According to Steve Jackson, owner of games publisher Steve Jackson Games (SJG), Inc., things are looking up for the games industry. Jackson’s report indicated that the company was profitable for the sixth year in a row with the highest gross ever: just over $7 million, a $2.5 million-dollar increase over 2011. Jackson provided the breakdown on the company’s web site:
- We kept our core Munchkin sets in print almost all the time, despite high (and sometimes spiking) sales. The Munchkin line, including the MunchkinQuestboardgame, accounted for about 75% of our sales. Munchkin is now available in 15 languages, with two more licensed.
- We also produced a lot of new Munchkin material.
- Sales of dice games stayed strong, accounting for 8.35% of total sales. Zombie Dice was our #4 item, ranked by dollars.
- We continued to offer GURPS support, mostly in PDF form.
- In total, we shipped 54 different items (one more than last year): 26 new, 28reprints. The 40 most popular are listed at the bottom of this report.
- We raised nearly a million dollars with the Ogre Kickstarter (more on that below). That was a dramatic upward tweak to gross sales, but if we hadn’t been working on Ogre we would have shipped Castellan and more Munchkin in 2012, so theKickstarter income was not as huge a distortion as it might first appear.
- Our management team, led by COO Phil Reed and Director of Sales Ross Jepson, and our Munchkin team under the direction of Czar Andrew Hackard, are maintaining our quality and embiggening our market.
Of particular interest is the Ogre Kickstarter, which seemed to create as many headaches as it generated income, netting $923,680:
In the following months, like many other popular Kickstarterprojects (not that that’s an excuse), we found that we had not planned for enough success. In retrospect, the enormity of the printing job absolutely ensured that unexpected things would happen. In fact, several did, the latest and most frustrating being a series of errors in creating the plastic counter trays. That wasn’t supposed to be the hard part! Because we are testing and re-testing at every stage, a lot of problems have been caught and fixed. We only hope that we are catching them all, because this will be an amazing project when it comes out, and we want it to be as near perfect as possible
The final box will be 24″ × 20″ × 5.75″ and will weigh 24 pounds. It will have five huge maps and more than 1,000 counters, many of them 3-D constructible Ogres and buildings. It will probably never be equaled in sheer size and awesomeness. If it were sold at a normal gaming markup over print costs, it would probably go for around $400, but retail for the base set will be $100. And it will be at least seven months late, and it totally wrecked the 2012 schedule and is impacting 2013, and it just about drove Phil Reed and Sam Mitschke mad as they managed the project, AND we may very well lose money on it when all is said and done.
SJG’s brick-and-mortar distribution was on the rise, reaching the mass market distribution chain through Target, Wal-Mart, and Barnes & Noble. Conversely, digital downloads were down by 15 percent as a result of releasing fewer PDFs – significant, since Jackson believes SJG’s digital store, e23, is “the #2 or #3 seller of downloadable files for the gaming community.”
SJG is thriving as a company, as evidenced by its 28 full-time staff and contractors, several part-timers, a dedicated human resource manager, bonuses totaling 19.9 percent of regular payroll, modest raises, two paid game days in the office, and two fully-paid weeks off for the entire staff. Jackson outlined six priorities for 2013:
- Keep their Kickstarter commitments: ship Ogre and get the Car Wars redesign off to a good start.
- Keep most of the core Munchkin sets in print. To control inventory and the retailers’, SJG will let some of the slower-moving core sets go out of print for a few months at a time. Zombie Dice has to stay in print, too.
- Ship a lot of new Munchkin releases in a variety of formats.
- Improve SJG’s communications with both fans and retailers. With Ben and Birger in place, and a Community Manager high on the need-to-hire list, that can happen.
- REALLY finish the upgrade of the SJG website and online store.
- Consider plowing some of the Munchkin income back into the hobby by acquiring other companies that have games SJG likes. If SJG makes such a deal, do it well.
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