There's a point during the lifespan of any successful company when you go from initial struggles to comfortable success.
I'm not there yet, but there's some promising signs for the future. At the UK Games Expo I introduced myself to Zev Shlaslinger, the man behind Z-Man Games in the US. Z-Man have made it, they have critical mass. They have a large portfolio of games, including the English version of the extremely popular Agricola which is currently number one on BoardGameGeek. I introduced myself as Jackson Pope, of Reiver Games, expecting a polite 'who the hell is this nutter?' smile. Instead, Zev replies: "I know who you are - I read BoardGameGeek and your blog". Wow! That was unexpected (hi Zev!).
At the bank this morning, my business specialist was also very impressed with my progress in the six months she's known me. Apparently, at the moment most of the people she sees are really struggling, and while my company has yet to pay me a penny, things are going pretty well. I've sold a lot of games and I've got some money coming in every month.
At the moment the company is still in an early cycle. When I bring out a new game I expend a lot of money getting it produced and then it takes a long time to recoup. Doing print runs of a few thousand means my costs per game are pretty high, so I don't get quite as good margins as I should in an ideal world, and the games are slightly more expensive than the larger print run competition. When I've recouped enough money, instead of paying myself, that money is immediately re-invested in producing another game. While I'm at this stage if any of my games are a flop I'm stuffed, I won't get the money back to get another game done.
When will I have critical mass? It's hard to say. If I can get 6-12 games in my portfolio then the residual income from those should be enough to keep me going. A bad decision need not be fatal. Also, with more games I become a more attractive supplier for distributors. Being able to place a reasonably sized order to get shipping discounts is only achievable if they can guarantee to sell the games. Taking 500 copies of a single game (one pallet of Carpe Astra or Sumeria is 504 games) is a big risk, but taking 50 copies of 10 games is much less so.
So in essence all I need to do is keep picking games that turn out to be popular until I've got lots on my books.
Easier said than done...