“May more than any other month of the year wants us to feel alive.”
May is pretty awesome. I live in California so we do not get the major change from winter to spring like other places but the flowers are blooming, the barbecue has a fresh propane tank, and we can game on the patio. While much of the world is shaking off the snow and cold and spring festivities have started, there is work to be done. Well, work to be done after I get my reservations for Star Wars land sorted out….
May could be the most important month of the year for a game publisher, at least it is for AEG. It is decision month for quite a few major items that happen every year.
May is our drop-dead deadline for all things to do with Gen Con. The truth is all decisions should have been made months ago, but we fret about plans for Big Game Night and what we will feature at the booth. This week we put in orders for new booth decorations, uniforms, finalize the volunteer lists, and decide exactly how much product comes with us to the show. (Too little and you are sold out on Thursday; too much and you waste all your profit shipping it home.)
May is also the month we make final decisions for Essen. The wire for the booth payment is always due in May. And the logistics to attend the show and get items into Germany are a little tougher than Indiana.
Our production team is preparing for their pre-Gen Con trip to China. They will double-check and make sure all of the Gen Con items are completed and getting on the boats in time to arrive with no issues. And this year they are putting the finishing touches on Edge Of Darkness, the game that has been our biggest production challenge ever. Every game company is trying to make sure games get here before Gen Con. We have found that putting boots on the ground helps make sure there are fewer communication issues.
May is also the month that we set the schedule for the next calendar year. I love whiteboards, and my office always has many of them. My current office has a giant double-sided board and I also have giant Post-it notepad sheets that cover every wall. We already have a tentative schedule, as the process started last year. In fact, about this time last year because while we are finalizing our 2020 schedule we are also sketching out ideas for 2021.
We have 10 or so projects to fill four core spots on the final schedule. I have already made the tough decisions about which ones cannot be considered for 2020 for a myriad of reasons; production challenges, development hiccups, or the game just not fitting our current needs. Big Game Night 2020 is close to locked in. And we know what our big Kickstarter projects will be and have a good idea of when they will hit.
The most important decision for me and one that has to be made in the next week or so is which game will be the first release of 2020. We have three that are close enough to cross the finish line in July when they would need to go to press, so I am playing all of them and debating which one will lead us into the new year. Choosing when to release a new game is not as simple as “When it’s ready, ship it!” The gaming year has very specific marketing beats for us, and we look at the major shows as the places where the volume on a great game can get turned up.
May is also the month where you traditionally sort out your print runs for reprints of older games for holiday sales. Due to the slim margins on board games, these decisions are big debates between a group of us to make sure we have the right rhythm of backstock coming and going but also don’t wake the cash-flow monster.
This all leads into our biggest upcoming decision. How much Tiny Towns do we reprint? I am happy to say that Tiny Towns is doing as well as we had hoped it would and the initial print run has sold out. AEG has held back some stock to allocate to distribution for the next few months and they will be getting information on this next week. The next print run is already in the works. We printed more copies of Tiny Towns than we have of any other new release. We had a strong feeling that even this big print run was not enough, but while you must trust your gut you can not risk everything on a single swing. For now, we are just excited that we have put another game into the world that people are playing. We want to thank our partner distributors and retailers for embracing this one and continuing to support our lines.