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

2015 Q1: Launch of Wongamania 1st Edition

After one year of designing and preparation, we launched Wongamania 1st edition for retail sale and started on our journey to learn about distributing a product with little idea how the board game industry works. Knocking on the doors of distributors, emailing bloggers, sending product samples to media producers, figuring out Qoo10 and Amazon works, designing an accounting system, coming up with a distribution agreement, figuring out a supply chain solution and creating a website are some of the many things we have to juggle among the 3 initial co-founders. Thanks to the help of many of our friends who helped us out on a pro bono basis, we managed to get featured on Malaysia national TV as well as a number of radio talk shows. We get to meet fantastic people from the table top industry, financial bloggers and entrepreneurs who gave us initial feedback on the game. The feedback has been very positive and we managed to sell 500 units of the game within a short span of 3 months. 
At Mediacorp Studios producing the Channel News Asia with Anchor Dawn Tan

2015 Q2: Glory and Bumps

The sales of Wongamania picked up steam as we established more distribution channels and we managed to garner a mini reality Wongamania game show with Channel News Asia which gave us a great deal of publicity. Given the positive response and brisk sales in Singapore and Malaysia, we decided to try marketing the game to Europe and US with limited distribution channel to see how well the game will fare out of the more conservative South East Asia market. To our disappointment and puzzlement, the feedback we have gotten from the other side of the world ranged gave us a very mixed bag of results. We were extremely puzzled as we have gotten so much positive feedback from the players in this part of the world, while we were getting mixed reaction from another part of the world. Delving deeper into the world of game design, we recognized flaws with the current edition of Wongamania. The main reason for the difference in the feedback is that the gaming appetite and expectations are quite different in the west where the players are more exposed to better designed and better produced board games.

It is like sending a popular local street food to a French cuisine critic for review.

In order to bridge the gap between our current product and a world class product, we recognized the fact that we needed to improve on the component quality of our product and also to adjust Wongamania to suit the gaming appetite of the global markets better. For example, we will need to overhaul some of the game mechanics which are well liked by gamers locally, but are not well received in other parts of the world. However, we have been advised by industry insiders to focus on the western markets and design the game purely to cater to the taste of these markets as the western markets have a much bigger market size than the fledgling local market as what some local game designers have done. On the other hand, based on our experience of marketing Wongamania in Singapore and Malaysia, we believe that the demand for board games is there and is growing, just that we need to market and position the product differently. This set us on the course of taking the harder route of re-designing Wongamania into a global game with a strong local slant which made Wongamania popular in the first place.

Our first Wongamania Tournament at Big Fat Purse

2015 Q3: Product Development Woes

The stress of running Capital Gains Studio starts to build up as we had to maintain our normal operation and at the same time, overhauling Wongamania into a world class product with very little guidance. We needed to look for a new manufacturer as the current one is unable to meet the kind of quality as expected of an international board game, and we expanded our search from South East Asia to China. The new China manufacturer that we engaged to produce our board game had a whole new set of system and protocol which we needed to readjust ourselves to. With the 3 of us working to the breaking point, we asked around to look for enterprising individuals who were willing to work with us for some share equities and a small allowance. We were lucky that we were able to convince another 3 of our friends to come in to help us. Just as we were able to breathe easier with the added help, the artist whom we had asked to help us illustrate the Banana Economy decided suddenly to call it quits. With two months more to show case our new game at Spiel Essen, the largest board game convention in the world held annually in Germany, we scrambled to look for a new artist to illustrate Banana Economy. We managed to convince one of Singapore's top web comic artist Andy Choo to help us illustrate the game within a short time frame of a month and together, we conceptualized the financial monsters of Banana Economy that proved to be a big hit with our customers. Our request for 100 advance copies with our China manufacturers also met with major hiccups and we only managed to manufacture Banana Economy's prototype for Spiel Essen just 3 days before we board our planes. This proves to be a major blow to our market efforts as we were unable to send the advance copies to other game reviewers who will be present during the world's largest board game convention. However, we counted our blessings that we could at least present our prototype during Spiel Essen. As a absolute newbie in board game trade shows and gaming conventions with absolutely no idea what to expect, we went in blind and came out well rewarded.

We also held our first Wongamania Tournament during Q3 and the response was so overwhelming that we had to turn participants away due to a lack of space and manpower to conduct the tournament.

On a person front, my SG Unfit Runners and Xeolyenomics blogs managed to get into the finals of the Singapore Blog Awards and SG Unfit Runners even managed to clinch an award! Now I can change my title from blogger to "Award Winning" blogger. Haha.

Testing out Wongamania: Banana Economy at Spiel Essen

 2015 Q4: Validation and Renewed Conviction

Attending Spiel Essen was probably one of the most important event for Capital Gains Studio as we ventured to Europe to collect feedback on how the Europeans view Wongamania. With the mixed feedback which we collected during Q2, we were apprehensive that Wongamania will not be well received during the convention. To our surprise, the majority of the gamers liked the game and we came to a simple conclusion: one man's meat is another man's poison. There were many passionate gamers who even volunteered to help us test out both Wongamania and Banana Economy and gave us very constructive feedback on how else we could improve on the game. We returned from Germany with renewed conviction that we have produced something valuable and started preparing for our grueling Kickstarter campaign. We launched a new set of prototype based on the feedback from Spiel during Game Start Asia and received extremely positive feedback from the gaming crowd. With our new product at 90% completion, we hit the "Launch Button" on Kickstarter and we began a new round of marketing effort to promote the campaign.

Needless to say, we encountered many obstacles and met many new friends during our Kickstarter campaign, which is quite well documented in this blog. We managed to achieve our funding goal by 150% and Banana Economy even managed to obtain the honor of a Kickstarter Staff pick and Featured Game among thousands of Kickstarter project out there. We also managed to get funded despite launching the campaign during the "Death Period" in December, which is a period of time perceived to be one of the most difficult period in Kickstarter to raise funds as backers often divert their funds to buy Christmas presents rather than supporting a Kickstarter project. We had another piece of good news by the end of the year: We sold out all our first print of Wongamania 1st edition with 90% of the sale conducted locally. There has been requests for us to reprint Wongamania 1st edition but with Banana Economy coming online in a few months time, we decided to stop producing Wongamania 1st edition and leave it as our legacy product which ushered us into the world of game design.

There are many more lessons which I could share but I will leave it for another time. We had another 2 more friends who joined us in Capital Gains Studios and we are now 8.

An End Note

To be honest, the trials and tribulations for 2015 have been numerous and I could have written a whole book about it. What started as a wild idea blossomed into a rapidly growing business and we were fortunate to be able to rope in very talented people who saw the value and the difference which we could make with Wongamania. 2015 was the year whereby we solidify our business structure and operating procedures and with a stronger framework in place, we look forward to 2016 to develop new world class products and penetrate new countries and markets.

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