Universalis Sales Data

Started by Valamir, April 17, 2008, 08:15:53 PM

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Having completed my inventory review for 1Q 2008 and compiled all of my sales data going back to the beginning I thought I'd offer the following data.  I have some nifty graphs that go along with this data that at some point I'll throw up on my website.

Year by Year Uni sales:

2002:  Uni was only available for ½ of 2002, and the initial 100 copy print run in August was sold out by year end.  Total 2002 sales = 100 units all direct and convention sales.  Convention Sales = 26%

2003:   Second printing of 750 units was available in January.  In May I started using RPGMall as a delivery channel in addition to direct sales.  Total 2003 sales = 192 of which 9% were at conventions and 21% through RPGMall.  The rest were direct through me.

2004:   In May of 2004 I began using Key20.  The additional sales through distribution was an immediate boost to volume.  Total 2004 sales = 349 of which 6% was through conventions, 47% through Key 20 and 11% through RPGMall.

2005:  2005 was a transition year.  In April I dropped RPGMall as their sales had dwindled to nothing and they were holding a fair amount of my stock which I needed back.   By May I was completely out of stock myself, with Key20 handling all sales for the rest of the year before running out of stock themselves in December.  Total 2005 sales were thus only 214.  Of that a mere 3% had come from RPGMall, but 5% came from fans of the game (including Luke Crane's efforts to rep indie games at east coast cons and Eero's indie importer business in Finland).  Key20 accounted for 75% of Uni sales that year.

2006:   I had been impressed by the quality of "explain this game" text found in With Great Power and now had had several years experience teaching the game, so I resolved to completely rewrite the Uni text for the third printing.  However, I was caught completely off guard by the volume Key20 was able to move and so ran out of stock on the second print run long before Universalis Revised was ready.  It wouldn't be until July of 2006 that Uni was back in stock.  At this point, IPR had dropped the "exclusivity clause" from their contract so I signed up with them as it was clear that Key20's direct-to-fans business was not as robust as their distributor business.  Even with only ½ a year in stock, Total 2006 sales = 318.  Of that IPR accounted for 40% and Key20 about 42%.

2007:   2007 was a "let it ride and just cash the checks" year for me.  With the real life job taking much of my time I probably did less in 2007 to promote Uni than in any prior year.  Even so, with little from me (not even a consistently maintained website) Uni managed to hit 285 sales for the year.  Not bad for a 5 year old game with no promotion.  The one thing I did do for the year (and it turned out pretty big) was offered Uni up Tanga, the "deal of the day" website best known for its ties to Board Game Geek and selling board game overstock.  In the 20 minutes Uni was offered it sold 61 copies, making the experiment the single fastest sales rate for the game ever (and accounting for 21% of the sales for the entire year).  IPR contributed 40% of the sales and Key20 about 27%, which isn't surprising as distributor restocks, while still occurring like clockwork, are for lesser amounts then when the game was new.

2008:   2008 is off to a great start with perhaps the strongest 1st quarter ever -- on pace to hit 364 sales for the year which is actually in excess of the stock I have remaining, so at some point this year I'm going to have to decide whether Uni has enough legs left in it to justify another large-ish print run or if its time to switch to a Lulu and PDF channel at this point.  Anyone wanting to share thoughts on that feel free.

If I did the math right that's 1549 copies through March 08.

Having been offered now for 62 months (not counting 6 months it was out-of-stock) that makes for about 25 copies per month. 

Not sure exactly where on the scale of sales volume that puts me (somewhere in the upper middle I would guess) but there's a pretty thorough break down for folks getting started.

Eero Tuovinen

Interesting data, that. Thanks for sharing it. My initial feeling is that I'd keep the game in stock via another reprint if I were in your stead, but there are good arguments either way.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

David Artman

Hard to recommend a short-run reprint, these days. What's your minimum order, and what opportunity costs do you incur from tied-up funds (compare print costs against potential interest earned form other investments, diminished according to average sales rates). If you can put that cash into a nice mutual fund (I recommend emerging economies and Asian markets, for the time being) and go with Lulu for Uni, it's a win-win for you. Maybe consider spending some of your investment interest on advertising, to prime the pump further.

Do you know any accountants who'd do a cost/benefit analysis for you? The math's not hard, you just have to know how to punch the numbers into a financial calculator....
Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages

Tony Irwin

I can't believe it's been six years.

The way you describe it - it's kind of sold itself. I didn't know about the board game geek experience (although I think I remember reading a review about it there.) Are there other markets (like the board games market) that are close to yet different from the RPG market where you could push it? Perhaps even capitalise on the "But is it really an RPG?" guff. There must be a whole world of people who wouldn't touch an RPG but would try Universalis (I've reached that point now). What about online Star Trek communities, or LoTR communities, or Anime. People who have some commitment to celebrating and sharing fiction with each other but not gaming. (as opposed to gaming but no story, like board gamers.)

Or what about the whole world creation aspect to it - really pushing it as a supplement to the game world and campaign that a group is already playing in. I did this with L5r successfully and repeatedly - I've read lots of people doing simillar on the forums. What if you targeted D&D folks or Hero Quest folks with it.

Switching to Lulu and PDFs kind of seems like a step down. If you go with PDFs obviously it will make it a lot easier for, say, the whole RPG.net community to buy a copy for the sake of checking it out when ever there's a review of it. Is there a way you could at least use it as a "calling card" for your other games? In a PDF you'd be free to add in a quick play version of Robots & Rapiers.

I've no experience in any of this - just chucking out ideas. Its been thrilling to watch the success of an incredible game, with a superb rule book.

David Artman

Quote from: Tony Irwin on April 21, 2008, 03:51:15 PMSwitching to Lulu ... kind of seems like a step down.
Out of curiosity, why is this so? Having handled books from Lulu and Universalis (Revised) itself, I find little difference in quality.

I can agree with you on the PDF front: I don't value a PDF nearly as much as a book--hence the reason I haven't ever bought one--and the free PDF/HTML games that I find online, I invariably format for print and print-out. The only PDF game I "own," I got for free: Vincent e-mailed Mechaton to me so I wouldn't have to wait for the physical book to begin reading.
Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages