Friday, March 26

The Goodwill Of Others

Yesterday I posted a Geeklist on BoardGameGeek describing my two years trying to get Reiver Games to the the point where it could support me as a full-time employee who draws a reasonable salary.

I've had to admit in the last couple of weeks that Reiver Games is still a long way from that point and that I need to bring in some money way before Reiver Games reaches that point. So I need to take some form of gainful employment and run Reiver Games in the background. I've really enjoyed running Reiver Games and I want to continue to do so.

What stood out on the Geeklist was the goodwill of several of the commenters. Several people were disappointed that it hadn't worked out for me, several offered their sympathy.

A couple of guys who had visited my stand at Essen felt bad for not buying a copy of Sumeria, despite it not being their sort of game! While that sentiment is nice, I don't want to do well because people feel sorry for me, or because they want me to live my dream. I want people to buy my games of course. But I want them to buy my games because they think the game will provide enough enjoyment to make it worth the cost. I want them to be bought and played until they fall apart, not sit on a collector's shelf as another unplayed game in their collection.

What also stood out was the comment by my friend and playtester Paul:

I'll keep supporting you and sending good wishes your way whatever shape Reiver Games takes - I still believe that if anyone can make it in this industry it's you! And I promise, in public, that I will purchase at least one copy of every Reiver Games publication to do my part to keep you in biccies! Maybe others could do the same ?!? If your next project is the one we've playtested then I AM OFFICIALLY VERY EXCITED!!!! It is an awesome game of much awsomeness! With extra awesome on the side! It will be perfect present material for friends (both gamers and non I think) and has been enjoyed by all the York fraternity who have tried it so far. Good luck! Don't give up!

Paul's pledge is incredibly generous. It's in no small part due to his generosity, his compulsive collecting of games and his friendship and wish for me to succeed. But I like to think it's also because we have a similar taste in games and he figures anything I publish will be to his tastes. Paul is a True Fan.

With 3,000 true fans I'd have sold out of all my games. But that's one in every 2,200,000 people in the world population. Considering most of the world population will never hear of me or my company, and of the proportion that might have a slight chance of stumbling across me most have no interest in board games it's a pretty tall order.

What I need to work out is how to reach those potential true fans and convert them. The games I like are pretty popular - there must be more people out there who would like It's Alive!, Carpe Astra and Sumeria if they played them. How do I get the games in front of them?

Monday, March 15

Sumeria Computer Game v0.2

As promised last week, there's a new version of the Sumeria computer game available for download and testing.

This version is a big step up from the last version in that you can actually play the game! However, there's still some functionality missing: noticeably, there's no AI (all human players) and you have to play on a single machine (no play by email/online functionality).

The setup file will run on a windows computer, and requires version 3.5 of the .Net Framework. Please feel free to download and play it and post any feature requests, feedback or bug reports in the comments below.

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.

Tuesday, March 2

Promotion Response

Three weeks ago I mentioned that I was trying to set up a promotion to encourage US shops to stock my games, and to help those that already stock my games to sell more.

The deal was that Alliance one of my US distributors, who have my games on consignment would offer my games at a discount price to their retailers. The games would be offered at 25% of US MSRP to shops that buy from Alliance. The restriction was that each shop could only buy at most one copy of each game, for demo purposes only - this wasn't a way for the shops to get cheap copies for resale.

The way my consignment deal works with Alliance is that at the beginning of each month they email me purchase orders for all the copies they've sold during the previous month, and then I invoice them for those sales.

This means I've got a very good idea of how well the deal is going, since I'm told at the end of the month how many copies they've sold. Sales last month were up on January's sales, and I know that in the first two and a half weeks of the deal they've sold 28 copies of It's Alive!, 32 copies of Carpe Astra and 25 copies of Sumeria through the deal. Since I know that each shop can only buy a single copy of each game I know that at least 32 shops have taken advantage of the offer already.

I arranged to offer the promotion for a month, and then we'd check how it was going and work out whether it was worth continuing it. I'll be checking in with my buyer at Alliance in a week or so to work out whether it's worth continuing the promotion.

In the meantime, I'll be able to track over the coming months whether sales seem to have increased (remembering the seasonal dip in sales at this time of year).

One thing I'm still not sure about. Why the differences in sales of the promotional copies? Why has Carpe Astra sold more than the others (considering it's my slowest selling game overall). I'm also wondering whether the total is more than 32 (i.e. did every retailer than bought a cheap copy of It's Alive! and Sumeria also buy Carpe Astra, or are there more than 32 takers?