Daily Illuminator

March 14, 2018: Stonemaier Stakeholder Report

If you have been following our Stakeholder Reports, you will find this very interesting. Stonemaier Games, publisher of (among others) Scythe and Charterstone, did a similar report for 2016. Now the majority stockholder, Jamey Stegmaier, has written and released their report for 2017. Our companies are very different – so different that it may not be meaningful to make a direct comparison. Which just goes to show that there's more than one way to run a successful game company. But the comparison is so interesting . . .

First, let's look at the differences:
• SJ Games has over 30 full-time employees plus a number of contractors. Stonemaier Games has one full-timer . . . Jamey himself, the majority shareholder. There are a couple of part-timers. Everything else is done on a contract basis. Jamey states elsewhere that he puts in 80-hour weeks and likes it, which would make him one heck of a productive employee. Still . . . wow.
• SJ Games grossed about $5.5 million, down from about $6 million for 2016. Stonemaier grossed $7.1 million, up from $3.5 million the previous year. I like their top line better than ours, and I like their trend better than ours, too. Well done, Jamey.
• SJ Games has dozens of games in its current catalog, averaging around $20 each. Stonemaier has five main games, averaging considerably higher (plus, of course, supplements). And Jamey suggests that perhaps he should raise his prices further, and if I were his adviser, I'd agree with him.
• Stonemaier didn't use Kickstarter in 2017 and doesn't plan to use it in 2018 (read his report for the reasons). We have been using it and plan to continue.

And the similarities:
• Both companies are creator-owned. And in both cases, the founders are still active in the business – Jamey runs his whole show, while I have stepped into full-time game writing and nitpicking, and Phil Reed is now our CEO. I suspect that is the only kind of company that is likely to issue stakeholder reports at all . . . because we feel like it and because we can. Others might like to, but the management of a more broadly held company might not feel safe in being completely upfront with its customers. But Jamey and I can both say (to ourselves!), "What are you going to do – fire me?" *
• Both companies are organized as Subchapter S corporations. As a non-CPA who is nevertheless an experienced small-business owner, I can say that, in my opinion, this is the best status for a one-owner or closely held publisher. If anything, the recent tax law changes make this more true than ever.
• Both companies are debt free.
• Both companies turned a profit last year. (And you will have noted that neither company said exactly how much of a profit. For me, at least, that crosses the line between "what I hope you can learn from my successes and failures," and "my own darn business.")

And my conclusion: "This is very interesting. I wish more companies would (or could) write reports like this. Jamey gave me a lot to think about. I am a fan of his operation!"

– Steve Jackson

* The third company I know of that does an annual report to its fans is Mongoose. Matthew Sprange has been writing it for years, and it's informative, though with fewer numbers than Jamey and I give.

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