Scott Gaeta

Out of Stock Issues - A Publishers Perspective

Out of Stock

Three words nobody in our industry likes to hear; Out of Stock (OOS). For a customer, it means disappointment. For a FLGS it means possibly losing a sale at that moment and maybe more in the future if that customer decides to go elsewhere. From a Publishers perspective “out of stock” isn’t always bad.

Here’s the deal. As a publisher I want my distributors and retailers to have the games they need to satisfy our customers. I say “our customers” because ultimately that’s whom we (the royal we, the industry we) serve, the end user. Without them, none of us would be here. But I digress.

So, being out of stock isn’t always bad on the publisher level. Printing games is a risky business and as the old saying goes; nobody ever went out of business by selling out.  I don’t think it’s as simple as that but you get the idea.  By the time we have any real data to base sell-in, the games are often just weeks from arriving in our warehouse. The numbers we decided to produce were probably locked in anywhere from 12 – 16 weeks before that. It just depends on the components.

By the time the game hits the warehouse we know if we guessed right or not. Did we sell about half of the print run on release? That’s a decent result. Now we just need to make sure we see re-orders. But what if the games sold out or even worse, over sold. That’s not what we want. Often when I see demand for a game really heating up I get the next print run started before the first print run even arrives at distribution. This is me; the publisher, doubling down and I just doubled my risk. But ideally I, as the publisher, will be OOS and distributors will be OOS a few weeks later, and FLGS a few weeks after that. Just around that time the next printing will be arriving. What that means is that I need to be good at forecasting demand and responding to it at the right times; all with very little hard data. I’m very fond of saying that forecasting is a little art and a little science. The internet, distributor open houses, and conventions are my tea leaves.

In an ideal world, my forecasting skills allow me as a publisher to occasionally go OOS without having to take too much risk above and beyond what we already do. I at least get strong signs, if not hard numbers, that a new printing is the right call. But most importantly me being OOS doesn’t mean the FLGS is OOS. It’s all about timing. My job as a publisher is to get this right way more often than I get it wrong.

But here’s the real problem, what little hard data I get is sell-in, not sell-through. Now I really need to dig deep into the art of forecasting to get a good read on what is selling in stores.  Sell-through is really what I want to know and there is no mechanism in our industry to track it. It’s all anecdotal information at the hobby level.

Where things go way off the rails is when sell-through is significantly higher than usual. This is when the dreaded OOS occurs across all tiers for a significant amount of time. That new printing isn’t just a couple of weeks away; it may be a couple of months away or more. Everyone loses out and nobody is happy.

I’ve experienced this phenomenon too many times to remember them all over the last 20 years. One time a CCG expansion I printed sold out instantly. There wasn’t anything any more special about it than the previous set but there you go. Everyone panicked and asked for more.  The GAMA Trade Show was weeks after the set released and stores and distributors were very aggressive in wanting a reprint. We gave in and had piles of the second printing left, even after I printed 50% of what distributors were asking for.

Another time, a boxed game I published had a little less than four thousand units on pre-order. I printed 20,000 and sold out in 7 days. Some people say these are good problems to have. It took over 2 months to get more back in stock and our customers were not happy with us. It didn't feel like a “good” problem at the time. We got lots of “why didn’t you print more” questions. 12 weeks before street date five times pre-orders seemed pretty aggressive, if not down right risky.

Most recently Clank! took us by surprise. We printed a very good amount and it evaporated. I had the second printing in progress 6 weeks before the first printing arrived and that disappeared. The next two printings have also sold out on arrival and more are on the way. My tealeaves must need replacing.

Without actual sell through data the best I get is sell-in data. I can extrapolate from that velocity at the FLGS level and at least get a decent picture of where we stand. The other challenge is that sell-in data is often 30 days old by the time we get it.

So, what’s the solution? I don’t think there is one clear-cut solution that will make this all better. Our industry is made up of several thousand independent retailers and that is certainly one of our strengths but it’s also our greatest weakness when it comes to data collection. Unless we can figure out a way to collect sell-through data and have stores pre-order in a time frame that makes sense for them, while also being early enough to effect production, I don’t see this changing significantly.  One possible solution could be industry wide POS software and a 3rd party that collects and distributes the data. The video industry had something similar to this in the 90’s.

But until the day that we have the infrastructure that gives us the data we need, all of us will have to keep the lines of communication open and do the best we can with the data we have.  It’s just the world we live in, a world of art and science.

- Scott Gaeta

This Blog was originally published as a guest blog at travisseverance.com/blog as part of a 3 part series. Be sure to visit to read parts 2 and 3.

Renegade Recap 2016 - Part 3

Renegade Recap 2016 - Part 3

Or

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.

Sara tells her fabulous story during a GameWire video recording.

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…

The rest of the month was spent on the launches for Covert and Lotus. Both of which we previewed at Gen Con.

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.

Finally meeting Aza in person.

Finally meeting Aza in person.

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.

Last night at Game Market.

Last night at Game 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:

  1. Marketing is important – Our philosophy has been to support and grow our games and that strategy has paid off.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Best,

Scott

Have questions about this? Ask me on Twitter @scottgaeta and be sure to follow Renegade @PlayRenegade

Renegade Recap 2016 - Part 2

Renegade Games Studios Year End wrap-up Part 2

Or

Travel Strikes Back!

Last week I covered the first four months of the year.  If you missed it, you can check it out here. This week I start off by looking back at May 2016.

May started out with a trip to Portland to visit a game designer and company that we are working with on a new game that we will be announcing in March. I would really like to tell you all about it now but Sara says I can’t. She’s mean like that.

While in Portland I also got to stop by Rainy Day Games.  Rainy Day is one of our biggest supporters.  They were one of 10 stores that really went all out with Lanterns and helped us launch it. They provide that retail experience we all want. Well lit, clean, well stocked, and a knowledgeable staff.  Steve and Amy Ellis do a great job and I highly encourage anyone visiting the area to check it out.

So after my trip I had to rush back and get ready to head up to Burbank for the Lanterns Tabletop Shoot!

Wil Wheaton & Lanterns on Twitter the day of the episodes recording.

Wil Wheaton & Lanterns on Twitter the day of the episodes recording.

During my career I’ve been fortunate to have visited many Hollywood sets and lots. It’s always fun. I once got to visit the original Thor Movie set and sit on Odin’s Throne, I attended an event in Tony Starke's Malibu house (it’s not a real house btw), and have walked the halls at Lucasfilm. But this was the first time I was on a live set during filming and actually had something to do. I covered my adventures those couple of days in an earlier blog post that you can check out.  So I won’t go into too much detail again but I will say that the Geek & Sundry staff, Ivan Van Norman, and Wil Wheaton were gracious hosts and made me feel at home. I even had a chance to sit down with Wil during lunch and show him the final look of Lotus, a game that he had seen the prototype of at Gen Con 2015. Overall it was a fun trip. Check out the old blog post and come back, I’ll wait.

Renegade Goes to Hollywood

Two weeks after the Tabletop taping I was on the road again to ACD Games Day. This is another one of those industry events where we go and show off our games and meet with the best hobby retail stores in the country. We also had a small crew of folks doing BGG Spring that weekend. It was just not possible for Sara and I to do both.

I really enjoy the distributor open houses and even thought this is now Sara’s area I can’t give up attending them personally all together. I won't make all of them in 2017 but will definitely work a few into my schedule.  Talking to stores is super valuable and the feedback I get from them helps us make better games.

World's Fair 1893 being played at the ACD Games Day.

World's Fair 1893 being played at the ACD Games Day.

Then the next week I was off to Denver for a few days for the Astra Toy Show. This is basically the toy industry version of the GAMA Trade Show. Hundreds of independent retailers attend to see new toys that they might stock in their store. Sara was invited to speak on a panel about event marketing and we were really there to make plans for this year’s (2017) event. Many of our games are good for families but the Indy toy store customer is very young. So we went to see what type of games might be a good fit for these stores. We got to meet with some of the top toy stores that carry games in the country and left with a good plan for the future.

While in Denver we also visited The Wizard’s Chest. This stores is incredible. First of all it’s huge. The top floor is filled with costumes, a Harry Potter department, a magic department (not the card game - actual magic and has a magician there on weekends), about a bazilion pop vinyl figures, and all sorts of plush. Downstairs is mostly games. It has to be one of the largest selections of board games in the country. Most titles are stocked pretty deep. The owners gave us a behind the scenes tour and I would guess that they have more inventory in their back room than most game stores have on their sales floor. We were pretty happy to see all of Renegade’s titles on the shelves and stocked deep.

The next time you are in Denver, you definitely need to check this store out!

The next time you are in Denver, you definitely need to check this store out!

After a few days in Denver it was back home for a week and then off to Origins! Columbus has a great downtown and I really like attending this con.  Our booth is a good size so we can make it open and inviting the way we want.

Our demo tables were hopping with Kitty Paw, World’s Fair, Lanterns, Bullfrogs (get it, hopping!), Apotheca, and even a sneak peak of Lotus if you knew who to ask. About a week before Origins, Jordan and Mandy came up with an idea to make little seed packets to promote Lotus. The idea was that if you planted the flowers now, the flowers would spout by the time Lotus released in September. I thought it was a great idea and told them we should make one-thousand packets. They had planned on making about one-hundred. I didn’t realize they were going to have to stamp and fill each one by hand. Well, they showed up to Origins with about a thousand. That’s dedication! It was definitely one of the coolest promo items I’ve ever used to promote a game.

A panoramic view of our Origins booth.

A panoramic view of our Origins booth.

Origins is like most other cons for us. Lot’s of demos, sales, and meetings. Though the reason I like this one so much is that the meetings aren’t overwhelming. I actually had time to play some games. My favorite game session was when I got to play in a The One Ring Roleplaying session with Josh from Czech Games, Travis from Millenium Games, and Steve from Rainy Day Games. The game was run by Paul Butler! Steve and Josh were playing Hobbits. Now there are adventurers like Baggins (Frodo and Bilbo types) and there are trouble making Tooks like Pippin. I’ll let you imagine which type they decided to play. It was a blast and hopefully we can get the group together for another adventure.

Click the pics to see all the Origins stuff!

On the Monday after Origins a bunch of us had flights later that day so Sara, Zee Garcia, and I went to a museum near downtown Columbus. We were in luck because the temporary exhibit was all about games! Video games but still games! There was a pretty good selection of original arcade machines and a really nice walkthrough of the evolution of video games. It was cool to see lots of old classics right up to some of my recent favorites like World of Warcraft. Unfortunately you were not allowed to take pictures in the game exhibit but I did get some really nice shots of Zee playing around in front of a green screen.  Here they are making their worldwide internet premier!

Click the pics to scroll through all the Zee goodness.

July was travel free, thank goodness! I was actually able to spend about 6 straight travel-free weeks working on upcoming games. Gen Con was also coming up in August so there was that to get ready for too!

Gen Con. I’ve been going to Gen Con since before it was in Indy and it has really changed over the years. It has become so BIG compared to even 5 years ago. It is by far the most important show we do in North America. It’s also the hardest on us. This year I spent very little time on our booth. I was mostly in meetings with designers looking at their new designs.

Overall I really enjoy this process. It’s exciting for me to see what designers have been working on and finding something that is a good fit for us. Aspiring designers often ask what we are looking for. That’s really hard to quantify past some very broad guidelines. If I had to give you one answer to that question it would be I want something I haven’t seen before! I know, that’s not the easiest of direction. So really, I would tell you to just bring me what you think is ready to show. With very few exceptions, I’m happy to look at most games.

I think it’s also worth noting that just because we don’t pick up your game doesn’t mean we didn’t like it or that it’s not good enough to get published. Often it comes down to a lot of factors that are constantly changing. We are also always looking ahead. What we have published to date may not be exactly what we are looking for.

Another nice thing about Gen Con is that it brings the whole Renegade team together. Throughout the year we are all working on many different projects but at a con we can get in some really quality play testing and development.

Here the booth team is getting in a play test of a new J. Alex Kevern game we are releasing in 2017.

Here the booth team is getting in a play test of a new J. Alex Kevern game we are releasing in 2017.

We premiered several games at Gen Con. Clank! sold out the first day. Lotus was sold out the morning of day 2, and Covert and Dicey Goblins got wiped out as well. By the end of the weekend the booth was pretty decimated.

The booth itself was packed and overflowing into the aisles all week. We are actively trying to get a lot more space at Gen Con. Being fairly new (at least the company is) we could only get a very small booth the first two years. In comparison our Origins booth was much bigger and more spacious than at Gen Con. Hopefully we will be getting a lot more space in 2017 so we can have a much nicer presentation for you there and we can fit more stock!

One of my favorite things at Gen Con is one night we have dinner with all of our designers. This was the 3rd Gen Con we did this and the group gets bigger every year. It’s a really nice night to show our appreciation and celebrate all the hard work everyone has put into our games.

The gangs all here!

The gangs all here!

I could go on and on about Gen Con. So much happens and we see so many people. Last year Sara posted an overview of Gen Con and you should definitely check it out. Now, I think I’ll let you take a look at a bunch of pics from my phone. This is Gen Con as I saw it over 5 days. Enjoy!

Click to pics to scroll through them.

Well, that wraps up Part 2 of my walk down 2016’s memory lane. Tune in next week as I wrap up the rest of last year and also go over some lesson’s learned, talk about some key people who helped make it all happen, and probably spill the beans on some 2017 stuff!

Sara can’t stop the signal! (or me)

Until next time!

Scott
 

Have questions about this? Ask me on Twitter @scottgaeta and be sure to follow Renegade @PlayRenegade

Renegade Recap 2016 - Part 1

What a year it’s been. It’s really hard to believe that it’s over!

Renegade is officially closed the week between Christmas and New Years and it’s a nice time for me to reflect and review the past year and to shift my focus 100% on the year coming up.  What I’m going to do here is go over the last year a bit month by month. I hope this gives you a little insight into what our year is like for us here at Renegade.

I’ll also share some thoughts about what I think we did right and what I think we need to work harder on and then maybe go into just a little bit of what we have coming up in 2017.

So let’s get started, shall we.

Starting in January makes sense so as I look at my calendar and notes from that month that immediately takes me back to December 2015. You see Fuse had just released on December 13, 2015 so it really did miss Christmas for all intents and purposes. This wasn’t part of the plan.  Originally we had Fuse on the schedule for the summer but ran into some delays and eventually had to bring in more help with graphic design. So even though the game released in December it really was a 2016 release for us marketing and sales wise.

Building our graphic design bench was definitely at the top of my list for the New Year.  If you’re familiar with our games at all, you will notice that art and design is something we take very seriously. Finding the right designers to help bring a game to life is as important to me as finding the right games.

Fuse started off with really strong sales and continued throughout the year. It’s been one of our best sellers all year and the 4th printing just arrived before Thanksgiving. We supported Fuse heavily with an event kit over the summer and a promo die in the Santa’s Renegades holiday promo box.

Also in January I began my travels for the year by going to Nuremberg Toy Fair, in Germany. I have a love-hate relationship with travel. I’ve traveled a lot most of my life and really do enjoy seeing new places and experiencing different cultures. But I also don’t like being away from the day to day of my work, not to mention my family. I really enjoy being hands on with product development and it’s hard to do from the road.

Anyway Nuremberg was great for Renegade. I got to meet with some new designers and got to see lots of old friends. Some of the groundwork for upcoming foreign language partners began here. It’s a much more business-oriented event.  Everyone is in meeting mode and my typical routine is to have a meeting room and new meetings scheduled every 30-60 minutes for several days. It’s productive but exhausting.

After Nuremberg the travel continues in February with a trip to Toy Fair NY. This meeting is again, all about meetings. Mostly with our distributors and non-hobby retailers like Barnes & Noble, Target, Think Geek, and others.

I love New York (someone should put that on a t-shirt) but February weather there is usually cold. It’s also a long show.  This year my goal is to enjoy the city a bit more while I’m there. I friend of mine at another pop culture company goes to a Broadway Show every night he’s in town and I’m always envious of that. So, this year I’m vowing to go to a show, at least, one night.

So while all this traveling is going on, behind the scenes we are getting Kitty Paw, Bullfrogs 2nd edition, and Brick Party ready to release.  Randy over at Foxtrot is wrapping up J. Alex Kevern’s World’s Fair 1893. This is what keeps me away from the theater when I’m in NY!

Early paint rough of the Lotus box cover by Chris Ostrowski.  Art director by Kane Klenko.

Early paint rough of the Lotus box cover by Chris Ostrowski.  Art director by Kane Klenko.

Up to this point Renegade was just Robyn and myself full time with what I call the cast of a thousand contractors and very dedicated game designers working on their respective projects. Things were going pretty good and I knew that if I was going to continue to grow Renegade I was going to have to bring in some help. I was overseeing all product development, game selection, marketing, sales, events; you name it. I did everything except the books, accounts payable and receivable. That is Robyn’s domain.

I really do love all aspects of the business but I was going to have to let something go on a day-to-day basis. I decided sales and marketing. In February I hired Sara as Renegade's director of sales and marketing. Sara is a great fit for me. She’s not a “yes man”, (I hate those), she’s smart, hard working, and really knows our industry.

Like I said, I hate "yes men".      #TeamScott#TeamSara

Like I said, I hate "yes men".      #TeamScott#TeamSara

Sara's background is similar to mine too. We both started in this industry as store owners. I eventually went on to contract for Decipher and then brought on full time. I actually hired Sara for her first full time industry job a few years earlier at another company, so I was already familiar with her abilities.

Mensa Finalists were announced and we had 3 games make the top 60!

Mensa Finalists were announced and we had 3 games make the top 60!

That brings us into March and the GAMA Trade Show.  This is a big deal for game companies and stores. It's where publishers go to show off their latest games to store buyers and give them an overview of what they can expect for the new year.  It's really a tabletop industry "Toy Fair".  My first GAMA was back in 1996 when I was a store owner. Over the years I think I’ve missed two or three for various reasons.

If you are a publisher that sells games to game stores this is a no brainer, you must attend.  For new Publishers there are educational seminars and panels. The last few years I’ve been on the “Industry Hot Topic” panel. This past year was about release dates, pre-orders, and pricing as it pertains to game stores. As part of the panel we built a fictitious game with the audience's participation. The point here was to show retailers some of the process and decisions that go into making a game for them to sell. As always it was fun. I kept a running back of the napkin P&L going and in the end I recommended that we not make the game the audience had developed. It was too expensive and our margins stunk!

I can’t even begin to explain how busy GAMA is for us. This was Sara’s official start at Renegade and we were meeting together with all our distribution partners so I could hand-off the day to day relationship to her. We also conducted two Renegade only seminars where we taught over one-hundred retail stores how to play our games, we hosted a designer speed dating, spoke and presented at one of the meals, sat down with some designers and checked out new games, and had countless meetings with some of the best retail stores in the country.

Then we come home and have to catch up from everything that didn’t get attention while we were gone and start following up on things from those meetings.

Oh yeah! Kitty Paw launched this month too and instantly sold out. I could see that the response for this was looking good at Toy Fair so I had already ordered the second printing in February.  So even though we sold out instantly our partners in distribution would probably only be out for a few weeks. Kitty Paw would turn out to be one of our best sellers this year.  In the first 7 months we’ve reprinted 3 times and it continues to do well.

Even Fett can't resists the cuteness of Kitty Paw!

Even Fett can't resists the cuteness of Kitty Paw!

Kitty Paw came from designer Aza Chen, who is based out of Taiwan.  Aza is a brilliant designer on so many levels. His games are light and appealing to young kids but surprisingly challenging for adults. He really hits that sweet spot for a game that parents can play with their kids. Personally it took me a while to get good at Kitty Paw. Don’t let the cute cat fool you. Like real cats there is a sinister side there as well. Kitty Paw kicked off what will become a long term relationship for Renegade as we have the rights to most of his games now and plan on releasing a few a year strategically to build his brand and the line.

March also saw the release of the second edition of Bullfrogs from Keith Matejka. I love this game. It’s such a tight little strategy game. We decided to change the art and give it a more family friendly look. (I like the original art too but felt the frogs with axes might not fit our line) The game has sold pretty well but we learned some lessons here too. The most important is that you only get one chance to launch a game.

We kept running into distributors and retailers that had some of the old version left.  I think this is something that new publishers, especially those using Kickstarter, should be aware of. When you “launch” a game and then try to generate all that excitement again many months later, it’s old news. Your early adopters, core base, etc. have moved on. Now there are always exceptions to this but those exceptions are few and far between. We don’t want to ever count on being an exception. So what we learned here is that if we can’t give the game a proper initial launch, we don’t want to do it.

That said, I really do love the design and we are exploring other options for it in the future. It’s really, really good and deserves a larger audience.

The other big thing that happened in March was that Lanterns: The Harvest Festival was nominated for Game of the Year by SXSW (South by Southwest). We were up against some pretty stiff competition. Codenames, Blood Rage, and Pandemic Legacy. We didn’t win but it was really nice to be nominated….again.

That became a bit of a running joke for us all year. We were constantly being nominated for awards but almost always losing to Codenames. Not to say that we would have won otherwise but it was pretty funny. The great folks at Czech Games even invited us to their table for the Origins Awards where Fuse was up against Codenames for Family Game of the Year. Hey, at least we had a fun night with friends!

Wow, that’s a lot going on and we are just getting into April. The big highlights in April were Unpub, the Mensa Mind Games Competition, and the release of Apotheca.

Unpub is really fun if you like play-testing games for designers. This year Renegade was a sponsor, as I’m really passionate about us supporting the design community. Events like Protospiel, Unpub, and Speed Dating are fantastic. They provide a way for aspiring designers to make contact with publishers and hone their craft. More people designing games are only a good thing for our industry.

For two days Sara and I bounced from one game to another playing, testing, and evaluating. It’s a whirlwind of non stop games. I also got to be on a panel about publishing.  I love it and we will be back in 2017 as a sponsor again!
 

Randy was at Unpub too and testing the expansion for Lanterns.

Randy was at Unpub too and testing the expansion for Lanterns.

The other big event was the Mensa Mind Games competition. We had 3 games make it past the preliminary round of evaluations and be accepted into the competition. For those that don’t know, this is one of the best competitions for games. It’s not just based on the opinion of one or a few people. Or an editorial team at a magazine or website. Here’s how it works:

Minds Games is held every spring and moves around the country. Only Mensa members may attend and publishers or designers with a game in the competition (even if they are members) may not attend. Some Mensa members travel around the country and attend every year. Publishers send 6 copies of their game and 10 extra sets of rules. Only 60 games make it to the final cut that weekend. 300 players are assigned to play certain games and evaluate them using a score sheet that covers everything from art, rules, fun, replay value, and more. Players can play other games not on their list but must at least play their list.

The scores are tallied at the end of the weekend and the top 5 games are announced as Mensa Select games that year.

The reason I like this competition so much is that it’s a pretty comprehensive evaluation and involves 300 players. You also get all the evaluation forms back so you can see how your game scored and comments from the various players.

In 2016 World’s Fair 1893 (co-pub with our development partners Foxtrot Games) won one of those 5 spots. This was the 3rd year in a row that a game I published won at Mensa and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

At the end of the month we launched Apotheca from Andrew Federspiel. This was a game that I first saw in the fall of 2015 and really liked it. It’s fast and fun but has just enough depth that makes decisions important. The game came out looking beautiful as well and made a really nice addition to our line-up.

April also had Sara on the road for some more sales meetings and we were really starting to gear up for the summer conventions. In between all this travel I was in overdrive finishing up all our development and production for our summer and fall releases. Our Gen Con previews and releases needed to be to the printer in May!

Do you see a trend here yet? I’m tired just going back and looking at all this!

Tune in next week for part 2, when I visit the Tabletop set for the taping of our Lanterns episode and then Sara and I head straight into the whirlwind of summer conventions and trade shows!

See you next week!

Scott

Have questions about this? Ask me on Twitter @scottgaeta and be sure to follow Renegade @PlayRenegade

Renegade's Origins Recap!

Hey there Renegade fans!

So we just returned from Columbus, Ohio where we once again exhibited at the Origins Game Fair. If you have never been to Origins, I highly recommend it. All the major publishers are there and there is lots of gaming going on.  Columbus itself is awesome! The downtown area has lots of great restaurants such as Melt (the best grill cheese you will ever have) and Jenni's ice cream (I dare you to try and just go once!)

The Renegade crew arrived Tuesday night and had an early morning Wednesday to get the booth set up and ready for Thursday.

Sara took a break from set-up to go and show Brick Party to Zee!

I don't know what Sara did here but Zee looks like she got the best of him. Sorry Zee!

I don't know what Sara did here but Zee looks like she got the best of him. Sorry Zee!

We finally got the booth all set up and it looked pretty good.

We were showing off some art from upcoming games; Covert, Dicey Goblins, which are previewing at Gen Con along with Lotus and Clank! The booth was really hopping all four days. We were busy demoing Fuse, Brick Party (releasing in July), World's Fair 1893, Apotheca, Lanterns, Kitty Paw, Gravwell, and more!

We were also promoting Lotus by Jordan & Mandy and had a pretty cool promotional item to giveaway. If you got one of these packets of wildflower seeds and plant them when you get home you will have some lovely flowers to put on your game table just in time for the release of Lotus!

Jordan & Mandy with their wildflower packets to promote the upcoming game Lotus! Over 900 people got some flowers to plant.

Jordan & Mandy with their wildflower packets to promote the upcoming game Lotus! Over 900 people got some flowers to plant.

Kitty also took home a flower packet along with some other game promos we were giving out on the Renegade booth!

Saturday night it was time to attend the Origins Awards.  Fuse was nominated in the Family Game Category.  It was up against Codenames so let's just say it was an honor to be nominated. :)

Codenames did go on to win Game of the Year as well so if you're going to lose to someone it might as well be the game of the year! Congrats to the entire team at Czech Game Editions! They even invited us to sit at their table and bought us drinks! Those folks are definitely a class act!

After a busy Sunday it was time to pack up the booth!

The worst part!

The worst part!

Then it was off to dinner with our staff. Our tradition has become Brazilian BBQ with pig and pineapple being the key motivating factor! 

The best part!

The best part!

That about wraps it up. Renegade had a great Origins and we can't wait to go back next year. If you missed us at Origins, be sure to stop by and visit us at Gen Con. We are in booth #2304 very close to the Family Fun area.

Until next time!

Scott

Okay, one more thing. On Monday we had some time to kill before flights and Sara suggested we go to COSI (Center for Science & Industry). This place was awesome and had an exhibit on games! We weren't allowed to take any pictures in the game area but here's a pic of Zee Garcia from The Dice Tower and A GIANT LIZARD!

Enjoy!

PS - I really hope Zee doesn't have any pics of me playing DDR.

PS - I really hope Zee doesn't have any pics of me playing DDR.

Renegade Goes to Hollywood

Last year Renegade and Foxtrot got some good news when Wil Wheaton announced that Lanterns: The Harvest Festival was the first game he had chosen for the new season of Table Top. He did this on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel while playing Lanterns with the hosts of Game The Game.  Needless to say we were all pretty excited.

Click the pic to learn more about Game the Game!

Click the pic to learn more about Game the Game!

 

We love Table Top and all that it has done for our industry. We're big believers in bringing new people into this wonderful hobby of gaming, so being on that show was the perfect fit.  We eagerly waited for more information on what to do next. Eventually the fine folks at Geek & Sundry got in touch and told us we needed to send a representative to the studio to be present on the day they were going to film our episode.

After I picked myself up off the floor we worked through the schedule and locked down a date. I was told that I would receive a "call time" the day before our day and should expect to be on set most of the day. My plan was to drive up to Burbank from San Diego the day before so I would be ready to go first thing in the morning.

Finally the day came and it was time to pack up and go. It was just going to be me and Lanterns on this little adventure, at least until we got to the studio the next day.

Lanterns all packed and ready for a road trip!

Lanterns all packed and ready for a road trip!

I packed my bag and we hit the road. It was a pretty uneventful drive and we got into Burbank around 10pm. We went straight to the hotel to get a good night sleep.

Lanterns all tucked in and ready for the big day!

Lanterns all tucked in and ready for the big day!

We had received our call time and instructions the day before and had to report to the sound stage at 9am. We got up early to make sure we had plenty of time to get ready.

Lanterns getting all clean and shiny!

Lanterns getting all clean and shiny!

When we arrived at the studio we had a spot reserved for us, parked and made our way inside. There was a spread of breakfast food out and people were rushing around getting ready for the shoot. Eventually Wil and the guest started to arrive. Everyone grabbed a bite to eat and chatted for a while. Then it was time for make-up and to get ready

It's really interesting to see how everything is done and it wasn't too long until it was time to get started. My role was to watch the game and be available if there were any questions about the rules.

Here's what my view looked like throughout most of the day...

Everyone is taking a little break between all the action.

Everyone is taking a little break between all the action.

I don't want to spoil the episode for you and all that I will say is that it was awesome. It was hard not to laugh out loud (which would have made the sound person not like me very much) the whole time.  The game was fun to watch and everyone had a great time playing.

Overall it was a fantastic experience and the Table Top crew is top notch. Be sure to keep an eye on the Geek & Sundry site to find out when Table Top Season 4 begins!

I'll leave you with one last shot...

Lanterns will never wash that corner of his box again.

Lanterns will never wash that corner of his box again.

Until next time!

Scott