Thursday, February 12


I've been thinking about where I want to go with the company. At the moment, my first full-time year is on track, but even if I meet my goals for the year, I'll not make a profit (I spent a lot of money getting Carpe Astra and It's Alive! manufactured, too late in the year to recoup the cost). I've worked out my targets for next year, which include a significant growth in sales. If I meet them I hope to turn a profit next year and be able to take some money out of the company.

But what do I want to do long-term? Get to the point where I can pootle along, making enough money to live on? Or dominate the world?

There are a bunch of case studies. I'm going to use American companies that do strategy games as case studies, I don't know enough about the German ones and most of the UK ones are run as hobbies (Ludorum, Ragnar Brothers, Fragor), with only Warfrog and JKLM that I know about as a full-time job.

The ones I'm going to concentrate on are: Fantasy Flight, Rio Grande, and Steve Jackson. I don't know anything about Days of Wonder or Z-Man.

Fantasy Flight are the 800lb Gorilla founded in 1995. Their 'American' games are often licences, feature nice art and cool components. According to the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the US their 2006 turnover was $6.2 million dollars, and they had 28 employees in 2007. Nice.

Rio Grande, founded in 1998, predominantly re-publish German games in English, although with Dominion they are branching out into publishing original titles. Again, according to the Inc 5,000, in 2007 Jay had a second employee and a turnover of $4.2 million dollars. That's a lot of turnover per employee.

Steve Jackson Games, founded in 1980, tend to focus on role-played games and lighter games such as Munchkin. According to their 2008 stakeholders report their turnover was $2.9 million dollars and they have 18 full-time employees. 75% of their turnover comes from Munchkin! If you've got a winning product - you need to keep it in print.

So there's a few different results and a few different methods of getting there. So what are my goals in terms of games, turnover and staff?


I want to concentrate on publishing new games. Although re-printing already popular games is a bit less risky (you've got some indication of how popular they are already) I'm not that interested in that, whether it's first English editions of otherwise foreign language games or re-printing out of print games. As to what type of games, I'm still not sure. It's Alive! was fairly light auction game, Carpe Astra a more thinky brain-burning game, Sumeria will be a more family Euro-type game. I think a range is best to start of with, until I find my feet.


It's clear from the numbers I've shown above that there is plenty of money in the games market. But as a newcomer I've got to fight with the established companies to get my share of it. I'd like to get to the point where I can earn a decent living from the company and ideally employ some staff to do the bits I'm not so good at (marketing). It would also be great to have someone to playtest/co-design with during working hours. Fantasy flight do a lot of their games design in-house, and to get to that point you need a whole bunch of talented people on hand. I guess I'd like to be turning over £1 million in 10 years. That's a hard goal, but as the above has shown, it's possible.


As far as I'm aware Z-Man is a one man show. Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande does a stirling job with only one other employee. Steve Jackson and Fantasy Flight are much bigger companies which give them some strength in depth, holiday/sick cover and means they can do a lot of work in-house. I'd like to get several staff (maybe 5 or so) in that 10 year period. Enough so that I can offload some of the drudgery, share in the games design/playtesting and recruit people with skills I'm missing.


How do I get there? That's the hard question. I need to keep coming up with successful games. I need to sell out the print runs I do to maximise my return on investment. I need to strengthen my relationships with distributors and expand my list of distributors to increase the reach of my games. Alliance Game Distributors (the largest distributors in the US) has over 2,000 customers. If each took one copy of Carpe Astra it would have sold out. And that's not including any European or Asian sales. If I can get to the point where I'm regularly doing medium-size print runs (5,000 - 10,000 copies) with 5 or more games in a year I'll be doing alright. Getting there from where I am now is going to be the difficult part. At the moment I don't have enough capital to do runs that large, I need to work up to that. Each game I do has to at least break even, that way I'm growing the money in the company. I think marketing will help there - increasing customer and shops knowledge of my products. What's the best thing to do there? I'm not yet sure. More on that in another post.


Behm said...

Sounds like a plan! These posts on the business side of your work are "must reads." Good luck.

Jack said...

Hiya Behm,

Thanks! I hope the stuff I'm writing is useful/interesting!