4 March 2019 | 40 Comments
Last year and the year before, inspired by Steve Jackson Games, I released stakeholder reports for Stonemaier Games. It’s time for this year’s report.
A “stakeholder” in Stonemaier Games is anyone who has an impact on our company and a stake in our success, whether it’s employees, contractors, fans, retailers, distributors, volunteers, artists, designers, backers, readers, etc. So if you’re reading this, the report is for you.
2018 Revenue and Personnel
We use the accrual method for accounting (expenses and revenue count in the year when we ship the products to the customer). Last year, 64% of our sales were to distributors, 26% to localization partners, and 10% directly from consumers and partners like Meeplesource, Top Shelf Gamer, and Inked Gaming.
- Revenue: $9.6 million
- Full-time employees: 1
- New games: 2
- New expansions: 2
- New accessories: 3
- Kickstarter campaigns: 0
- Preorder campaigns: 7
For comparison, revenue was $7.1 million in 2017. While I’m not comfortable discussion profit (arguably the most important number), I will say that it was significantly less than revenue. We consistently reprint almost all of our games, so the majority of our profits are reinvested into reprints.
We have no debt, nor did we take any loans in 2018. Cash flow was very tight at certain times of the year, depending on the gap between when we need to pay Panda (our manufacturer) and when distributors pay us.
I (Jamey) am still our only full-time employee. Alan (our co-founder) works around 5 hours a week, as does Morten (though Morten now runs Automa Factory, a separate company that creates solo modes for our games and others, full time). We work with many independent contractors to accomplish specific tasks (artists, graphic designers, web devs, proofreaders, playtesters, etc). I own 90% of the company, and the rest is divided between a few key parties.
We also continue to contract Greater Than Games (a fellow St. Louis company) to provide warehousing, distribution brokerage, and fulfillment for our products. The addition of Alex Schmidt there has made a hugely positive impact on that relationship. I still run Stonemaier Games out of my home office.
We paid our estimated taxes quarterly. Our sales tax payment will be much higher than previous years due to the new rules for it.
We have a number of different SKUs (expansions, accessories, promos, realistic resources, etc), but our core products are 8 games. The quantities below are the lifetime units in circulation for each game in all languages as of the end of 2018, and the BGG rankings are as of today.
- Viticulture: 82,280 (BGG rank: 20)
- Euphoria: 35,000 (BGG rank: 342)
- Between Two Cities: 39,900 (BGG rank: 507)
- Scythe: 254,078 (BGG rank: 7)
- Charterstone: 77,500 (BGG rank: 138)
- My Little Scythe: 47,500 (BGG rank: 817)
- Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig: 36,500 (BGG rank: 890)
- Wingspan: not in print in 2018 (BGG rank: 216)
Scythe continues to be our most lucrative brand, followed by Viticulture.
2018 was the first year that we released more than 1 game, jumping all the way up to 2 total games! Neither My Little Scythe nor Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig were designed by me, though I had a hand in their development.
Our new expansions were Visit from the Rhine Valley and The Rise of Fenris. And the new accessories were the Scythe neoprene playmat, Scythe Encounters, and Scythe metal mechs. We also rereleased the Viticulture wine glasses and (thanks to Print & Play Productions) the Arboriculture and Formaggio modules to Viticulture/Tuscany.
The biggest surprise to me has been Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig. I love this game (it would easily be on my Top 10 list if it were eligible), but it just hasn’t sold as well as I’d hoped and predicted. I still have hope that the game will bring joy to many more people, so I continue to send copies to reviewers and play-and-win sections at conventions. It definitely has made me more cautious about first print runs of new games, though.
Social Media and Other Metrics
- e-newsletter subscribers: 38,210 (54% open rate)
- Facebook fans: 17,840 (though most interactions are in our Facebook groups, which have over 30,000 members)
- Twitter followers: 12,437
- YouTube subscribers: 13,349
- Instagram followers: 10,913
- Stonemaier Champions: 3,469
- ambassadors (active volunteers): 1,526
- retailer/distributor mailing list: 635
- international localization partners: 21
- website Alexa ranking: 104,985 (avg. 6,141 views per day in 2017)
- Stonemaier Games Design Day attendees: 82
- game submissions (including Gen Con): 205
- funds donated to charities as a result of our annual auction: $15,400
- number of cats (between Jamey, Alan, and Morten): 4
I added a few types of engagement in 2018. Every Wednesday at 10:00 am CST, I go on Facebook Live via the Stonemaier Games FB page and just talk about Stonemaier Games, discuss random topics, and answer questions. I have a lot of fun with it, and it’s nice that the videos remain on the page for people to watch on their own schedule.
I was really slow to get into Instagram, but I decided to give it a try last year, and I love it. I post a photo (usually with a question or topic) every morning. Most of my posts are about board games I’m playing, and I try to post something Stonemaier related every week or so. My cats also make frequent appearances.
As I discussed recently, the Stonemaier Champion has blossomed well beyond my original projections. Also, every since I added the longer “Sunday Sitdown” videos to my YouTube channel about game design, viewership has skyrocketed. I still post 2 short “my favorite game mechanism” videos each week, but it’s been interesting to see how well people respond to 20-minute videos each Sunday. Apparently shorter doesn’t necessarily mean better!
- Preorder campaigns: I ran brief preorder campaigns through our webstore for each new product we released in 2018. This was a huge change from 2017. I think this is a good way for us to serve customers who want to guarantee they’ll get new products upon release. Given that the preorder periods are very short and that we already have the product in stock when we run the preorders (creating a much shorter gap between announcement and retail release than Kickstarter campaigns), my hope is that that the resulting buzz has a dramatically positive impact on long-term retail sales.
- Shipping expenses and profit: A downside to the preorder campaigns is that our shipping expenses significantly increased in 2018 to over $1.5 million (fulfillment, freight shipping, and warehousing). Even though our margins are better on direct sales than sales to distributors and localization partners, those shipping costs had a big impact on our overall profit.
- Scythe Digital: Finally, there is a digital version of one of our games! It took a while, but thanks to the efforts of The Knights of Unity and Asmodee Digital, Scythe is available to play on Steam (expansions and other platforms are forthcoming). Time will tell if this has a positive impact on tabletop sales.
- Game Trayz: With another St. Louis company, Game Trayz, shifting their model to designing trays to be produced with games (instead of as a third-party accessory), we’ve added them to a number of our games. My Little Scythe, Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Wingspan, and the latest reprint of Euphoria all include Game Trayz organizers inside the box.
- Amazon MAPP: As I detailed in a recent article, we tested a minimum-advertised price policy specific to Amazon and Amazon vendors…and then we ended the experiment. The article explains why we did this, so I won’t go into it here.
- Video captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing: Thanks to some key volunteers, especially Andre Ribera, throughout 2018 we added human-generated captions to all Stonemaier-related Watch It Played videos.
- Stonemaier Fan Channel: For the first time, we started sponsoring another content creator. Dusty Craine hosts a YouTube channel where he posts weekly videos about Stonemaier-specific topics of his choice. He’s not a reviewer, just a fan. If you are too, I highly recommend The Mill.
Looking Ahead to 2019
- A Game by Jamey Stegmaier: While I think we’ve seen that Stonemaier Games can thrive without games designed by me, I’m curious to see if people value my games differently (more/less/same) than they value any Stonemaier game. We’ll find out later in 2019.
- No Gen Con: While Stonemaier Games will have a presence at Gen Con thanks to a shared booth run by Meeplesource, I won’t actually be in attendance. Nothing against Gen Con, but I already engage our audience in a variety of ways online, and Gen Con is exhausting and expensive. We honestly don’t know if it’s a good decision, but we like to experiment, so we’re going to try it this year.
- More Digital Games: Scythe is a start, and Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator are great, but for the reasons mentioned in this article, I’d really like to offer more digital ports of our games. We currently have development partners working on Viticulture, Charterstone, Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and Wingspan.
- Better Demand Forecasting: The Wingspan debacle was in 2019, but Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig was actually my first reminder that we need to improve our demand forecasting. Or maybe just print conservative quantities of new products and adjust our approach with distributors and retailers so they have more time to tell us exactly how many copies they want.
If you want to express your opinion/desire for anything we’re creating or considering, please fill out our future printing request survey.
I want to continue to learn, make mistakes, experiment, and listen to our stakeholders. Thank you for challenging me in healthy, constructive ways in 2018, and I look forward to experiencing the rest of 2019 with you.
Do you have any thoughts, observations, or questions about this report? Please let me know in the comments.
If you gain value from the 100 articles Jamey publishes on his blog each year, please consider championing this content!