we may very well lose money on it when all is said and done."
-----—"In January 2012, our test of Munchkin in Target stores went system-wide. Almost every Target store now stocks Munchkin. And some are testing Munchkin Zombies! Later in the year, Trophy Buck passed its sales trial at Walmart and is now in most Walmart stores.... This re-skin of Zombie Dice was specifically aimed at the mass market, and it is selling well!"
So what will you see from Steve Jackson Games in 2013? This line from SJG's "Priorities for 2013" in the stakeholder report should come as no surprise: "Ship a lot of new Munchkin releases in a variety of formats." This year SJG has already released Munchkin Easter Eggs, the Munchkin Bookmark Collection, and Munchkin Game Changers (a collection of out-of-print boosters that's available exclusively through the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain until 2014); additional Munchkin releases in the works include Munchkin Holiday Surprise (another Barnes & Noble exclusive that will be available at all retailers in June 2013), Munchkin Zombies Decay d6 (June 2013) Munchkin Boxes of Holding 2 (July 2013), Munchkin Apocalypse: Mars Attacks! (Q3 2013), Munchkin Pathfinder (Q4 2013), Munchkin Dragons (2013), Munchkin Level Playing Field (2013) and Munchkin Kobolds Ate My Baby! (Q2 2014). The stakeholder report also mentions an as-yet-unnamed expansion for Munchkin Apocalypse and another expansion (presaumably #4) for Munchkin Zombies.
Aside from the march of Munchkin, which will undoubtedly consist of more than what's summarized above, SJG also plans to release the aforementioned Castellan (June for the U.S. edition, July for the international edition), Chez Guild (Q3 2013), Ogre Pocket Edition (2013) and – last but not least by any measure, including weight and length – Ogre Designer's Edition (2013). Additional items mentioned in passing include a Zombie Dice dice cup and a "school bus" expansion for that same game.
For all the invective directed at Munchkin on BGG, Steve Jackson and company clearly understand and deliver to their market – that market just happens to be present in small quantities on this site. And I had seen Trophy Buck in Walmart a few months ago while looking for something else – naturally I survey the game shelves at whatever stores I visit – and I hadn't thought about its presence as being yet another intrusion of hobby games (however light) into the mainstream market, but indeed it is.