Address Surveys, and some Fulfillment Logistics details
It's mid-April, and the pre-production copy is now officially two weeks into creation. I still haven't seen much (I can hardly contain my excitement), but according to some of the discussions and questions I've had with the manufacturer, things are going smoothly. Of course, I'll update when I have more news.
The most important part of this update: backers surveys have now been sent to backers who pledged for copies of Lunarchitects. The survey only asks for your shipping address, which will not be used until we are actually shipping the game. So if you KNOW you are moving, feel free to put in your future address—but if you need to change the address later, that should be no problem. The address will remain editable until a later date, and we'll give you plenty of warning before we "lock" the addresses.
If you're not already familiar, the reason we want your addresses this early is because we're close to finalizing...
A huge cost of producing a game is actually getting the product from the factory into the customers' hands. In fact, you might be surprised that this shipping and fulfillment is the LARGEST part of Lunarchitects's cost (even more than the cost to manufacture)! I'm going to show you why.
Firstly, let's break down the whole shipping process into two main parts:
#1—Bulk shipping of pallets of master cases of shrink-wrapped games, from the factory to "depots"
#2—Repacking of individual games into shipping boxes, and dispatching to customers.
Both of these parts are costly in time and money, but most often #1 is the cheaper but longer part, and #2 is costlier but faster. Let's go into a bit more detail into these, and how I'm solving them. A lot of this info can also be found on Jamey Stegmaier's Stonemaier Games blog, but what's below comes from my experience with the process so far.
#1— I'm On a Boat (to the fulfiller's depots)
Most contracts with game manufacturers include getting everything ready up to the point where the games are packed onto pallets and dropped off at a loading dock. There are lots of companies that specialize in getting consumer goods from a Chinese port to the other ports in the world, but they're often HUGE companies that don't want to deal with little-old game publishers. So often publishers have to work through smaller companies like Dimerco or OTX (which are still big, by the way). These groups facilitate the ocean freight shipping of pallets from the China port to depots.
Some fulfillers can arrange for the ocean freight part of the shipping too, but not many do. One of the two fulfillers I still have in the running does offer this, but we'll see where we end up.
For Lunarchitects fulfillment, it's looking like I'll be sending games to two "depots": 250 games (about 1 pallet and then a couple more cartons) to a EU warehouse (like in the UK), and 950 games (about 5 pallets) to a US warehouse (like near Chicago). Sending all non-US games to an EU depot is what makes your packages "EU-friendly": by shipping within the EU, you will avoid a good chuck of the extra expenses usually tacked onto international shipment (I will cover these when I send the pallet to the depot).
Shipping part #1 will often take more than a month, because of shipping logistics, customs clearance, shipping transfers, etc.
#2— Pack 'em Up, Move 'em Out
Once all of the pallets of games are in their respective warehouses, then the fulfillment company takes over. They will take the long list of orders, pick-and-pack games into ship-able packaging, individually label packages and finally ship them to customers. The logistics of this must be daunting, as the US warehouse will have 600+ packages to create, and the EU will have 240+. Granted MOST of these will be identical packages (550 from US, 221 from the UK all contain just one game), but still I'm certainly glad I won't be doing that myself!
This process of re-packing and moving will often take a couple of weeks, but I hear the companies I'm looking at have great turnaround time.
So all totaled, the cost to get the average copy of Lunarchitects to your doorstep is 1.1x as much as the cost to manufacture. Wow, who knew?
Quick story: back a few years ago, I met game designer / publisher Keith Matejka at a game design convention and we got to discussing games. He was then pitching his game Bullfrogs, and planned on self-publishing it on Kickstarter... which he did successfully in 2014. From there he formed Thunderworks Games, and funded the game Roll Player during the Lunarchitects campaign (I mentioned it back in Update #4). Keith's experience and advice helped make Lunarchitects a reality.
Anyway, he's now running a Kickstarter campaign for a fun little real-time dice game called Blend Off!. It's a quick game of smoothie creation, has lots of custom wooden components and dice, and is a perfect diversion between games of Lunarchitects—and probably other games too :)
I don't often push other games on my backers, but Blend Off! is in their mid-campaign slump and may need a bit of help to reach the funding goal. If a quick-playing frantic game of smoothie mixing sounds at all interesting to you, check it out! It's a neat little gem, and I'd love see my friend Keith help another fun game become a reality.
Until next time!