Thoughts on the New Year 2017

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2017 is where it is at, folks! Big things are coming, and I’m excited!

The big, big thing is obviously the upcoming release of Gloomhaven in a month or so. It’s already in the hands of a few reviewers, and it’s hard not to get swept up in their enthusiasm, as well. The bottom line, though, is that it is just hard to predict exactly what’s going to happen once the game arrives. The next two months are like this heavy fog that is obscuring anything beyond that, making it difficult to talk about the rest of the year (more…)

Thoughts on the Old Year 2016

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Man, 2016 really was the worst, wasn’t it? It was so much the worst, that it’s become something of a cliche to even talk about how abysmally terrible the year has been. And that was even before Carrie Fisher died.

Ugh. I’ll be happy when this year is over. So many iconic deaths. So much bile and hatred rolled up into a presidential campaign that, well, that ended in a way that made me genuinely sad for the future.

In some ways I’m almost glad that Gloomhaven got delayed until next year (more…)

My experience at Essen Spiel

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So here we are, roughly three days since the halls of Essen closed and everyone went back to their normal lives. It took me a day and a half to get back to my life in Indiana and then another day and a half or so to physically recover and answer all the emails that had piled up since I left. At this point, I think I’m finally ready to talk about my experience.

In one sense, it was really great. I met so many fans and Kickstarter backers, and everyone was very impressed with the game and so excited to see it and talk to me (more…)

So I Guess I’m Going to Essen

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Well, the plane ticket is purchased and the booth is paid for. It looks like I’m going to Essen Spiel this year. I really, really wanted to go last year, but my financial situation was very tight, and I just couldn’t make it work. This year isn’t much better – everything I have is going into printing and shipping as many copies of Gloomhaven as I can – but I figure I can sell enough pre-orders at the show to make it worth the expenditure.

Now, of course, I’ve been apprehensive about doing another convention in a foreign country after the exhausting experience I had doing Gen Con in my own back yard, but I figure doing the pre-orders should make the whole thing much less stressful. The main source of stress at a convention is getting a physical product to the show and then making sure they are all in the right place and they all get sold. Removing the concept of a physical product gives me much less anxiety as I look forward to the convention.

There is some anxiety, though, from a number of sources. First of all, as I said, I need to make it worth my while, so just the idea of having a target number of pre-sales to make causes a little stress, even if there’s no physical product. What makes it especially weird is that the copies of Gloomhaven bound for Europe will already be on a boat when Essen rolls around, and normal pre-sales will already have stopped, since I can’t change that number once the boat sets sail.

That means I need to anticipate the number of pre-orders I am going to make at Essen beforehand and get that many extra copies onto the boat bound for the EU. It’s almost like I do have product at the convention, it’s just that the product is a month late.

There’s also the normal anxiety of traveling to a foreign country and having to figure out where you are going and what you are doing. Luckily, I’ve been to Germany before, but it has been a while. I used to speak German pretty well, actually, but now I could probably only communicate very basic ideas, and only if the person I’m talking to has a lot of patience. I’m hoping it will be good enough to navigate the transportation system and check into the apartment I’m renting.

I guess I’m also hoping that people won’t mind being taught Gloomhaven in English, because I certainly won’t be able to do it any other way.

Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I’ve been lucky enough to find a handful of fans who are regular Essen attendees and have been kind enough to help me out at the booth running demos. Maybe they’ll be able to do German demos. I honestly don’t know how big of a language barrier there is going to be over there. I remember my semester abroad in Heidelberg I spent about 90% of the time speaking English, but that was because I mainly hung out with other Americans.

Don’t judge me.

In addition to the fans, I’m also flying my brother out to help with the booth, which is super-exciting for me. I haven’t seen him in over a year, and I’ve been wanting to have him come out to a convention for a long time now. First it was supposed to be Essen last year, but then that fell through, then he was supposed to come help out at Gen Con last month, but unforeseen circumstances ruined that at the last minute. But this time! Spiel 2016! We’re gonna make it happen!

That is, as long as we can get some advanced final production copies of Gloomhaven in time for the show. That’s pretty much the last hurdle. As long as the production stays on schedule, I’ll be able to show people exactly what a massive, massive beast of a game Gloomhaven is, and I think it’s going to grab a lot of people’s attention.

Creation motivation

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I’m going to start off by saying that I’m am going to try to not go too negative with this post, but it is late and I’m a little rusty, so I may not be able to fully control my stream of thought. It will take us where it may, and it’s possible I’ll be asking your forgiveness by the end.

Who can say “no” to a blog post that starts like that? (more…)

My experience with the GAMA Trade Show

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Las Vegas is not my town.

Despite me running a small business whose purpose should probably be to get as many people as possible to buy my product, the whole consumer culture of America gets to me sometimes. And in no other place is it more on display than in Las Vegas.

Everyone is trying to sell you something. You walk down the Strip and get handed flyers for all kinds of garbage. Sex, happiness, beauty – it’s all for sale. You are even sold the very idea of getting rich. Put your money in that slot machine and maybe, just maybe, you’ll walk away with more money than you started.

I suppose consumerism is everywhere, but there is just something about the raw, in-your-face nature to it in Las Vegas. There’s just one shiny coat of paint between you and the raging id of capitalism. It just makes me uncomfortable.

Plus everything is super-expensive.

And I guess that idea of expenses is what gets me to question whether it was actually worth it to attend GAMA a couple weeks ago. Set in a town trying to squeeze as much money out of me as possible, did the benefits of going to the trade show outweigh the costs? It’s a difficult question to answer.

First let’s look at the benefits. They’re hard to gauge mainly because you are not dealing with direct customer sales. I had a booth, but the purpose was not to sell attendees games. The attendees were mostly retail store owners, so it was more about selling them on the idea of selling the game to their customers.

Two days of sitting at a convention booth with no real feedback on how well I’m doing can be a little rough. Plus, if it wasn’t obvious from the opening paragraphs, I’m not very skilled at hawking my wares in the first place. I mostly just stood there, smiling and saying “Hi” to people, waiting for them to approach me. The one time I tried to actively engage someone as they were walking by, it was incredibly awkward and probably not very productive.

It’s a problem that is totally on me. I love talking about my games, but I’m just not good at spontaneously getting people actually interested in talking to me about them. I’m much better at winning over a captive audience. For the future, now I know that I need to bring someone along to complement my lack of skills in this area.

There were some captive audiences, though, and I feel those went well. I got to give two 10-minute presentations about Forge War and Gloomhaven to an audience of about 30 retailers each. I think I dropped some jaws regarding the size and scale of Gloomhaven. When you say “$120 MSRP,” you gotta be prepared to back it up.

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That sort of gets into another issue, though, with the question of whether I even need to try and sell Gloomhaven at all. Forge War definitely. I’ve got 1500 copies of that in a warehouse and selling more of them is always a good thing. With Gloomhaven, though, I am going to print as many of those suckers as I can, and I’m pretty sure that whatever reasonable amount I am able to print, they will all sell rather quickly no matter what I do.

Maybe they won’t, though. Maybe $120 will scare off a lot of retailers and me justifying the price to them was time well spent.

I think the larger benefit of the show, however, was just the experience I received and connections I made. Again, I’m not a super-social person, but I felt like talked to a lot of cool people – most of them fellow publishers with a lot more knowledge than me. And just being in the belly of the beast, observing the cogs turn, I feel like I gained a lot of insight into the business as a whole.

It’s hard to exactly put that insight into words – it could probably be an entirely separate blog post – but there is a lot more to this industry than just Kickstarter campaigns (in fact, “KIckstarter” was kind of a dirty word at the show). Of course, you may be able to make a living just running Kickstarter campaigns, but it’s helpful to see the other side of the business in order to figure out how much effort you are willing to put towards getting into the thick of it. Right now I go through a distribution broker and it makes everything pretty easy, but there are always other avenues to take.

As for the costs? Well, aside from the monetary costs of hotels, booth space, food, airfare, and other transportation, the bigger issue ended up being losing an entire week of development on Gloomhaven. The project rages on and demands every scrap of time I have in order to get it done in a timely manner, and losing a whole week to the GAMA Trade Show just made me feel terrible. I tried to get some scenarios written in the evenings, but it proved a little difficult.

Considering this game has been in non-stop development for over a year, maybe a single week isn’t that big a deal, but it’s still hard, and it still contributed toward the delays we’ve experienced. I just want to get this game made and get it out there into the world.

So was going to the GAMA Trade Show worth it? I think it was, but I don’t know if I’ll go back next year.

I guess Las Vegas helped me realize that making games is what I am passionate about. Getting down into the heart of capitalism and actually selling them, however – that comes at a distant second.