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A Crafter's Retrospective - 2012 - Year in Review for The Game Crafter

Founders of The Game Crafter with Cog the Robot

2012 has been The Game Crafter’s best year yet, but I will not miss it. Why? Because 2013 is going to be even more spectacular! But in order to put that into perspective, let’s take a look at everything that happened in 2012.

We moved to our new facility, upgraded our printer, and implemented even more robots, which all reduced drift, decreased production time, and increased overall quality. We even brought a robot to Gen Con.

We added over 300 new game pieces, including our new line of vintage game pieces, blank versions of all of our printed products, and grab bags.

We also added a bunch of new printable components:

Booklets (Small, Medium, Large, and Jumbo)
Mats (Invader, Half)
Square Shards
Cards (Tarot, Jumbo, Mini, Micro, Business, and Bridge)
Tarot Tuck Box
Custom Dice
Tiles (Small and Large Square, Large and Small Hex)

And we updated our medium game box to have a new insert, and our large game box to have an insert and a fully printed wrap.

In partnership with our community we’ve also been able to achieve amazing things. We’ve inducted a whole bunch of people into the Hall of Fame for finding success either through Kickstarter or being picked up by a traditional publisher. We’ve run a handful of successful contests. We sponsored more than a dozen of you to go to a game convention. We worked with several reviewers to get the word out about your games, including our friends at The Gamers’ Table and Father Geek.

We’ve also made a bunch of changes to the site including:
Improved parts search.
Single-Sign-On for third party apps.
Better shipping calculations.
More shipping options including Flat Rate, Parcel Post, First-Class, and Will Call.
Gift certificates.
A more streamlined game editor.
Bulk pricing.
Introduced Community Curators who have some admin rights on the site.
Show a game cost breakdown so you can see line item details about how we charge you for your games.
Estimated ship dates.
Queue status dashboard.
Mandatory publishing waiting period.
Color proofing tools.

We also achieved our 10,000th customer this spring, and our 15,000th customer this holiday season.
While we’ve reached the end of this retrospective, this is only the beginning. We have no doubt that 2013 will be an even more amazing year than 2012. We’ve already got dozens of new products planned for you. And you are what The Game Crafter is all about. We serve at your pleasure. See you next year!

Comments

I was pottering around the

I was pottering around the Game Crafter site the other day and a thought occurred to me - in relation to game pieces.

Couldnt they be offered in a similar way to games?

Sourcing great components is a time consuming affair and finding them all in one place is a nightmare. Very often, a person can find component A offered by company A and components B, C and D offered by others - hitting the game designer with multiple postage costs for small orders.

It would be nice to have everything in one place (not that the Game Crafter Pixies arent doing a great job of adding to their offerings, because they are). However, what about the idea of opening things up a bit.

A designer could, as an example, see a component they want elsewhere and think to themselves 'I wish the game Crafter offered this'. They could then get in touch and propose to send a bulk amount of the components to the Game Crafter for storage and sale to others - possibly establsihing an ongoing search and supply chain in the process of popular components.

The game Crafter would list them for sale under the banner of designer offerings and the returns would be split between the game crafter (for promotion and storage) and the person responsible for sourcing and funding their availability.

Employing a variantion of this idea could allow the Game Crafter to increase their component variety without having to devote resources to searching for new parts and funding their direct provision. And a greater variety of parts in one place would be very beneficial to game designers and the games they wish to make.

It might cause a few logisitcal problems, being that finished games might include a component with limited stock, but nothing that couldn't be provided for - if supply lines are established or quantity levels are monitored and highlighted (ie restricted inclusion pieces where a designer accepts limited availablity might entail substitutions or an upfront cost to ensure piece reservation for a set amount of expected game sales within a defined time frame).

So a working example might be -

A game requires some wooden pineapple tokens. but these arent available on the game crafter. So the designer finds a supplier of wooden pineapple pieces, informs the Game Crafter and the Game Crafter accepts the component offering, and the designer bulk buys 1000.

The designer ships these to the Game Crafter where they are stored for inclusion in 'Pineapple Problems'. The stock remains on site and they are added whenever a copy is sold. A number of the pieces are also made available for general sale to other designers.

The return from additional sales could cover storage and the designers postage costs and if 'Pineapple Problems' doesnt sell then the designer could elect to sell the pieces to the Game Crafter - after an agreed time - at a negotiated price (subject to the Game Crafter actually wanting to buy them).

We would love to do this sort

We would love to do this sort of thing, but there are a lot of things we'd need to work out first, some logistical some political. But let's start the discussion here. Here are the main hurdles we'd need to overcome:

1) We don't have an unlimited amount of warehouse space. And warehouse space costs money. So that means that we have to be very selective of the parts we'd allow into such a program, or we'd have to charge a storage fee for the parts. My guess is nobody would want to pay a storage fee so we're back to being very selective.

2) Some people are very touchy about their ideas. They might say, "I need a rainbow colored unicorn pawn. I can get them made in china and store them with you guys." We'd say, "We think you're likely the only person who would want rainbow colored unicorn pawns. No thanks." And now we have a problem of this person being not happy with us, and them creating a flamewar on game and social media sites. Perhaps to combat this we could come up with some sort of submission criteria so that people know what we would accept and what we wouldn't accept in advance.

3) Some things just don't ever sell. So we'd need some sort of a policy for returning or disposing of dusty parts. Perhaps there is an up front stocking fee to handle this.

4) Just getting the pawns made isn't enough of course. They have to be made for a price where both we and the creator of the part can make a profit on them with a reasonable markup.

5) We'd have to build a subsystem into our software to pay out for parts sold. That can certainly be done, but we'd need to know that enough people are interested in doing such a thing that it would warrant the expense of adding the subsystem to our software.

Do you have thoughts on these or any other hurdles?

Amazing

Well just you considering to develop some sort of subsystem for this is well... honestly Amazing! I often see game with custom PAWNS that add a dimension to their game because the pawns SERVE A PURPOSE. I think you guys adding this sort of feature to the existing website would be fantastic... Instead of sourcing parts that people may or may not use, you would actually stock parts that would be used by games and therefore sold with the game.

I think your "openess" with The Game Crafter is what makes it a success. By offering more, you allow designers to create more complex games.

One example, how I would use this would be to stock POLYHEDRAL DICE. You only have Black ones and well my future design requires AT LEAST 2 different COLORS. Also black ones are not as nice as let's say translucent ones that you can find at: http://www.koplowgames.com/page80.html

This would be one example of how I would possibly use the subsystem.

Every new endeavor is fraught

Every new endeavor is fraught with risk and the temptation can sometimes be to run before you can walk. In this case the best approach could be to start small and simply see how things go.

I think the best way to address your excellent concerns is to focus on the risk to reward aspects and use them to limit the initial offering types.

You’re right, storage space costs and having a lot of components in stock that nobody wants would be a very inefficient system. However, the fact that participants in such a system might not want to pay storage costs is part of a possible answer.

People will pay for something they need, even if they don’t particularly relish the idea of doing it, and the prospect of them doing so can be increased if they recognise an additional point of return for themselves.

Targeting the service to designers with a component requirement for a game they wish to produce would limit the initial uptake and make things more manageable. In this scenario the designer in question would have a vested interest in the particular component and an expectation of a greater reward for its inclusion.

If I include the ‘Rainbow Unicorn’ instead of a compromise piece then my game will look better and its chance of selling more copies will increase. Or, alternatively, this is the game I want to make and I am happy to fund a small increase to produce a game that fits my vision.

In this case the designer is making an investment in their game and its final appearance. The reward is a game that matches their conceptual ideal and the risk is the increased cost of having the game available in the format they require instead of making a compromise.

Naturally, this would limit the attraction of the opportunity to designers with a game to produce instead of prospective component suppliers with no game available to them. I think this would be the best way to introduce such a service offering, because the potential rewards are multifold.

In such a case the primary goal of the component supplier would be ‘producing the game they envision’ and the cost would be the financial risk of doing so. In respect to final returns a designer in this type of scenario could be perfectly happy to have their game produced with an end goal of seeing any cost increases associated with their sourved components being mitigated.

In essence, the system would not be focused on making a profit from component sales but offsetting the postage costs, storage costs, time to source the component and the initial outlay for buying in small bulk.

This would shift the risk and reward aspect to the game designer and place the Game Crafter in the role of a facilitator. In turn, this would alter the expectations of the designer (component supplier) and immunise the Game Crafter from a lot of the understandable concerns you detailed.

If the designer has a game available then they will probably have some idea how many games they expect to sell. This will limit their storage requests. I expect to sell 500 games over the life cycle of the game, so I will need 500 ‘Rainbow Unicorns’.

The Game Crafter would then quote a storage costs for this amount of RU tokens in respect to a given time frame – say 6 months. The designer would then add this amount to the cost of sourcing and posting the tokens to the Game Crafter.

Buying in bulk will certainly provide the designer with a better initial price per piece than buying components from the Game Crafter general offerings – because these offerings already have such expenses built into their price. The storage costs of the Game Crafter would be covered and the final price to the designer should be about the same as the general offerings – per piece.

Alternatively, in order to remove an upfront cost, the price paid could be given as a 'storage and handling' price per piece. Even though the designer has already paid for the piece and its transport to the Game Crafter they would be charged every time one of their pieces is included with their game.

An agreement could be made at the start where the designer has the option to change 'supplied pieces' to compromise pieces and sell off their 'supplied pieces' to another designer(s) in bulk after a set time.

This would allow the designer to recoup some of their initial investment by passing it on to another designer should their sales be less than expected. If the agreed time of the sell off clause was of a reasonable duration, 6 months or a year, then I think the majority of designers would see this as a fair inclusion.

The designer could also have a secondary risk to return assessment to make as sales develop. With their own costs of inclusion being met by sales, would other designers like to have this piece available to them and is providing additional pieces, beyond their own needs, a viable option. The returns from additional piece sales could lower their paid for piece price, but only if others want them.

This would make the designers more selective in respect to more general component offerings, instead of simply putting things on a list and chancing their arm – so to speak. They would only offer components that they believe other designers might find useful.

Again, the storage costs would be paid for upfront so the risk would be the game designers and not the Game Crafters. The designer would have a potential return in the form of a lower price point, a wider choice of manufacturers (being that some manufacturers have minimum order numbers) and economies of scale pricing. And once again, most importantly, the opportunity to have their game the way they want it to be.

Limiting the service to designers with a game to sell would also benefit the Game Crafter in respect to the supply of the other pieces for the game.

If the designer has the opportunity to have their game the way they want it then they are more likely to use the Game Crafter service – than look elsewhere. In these cases the Game Crafter would attract more business and benefit from the profit within the other pieces of the game (those provided by general offerings) instead of loosing the business to some other facilitator.

It might be that the service could work better if secondary sales where omitted at the start. In this case the game Crafter would simply offer a storage and inclusion service to designers. The designer would source the pieces and then pay the Game Crafter an agreed durational fee to store them and add them to their games.

In order to protect the Game Crafter from designers who might seek to use their own sourced parts for everything in the game I would suggest limiting the permitted inclusions. This would ensure that the bulk of the components in a game come from the Game Crafters general offerings.

Secondary sales opportunities could be introduced more gradually. The designer finds a manufacturer who can produce the component they require and it is then made available to their game and their game alone. The designer could then make an ‘is anyone else interested in this piece’ post to register demand by other designers.

If registered demand reaches a viable level then the designer can order more stock knowing that buyers are available for it and interest is high enough to make it worth their while. This would lower the risk of storing pieces that aren’t destined to sell, benefitting both the designer and the Game Crafter.

I think the best way to view the idea is not in terms of a store front for general component selling, but as a new medium allowing the Game Crafter to offer designers the ability to make the games they want in one place with the confidence of a great company backing the provision.

The secondary potential for designers to offer the individually sourced components in their games to other designers would be more of a community based ‘helping hand’ than a general sales opportunity.

I hope this response addresses some of the concerns you rightly expressed about the idea. If it doesn’t then by all means post again and I will happily try my best to answer any questions.

You've given me a lot to

You've given me a lot to think about, but there is one section of your post I'd like to address now. This sort of venture is not interesting to us unless it always has secondary sales. If we can't put the part in our general parts shop, then we have no interest in it. The storage we have available is far to precious to allow it to be taken up for the purpose of one designer/game.

Secondary sales

The Game Crafter wrote:
If we can't put the part in our general parts shop, then we have no interest in it. The storage we have available is far to precious to allow it to be taken up for the purpose of one designer/game.

The major roadblock I can see with secondary sales is the availability of said parts. If your game requires specific parts that you source from somewhere else, well that stock will be in limited amount. In general enough for your own game... If other people can "buy" your parts well then there is the obvious problem of running out of part for your own game.

There is also the cost associated with shipping the part to your warehouse. If you send 1 box with all of the parts required for your game, 1 box is not too much. BUT if 20,000 designers decide to do the same, that is 20,000 boxes... Then you might have a problem with space in the warehouse.

Obviously you could NOTIFY a designer by e-mail when quantities reach a low threshold. But if you have several different parts in your box, you might not want to ship another box only with 1 part because others use it... There are shipping costs and obviously the space for the 2nd box.

If the parts are sold with your game, you can control the inventory by sending enough parts for let's say 100 games (your own). That means the quantities are adjusted for your game. Having another game require your parts is well troublesome because the quantities in the box will deplete "unevenly".

I wasn’t sure of the priority

I wasn’t sure of the priority relating to secondary sales, and correspondingly how to address such a provision. Now that I am, I can.

I think the major problem will be designers wanting unique parts which have little cross over interest to other designers – like a Rainbow Unicorn.

As you mentioned previously, declining to stock a part could lead to political problems if enquirers get the hump. I think the best way to approach the situation would be clarity and conditions at the outset and a community decision instead of a corporate decision.

Parts with an aspect of wider appeal would make for good secondary sale candidates. A sparkly LED dice would have limited appeal to other designers, while a single colour dice that is currently unavailable would have far more appeal. In the same vein a wooden token in the shape of a unicorn would have limited appeal to others while a 30cm wooden disc in a uniform colour, with a depth variant currently unavailable, would have more universal appeal.

In a previous post I briefly mentioned a community approval offer. A designer seeking a piece inclusion could detail their proposal in the forums in order to asses its attraction to others.

This could be as simple as including an interested, moderately interested, no interest at all poll which other members of the forum could contribute to in order to establish the viability of its inclusion in the general offerings.

Alternatively, it could be that a designer with a candidate piece makes known their intention and the piece is only moved to the decision making stage if it is seconded by a fixed number of other forum members.

In respect to holding levels, this would be a matter of general stock management. A designer could be given an initial allowance of space, agreed at the outset. They would allocate X pieces as restricted stock (to cover their own requirements) and Y pieces for general sale.

The restricted stock could be set at an initially low figure (on the understanding that any shortage could lead to substitution parts being offered instead). This would be marked on the game page so potential buyers would be aware of the situation.

Alternatively, the designer could make two offerings, a general game with general pieces and a limited edition game with self sourced parts to the tune of a limited number.

As the game establishes itself the designer could be given an increase in their restricted stock allowance. Over time, the game will establish a sales pattern (in relation to demand) which would allow for the restricted number to be fine tuned.

It’s not an ideal solution, but the idea behind this isn’t to fund the creative whims of game designers at the expense of the Game Crafter. It’s better to think of it as collaboration between the two that could result in increased choice and the opportunity to tailor games in a more specific manner.

In any joint undertaking their needs to be an element of give and take, that’s how these things work best. Neither party gets everything they want at the expense of the other.

In this situation the designer is being offered the opportunity to meet their creative ideals more completely and the Game Crafter is benefitting from the opportunity to share the risk of increasing their general component offerings.

I think we'd also need to do

I think we'd also need to do it without a reserve. If we're marking it up high enough that you're profiting from each sale, there should be no reason to keep a reserve, as you can just get more of that part when/if we sell through the stock.

Not sure I understand

The Game Crafter wrote:
I think we'd also need to do it without a reserve. If we're marking it up high enough that you're profiting from each sale, there should be no reason to keep a reserve, as you can just get more of that part when/if we sell through the stock.

Well what will happen to a game that requires the "out-of-stock" parts? If someone buys the game, it will say something like "Temporarily out of stock". And would then force the designer to react and buy/send more of the missing part???

2 Quantities

questccg wrote:
Well what will happen to a game that requires the "out-of-stock" parts? If someone buys the game, it will say something like "Temporarily out of stock". And would then force the designer to react and buy/send more of the missing part???

I think the idea of having 2 quantities would make a lot of sense:
1-The first would be parts for your own game (let say 100 dice of the same type)
2-Another batch for secondary sales (say another 100 dice of the same type)

This sort of 50/50 system might lower the risk of a designer not having enough parts for his own game. And like you mentioned would also allow for secondary sales. This is a simple rule and allows for maybe a couple of other games to use the "shared" custom parts.

If you also notify the designer when a particular part is running low, he can then react and buy/send more to re-supply both his own stock and the "shared" parts.

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