Tag Archives: business

Multitasking

Over the last few weeks, I’ve taken small steps forward on a wide range of fronts. Nothing momentous, but rather a nice broad advance.

Last weekend, I ran a playtesting event for Fire and Flora at Orccon 2013. It was a curious experience, as I went to this con with a different mindset than in the past. I realized that it is very much a con for gamers, with almost all games at the con being designed first and foremost as games. And while I had a good time, there were very few families, kids, or teachers. This is despite the fact that all games, even those that are primarily games, are educational.

In the end, four people signed up for the playtest, which was all that I needed, so I went ahead with the event, and it turned out well. One player commented that it was not the most fun game she’d ever played, but that it certainly was fun, and a good balance between gaming and ecology. That was essentially the balance I was aiming for, and so I feel good about the game. It needs a little more balancing, and a lot more artwork, but I feel confident that this is a solidly good idea, and that it’s now ready to shop around among wider audiences.

I’ve begun serious work on a second “game,” one that is more of a puzzle than a game, which is why I put the word “game” in quotation marks. This is an idea that I’ve been mulling over for a while. It’s almost entirely visual, and is therefore accessible to a much wider age range. So it should be a good complement to Fire and Flora. In combination, they cover most of the serious-gamer demographic, from elementary school kids to grown-up geeks. I’m going to be mysterious about it for another month or so.

With two games in the works, I need a business umbrella, and that starts with a name. Unfortunately, lots of the good ones are already taken. “Mindfull” is claimed by the Mindfull Corporation. “Brain Feast” is used in a variety of ways, including this Minecraft mod/map. “Full Course” is a Canadian Rapper, and while I could claim “Full Course Games”, there would still be potential for unfortunate confusion. The Here Corporation is a business consulting firm. “Legitimate games” is unclaimed, but would be lost in the vast internet discussion over DRM and legitimate vs. pirated games. So it appears that I’ll have to continue the brainstorming, and think even further outside the box. (Yes, that’s taken too, by OTB)

Kickstarter and Swag

As I move forward, things will become more expensive. For a group of 20 players (e.g. a small classroom), I will need 5 copies of the game. At $20 each, those five copies will cost me $100. Over time, this will add up. I can cover these sorts of modest design costs, but looking ahead, it’s clear that I won’t be able to cover the production costs. I estimate that a first printing of the game, and the associated business-type machinery (orders, shipping, taxes, etc), will cost in the range of $5K to $20K. This is well beyond my personal financial means. When the time comes, to be successful, I will need to find some significant outside funding, or develop some sort of business partnership.

This got me started thinking about Kickstarter. It’s a sort of patronage 2.0: patronage via crowdsourcing. I was thinking that I could post regular small project requests, like that $100 to print five copies for a series of playtesting sessions. On further thought, I realized that a Kickstarter presence would bring more than a welcome sort of micro-funding. It would also be a good investment for the long term. A presence on Kickstarter could generate some positive word-of-mouth, and a positive reputation. Both of those will be important if I am to get the sorts of funding or partners required to make this real.

Yesterday, Kickstarter notified me that they have accepted my project. Now it’s up to me. I’ve always hated selling myself, and been somewhat shallowly prejudiced against marketing in general. But now I am become my own marketer. So I must apologize to those in the advertising industry. I apologize for lumping you all together, and failing to treat each and every marketer and publicist as a unique human being.

Kickstarter works, in part, by swag. The expectation is that project creators will offer a set of rewards. Each reward is linked to some donation level, and backers who provide donations at a given level will receive the reward that corresponds to that level. Rewards come in various forms such as personal emails, a signed copy of a book, invitation to a cast party, etc.

What kind of rewards would I offer? Well, the first thing that came to mind was special-edition foil or holographic cards. Folks familiar with Pokemon will know what I am talking about. Unfortunately, this turns out to be very pricey. This week, I talked to two local printers. The Pokemon cards appear to have used ink-over-foil.  First, the foil was stamped into the paper. Next, an image was printed on the card, using special inks that will adhere to the foil. These inks require an offset printer, which uses actual metal plates, and those plates must be carefully etched. Lastly, getting the proper balance between the image and the holographic effect requires either lots of experience, or some modest experimentation. My printer suggested it would be $2K to $3K to print some tens of cards, simply because the setup was so expensive. While this would be super-cool, it’s financially impractical. For Kickstarter to work, the swag needs to be significantly less costly than the project. To give away $3000 in swag, I’d have to be asking for at least $10K. And, at least for now, I’m not.

However, there is a simpler alternative. Rather than ink over foil, I could do foil-over-ink. In this process, the ink is printed onto the paper, and so the printing can be done with a digital printer, which is fairly cheap. The foil is then stamped into the paper, on top of the image. So parts of the image would be replaced with shiny-metallic foil. The stamping of the foil still requires a custom-made plate, but this kind is not so expensive. My printer suggested it would run in the ballpark of $300 to print tens of copies of one type of foil-over-ink card. This is more than I’d hoped, but it’s just barely in the range of possibility. If I were to ask for $1000 in funding, then $300 of swag would be acceptable. Plus, it would be cool. I, myself, would be excited to have one of these cards.