Friday, March 12

Comes a Time

I've been running Reiver Games for three and a half years now. For the first year and a half I was running it as a hobby - making the games by hand in my spare time around a full time job in IT. Two years ago, I decided to give it a go running Reiver Games as a full-time career.

After two years I'm now in a position to determine whether or not I've been successful. For the first three years Reiver Games was both profitable and growing (both turnover and profit growing). This year the turnover will be slightly down on last year and I probably won't be profitable. It's clear that even in the good years I'm earning nowhere near enough money to invest in new games and make a living. My games just aren't selling quickly enough.

I've been in the enviable position of not needing to earn a decent wage for a couple of years, but sooner or later I need to start bringing home the bacon. It's clear the Reiver Games is a long way from doing that at the moment.

So now what? I've got a few options, thanks to my IT training, which can earn a decent wage, and the fact that Reiver Games is not really enough work to keep me busy full-time. My options in preference order are:

  1. Do some part-time work as an IT consultant through Reiver Games. I keep the company running, continue making games and yet still earn a decent wad of cash.
  2. Get a full-time job in IT, working for a company that will let me continue Reiver Games in my spare time. Games production will probably decrease but at least it's still going.
  3. Find a business angel who will invest enough cash in Reiver Games that I can draw a salary from the company.
  4. Shut Reiver Games down, fire-sell the remaining inventory and get a proper job.

I really want to continue running Reiver Games, so Option 4 is a last ditch that I really don't want to do. Furthermore, to get an IT job I'd need more recent programming experience which I don't have.

Interestingly, I've recently been approached by a former employer to see if I want to do Option 1 with them; and a very famous, very successful web company who were wondering whether I'd like to work with them (Option 2 or 4 - not sure which yet). This company is notoriously difficult to get a job with, so I was flattered to be approached by them, and now have a second interview next week.

To get back into the swing of things I've been doing some online coding exercises at TopCoder and making some progress on the Sumeria computer game. It's almost at the point that you can play it on a single computer (only against human opponents). I'll post when the next version is ready.

Which option will I choose? That depends largely on what opportunities I'm provided with - I'm hoping that one of these two developments comes to fruition, and I can choose Option 1 or 2. Either way I'm going to have to sort something out fairly soon.

If you're disappointed that this sounds like the end of Reiver Games, I certainly hope it won't be - and I hope to be announcing my next game within a month or so.

18 comments:

Philip said...

Hope you can figure things out to your satisfaction without checking out of the gaming world. I thought of another option: What about continuing your game design / development with the goal being to find a third-party publisher. You should have more than enough contacts to pull that off, then you can sit back and let the big boys sell your games for you. You can even keep accepting submissions and just split the royalties, etc. I bet you could even sell some of your current games. Just a thought!

Vladimir said...

I support you in your intention to continue running your board game business. Though you should learn how to market your games better on the internet.

Jack said...

Philip:

Thanks! The option of publishing my games through other publishers is a good idea if it was me coming up with the designs, but I've not designed a game in ages, and it's the publishing side of the business that interests me.

Vladimir:

Yeah, trying to find out the best way to market my games (with a limited marketing budget) and supporting my retailers at the same time has been something I've struggled to do effectively.

Cheers,

Jack

Eric Hanuise said...

Jack,
Have you considered setting up a mailorder website to sell your games ?
This could complement or replace the traditional distributor/retailer channel.
(There is obvious competition between both channels so it's a decision to make).
Selling direct is a different business altogether, but it has better margins so with a slightly lower volume than now you could in fact earn more.

Jack said...

Hiya Eric,

I started the company as a web based company, and with the small runs hand-made I could easily sell out. I don't want to go back to making games by hand (the only way of making small enough print runs to sell out via only my website), so I don't think that's a route I want to go down. I've got a really good distribution network, so I want to build on that rather than go back to just selling via my website.

I still do sell a few copies direct, but mostly to countries where I have no distribution.

Cheers,

Jack

Tao - Starlit Citadel said...

Hey Jack; I hope things end up going well for you and you find something that works out. I understand your feelings - we're coming up to year 3 ourselves and looking at the numbers, I can (barely) afford to pay myself a less than minimum wage salary. Hee.

Jack said...

Hiya Tao,

Yeah, it's hard to get started in this industry, you've done very well to get as far as you have.

Cheers,

Jack

David said...

Reality sometimes interferes with our dreams. I've been dealing with similar things recently. At least, it seems, that you have some alternatives that you would enjoy.

Best of luck.

Jack said...

Hiya David,

Yeah, damn reality! Fingers crossed I can sort something out that is a nice mix of earn reasonable money while keeping the dream alive :)

Cheers,

Jack

willsarge said...

Hi Jack, after being thoroughly inspired (and educated!) by your awesome blog this is terrible news. You must come up with a 'third way', without having to consult Count Mandleson!

I still hope to meet you at the UK Game Expo if poss.

will sargent.

NYCgameguy said...

Dear Jack:

Strategic Space is finishing year 3, too, and I picked the angels and expansion route, but I'm still waiting for the visitation. I have to move forward as if it's going to happen, so that when the expansion capital arrives, I have all the vendors and designs ready to meet and get moving.

I still design most of our games, but after having 100% of profits and 100% of control, I've only lost 15% to investors, and I don't think I'd be happy with giving up 90%.

The nice thing about taking just part-time IT work is that it doesn't cut too much into maintaining Reiver, and if you get big orders, you can quit the IT job more easily.

I'm looking at selling thousands of copies of my games instead of dozens. That makes soldiering on as an entrepreneur seem worthwhile, doesn't it?

Mark

Jack said...

Hiya Will,

Thanks for your support :) I've not yet decided whether or not to attend the Expo, without a new game to sell I'm not sure that I'll get many sales - it might not be worth it.

Mark:
Yeah, part-time work would be a nice option, but I don't know how much there is available and what my chances of getting it are. Good luck!

Cheers,

Jack

Kevin the notso Swift said...

Hey Jack,
I just started reading your blog. It is fascinating. I also hope you don't give up. In fact, I am strongly considering a venture to where (in a few months to maybe a year; more if things go slowly) I hope to be ready to start a partnership with a company like yours. Please send me an email. I'd like chat and get to know you to see if we might work together in the future. If you are not interested in emailing back and forth, that's fine. I will just read your blog as I plan to either way. Great blog.

Jack said...

Hiya Kevin,

Thanks for your support. If you'd like to contact me, please email me at jack at reivergames dot co dot uk.

Cheers,

Jack

Kevin said...

Hey Jack,
I very well may contact you. Just a quick note: Have you ever listened to This Week In Startups? It is a podcast focused on tech startups, and while your business is more traditional in terms of selling physical games, I think it is a great podcast for an entrepreneur. The hosts give ideas on how to advertise and manage and well, anything dealing with starting a company. Look it up on the ITunes store. I recommend it highly.

Jack said...

Hiya Kevin,

Thanks for the heads up - I'll have a listen.

Cheers,

Jack

Anonymous said...

Did you see:

http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php/boardgamenews/comments/w_eric_martin_the_gentlemen_of_south_sandwiche_islands_kickstarting_game_ar/

Jack said...

Thanks for the heads up - I'd missed that.

Cheers,

Jack