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Saturday, September 26, 2015


Steve Cole's thoughts on ADB and the future of the SFU.

1. One day in late July I got word from the die cutters that our F&E counters should arrive about 21 August. I posted this wonderful news on the BBS and mused openly about which each of the product involved would appear. An hour later I pointed out this post to Jean and suggested that she clean it up and post it to the network of fansites and Facebook pages and game boards. She remarked that I should have talked with her about what to post before posting anything, should not have given specific dates (even as clearly labeled guesses) for product releases because "stuff happens" (it did) and "nobody remembers the disclaimer, only the promise you didn't keep." She was right.

2. Amarillo has an annual convention for fantasy, science fiction, anime, and cosplay. This year, they included gaming for the first time. We went and walked around to see if next year it might be worthwhile to try to have gaming events and a sales booth there. Jean and Leanna thought everything looked good for that; I thought it looked like a dubious venue. (First, most people outside of the gaming room probably would not be interested in our products. Second, everyone in the gaming room was playing a game they brought with them, and the ones I talked with were playing people they knew. None showed any interest in trying a game they had never tried before.) But as the motto of some state lottery says: "You never know, it might work." We don't have to rent a car or a hotel room, the booths are cheap, and if it's a waste of time we can just go back to the office and find our normal work waiting for us. (Experiments in Denver, Dallas, and Tulsa all cost at least a thousand dollars. All of them turned into a waste of money and time.) For the cost, the Amarillo show is worth a try. From my considerable experience, however, I have found very few conventions worth the trip. (Fantasy or science fiction conventions with some gaming in a side room rank first on the list of conventions I avoid.) But then, how do you rate a convention's success? By sales dollars? Well, some of those dollars would show up in the web shopping cart anyway, but others are truly new customers. You can get a gut feeling about it, or keep tedious track of it, but I have never seen the "new customers found" quotient to reach 1/3 of the sales. We went to Origins partly because there was enough new money to pay the cost, and we got to "build the community" by meeting with and firing up the customers. (Sadly, Origins was ruined for us by the date changes and our customers voted with their feet to not go there any more. Those customers still buy from us on-line, so it's the convention, not the products, that are the issue there.) My hope with Ama-Con 2016 is that we find some new local playtesters.

3. Someone sent me a note the other day saying that our products were "way overpriced." I found this curious since our prices are at (or mostly below) the prices of similar products from other companies. Our miniatures, for one example, are well under the going rate for the size and scale. If somebody wanted to make a case for this they would need to send me a comparison between one of our products and the prices of four or five similar products by other companies.

4. I heard somebody say that "Steve Cole is mean because he won't allow Alpha and Omega Octants to mix." This was news to me because I have never blocked or refused such a thing. Alpha and Omega are so far apart geographically that they historically never did mix, so it's hard to do any kind of historical product. We have done plenty of non-historical stuff. I just don't get this gripe. I mean, if you want to mix Alpha and Omega on your own table, do you really think I'm going to get an email alert and send you an order to stop? Really?

5. A friend sent me an idea to improve quality control the other day. As it happened (and as he suspected) we had used it for years. Even so, I told him that I appreciated the idea and that since he had no way of knowing what we do or don't do behind the scenes, it's never a bad thing to suggest a useful idea to a friend. There are no stupid questions, and I've come to think there may not be any stupid suggestions. There may be some that we already know and others that don't apply but they all are useful to someone.
 6. Someone asked the other day when Merchants of the Federation would be put on the schedule. This is a game that was offered to us, but it's expensive to print ($60,000) and is a market (train games) we have never sold into and know nothing about and have no track record in. I have no idea if train game players would be interested in a spaceship version of a train game, and frankly no one in the office knows enough about train games to even tell if the design sent to us actually works. (Frankly, if I can't blow up the train, I'm not interested in playing a train game.) A train game like this would be an extremely high-risk venture. That sounds perfect for Kickstarter BUT it would take 200 man-hours of key staff time to launch a Kickstarter program and even more time to manage one. (If we thought that was a good idea, I'd do it for Tribbles vs. Klingons first.) At this point, that time is better spent on non-Kickstarter products.