01/01/2010

About 2009

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About 2009

In April 2009 I made the decision to quit my office job for good, and to try and achieve my biggest goal: to be in a position where I can work on creative projects that do good. My first product was a board game, because with a board game a designer has the freedom to, for example, use different materials (like glass, plastic, paper and carton) and to create different sizes of elements (a foldable board, a box, cards, tiles). I figured that, if I would create a complete product in a specific market, I could learn a lot about important processes (like investigating my target audience, basic promotion etc.) that will return in any other creative project I would do in the future. My main subgoal for this year was to introduce myself to the world as a board game designer and to sell the complete first print of my board game "Day & Night". Well... In October my team and I received the International Gamers Award for best 2 player game of the year and in December we sold the very last game from the first print. Time to make news goals for 2010!

Main goal for 2010: To be financially independent; to earn enough to be able to work full time on my projects.

Sub goals
  • To release a second print of Day & Night (at least 10.000 copies in at least 5 languages)
  • To release a new multi player game
  • To create a book about the board game business
  • To create a children's book
  • To create a board game business system (a website with many essential tools like a website with a content management tool, an invoice database tool, a contacts tool etc.)
About my current projects

Day & Night: Currently I'm working on a second print edition of Day & Night. First of all, the size of the box is probably going to be a bit smaller so it fits better in the series of our American distributor. The box will have a cover illustration, featuring both characters. Also the board and probably the back of the cards will be less 'abstract' and feature a new illustration Eerin Vink (illustrator and friend) is currently working on. I would love to replace the current pawns with nice glass ones, but I'm not sure yet if this will be possible.

Together with my business associate and friend Sebastiaan van den Roovaart we're making contracts with distributors with foreign versions of our game. By the end of January, I'm hoping to have everything done for at least 10.000 copies (an American, Chinese, French, German, Italian version and maybe a Czech, Japanese and/or Greek version).

New game "Meteora": "Meteora" is a result of everything I learned about the board game business in 2009. At this point I prepared the theme and main mechanics. I'm trying to finish a document with all basic information as soon as possible to continue to the next step; finding investors.

I wish all readers a creative, meaningful 2010!

11/08/2009

International Gamers Award finalist!

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Day & Night is a finalist in the 2009 International Gamers Award selection for the best 2 player game of the year!
Congratulations! Day & Night has been named as a finalist for the 2009 International Gamers Award! This recognition is richly deserved, and we are thrilled to honor the game.

The International Gamers Awards were founded in 1999 for the express purpose of recognizing outstanding games, their designers, and the companies which publish them. The awards have gained widespread acclaim and have helped bring these outstanding games to the public’s attention.

The individuals who serve on our General Strategy and Historical Simulation committees are extremely qualified, knowledgeable and respected within the gaming hobby. Each and everyone have extensive experience in the playing, reviewing and critiquing of games.
What an amazing feeling to get recognition for something I worked on such a long time. My first board game is nominated for the best 2-player game of the year!

This nomination is a quality stamp. I already get orders from people that were thinking of buying Day & Night because they liked the design, but they thought the game would be less interesting. I'm thinking of ordering stickers to put them on boxes. Also, in every email to shops/distributor we can reference to the nomination.

Besides that, the nomination is big promotion! I also got emails from shops that are interested in buying Day & Night because of the nomination, and I'm sure distributors will try to contact me too.

And of course, it's very good for my name as a designer (multi media). Yes, I will put it on my CV ;).

20/07/2009

Board game scene in Athens

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I just returned from a beautiful vacation in Greece (Athens, a mountain village called Valtesiniko and the island Paros) to relax and overthink the direction I want to take in my professional life. These months, I'm mostly working on freelance webdesign projects and a web based system that my clients can use to update their websites, and be in full control of member/shop/marketing management. Before the vacation it felt like investing too much... But I decided that all this hard work and low income will eventually pay off.

Board game scene in Athens
Since I was on a vacation I didn't have enough time to get to know everything about the scene in Athens, but I can share some interesting details (and please correct me if I'm wrong!)...

Playhouse is a 2 floor bar, with many card & board games (I even saw a couple of games in german). Every non-gamer teenager seems to know about it. When you sit down for a drink you can "rent" a game for 1 euro, and one of the "game masters" will come to your table to explain it. Unfortunately I didn't have time to sit down and see how this works but I have to say... I was impressed by the place, it had a nice modern mixed with fantasy style (there was a big dragon on the ceiling) and they were able to draw a lot of casual board game gamers (and new players!).

Espairos is a monthly game gathering for the hard core boardgame gamers of Athens. I went to the July meeting where I could demonstrate and sell Day & Night. I sold all the games I brought with me on the plane (7) and had the opportunity to sell maybe double at the meeting itself. Again I was impressed by the place, as it had several rooms - in every room there was a different game going on, with a different atmosphere... Different than I'm used to; all games together in one big room with always a chaotic atmosphere. People were very enthousiastic and friendly. They didn't seem to like Playhouse though.

Shops and distribution in Greece
Again, since I was on vacation there is not so much knowledge I can share here. Again some details;

There are two chains of shops that every game enthousiast know; Kaissa and Fantasy Shop. Kaissa has 18 shops (9 in Athens) in Greece, Fantasy Shop 12 shops (9 in Athens). Both chains also translate and produce games to distribute in their own shops. Kaissa translates many well-known games (all the games seem to have a different color tone) to the greek language. It was funny to see the greek Carcassonne, it was based on and named after a greek town instead of the french one.

Unfortunately, all companies in Greece seem to be pretty disorganised; and it takes a long time and energy to get in contact with the right people. Kaissa is considering to order Day & Nights (in English) and even to translate and produce Day & Night next year.

I will try to get into contact with Fantasy Shop one of these days.

I will let you know how this goes!

27/06/2009

Preparation for Spiel 2009

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The last few weeks we received positive reactions from the jury members of the International Gamers Awards and we decided to send out games to all the 19 jury members, hope for a nomination and go to Spiel!

W. Eric Martin, reviewer and editor from the excellent website Boardgamenews.com made a positive review called Day & Night "an excellent first design" and referred to Day & Night again this month;
Many other BGN columnists will write about the latest alea game, the latest Rio Grande release, and so forth, so why not shine a light on smaller publishers? The results aren’t uniformly (or even mostly) good, but you do discover little known games like Day & Night that would otherwise be overlooked and it feels good to share such finds with others.
Taken from the article "W. Eric Martin: Reviews Under Review"
Dutch reviewer Ronald Hoekstra from the very nice and personal website Spelmagazijn.nl, the first reviewer to see Day & Night back in the days that we over used our printer several times a week to make new prototypes, thinks Day & Night stands a fairly big chance on being nominated because there were not many eligible two-player boardgames this year. Day & Night was one of the December tips from 2008 on his website;
This game stands out for it's beautiful illustrations, but shows to be very fun to play also!

There is also a small report from Corrie at Ducosim 2009 where she mentions Day & Night on the Spelmagazijn website. And she, "liked it a lot"!

Herb Levy, the force behind the international gaming network Gamers Alliance, says "So far, reaction has been very good".

With all these postive reactions and the new boost in promotion we decided to go to Spiel in Essen, Germany in October (we're still waiting for a final confirmation for the mini booth we ordered in Hall 9 (a corner booth with 2 open sides!!), but everything should be fine). We asked everyone we know with experience in the business for advice because it's going to be the first time we're attending Spiel (we didn't even go as visitors yet) and it's going to be quite the investment. Especially on how to promote the booth, and if it is wise to 'share a booth' for bigger traffic and lower costs.

Advice for Spiel from people in the business

Keith Blume is one of the partners of FRED Distribution (we publish under the Eagle Games and Gryphon Games banners) and was very kind to send us an email with great advice;

I believe there are two fronts to pursue that I think would benefit you in getting good exposure for your game.
  • One is to get review copies to reviewers who do detailed reviews on Boardgamegeek (look for gold reviewers) and other websites/trade publications in the Netherlands (I believe your base of operations?) and Germany.
  • As to the booth, this is a balancing act. There are some companies that like to set up together at shows. Generally this is to jointly get a larger booth that is in a higher traffic area, but I do not see this happen too often. I believe it is hall 4 that has a lot of the new publishers and I think it does make sense to try and be in the hall that is know for having new publishers because you will fit the demographic of the hall. If you have friends at some other publishing houses, I would approach them about going in together on a booth, but I would not recommend getting a booth with someone to whom you are not familiar. I think Essen is stressful enough, so you do not want to take a chance on setting up with someone whose company you do not enjoy.
A lot of thanks to excellent board game designer Richard Breese (Aladdin's Dragons, the 'Key' series of games and more) gave us very helpful information;
  • You are unlikely to attract any distributors without taking the initiative. You will need to contact them. If you do this beforehand you may be able to make an appointment to see them at the show.
  • Try to include German rules for the game as well as English.
  • The 4 day attendance is around 100,000. As a new attendee, if you have a good (family/gamers), well produced, original game you will likely sell between 200 to 300 copies. With a 'buzz' a few more. With any of those ingredients missing, or a trivia or abstract game, then probably less.
  • There are several hundred exhibitors so you will not stand out. Best to have a largebanner for the back wall. You pay 160 Euro to hire these walls! But at this stage (booking in May) you are unlikely to be able to hire a prime spot and will end upon one of the more distant halls. But that is not all bad as that is where the other small companies are and some of these have interesting games and you will make some new friends.
  • Do not invest more than you are prepared to lose.
Many thanks to everyone that gave us good advice.

PS: Today I updated the design of my blog with a very fast and simple design. It will have to do for now, hope you like it!

18/06/2009

Elf Fantasy Fair; A disappointment

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Remember I was looking forward very much to the biggest fantasy event of Europe; the Elf Fantasy Fair? Unfortunately it turned out to be a big disappointment... Maybe that's why it took me a long time to post something...

After our demonstration in the American Book Center, I kept in contact with a manager that was very eager to help us get a spot on the EFF. We didn't go to the EFF for Day & Night before because the prices for stands are exceptionally high and this target audience doesn't really buy products (after the high ticket cost and travel expenses). We tried for a free spot, close to the ABC stand, where we could give demonstrations to visitors and redirect them to the ABC, so we could mainly promote. This didn't work out, but the organization was willing to sell a discount booth in the art section.

We decided to just try it, since it has so many visitors and Day & Night is, of course, interesting for the fantasy audience. I was a bit worried though, if game enthusiasts would go to an art tent. The organization ensured me that the main route would go through the tent and we could promote Day & Night on their website. So we prepared everything; we made a selection for the art we would bring and we bought 2 nice little tables for demonstrations (I figured that most people wouldn't really want to try and play the game, because they're not on a gaming event so 2 tables was enough).

Some days passed and still no Day & Night on the website. I began to worry more; would my main target audience, game enthusiasts, go into an art tent - especially if there was no announcement or any mention in the program?? I decided to sent the organization an example message that they could place on the website, to save them some time. But days passed, and all the calling and emailing didn't work. On the day of the event, Day & Night was still not to be found anywhere on the website and we were completely dependent on the visitors that would pass by our booth... It's not nice to start a big 2 day event disappointed. Unfortunately, this disappointment continued to grow through out the day... The main route was next to the tent; and not through... Barely 5 % of the people that passed the tent, passed our stand. But... As the only 'game' stand on the fair, how many people would visit our stand if it was announced on the website?

In the end, Sebastiaan and our help on sunday Alexander (thanks so much!), and I decided to enjoy the sunny days with actually playing the game ourselves. Against Sebastiaan, I won two times with Day, one time with Night and Sebastiaan won two times with Night and one time with Day. And we did enjoy ourselves a lot!

In the end we didn't even sell 10 games and we decided to pay half the bill (after a big discussion the organization agreed..) and... To never go to the Elf Fantasy Fair again.

14/04/2009

"Zuiderspel", a success!

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Last Monday I presented my board game Day & Night for the first time at an event for game fanatics! We can call Zuiderspel, a new yearly event in Eindhoven, a big succes. There were more than 700 visitors (while the organisation estimated between 500 and 700 visitors before the event), and that's a lot for a "small board games event" (especially if I think back of Days of the Dice in 2007).

Sebastiaan and I were there with a big selection of original arts. Unfortunately illustrator Eerin Vink couldn't come this time (her cat needed her help after a pretty big operation)... Specially for this event Eerin made a new Day & Night art, that visitors could win in a contest (create the best name for the art). Frank van Wanrooy won with his name 'Mesmerizing Gaze' (though we all liked 'The Blue Hour' of Johan Heine, 'Cleansing Winds' of Marjolein Pronk, 'Dandelion Dream' of Aukje Veenstra and 'Clouded Pulsars' of Renee van Wanrooy a lot too).

At the beginning of the event we had only 2 tables where enthousiasts could try and play the game. But after only 30 minutes it was so crowded that we could use another 2 tables from our neighbour 999 games! And even then, there was not enough space as you can see on the picture; people were even playing behind the paintings!

The regional channel made a short video of the event, where you can see Day & Night for a few seconds. In the Day & Night group over at Facebook I posted more pictures.

The Elf Fantasy fair is coming up, a big fantasy event with a dazzling 20.000 visitors and we're planning something very special! More about this, soon...!