7 March 2019 | 207 Comments
Today, March 8, is the release day of Wingspan. For some, it’s cause to celebrate. This is the first published game designed by Elizabeth Hargrave, and it was the first board game illustrated by Natalia Rojas and Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo (acclaimed board game artist Beth Sobel also contributed). It’s the first Automa (solo mode) for which David Studley was the lead designer. Also, if you’re receiving your copy of Wingspan today, you may be celebrating too.
But others may not be celebrating. If you preordered Wingspan from a retailer, you may have been informed recently that your store doesn’t have a copy for you. We’ll get into why that is in a minute, but most importantly, I want you to know that I’m sorry. There is a scenario in which you could have gotten a copy of Wingspan today that I had control over (again, more on that soon), and I didn’t have the foresight to make that happen.
If you’re reading this because I directed you to this post or you stumbled upon it, you have a voice to share your thoughts in the comments. But for the the purpose of this post as I write it, you’ll be represented by this person who commented on our Facebook page today:
I see that you’re disappointed, and I respect your feelings. I would be disappointed too if today I thought I was getting a game I eagerly anticipated and it didn’t happen.
While I won’t dispute your feelings, I do need to clear up some misconceptions:
- “so few copies of Wingspan were delivered to distributors”: We sent 5000 English copies of Wingspan to distributors worldwide. Supply is relative to demand, so you’re right, 5000 was too few. But if demand hadn’t exceeded demand–an unknown variable when a game goes to print–5000 could have been too many.
- “even after a over a month of pre-orders since the initial release”: Stonemaier Games only accepted preorders from January 2-8, two months before the retail release date of March 8. Then we stopped.
- “not everyone who pre-ordered their game from their FLGS will receive a copy of the game during the purported retail release date”: That’s true. Demand exceeded supply. Distributors knew exactly how many copies of Wingspan they were getting as early as mid-January. Basically, your retailer sold you something they didn’t have–they just hoped to get copies from their distributors.
- “How does this happen?”: If you really want to know, the long answer is here. The short answer is that in August when I asked my manufacturer to start making the first print run of Wingspan, I estimated that we needed to make 10,000 copies. I don’t have an unlimited budget, so I used the information I had to make a guess, and I guessed wrong.
- “Is this really how you take care of fans of your game who go out of their way to pre-order from the local game stores that Jamey has so proudly defended”: I try my best to take care of fans (and just people in general) in a variety of ways, but I understand how in this specific instance you don’t feel that I’ve done my job. And you’re right, I haven’t–part of my job is making enough games, and I didn’t do that. But I’d like to share one example of how I really do try to take care of fans. there was a period of about 18 months (after we stopped using Kickstarter) where we didn’t accept any preorders from customers. Everything we made we sent to distributors. But as it turns out, some people wanted to buy directly from us. They wanted the guarantee that they’d get a new product in a timely manner. So to serve those fans, I started accepting preorders again. That’s how 5100 fans got copies of Wingspan in January–we had a very well-publicized 7-day preorder campaign that gave people the chance to get it from us, and everyone else took a risk that there may not be copies available for them in the first print run.
Here are a few things you didn’t say, but you may be thinking:
- As soon as you learned that Wingspan’s demand exceeded supply, why didn’t you make more? Oh, we did! I started making the second print run of Wingspan in early December. But game production takes time–usually 3-4 months, not including freight shipping. In fact, I also started making the third print run in early January.
- Why didn’t you set a limit on the number of direct preorders? Then you could have sent more copies to distributors and avoided this whole problem. That’s true, I could have. But it just felt odd to advertise a preorder period for a game we had in our warehouse and then cut it short before the 7 days were over. I don’t think that would have been a good way to serve the fans who get our e-newsletter but maybe don’t read it on the first day or so. 7 days is already a really short preorder window. I don’t think those games would have come anywhere close to meeting the overall demand we’re seeing.
- If I’m not getting a copy of Wingspan today, when will I get it? The second print run will arrive in stores in mid-April, and the third print run is looking like it will arrive in stores in mid-May. You can also play it digitally online via Tabletopia now.
- How can I be notified to know when it’s back in stock? Your retailer should be able to contact you when they get more games. You can also request a back-in-stock notification from our webstore, you can join the Wingspan Facebook group, and/or you can subscribe to our e-newsletter.
- I didn’t get a copy of Wingspan today like I expected, so I’m never going to buy it. Honestly, that breaks my heart. Please don’t let my demand forecasting mistake get in the way of you finding joy in Wingspan later this spring.
If you were eagerly expecting Wingspan today, there’s really no way that I can make you feel better. I wish I could. Hopefully there’s something in this message that will help even a little bit–and if not for this situation, for the next time, like when I make a non-infinite number of copies of my civilization game later this year.
Feel free to post any thoughts or questions in the comments below, or share this with someone who didn’t get a preorder (for any game) when they thought they would.