The Truth About Stonemaier Games

23 May 2019 | 297 Comments

Recently Stonemaier Games and myself (Jamey Stegmaier) came under criticism for some of my business practices. I welcome questions in search of the truth and fact-based criticism, though the manner in which it’s communicated impacts how, when, and where I respond to it.

With the help of my coworker and part-time employee, Morten, I’ve summarized some of the key points of recent criticism. I’m going to reply with the truth. I’m not trying to convince you of anything—I fully respect your freedom to judge me and Stonemaier Games based on facts.

As is always my intention on this blog, my hope is that what I share here will help other creators learn from the mistakes I’ve made and tell a cautionary tale of what can happen for a company that sells both to consumers (through Shopify) and to a variety of distributors (through our broker).

Criticism #1: No forecasting

You didn’t forecast properly for Wingspan: No use of partners in forecasting, no attempt to use previous experience, no inclusion of preorder numbers. It always is that way for Stonemaier and Jamey doesn’t care.

It’s absolutely true that I did not forecast properly for Wingspan. Last summer I told a few distributors that we had a bird-themed Euro game that I was excited about but also concerned how hobby gamers would respond to it. Based on that information, I asked them how many copies they thought I should make, and they all recommended around 10,000 units in the first print run. Ultimately, I made the decision to print 10,000 units—I take full responsibility for that. That quantity was informed by both my previous experience and by the distributors.

The way I asked those distributors wasn’t particularly helpful. It’s one thing to say “bird-themed Euro game”; it’s quite another to show them the art and components, talk about the mechanisms, and provide a rough price point. Also, I should have consulted a number of distributors and retailers, a method I’ve employed for our next release.

As for me not including preorder numbers in that decision, that’s also true. We didn’t accept orders for Wingspan from distributors until after the game was printed; that’s just not our method for marketing a game (rather, we make the game, share information about it, send it to reviewers, and then, when the game is ready to ship to distributors, we accept orders).

I truly care about improving demand forecasting, and not just in cases like Wingspan where I want to have enough copies to sell to any distributor or consumer who wants them—I also want to be able to better predict when a game isn’t going to sell as well as I’d hoped. That’s the case with Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig. I absolutely love the game and went in strong with a 20,000-unit first print run, and we still have several thousand copies in our warehouse.

Criticism #2: Intentional scarcity

You intentionally created a shortage of Wingspan to generate hype.

I genuinely wish I had made enough Wingspan in the first print run for everyone who wanted a copy. Everyone wins if I print the right quantity—Stonemaier, distributors, and retailers make money, consumers get the game they want in a timely manner, and I avoid pretty much every problem I’ve encountered with the game. There was absolutely no strategy based around scarcity.

Of course, it’s difficult to prove this unless you’re in my mind, so let me describe the Wingspan print run story.

Wingspan’s first print run was 10,000 units; it began in August 2018. The second print run was 5,000 units; it began in December 2018. That print run’s size was based on me having made 5,000 extra sets of non-printed components along with the international versions of the game, just in case I needed them earlier than expected. I began the third print run (15,000 units in early January during the preorder period, which was the time at which I became aware how surprisingly popular Wingspan turned out to be.

So that’s 30,000 copies of the game entering production before a single customer had received a copy. Should I have made even more? Absolutely (and we are—currently we have 4 print runs in various stages of production). But 30,000 is a lot of games and there’s a limit to how many tens of thousands of copies a factory can produce on short notice on top of the production they’ve already committed to for other publishers and it takes a few months from a print run is ordered to it arrives at retailers. There’s also a limit to how large print runs Stonemaier cash flow allows. Significant overproduction can have a severe impact on a company of our size.

I have an example that demonstrates how it simply isn’t a Stonemaier strategy to use scarcity as a strategic tool. The example is Gen Con. I don’t mean this as criticism, but some publishers ship in 200 copies of a hot game that everyone runs to buy when the doors open. This is both using scarcity as a tool and managing risk (no publisher wants to be stuck with 500 games they need to ship back to their warehouse).

But that’s not what Stonemaier does. We try to send the maximum number of games to the convention to sell. That was the case with Scythe at Gen Con in 2016 and 2017 (nearly 1000 units each year) and both My Little Scythe (500 units) and The Rise of Fenris (nearly 1000 units) in 2018. I don’t want to scare people into rushing in to buy. That’s also the case for every print run of our games—regardless of the actual outcome of whether we have too many or too few products, scarcity and intentional shortages truly are not part of Stonemaier strategy.

[UPDATE: There’s now a detailed post on Mechanics and Meeples about some of the decision points that go into making a new print run.]

Criticism #3: Incompetently reprinting too few products

There are always too few copies of Stonemaier products. This is particularly true for Wingspan reprints which you should have done sooner and in larger quantities. Scythe and expansions are almost always almost impossible to get in stock; you know that retailers don’t have stock of these products, yet you don’t help them.

My main source of data is a monthly report I get from our broker telling me how many copies of our products we have in stock at the warehouse. That’s it. Just because my broker will sell 5000 copies of Viticulture to distributors over the next few months doesn’t mean that individual stores do or don’t have it.

For our biggest sellers, Scythe, its expansions and Viticulture, it is true that our broker sells them very quickly to distributors whenever they arrive at our warehouse. It’s for that reason that we consistently reprint them. However, there is no centralized, worldwide inventory system that lets us see data for each store.

I could look at individual online retailers to see what they have or check online price comparison sites, which generally shows our products to be in stock. On a store level I would literally have to call each store.

Sometimes retailers will contact me to say that they’re having a hard time stocking a specific game, but that form of contact is incredibly rare for Scythe and other products. If anything, it’s a retailer asking when a product will be back in stock, and I point them to my monthly retailer update, which indicates very specifically which products are in stock and when out-of-stock products will be back in stock.

Criticism #4: Too short window for retailers

You gave retailers too little time (10 days) to order Wingspan compared to industry standard of weeks or months.

I announced the existence of Wingspan on November 28, 2018 to 35,000 e-newsletter subscribers, then a few days later to 600+ retailers and distributors worldwide. My broker issued allocations to distributors in the US and Canada the second week of January, with March 8 as the release date. So retailers had over 3 months between the announcement and the retail release date. I’m not sure what the distributor deadlines for retailer orders were; that’s something that distributors coordinate, not publishers.

Criticism #5: Prioritizing Amazon over retailers

You dumped games on Amazon, leaving 0 for FLGS in America for the first print run. Also, during holidays, Stonemaier only sells games to Amazon and not retailers.

One of my goals at Stonemaier Games is to reach customers as they wish. Some consumers want to buy from their local stores; others from online hobby retailers; others directly from the publisher; others from Barnes & Noble; and others through non-hobby online stores like Amazon. I see it as my responsibility to cater to all of those different customers to the best of my ability.

We sell our games to dozens of hobby game distributors worldwide, along with a distributor in the US (Flat River Group) that sells to big online non-hobby stores like Amazon.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com. I highly value all of our distributor relationships, and this one is particularly important because I’ve found that if we don’t control the supply chain to Amazon through someone we trust, Amazon will find a way to buy our games from other sources that aren’t nearly as open and transparent with us.

Our distributor allocations are based on their ordering history over the last year. It’s a formula that my broker uses. I typically just let them handle allocations, as that’s what a broker does, but I think I should have posed this question for Wingspan in early January: Should we use that formula for a heavily allocated new release or should we make temporary adjustments towards our goal of serving all consumers to the best of our ability? It’s my fault for not having that conversation.

For the first print run of Wingspan, every distributor received some copies of Wingspan. The second print run was allocated only among US and Canadian distributors, and the third print run was again sent to all distributors. Out of all copies of Wingspan sent to distributors over those print runs, hobby game distributors received 85% of the games.

We sell to a variety of distributors year-round. There is no separate holiday policy. Looking at my distributor purchase document for the 2018 holidays, we sold games to 28 different distributors worldwide, including every hobby distributor in the US. That’s a fact that any distributors can confirm if they choose to disclose their purchases.

Criticism #6: Falsely claiming to be FLGS-friendly

You falsely claim to be FLGS-friendly. This is evidenced by (a) you never provide demo copies for stores (via distributors), (b) make games available at store openings, (c) the price of Scythe was raised by $10, (d) selling to Amazon, and (e) your unwillingness to communicate with retailers.

Is Stonemaier Games the most retailer-friendly publisher? Definitely not. Are there things that we do specifically for retailers? Absolutely. I have a whole list here; a quick summary is that we prominently feature a retailer locator on our website and on our e-newsletter (the retailer locator has been viewed over 31,000 times over the last 3 months–some people are discovering local stores because of Wingspan), we no longer use Kickstarter, we have a monthly retailer e-newsletter, and we support our games with expansions, accessories (our own and third-party) marketing, game-specific Facebook groups, ongoing review copies, and ongoing play-and-win copies for conventions.

There are certainly also ways that Stonemaier could be much less friendly to retailers, yet I’ve actively chosen not to do those things. For example, when the 7-day Wingspan preorder greatly exceeded my expectations, I could have simply left the preorder open and sold every copy of the first print run, leaving none for distributors. My profits would have been significantly higher. Instead, I cut off the preorder.

As a result, I’ve since decreased our preorder period for new products to only 4 days, after which I end direct orders and designate the remaining products to distributors (if they want them). I did that for the Euphoria expansion, and I’m doing that for the Scythe modular board.

Our method for providing demo copies is that we authorize distributors to purchase games from us at a steep discount to provide to stores at an almost equally steep discount as demo copies. In fact, I have an ongoing reminder of this option in our monthly retailer/distributor e-newsletter:

It is true that I raised the MSRP for Scythe to $90 on January 1, 2019. We were selling Scythe at an unsustainable price, and I had to fix it. At an $80 MSRP, distributors were purchasing Scythe from us for $32 (a 60% discount). Scythe costs us over $18 to manufacturer and around $2 to freight ship from China to the US. So for every copy of Scythe we sell to a distributor, we were making $12 in profit…and then spending that to make more Scythe (even though another copy of Scythe costs us $20 to make and ship). It’s that gap between profit and reprint cost that is unsustainable (and why it’s important for us to be able to sell some games directly to consumers).

Last is the idea that I’m unwilling to communicate with some retailers. I communicate mostly over e-mail, and I’m happy to e-mail with 99.99% of retailers. However, it’s absolutely true that there are a few retailers who have aggressively and persistently harassed me both publicly and privately. I’m human, and I don’t respond well to harassment. So, I stopped responding to those retailers.

Criticism #7: MAPP

MAPP was used to drive sales to Amazon. Using “hide price” on Amazon was the only way for retailers to compete and it wasn’t against the policy. Then you changed the policy so that retailers came to be in violation. Only retailers were held to MAPP, not Amazon. This meant that it was impossible for retailers to sell anything. You didn’t let retailers know when the policy was taken down and they only learned about this from distributors by chance.

I have a big writeup about “Our 6-Month MAPP Experiment and Why It Failed,” so I won’t rehash all of that here. However, I can provide some facts about some of these criticisms.

MAPP was not used to drive sales to Amazon. I’m not quite sure I even understand the logic behind that, as our MAPP was Amazon-specific—it was actually motivated by repeated requests from FLGS owners to serve them better by addressing price-tanking by third-party vendors on Amazon.

The MAPP experiment was a work in progress that evolved over time. For example, early on in the process, if I said a vendor violating MAPP, I would instantly blacklist them (i.e., ask distributors to no longer sell to them). However, I quickly realized that many Amazon vendors didn’t know the MAPP existed (i.e., they hadn’t read their distributor’s communication about the MAPP), so I started contacting vendors first to let them know they were violating MAPP. If I heard back from them and they adjusted their prices, I didn’t report them to distributors.

Similarly, I learned along the way that some retailers were using a method I wasn’t aware of when the MAPP began that involved a discounted price appearing in the customer’s cart. It wasn’t in the spirit of the MAP policy. So, I adjusted the policy, and any vendors who followed the adjusted terms were able to continue buying our products from distributors.

The way I hoped the Amazon MAPP would work was that Amazon’s price would not dip any lower than the lowest vendor price. That worked to a certain extent, but over time I realized that Amazon’s algorithm was much more far-reaching than I previously thought, and it simply wasn’t fair to retailers. I detailed this on my blog post about MAPP:

It was a well-intentioned, but failed attempt to help retailers and I’m sorry about the effects it had. Therefore I ended our Amazon MAPP on October 30, 2018. I announced it on our November 6 retailer/distributor e-newsletter:

***

I hope this information is useful for you, whether you’re a curious onlooker, a subscriber, or a fellow creator looking to avoid the many mistakes I’ve made (if you like reading about my mistakes, I have an entire series of blog posts about them).

I genuinely welcome respectful discussion in the comments below, whether or not you agree with my business practices. I do moderate the comments for those who choose to attack anyone (me or other participants), so if I see that, you will be removed from the conversation. But really, truly—comments that constructively disagree with my methods are welcome here. In fact, I hope there are such comments so I can learn from your perspective.

Also, questions are welcome, but I’m not looking to name names or point fingers at specific companies–those are private matters.

297 Comments on “The Truth About Stonemaier Games

      1. I’m just reading up on this debacle from what I see on various internet sites and I appreciate your candidness with your business internals but if, as you state, you sell a game for $32 that costs your $20 to produce, how is that an unsustainable gap between profit and reprint cost? Seems very sustainable to me.

        1. Rob: If I spend $20 to make and ship a game, and I earn a $12 profit on it, that’s not enough money to reprint another copy of the game. That’s why it’s not sustainable–sustainability is about reprints.

          1. Hi Jamey,

            What you are saying doesn’t make sense unless you are only counting the profit you earn as your available money for a new print run. This wouldn’t be the way anyone would typically look at a production cost and sale price scenario. What happened to the other $20 per game you received when it sold for $32?

            To say “if I spend $20 to make and ship a game, and I earn $12 profit on it, that’s not enough money to reprint another copy of the game.” does not sound correct to a business mind. There is another $20 somewhere that seems unaccounted for.

          2. Rob: I see that you’re looking at this from a different perspective, and I appreciate that. I view each print run as something that needs to pay for itself and fund another print run–the original amount of cash used for the first print run comes from so many other sources that it’s irrelevant to me. I want each game to be self-sustaining. But I also understand your perspective–it makes sense to me, it just isn’t how I operate.

          3. Jamey, each print run’s profits is basically reinvested into the business, then? Technically at zero profit your print runs could still find further print runs, if the cost of production stays the same. Are you accounting for larger print runs into the future, which would make profit an important factor both for future runs and for your own income?

        2. “Jamey, each print run’s profits is basically reinvested into the business, then?”

          Typically they’re invested into reprinting that product. So if I have a game that costs $10 to make and I give it a $50 MSRP, distributors pay me $20 for that product. That’s $10 to pay for the original print run (for which I originally used cash from other sources) and $10 to pay for another copy of that game in a reprint.

          “Are you accounting for larger print runs into the future, which would make profit an important factor both for future runs and for your own income?”

          Print run size varies from one print run to the next, depending on demand and cash flow.

    1. “Also, questions are welcome, but I’m not looking to name names or point fingers at specific companies–those are private matters.”

      I think this is criticism #8 which you haven’t really addressed. By posting about your blacklist policy you made a private matter public, which is no doubt what provoked others to respond to it (not that their actions were any better). There’s such a thing as too much transparency and that initial post on blacklisting was it.

      1. Daniel: I agree with you to a certain extent, but I should clarify that we did deal with it privately. I asked distributors to stop selling our products to a specific retailer, and a few of those distributors requested a policy they could point to. Perhaps I shouldn’t have made the policy public, but I figured someone was going to if I didn’t. As for the actual act of blacklisting the retailer, that was a private matter that I intentionally didn’t make public or even name the retailer–they chose to publicly out themselves.

        1. You got criticized so you took your ball and went home.

          You consider an over 50% profit margin on Scythe to be unsustainable.

          Jamey, I wanna like you but your own actions are what make me think you’re acting in bad faith.

          1. I think we’re looking at the math in different ways on Scythe. If I spend $20 making Scythe and my revenue per unit is $32, how much money do I have to make the next print run of Scythe? $12 per unit. That’s not enough to make the same quantity as the previous print run. It’s not self-sufficient.

            As for taking my ball and going home, I’m still here. I’m literally here. :)

            I’m not sure how any of those counts as “acting in bad faith,” but you’re welcome to judge me based on the facts. I’m trying to run a business with integrity in ways that put our customers first. I spend a tremendous amount of time sharing my love of board games and fellow creators on this blog and my YouTube channel. I price games fairly (often lower than other publishers would). I’m far from perfect–I have many flaws, and I’ve made many mistakes. But acting in bad faith? That’s just not who I am, and I don’t think any of the data here supports such a blanket statement.

    2. Honestly Jamey, I dont see that you have done anything wrong. I feel like people just need to be a little more patient. Props for explaining the reasoning behind your actions.

      1. Thank you, Jaycen. I’m always looking for ways to better serve our customers, so I can’t help but feel somewhat at fault here (but ideally solution focused so it doesn’t happen to this extent again).

    3. It doesn’t make any sense to me for people to claim that you restricted supply to increase hype. If the game is good then the more people who have a copy, the more people who will communicate their feelings about the game and hence more hype. The only way restricting supply would increase hype is a short-term super restricted supply to a very small number of people specifically engaged to create hype. And I’m sure there are products out there in which this is done. But that’s clearly not what has happened here.
      But the internet tends to be the place where people judge with little or no understanding of being in the situation themselves.

  1. Could of Jamey done more yes but I do not think anyone would think that Wingspan given the theme and general mechanics would of been as popular as it is. I think he did everything in his power to get more copies into circulation which I think is better than many publishers do. If he would of known of the success of it he would of done more. I think the biggest thing is that he did not know how much of a success so he planned for what is a normal print run. There are games I have wanted for over a year and closer to two that that did not make enough copies and I still have not been able to get one but Jamey is trying to get more and more made to meet that demand. I say good job and congratulations on the success. And any criticism is just impatience that has been created in this hobby. That if you do not get the new hotness on launch date that it somehow makes it so you can’t and are somehow doomed. May I add I hope for a future expansion.

    1. Thanks, Thomas. I agree–in hindsight, if I had known back in August that Wingspan would be this popular so quickly, the first print run would have been significantly larger (still constrained by cash flow to a certain extent, but definitely much bigger).

      1. As a retail manager, I have often told my staff that if I knew exactly how much business that we would have and what exactly people would buy, we would be perfectly staffed and stocked at all times. Beyond that, all you can do is make your best estimates. Your counterpoint of Between Two Castles is the perfect counterpoint to the criticisms leveled your way.

        1. Brad: I appreciate you seeing both sides of the demand forecasting spectrum (and I’m sure you experience them every day as a retail manager). It’s a tough task, but hopefully my revised method will be better at pointing the needle in the right direction.

          1. Wow! Just catching up on this.

            By even being here, answering all of these questions that are personal to your business, you are doing a hundred times more than any other publisher would do. Most companies would hire gatekeepers and train them on how to respond kindly to every criticism while also never answering a hard question directly.

            But you’re putting yourself out there, answering questions about your own profits in a straightforward manner, and people are just taking the opportunity to make accusations as if it’s their business to do anything except to decide whether to buy your games or not (which, trust me, they will.)

            If it was me, I’d be like “I make awesome games. I price them fairly. Profits and reprint decisions are my business. I’ll be in touch when I’m ready. Now, in the meantime, buy or don’t.”

            (Although I understand that, being so integrated into online communities, you have to answer kindly to even the loudest, big-mouthed speculator who shoots from the hip and then disappears forgetting what they even said.) (Or to the last-word freaks who just like to argue a point forever, with no real skin in the game.)

            Personally, I love great games, and, while I’m still waiting for that Wingspan reprint, I’m just happy to know I’ll get to it eventually. In the meantime, I’m playing Scythe or Viticulture, two of my favorites!!

            Thanks for your hard work, and for all of the videos. I watch them all the time.

  2. Your transparency of both your successes and your failures, and the time you took to respond to this criticism, are commendable. I would suggest that you take solace in the fact that people care enough about the games you produce (for profit and for play reasons) that there was even a need to respond.

    As I said in my brief comment on Wingspan, I believe you have created magic in the space of low/medium-weight board games for adult players, and Wingspan may be the most fully realized success in this area (though I am a fan of Euphoria, Viticulture and Scythe as well). Your philosophy, focus and commitment are obvious – I hope you continue to make games that embody this philosophy for a long time.

    1. Christopher: Thank you–I appreciate that. While I hope for more successes than failures, I’m happy to share them both (to help me process what happened and to help others avoid the same mistakes). And I like your point that it’s good that people care at all–that’s better than people not caring enough to say something. :)

  3. I’m always thankful for your posts. Whether things go well or not, you’re always willing to share your experiences with us.

    It sounds like a really frustrating situation, I empathize.

    Hope people will understand, and that they’ll lay off.

    PS: your cat is cute.

      1. I thought that was Morten.
        Keep up the great work. Can’t wait (but will without complaining) to get a copy of wingspan.

  4. In regards to Amazon/non-hobby retailer sales: You are probably aware of this, but other might not be. Wizards of the Coast gets a lot of flak for not always supporting hobby stores well enough, either because they don’t give hobby stores enough exclusives or because they have some limited products sold exclusively online. Mark Rosewater (of Magic The Gathering) has addressed this on his blog (and probably other places) essentially saying that while the most competitive/hardcore players tend to think of their local hobby store as the go-to place, for a great many players, that is completely inaccessible.
    I grew up in a small town. A local game store was at least an hour drive. Even the nearest big box store was 30 minutes away and usually had a pretty limited stock.
    Getting Amazon was a big deal just as far as what was accessible to me.

    1. William: Thanks for sharing your perspective. That’s exactly why I think it’s important for me to make sure that there’s a wide variety of ways for customers to get our games.

    2. I love reading you. It is fun to learn how the business really works. I’m a retailer mainly with French version of boardgame and what is the most annoying to me is when I preorder a game from my distributor (and open the preorders to my customers) only to learn many weeks later that I might not receive all my copies but with no ways to know how many I will get until we get them. With the French version, there another player in the chain, so I know it is not your fault, but that is a source of frustration to our customers (and us).

      As a customer we dont see those problems in the video games or movie buiseness with street date release and all, but I guess boardgames is still à tiny market compare to those.

      Keep up the good work!

      Fs.

      1. Thanks, Francois! I appreciate you sharing the source of your frustration. Have you talked to your distributor about that to see if they can share the information with you earlier? I’m trying to encourage distributors to do that.

      1. Jamey,
        TLDR; You’re rocking it. But rocking it can be rocky.

        Keep doing your thing. I started my software company in 2005… and the first lesson I learned was “You cannot judge a company on IF they make a mistake, but how they handle it when they do”. My company now 14 years later has won the 2019 Business Ethics Award for small business and now has 25 full time employees in office, and we’ve made some huge hiccups over that time. And I can hands down say your business has 10x the ethical commitment needed for an Ethics Recognition out of any company I’ve ever seen (and I have 1,500 B2B business clients myself)

        A pure capitalist society (depending on its level of true adherence to a strict implementation of it) is to maximize profits in a supply/demand cut throat dog eat dog survival of the fittest model. If you look back at the early days of the industrial revolution before unions and worker rights… the purity of capitalism at its possibly its worst was “pinch every penny, extract every ounce of value (even from human capital abuse) for maximum company return at all costs”. In its purest form… unchecked, it can be disturbing. It’s good that we don’t live in a pure system of absolute capitalism at all costs… you have NO reason to disclose the inner details or workings of your business to anyone in a (purely capitalist sense), ever, you could easily keep this stuff close to your chest and crank out product so long a supply and demand are in check. Literally never having talked to a single person about the business itself… but you do it, and you do it because you feel it’s right and fair and you try to show people you’re really human and figuring a lot of this out as you go (like almost all entrepreneurs do their entire careers). You’re under no legal, government, shareholder obligations to go as deep as you do, etc. You do it because you care about the people you serve and your passion for the industry is amazing.

        DO NOT FEEL you need to justify “blacklisting” any customers for any reason. I have fired more customers than I can count that try to use, abuse, or manipulate my business. Why can we fire bad employees that may make us money but violate ethical codes and core values. Why can we “fire” our employer when we no longer see value in working for them… but you are being judged on “firing” an external third party who craps on you and says “feed me more now a-hole”. Forget that. “You’re fired, we don’t need your negativity messing with the other employees on the team and eventually they all quit instead”. We go into every deal as our clients partner and when they purposely violate that relationship, we proactively terminate even as they have checks in hand for thousands of dollars to buy more and we say “I’m sorry this no longer fits our culture and beliefs and it’s time to move on”. You have every right to choose only those (vendors, employees, and yes customers) that support you as a partner. They don’t have to know everything about everything… they just have to believe that you have no ill intent (and there’s an insane archive of that proof already out there), you have no malicious motives, etc. if they don’t believe that… then they need to move on or stop trying to literally put you out of business (as that is the outcome that comes from snowballing that kind of opinion, you can’t bash me then expect to do business with me, not in a world where we are free to choose to work with anyone for any reason and terminate as such anytime… barring protected classes and formal contracts of course)

        I think one thing many folks don’t understand is how much it actually takes to operate the business (your business not theirs). Not really. They make assumptions about all your profit with little regard for the fact that I KNOW you dump 95% of it right back into the next venture or the re-ups (and even if you didn’t… kudos for buying a Ferrari ya earned it doing what you do, it’s not anyone’s business but yours anyway). That you don’t want to be sitting on a 6 or even 7 figure credit line if you don’t have to and making that choice does decrease how extended you can get on operational cash alone (I too have not used debt as an instrument in my company, it’s been “operating cashflow” or its on hold for 14 years). As business owners we have to be careful of our risk threshold… cause in the end if you go over… and over again… etc. and a bad bomb goes off… that could be it, no coming back. Youre done. And guess what, those folks will move on with 500 other publishers saying “remember that SM company from a few years ago, what ever happened to them”… if you want to be cautious and reign it in… you want this company to live forever… then “calculated risk” is as far as you should ever go… regardless of the peanut gallery saying… “shoulda doubled it and emptied your operating account to ZERO… just in case it goes awesome”. I call BS.

        Look at the amazing stuff that comes out of Splotter Spellan (I know they are smaller but they have a very similar rabid fan base of heavy gamers)… taking basically tiny tiny direct orders in small batches of 500. They’ve been pumping out some of the best ultra “heavy” euros I’ve ever played in the hobby space for over a decade… and until food chain magnate… it’s worked fine (and fans knew them, most hobby gamers didn’t) and they had been doing it on the side with full time jobs and could have easily ramped it if they wanted to jump past “calculated risk” on their parts (family time, jobs, balance, etc.). FCM demanded a larger distro model and they sorta made it work… but that’s not really how they choose to be in business. They literally tell the system to “be damned we’ll do it our way”.

        You owe no one an explanation and it’s great that this transparency is cathardic for you I’m sure too. You are an open sharer and have been since day 1 on your early KSers.

        Your challenge is that you have great games. You have a reputation that “precedes you” and a very rabid base that tends to hype your brand beyond what most businesses can only imagine and hope for… and that unfortunately has put unfair expectations on how “they” think your company should be run. The paparazzi will follow your car in a high speed chase just to catch your crash and burn car wreck on film.

        Forget the “they”. You keep doing what you do. You do the best you can… and you keep that profit. You grow yourself, your brand, your bottom line, your business how you want to… you have more ethical fibers in your pinky than half of the companies in this country have in their whole operation… but with that double edge sword of visibility and outspoken drive to “fix everything for everyone”… your stumbles become much louder and in the spotlight than those of a company that is expected to continually misstep and they show little care of changing or learning from it. You’ll never get away from those that shoot down or shoot at the ones they see as the biggest targets.

        Sorry for the long post. But I see your stuff all the time and hopefully from one messed up and mistake prone entrepreneur to another… you honestly couldn’t be doing any better when it comes to being a truly inspirational and honest, ethical business owner. If that means you’ll make human mistakes along the way… so be it. It’s life and no one walks in your shoes but you.

        Best of luck on all the future stuff that will come along for you.

        PS:
        If you ever want to chat “entrepreneurship” hit me up on messenger (I’m sure you’ve seen me moderating the designer and publisher guilds on FB). I would love to share some of my more private experiences and ideas of the business journey with you (not game industry… but entrepreneurial stuff I’ve been part of along my own journey that changed my life and business over time that ya may consider as well)

        1. Joel: Thank you for the epic comment! I was nodding along while reading it–even though our companies sound very different in size, the things you mentioned here (caring because it’s the right thing to do, being selective about clients, putting the vast majority of revenue into reprints and new products, etc) absolutely resonate with me. It sounds like you have a lot that I could learn from, and I appreciate the offer to chat sometime.

        2. Great comment. Let us hope this incident does not change our Jamey and he keeps sharing his experience in this blog forever and ever :)

  5. If folks are frustrated with what seems to boil down to “I don’t have enough access to your products.” 1. that seems like a positive problem, 2. I’m sure you feel the frustration and impact of that 10 fold.

    Do these complaints come more from a customer side or more directly from business owners like FLGS’s?

    Tangential question: would you be willing to elaborate on your Flat River partnership? When it started, how the conversation started, did you reach out to them, did they reach out to you, etc?

    1. Thanks for your questions, Evan. I’ve heard frustrations from both customers and business owners that they can’t get Wingspan, and I completely understand. I’m frustrated too that I don’t have enough games to serve all parties involved.

      Our broker, Greater Than Games, has sold their products to Flat River for years, and they spoke highly of their arrangement. So a few years ago I authorized them to start selling our products to Flat River too.

  6. I have said it before; I very much appreciate the level of transparency you have with Stonemaier Games. People are always going to find something to complain about (and yes, the online community can be rather harsh at times), but don’t let it bother you too much. You do a great deal to try to reach customers with your blog posts, newsletters, communications on social media, and weekly livestreams, and I do not think that there is a reason for people to be continually attacking Stonemaier games after seeing your level of transparency and regular communication. While it certainly would have been nice for more games to have been printed, some of these people have obviously never had to try to buy limited-run items from small businesses online, and it shows (I once bought a pair of Minnie ears from someone who only advertises on IG and her sales sell out every week in less than 30 seconds). Yes, waiting sucks, but patience is a virtue (supposedly) and having or not having Wingspan is not the end-all be-all. This comment was rambly, but to summarize: you’re doing great; I, as a customer, appreciate Stonemaier games and have decided to make adjustments to my purchasing habits in the future to be able to better acquire your games; and people are always going to hate, but you still have countless fans, so who cares? Also, someone else wrote it, but Walter and Biddy are absolute treasures.

    1. Thank you for the thorough and cool-headed response. When I saw this blow up on Reddit a few days ago, I knew you would have to respond one way or another. Waiting a bit and responding on your blog instead of Reddit was very wise.

    2. Dana: Thanks for your note. I do try to keep communication open through a variety of channels, as you noted, but I understand that a lot of people don’t consume that information and just make assumptions based on headlines or snippets of conversations they hear online. Those first impressions can make a big difference.

      Walter and Biddy appreciate your comment. :)

  7. “Therefore I ended our Amazon MAPP on October 30, 2019.”

    Something is wrong with this sentence – either you will be ending it on October 30, 2019 or you ended it on October 30, 2018.

    Just FYI. Well-written, thoughtful article. Thanks for your perspective.

  8. I am not sure I know a publisher or person in the industry which is more open and honest than Jamey. He has done everything with the best of intentions, sometimes they worked, and sometimes not. But he never hides or passes blame. One of the biggest reason I love Stonemaire games. We are all human, we ALL make mistakes. Kudos to Jamey for trying, learning, adjusting, and trying again. I couldn’t imagine accusing Jamey of any of those things. My only criticism is I dont have any details on his amazing g CIV game yet!!!!! Keep up the hard work! I will keep buying your games as long as you stay true like this.

  9. Interested in your view on issues with end customer preorder in the industry for popular games.

    I have myself been victim to having preordered and paid for a popular (not from stonemeier BTW) game which was also pretty expensive.
    This my preorder was then bumped not once, not twice but 3 times for a total of a 5 month delay. Totally missing Christmas window for which it was ordered as a present.

    While this is frustrating what really makes it infuriating is when that same game is seen coming in and out of stock and being restocked multiple times either in different continents and also by Amazon. With the product going on general sale in stores and online, while customers who have bought and paid for product are left still waiting or delayed even further.

    It seems the industry really needs a way to track which preorder have already been bought and paid for by end consumers and fulfill or at least prioritise those orders before stock is seen hitting shelves/Amazon. All it does otherwise is create frustration from end consumers and bad publicity ….. Particularly when the product starts getting discounted before they even get their full price preordered copy.

    Seems a big step change is required in the order/distribution system as this seems to happen quite a lot.

    Would be interested in your thoughts on this as someone at the other end of the industry.

    1. Megan: Thanks for your comment. I agree that it would be really helpful to have a comprehensive, global view of how many preorders customers have placed with their retailer of choice. Publishers are completely in the blind about that information.

      1. I’m certainly neither comprehensive nor global, but I frequently pre-order with my FLGS. The benefit of doing so is that payment is not expected until the order arrives, so if there is a delay, I am not out any money. If the game becomes available elsewhere, canceling the pre-order is usually inconsequential. While the same is true for Amazon pre-orders, it is not true of online gaming speciality retailers who charge for the pre-order immediately. As a result, I almost never pre-order with places like Cool Stuff Inc or Miniature Market. Miniature Market, in particular, gets very angry about order cancellations and chastised me the very first time I needed to request cancellation.

        1. We seem to have a slightly different system here in the UK. The online options other than Amazon are generally the online presence of the FLGS from round the country with a couple of exceptions. As far as I am aware they all take payment on ordering from them rather than when the product arrives in store and is then shipped out to you. I’m not sure if ordering in person in the actual shop is handled the same as I only get into town once every 3 to 4 months so ordering online and having it delivered works better. I only tend to buy something in store if they have it there in stock.

          1. My local shop is truly local. They do zero online sales. They honestly don’t even stock that much (primarily a comic book shop), so everything I want is a custom order. I’m not sure how many other customers they actually have placing game pre-orders, come to think of it. It’s mostly me and one of the game enthusiast managers. :)

    2. Really appreciate your business model and wish you didn’t have to waste your time responding to silly internet nonsense.

  10. I bought my first Stonemaier Games product from a retailer at Dragon Con. After we enjoyed that one, I looked at the Stonemaier site to see what else was available from them and decided to order Scythe.

    I ordered it from Amazon for two reasons. First, I don’t have any game stores nearby. The closest one is about 45 minutes to an hour away, depending on traffic. It seems that whoever complained may have forgotten that game stores are not always available to consumers. Second, Amazon was cheaper than ordering from Stonemaier Games directly.

    If I hadn’t had Amazon as an option, I may not have become the loyal customer than I am now because the price plus shipping may have negated my desire for the game. So it’s naive for the complainer to think that not selling to Amazon is even a reasonable option.

    Since I have become a loyal customer, I have become a Stonemaier Champion and order from Stonemaier Games directly, partly because of the blog post where Jamey explained the difference in profit. I want Stonemaier to continue to be profitable and producing excellent games, so spending a few extra bucks to support a company I believe in is worthwhile to me. It also has the benefit of getting new games, expansions, and accessories earlier than from anywhere else.

    I truly believe Jamey is doing an above average job with customer service, as I’ve experienced both one-on-one and through various mass communication methods, and I can’t imagine his retailer service is worse.

  11. You have a tyo in your MAPP section. October 2019 has not happened yet. Please don’t steal my summer.

    I will wait patiently for my copy of Wingspan because I know you will keep making them until the demand is met. I believe that I am number 18 inline at I’m Board in Middleton, Wisconsin.

    People seem to forget that although games are wonderful they do not qualify as a need. No one will die from not having the new hot game.

  12. I haven’t bought a Stonemaier Game in a while, and I don’t keep up with all the stuff going on, but I’m sorry you’re dealing with this blowback Jamey. You put out great products, and you communicate with your community like no one else does.

    You’re running a business, and no one is entitled to your time or your profits, other than you and your partners. A business can’t survive without an engaged market, and there is nothing you can do to engage with your market anymore than you already do.

    Naysayers be damned. Literally.

    1. Thanks Jim! I’m perfectly fine with naysayers as long as they’re well informed with the truth. I completely respect someone who knows the truth about how I run my business and still decides not to support it. :)

    2. 100% this… Exactly what I was thinking. The fact that Jamey has responded to every question I’ve posted promptly and kingly is indication enough. Reading all of these makes me realize that Jamey is like that for everybody. Keep up the awesome work, Jamey. You have a lot of support within the community, and you have my respect.

  13. Im honestly not sure what all the commotion is about, maybe demand in Australia isnt that high, but i got my copy of wingspan on march 8, played it non stop (definitely my most played game ever, it even got my mum and brother into hobby games) we played jt for a month and a half, my brother then ordered a copy and also has it… there doesny seem to be a supply shortage in Australia that i can tell. Even jf there is it is completely worht the wait, the artwork is phenomenal, the engine building is great, and the learning curve isn’t steep at all. It’s a fantastic game for hobby gamers and non-hobby gamers alike.
    Can’t wait for the next game Jamey!

  14. Jamey,

    Your willingness to fall on your sword, your open communications and transparency, and your commitment to an outstanding gaming experience by balancing gameplay with top notch components makes you one of the best in this business. Not to mention the fact that I’ve met you at GenCon, and you were very generous with your time and extremely thoughtful. You didn’t have to take the time, but you graciously did. Criticism will always come, just weather the storm and please know that history will judge you as a trailblazer in this industry. I look forward to the time you spend with the fans every week on Facebook, and will always support you and your team. You are a true gentleman with loads of integrity, and we’re with you.

    1. Christian: I really appreciate that–thank you. I think “fall on the sword” is a good phrase here, as even though I try to act with integrity, I do make a lot of mistakes and try a lot of experiments, and they’re all my decisions and my responsibility. It means a lot when someone like you can recognize that my intent is good, even if the execution isn’t always ideal. :)

      1. Perhaps that is the issue. . . perhaps the complainers are Bender Bending Rodriguez. . . We all know how he feels about humans.

  15. I’m really disappointed at how blown out of proportion this entire ordeal has become. Jamey is one of the most vocal and engaged members of the boardgame designer/publisher community, and it looks like trying to be transparent caused a lot of these issues. These things happen in business, and I hope that the only people who are hurt from this are those who were spreading false information.

    On a side note, I was able to order a copy of Wingspan a couple days ago from an online game retailer and it should be arriving today! Very excited to finally try it out!

      1. I’m glad that you are committed to being as involved in the community as you are! I don’t think a lot of people understand the time and effort that it takes to stay engaged like this while also maintaining the day-to-day responsibilities.

  16. I notice there is no response here to claims that you deleted comments from previous blog posts and blacklisted commenters from receiving copies from your distributors. Any particular reason why these points are not addressed?

    1. Rich: Thanks for your questions. As for deleting comments, that’s something I do in very rare cases where someone outright attacks someone else (me or someone else in the comments). Criticism and disagreements are fine, but I try to keep these conversations civil–there’s no place for aggressive attacks here.

      As for blacklisting retailers due to comments they make, if a retailer repeatedly and publicly spreads false information about my company, it’s true that I no longer view them as a partner for our products, and I will ask distributors to stop selling our products to them.

      1. Are the claims false? I think you have just spent a whole blogpost talking about these claims because they at least have some validity to them. So, there must be some truth to them. Honest people can have an honest disagreement.

        Regardless of your reasons, I think blacklisting a retailer and using your leverage and influence with distributors to do so is wrong and anti-capitalist. I wish you would reconsider this practice as I feel it gives you the black eye and not the retailer.

        1. Tom: As for the claims being false, I’ve presented the facts here, and quite a few of them conflict with the narrative presented as part of the original criticism.

          I respect your opinion, and I’m happy to sell games through the 99.99% of retailers are not actively, aggressively, and publicly spreading a false narrative about my company. I think part of captalism is picking the right partners, not just saying “yes” to everyone. That’s just my opinion, though.

          1. I respect your opinion as well, and I want to commend you on being as transparent as possible. And, good on you for being open to feedback, even difficult feedback like mine. Seriously, there is a reason you are so well respected in this industry. You’ve earned every bit of it.

            But, I would argue that you are going beyond “picking the right partners” when you restrict your partners (i.e., the distributors) from doing business with the partners of their choice. You are forcing them to choose sides, using your economic influence with them to punish someone who is a bad actor in your view. You clearly feel that this particular bad actor is deserving of this action, and he may be. But, I do not think that blacklisting should be an excepted practice in the board game industry, or any industry for that matter. It is anti-competitive and could result in bad and unintended consequences if abused by unscrupulous characters.

            In closing, again, huge props for wading into this discussion. Best of luck to you!

          2. Jamey, you hit the nail on the head with your capitalism reply. Capitalism is about running your business as you see fit. I am so glad you are not forced to sell a certain way or give in to bully retailers. The great thing about capitalism is you dont have to be open about your business practices but those that are and are honest get rewarded by consumers with a choice. Great job. I personally like how you handle your distribution model. And because I wanted Wingspan first, I became a champion and made sure I was on the first round. I didnt have too. I made a choice as a consumer. I will do the same with Scythe’s modular board. For Stonemaire games I dont need at release, I have other options. I love the freedom of consumer choice.

          3. Thanks Andrew! It sounds like there are different perspectives on capitalism, and I think that’s great. I like this: “I love the freedom of consumer choice.”

          4. I think Jamey used Captialism exactly as intended. Someone attacks your business, you dont sell a highly sought after product to them. Easy. Jamey shouldn’t be bullied into selling his product to everyone if people are trying to hurt his business. Want his games right away? Become a champion and hop on the first run hype. Exactly what I did for wingspan! Want to wait, deal with the consequences.

        2. Tom Rose: I understand and respect your posts in this thread.

          I have been around retail/customer service industry for over 20 years. It is rare, but at almost every business there was a customer(s) that had gone too far and was no longer allow to enter the business.

          No business owner ever wants to prevent sales from a customer, but if the customer is toxic to the business (anything from verbally abusive, harsh language, etc.) they may be causing more loss of sales than what they are purchasing.

  17. As a long-time reader of your blog and a fan of your presence in the industry overall, I completely understand and respect you for writing out this thorough defense. I do think, however, that it is not necessary. Those that follow you, have met you, watch your live streams, etc, they should know that you’re not the type of person to actively deceive the tabletop industry. Most of the people that complained have more than likely never made a game, and certainly never published a game, and have no idea of the painstaking process that is. I’m not even published yet, and I know how insanely challenging and defeating the whole process can be. So thank you for writing this, but there’s no need to defend yourself as far as I’m concerned. Empty barrels will always make the loudest noise. Just rise above it, stay consistent, and keep being a positive presence in the community. Hope to meet you again at Gen Con this year.

    -Chris Bowden

    1. Chris: Yeah, Morten and I discussed if the right thing was to respond here. I certainly don’t think I’ll change anyone’s mind if they’ve already decided that Stonemaier sucks. :) But I’d rather accurate information be out there in the open for people to judge as they wish, and that hopefully other creators can learn from my mistakes.

      1. I’ve learned a lot from your mistakes and your transparency has helped me slow down and really be careful as I move forward with my own projects.

  18. Don’t worry about the “noise”, Jamey—you do a great job. Few others in your position are even close to your level of customer engagement. Add to that, people just love to complain. The level of transparency some expect from a company (well within their rights to divulge NOTHING), is quite honestly ridiculous. Many of these same people would instantly balk at the suggestion, if the tables were turned.
    It’s pretty clear that this modern social media age has sparked the worst of the worst in anonymous negative commentary. The fact you take the time to respond to even these voices speaks highly of your character.

    I, personally, am a Stonemaier/Stegmaier fan for life. Keep it up!

    1. I appreciate that, Walt. As a fan for life, I’d only ask one thing: Please feel free to hold me accountable for my mistakes. I’m sure there will be things I do over the years that you don’t like, and I trust our fans to offer constructive criticism about those decisions so we/I can better serve you.

  19. Thanks for that Jamey. I have no skin in this game (I don’t have or want Wingspan), but the information you provided is both useful and interesting.

    Cheers,

    Jack

  20. I cant think of any other person in the industry who is as open and adds value to this industry than you. There will always be people who dont agree with some of your practices, and sometimes they might have a point. But to suggest that anything was intentional just shows they know nothing about you. Keep up the good work and good luck!

  21. It’s quite unfortunate how negative people can be, especially when they hide behind a digital veil. I’m sure few critics have made such comments in person.
    What I respect most about Jamey is his obvious desire to bring joy to people, as demonstrated by his videos. Turning a profit is obviously involved, as should be expected. But the efforts Jamey makes to be transparent and to interact with his fan base affirm his sincerity.
    Jamey, please don’t let trolls rob you of your joy. There are plenty of us who appreciate your hard work.

    Sincerely ,
    Kevin

    P. S. My wife, who is not very enthusiastic about board games, loves Wingspan! Thank you for this wonderful game!

    1. Thank you, Kevin. I appreciate your focus on joy, as that’s what this is all about–finding ways to bring joy to tabletops around the world. I’m glad Wingspan has provided that for you and your wife!

  22. Keep doing what you’re doing, Jamey. Are Walter and Biddy paid employees? :) The lengthy explanation of market forces and structures is appreciated and educational. I support Stonemaier Games because of your transparency, communication, and commitment to the hobby. I played 7 games of Wingspan in the last few days and my bird-loving elderly parents love it. As for purchasing, I use a local FLGS, amazon, BGG market, and direct from Stonemaier as a champion. Thanks for all you do.

  23. I had seen for months the claims from the retailer pop up, usually on FB board game groups. It seems like you lost your cool a few times, but I am pretty sure you aren’t Vulcan, and based on the tone and claims, I am impressed it wasn’t more times. Heck, I have been upset by some of things on your behalf.

    You have been transparent about the whole process, done your mea culpas on WS print run and failed MAPP. Meanwhile the retailer CEO and some franchisees seem to ghost in and out of various forums, mostly show up shortly then crickets.

    The claims defy a bit of logic and common sense. While I have some games I would LOVE to get my hands on, they are out of print. SM games will be out of stock but not OOP, and I appreciate and share information with friends who are interested in Viticulture after playing it with me.

    1. Josh: Absolutely, there are some “heat of the moment” responses I regret. If I can’t respond in a civil, productive way, I shouldn’t be responding at all (in my opinion).

  24. For anyone who has criticism of Stonemaier Games beyond helping them to improve, I would suggest you spend 1 hour looking into how incredibly complicated creating 1 board alone is and getting it published, let alone accomplishing everything SMG’s has. Also, you could just si Hi to Jamey at a convention and find out what a fantastic person he is. Everyone who loves board games owes Jamey nothing less than a gigantic THANK YOU!

    Jamey readily admits his mistakes, publicly on his blog. No one is perfect and everyone can get better.

    I have no doubt that continuous improvement is a high priority at SMG’s.

    Thank you Jamey for everything you do!
    Loren Cunningham
    WIBAI Games

    1. Loren: Indeed, as you know well, there’s so much that goes into bringing a game to life! It’s a labor of love, though, and I’m fortunate to be able to do it as a career. :)

      1. I think everyone should always welcome constructive criticism but the fact you have to write this post is just ridiculous.

  25. As an avid board gamer for many years, I am a bit disppointed about any backlash. Maybe I could understand if it were a Kickstarter where you released only a capped number of copies, but here it was just an unexpectedly high demand but with more on the way. I mean, is it really that difficult to be patient and wait for a copy to become to available? Even if it takes a year, there are a TON of other fantastic games on the market to keep people entertained. A game isn’t going to be ‘terrible’ or ‘spoiled’ simply because you play it a few months after it comes out! If a game is honestly good then it will keep being printed so long as there is demand for it so just be patient!

  26. Once again, your transparency is apprecited and your sharing of experience humbling. I appreciate what you do for the board game world.

  27. Thanks for your openness and clarity. I absolutely love your games! It does make me sad that the main owner of a certain company messed it up for my local store that pays a franchise fee. :( In the end I’ll definitely still buy future games from your company. Just liked buying them from him here in Austin.

    1. Thank you, Don. I answered questions for a while on BGG, and I debated posting here, but ultimately I thought it was good to put all of the accurate information all in one place for people to judge for themselves.

  28. Please dont take any of this too personally Jamey, we live in a world of instant gratification filled with people who don’t have the capacity for patience.

    For what its worth, as a novice designer if I were ever lucky enough to have a design published by Stonemaier the way you handle marketing and production is exactly how I would like to have my creation marketed and produced.

    1. Steven: While I certainly have had moments where these criticisms have felt personal, I do my best to separate myself and Stonemaier when trying to respond in a professional manner. I don’t always succeed, but I try. :)

      I’m honored that you would consider Stonemaier as a publisher for your games!

  29. jamey, in some ways, moving from KS to your new model has just shifted the unhappy retailers/backers to big elephants that are bigger from tiny mouses that are squeak loudly. You will always have noise. I do still think KS offers a better feedback for demand on 1st print runs than all others. You’ll simply have your negative voices coming from somewhere else with your new model. Your company is an interesting case study in my opinion.

    1. Jason: That’s fair–either way it seems like someone is going to be happy. Hopefully, no matter the exact method, we can make things that bring people joy, and a wide variety of distributors, retailers, and partners can benefit as a result.

  30. Thank you, Jamey. Last week, I reviewed the post on reddit and looked at some of the links. I wondered about his motivations for “responding” 4 months after a blog post.

    The response did not align with my limited knowledge of you. Your blog posts (which are likely time-consuming and are wholly gratuitous) show you to be a thoughtful, caring person.
    You freely admit that you are a business person who is learning on the job.
    Nonetheless, I kept an open mind regarding Jeff’s reddit post. (Even broken clocks are right twice a day.) So, I am very glad you replied. Your reply assuaged some of my concerns. Your transparency is noteworthy and inspired. I am truly thankful that you are part of our industry.
    p.s. The statute of limitations for libel is 1 year from the date of publication in Illinois.

    1. Thanks Patrick! I appreciate you keeping an open mind when reading about these topics–there’s often something for me to learn from criticism, even when it isn’t expressed in a particularly helpful way. :)

  31. Great transparency, thank you!

    My only real problem, as a retailer, is still the Amazon thing. I understand wanting to cater to all facets that make you money and give a wider range of customers access to your products, 100%. I just see Amazon as bad for all industries. Their aggressive tactics and sub par employee standards make them very unattractive. If you have Netflix, I would recommend watching Patriot Act with Hassan Minaj. He has an episode about Amazon that sums things up very nicely in a half hour. Further research into how Amazon is destroying the industry yields pretty shocking results.

    It just hits a real negative chord when I have customers cancel their preorders and buy something I couldn’t get in from Amazon.

    Thanks again for the transparency. Life is about learning and growing and you continue to show that you strive to do just that!

    1. Ryan: Thanks for the heads up about the Patriot Act–I’ll check it out. I can certainly understand the frustration caused when a customer cancels an order to buy it elsewhere instead of from you. I’ve had that happen too. :)

      1. As retailers we all have to deal with losing sales, it’s a part of the business. Losing sales to Amazon is a different beast altogether. There is nothing a brick and mortar store can do to compete with Amazon, but there are many things I can do to compete in my local market. MAP polices do help, and Asmodee, GW, and ILO307 do a good job of enforcing theirs.

        Anyway, thanks again for trying to make things better!

  32. Wow! The complexities you face trying to juggle forecasting sales along with minimum factory orders. Then balancing profit and loss, against a backdrop of changing consumer demands, fierce competive markets and distributors squeezing you for every ounce of profit is clearly not something everyone could do. I am afraid the general public have not a “Scuby Doo” as to what is involved in this process, and most wouldn’t even attempt to do it. That’s why you ARE doing it and they’re NOT. Plus, you should be congratulated even further for sustaining your business in an era where many large retailers (with huge investors) are now sadly going out of business. If you can survive in this climate, then you undoubtedly deserve a pat on the back. Well done.

    1. Lyndsay: Indeed, there are a lot of factors and parties with different needs to juggle. For the most part I enjoy the logistics puzzle, though it’s tough when I can’t satisfy everyone.

  33. Still no copies of Wingspan have arrived in HI. I know it’s the distributors choice, but man what a crappy way to distribute when an entire state doesn’t see a copy. Still, I think after reading all of this, what I would have liked as an option was just to delay your retail release…there was no need in March to open the flood gates. It could have waited until a majority of your various production copies were completed so that distributors could more easily do their job to at least distribute SOMETHING to everyone, which as of almost 3 months later they have been unable to do. Then all of this Amazon nonsense and people clamoring about not getting any copies in waves one or two could have been completely or at least somewhat avoided. Maybe more food for thought…

    1. Joe: That is certainly something I could consider in the future, though I’m curious how retailers would respond to being given a date when they can sell games and then taking it away. It would also have a huge impact on our cash flow (and therefore our ability to make more of the games that are in high demand), as distributors don’t pay us until after the release date.

      1. If there are no games that even make it to FLGSs, then what is being taken away? The only “retailer” I see in this whole thing that would even be remotely impacted is your online retailers…Amazon, Mini Market, etc. And those retailers can survive to delay with the number of other products they sell in such large quantities. It seems to me that what you are saying is “I want to make my money first by selling whatever I have online and the FLGSs can just wait until I can get the game out to them…the priority is just getting them on the market as quickly as possible.” Am I missing something?

        Either way…I ultimately have had to cancel my FLGS preorder because of these delays, which is such a shame because I really want to support small business especially in such a small market such as HI.

        I know there is plenty of support for you and your products, but I think we all can admit that this whole release has been nothing but a huge, avoidable headache. Not just for you but for all the frustrated customers, like me, and FLGS owners.

  34. I appreciate the openness of the post, but TBH, as a person who’s been looking for this game for months it’s frustrating to still have no idea when or where I can get the game.

    On the positive side, I’ve found a new local game store from your retailer list. However, they’re just as frustrated with the situation as customers are. Their (dozens of) preorders have been left unfulfilled and won’t take any new ones until they have solid information about when their existing orders will come in as they keep hearing Amazon is getting large allocations. I’ve signed up to get updates from the Stonemaier site, but I just watch the expected arrival date get moved back and back. I back Kickstarter game projects that experience delays and issues, so I understand these things happen for all sorts of reasons.

    As a “software guy”, I wonder what systems aren’t in place that could be implemented or improved to help facilitate this flow of information. I imagine there are many complicated relationships between producers, publishers, distributors, retailers, and ultimately consumers, but there must be a better way.

    1. brechin: Thank you for sharing your frustration here, and I’m sorry that we haven’t printed enough games to eliminate this issue. While dates aren’t necessarily being pushed back (we actually delivered the third print run to distributors earlier than expected), I can understand that the date when your retailer receives your preorder may have changed over time depending on the supply they receive from their distributor.

      I appreciate your focus on a solution. If there were a global inventory system that all publishers, distributors, and retailers could link to, that would be amazing!

  35. You know, I’m getting more and more frustrated at how toxic the board game community can be at times. This is a beautifully written and level headed response to such criticism and I applaud it. I wish more people would start from a positive vantage point and assume you are doing your very best to serve your diverse customers, (distributors, retails, & consumers). Rather than begin with the negative premise that Stonemaier is greedily trying to shaft everyone.

    Despite the bumps, I see Wingspan as a huge success that has made a lot of people very happy. As it becomes further distributed I think it’s also going to bring a lot of new people into the hobby as well. (At Geekway I had to literally camp out in the ‘play to win room’ and physically take it out of a person’s hands that was checking it back in. It was that popular!)

    Over the years I’ve really appreciated how open and transparent you have been about the successes and failures of Stonemaier. It has been an invaluable and inspiring resource to so many people. It seems though that some take that as a license to tell you how you should run your own company. (Not the same as offering positive feedback.) Or worse, look for some ulterior motive behind your decisions.

    I hope the emotionally draining cost of dealing with such negativity doesn’t reach a point where you have ‘close the curtain’ so to speak, and stop being so open. Even if they don’t always post it, the vast majority of Stonemaier customers I know are super positive.

    Best wishes!

    1. Aaron: Thanks for your thoughts. As you’ve noted here, I generally try to give people (and companies) the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise factually, and I appreciate others who do the same for us. :) I’m glad you got to play Wingspan at Geekway!

  36. This is a good article, though I don’t find the answer to #3 to be very satisfying. It sounds like you’re doing what you can to keep the distributors supplied as often as possible, but the distributors drop the ball and frustrate the retailers. You shouldn’t have to be saying things like “On a store level I would literally have to call each store.” That’s not your job, it’s the distributors. If the problem gets so bad that you even have to consider stepping over them, you need to have a chat with the distributors.

  37. Your well-thought out and careful response is a breath of fresh air in the growing rise of knee-jerk reactionary communication that seems to be dominating online culture. Thanks for taking such care in all you do, it’s reflected in the reverence people have for the Stonemaier brand.

    1. Thanks Ryan! Not all of my responses to this criticism have been like this, I’m sorry to say, but this is a good reminder that I should take a step back when something like this happens before responding. :)

  38. Got my copy of Wingspan two days – already played solo and vs a competitor. It was awesome both ways. The components are awesome, game play is fun and fast, and rule book is solidly written.

    Unfortunately the rule book arrived with a slight tear on pp 6-12 so I put in a request for a replacement on your site. I am hoping you will come through for me as the tear grows!

    I am sure this will be a regular at my game night!

    1. I’m sorry about the big tear in your rulebook, Howard! I can see how that would make the game hard to play. :) I’m sure my replacement parts helpers will send you what you need soon.

  39. I am so deeply sorry for this Jamey. The first majority of these are altogether unreasonable complaints that I’m surprised you responded to; you are better than these complaints and we all know it. The 2nd half they should have done their research, or could at least calm-down about.

    Fact: Envy exists. People hate people that are more successful than themselves. They then see their every action through poo-colored glasses.
    You should add those folks to the list you no longer respond too.

    You’re a good man. I know know. We know it.

    Keep it up. We got your back.

  40. Jamey, thanks for the detailed response. I have a lot of respect for you. You are forthright about your business, much more than most publishers. There are so many variables in this industry, and many traps lay in wait for small publishers. We hear many stories of publishers with pallets of games that didn’t sell because they over-estimated the demand. Your biggest sin was underestimating the popularity of Wingspan, and you seem to be doing everything you can to pump up the supply to meet the demand, while protecting your cash flow. Regarding new games, I am a very patient person, and there are plenty of other great games to play while I wait for inventory to level up on a game I want. Others have zero patience or empathy when demand exceeds supply. They put the publisher’s feet to the fire. They also would have no sympathy if you print 30,000 games and only sell 10,000 of them.

    1. Dan: Thanks for your note. Indeed, it’s a tricky situation–when you have too many games, the publisher suffers; when you have too few games, retailers, distributors, and consumers suffer. I need to do a better job at demand forecasting so we can get a lot closer to what we need; hopefully my revised method will accomplish that goal.

  41. As a professional analyst i don’t think i could have forecast the popularity of Wingspan. It was a risk – a boardgame about birds, when the last board game about birds (“Flock” published by AEG) didn’t do well and certainly never hit The Hotness on BGG. Combined with the warehouse surplus on B2CoMKL this seemed a reasonable approach to take.

    Thanks for the transparency and thoroughness here Jamey.

    1. JT: You bring up a good point about looking at other games with similar themes when forecasting. I think that’s one of the reasons the distributors I consulted were so conservative with their estimates.

  42. I would like to address few mentioned criticizms.

    1: No forecasting – what i can see from there, the demand exceeded the supply. First of all Wingspan is an Euro economical game, yes its beautiful, has great components but still Jamey knew that this could not be for everyone’s taste – this is a typical feature of this genre of games. So based on Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig case Jamey decided to go for more careful approach not knowing in 100% full market potential of his new product. Perhaps the way how the distributors were asked about the new upcoming product was not perfect but its clear for me that there Jamey wanted to be rather safe than sorry. If the decision wasnt to be carefull and go full out (or at least with bigger supply – which notabene looking on Wingspan content [plastic eggs, high quality cards, custom trays, bird feeder dice tower and this absolutely stunnig quality rulebook and its paper]) it could cause a massive supply surplus – i dont recall many animal themed game that had such a successfull launch and there are quite a few which just failed or at least didnt meet the expectations. That being said it could be a substantial hit to the Jamey’s company financial results and that definitely could reflect on the future Stonemeier Games projects. I just dont understand how picking a careful way is a bad choice. No one can predict the future especially in this business where there is not much room for errors I imagine.

    2: Intentional scarcity – am Polish and I collect and play games in English and I wasnt fast enough to pick the game in first print. Because of that I wait for my ordered copy for couple of months now. I am into hobby and talk to people and for example Polish market is absolutely oriented for Polish printings. Even on the secondary market if you want to sell a game its much faster to sell a PL version rather than ENG. Also I assume its not only Polish market characteristic but in general in non-English language countries native language prints sell faster. This is how the market goes, like Jamey said limitations of the cash flow of the company is crucial. Especially if in such a case profit is not guaranteed. The game is really good (I had a chance to play couple times my friend’s copy) and its definitaly worth waiting. After all its better to wait for a good one than have nothing to wait for, isnt it?

    Am not familiar with Amazon sells and retailers so I cannot address that, but after reading the whole article I have the feeling that people are just upset they cannot wrap their hands arount their copy. Any speculations about playing around the supply, hype generating are just not backed with anything. It looks like Jamey wasnt even aware of the upcoming success at all. Adjusting supply to the demand is always based on former experiences, the similar product’s history and predictions which are very hard to relly on at the point prior the release. People has to understand how the market works, how this hobby works and just learn to wait. At least the adult audience. Stop being childish – you really think that Jamey, a person who runs the company, doesnt want to sell more of his products?

    Looking on Jamey’s vlogs, his presence in the community, how seriously he approaches to the development process of his products and condtition of SM i cannot believe sometimes what people says. Sad.

    In my opinion the problem is that: Jamey, you succeeded! You have made a great game with a great potential. And you were careful enough not to assume that on the first place like many who failed. Shame on you! :)

  43. I hope these comments and complaints haven’t caused you too much grief, Jamey. Anyone who is paying any bit of attention would know the real situation. It’s absolutely baffling to me that people just don’t seem to understand a surprise hit when they see it. Wingspan is clearly much more popular than anyone expected, and it will take time to manufacture and ship more games. That’s really the whole story. The idea that people are angry that they can’t immediately buy a board game (which will continue to be playable and not dated at all when they get their copy) is utterly inscrutable to me. I understand being disappointed, but this is clearly well beyond that.

    1. Matthew: I would say they’ve caused me a fair amount of grief. :) It’s just tough to seeing a false narrative shared as if it’s factual–I heard from number of people who went out of their way to tell me that they would never again buy a Stonemaier product. I respect that decision, but I just wish they had the facts before they made it.

  44. I’m just impressed by the fact that you have personally answered each and every comment on this blog post. You are truly dedicated, and it shows.

  45. Really appreciate your business model and wish you didn’t have to waste your time responding to silly internet nonsense.

    1. Thanks, Jared. A silver lining is that it’s given me a good excuse to reflect on the way some people perceive my company and to inform those who are interested in knowing more about what goes on behind the scenes here.

  46. Noone really needs a game right away. Some people really need to learn self control and patience. If this is a good game, It will be reprinted and it will be available in a few months. I am pretty sure Jamey would love to sell as many games as possible. Jamey, I love the catering and the production level of SM games. Keep up the good work.

    1. Vincent: Indeed, 30,000 English copies of Wingspan (3 printings) are already in circulation, and there are 4 more printings in various stages of production. There will be enough for everyone. :)

  47. Jamey – you’re the man! I really appreciate your vulnerability and thoughtfulness – I’m sure it’s creating (or should be creating) a lot more trust and appreciation in your customer base!

    I am curious in a slightly scared way as to the marketing tools and “tricks” Amazon uses – I’m sure that they use various paths to gain access to products they want to sell, as I’ve heard people selling non-game products talking about their dealings with Amazon on various podcasts. . I hope it’s not hypocritical that when this game was available last week on Amazon for a very short window at normal MSRP, I immediately ordered a copy.

    While I appreciate the way Amazon makes so many products available to customers around the world (I’m in Japan), I feel creepy about the high prices being offered there – even if those prices are being inflated by “scalper” sellers in the “Amazon Marketplace”? I jwish I understood why Amazon allowed the creation of false scarcity on their site…..

    In any case, I think your decision to work with Flat River so that there would be an avenue for direct distribution to them – was the *right* decision.

    1. Charles: Indeed, the copies available on Amazon recently were those that we sent to Flat River a few weeks after we sent other third-printing copies to distributors (having learned from the arrival of the second printing last month, I wanted to ensure that game stores got their games from distributors before Amazon go theirs from Flat River).

      The scalpers are concerning, though consumers have a huge amount of power there. If they simply wait out the scalpers, those gouged prices are meaningless. I know it’s tough to wait sometimes, but we have plenty more games in production. :)

  48. So I will preface this by saying I’m not a “board-gamer”, I got into Wingspan because I’m a birder. I had no idea there was this much STUFF going on behind the scenes of a board game – it’s interesting to read and know. But I will say this: remember when Tamogatchis came out? I was a little kid. I remember me and all of my friends throwing tantrums because our parents couldn’t find us real Tamogatchis in stores. Nobody wanted to wait months for stock to come in, or for the rush to die down. We were like 7. I feel like this situation is just that tantrum, but this time being thrown by adults. Even without knowing all the ins and outs in this post, I accepted that the game was in high demand and I would need to wait for my copy. I accepted that Stonemaier seems to be a small-ish company, and didn’t expect you guys to run yourselves into the ground to make sure every single person got a copy of only one of the games you produce, on the first day. It was plain to see that you guys didn’t anticipate the massive demand, and that’s understandable. As you said, you don’t want 5000 copies unsold in a warehouse. I hope the people harassing you come to these realizations also, because I’m shocked at the level of immaturity you must be facing to feel like you had to make this post. Jamey, I’ve been consistently impressed by the level of connectedness you have with game fans. You seem to be a big part of the Wingspan Facebook group, even with all the other work you must have. Don’t worry about the complainers too much – you have plenty of people who appreciate what you do.

    1. Noelle: I hope you’ve enjoyed your peek behind the curtain of board game publishing! It’s an interesting business. :) I think the Tamogatchi example is perfect, and I appreciate your kind words.

  49. Patience is the word of the day. Thank you for all that you do! Sadly, I think this happens a lot in any type of media because of social media and the internet. However we did luckily enough find a copy and me and my wife love it! Hope to see more exciting games from you guys in the future.

  50. As an academic, my “understanding” of the back end of the business field just grew exponentially. Thanks for sharing the information. It amazes me that the group responsible for “conceiving” of the product makes so little profit from the actualization of said product. Manufacturing costs are so high. Is there a fix? Perhaps using digital components? 3d printing maybe?

    1. David: My pleasure! My 3D printed prototypes of Scythe cost nearly $300 each to make, so I’m not sure that’s the solution (unless people make it at home). I don’t think an $18 manufacturing cost for Scythe is all that high, though–there are a lot of components in that box. :)

      1. As a consumer, I just wish I could funnel more money to the creativity behind the product. I got the collector’s edition of Scythe, so I’m pleased with all the components myself.

      2. Woah 300 to print off some 3D printed stuff?? Most of that cost would have come from someone programming the shapes in etc. Honestly may be worth investing in bringing those skills in house as once you can do that the actual prints will only run into a few cents a piece…. For example we are looking into printing token protectors for Quacks of Quedlingburg and we came out with a materials cost of round £5 to print….. Wait for it….. 220 units.

  51. Jamey,

    I’m going to try and be nit-picky specific on my comment/question. This is for me to clarify and be certain that what I read was what you ACTUALLY wrote.
    My gripe, as a retailer, is this. You explained beautifully what happened: 5K games were requested by distributors, you printed 10K – twice what they wanted. Then, and here’s the rub, you sold 5600 on your website. That means you cut into what the distributors initially ordered by 600 copies – meaning you did not even fulfill the low number they gave. That’s really what upset me.
    If I’m right, my only gripe with you is cutting those extra 600 copies. I wouldn’t have gotten any more for my store, but you would have fulfilled your initial commitment. The way it appears to retailers I talked to is you just were greedy. I realize 600 copies in the wake of 9 million plus in sales for you is nothing, but perceptually… You get my point.
    So simply, do I have my facts right?

    Barry

    1. Barry: Well, I think I did something worse than what you described–I’ll give you the facts, even if they hurt me! :) The original distributors I consulted recommend that I make 10k Wingspan in the first print run (they knew I would sell some directly–maybe 1k). So based on that, I probably should have made 12-13k. But I made 10k, not to hurt anyone, but just because I was worried about making too many too early.

      Then I ran a 7-day preorder and sold 5100 units during that time, which was way more than I thought we’d sell. But entering the preorder, I told customers that the preorder would be live for 7 days, and I didn’t think it was fair to back away from that commitment. I fully understand how the consequences of those actions unfairly damaged retailers, and I take full responsibility for that. It wasn’t my intention, and I’ve since decreased our pre-order period to 4 days for future products, but the damage was already done for Wingspan. It’s tough to balance the needs of customers who want to buy directly from us versus those who want to buy elsewhere.

      1. “It’s tough to balance the needs of customers who want to buy directly from us versus those who want to buy elsewhere.”

        Many of your customers appreciate your transparency, contributions to the community, and other good stuff. For example. your public commitment to diversity is something that you did not have to do and it’s very important to me.

        I’ve made an active decision to buy directly from Stonemaier so that your company keeps as much of the profit as possible. I don’t think I’m alone and I hope you’ll keep us in mind when making decisions about preorder windows and such.

        Snuggles and pets to Walter and Biddy, if they are into that.

      1. OK, this was genuinely funny. I have no idea if the poster was being serious/upset with Jamey or just saying something outrageous for the heck of it, but it made me laugh out loud. Thanks for being a good sport about it Jamey.

  52. Jamey, I just wanted to mention that for somebody who hasn’t followed the details or wasn’t even aware of the ruckus around Wingspan and the other points you addressed above, your policy is really important: “I’d rather accurate information be out there in the open for people to judge as they wish, and that hopefully other creators can learn from my mistakes”.

    If you didn’t post this, then the claims against you would be out there for less informed people to read and believe, if they couldn’t find the facts in this post. Of course, as we know, some people are fact-resistant, but most do want to get to the bottom of the horse’s mouth and hear the truth, and nothing but the truth. Or how was that saying again…

    1. Vegard: Thanks for the affirmation! While I wish the facts were presented accurately in the first place (and then judged, as they deserve to be), I’m glad to have had the opportunity to share them here.

  53. Hmmm … from your numbers Jamey, it sounds like your distributors are getting too deep a discount; 60% seems excessive. That may be why there is so much fighting & jealousy from the FLGS groups. If they miss out on fat profits, they are going to be angry.

    I wonder if what would happen if you reduced the distributor discount down to something more reasonably, say 45%. There may be other perks you could give besides discounts. Example: a 1-month FLGS sales exclusive or a FLGS promo card or some other retailer perk.

    By lowering your distributor discount, there will be a tighter gap between your profit from your direct sales vs distribution profit. This could both increase your cash flow and limit the some of the heat from the retailers that are upset.

    What are the distributors going to do, boycott your product? With your past sales numbers, I think they won’t want to miss out on your games entirely. Then again, perhaps I am wrong on all of this.

    Either way, keep up the great work & don’t let the haters get you down. Remember, you will NEVER make everyone happy.

    1. Bruce: As far as I’m aware, 60% is industry standard. I don’t think we’d sell any games to distributors if they were only getting a 45% discount, as they typically sell games to retailers at around a 50% discount (they would be losing money on every sale).

      That said, we might have to adjust that discount a little bit if the tariffs happen.

      1. Well, this may be me just not knowing business, so forgive me if I sound like a child, but I say the heck with the “industry standards”. Business models shift & change all the time. If the distributors are getting 10 points, then you could offer them, say a 50% discount, in turn the retailers would end up getting the games at a 40% discount. Is that less than ideal for the retailers? Maybe, maybe not. Current, many of them are making zero profit on your games by not having any to sell.

        We are not talking about Target or Walmart here; where the big guys call the shots. Personally, I think that you are one of the few game publishers that could pull this off. Your games have demand & buyer recognition.

        Example: Restaurants don’t make the same profit margin on every item that they sell. Some food is more profitable than others. It may be possible that the FLGSs might be willing to be a little flexible. Anyway, just my thoughts.

        1. Thanks Bruce! I think you’re right that maybe it’s worth negotiating a little more (but still keeping in mind that distributors are our main clients–the vast majority of games sold by us are those sold to distributors).

    2. Bruce, you may want to look into how the 3-tier system works. The only company I know doing 45% to distributors is Games Workshop – its a complete insult because it forces the distributor to give an even smaller discount to retailers. Stonemaier, even though they are a fantastic company producing incredible games, don’t really have the catalog to force distributors and retailers to suffer that kind of discount. I think Jamey is correct that if he did that, he wouldn’t be carried in distribution.

  54. As a small indie publisher, all of these answers make perfect sense to me. I also use flat river group to get our games into stores and there is an extreme lag and lack of data that goes into ordering and sustaining copies for them. You don’t even know how your games are selling until the 10th of the following month and by then if you’re running low you’ve got at least a 3 month lag on reprinting and freighting to the USA. Most importantly the risk of over ordering a game and sitting on it is immense. For us smaller publishers, underestimating is the fiscally responsible thing to do because getting our hopes up and sitting on thousands of company zaps our cash flow or worse puts us out of business.

  55. I personally think, with regards to everything (which really seemed “manageable” prior to Wingspan but came to a head with Wingspan), your response to point 1 is the most important.

    You explained that you did try to get an idea of how big of a run to make, only to realize later that perhaps the method you went about coming to that number was flawed and have learned from that and have ideas of how to better handle it.

    We are all only human. The only thing we can reasonably ask is to learn from mistakes of the past so that we can all live joyously in a better future. And you seem to be doing just that.

    A mistake isn’t necessarily maliciousness. And I can’t see that you did anything malicious. Your reputation in the industry speaks volumes.

    I am just happy to have you as a member of the industry providing some of the best gaming experiences I have personally had yet during my run with the hobby. Wingspan is both beautiful and a great game. Scythe is fantastic. And I look forward to upcoming games.

    Thank you for taking the time to explain things and show what a classy guy you are, Jamey. It is muchly appreciated.

    1. Daniel: I agree, that’s the source of most of these issues. We probably wouldn’t have any of these discussions if I had done a better job of forecasting demand. There was no grand devious plan, just an approach that was a too conservative. I appreciate you and others who see that there was no ill intent behind that decision. :)

  56. I think a lot of those criticisms are harsh and seem very unfair. The only real complaint I can see is that they didn’t properly predict the demand of their game and because of it many are still waiting for the next print run and are hoping this time they are fast enough to click the buy button before the copies are gone again. Jaime had already admitted a mistake and apologized for it. I don’t know what else we could want from slinging more mud, it’s not like more copies are going to magically appear. I can only imagine Jaime himself is more upset about this mistake than anyone, who knows how many people have changed their minds on purchasing Wingspan since the release because of the shortages. I do believe that if this had been a kickstarter campaign product, the demand would have been easier to predict and much less risk to the company to make a few extra copies initially. I have heard Stonemaire games doesn’t do kickstarters anymore for certain reasons, but maybe for the games that the company find difficult to predict sells for, such as this one, the company might want to consider kickstarter campaigns again or look into more accurate ways to predict their game sells. I wish this company great success, as they are open to creating games with unique themes and quality components.

    1. Elijah: You make some interesting points about Kickstarter. I’m not sure how well Wingspan would have done on Kickstarter, and I think that while Kickstarter is good at predicting early-adopter demand, it doesn’t provide much useful data about retail demand. Also, rather than putting the risk on backers, I’m willing to put risk on us as the publisher. But we’ll see. While I’ve essentially said we’re done with Kickstarter, I don’t want to close that door completely.

      1. For your next big game release could you let us know ahead of time through your YouTube channel or other board game channels? Maybe even play a bit of the game, so we can get an idea if it would be something we like. I don’t know if you did for Wingspan or not, I may not have been a subscriber then.

        1. Elijah: Sure, when I announce a new game, it’s typically about a month before preorders begin and about three months before the retail release date. I announce it in our e-newsletter, invite people to join the new Facebook group for the game, and then I share new information about the game every day for 2 weeks. Some of that content includes videos on my YouTube channel.

  57. It was an honour to meet you at GenCon last year. I am an huge fan of your games, but since following you on various social media forums you have generated a huge amount of personal respect you and your company. I don’t think I would have been as self deprecating under this criticism and the way it was leveled at you.

    I am happy to continue buying games and supporting Stonemaier in any way I can and whenever I can get my hands on a copy of Wingspan I be even more thrilled to play it with all of this background on how hard it was to get market. :)

  58. I finally managed to get my copy through Amazon (before the price skyrocketed to double). I couldn’t get a copy from any of my LFGS (New England) or any of my favorite online stores. I’m ok with that. But from my limited perspective as a costumer, and without knowing the details, I can see how how this could make some retailers frustrated and or angry.

    1. I can see that as well, Uriel. That’s why we limited the number of third-printing copies that went to the distributor who sells to Amazon, and we made sure that hobby distributors got their games first. Overall, it still ends up being a problem of demand–even if Amazon didn’t get any copies, if there’s greater demand than there is supply, retailers, distributors, and consumers aren’t going to be happy. So it’s my job to make enough games for everyone, and I’m working on it! :)

  59. For the sake of clarity. So last summer after you developed, and play tested the game you spoke to a number of distributors concerning theoretical demand from hobby gamers. What did your play testers say about the game? Exactly how many distributors did you speak to? If they felt the max demand would be 10k copies why did you then develop an expansion for said game? The narrative you continue to give seems to say you were hesitant to commit to this game based on a single past failure, yet you were already putting resources into expanding the event game into a main revenue stream. As of the January newsletter at least one was under way already for a 2019 release.

    1. Steven: Playtesters liked Wingspan, with the ratings in the final wave in the 7 and 8 range. Several expressed that they weren’t sure how hobby gamers would feel about the game, and others said they would buy it, but only if it had a $40-$45 MSRP. Obviously they were basing that on prototype components–they weren’t aware of the eggs, dice tower, final art, or tray.

      I spoke with 3 distributors about the game.

      As for expansions, I’m always thinking ahead of ways to expand games. That process begins at different times, but we generally start to have those conversations a few months after the designer finishes the core game. Even if we only sold those 10k copies, that’s still enough games to justify an expansion. Also, expansion blind playtesting didn’t even begin until mid-December, at which point we were starting to see that a lot of people were interested in the game. In fact, at that point we already had the game in our warehouse, so I was able to send copies to the first wave of blind playtesters so they could test the expansion with the real components.

      For any game, I hope for success, but I maintain flexibility in the case of failure. If Wingspan was a flop upon release, we had invested very little in an expansion at that point and could have ditched it or simply gone small.

      “The narrative you continue to give seems to say you were hesitant to commit to this game based on a single past failure”

      I think there might be some confusion about that. I decided Wingspan’s first print run in August 2018. I’ve provided the example of Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig as a game that didn’t sell as well as I’d hoped, but we didn’t even announce that game and accept preorders until September 2018. Rather, the truth is exactly as I expressed in my response to criticism #1 in the above article.

      I’m not exactly sure what point you’re trying to make. That I secretly thought Wingspan would be a success, yet I purposely didn’t print enough copies? I loved Wingspan from the start and had the highest hopes for it, but I still had no idea how hobby gamers would receive it. If I had known, I would have made more, plain and simple. But the uncertainty doesn’t contradict my love of the game and my desire for there to be a future beyond the core game, even if it just ended up being a few thousand copies of a small expansion.

      1. No matter how transparent you are or feel you are the simple fact remains a narrative is being created. If at any point you had any distributors request any pre orders prior to March 7th that separately or combined totaled more then 10k that’s when an announcement should have been made. You knew in January that half the first print run was allocated to in house pre orders. You waited until the day before release to make the announcement that the well was dry. How did you know to make that announcement at that point? Why didn’t you make that announcement say in Febuary, or earlier?

        As to using 3 distributors to get a theoretical production demand, how many distributors do you sell to as a whole? What percentage does that 3 represent of the total number of distributors you work with?

        What criteria does a store need to meet to get listed on your website?

        As a personal aside I love your games. Scythe and Viticulture are two of my favorite games. I’ve said time and time again you make some of the best product out there. I recently downsized my collection of games but those two weren’t going anywhere. I felt the same way about Fantasy Flight Games, until they changed how they ran shop. These feels like Stonemaier is starting to change how they run shop. I’m going to get Wingspan. I’m going to get all the expansions. I ordered a copy of the card re prints when you first announced them so to insure I had them right away. I’ve been patiently waiting for 4 months the same as many other folks. I’ve watched more and more insanely over priced copies go up on Amazon and ebay. I know each wave of games that hit stores more of those over priced copies are going to go up, because parasites will want to capitalize on the demand. I just don’t know if I’ll do this again when you’re next big game gets dropped.

        1. “You waited until the day before release to make the announcement that the well was dry. How did you know to make that announcement at that point?”

          I’m sorry, Steven, but that is not true. In my January 5 e-newsletter to retailers and distributors, I told them, “The first print run is relatively small due to advice from distributors earlier this year, but we’re already in production on a second print run that should arrive soon after the release date.” Then in my February 12 retailer/distributor e-newsletter I said, “I continue to wish I did a better job at gauging demand for the first print run of Wingspan. I’m sorry to have fallen far short of that important responsibility as a publisher. The second print run will arrive a few weeks after the March 8 retail release date, and I’m working with our manufacturer to accelerate the third print run to arrive earlier than the June estimate.”

          “As to using 3 distributors to get a theoretical production demand, how many distributors do you sell to as a whole? What percentage does that 3 represent of the total number of distributors you work with?”

          I sell to around 20 distributors worldwide. The majority of what we sell goes to 10 of them. The 3 that I talked to represent about 10%. Again, I’m not saying my method of forecasting demand was good–in fact, I specifically said in the article that my method was deeply flawed, and I’ve tried a new method for our next game.

          “What criteria does a store need to meet to get listed on your website?”

          It’s easy. (a) Contact me with your store info. (b) To remain listed, don’t harass me privately or spread false information about my company publicly.

          1. As I am neither a retailer, nor a distributor those newsletters would never have reached me, nor any end point consumers. So again I ask why did you wait til the eleventh to release that statement to your fans?

            If transparency to your fan base was the end goal I’d think saying that the second you knew there’d be an issue would have been prudent.

            There are no fees involved with having a a store listed on your site?

          2. “why did you wait til the eleventh to release that statement to your fans?”

            I published multiple articles in January about Wingspan, all of which provided detailed information to our fans about how demand was much higher than I originally estimated.

            https://stonemaiergames.com/an-open-letter-to-distributors-and-retailers-from-stonemaier-games/

            https://stonemaiergames.com/the-wingspan-preorder-stats-mistakes-and-lessons-learned/

            “There are no fees involved with having a a store listed on your site?”

            Of course not.

  60. This hurts my soul. Deep down.

    I stand with any company who is open and honest, willing to learn and grow, and has a true desire to (attempt to) make as many people happy as possible.

    You are good company, Jamey.

    I hope this post puts any misconceptions to rest, whether about you personally or about Stonemaier as a publisher. It would be awesome if you could simply say, “I’ll just leave this here.”

  61. Jamey, I’ve read the entire blog and then every one of the Comments (about a half-hour’s worth of info) and I have to say, I commend you for the way in which you continue to run your business with full transparency. As a fellow-designer, I admire your work, but moreover, your ability to run your company so effectively is even more impressive.

  62. Twice this past week, Amazon has gotten more copies in… Where are these coming from? Given the number of people waiting for preorders with FLGS, and FLGS getting increasingly annoyed about not being able to fill those orders, I would want to know why copies are headed to Amazon… I’m sure the retailers are talking to their distributors, but if the distributor for those retailers isn’t getting any copies because they’re all going to flat River, that seems like an opportunity for improvement.

    1. In early May, we sent the third printing to hobby game distributors. We held Flat River’s allocation (which was smaller than what they “should” have received, if based strictly on the allocation formula) for about two weeks so that other retailers would get their copies before they would show up on Amazon.

  63. I had no idea there was such contention! I am just really happy your work and company exist. You guys add joy to my life at a price point I find reasonable. Thanks for the great work!

  64. Jamey. Thank you for being an open publisher and the great games that you have published. History of events is always interesting and we are all humans who can make make mistakes and errors. You have shown through here and on other fora, that you are involved are clearly passionate about your products and love the hobby. As someone in his fifties and off work currently with anxiety bourne out of work related stress, please take care and find some time to plays some games.

    Chris Healey

    Ps i received my replaced cards for version 1 wingspan within two days of ordering from Board games extras in UK – thank you for choosing Andrew and his company which have also given me excellent service.

    1. Chris: I appreciate the concern, and fortunately I do play a lot of games (though I try to take non-game breaks too so I can avoid the burn out–I’m sorry you’ve experienced that).

  65. Jamey, love your games, love your transparency, love how you communicate with the community. I really respect that you have been able to reflect on things and respond in such a well thought out way. No doubt plenty of people will criticise you for this too, but haters are gonna hate. I hope you don’t let this get you down – I can only imagine how you must have felt at times during the past few months when you’ve copped some pretty awful personal attacks.

    tl;dr: I love what you do and how you do it, and just wanted to comment so you know you’re supported (I’m normally a passive entity.)

    1. Mark: I appreciate the love! It has been encouraging to hear people like you speak up–I know you’re out there, but your voice means a lot in the midst of a situation like this.

  66. Jaime, You produce games with great play and quality components; you produce outstanding video content; you interact with other content producers. You have elevated the entire gaming community. You are also a business man and not everything goes according to plan – I challenge anyone to show me one where everything does. I do not own a copy of Wingspan yet, but I will. I exercise a concept known as patience. The only problem is I will have to play some other games in the meantime – don’t we all hate first-world, affluent nation problems! Keep up the good work – you are doing fine.

  67. Stay strong J, you have a huge silent majority that is nothing but happy with your products and company. To me you’re one of the most transparent companies in existence (one time I actually read a blog post and thought it might be too transparent, lol). Keep up the great work, keep up the thinking, experimenting and innovating. Lastly, thank you for the hundreds of hours of fun I and my friends and family have had with your products, and the many many more to come.

  68. Jamie, I must admit that as a customer of your products I’m disappointed and frustrated in my inability to obtain a copy of Wingspan to call my own. I see the buzz, I’ve signed up for “back in stock” notifications with retailers and am still unable to obtain a copy for myself.

    I think many of the suggestions to improve your business model within the various threads, and your business strategy itself, are fine if SM wants to remain a small shop. However, with time SM proved it’s capability to create GREAT games. I’ve spoken with many who say, “I buy anything Stonemaier puts out as they are quality games.” That type of loyalty only lasts as long as SM allows it to last and is fully within SM’s control as long as SM continues to deliver (both great game play and the games themselves). Not every game will be a huge hit, and that’s ok! You will still sell the games from your print run (eventually). Sure, that may come at a cost but those are growing pains. Of course, all of my comments depend upon the growth you envision for SM which I admittedly don’t have much insight on.

    I’m a fan and I hope SM figures this out for its next release so I could bring the next game to the table to enjoy with my family and friends. I hope the hype around SM continues so that SM continues.

    1. John: I’m sorry for the frustration my weak demand forecasting has caused. I agree with you that we need to set ourselves up for success every time we make a game, and with Wingspan, 10,000 copies wasn’t enough to achieve that goal.

      1. No worries, my supervisor scored a copy from my FLGS and let me test drive it with my wife. Definitely a fan, anxiously awaiting my “back in-stock” email.

        I must say I’m very impressed with the component storage.

        Btw, playing through Rise of Fenris… holy cow! Everyone is focused on the guy who scored first place in the first two games while I’ve lurked in 2nd place for episode 1-3. Couldn’t have planned it any better!

  69. You are a competent and successful businessman. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I really appreciate your willingness to be transparent with your business decisions. You owe your armchair quarterback critics no explanation for your success formula and it is a credit to your character to share this much. #stonemaierRules

  70. To respond to your response, um, I’m a bit stumped. Basically, as many others have said, you did nothing wrong. You made a good quality game and it turned out to be more popular than you thought it would be. Lucky you! (And lucky gamers who get a game that they like.) In general, I like the quality of your products. I don’t love all your games, but that’s just because tastes differ. (Viticulture I think is awesome. Euphoria I wish I liked better because the theme and sense of humor are charming. etc.)

    Anyway, thanks for putting this letter out there. It may quiet some of the grumpy gamers. Maybe. In any case, keep up the good work of putting out good games!

    1. skutsch: I think that’s a good summary. :) I think the key is that while I made mistakes, they weren’t malicious, devious, or ill-intended. While I can say that and present the facts to support it, it doesn’t stop some people for presenting more elaborate conspiracy theories. :)

  71. Keeping up with this thread is interesting. Its my first time really engaging with stonemeier so I could be miles out here but it seems people are very willing to communicate with you directly (due to your engagement with them). I’m assuming the majority of level of interest is not just due to this “situation” and people being curious like me.

    Based on that and with you saying the direct sales to end users through stonemeier were larger than you anticipated it made me wonder if you put out any sort of poll on your site before hand to gauge how many copies you may sell directly to stonemeier fans?

    Like I said not really on my radar before this so I don’t know if it’s something you already do or not.

    1. Megan: I’m sorry this was your first exposure to Stonemaier Games, but I appreciate you participating in the discussion.

      For Wingspan preorders, I anticipated no more than 1,000 based on our previous direct preorders (My Little Scythe, The Rise of Fenris, and Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig). But when I saw that the Facebook group for it grew quite rapidly in November and December, I used that as a poll of sorts–at that point I had a pretty good idea that the preorder would be better than those that had preceded it. The tricky thing about using a poll at that point is that we already had the games in our warehouse at that point–the best I could do then was start the second and third printings, but they didn’t help first-run supply.

  72. The saddest part of this is that Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig isn’t flying off the shelves. That is a great game that is also very easy to introduce to new players. I find it surprising that you did 20,000 of those and only 10,000 of Wingspan, but that’s hindsight I guess. I do remember being much more hyped at the Wingspan announcement than the Between Two Castles announcement. In fact it took me a few months to come around on Between Two Castles, but now that I have it I pull it out whenever people come over and they love it. I just have to not mention the name or their eyes glaze over halfway through :) I’m not sure what I’m getting at here, perhaps just that more people should try out Between Two Castles while they wait for Wingspan!

    I still remember bird facts from the one time I got to play Wingspan. Things like that don’t really happen much in games. I’m looking forward to finding it for sale locally some day.

  73. Thanks for the information Jamey. It is much appreciated. Business is hard and overproducing a product can be the death of a company so I understand completely. You guys just didn’t realized the confluence of birders and gaming nerds I guess! Can’t wait to get the game. Have a lovely day

    1. Matthew: Indeed, I’ve been delighted to see that confluence (and to see how many non-gamer birders are willing to try a medium-weight Euro game about birds). Hopefully they’ll branch out into other games as well.

  74. Hi Jamey,

    The irony of some of these “business practice” complaints, is you are actually demonstrating good Lean business practices and values. Excessive inventory is considered waste, and incurs companies cost, as well as falling into the “liability” column in the accounting world. Limiting inventory also allows for strategic pivots; if a release flops, you can build something better, rather than having to liquidate old inventory at a discount just to get rid of it. Manufacturers should build just enough inventory to sustain demand at the time, and ramp up if demand escalates beyond forecasts, as well as being transparent to stakeholders on the state of the delivery pipeline. You are doing all of this. Toyota introduced this thinking, and is the main reason they were a breakout success in the auto industry with high quality cars at a time when other manufacturers were struggling.

    So, I chuckle at the notion that you have “bad business practices.” I coach Product Development teams in Lean and Agile mindsets and methods for a living, and I can safely say that you are rocking it. As for the blacklisting, all that says to me, is that you stand by your product/business, and will not sell to other businesses that do not share your level of integrity and transparency. Keep on crushing it!

    Now I think I need to buy Castles…

    1. Patrick: That’s a great point! A lot of what I do follows those lean methods. My company has very little overhead–we don’t own a warehouse, a shipping company, or a factory. We outsource those elements exactly as needed to stay lean and agile. I respect that it’s not the only way to do business, but, as you said, it’s a legitimate approach to doing business. :)

  75. I don’t know man, have you just tried logging off the internet instead of spending entire business days and evenings ranting about all of this on literally every platform you can find?

    Like dude, just get offline and go run your business. Stop making business issues personal and inserting yourself as the face of the drama. If you did more of that and less of this, maybe you would avoid some of these issues in the first place.

  76. I’ve seen you defending yourself a good amount over Wingspan. I admire your ability to take all this criticism without lashing out, because to me it seems like the issue is

    1. No one knew the game would blow up
    2. The game ended up being a massive hit
    3. Lots of bitter people complaining that you should have done things as if the game were obviously going to be a massive hit.

    Sorry people, it’s not the end of the world if you have to wait a few more months to get a game that no one knew was going to have a massive demand. No one is entitled to your game.

    1. fiorgodx: Thanks! I’ve tried not to sound defensive, and I’ve had a few moments where I responded rashly, but overall I’m just trying to run my business, make games, and share some stories along the way so other creators can learn from my mistakes. :)

  77. Jamey – I am certainly no expert on any of this, so I’m hoping I have this right… I am really curious on your take on one aspect relating to the MAP situation. You mentioned that many B&M stores sell on Amazon, so they would be directly affected by MAP I believe.

    So some of these companies bought your product under the first iteration of the MAP policy (or prior to MAP). Then you changed the MAP policy, because you hadn’t anticipated some of the strategies they used that weren’t in the spirit of your MAP.

    That leaves those stores with a large amount of inventory that they can’t move the same way they could when they purchased it from you (via the distributor), correct?

    Obviously you have the right to run your business as you see fit. But you also directly impact these B&Ms who operate in this way. Assuming I have that correct, how would you characterize your responsibility to these B&Ms in this regard?

    1. Khyle: Thanks for your question. The original MAP announcement read as follows in our e-newsletter: “Stonemaier Games now has an advertising policy on all products sold through and to Amazon.com in the US. This policy takes effect on April 15, 2018. Vendors may not advertise or otherwise promote Stonemaier products at a price lower than 20% below MSRP on the Amazon.com marketplace.”

      So if a retailer bought copies of our products from a distributor thinking that it would be okay to sell games at less than 20% MSRP on Amazon.com, I think they’re responsible for that mistake. I was available the entire time for questions–any retailer that purchased games with the intent of working around the 20% limit (which I think was clear from the start) could have simply asked me if that was okay before devoting their resources to overstocking games.

  78. I haven’t purchased a single Stonemaier game, nor do I have plans to for the foreseeable future, just not in my wheelhouse. That being said I still follow what they do because Jamey is such a positive force in the community. Maybe something comes along that I will purchase. The level of entitlement that comes across is absurd in these complaints. He’s running a business trying to feed his family. I’m a Senior Financial Analyst, part of my job is predicting future business levels and expenses. But even the best forecasting models can go awry.
    So Jamey keep up what you are doing in creating products that a whole lot of people enjoy. It’s great you take time to listen to dissent, but you know what you are doing to stay profitable and keep your business afloat.

      1. Jamey family comes in all forms, pets and even people who you work with at Stonemaier. Either way keep up the great work of bringing more joy into the world.

  79. I watched the interview on the Covenant channel related to this subject. The interview was great! I enjoyed hearing about your company, and the transparency. I did not know you issued annual statements to stakeholders, and I would be interested in seeing them if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

    One thing did come to me as I was watching your channel. The laws of economics are similar to the laws of physics, in that an attempt to break the laws of physics generally results in failure. The same I think is true for the laws of economics. Here’s what I mean.

    Think of Amazon as representing economies of scale. Wikipedia defines economies of scale as “the cost advantages that enterprises obtain due to their scale of operation”. Amazon is very effectively implementing economies of scale. In addition, technology creating greater access to information and faster speed to market is magnifying Amazon’s implementation of economies of scale. The result lowers the cost of the product to the end consumer. Maybe think of it this way, 20 to 30 years ago do you think you would be as successful using China? The information and communication available to you today, as well as China’s ability to implement economies of scale to lower production cost (of course paired with lower regulations and lower pay to skilled workers) causes you to be able to produce a quality game at a low price. Amazon takes advantage of all of this to lower the cost to the end consumer. Miniature Market, Cool Stuff Inc, CardHaus, and several other online game retailers have similar benefits because they are able to sell at a lower price because of lower costs due to economies of scale. It’s an interesting day and age. If the brick and mortar shops want to compete with the online stores, they have to find a way to sell at a lower price.

    I buy from CSI, MM, Amazon, and my FLGS, and my FLGS comes in 4th place. I like small business and supporting small business, but when I have to fend for a family of 8 (a real mine, hers, & ours situation) then to maintain my interest in the hobby I look for the lower cost supplier. Being a CPA increases my likelihood to buy the greatest quality at the lowest cost.

    Point being, I think you’ve tried to do some really interesting experiments, and the result has been that you can’t break the rules of economics. You might be able to bend them for a short while, but in the long term the laws of economics will win. That is one of the fascinating things I have thought about as I have listened to you discuss these issues.

    You do have a very interesting problem that I deal with in a slightly different way. Predicting the future. I am the SOX (Sarbanes Oxley) director at Zions Bank in Salt Lake City. As part of my job, I have to take a control issue (let’s say someone issues a commercial loan to a small business that was not authorized properly) and predict the outcome of a controls breakdown on our financial statements. I then have to defend that position to our external auditors and evidence to them that the controls breakdown would not create a material error in our financial statements. In other words, I have to take information analyze a number of factors that might either prevent an error or magnify the problem, and predict an outcome. I am currently trying to get someone to study this problem and write a dissertation. I truly think the best way to predict will be through a statistical analysis of qualitative and quantitative factors that will produce what will in fact be a better guess.

    Your problem is prediction of demand. It’s similar to my problem. You have to take external data both from a quantitative measure (prior sales, prior demand for similar products, etc) and qualitative factors (the coolness of the game factor) and predict demand. The only thing you will learn after you predict demand, is that you will always be wrong.

    In your situation, some people will mostly be happy much of the time, while others are generally unhappy most of the time. You’ll never totally win, but you’ll also never completely lose. The key is to win more than you lose.

    If we could go to a KickStarter model for everyone, then you can predict with more precise information. But that puts a burden on the consumer to buy something that in some cases will not come for years. I get in bed with Kickstarters sometimes, but am weary of waiting so long to get a mediocre product. In other words, the risk shifts from the producer to the consumer. The implications of a consumer taking a risk and feeling the risk actually occurring causes a bad outcome for the producer in the long run. When a consumer takes a risk and trust is then lost, trust is very difficult to get back.

    What I have learned from your experiments in economics, is that the laws come back in force, and have real world consequences. A lot of people have felt these consequences from WingSpan, and I think it’s so interesting.

    If I were in your shoes, I would continue to watch and learn from your market and get better at predicting. I think you live in Indiana, so I might even wander over to the Purdue and/or IU campuses and discuss the results with an economics professor. I bet you would get some really great insight.

    Anyhow, great interview today. I thought your discussion was really interesting. Thanks for doing it.

    1. Mason: Thanks for sharing your thoughts here! That’s an interesting observation about the laws of economics, and I agree that price is a powerful motivator for many people.

      I also really like this (the truth in it made me smile): “The only thing you will learn after you predict demand, is that you will always be wrong.”

      We have some great data analysts among the Stonemaier Ambassadors, and it would be an interesting challenge for them to create a predictive model for first printings based on the data we have. Also, I forgot to mention this: Earlier this year I challenged the Ambassadors with the prospect of predicting from among 10 named games being released this year which will be hits and which will be misses. At the end of the year I’m going to revisit that survey to see if there are any strikingly accurate ambassadors, and I’ll add them to my demand forecasting group.

  80. Thanks for the post and the reasoned responses. Don’t know if you’re still reading comments on this massive chain of them, but if you are, I’m curious if you have any insight into pricing of Wingspan on Amazon through your distributor. I know it’s in short supply, but it looked like it was available shortly this week from (it claimed) Stonemaier, but it was going for over $90. Do you have any way to put price ceilings on the thinks you sell or are all prices set by Amazon’s algorithms?

    Thanks and keep doing what you’re doing.

    -ben

    1. Ben: Definitely, I receive and read every comment on every post and page on this website.

      As far as I’m aware, Amazon itself does not sell products from any publisher for more than MSRP. When you see high prices on Amazon, those are for third-party vendors selling games *through* Amazon. There’s a graphic on this page that shows where to look for the actual seller:

      https://stonemaiergames.com/amazon-how-to-survive-the-biggest-online-jungle/

  81. The problem I’m having though is that Amazon is selling Wingspan for over $75, while my “local” (still long distance) game store sells it for about $50-60. I admittedly am ignorant of the full extent of the drama but I am nonetheless frustrated that Amazon seems to be the only option. Can nothing be done about this?

    1. Justin: Thanks for your question. Amazon isn’t actually selling the game for over MSRP ($55). The prices you see on Amazon now are third-party vendors who are price gouging.

      We have 4 more printings of Wingspan in various stages of production, so if you can wait a little longer, you’ll see the price drop back down to $55 from retailers (you can also sign up for a back-in-stock notification for when Stonemaier Games has more copies in stock: https://stonemaier-games.myshopify.com/products/wingspan)

      1. Thanks for your response (the email notification indicating a response was made must have been caught in spam) and the clarification as to what’s going on. I believe the local game store websites have indicated a restocking date of sometime in July, is that mostly accurate?

        Also, on a somewhat unrelated note, what are the dimensions of the bird cards? I’d like, if possible, to put them in card protectors to protect my $55 investment.

  82. Jamey, I so appreciate the fact that you are so transparent about mistakes or decisions you’ve made. I have so much respect for Stonemeier Games because of you.
    I’ve heard a lot of bashing and I’m quick to defend n ask if people have read some of your posts.
    I love Wingspan n was excited to get my copy in early May but would’ve gladly waited. I’ve waited more than a year for games I’ve KSed so I don’t understand why everyone is so upset.
    In this current overflowing games market how is any company supposed to predict the right # to print without sinking their company.
    There are several big games out there that are hard to get ahold of n I don’t hear anyone bashing those companies!
    Didn’t mean to get long winded but thanks for putting things like this out there. I know it’s hard. Hang in there.
    I’m super excited about any new projects you put out. I won’t make the mistake of not preordering again.

    1. Thanks Amy! I appreciate you asking people if they’ve read both sides of the story (instead of just one narrative). They’re still welcome to judge, but at least then they have the facts. :)

  83. Jamey,

    I think you are trying to do the right thing and are working on the assumption that things will work out best if you allow everyone to share the pie. The problem you are and will continue to face is that people are by nature greedy and most do not want to take personal responsibility. The attacks made upon you and your company are related to these.

    There is no way to prevent greed, and to some extent, greed is not a bad thing. Capitalism works because people are incentivized with the hope of making more $$. This translates to better products and innovations as inferior ones do not sell as well. I think you realize that when a retailer is criticizing you, what they are really saying is, “I can’t make as much $$$ as I want because I can’t get your game and I’m afraid my customers are going to go somewhere else to buy the game.”

    What you can change is retailers accountability, or at least, give them the option of taking accountability. If they don’t take this option, then they really have no leg to stand on when they receive 1 to 2 games for every 50 orders they have. This may also solve your problem of How Many Games to Print.

    This (I believe) will be a shift in your thinking, and I don’t know if you are willing to do it as it is similar to the P500 system, but with retailers instead of consumers. Even if you implemented this idea, it may not work as the retailer would be assuming risk. This would also add a bit of work for your company. Please forgive me for arm-chairing or backseat driving; I am in the medical field and have no real understanding of what you do, but I’ve read most of your posts/articles and in a former life I owned a custom picture frame shop and art gallery, so I know the retail aspect.

    Currently you are asking distributors for their input. I would continue that, but after they give you their thought, I would then send out an email to your retail list stating something like this (I’ll use Wingspan as an example):

    Stonemaier Games is proud to announce that we will be publishing a middle weight euro-style bird-themed game. [You then give them a brief overview of the mechanics with some art examples – similar to a KickStarter ask]. My distributors have estimated that we should print 10,000 copies. If this game generates high demand, you may only receive a couple of copies until reprints can be made. To avoid this from occurring, we are giving you the opportunity to order a guaranteed amount. [Here you can set minimums on how many they must order to make it economically feasible to you (ordering 5 copies probably isn’t going to make a difference if they will be getting at least 2 anyway)]. Please note that you are committing to the order placed. We will use these orders to determine how many we will print. You do not have to order any; in this case, you will receive the games just as you normally would. Ordering only guarantees that you will get a specific amount of this game. If you order 50 copies, you will receive 50 copies even if the demand forces our distributors to set a limit of 1 or 2 copies to retailers until additional reprints are made. You have until [whatever date you want] to send me an email with your order. After that, we will assume that you do not want to take advantage to this offer.

    This shifts some responsibility (or foresight if you prefer) to the retailer. The retailer DOES NOT have to order anything. But if they do, and it’s another huge success, they will reap the benefit as they will have copies to sell. If they don’t (and it’s a huge success), then any complaints from them will be that “There is no way to know that my customers would have wanted the game”. This of course is what you face every time you publish. *chuckles* The difference is that now the retailer understands. If the game is a flop, the retailer will scream that they bought games that they can’t sell, but again, this is allowing them to experience what you experience when you order 10,000 games and only 2,000 sell. No one is forcing them to buy; but this will take the wind out of their bitching if they only get 2 copies of Wingspan. Because it is their choice on whether they utilize the option or not, they cannot complain that you are ‘forcing them to buy’. Give them the option of having more skin in the game and it could be a win-win. Worst case scenario, they understand what you go through and will complain less. And that at least is a win for you.

    1. Bahasa: Thanks for sharing your idea! While I’m not sure if that’s a strategy that could work for us–nor do I know if retailers would use it–I am now including some retailers in my demand forecasting estimates, which is a start. We’ll see how that system evolves. :)

  84. Hey Jamey,

    I would like that understand what did you mean by: “At an $80 MSRP, distributors were purchasing Scythe from us for $32 (a 60% discount). Scythe costs us over $18 to manufacturer and around $2 to freight ship from China to the US. So for every copy of Scythe we sell to a distributor, we were making $12 in profit…and then spending that to make more Scythe (even though another copy of Scythe costs us $20 to make and ship). It’s that gap between profit and reprint cost that is unsustainable (and why it’s important for us to be able to sell some games directly to consumers).”

    My confusion is due to the fact that if you are selling to distributors at $32 you should already have the $20 to reprint that copy besides your $12 profit. I was not sure why you would be using profits instead of the hole revue from the selling to cover for reprints. Is this a cash flow problem?

    Congrats on the post.

    1. “if you are selling to distributors at $32 you should already have the $20 to reprint that copy besides your $12 profit.”

      Yes, in terms of cash, we’ve already paid our manufacturer the $20. But each print run ultimately pays for itself.

  85. Jamey none of this requires an answer, your welcome to if you have time. First I fully trust Stonemaier Games, your products across the board are above just about everything else out here and as for between two castles I still intend to pick up my copy, just haven’t yet. Second, I only order off Amazon because they have the best prices and ship in two days and zero local retailers carry your products. With that said may I suggest you printing a roll n write or card game that you could get into WalMart and targets that would open up the door for you to in box advertising of your company. (wingspan may actually have a shot at being that game if it pulls off the award, if it is and does, you need to print off one off those shelf tags that hang over the isle above wingspan) Lastly, speaking from knowledge, on printing and shipping, it should be possible to not have to wait till an entire print run of 15k games has finished to begin shipping, you should be able to have multiple order numbers making up a single order and each block of say 4-6 pallets will ship as soon as they are staged. Perhaps you already do this, logistically speaking if perhaps you could use UPS or DHL or FedEx at launch to deliver preorders then you could always push back a retail launch (which is what you probably should have done) until you can fulfill the entire order.

    1. Kevin: “Lastly, speaking from knowledge, on printing and shipping, it should be possible to not have to wait till an entire print run of 15k games has finished to begin shipping, you should be able to have multiple order numbers making up a single order and each block of say 4-6 pallets will ship as soon as they are staged.”

      Perhaps some manufacturers work that way, but Panda doesn’t operate that way. For freight shipping, yes, sometimes we split shipments in case part of it gets stuck in customs, but when we manufacturer a 15,000-unit print run, the pricing is based on all of that production happening simultaneously, with the key portion of it being the assembly, which happens all at once (it can’t be split into smaller segments, and even if it could, it wouldn’t make sense to do so, as assembly is the fastest part of the entire production process).

  86. Thanks for the update Jamey. I had seen a posting on Reddit concerning this, but didn’t think Geekway was the best place to discuss it with you. I’m glad to get your side of the story . Coming from the retail side of things, I can understand frustrations when products are not easy to attain. It’s nice to hear how things work from a publisher’s perspective. Now, the next time we meet up, we can talk about more pleasant things and play a few games!

    1. Thanks Brad! I’m glad we got to play a game together at Geekway–this stuff was on my mind a lot then (as it still is), but it was nice to be able to put it aside and simply roll some dice. :)

  87. Dear Jamey,
    I just wanted to leave a comment of encouragement, to not let negative and some strongly-worded criticism discourage how you work, because I can imagine at times it must feel unfair.

    I have been following your blogs and videos ever since I bought Scythe, which to date is still one of the best board game experiences I have had. I bought virtually everything that belongs to the game, spending objectively way too much money for say a bag of metal coins. When doing so, I have no doubt that you are running a business, and I have no problem with that. I spend that money also as a sign of my appreciation for the work you spent on the game.

    I highly appreciate how you try to build a relationship with the people that buy your products. Judging from my own experience, I can imagine that games like Scythe and Viticulture have earned you a certain fanbase, people who would try your games even if “Euro-themed bird game” does not immediately tick all boxes. This is maybe something you can take into consideration the next time you decide on quantities: you have made a name for yourself, and that counts for something when releasing a new game. I live in Sweden, and I have been chasing Wingspan for months unsuccessfully. And I do not limit myself to just looking in one country, but also check e.g. Denmark and Germany. It is out of stock everywhere, except for some places where you get to pay double the retail price. I have to admit that it frustrates me, but I continue to support and follow you, wishing you continued success.

    1. Dirk: I appreciate the encouragement–it does make a big difference. I see what you’re saying about quantity, but I’ll point to the example of Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, a wonderful game published by us just a few months before Wingspan, and we still have copies of it.

      As for Wingspan availability in Europe, have you checked our retailer locator? I’ve seen a few retailers post on Twitter that they have copies available at normal prices (like this one: https://mutantdicegames.co.uk/p/wingspan).

  88. Thanks for delivering a fascinating article Jamey. Here’s how i perceive it. You’re doing a stellar job, you’re trying to create a business model while also developing a company that thinks outside of the box. You’re doing this mostly right and the success of Stonemaier games reflects that. The downside of success is that it also means a brighter spot in the limelight, and as with everything that shines, it becomes more than vulnerable to an unfair share of criticism. The time to worry is when nobody’s taking about you… So on that note, may the critisim’s flow thick and fast and I wish you all the best. :-)

    1. Tris: Thanks for your comment, and I really like the way you said this: “you’re trying to create a business model while also developing a company that thinks outside of the box.” As that phrase indicates, it’s a work in progress–I’m learning as I go, and I’m willing to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t so I can best serve our customers and maintain a sustainable business. Thank you!

  89. Jamey,

    As always, your blogs are a refreshing read; your honesty and transparency are equally inspiring. Kudos to you for bothering to respond to the complaints at all, never mind the thorough nature in which you did so.

    The only misstep I think you made was with the MAPP policy which you acknowledged was to try to help out the retailers. MAPP polices aren’t customer-oriented. So, I’m relieved to see you moved away from one.

    Sam

    1. Sam: For the most part I would agree–in terms of pricing, MAP’s aren’t putting the customer first. The one aspect of them that helps is that I think MAPPs help friendly local game stores, and it’s good for customers if FLGS survive and thrive.

  90. Hi Jamey

    It might be possible your overly optimistic over-estimation of between the castles (which you really liked) may have unconsciously influenced your estimate of wingspan – even to the point of how you presented it to distributors (like your unconscious wanted to hear a lower number). These unconscious bias we all have are so hard to catch – we set the trap for ourselves and then we are amazed when we fall into it. Predicting future reality is incredibly hard and everyone who runs a business knows the constant struggle this presents. If only we could predict perfect demand I could optimise my business to perfection.

    Anyway – all your amazing games are available here in New Zealand – loving wingspan and scythe – and I can only add that whatever you do in your distribution works very well from my remote perspective.

    Have a great day.

    1. Andrew: It’s certainly possible. Though I didn’t know any data about Castles until September when the preorder went live (and then a few months later when the retail release happened), while the Wingspan discussions and quantity decision happened in August.

      I’m glad our games are available in New Zealand! :) We work with the distributor Pixelpark there.

  91. Hi Jamie: if you had no data or suspicion about the data on between the castles in August then my hypothesis is wrong.

    If you would indulge me – a short pitch for a future wingspan expansion. New Zealand is unique on earth as a landmass with absolutely no mammals until the arrival of humans a thousand years ago, this meant 100 million years of evolution where birds were the dominant animal that filled all the ecological niches. This is why we have so many unique birds like the kiwi and many others – some of which are sadly now extinct like the moa.

    I won’t bore you with lots of links, there is lots of info out there, but we kiwis are passionate about our birds and we have a govt plan to rid the country of pests by 2050… it is our equivalent of the Apollo moon landings,

    Take care

  92. Thank you, Jamey. I learn a lot from your posts, and I have a lot of respect for your honesty–especially to say “yes, this part was a mistake. I have a plan to improve it.”

    Thanks again!

  93. Jamey.

    I questioned your math a bit with your blog here, but I want you to know that I very much appreciate your candidness with the business side of board gaming. You’ve put out many articles and posts that give outsiders incredible insight that is both interesting and useful and it’s just fun to understand what so many would never share. I’m sure it’s very frustrating at times being in the spotlight which, of course, comes with such openness and vulnerability when coupled with success. I hope you have the inward peace to continue to keep couth you cool cat! You are an inspiration to many people, I’m certain; I know I admire you. I consider you a pioneer in the board gaming industry and anyone who looks closely at the industry knows this to be true. I’m sure some that are upset with you have valid reasons, I’m sure you’ve been a dick to someone at sometime—probably due to provocation, but haven’t we all? Shrug it off, ‘you see you can’t please everyone so you’ve got to please yourself.’ Carry on, my friend. Hear, hear! To Stonemaier Games!! I wish you much continued success with all your future endeavors.

    1. Thanks Rob! And yes, there are more situations I would like when I didn’t respond as my best self, and I regret all of them. I’m always seeking to improve in that regard, and I have a long way to go. :)

  94. Unbelievable….if people spent less time on conspiracy theories & more time playing games maybe they’d be a happier bunch ~ thanx Jamey for all you do for the hobby…thanks to you I’ve spent many wonderful hours playing the games you’ve produced…instead of worrying about how you produce them.

  95. Ilove these posts. As an accountant, I deal with things like cashflows, forecasts and projections daily and know that it’s something most people are not familiar with what they are and how they wor . I appreciate you taking the time to put any type of information about the finance side out here.

  96. I really admire your transparency Jamey. And as a supporter of Stonemaier it instills lots of trust. This post prompted me to think more about scarcity and what it means to me.

    In my experience as an indie designer and publisher, I can truly say scarcity is not only a valid business practice, it’s sometimes the only way to get a project done. Ideas are cheap. Getting ideas done is expensive. Getting ideas done at a large scale = crazy expensive. And sometimes prohibitive.

    It’s a real challenge to create a sustainable path forward as a 1-person effort. I’ve had some success developing a model in which I print in small batches as demand rises and falls. For this, I’ve used local/US printers (so far). This means higher prices overall for my creations, however I reap all the profit / reinvestment rewards.

    Every company has to figure out what printing / fulfillment solution(s) work for them. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, right? For me, I want to produce content sustainably and with high standards, while avoiding huge customs costs and other fees that get passed on to supporters. I am considering Kickstarter for two new projects but I know it’s a whole other beast. I’ll admit it’s daunting trying to plan and strategize as the “little guy”.

    Anyhoo, thanks for the insightful posts Jamey! I think you guys are doing a terrific job delivering on quality content while maintaining a “continuous improvement” approach.

  97. Hi Jamey, have to admit I’m really curious having seen this mentioned a few times now, how exactly do Amazon get copies of your games if you don’t sell to distributors they sell to them?

    1. Dean: I actually DO sell to a distributor who sells to Amazon–I note this specifically in #5:

      “We sell our games to dozens of hobby game distributors worldwide, along with a distributor in the US (Flat River Group) that sells to big online non-hobby stores like Amazon.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com. I highly value all of our distributor relationships, and this one is particularly important because I’ve found that if we don’t control the supply chain to Amazon through someone we trust, Amazon will find a way to buy our games from other sources that aren’t nearly as open and transparent with us.”

      I won’t quote the whole thing, but I’d recommending the full text of #5. Thanks!

      1. Hiya – yeah I got that, it was this bit: “I’ve found that if we don’t control the supply chain to Amazon through someone we trust, Amazon will find a way to buy our games from other sources that aren’t nearly as open and transparent with us” that made me curious.

        I don’t think there’s any reason you shouldn’t sell to distributors that deal with Amazon and it’s fine that you do, but I’m wondering how they get hold of stuff if you don’t.

        1. “I’m wondering how they get hold of stuff if you don’t.” In the past when we haven’t had a steady distributor to sell to Amazon, Amazon has bought our products from other distributors and probably even from retailers who secured a bunch of those products from distributors.

  98. I have found your customer service to be far superior than my local game shops. They jack up prices and are often rude or dismissive of customers.

    The fact they you personally write responses to your customers, replace components if needed, active in the game groups on FB, shows how much you care about the end user, and thats what matters most. Thats why i continue to purchase stonemaier games, that and the quality of the product.

  99. Forgive me if this has already been stated. But from the sound of it, the sales from the first print run are reimbursing the original cost for production. After that, the profit margin is what dictates the ability to do additional printings. The goal being that you’re not out of pocket for another print run. Is that right?

    If that is the goal, then where do the funds to pay yourself and your employees come from? From the sound of it, you’re using the profit to keep additional print runs going, but where does your company reap the benefits of positive sales?

    I appreciate the article btw. I’m guessing many of your detractors don’t realize how honest and forthcoming you are in your business practices. At the end of the day, your company produces solid entries into the gaming market. I am happy knowing that no matter what game I buy from your company, the quality will be amazing.

    1. Justin: Yes, I would say that’s pretty much correct. The revenue from any given game goes into a general pool of funds, but it’s from that pool of funds that we pay for reprints, salaries, and other expenses. I would say that a lot of our positive cash flow ends up coming from royalties from localized games (though it also helps when we do a direct preorder and temporarily make better margins than on reprints sold to distributors).

  100. Jamey –

    If the most critical comment someone can make about your company is that your games are so good and so popular that they can’t get a copy, then I think you’re doing an excellent job.

    Your company is unique in the industry is its level of open and honest communication. It shows that you truly care about your customers, which I appreciate. Some people like to complain; but I think each and every one of us gamers knows of a few (infamous) game companies with far more despicable business practices than yours. On the contrary, I believe Stonemaier Games is an excellent example of a company run well – an example that other companies should follow.

    Your positive communication with customers is one of the reasons I consistently buy from your company. That and the excellent product quality and value are why I own nearly every game you have ever made. Please keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you.

    – Kevin

  101. One thing I love about Stonemaier games is that there is always a comment section below each blog post. You can interact with what is being posted and you know what, in between each post is a reply from Jamey Stegmaier himself! The actual person! Not an intern, not a P.R. Person but the guy who is genuinely interested in listen to the community and working to make his craft better.

    I know that this post will at best be read by the community of people who read stonemaier games blog post but I just wanted to stay that Jamey you make incredible games. Scythe got me into the hobby and through some tough times. When I wanted to connect with my wife and friends we could always do a pick up game of one of your games which have now become classics in our library.

    I appreciate the game you create Jamey and they are awesome! As long as your are up for the task I am excited to see what you will come up with next. I glad to see you can address the critics and take it in stride. Keep it up!

    Sincerely,

    Maximillian Santiago

    1. I appreciate your kind words, Max. You’re right that whenever you see a post or comment from me or Stonemaier Games, it’s always me (Jamey) responding. There are a lot of great ambassadors who answer questions under their names, but I’m the only person to answer as me or Stonemaier. I hope to continue doing that well into the future, just as I hope to continue making games for you. :)

  102. I echo all the encouragement and positivity that has already been shared in the comments above.

    I’d also like to point out something incredible and quite impressive that I’ve noticed: There are MANY comments here, too many to count, yet nearly every one has a response from Jamey himself (as noted in his reply to the comment above).

    Many Kudos, Jamey. Love your products and the way you run your business. Keep up the great work.

  103. Hey Jamey,

    I always enjoy reading your posts because they give a very thoughtful and (it seems to me) honest snapshot of things you are dealing with as a business owner in a niche industry that people are incredibly passionate about. I keep coming back to posts about Wingspan and am shocked by how many times you are apologizing for something that it seems to me would have been impossible to navigate to everyone’s complete satisfaction without the use of a crystal ball. I appreciate what you do, how you interact with your loyal customers (of which I am one) and the way that you are obviously passionate about explaining why you do what you do. People receive a free service from your blog of learning the ins and outs of our industry, struggles with logistics, customer service and project management. I think many people take for granted all that you do for our industry and how you have in my opinion influenced many other companies to produce higher quality products because they had to match what you were already doing. I think in some ways because you have cultivated such a high standard within your own brand people begin to expect a bit more than you can provide at times and that’s not always fair to you. It’s also crazy to think about the fact that as a fan of a company and their product, I have a direct line of communication with the CEO and President and that person will respond to suggestions and criticism directly and in a timely manner. Try that with just about any other industry and see how much interaction you receive.

    At the end of the day I know if I buy a Stonemaier product it will be beautiful, well designed, balanced, and a good value based on the quality of components and presentation. That level of quality and design can only continue to be good for and grow our hobby in my opinion and for that you deserve kudos. So I’m sorry that you have been harassed during this whole ordeal, and I look forward to your next release. Your games have provided me and my friends with literally weeks of fun and I thank you for that.

    Paul

  104. Jamey,

    I am personally confused by your business model. I would argue that the current model is unsustainable.

    Ex. Scythe costs $20 to manufacture and ship. You sell Scythe for $40 to a distributor making a $20 profit. If you continually reinvest the $20 made into similar sized reprint orders, you never see any of the profits. If you wanted to see profits, shouldn’t you make $25-30 a copy of scythe sold to distributors, as well as making $50-60 on each copy sold on your website?

    It just seems like your money will forever be tied up in inventory and inventory management. Am I looking at this the wrong way?

    Thanks!

    1. Alex: You’re looking at it exactly the right way. That’s the problem! :) Scythe isn’t self-sustaining based on those numbers–it’s only really profitable if I stop making Scythe and simply keep the profits from the final printing.

      However, there is one other number to be factored into this, and that is the original Kickstarter (or, for our more recent games, the initial preorder). Scythe’s Kickstarter raised around $1.8 million on various versions of Scythe that cost between $20 and $35 to make, but our profit margins on those games were generally higher than if we had sold them to distributors. So it’s from that initial revenue that we funded the first print run. That initial bump has made Scythe profitable over the years, but as a self-sustaining product, it relies heavily on expansions and accessories to make a profit.

  105. Gosh, I can’t believe you have to go through all of this red tape nonsense Jamey. You wish to be a boardgame designer, bring happiness to people, and make the world a better place, but in reality have to fight a bunch of internet trolls and haters because they don’t get their boardgame copy on time (which is, immediately after they see the youtube video review). The worst part is that complaints are super loud on the internet, but kudos are quite scarce.

    So just, to balance things out:

    – First and foremost, you are the coolest, most awesome boardgame designer ever. I can’t believe you took the time to write this document and publicly give so much detail about your business. Actually, after this, it seems to me that Stonemaier games is the most transparent boardgame company out there.

    – Second, at least from my point of view, your games are never really short on stock (just momentarily). I indeed had to wait a bit to get a copy of wingspan, but it was nothing compared to what I had to wait for, just to name one, Azul.

    – Third, Stonemaier games are made with love. You feel it when you open the box, when you touch those rulebooks, when you open those boxes. And what is best, given the high production values, they are quite well priced. Oh man, I really appreciate what you do for the community and the way you express it.

    – Last, you’re so easy to reach and so transparent. It’s impressive how active you’re on the web, be it for clarifying questions, for calming haters out, or just for being cool on a Sunday afternoon sitdown.

    Man, you’re really super cool. I hope you won’t let the (often absurd and nonsensical) bad press make you start cutting corners and remove that love you put in your boardgames so you can have them by their door the second they request it, and the way they request it.
    Good things take time, and I think the boardgame community has grown too spoiled to understand that.

    Do know, there’s a huge amount of us out there that really love and appreciate what you do, but unfortunately rarely take the time to express it.

  106. Wow! Just catching up on this.

    By even being here, answering all of these questions that are personal to your business, you are doing a hundred times more than any other publisher would do. Most companies would hire gatekeepers and train them on how to respond kindly to every criticism while also never answering a hard question directly.

    But you’re putting yourself out there, answering questions about your own profits in a straightforward manner, and people are just taking the opportunity to make accusations as if it’s their business to do anything except to decide whether to buy your games or not (which, trust me, they will.)

    If it was me, I’d be like “I make awesome games. I price them fairly. Profits and reprint decisions are my business. I’ll be in touch when I’m ready. Now, in the meantime, buy or don’t.”

    (Although I understand that, being so integrated into online communities, you have to answer kindly to even the loudest, big-mouthed speculator who shoots from the hip and then disappears forgetting what they even said.) (Or to the last-word freaks who just like to argue a point forever, with no real skin in the game.)

    Personally, I love great games, and, while I’m still waiting for that Wingspan reprint, I’m just happy to know I’ll get to it eventually. In the meantime, I’m playing Scythe or Viticulture, two of my favorites!!

    Thanks for your hard work, and for all of the videos. I watch them all the time.

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