Renegade Recap 2016 - Part 3
The Home Stretch.
When we left off last week our merry band of Renegades had just finished up a busy summer of convention travel. Looking back there was still so much that happened at Gen Con that I didn’t get to cover.
Attending the Diana Jones Awards (Renegade was a sponsor this year) and getting to see Eric Lang win was awesome. Going to Nerd Night! Man, this event is so cool. The selfish part of me wishes it was at other cons too so I could actually have more time to spend there.
Geekdad hosted a press night where we brought Kane Klenko and Jordan and Mandy to show off their games to the Geekdad and Geekmom crew. Breakfast, lunches, and dinners with our distribution partners, retailers, press, and so many others.
But one of the biggest things I forgot was the last night. Our tradition is that the last night of the con, after all the hard work of tearing down our booth, the staff goes out to dinner. The Renegade usual is Brazilian, especially for the pig and pineapple. It’s really just a nice night to relax and celebrate all the hard work everyone puts into making these things happen.
But this night had a special treat for me. I had forgotten all about it until Sara told the story while she was getting ready to tape a preview of one of our upcoming games with Bebo. I’ll just let you watch Sara tell the story herself.
Some day, Sara…I will have REVENGE!
August also saw the release of our push your luck dice game; Dicey Goblins!
So after spending the rest of August trying to get some sleep and caught up on all the things that don’t get done when we are traveling it was back to the airport!
We kicked off September by heading to Fort Wayne, Indiana for the Alliance Open House. This is another one of those distributor events where we get to meet lots of great retail stores. We get feedback from them and get to show them what we have coming up.
While in Indiana we also made a side trip to the Man Vs. Meeple set. The guys were going to have Sara and I on to talk about Renegade. I can’t say enough good things about their work so far. The crazy thing is that I’ve known both Dave and Jeremy since way before they started MVM. David and I crossed paths back in my days making World of Warcraft TCG through Blizzard channels and Jeremy and I first met way back in my Decipher days.
I highly recommend you check out their stuff. In fact, you should just watch our Renegade episode now. Here you go…
In my mind when I think of October the first thing that pops into my head is, Essen. The first time I attended was back when we were making The Lord of the Rings TCG at Decipher. I have memories of running events in the huge halls filled with smoke. Back then you could smoke in the convention center and it was terrible. I would always come home with a smokers cough, and I don’t smoke! Back then, board games were big in Germany of course, but it was very different. Games like Catan dominated and Ticket to Ride hadn’t even come out yet. Now there’s so much more and that’s saying a lot.
Essen is very different from Gen Con but has some similarities. There are lots of meetings at both and it’s a great place for designers to meet with publishers. The biggest difference though is that in Essen, events are not really a thing. Organized play really doesn’t happen there. The show is like 5 big ginormous dealer rooms where the focus is demoing and buying games. Some Publishers have mega sized booths with fifty demo tables and others have a small booth with a couple of tables and a stack of games to sell. Many of the games are self-published and printed in small quantities just for this event and you may never see them again. Others may get picked up by a publisher.
The crowd in Germany is different too. Many more families of all ages walking around. At the end of the day the trains are packed with people carrying huge stacks of games. Many people just come for one day to try games and shop and then head back home.
For Renegade this year we were just there doing meetings. We thought about a booth but were just too busy working on product and so many other things to do it this year. I was worried I might kill Sara if I made her organize a booth there. But we will have a booth in 2017!
October also saw the release of Doggy Go! This was the second in a line of Aza Chen games we have on our schedule.
The rest of the month was back to working on games, reviewing submissions, following up on all the meetings we had about non-English editions of our games and getting ready for BGGCon. Sara attended the GTS Come and Play Day in Atlanta the end of the month too.
November is all about BGGCon. This would be the second year Renegade had a booth. Our focus here was to launch The Blood of an Englishman and preview Castles of Caladale. The designers of both games were able to make the trip and demo’d and talked to fans all week.
Jenni, our awesome customer servicerep, and author of those funky Game Craft articles where she shows you how to make cookies and stuff based on our games, made a cool beanstalk for the booth.
At BGGCon I purposely went light on the meetings. I was determined to play some games and have more flexibility. It was a good show for Renegade. We got a lot of good attention for our new games and everyone was super excited that we have some Clank! for sale. We had sold out of the first printing and put a small amount aside for this con and it went fast.
We also announced we were going to be publishing Honshu at BGGCon. That went over pretty well!
Here are some pictures from our week in Dallas.
Right after BGGCon I had a quick family trip to Denver for Thanksgiving and then all of a sudden it was December. Now all this time we were traveling during the fall, we were working on getting 2017 games to the factory. Some of you may have heard that Chinese New Year is a major holiday there. It starts the end of January and goes for about 3 weeks. During this time everything is shut down. This means anything we are producing has to be done and in transit before that shutdown or it’s stuck for almost another month.
So when December rolls around you are down to the wire. Past the wire really and we still had a couple of games that weren’t finished yet. To make matters worse I had one more trip before the end of the year.
I was off to Tokyo Game Market! I have had this event on my schedule for the last two years but kept taking it off because we always had so much work to do. But as our relationships with studios, publishers, and designers in Asia have developed I felt it was finally time I made the trip back to Japan.
I can’t say going to Japan was much of a hardship. I love visiting and it had been a long time. I also like flying to Asia from California. It’s a nice change from flying to Europe all the way from the west coast.
Of course, while there I had all the usual meetings. Met with some designers before the convention, did a little sightseeing, and a whole lot of eating. But the big day was attending Game Market on Sunday. The whole think is just one day. It’s held at a convention center called Tokyo Big Site.
The morning of the show I got up and planned to get there a couple of hours before it opened to scout around. I was lucky enough to have an exhibitors badge so I could get in early and not wait in the long lines. I arrived early and saw the line all the way back to the front doors. Went in and followed the signs to “Game Market” and walked, and walked, and walked. The halls for the con were easily a quarter mile from the entrance and the line went the whole way. Man was I happy I didn’t have to wait in that!
So I finally arrived and all the designers were frantically setting up. Game Market is nothing like Gen Con and reminds me a bit of what some halls in Essen felt like 10-15 years ago. 80% of the convention are independent designers with one single table selling their game. In between some aisles are tables for demos but not all the designers have a demo table. There are a lot of card games. I would say at least half are 30-100 card games in a simple tuck or two-piece box.
I already had a list of things I wanted to check out and went around and found them. Some I wanted to buy automatically and asked if I could buy them. It seems that’s a no no at Game Market. The con opens at 10am and the designers don’t sell until then. In a way, I think that’s a great policy as it gives everyone a fair shot. For many of the games, there are only a few hundred copies available. Once the hall opened I made my rounds as quickly as possible and pretty much got everything I wanted. I even picked some games up for some people back home.
If you ever attend, be aware that a lot of the games will not have English rules. So you will need to have way to learn to play if something really catches your eye but the rules are only in Japanese.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting to visit with people we work with. I’ve mentioned previously that we are publishing a lot of Aza Chen’s games. The thing is that up until this point we had never met in person. When we signed Kitty Paw, he was in Essen and I skipped it that year so I could stay back and work on games that needed to go to print before the holidays. (Remember that dreaded Chinese New Year.) While he was there we started working on the deal and had it done shortly after he returned home. Then this year he skipped Essen and I didn’t, so we never had a chance to meet face to face until Japan.
The other group I got to spend a lot of time with was my friends from Taiwan. These guys are doing some great stuff and I’m sure you will be seeing many more of their designs in our market.
After Game Market I returned home and things started to wrap up for the year. The holidays arrived and Renegade goes into low power mode for that last week of the year. It’s a nice time when things quiet down and I can look back and reflect on what we accomplished but also really start to shift gears towards the new year.
Looking back the greatest asset we had in 2016 was the people we work with. We accomplished a tremendous amount for such a small company and it’s really a testament to the people who make up the Renegade team.
Robyn – You don’t hear much about her but she’s our Controller, AP, AR, royalties, and everything else that has to do with money, orders, and shipments person. It’s a huge role and vital to our day-to-day success. We couldn’t do what we do without her.
If you ever design a game for us, Robyn will be one of your favorite people. She sends out the royalty checks every quarter!
Sara – I refer to Sara (in my head) as my Right Hand of Doom. I mean that absolutely in the best way possible. Her title says director of sales and marketing but she does all sorts of stuff. She develops games, helps me evaluate submissions, and is running a game project or two as producer.
I know that whatever task she takes on she’s going to totally handle it and I don’t have to worry about it at all.
Anita – Anita is one of the best graphic designers I’ve ever worked with and I’ve had the good fortune of working with some extremely talented people. I’m sure you noticed that we take presentation seriously here and she’s done a fantastic job of making sure we meet those high standards.
At the end of the year she became our Creative Director and will be working with all the designers and artists we work with on so many projects.
Jenni – Ever have a broken piece in your game or something missing? Well, Jenni is the person making things right for you and getting it done quickly and painlessly. It’s an underappreciated job for sure, but she handles customer service quickly and with a smile.
She’s also a craft and party food expert and has been writing some cool articles for us called Game & Crafts.
So, that’s the core team at Renegade but definitely not everyone. All the game designers, artist, graphic designers, and convention staff work super hard to make sure you get a great game.
So that’s the people but what worked in 2016? Here are some random thoughts in no particular order:
- Marketing is important – Our philosophy has been to support and grow our games and that strategy has paid off.
- Be different – Not every theme has to be fantasy or zombies. A game of pretty flowers might just stand out among all the same stuff. This strategy seems to have worked too.
- Cultivate our relationship with specialty game stores. We don’t launch our games on Kickstarter and tried some early release programs with specialty stores that worked really well.
I think these were the 3 big successes for us this year. We followed though and supported our game launches, released some great stuff that stood out in a crowded market, and worked on building our relationships with the specialty game stores that sell our games.
But what do we need to improve on next year. Here we go:
- Scheduling – I really want us to be working on longer lead times. We don’t have much space in our development and production schedules. My goal for 2017 is to be working on final files for 2018 releases by mid-year. We have a couple of big 2018 projects that are already in the works but I would like to see all our original games get on a 12-16 month schedule, if it needs it.
- More resources – Everyone was exhausted by December. We put out a lot of great stuff but the pace and bandwidth took its toll. This wasn’t really a surprise. We grew a lot last year and everyone knew it was going to be a marathon. But we’ve maxed out our bandwidth and will need to expand our resources to continue the growth trajectory that we’re on. Anita is already taking action to broaden our design and production resources.
- Conventions – These suck a huge amount of bandwidth away from our day-to-day. We’re working on a plan to lessen that impact but it’s not really in motion yet.
- Specialty Game Shops – We had a lot of successes with some program and a few experiments last year. We already have plans to take that to the next level and if what we are going to try works, we’ll roll it out in the second half of the year.
Well, that was 2016. It was a great year for Renegade and even though it’s a tremendous amount of work, we had a lot of fun too. We’re really looking forward to 2017 and I hope you are too!
Oh, yeah, I promised some insight into what we have coming this year. I promised Sara I wouldn’t spoil too much so here’s a list of some things I’m looking forward to this year:
- A new game from J. Alex Kevern. All I’m going to say is ROBOTS.
- Flatline was just announced but it isn’t the only game by Kane Klenko we have scheduled this year.
- Beth Sobel is illustrating a new original game for us right now.
- We are working on a new game from Daniel Solis.
- Kwanchai is illustrating a new original game for us.
- We will release 2 Aza Chen games (at least) in 2017.
- Chris Ostrowski is illustrating a new original game.
- RGS and Direwolf have more plans for Clank!
- Another Renegade game will come to ios and Android.
- A new game with our partners at Foxtrot.
- A game based on a popular pop culture license.
- I deleted half of the things I typed because I don’t want to tease you too much!
Thanks for reading folks, I hope you enjoyed all my ramblings.
Last thing I’ll say is THANK YOU for playing our games! Without all of you, there wouldn’t be a Renegade.
Have questions about this? Ask me on Twitter @scottgaeta and be sure to follow Renegade @PlayRenegade