Universalis monthly sales since 2002

Started by Valamir, October 14, 2010, 03:54:31 AM

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Having just completed my semi annual update to my inventory and sales numbers I though I'd put the number up on my website as an item of general publishing interest.

The graph of this data requires a bit of explanation.

The two halves of the graph represent the split between 1ed and Revisedwhere Uni was out of print for nearly 2 quarters.

The tall bright blue spikes were Key20 sales into distribution.  You can see by far the single largest source of volume at the time and what enabled the subsequent 1000 unit print run (now down to the last 23 copies) of Revised.

Key 20 stopped operations (or at least reporting sales) in mid 2008, you can see where the bright blue and purple spikes end.  I never did get the checks for the last few months of sales. The large orange spikes to the right represent me finally writing off the inventory they had that I couldn't get back.

The white spikes in the front occuring around August each year represent Gen Con Sales,  the slight kickers off to the side are from Origins.  You can see the steady decrease in sales each year, which is why I stopped working the booth a few years back. The last few years are sales from the IPR booth. If they had any sales at Gen Con in 2010 at the booth, they weren't called out in their sales data. I suspect, they had none.

The Green Spikes labeled 3rd Party sales were a series of informal arrangements I had with a number of different parties who repped Uni completely on their own initiative. I'd sell multiple copies at 1/2 cover and they'd keep the revenue. Luke Crane did this for awhile with what eventually morphed into IPR. Eero did a good volume through Arkenstone, but there were a number of other fans who were just so excited about the game that they'd buy 3-6 copies to take with them to a local con near them. For awhile I was selling 1ed pretty regularly to a guy who worked in the purchasing department of a South African bookstore. He restocked about 3 times before leaving that job. It was a pretty effective arrangement all around.

You can see the hey dey of Universalis came to an end in mid 2008. That this cooincided with the demise of Key20 is no real surprise. About 6 months earlier I had also ended nearly all active effort to promote the game on discussion forums or conventions. As an investment manager by trade 2008 became a rather busy time for me, some of you may recall a little dip in the markets around then that distracted me from important things like Ramshead. As that was about 2 years after the release of Revised and 6 years after the original release, I'd say it had a pretty good run.

Even so it held on to some respectable numbers for another full year. From about mid 2009 through today (3rd quarter 2010) those numbers have about all dried up with monthly sales in the low single digits and for the first time 3 months in a row without a single retailer reorder. IPR reports only 23 units left in stock (as of 10/13/10) I take it as a good sign that that matches my own inventory numbers. Other than a handful of copies I've kept for myself, that's the end of the 3rd print run, a total of 1850 copies printed between the 3. Call it the low 1700s of actual sales (vs lost or comped copies).

Given the trickle of sales now, I don't really see where its economically viable to do another run. I'd love to release the game as a PDF, there's been some clamouring for that, and that would be a great way to keep it available. I'd like to do something more than just take the old print file and offer it for sale, but with no pdf skills of my own I'd need someone to pull that together.

Who knows how long it will take to sell out those last 23 copies, but this seems like pretty close to the complete Uni sales history from 2002. A long and crazy ride.

Christoph Boeckle

Wow, thanks a lot for sharing this with us, Ralph!

Just to make sure: you never got your last checks from Key 20 AND you lost a part of your stock when they went under, right? Was the financial operation still viable?

On a side note: It's incredible that indies are so transparent with their numbers, I've never managed to get my hands on numbers by un-independent publishing companies. It's good for indies that other indies publish their numbers and experiences.

Mathew E. Reuther

I think you'll find that this is due to the fact that most publishing houses are privately-held. The ones that are not do actually release information (they're obligated to do so because shareholders must be kept informed) in a format that while not perfect, does allow for some kind of interpretation of how lines are doing.

As a note, Paul has some sales figures for My Life With Master up at his site as well in case you have not seen them.

I personally enjoyed reading the summary and also took a look at the chart. It's an interesting blueprint of the life cycle (at least through two print versions) of what seems to be to be a "successful" indie product. (Award-winning, oft-discussed, and with some reasonable sell-through.)
Knee deep in the Change System's guts . . .


Chris, yeah.  I could get the sales info off of their site to reconcile with the checks they'd send me each month.  Initially the checks were only 30-60 days behind...as you'd expect from them having to collect the money and then process it and turn around and send it to me.  Towards the end, they got more and more delayed.  The last sales reported on their site was from May of 2008.  The last check I received from them was from January 2008 (received in December of 2008) which bounced (and cost me $35 in returned check fee).  So essentially 5 months worth of sales I never got paid for.  At the end my inventory showed they were still in possession of 41 copies in inventory (after the sales through May) so I don't know what they did with those.  They may have sold them and just never reported it.  They may have been siezed by creditors (which would have been technically illegal since they weren't Key20 assets).  They may have been mulched.  Even so.  I made more money doing business with them then I lost.  And the increased volume they represented (even with the steep distribution discount) let me print a much larger (and hense much cheaper per unit) print run for revised then I otherwise could have.  So it wasnt't a total loss.  Other publishers lost way more.