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Guild of Blades, 2007 Year in Review

Started by guildofblades, December 25, 2007, 04:48:52 AM

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Guild of Blades 2007 Year in Review

Hi Everyone,

As had been a tradition for me for the last 6 years or so, near the end of the year I take a moment or two to reflect on everything our company has done over the last year and to share some of those experiences. Where possible we like to keep the happenings here at the Guild visible and transparent to our customers so they can see what we've done and what we're yet hoping to accomplish. As a part of my review I'm going to toss out some numbers, but of course, remember as I write this we still have a week to go, and a good month before any numbers I give you have been officially vetted by our accounting department (that would be Kim), so what I can present is approximate instead of exact.


2007 has largely been a year of transition for our company. Back at the end of 2006 we did a large buy in for game units where we printed full color die cut game counters for 23 of our games all at the same time. It got us a great price on the new game units and allowed us to maintain our same low game pricing, but it meant we then had to work on updating 23 games into new editions. Over the course of 2007 most of our back catalog has been updated. Most games in our Compact board game line went from black and white publications priced at $4.95 to full color boxed games at $7.95. All other games with previous B&W productions were also upgraded to full color ones, excepting the African 30 Years War, which will be released in its new edition shortly. Kaiju: the Giant Monster Wargame and Kaiju Moon also had additional color elements added. Beta testing on 1483 Online continued and membership grew fro 1,000 to over 5,000 and Thermopylae Online was released. Rapid progress on 1483 Online: Full World led to a trial test of the software around September, only to show that the game was so massive its memory consumption was bogging down even the most top of the line programs. It was found that Visual Basic as a language was completely unable to support such a large game map, so we had to start anew, building the Full World Software up again under a completely different language and structure.

In 2006 very few new games were released and our non Empires of History game lines saw little development. Part of this was due to an internal reorganization as we trained new staff and began grooming Jason, our current, Production Manager, to take over a line developer for the Button Wars and Overlords game lines. Only to to see him need to take sick leave for a couple months as he and his family had to work through a potential scare over brain cancer. No, its ok, Jason is fine. Turns out not to be brain cancer, thank goodness. He's back on the job and should be taking over the development for Button Wars and Overlords in 2008.

A few months back, on an equipment shopping spree, the Guild of Blades picked up the last few pieces of equipment on its wish list for doing game books in house. We had previously produced the Dark Realms and Heroes Forever role playing game books partially in house, but then rented time on an friends equipment to do the bindery for those books. It worked to get those lines of the ground, but logistically was not ideal for really getting behind the lines and running with them. We now have the paper collator, book perfect binder and soon will be picking up the new laser printer that will enable us to produce all of our game books in house. In fact, the newest Heroes Forever game book, the Billionaires handbook, recently rolled off the presses, but has not yet be announced for release.

2007 proved to be a healthy year of growth for the Guild in spite of the lack of new releases and our internal reorganization and training. E-commerce sales continue to soar, we think in large part due to a web site redesign began mid way through the year (an project still in progress) and the growth of the audience for our multi player online strategy computer games. That coupled with the quality upgrade of most of our games into new editions led to strong e-commerce sales. Sales to game stores in 2007 lagged, though, in part due to a shift in strategy where we ceased aggressively seeking that business. Back in mid 2004 the Guild of Blades opted out of using the game industry's 3 tier system, in large part due to the instability of that distribution channel. We spent most of 2005 focusing on building up our e-commece efforts, then spent 2006 on expanding sales by a concerted effort of marketing to and selling direct to select leading game stores. At the start of 2007 we evaluated those efforts and the return on those efforts and found it to be a non cost effective method to achieve growth and curtained direct to retail marketing and simply continued to service those stores who came to us to order game product. Direct to retail sales in 2007 were down by nearly 80% compared to 2006, but sales through drop ship retailers grow due to an expansion in marketing in that area, and while the unit sales were less than half that of the loss to B&M retailers, the margin difference recouped the bulk of those revenues.

All in all, total revenues for the Guild of Blades rose a bit over 82% (to date) compared to 2006 total revenues. Physical game sales, through all channels of distribution, still leads the charge in revenues, with advertising revenues being second, printing and distribution earnings third and then a smattering of revenues coming from other sources. An overall breakdown of revenues is as follows:

1)  Game Sales: 69.5%
2)  Advertising sales: 18%
3)  Printing, Warehousing, Distribution: 9.8%
4)  Licensing: .65%
5)  Membership Fees: .65%
6)  PDF Game Sales: .55%
7)  Consulting Services: .35%
8)  Graphic & Web Design: .25%
9)  Other: .25%

In game sales, the bulk majority of our revenues remains tied to our Empires of History game line. Below is a listing of our top 30 selling game products in terms of units sold. This is a mix in e-commerce and wholesale sales, though as noted above, the bulk majority is now from e-commerce. Numbers have be rounded to nearest 5.

1)  The War to End All Wars 3rd Edition - 880 - $34.95
2)  Battle of Thermopylae 2nd edition - 785 - $7.95
3)  Europe 1483 Box Set Edition - 670 - $44.95
4)  Beyond Hadrian's Wall 2nd Edition - 535 - $7.95
5)  Jutland - 495 - $7.95
6)  The Great War in Africa 3rd Edition - 465 - $24.95
7)  World War I Extra Armies 3rd Edition - 450 - $11.95
8)  Rise of the Red Army 3rd Edition - 435 - $29.95
9)  North American Upgrade Set 3rd Edition - 405 - $19.95
10) Ramesses' War - 405 - $7.95
11) Fallen Blackhawk: Somalia - 375 - $7.95
12) Battle for the Falklands 3rd Edition - 360 - $15.95
13) Kaiju: Giant Monster Wargame: Revised - 335 - $44.95
14) The Vietnam War - 310 - $4.95
15) Africa 1483 Box Set Edition - 305 - $27.95
16) The Spanish Civil War 4th Edition - 295 - $15.95
17) The American Revolution - 280 - $24.95
18) Barbary Coast Wars 2nd Edition - 260 - $7.95
19) Button Wars 2nd Edition: 2 Player Starter - 255 - $6.95
20) Europe 1483 Extra Armies Pack Set: 1-8 - 240 - $51.92
21) Heroes Forever RPG: Core Rules - 240 - $11.95
22) Overlords: Fantasy Battlescape Wargame - 230 - $44.95
23) The Arab Israeli Wars - 225 - $19.95
24) Rome's Greatest Foe: 2nd Punic War - 210 - $14.95
25) Worlds of Heroes & Tyrants Deluxe Box Set - 195 - $54.95
26) The Coral Sea - 190 - $4.95
27) Overlords: 2 Player Intro Set - 185 - $9.95
28) Button Wars: Quo-Ti Pack #1 - 170 - $5.95
29) Heroes Forever Hand Book - 165 - $13.95
30) Heroes Forever Starter Box Set - 145 - $27.95

Bundle deals seem to help sell the product a lot. For instance, we have a $99 special bundle deal on our WWI game series and a healthy number of orders for the game are for the full bundle set. We offer a 1483 bundle deal as well as two bundle deals for our Compact Game series board games. I wish we could figure out how to get retailers to work with us on bundle deals, but in all honesty, it seems if you don't have the hot new collectible card game or one of the top five miniatures games, they don't have time to focus on such selling tactics for smaller companies.

Going into 2008.

The Guild of Blades has a full slate of projects heading into 2008. With our internal reorganization complete and all our new printing toys up and running, we plan on an aggressive schedule of new game projects. Below we'll briefly go over. Full slate of Empires of History board game releases. With most of our back catalog upgraded to new editions, we plan to roll out plenty of fun new releases for the Empires of History line in 2008. At long, long last, Empires of History WWII will see release. So will the Mongol Hordes, The Peloponnesian War, Hundred Years War, Battle of Berlin, Kaiju: America, Tito at War, The Arab Israeli Wars 2nd Edition, Rome's Greastest Foe 2nd Edition, African 30 years War 2nd Edition and a good half dozen more titles yet to be announced.

The Guild of Blades will be publishing its first card games in 08, starting with the expandable card game, Kingdoms. In Kingdoms players will be able to buy a core starter set, then mix and match upwards of 30 expansion packs to custom build their main battle deck and expansion decks to tailor their own unique strategies. All the best game play features of a trading card game with none of the random packaging/collecting. We also hope to release the first few faction decks for the Kaiju Expandable Card game.

In 2008 the Guild plans to open a new game store in the Detroit metro area. Our store will be a blending of a copy and print shop and traditional game store. We will have in store gaming, will be able to provide POD printing services, can offer in store PDF game shopping coupled with physical printing of your PDF game titles and will also have custom a catalog of great artwork from a range of quality game industry artists that we can sell art prints and other merchandise for. For game industry professionals and independent authors, we will be able to offer print-on-demand production of POD playing cards, 6x9 paperback books, standard 8.5" x 11" game books and other printing services. If you are in the Detroit area or can make it here, we also plan to host publishing seminars 3 times annually. The store is a new test model for game retailing to see if the Guild can perfect a retail model for the company that we can later expand into more locations.

We're just weeks away from being able to, at long last, begin beta testing on the massive 95 player 1483 Online: Full World edition multi player online strategy game. Like its the smaller 28 player Europe 1483 Online game, the Full World will be free to play, so if you haven't joined the Empires of History Online Gaming Network yet, now is a great time. Visit

Under new direction both Button Wars and Overlords will see new life. Button Wars will be moving to a new edition and different production format. The old "button" style of production will be going away in favor of chipboard die cut game disks. The new format is way more efficient for us to produce and can let us expand the game line in all new directions, including the production of 5 different ship sizes, the release of all the faction sets and the Empires & Overlords campaign Box set. Overlords will see the release of some more Monster Packs plus the release of a new 17" x 22" boxed board game set offering different terrain and other new features.

Heroes Forever is ramping up production and will see the release of the Billionaires Handbook, Detroit City Book, World Atlas Book and likely 2-3 other new productions. We intend to do a complete revamp of the Heroes Forever web pages and to include a online goodies like aspects of the world maps, more historical details, and to provide non player and other important features of the game world.

The Dark Realms RPG Universe is returning, sort of. Well, at least the name is. We will be bringing back the Dark Realms names with the release of a new role playing game line titled the Dark Realms Epic Adventure Game. The game line picks the well recognized Dark Realms name and bundles it with the fan preferred Worlds of Heroes & Tyrants RPG game system. Updated to a new 2nd edition, the new Dark Realms line will take RPG product distribution into new arenas. We plan to produce a variety of core game books all priced at just $2. These will be 32 page booklets with full color covers and quality artwork. Stripped down versions of the game's three core booklets will also be released as dollar games and sold into the dollar store markets to help introduce this RPGs in general and this game in specific to all new audiences. Core game books will be sold online and through participating hobby retailers and a lot of supplemental material will be sold in PDF format. The vast majority of material and all the game world development for the new Dark Realms game line will be available online in HTML format on ad supported web pages.

The Guild of Blades Fiction Group, a project I originally intended to try and get off the ground back in 2002, will finally be launched. Though I don't expect to publish more than a handful of books under the Fiction Group in 08, I plan to lay the groundwork so that the program can be well under way and so that we are working with a large stable of writings so that going into 09 the program can really take off running.

And last, but certainly not least, the long await 2nd Edition of our fantasy board game, The Worlds of Heroes & Tyrants Fantasy Quest game, will be released. With all the new printing and binding equipment we have now, the new second edition will provide a quantum leap in production quality compared to the first edition and more than double the number of encounter, spell, equipment and other cards. With the re-launch of this game line we'll be able to proceed with the release of additional game board expansions never released for the first edition.

Well, that comprises most of our plans slated for 2008 so far. As is typical, I am sure new opportunities will come up and some projects will reshape themselves as the year progresses. Its the nature of things.

Hope everyone is having a great holiday.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group