Showing posts with label Business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Business. Show all posts

Saturday, November 28, 2020

New shipment of Doctor Esker's Notebook arrived

A new shipment of Doctor Esker's Notebook arrived from India today. 4,320 games in the third printing. 12 boxes, about 40 lbs each. They went to Charlotte instead of Greensboro, and my customs broker closed down, so I had to figure out some new stuff. My new customs broker was absolutely wonderful, though - shout out to Charlotte Customshouse Brokers (

Now I have to get them down to the basement sans hernia.

Update to finances of Doctor Esker's Notebook project

I haven't done a business update for Doctor Esker's Notebook recently, so here goes. Last month, I ordered a 3rd printing for the game. Despite being a larger print run, it was a bit more expensive per game because the shipping got a lot more expensive and because I asked them to do it more quickly than previous jobs. My printer in India sends via air freight, and with fewer flights, the printer indicated they had to charge more for this service. 

Where the chart is red, I've put more into the company than I've gotten out in revenues. Where it's green, I'm in positive territory (not including compensation for any of the hours I've put in). So, I am still at positive (but small) net revenue after this most recent print run, which is a first. 

Once I get the shipment, which will probably set me back another $1,000 in customs and transport, I'll have about $40,000 in potential revenue from copies of the original game and maybe $11,000 from the sequel. No guarantees I'll sell through all of those, but so far, sales have been pretty stable. If that keeps up, it's great - it just might take a while to sell out.

So, I'm not getting rich, but the upside potential is pretty good, and it's what I'd consider a successful product. I'm still selling about 2-4 per day average, probably >90% on Amazon, but with a lot of my sales in November and December as the graph shows. Not sure how this holiday season will pan out, but I'm hopeful. 

Friday, January 3, 2020

Doctor Esker's Notebook Project - by the numbers

I did a workup of the finances and sales I've had for the Doctor Esker's Notebook project. I figure this might be of interest to other indie game designers and publishers. The project started in May 2018, with the first printing (1080 copies) ordered in August 2018, arriving misprinted in October, and then fixed and ready to sell by February 2019. The sequel and the second printing of the original game (2160 copies each) were ordered in July 2019 and arrived in late September 2019.

Let me know if you have questions in the comments.

Bigger version of the image is here.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Finances update

I haven't done a financial update in a while. Here's how it looks. Graph #1 is my total revenues stacked on top of my total expenses.
 Graph #2 is my net profitability, now about $4,900 in the red but rising fairly steadily.
Both graphs show my initial costs for 1080 games, the gradual rise to net profitability, and then the larger costs of my second print run (2160 each of original and sequel for 4320 total games), and my sales since then.

In terms of inventory, I've still got about 4575 games, which at the net revenue I typically make per game is about $39,000 in total potential revenue if I'm able to sell them all. Set against that revenue will be any future advertising, promotions, taxes, free copies, spoilage, and other such expenses.

So, I have a good shot at net profitability, but probably not until next year, and only then if my sales stay steady or increase.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Son of Esker is here!

Son of Doctor Esker's Notebook, plus the second printing of the original Doctor Esker's Notebook, are here stateside! It will take me a little time to get them processed, to get some shipped to Amazon, and to get my website updated, but they're here! Yay!

If you see this and want one, and you're in the U.S. you can send $14.99 via Paypal to, and just mention that you'd like Son of Esker rather than the original. If you're not in the U.S., contact me about shipping. I can only cover free shipping to US addresses.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Off a cliff (not really)

Well, my profitability graph went off a cliff. Why? Because I paid for two new things last week. Thing One was a second printing of Doctor Esker's Notebook, which is exciting. I've now sold half of my first print run, and I'm on schedule to run out sometime in October at current sales rates, so I needed some more. I ordered another 2160 games, or double the number from my current print run.

Thing Two was the sequel to Doctor Esker's Notebook, called Son of Doctor Esker's Notebook, which is a whole new deck of puzzles to play. The game mechanism is similar to the first game, but the deck and the puzzles are completely different. You don't need to have played the first to play the second - you can do them in either order. I ordered 2160 of these as well.

So, my graph above, which was flirting with profitability for this year, is now way back in the red. But that's a good thing! I stand to make another $4000 or so from my remaining games from the first print run. I spent about $7500 on the second print run and the sequel print run. That will give me the potential for another $40,000 in revenue from those two printings, or a total profit off all print runs of about $34,000 after I deduct expenses for development, marketing, and supplies. That's nice. Obviously, I'll have taxes to deduct from that also, and I'll have to pay both ends of the social security and Medicare taxes like you do as a sole proprietor. I don't really want to estimate what the hourly rate of compensation for me is, because I've put so much time into this, but I think it'll beat working at McDonalds.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Doctor Esker's Notebook project financial update

I've been doing a series of posts about the financial end of my game project, and I haven't posted an update for a while. I'm nearly to the break-even point, which is great! I'm at $-194 by my calculation, with revenues of $3,454 offsetting expenses of $3,649.

I have sold 386 games and sent out 35 as promo or reviewer copies. I have 134 in stock at Amazon, and another 525 or so at home (uh, I mean in my warehouse 😀 ). I make about $9 per game depending on the sales channel, and I am not incurring too many new expenses at this point - the major expenses were printing and development, and I don't have many ongoing costs (other than the cut Amazon and PayPal take from each sale). So, I could make up to about $4,000-$4,500 on this if I just sell out the print run and don't do anything else.

Sales have taken a little bit of a hit over summer. I'm at about two sales a day, where from February to April I was at more like three a day. I hope that's just seasonal and not a trend. Nearly all sales now are through Amazon.

Here's the info in graph form. First, expenses and revenues by category:

The picture above shows revenues (above zero, climbing) and expenses (below zero, mostly flat). Time progresses along the bottom, but not evenly - initially I was updating every day or two, but now I'm updating less frequently.

Next, net revenue (income minus expenses): 

On this one, the time axis is properly scaled. I'm almost back to zero, as you can see.

Of course, I'm not including the time I've put into this project. My hourly wage is something like negative fifty cents an hour. So, this isn't (yet) a good way to make a living, put food on the table, or pay for health insurance. It's not even a good investment relative to a good solid mutual fund, although it will be if I sell out the print run by the end of the year, which looks likely if sales pick up a little around the holidays.

Anyway, looking good. I should hit break even sometime later this month.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Excessive game box size

I've been really enjoying Splendor, which I was given for Christmas. I've played a couple times in the past week after playing it for the first time a few years back.

I've been thinking about box size. I've commissioned some cool art for my card game Horde, and I'd like to get that printed up for distribution. It uses cards plus some scoring tokens, so I need a box big enough for about 90 cards plus 11 tokens and a set of rules. I've been using TheGameCrafter's token chips, which are a satisfying size and weight. All of that could probably fit handily in a small box.
Interestingly enough, that's also about the same component set as Splendor, although it has more like 40 chips instead of 11. Still, it shouldn't need a big box. But they gave it one! Here is a comparative look at the game:

The top picture shows how it's packaged. It looks nice. Below that is the space all the components actually take up.

Clearly, it doesn't need this big a box. It's bad for the environment and bad for storage. It's 80% empty space, and it needs a huge blow-mold plastic frame to hold it all. I wonder, though, if people are willing to pay more for it (and think more of it) if it looks like a bigger game than it is. At $25 retail, or $40 MSRP, I bet a big chunk of that price is actually the empty space in the box. I wonder if I can pitch a smaller box for Horde and convince people that it's as much of a value small as it would be with wasteful packaging. Sometimes when we shop we're just dumb sacks of meat, and I think this might be one of those times.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Esker business update

For those of you following the business side of my indie game publishing project with Doctor Esker's Notebook, here's an update. I'm up to 115 total sales with revenues of $1,108, set against costs of $3,530, for a current (but shrinking) loss of $2,422.

The bulk of the costs is the development process and the print run, but I continue to have additional costs with marketing and promotion. If I sell out the entire rest of print run, I probably have another $8,800 in potential revenue, which (barring massive future marketing expenses) would make the project profitable. That assumes my time is worthless - if we paid me even a minimum-wage hourly rate for my work on the project, I'm deep underwater. Given that this is a so far a passion project, I'm fine with my time being counted as free.

Here are the numbers is in graph form:

The time axis advances to the right here, showing increasing revenue compared to mostly fixed costs, but the time isn't linear - it's just whenever I do an update.

For this one, time is linear - this is the history of the project starting with the print run at the end of last year, with additional costs added to revenues as time progresses to the right.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Dr. Esker's Notebook sales and revenue update

I'm nearing the end of my fourth week of Dr. Esker sales. After an initial bunch of sales to friends and acquaintances, I'm starting to see a shift to a slower but steady set of sales to people I don't know, with 78 total sales in 26 days, averaging a couple a day now. My sales have shifted almost entirely to Amazon and away from my site, so I think most folks are discovering the game either via Amazon or on other sites and then buying from Amazon. It's hard to tell exactly how that happens.

My ad campaigns have not borne much (or any) fruit, which I mostly expected. I have no apparent sales from either Facebook ads (suspended now after hitting $50) or from Google search ads (nearing $50 and suspension). I can track sales from Google via their analytics, and I also know nothing much is happening from those because I haven't sold a game through my website in two weeks. It is possible the ads led people to an Amazon purchase, but that's about the only way it could have been worth it, and even then I'd have had to sell 11 or more that way to cover the cost of the two ad campaigns. I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

I have had a positive review from, and a positive tweet and email feedback from The Opinionated Gamers, with a review hopefully coming soon. There are three positive reviews on Amazon, two from purchasers and one from a person who got a free copy in advance, none solicited. So, I've got a small but growing number of uniformly positive reviews, which is good. I still have seven or so copies out for review to various reviewers and influencers.

Here are the finances thus far. I'm still in the hole by a lot, but I'm gradually making headway. Here's revenues vs. expenses over time (note the dates aren't evenly spaced - just whenever I do an update):

And here is the bottom line (expense minus revenue), with a regular time axis this time. Starting to cut the corner off that block of losses, but still a ways to go until profitability.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Fixing errors

Here's what fixing a printing error looks like. This is four cases of 11 games each laid out with the eleven cards I needed to replace in each box next to them. This set took me about an hour and fifteen minutes. I did 12 cases total today (132 games) for a total of about four hours work. The hardest task is cutting the shrinkwrap carefully on each box, although opening each box and finding and replacing the badly printed cards takes some time too. I elected not to invest the time or money in re-shrinkwrapping. No complaints so far, but I imagine if I sold in game stores I might need to rewrap them.

I really wish I didn't face this problem, but it's not insurmountable. In about four hours work today, I fixed about 12% of my print run. I have 79% of the print run (860 games) left to fix, so another 27 or so hours of boring labor to get them all done.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Esker net revenue so far

I'm going to add a graph here for folks interested in the business of self-publishing a game. I'll update this over the next year or so as the project continues.

The graph here shows all my expenses to date (all the stuff below zero) and all my net revenue from sales (the stuff above zero). The sales income already has the fees deducted (for sales on my site, that's credit card processing and shipping; for sales on Amazon, that's their fees). I'll break even when the stuff above the line matches the stuff below the line.

Note that the dates here aren't evenly spaced, so while time advances to the right, its speed isn't even. The net revenue (income minus expenses) figure now is -$3,109, so I have a lot of ground to cover to break even. Here's a representation of that.

At my current price of $14.99, which is the same on my site and on Amazon, I net the following: about $10.99 $9.54

In both places, the shipping is free to customers, meaning that I pay for it. Initially, I was going to charge shipping on my site, but I changed it once I learned that even non-Prime Amazon sales had shipping included when you do fulfillment by Amazon. I thought (a) people might resent the extra shipping charge, since folks are getting used to free shipping, and (b) it was nice to have the same price on my site and Amazon.

At those prices, I'll need to sell a bit more than 300 more games to break even, although I'll obviously incur more expenses as I go if I continue to do advertising, send out review copies, and run into other stuff such as NC sales tax.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Planetside 2, SOE, and fraudsters...

I played a little bit of Planetside 2 over the past week.  It's an interesting hybrid of MMO (but without quests) and FPS deathmatch (but with strategic points), and because it's free to play, it's got a bunch of enticing content and powerups that you can't really afford without playing forever or shelling out some cash.  I really enjoyed Tribes Ascend when I played it a few months ago, and this feels a little bit like that, but with slower, less frenetic gameplay, a different, more complex equipment system (though Tribes has lots of options) and longer protracted battles.  And no jetpacks.  I think Tribes is a better FPS, and there's no beating the jetpack play, but the strategic elements of Planetside (terrain control, the potential for coordinated vehicle/infantry/air assaults) are pretty cool.

With the end of my semester coming up, I thought it might be fun to play some more once grades are in.  So, I tried buying a month pass.  As a shareware author, I very much think I should support the games I like, so I threw some money at Tribes also.  But in this case, I entered my information, but my card was declined when I tried for the payment.  I tried entering again, and it didn't even let me enter the information.  I had to call the credit card company to get my card returned to service.

So, what does this mean?  They instantly assume every transaction with Sony Online Entertainment is fraud?  I, a guy who buys video games pretty regularly, couldn't even pay for it.  That's got to reflect badly on the nature of users of online games, particularly Sony customers, and on the state of credit card fraud. I know, one datapoint and all, but it was definitely a surprise.  I wouldn't want to be Sony in this case.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sailing the LLCs

In response to my post on Visible Hand's incorporation, Reader Daniel writes:

What is this LLC, can you pleas inform us non US people of the two options and how they differ. We have a simular system in Sweden but we have 5 diferent types of companies we can chouse from depending on several difrent factors. So it would be nice to get an insight in how youre system works as well.
OK, big disclaimer - I'm not a lawyer, and I'm mostly feeling my way through this.  So, I'm going to explain my reasoning, but it should not (NOT) be used as any kind of legal or business advice.  I'm probably wrong about big chunks of this. Get your own legal advice.

An LLC is a "Limited Liability Company," which is a common U.S. entity available in nearly all states.  It's a little bit of a legal construction - the idea is that it's an easy way to form a company without a lot of hassle.

The two main advantages for what I'm doing are:

  • Limited liability -  If someone decided to sue my company for some reason, they could sue me through the LLC, but if they won, they couldn't claim my personal assets (house, savings, etc.) in damages.  Suppose there were a horrible case - I publish a game, a child chokes on one of the pieces, or the manufacturer I use uses lead-based paints without telling me or something.  If I get sued, and there's an award of millions of dollars in damages, then the most I can lose is the company and its assets - not my personal belongings, unless I personally misrepresented the company or committed fraud or something like that.  It's my impression that people in Sweden aren't as litigious as Americans, but it's a real concern here.
  • Pass-through taxation - If I actually make money at this, then it's relatively simple with an LLC to pass the income through the company to me without having to pay corporate income taxes.  In other types of corporations, it would be possible that income the company made would be subject to corporate tax, and then the money that was left would be subject to my personal income tax, so it would be double-taxed.

In North Carolina, where I live, the LLC was easy to set up - it was a one-page form and it cost me $125.  There's another annual fee to keep the company operating - $200 per year.  So, pretty big money for a hobby, but small money for an actual company, and the liability protection was worth it for me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Stock options

Michael Keller over at Game Designer Wannabe has formed his own publishing company and apparently issued stock certificates.  Pretty awesome.  I've got my LLC in place and registered with the state, which was not cheap, and the city now wants me to buy a privilege license, which will be another chunk of money.

As for the ownership of the company, I haven't felt the need to issue stock, since I don't have any other investors or owners, but I guess I might get there someday.  It would be fun, anyway, but probably not worth the legal hassle at this point.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The last to know...

I'm guessing my LLC registration went through, not because I've heard anything from the state, but because I got two pieces of mail from credit card processing companies today addressed to it.  Reminds me of the time I got a speeding ticket and received eight letters from skeezeball lawyers the next day - how do they know so fast?

Ah, here we go:

Cool! Except they misspelled my middle name. My Scottish ancestors would be a wee bi' surly.