15 May 2017
The most popular option on my recent poll about upcoming blog posts was for “the current state of Stonemaier Games.” This idea was inspired both by the Tasty Minstrel Games equity crowdfunding project and the Steve Jackson Games stakeholder report.
I particularly like how Steve defines stakeholders as anyone who has an impact on his company and a stake in their success, whether it’s employees, contractors, fans, retailers, distributors, volunteers, artists, designers, backers, readers, etc. I feel the same way.
There’s a lot of information here, and I’ll try to break it down into bite-size chunks. If you’d like me to go into more detail on any of the topics I mention, feel free to ask in the comments.
Stonemaier Games has been in business since August 2012. I (Jamey) own 90% of the company. Since November 2013, I’ve been our only full-time employee working about 80 hours a week, accompanied by Alan and Morten as part-time employees, each working about 7 hours a week.
We’ve produced 5 brands (core products, each with various expansions, promos, accessories, etc), all through Panda Game Manufacturing. To date, including international versions, our total units in print for our 4 games are as follows:
- Viticulture: 45,000 units (BGG rank [Essential Edition]: 34)
- Euphoria: 31,000 units (BGG rank: 282)
- Between Two Cities: 30,000 units (BGG rank: 467)
- Scythe: 100,000 units (BGG rank: 7)
I’ve excluded our realistic resource tokens from that list because we’ve sold them in different ways. More on that in a bit.
We contract to Greater Than Games in St. Louis for warehousing, as I work out of a home office. Paul at GTG also handles our distribution brokerage for in-stock products.
2016 Metrics and Data
Our total revenue in 2016 was just over $3.5 million. We have no debt, nor did we take any loans in 2016. Some other metrics I track (as of May 14, 2017) are:
- e-newsletter subscribers: 29,477 (60% open rate)
- Facebook fans: 10,776
- Twitter followers: 6,579
- ambassadors (volunteers): 2,040
- retailer/distributor mailing list: 469
- international partners for localized games: 23
- website Alexa ranking: 131,541 (avg. 6,591 views per day in 2016)
- Stonemaier Games Design Day attendees: 85
- funds raised by annual charity auction: $5,295
- number of cats (full time): 2
New Products and Campaigns in 2016
- In April I ran a pre-order campaign through our website for the Token Trilogy and metal coins, raising $177,895 from 1,291 backers.
- We started delivering Scythe to Kickstarter backers in May, and the last few backers received their copies in August (the original estimated delivery month).
- In July I ran a pre-order campaign for retailers through our website for Tuscany Essential, selling 3,064 copies of the expansion to 84 different retailers and their customers. We shipped it and the Token Trilogy to customers in November.
Biggest Changes in 2016
Here are some of our biggest changes, listed in chronological order of their implementation:
- New investor: Alan decided to sell some of his shares to an investor who I trusted to have a positive impact on the company.
- Facebook groups: We basically went from nothing to several robust Facebook groups for each of our brands. I spend a lot of time in those groups.
- Prototype creation: I outsource a lot of things, but this was the first time I’ve outsourced the creation of playtest prototypes (the actual printing, cutting, sorting, assembling, etc). Josh has been super helpful, particularly with Charterstone.
- International partners: We significantly increased our focus on partnering with other companies for localized versions of our games, most of which are now available in 14 languages.
- Future Printing Request Form: I created a way for customers to communicate to us on a simple form if they want us to make something, with the promise that if enough people want it, we’ll make it.
- Gen Con: While we had attended Gen Con in the past, we never sold games there. Due to Gloomhaven being behind schedule, we asked Isaac at Cephalofair if he could use the extra money of selling 1,000 copies of Scythe through his booth, and we both benefited from that arrangement.
- Replacement Parts and Ala Carte: We added Mark (UK) and Katy (US) to our replacement-parts team, with Katy also helping with ala carte orders. To date, we have responded to over 5,000 replacement parts requests.
- Promos and Meeplesource: We partnered with a number of content creators and reviewers to offer special promos on their crowdfunding campaigns. Related to this, we started working consistently with Meeplesource to sell our promos to individual consumers and other retailers.
- Top Shelf Gamer: We formally partnered with Top Shelf Gamer to continue to make and sell our realistic resource tokens (including new animal tokens), both to individual consumers and to retailers.
- Quitting Kickstarter: We decided to no longer use crowdfunding or pre-order campaigns for our products, instead focusing on relationships with distributors and retailers.
Biggest Mistakes and Failures in 2016
- Tax Estimates: As mentioned in detail here, I should have adjusted our quarterly tax estimate payments accordingly instead of solely basing them on the previous year.
- Euphoria Expansion: I wasn’t involved enough in the development of Euphoria’s expansion, and then when I got involved, I asked for changes that I should have noted much earlier in the process. This set us back quite a bit.
- Fulfillment Lessons: I learned the hard way that just because a fulfillment center performs well in the past doesn’t mean they’ll perform well in the future. Details here.
- Emotional Awareness: It took a series of events (including a public overreaction on a deep-discount website) for me to realize the full extent of the emotional toll Scythe’s fulfillment had taken on me.
- Failed Partnership: As detailed here, I should have seen the red flags of a partner that simply stopped paying us.
- Customs and Christmas: I should have printed more copies of Scythe earlier, as the fourth printing (and may copies of Invaders from Afar) were stopped–ultimately for no reason at all–at customs for the entire month of December, completely missing holiday sales.
- Lack of Full-AI Digital Games: While I greatly appreciate having our games on Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia, and Boardspace.net, it’s time for us to have full-AI digital versions of our games. Both Viticulture and Scythe are in the works, but they’re really behind schedule. This is the one item on this list that I feel somewhat helpless about–I haven’t been able to find a way to speed up the process.
- The Legacy Impact: I’m really excited about Charterstone, but I spent all of 2016 (plus a few months on either side) designing that game. I enjoyed the challenge, and I hope it brings joy to people, but I need to be more aware of the time commitment involved in certain types of game designs.
Looking Ahead to 2017
Stonemaier Games will stay small and focused. My goal is to release 1-2 new brands each year while supporting existing brands through reprints, expansions, accessories, and occasionally promos.
While some things are too much in flux for me to mention, here’s what I can say:
- Expansions: First we’ll release Between Two Cities: Capitals in July, followed by Scythe: The Wind Gambit in October/November. Hopefully we’ll finally finish the Euphoria expansion, and work on the third (and likely final) Scythe expansion is underway.
- New Releases: Charterstone is our featured new game of 2017 (we’re currently eyeing a late October release).
- In the Works: We’ve signed a game from a new designer; that game is being developed and won’t be ready for release until 2018 at the earliest. I’m also working on a new game, and I’ll probably divide my time between it and several others this year (that’s the perk of not designing legacy games!)
- No Reviewer Promos: While I like to support reviewers through promos, it’s more important to me that our customers feel valued and respected. I think there’s a fine line in regards to creating so much ongoing content that people feel like they’re never going to be able to track it all down.
That’s it! Did I miss anything that you want to know? While I can’t guarantee I’ll feel comfortable answering, it’s fine for you to ask.