Ryan and I had a plan, and we thought it was a good one. Five Rings Publishing would grow by finding multiple CCGs to run at the same time. We believed, from our limited experience with L5R, that we could find similar themes and segments that could be at least the size of L5R. We had already talked about the idea for a western CCG and a pirate-themed game, and we had become friends with multiple other talented small development houses looking for a publisher.
Bob had arranged a meeting with potential angel investors in Seattle, so Ryan and I polished up the pitch package and I headed up for the meeting. Bob gave us the rundown on the potential investors, most had made their money in the Seattle tech market and the amount we were asking for was not a huge sum. Show them what we have and we will close this deal. So Ryan and I hit them with our pitch. We outlined a three- and five-year plan to grow AEG into the publisher of multiple CCGs each year, adding more new games than we retired and growing the business exponentially. When we were done, both of us were sure we had hit the mark . . . then when the lights came on, Bob took over.
It was kind of a blur, but HIS pitch to the investors went something like this:
“Didn’t I tell you, these are two smart kids. That is why I decided to help them and why we invited you here to hear our plan. And it is a good plan, but there is another option . . . Here is what I suggest: We are going to take their plan and your money and we are going to start running towards a cliff as fast as we can.”
What did Bob just say?
He then turned to Ryan and me and said, “There is no reason we can’t take this five-year plan and do it in much less time; right? We have the contacts and already have a plan for the games we will do.”
Back to the investors now. “Like I said, we will take this plan and condense it and we will run as fast as we can towards that cliff. And when we get there, we are going to jump off.” Dramatic pause. “And we are either going to crash and burn or we are going to soar like an eagle and take this industry by storm.” He added a soaring eagle arm movement for effect.
Ryan and I stood there with our mouths open. The investors looked at Bob and said, “Yes, let’s do that.”
And that was pretty much it. We learned a quick lesson that day. People with a little money to invest want it protected and want to make a decent return. Some people want high risk, high reward. I was a little shell-shocked, but we had just locked down enough significant investment to move forward. Ryan had shifted gears before we left the room and was already altering the plan from what I considered reasonable to blitz. Ryan would start locking down deals and I would continue selling and developing L5R.
Back at the AEG offices our main focus was Samurai. AEG had grown and we had added staff. We were still publishing Shadis, and all through 1996 we were enjoying growing the magazine. Marcello Figuroa came in and took over advertising sales, and he immediately crushed all my sales records. Wizards of the Coast was buying up 8 to 12 ad spaces an issue——which was great—but Marcello had a real connection with other games and game companies. He could find something great in every game he looked at, no matter how bad they were. He would find bizarre compliments for games about obscure rules and absolutely mean it. It was genuine. And people loved it, so they advertised in Shadis.
We were also deep into the first story arc of the L5R CCG. By mid-1996 FRPG had sold through all of the Imperial Edition print run and had a second printing (Emerald) of the Base Set coming in August. FRPG released the Shadowlands, Forbidden Knowledge, and Anvil of Despair expansions in 1996. AEG’s team was not only developing the game, but also managing the storyline and running events. As the year ended we could now see the end of the L5R storyline coming and we had a big decision to make.
Next week: A fight about ending the story or ending the game. And the biggest Lion Clan fan kills his champion and favorite character.