Steve Jackson Games Incorporated has a single stockholder: me. But many people have a stake in our success. Our STAKEholders are our employees, our distributors and retailers, and, of course, the people who play our games . . . as well as the freelance artists and designers we work with, the printers who create the finished product, the volunteers who demonstrate our games at conventions and retail stores, and the folks who run game conventions.
We try to stay in touch with all our stakeholders. Almost all our communications nowadays are via Internet: our Daily Illuminator blog, our Twitter feed, our forums, the web pages for our games, and the letters that go to the 200+ people and companies to whom we pay royalties. And, starting in 2004, I've written an annual report not unlike the "report to the stockholders" that you'd expect from a public company. This is it.
We are, as I assume the reader knows, a publisher of games. Many are digital downloads sold through our e23 site. We also publish two magazines: Pyramid (a monthly PDF release) and the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society (a biweekly online zine).
We have been in business since 1980. We currently employ 27 full-time staff and contractors (and need a few more), plus several part-timers.
2011 was another really good year. That's five in a row. We were profitable in 2011, on the highest gross ever: just over $4.5 million, a million-dollar increase over 2010! Reasons:
We shipped 54 different items (one more than last year): 26 new, 28 reprints.
Previously, we had avoided licenses for Munchkin, on the theory that we could sell plenty of games without them. However, when the opportunity arose to license Conan the Barbarian, we thought it would be fun. As it turned out, the fans thought so, too. Later in the year we released Munchkin Axe Cop, based on the hit webcomic, and fan reception was again good. We'll do more licensed versions of Munchkin in 2012, including the Munchkin Conan core set now about to go to press.
Munchkin Zombies was our other new core set in 2011, and it was such a success that we're already on the third printing. We also released an expansion and are working on another one! Conclusion: somebody out there really likes zombies.
Andrew gained a level in Game Designer, taking Munchkin 8 in hand and dragging it onto the 2012 release schedule. As this is written, that's only a couple of weeks away from stores.
We had more visibility this year, both in general geekdom and the "real world," including:
Our online store was profitable. We're the exclusive online retailer for some excellent publishers, including Atlas Games and Grey Ghost Press, and we're happy about that. We started work on a new shopping cart that will let customers buy both physical games and PDFs at once. It's a big job, but we intend to roll it out in 2012.
Sales in our digital-product store, e23, went up again in 2011. We think we're the #2 or #3 seller of downloadable files for the gaming community – but this is a guess, as we have no figures for the competition.
We added a bit more content than we did last year: 33 brand-new PDFs (mostly for GURPS), 31 PDF editions of previously printed books, and 30 PDF editions of previously printed magazines.
Our business organization remains reliable. Our financials and royalty payments have stayed up-to-date for years. Our cash flow report is now routine. Thanks to massive Munchkin print runs, we hit what could have been a nasty cash crunch in the middle of the year, but we saw it coming and got past it smoothly.
We still need a formal budgeting process. We have no advance budgeting here; we get by on a few ancient but effective rules of thumb, diligent cost accounting, and a dash of paranoia.
Again, I worked only two days a week in the office, on both management and game development. And still, even when "at home making games," I was answering a lot of management mail. But progress continues. Many thanks to Phil Reed, our COO, for making it possible for us to have such a good year without my coming in every day.
Among the best "small wins" of 2011:
These were the places where we wanted a win and didn't quite get one, or where success and failure were mixed.
The Zombie Dice app was upgraded to support multiple players.
And that was it. A couple of other app projects are in the works but did not mature in 2011. As last year: We really need a full-time producer to manage our digital development, because my own time is one of the biggest limiting factors on app contracting and testing, and therefore on app release.
. . . being developed by Tinderbox Entertainment, is moving forward, though we have nothing new to show you right now. Maybe next year this entry will be in the High Points section.
We made some good additions, but we also lost some experienced staff members, most notably Marketing Director Paul Chapman. However, Paul didn't go far; he just moved to PSI, which handles our fulfillment and book trade sales, so we're still working with him!
We know we still need to add more people. Perhaps the first addition should be a Human Resources specialist, to hire the rest . . .
We believe in offering good benefits. We offer a paid BCBS health insurance, plus dental and vision plans. In 2011, we gave holiday bonuses totaling 8.4% of payroll, plus some modest raises. As in 2009 and 2010, we had two “office closed, but everybody gets paid” weeks – one in summer, one at the end of the year. We held two paid Game Days in the office.
Our pipeline remains full of partially-completed games, so we are still not soliciting outside submissions. The only unfinished game that got serious work was Castellan, but based on fan reactions at conventions, it will be one of the success stories of 2012.
We did GenCon and both PAX shows in a big way. We looked good, but we spent too much money and gained too many gray hairs. At PAX Prime we ran our own retail room, and learned that we don't know how to do convention retail any more. At PAX East we ran a huge demo area and let Compleat Strategist handle the retail, and that worked better.
Things that didn't go as they should have . . .
We have known for a long time that we should be selling our out-of-print books as PODs. But we still have not gotten around to it. Maybe in 2012, and maybe not.
Once again, we didn't launch UltraCorps. A few bugs were tweaked; it's now, pure and simple, a case of my own bandwidth.
We intended the super-deluxe $100 edition of Ogre to be a 2011 release. It wasn't. Again, the problem is my own bandwidth. I'm trying again in 2012.
2011 was a surprisingly good year for the business of gaming, considering the poor economy. Like last year, there were not too many headlines:
SJ Games continues to value, and rely on, its hobby-industry partners. These include:
We set four priorities for 2011:
These look a lot like the priorities for 2011, because we succeeded pretty well on the 2011 priorities and it gave us our best year ever.
Everything else is a non-priority, something to do if the priorities are under control.
Thanks, as always, for your support.
– Steve Jackson