Yes, I do wake up every day with doubts about our plan to do fewer games. It has been over a year since we started down this path and it has been exactly as hard as we expected, but it has also been very rewarding. It is time for us to start talking about our plans for 2020, and so before we do that I felt it would be a good time to update everyone on our progress so far.
When I have doubts, I can always cue up Moneyball. Sure, we are putting it all on the line. If we weren’t, what fun would that be?
SO, HOW ARE WE DOING?
We are just a bit behind where we expected to be at this point in the process. We have not yet replaced the income from cutting back on the number of games we publish and selling Love Letter, but almost all of our releases this year have out-performed our projections and are individually more profitable than past games.
The plan to give each game more attention at launch is working. From last year, Space Base and War Chest have continued to be strong sellers. From this year, Tiny Towns has been a mega hit, Point Salad is a treat that sold out in one day, and early buzz and pre-orders on Ecos: First Continent tells us that it will also be a winner.
Our choice to move a few key titles to crowdfunding has been great. Thunderstone Quest continues to rock. We were able to relaunch Valley of the Kings, thanks to Kickstarter, and we are preparing the next milestone for Edge of Darkness after successfully delivering the first campaign, to great acclaim.
Our international partnership business is growing rapidly. That is due in small part to the games and in large part to hiring the right person for that crucial position. For the first time in a long time, our international licensing process is being well managed – we’re fortunate that two of our key team members live in Europe and are able to operate locally in that market on our behalf!
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED SO FAR
- Hitting your schedule is even more important when doing fewer games, especially with Kickstarter. We continue to learn the hard lesson that weeks matter. Our schedule slides have cost us more in cash flow than any other mistake this year.
- We are our best first customer. We are publishing games we like to play and that has always been a great benchmark for us. We make games, not products.
- Marketing matters, but boilerplate marketing plans do not. There is no set playbook. Every game must be treated as a unique opportunity. Just sending out copies to reviewers and running a few ads on BGG and in distributor magazines does not work. We would like to have a special promotion to help drive awareness for each new game and give it a chance to grab a part of the spotlight, and that means doing more than basic marketing.
- Even when doing fewer games it is very hard to have two games in the spotlight at the same time. It’s crazy, but true. There can be 15 games in the spotlight in the industry from different companies, but put two games from the same company on that list and they almost always split mindshare. Also crazy, really good games can get lost in the buzz of other games. Take Big Game Night this year. All three games (Curios, Walking Burano, and Point Salad) are doing great but Point Salad is just going ballistic, so even when people talk about the other games (and they are) the sheer volume of voices for Point Salad are drowning out the message. * NOTE: I am keenly aware that by pointing this out I am adding to the problem. Right now you are thinking “what is this Point Salad he is talking about” and not thinking “I should look at all three of these games.” 🙂 Nathan from Pandasaurus Games wrote a timely blog about this subject last week. The-Super-Star-Problem
- New game selection is even harder than expected. I knew when we chose to do fewer games that it would make final decisions about what to publish even harder. We continue to attack this with a PLAY MORE mentality and we continue to cultivate new ways of working with designers.
SO WHAT IS NEXT?
We are about to unveil many of our plans for 2020 over the next two months. As we do so, I will try and point out the things we are doing differently from past years and why we chose to make the changes.
Ecos: First Continent Launch Plan – (Week of Sept 16) Coming next week our launch plan for our third FLGS core release this year.This is our major release for the holiday season that begins with the Essen show in Germany.
Edge of Darkness Kickstarter 2 – (Week of Sept 23) Announced last week, it is launching September 23 and we are preparing for this now. The new content is amazing and we have added some upgrades to the base game. Due to the size and production cost of this game, it had a very limited retail release. The best way to guarantee receiving a copy is to support this second Kickstarter.
Larkstone Phase 2- (Week of Sept 30) It is the first anniversary of the AEG gaming house. We have have doubled down and renewed the lease for another year and we are upgrading the house and inviting you in. Upgrades, new programs, play days.
Big Game Night 2020 (Week of October 7) BGN continues to grow, and after 12 months of game pitches we have our scheduled games for BGN release under development and will roll out the plan to grow this event in 2020.
Kickstarter 2020 (Week of October 14) New Games, New Ideas, New Worlds. AEG will be leveling up your KS experience, searching for lost treasures and setting sail for new adventures.
Find your Inner Compass (Week of October 21) Just in time for Essen, AEG will show off the first games from our 2020 Brick and Mortar release schedule.
As you can see, doing fewer games does not mean doing less work. I will also continue my Sunday history series where I wax poetic about the fun we’ve had over the last 28 years.