November update 1 – Problems with logistics
Dear backers, dear friends,
This update will be about our problems with logistics and some of their consequences. This update is sadly full of bad news for us and for you.
In short: Due to seasonal congestion we’ve been waiting more than a month to ship the games out of China. Games will be fulfilled in December.
Since we know many are curious, it’s a rather long text explaining what has happened. Most of what happened we didn’t know until recently. Our partners have been very difficult to get hold of.
We’ll soon post another update with more news about the game and a report from Essen. Luckily this news will be happier.
Congestions out of China
As we expected (and hoped) our games have been finished and packed in the factory since September. What surprised us along the way was that most of the games didn’t ship out as agreed.
October and November is extremely busy when it comes for shipping out of China. Everybody struggles to get their goods out in time for the Holiday season.
An added trial is a relatively new Chinese holiday – The Golden Week – which resulted in almost everything closing in China from 1-8 October this year. This affected factories and logistics across the country. This led to dramatic congestions up to the holiday and for weeks after.
We learned that most of our shipments didn’t make it before The Golden Week. Only the games bound for SPIEL in Essen had been dispatched. These were on a train – the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The remaining shipments in containers bound for our fulfilment partners around the globe and for our large retail partner Walmart were still in process when The Golden Week commenced.
We are not fully sure why this happened. Some paperwork was missing and coordination between shipper and manufacturer wasn’t perfect. What we know is that everyone has been busy to the extreme, communication to us was sparse and facts difficult to get hold of.
We got hold of the CEO of our manufacturer during the last days of The Golden Week and he promised to prioritise our shipment as soon as he and his team returned. Our US based shipping partner promised the same. We thought this meant that shipment would happen within a week, but learned during some excruciating weeks that things only progressed slowly.
Our shipping partner couldn’t book the ships before all paperwork was done and a clear release date for the games was established by our manufacturer. We thought everything was done in the first week after The Golden Week, but could get no confirmation. Next week was the same. We just got the final confirmation for the bookings during this week (!).
Normally you can book a shipment fast when paperwork is done. This is however not the case during this time of the year. Two to three weeks waiting time is normal now. So the delays led to further delays. We’ve been heartbroken by this.
Our shipping partner told us: “I can appreciate the position you are in here and again we will do all we can for you. We are pulling for you. But you have to appreciate the magnitude of cargo that is coming out of China/Asia right now to North America and Europe. This is like sitting in an automobile traffic jam where even the breakdown lane is being used.”
Our booked shipments
Below is an overview of our fulfilment partners and the shipments bound for them.
US and Latin America
Fulfilled by Quartermaster Logistics
ETD SHA: NOV.06
ETA JAX: DEC.05
Fulfilled by Games Quest
ETD SHA: OCT.31
ETA SOU: NOV.30
Fulfilled by Snakes and Lattes
ETD SHA OCT.31
ETA ORD NOV.27
Note: This shipment is combined with the containers heading to Walmart. There is a split at port which will add extra time for processing.
Australia and New Zealand
Fulfilled by Aetherworks
ETD SHA: NOV.02
ETA SYD: NOV.16
Fulfilled by VFI
Cargo is to be picked up and delivered on Nov 04.
More uncertainties for delivery in December
What is hurting on top of this is that we still haven’t got final confirmation that our containers actually are on the boats. Believe us we’ve asked. We’ve learned that a booking isn’t 100% certain. You can get pushed out from a booked departure due to congestion. This happened to us already once and cost us a week extra for the shipment bound for Europe. This might happen again.
Please also note that the above dates only tell when the ships are estimated to arrive in port. Things can happen while they sail. On top of that we need to add approximately a week in port for unloading, processing and customs. If we are unlucky we might spend an extra week in customs being inspected.
After release in customs the goods are trucked to the fulfilment partners. These partners then need to process the goods. All Kickstarter copies are shipped on pallets in cartons with 4 games each. These pallets need to be inspected for eventual damage, then fully unpacked and then repacked for shipment to you. Finally, the individual parcels have to be shipped. This happens during absolute peak season for shipments to private households. We are told by several of our partners (and others we ask for advice) that shipping in December is insane and that we can’t be sure that all of you will get the games for the Holidays. Some advice us against shipping in December altogether.
We’ve asked our fulfilment partners to prioritise our goods, so you can get your games in December. We of course also know that others also want priority. We are in early dialogue about this and will update you when we know more.
Train for Essen
As noted above our train with games for SPIEL in Essen managed to leave before The Golden Week. It contained almost 1000 retail copies of the game and a few Kickstarter copies as well.
It’s quite an expensive shipment, but is still economically viable for us. When you sell directly at a fair you get the full margin without anything going to other middlemen.
We counted on selling minimum 600-700 games at the fair (most told us that 1000 was very realistic). This was important for us, since we’ve spent much more on developing the game than anticipated. We are in a firm minus economically now, even with Walmart and all the Kickstarter funds. The only reason for us to be able to continue is because Jacob J. continues to work fulltime in his consulting business and continues to finance the work on the game. Selling at the fair would help cover some of the economic drain.
Sadly, our logistics problems were not contained to just Shanghai. The games were to arrive between 13-15 October in Hamburg and would then be trucked to Essen. SPIEL opened in Essen on 26 October. We had plenty of buffer for customs, but it wasn’t enough for a storm.
A hurricane on 5 October – Storm Xavier – ruined most railways in Northern Germany. Our train stopped to a halt 500 km outside Hamburg and used more than 12 days extra to arrive in Hamburg due to congestion on the few remaining tracks that worked.
We didn’t have anything to sell in Essen, even though we had this expensive shipment heading there. This means that we ended with a huge deficit from Essen.
We also didn't have any copies to give to backers who wanted to pick up the games there. We'll ship the copies together with all the ofter copies to be fulfilled.
All the games have been released by customs in Hamburg just before this weekend and now need to be shipped somewhere else. We’ve worked this week on figuring out a solution and have found one. We couldn’t truck them to the UK to our warehouse there, as this would be too expensive (this is also one of the reasons why we didn’t send your Kickstarter copies with the train – they are fulfilled from the UK and would need to be shipped there from Hamburg as well).
Luckily a large distributor is willing to take all retail copies in on very short notice. This is Asmodee (more precisely Esdevium and Enigma). This is a huge help for us, since we don’t need to pay for extra warehousing and for expensive shipping to the UK. We'll also get some payment for the games, even though it's much less than selling directly at the fair.
This however also means that the games will end up in shops in Europe within a few weeks, as the distributor of course wants to sell the games.
It should also be mentioned that the Kickstarter copies that were on the train will go to Copenhagen for our pick up backers there. We'll tell more about this later.
Flying to Walmart
As you know we have set up a large agreement with Walmart. As we’ve already explained this has financed a lot of our upgrades in material quality. Part of the deal was that they would have the games in good time for the Holidays.
We are clearly set to miss this target.
We had a meeting with our Walmart buyers in Essen about this. They were of course not satisfied with the delay and wanted to find a solution. In the end, we agreed to flight ship a large part of their games directly from China. This is insanely expensive (we are competing with companies like Apple and Samsung for limited flight cargo space during this time of the year), but Walmart offered to pay by far most of the cost. They want to be good partners in our endeavour. They are VERY happy with the quality of the game and trust that we are doing everything we can from our side.
They will thus also have the games to sell within a few weeks.
Believe us that we would like to provide the same solution for all, so you didn’t have to wait for the ships to arrive. This is however simply impossible. It would cost us most of the Kickstarter funds to achieve this. We would go bankrupt.
Result: Backers won’t get their games before retail
In the end, this mess in logistics means that backers won’t get their games before retail. The almost 1000 Essen games are bound for retail in Europe and Walmart will get some copies faster because they pay for flying them in. They are likely to sell out relatively fast, but will still be in retail before you get them.
Even though backers will get vastly more content than the retail version and do so for a lower price, we know some of you will be upset about this situation. If you are one of these and want a full refund, we’ll of course offer you one. No questions asked. Deadline is 15 November, as we need to lock in all fulfilment details by then.
We of course didn’t want this, but it is how it sadly ends – all due to three misprinted cards in August (see update explaining it here) and then congestion out of China. It has been an extremely stressful time for us to figure out a solution to accelerate the process. Sadly, we haven’t succeeded.
We didn't have the experience to anticipate it before it happened; we didn't have enough information to understand what happened while it happened; and after it happened, we didn't know which strings we could pull to change the situation. We are so sorry for this.
We understand that you might be frustrated by this. You are welcome to write or call me, Jacob Jaskov (the designer and project creator), personally if you want to talk to me about this. My email is jacob [ D O T ] jaskov [ A T ] hushhushprojects [ D O T ] com. My phone is +45 61 79 90 01 (please consider time zone - I live in Denmark). I'll be happy to hear from you.
We will also be at BGG CON (Dallas) and perhaps also PAX Unplugged (Philadelphia) if you want to meet us there.
We'll also answer questions in the comments below from tomorrow (it's very late here, so we are heading for bed now).
Jacob J. and Jacob E.
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