Dec 1, 2016

Plagiarism or Co-incident? Coin sorting wallet designers clash on Kickstarter.

Ever since Kickstarter allows Singaporean creators to launch their projects in September, there has been a rush of projects being listed. Many did not manage to survive the harsh world of crowdfunding and a few will stand and gain media recognition. One of the project that succeeded in doing so is the KIN wallet. Designed by a team of students in the NUS School of Industry Design, the project managed to raise closed to $275,000 with 4 more hours to go. The key selling point of this wallet is that it is able to sort coins and notes into separate compartments from a common point of entry. They seem to be working with an international product design firm Allocacoc which will probably provide them with design, manufacturing and distribution support. 

2 Days before the campaign ended, another Singapore creator launched a similar coin sorting wallet  called Numistar launched by Eden Kew.

Kickstarter backers started to speculate if there is industrial plagiarism involved between these two creators.

One of key concerns among the backers is the functionality of the coin sorting mechanism, which KIN wallet designers have decided to keep it under wraps. There have been worries that the promised product features may not work, as experienced by many other similar Kickstarter products which failed to function as they should. Many of these projects also declined to share in depth the key mechanics which propels their unique selling point which is demostrated by the failed Zano drone project. They explained that they wanted to prevent a rip-off in their design by China manufacturers which have been duplicating the designs of successful Kickstarter projects in recent times.

On the other end, Numistar wallet designer elaborated on the design of the coin sorting mechanism in detail.  

In response to the possibility of plagiarism, the designers of KIN wallet may choose to take legal action against the Numistar wallet designer.

The Numistar wallet designer defended his design by highlighting the fact that the wallet has been in prototype phase since September and it has been mentioned in his facebook page. He also highlighted the difference between Numistar and KIN.

He ended his update by sharing that it takes time to design and test these products and it is by coincident that both projects are launched in close proximity with each other.

As part of the Singapore design ecology, I hope that the designers of KIN and NUMISTAR will work things out peacefully between both of them. Running a design business in Singapore is already a difficult business with our small market and lack of hardware ecology within the country. Designers should work together to put more Singaporean design products in the global arena and talk things out among themselves should a conflict arises. An expensive lawsuit is the last thing our fragile design ecosystem needs.

Oct 25, 2016

5 Lessons for Small Publishers from the World's Largest Board Game Convention: Spiel Essen 2016

When I first started writing about my adventures in the world of board game design and publishing, I thought that nobody will bother to read my blog.

It seems like I was proven wrong.

During my walk around Spiel Essen 2016 this year, I went around to say "Hi" to some of the new Asian board game designers and to my surprised, some of them actually recognized me and thanked me for sharing on my blog my Asian perspective of board game design and publishing. I was told that my article actually inspired by my article I wrote last year which gave them the courage to set up a booth at Spiel Essen. As an author, nothing makes me more happy that my writings have changed the lives of others and this encouraged me to make a new resolution to write more about the world of board game, from an Asian perspective.

Aug 31, 2016

Kickstarter Changes Which Singaporean Creators Need to Watch Out For

At long last, Kickstarter is to be launched in Asia on 1st September, with Singapore and Hong Kong being the first two countries to benefit. Singapore Kickstarter creators need not go through the complicated process of looking for a overseas helper, or deal with complex offshore tax issues anymore. However, there are some fine points for Singaporean creators which will be different from creators from other countries and here are 3 points to look out for:

Payment Processing Fee
The payment processing fee for Singapore creators is generally higher.

Singapore fees 
4% + $0.30 SGD (micropledging rates for under 10 SGD of 5% and $0.05 SGD) 

US fees
3% + $0.20 USD (micropledging rates for under 10 USD of 5% and $0.05 USD)

USD Denominated Pricing 
One of the key problems for international backers is that SGD is not a popular currency around the world and Kickstarter has a system which will reflect the USD equivalent amount for US based backers for your pledge tiers. However, it is always good to have an easy to read table for other currencies, in which you may foresee having strong interest in your project.

Minimal Pledge Amt
Most Kickstarter creators will have a $1 pledge tier for backers who want to further monitor the project before increasing their pledge amount or for kind donators who do not want any rewards but just want to contribute something to the project. The minimal pledge tier for Singaporean projects is $2 instead of $1. The reason behind this is because Kickstarter will automatically round-down the currency exchange to show the USD for the US backers and rounding 1 SGD down will be 0 USD which will not make sense when the US backers see this pledge tier.

There will no doubt be grumbles on the higher processing fee but the 1% extra fee, is a minor cost as compared to the old arrangement whereby creators have to bear double currency risks, potential higher tax regime, oversea bank transfer fee and a whole host of tricky problems which no creators will want to handle.

With the entry of Kickstarter into Singapore, there will be no doubt that there will be strong pressure on other similar reward based crowdfunding start-ups. In fact, the website for Crowdtivate has been taken down, along with all my history and records of my failed Wongamania: Classic crowdfunding campaign.  Meanwhile, Crowdo, a major Singapore reward based crowdfunding platform has pivoted into a equity crowdfunding platform to avoid competing with the entry of Kickstarter.

May 19, 2016

5 Reasons Why Your Kickstarter Reward Is Always #$%#$% Late

Having pledged a couple of Kickstarter projects prior to launching my own, we all have heard of notorious stories of late deliveries, often months beyond the promised delivery date. As backers, we have often curse and swear at the project creators for bad services. Now that I am on the other side of the fence, I can well empathize some of the problems creators who need to deliver manufactured goods to the backers. Prior to manufacturing Wongamania:Banana Economy in China, we have done two smaller print runs from a smaller manufacturer from Malaysia and we were confident that we will be able to handle the much bigger print run in China with ease. After our Kickstarter project ended in December 2015,  We made provision for 2 months worth of projection management and 1 month worth of production and delivery time. Little did we expect that our production only started during the mid of May 2016. So while you are wondering why your Kickstarter projects were so late in coming to your door steps, let me share with you our 5 reasons why our Kickstarter project is late to delivery! Although what I experienced is pertaining to tabletop games, I am quite sure that what we experienced is pretty relevant to other small project creators who are designing other physical products.

Reason 1: Huge Number of Chinese holidays

It was no joke when people say that Singaporeans are one of the most hard working bunch of people in the world with few public holidays. Comparatively, China has a huge number of official and unofficial holidays, many of which falls on the first half of the year. Many factories often give extended holiday on top of the official dates to allow their workers extra time to travel back to their hometown. Workers can have up to 1 month off for Chinese New Year and one week off for Labor Day. There is also the pre holiday mood syndrome that affects every one in the world whereby productivity slows as everyone is more interested in the preparation for the holidays than clearing their work. Than there is also the post holidays forgetfulness whereby you will have to communicate your requirements again... just in case.

Reason 2: Prototypes Retooling

Before we can green light any production, we need to approve the printing plate and the prototype. The whole process takes 10-20 days. During our previous production runs, we did not have to deal with plastic or metal components, but this time round, we have a couple of such components and needless to say, the component prototype did not turn out ideal and we had to fine tune the components over weeks in order for the quality of our bananas to meet our standards.

Initial Prototype. Short Ugly Bananas!
Correct Banana length, size and texture after much work

Reason 3: Major Conventions

With the global bloom and interest in the tabletop market, tabletop conventions are getting record attendance in Europe and US. Other than stocking enough game sets to sell during the convention, publishers often have to prepare excess complimentary copies for licensing, reviews and media. China is currently the top manufacturer of tabletop games and all the factories will be gearing up their production for games old and new. Needless to say, as a small publisher with a small print run as compared to the big boys, our pecking order in the grand scale of things is at the bottom of the pond. Things move a lot slower.

The 160k crowd at Spiel Essen Germany

Reason 4: Excessive Stretch Goals

Stretch goal is one of the essential feature in all Kickstarter campaigns and stretch goals will definitely stretch your production cycle significantly. For Wongamania: Banana Economy, we attained 3 significant stretch goals, a metalic gold ingot token, a new playing board and a customized etched dice. We realized that most of the time during the project management phrase went into the design and prototyping of these new stretch goals. The nature of stretch goals is that the design of these goals has not commenced during the Kickstarter campaign as designing a protoype or paying for an artist for asset before you know your campaign will be successful or not will result in a waste of valuable moolah. Many a times, these creative designers have multiple projects that they need to work on and cannot drop their existing projects just to work on your stretch goal. The more stretch goals which you will need to fulfill will result in a longer project management time and dad we not have these stretch goals, our production timeline can definitely be met by the promised date. However, a project creator will need to state a delivery date even before they know if their campaign is successful or how many stretch goals will be unlocked in the case of a runaway kickstarter hit, so it makes the whole project management timeline extremely difficult to predict once the amount of stretch goals you need to fulfill starts to pile up.

Reason 5: Different Folks, Different Stroke

We started engaging our manufacturer way ahead of our Kickstarter project in August 2015 and started standing in the artworks and models and to check with them on the layout requirements of their printing plate. Different manufacturers often have different requirements due to the different kinds of machinery and workflow process and many a times, they may ask for different layout or file formats while you are submitting your input. The requirements from our Malaysia manufacturer and our Chinese manufacturer differs by quite a lot and we spent a few weeks retooling our input to suit the requirements for the manufacturer. However, there are times when there are manpower change in the manufacturer's side and suddenly, there is a new set of requirements, which we will have to spend time and money to retool the input process.

What We Learnt

During our first crowdfunding campaign with Crowdtivate for Wongamania Classic, we were delayed by 1 month and for the more ambitious Wongamania: Banana Economy project, we will probably be delayed by 2.5 months even though we have allocated 2 times more project management time for the latter project. Of course, we are also new to working with a much larger manufacturing company with a global reach as compared to a large printing company serving the Malaysian markets, which brings about a whole new set of problem. On hindsight, we should have allocated more project management time to accommodate a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Meanwhile, our Wongamania Classic has been sold out since January and we are now twiddling our thumbs with no products to sell and praying everyday that the new product gets manufactured soon!

Indeed, an expensive lesson to product life cycle management! 

Feb 5, 2016

Trials and Tribulations of Setting up a Singapore Board Game Publishing Company

I know I am late to do the recap thingy which every other bloggers have done a month ago as I was engrossed by the New Year market China's market crash along with the workload with working with our China's manufacturer to kickstart the manufacturing of Wongamania: Banana Economy. 2015 was the year whereby we went from a simple game designer to a full blown game publisher with lots of trials and tribulations in between. This is our story...

Wongamania during Personal Financial Investment Seminar

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