Before I jump into some hot topics today, just a quick reminder that the first session of our live, virtual book club for A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide is today (Thursday) at 2:00 Central on the Stonemaier Games Facebook page. I’m looking forward to it! You can sign up to be notified about future sessions here.

Wingspan Jigsaw Puzzles

Yesterday we announced that we’ve secretly been working on jigsaw puzzles for Wingspan…and they’re here! As with many things we do, this is an experiment for us–we’re very much not looking to become a puzzle company, but enough people have asked for Wingspan puzzles that we thought we’d give it a try.

We made three different difficulty levels with a completely different array of birds on each; so far, sales of each have been nearly identical (which is a little surprising to me–conventional wisdom is that 1000-piece puzzles are the way to go). I look forward to seeing what people think of the puzzles when they start receiving them next week.

CMON

CMON, a game publisher perhaps best known for its Zombicide series of games, recently surprised backers of its $9 million Marvel Zombies campaign with some shipping prices that were significantly higher than the estimates provided on the project page (which was only a few months ago).

For example, as noted by BoardGameCo in a detailed video, a backer expecting an estimate of around $35 to ship the base pledge in a single wave would find the pledge manager requesting $58 instead. Higher pledge levels resulted in even higher increases–as reported by Pine Island Games, nearly $100 higher than the estimate.

There are three reasons why I think this is…interesting. One, freight shipping prices are very similar now (May 2022) as they were when the campaign launched (January 2022). In fact, the highest freight shipping prices we’ve faced were during that period leading up to the Chinese New Year. I’m not entirely sure if CMON is attributing the price increase to freight shipping–more on that in a second–but if so, based on the information we all had in January about the state of freight shipping, there’s no reasons the estimated costs on the project page couldn’t have been more accurate.

Two, fulfillment pricing hasn’t changed significantly over the last few months. I think we’re seeing costs of all goods and services increase across the world, but mostly by around 5-10%, not 65%. So if freight costs haven’t changed much since January and fulfillment costs haven’t changed much since January, why weren’t the estimates on the project page more accurate?

Three, perhaps most importantly, I would say that it is definitely not standard practice to include freight shipping costs in the shipping fee charged to backers. Yes, creators absolutely need to account for the landed cost–manufacturing plus freight–but those costs are used to create the price of the product itself, not the final parcel shipping cost (i.e., fulfillment center labor, packaging, and postage). In those regards, the parcel shipping cost for Tapestry is averages around $24 in the US. I can’t imagine that the base pledge box (Undead, $130) is that much bigger or heavier than Tapestry, but backers are being asked to pay more than double that cost.

I’m not a backer, so I’m not affected by any of this, but it’s all just so odd to me. If there’s information I’m missing, feel free to constructively mention it in the comments. I do think, though, that this is an outlier–while you might see slightly higher parcel shipping costs on pledge managers than the original estimates, I highly doubt any others will be this big. As BoardGameCo predicts, this may also result in more backers choosing the $1 pledge level to wait and see what actual shipping costs are.

El Dorado Games

In a very transparent video, Daniel from El Dorado Games shares some struggles the company has had with production and freight shipping for the three crowdfunding campaigns they ran during the pandemic (including The Age of Atlantis, which I backed, Windward, and Legend Academy). He includes a lot of data in the video, including a detailed comparison of their estimates vs reality.

I couldn’t quite tell from the video if “shipping” includes freight and parcel or just freight, but either way, it’s a big number! Daniel notes in the video that they’ve had the funds for each project set aside, waiting for the final shipping cost reveal, so it isn’t a case of them not having the funds to fulfill pledges. Rather than tapping into those funds and risking the ability to fulfill the rewards, both El Dorado employees found full-time positions elsewhere, and they’re working on these games as a hobby.

I appreciate everything about this video, but in addition to the value of this transparency, the one other takeaway I’d suggest to other creators is: In such uncertain times, maybe it isn’t a great idea to launch a new campaign (or two new campaigns) if you haven’t yet fulfilled your previous campaign. On a creative level, I know it’s really hard to wait to launch something that you’re excited to share with the world, but the risk is that the costs will really pile up and you’ll encounter huge hurdles to share the final version of either final product with anyone.

Grey Gnome Games

Last, I really enjoyed reading a recent article from Jason of Grey Gnome Games about his transition from Kickstarter to Crowd Sale. Here’s how Jason describes Crowd Sale: “What makes the Crowd Sale unique is that the entire process is handled by a single company, the Game Crafter. They host the actual crowd-funding platform, they manufacture the entire game here in the United States, and the fulfill all the orders! All I have to do is upload the files and build the page and launch.” He also notes that there are no stretch goals on Crowd Sale–he can just design a complete game and put it on the platform.

In addition to sharing some excellent numbers for small-box games created and sold this way (including $40,880 for his most recent campaign), I really like what Jason said about how removing the business side of running a Kickstarter helped his wellbeing and creativity:

“This new-found free time was the real payout for me. I felt like I had moved through a storm (Kickstarter) and into a wide open meadow full of sunshine. Sorry, I know that sounded cheesy, but it was an awakening for me. My creative juices started flowing. I was no longer hindered by thoughts of overseas manufacturing, or having to fill my car up with packages to take to the post office, or worrying about backers canceling their pledges in the last few hours. I could just design.”

I’m glad to hear Jason found his sweet spot with The Game Crafter’s Crowd Sale, and I’m curious if other creators have had similar experiences with it.

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I look forward to hearing your constructive thoughts about today’s topics!

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