All posts by Matt Holden

IGA Adds Consolidation Services, Putting All IGA Pro Member Games in Distribution

After years of research and months of development, all of us at IGA are proud to announce that we’ve punched a hole in the biggest wall for indie publishers: entry into distribution. There’s lots of details to follow, but the short answer is this: if you are an IGA Pro subscriber, your games are a now few clicks away from automatically being in distribution. No negotiations, no forms and waiting and meetings… just click the checkbox and it’s done.

Now, the details. Most of our members are familiar with consolidators, folks like Impressions, Hit Point and PSI. Those organizations are fantastic, and they deal with all of the major distributors. The thing is, the model they use requires purchase of a large quantity of games from you, the publishers, meaning they take on a lot of risk when they sign new clients and are hesitant to do so for smaller publishers unless you produce a mega-hit. Fortunately, the IGA stock model already works around that problem, so it was just a matter of finding distributors who would work with that model.

Enter Golden Distribution. Golden will be accepting a customized file format we’re generating for them, and every single item we list in that file will be available on their website to all Golden customer retailers. When a retailer purchases an IGA member game, Golden tells us, and we ship it out to them, and you get paid! We’re paying 33% of MSRP to publishers for games and selling at not much higher to distributors; our margin will mostly be used to cover the free shipping the distributors expect to receive.

We’re also signed as a supplier with Snakes and Lattes in Canada, though they will be taking a more pick-and-choose approach for the games they carry. We’re in discussions with several other distributors, which we hope to make progress on here at Gen Con, and will announce more about those negotiations as things get firmed up.

Additionally, we’re relaunching our retailer store, allowing retailers to purchase from our website directly. Retailers can sign up on our site and, once approved, purchase games at 50% off with free shipping for orders over $200.

We’ll also be announcing some plans in the coming weeks for how we’re going to use our 650-member-strong Minion team to convert their existing in-store demos into sales opportunities to help drive retail orders of your games.

Our first file dump to Golden, Snakes and Lattes and our other distribution partners will be made in September. This gives me time to round out convention season with Gen Con and finishing the processing from all of our summer shows, as I still have processing to do from Origins and Gen Con because this has been getting all my attention. It also lets me finalize and test the integration (the requirements of which change every time a new distributor signs on) and most importantly, gives you time to get your games set up and ready.

What do I do to get started?

Glad you asked.

First off, you’ll need to be an IGA Pro member. There’s no additional charge to be part of our consolidation offering — just the usual IGA Pro membership!

Second, we’ve got to have stock of your games. We’ve updated our Stock and Sales policies to address a few things that are going to be difficult for us to manage otherwise, but it shouldn’t impact most folks. Still, you should probably take a moment and refresh yourself on them if you haven’t sent us stock in a while. We’ll use this same pool of stock for distributor sales, convention sales, and supplying Minions, just like always. If you’ve already sent us stock, it might be a good time to check your stock levels and see if we have enough, or if we have your latest and greatest stuff.

Third, you’ll need to make sure we have all the correct details on your game. We’ll do our best to do data entry on the stuff we already have in stock, but not all of the items are easily ascertained, so your help would be appreciated even if we already have your items in stock. You can edit or create store items through the newly-updated Stock Item Editor on your Studio Dashboard. If you need help navigating the site changes, you can visit our new guidebook page on doing just that, which should help.

In particular, pay attention to the UPC/EAN (barcode) field and the SKU field. We strongly recommend that all of our publishers obtain a SMC (company code and SKU prefix) from the Hobby Manufacturers Association, which disambiguates SKUs from different manufacturers. However, if you don’t want to spend the $25, we’ve got you covered. IGA has registered its own SMC code, IGA, which you can use simply by clicking the Generate SKU link.

Also, some of the images for items that we pulled from Board Game Geek are a little blurry or not ideal for sales purposes. If you see a blurry, outdated or otherwise not-great image for your game, please upload a new one — remember, this is the face you’re going to show retailers interested in buying your game!

Lastly, you’ll need to activate the new permission, “IGA may sell stock at its negotiated price to distributors,” which you can do from that same page. This permission defaults to OFF, so it will require this step for all items.

While we were under the hood, we did some other stuff too.

We’ve also added the ability to set a Convention Sale Price separate from MSRP, for folks that are asking us to sell games at lower prices than MSRP at cons. Note that you’ll be paid off of this price if you change it, not off of MSRP. Also note that we may not be able to activate changes you make in time for Gen Con at this point, but they’ll be active for BoardGameGeek.con (have you bought your demo time yet?) at worst.

We also added the ability to request that we carry your games at conventions even if you’ll be exhibiting too. We generally recommend that you not turn this on, but if you want to, it’s now there. Look for it in the stock permissions section.

Have questions? Is it one of these?

Does IGA require exclusivity like other consolidators do?

Not at all. You can continue to sell on your own. However, we ask that if you already work with a consolidator, that you check your contract before activating the permission on IGA’s site. We will never knowingly violate an exclusivity arrangement you have with another consolidator, but it’s your responsibility to make sure you don’t do so. IGA is not responsible for contractual disputes that result from your violating any contracts you might have with other vendors.

Will IGA sell to (your favorite distributor)?

Yes, as soon as we can get set up. Each distributor has their own onboarding process, and we are still navigating them for some of the larger ones. I hope to talk to representatives from several of the larger distributors at Gen Con to try to ease that process, and we’re looking into getting a booth at the GAMA show in February to focus in-depth on building those relationships. We’ll also be talking about our new consolidation service at Gen Con’s Trade Day on Wednesday.

How much stock should I send?

For now, keep it to the same guidelines we had before — one cubic meter (roughly a pallet bay) in our warehouse. Please send games in master cartons unless they’re tuckboxes — some distributors require this and it may disqualify you from selling to them if you don’t do this. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot easier for us to maintain the warehouse this way.

We just doubled the size of our warehouse for the third time in April, and we’re expecting to have to expand again before the end of the year. As always, when we have more details about any potential expansion or move, you’ll be the first to know.

*Still* have questions? Well, okay.

Feel free to ask questions via email at support@indiegamealliance.com or on our social media platforms. I do ask you to remember, we are working Gen Con this week, so please be patient if it takes a few hours to reply to your inquiry. We also respectfully request that you read the full distribution guide on our website before asking your question, in order to allow us to focus as much of our time this week as possible on crushing Gen Con for the benefit of all our members.

 

2018 Conventions Posted and a Big IGA Pro Change

Greetings, everybody! This is a very important update for IGA members, so we ask that you please take the time to read it thoroughly.

Firstly: Our 2018 convention schedule (so far) has finally been uploaded. Sorry about the delay on that; I’ve been a slacker the last week or two, apparently. You can find it at www.indiegamealliance.com/upcomingcons.

Secondly, and also related to conventions: services for Origins, Gen Con, and WonderCon are now on sale for IGA Pro members  in the IGA Convention Services Store. As a reminder, IGA Pro members receive an exclusive window to purchase convention services before they become available to Starter members.  (You could, of course, upgrade to Pro to skip the wait.) More services will be added for other conventions in the coming days.

If you check the Convention Services Store, you’ll notice something we think you’ll appreciate: convention service prices have been reduced by more than 50% compared to 2017! This is based on extensive feedback we received over the last two years, and is driven by our desire never to price our members out of the services that will help them succeed. We’ve also eliminated the “big con upcharge”, and added a Pro member discount. All combined, you can snag demo time in the Gen Con vendor hall for as little as $25 an hour!

Plus, a little added sweetener: If you buy 4 hours of vendor booth demo time at Origins or Gen Con, we’ll give you a free hour of event hall demo time too! You must buy the 4 hours in the same transaction, and for the same show. The free demo time will be provided at the same show you buy vendor booth time for, and the same game will be demoed. Scheduling for the free hour will be at IGA’s discretion, when we have Minions available.

 

A Look Back, and the Path Ahead

When we started IGA, our mission was as it is today – to provide a suite of services to try and make every aspect of indie publishing just a little easier, and to do so at a ridiculously affordable price. In November 2015, we unveiled a streamlined IGA Pro plan that replaced the convoluted four-tier (at one point, six-tier!) service offering. At just $20 a month, it was the cost of a blind loot box, and offered a host of really great services, like an international demo team, publisher matchmaking, and convention sales.

And then we kept growing.

Since then, we’ve added over fifty discount programs ranging from manufacturing and fulfillment to advertising and postcards, and virtually everything in between. We’ve added tools to allow members to create custom feedback surveys and certification programs for their games. We built a full e-commerce platform to get your games into Minion hands quicker and get games played even faster, and then added IGA Boosts to incentivize Minions to choose your games. We’ve given you full transparency into our inventory of your games, including real-time notifications when your games are sold at conventions, and used automation to quintuple the speed at which you get paid for sales after the show ends.

We’ve hooked into Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator so your games can be demoed in the digital world. We’ve linked your Studio Game Catalog up with The Game Crafter and BoardGameGeek to make managing your game catalog a snap. We’ve improved demo reports and provided historical searchability.

We’ve completely revamped our playtesting offering to give you more visibility and far better feedback in a more timely fashion.  We’ve started warehousing sample kits from industry-leading manufacturers so you can quickly grab several to choose from for just the cost of shipping. We’ve built an artificial intelligence module to analyze your member profile on an ongoing basis and tell you how we can help you better. And, we’ve done everything in that paragraph in just the last two months.

Our footprint has exploded, too. We’ve increased our warehouse space by a factor of six, and we’re about to do it again because it’s bursting at the seams. Whereas the back of my Scion used to work for convention stock, now we overload a U-Haul box truck when we go to every show – more than triple the number of conventions we worked in 2015. We dropped thousands of dollars completely revamping our booth fixtures before Gen Con 2017 to give our members and their games a sleeker, cleaner look. We sponsor several indie-focused shows to help new studios thrive. Our Minion team is five times the size it was, and we serve nearly four times as many members, as we did then. We ship over 12 times as many games to Minions in a given month than we did in 2015.

The last four paragraphs weren’t written to brag, though I’m admittedly awfully proud to look back and see how far we’ve come. I felt that it was necessary to provide this retrospective to illustrate the point we have to make next: for all we’ve added, we’ve never asked Pro subscribers for anything more.

We’re reaching a point where IGA is limited in its continued growth by what we can afford to do. We can’t significantly expand our convention booths (in size or quantity). We certainly can’t afford to hire staff help, meaning Victoria and I are still juggling all of this as a two-person band, and I still have a day job. Neither of us draw a paycheck from IGA. New Pro subscriptions have been keeping pace with rising expenses, but without providing us the sort of clearance we need to grow. We hate telling our members no when they ask for a cool new feature or if we’ll be at their favorite convention, but it’s long been the finances that have held us back.

We had hoped, going into 2016, that conventions  would be the breadwinner that allowed us to really invest in the company. We priced our services accordingly, and we found that it was too big an ask for the service provided. Our members spoke, and they were right. We can’t ask a member who just wants to borrow a table for an hour at a show to subsidize a certification program or a warehouse floor they may not even be using. That’s why we’re slashing the price of convention services today, and simultaneously making a hard choice that we really believe is the right one for everyone.

Starting February 10, 2018, the cost of IGA Pro will be increasing to $30 a month, with quarterly billing available for $75 and annual billing for $300. We’re confident that the service delivers a ton more value than it did when we launched IGA Pro in 2015, and that the new things we’ve added – and the new things we’ll be able to add as a result – are absolutely worth the additional ten bucks.

If you have pre-paid for quarterly or annual subscriptions, every second of your remaining subscription time will be honored. If you bought a year of IGA Pro yesterday, you still have a year of IGA Pro today at the same price. Once your subscription renews, it will do so at the higher rate.

If you are a Starter member, or on the monthly or quarterly Pro plans, you have a limited window of opportunity here: If you upgrade to an Annual plan before midnight Eastern on February 10, you can lock in the old $200/year rate for 2018. Unfortunately, our credit card processor makes “tacking a year on” to a subscription a royal pain, so we’re unable to offer that to existing annual subscribers.

We really believe that the new IGA Pro pricing is still eminently affordable and a fantastic value. We’ve agonized about doing this for months, but the time is right, and the amount of additional growth this will fuel will be well worth the minimal additional investment on the part of our members.

As always, we’re available to answer any questions or concerns at support@indiegamealliance.com or on any of our social media platforms. We thank you for your support these last four years, and can’t wait to show you what we’re cooking up for 2018 and beyond!

New: Bonus Loot Points for Photos in Demo Reports

Over the last few months, we’ve heard a lot of feedback from our members about our demo reports and ways that they could be more useful. Almost universally, we hear that photos attached to demo reports make them much more valuable. Today, we’ve made a simple but critical change that we hope encourages more Minion photography work.

Effective immediately, demo reports that include an uploaded image will earn 1 extra Loot Point. Like all other Loot Points, it will be doubled for games on Boost and tripled for playtest games.

We’ll also select a Photo of the Month for featuring on social media and our newsletter. The Minion that takes that photo will receive 20 extra Loot Points and a special achievement!

The other major comment we hear about demo reports is that the designers/publishers would like more player-level feedback. We’d like to remind all of our members that some time ago, we developed a custom survey editor that’s available to all Pro members. It can be found from the Studio Dashboard. You can make a survey for each game and expansion, with adding questions as simple as drag-and-drop. The surveys get completed by players on their mobile devices and generally take no more than a minute to complete. The surveys are available on our website to view by publishers, and will be emailed to you in real time.

Minions are reminded to encourage players to complete surveys at every demo. Games which don’t have a custom survey attached have a simple, basic default survey, so you never have to worry about whether a survey exists. If you want quick access to the survey, you can generate QR codes which embed your user ID, and even the game ID if you want to print one for each of your games, from both the Minion and Studio dashboards. Once a month, we randomly draw  one survey, and the Minion that collected it receives 20 bonus Loot Points!

Announcing IGA’s All-New Playtesting Service

Greetings! We hope you’ve been having a fantastic holiday season. Here at IGA HQ, I’ve been working on something to address a situation which I think we can all agree IGA has been less than stellar at in the past – playtesting. I’d hoped to release this in the first quarter of 2018, but I pulled out the stops and managed to finish it early!

In the past, we’ve set our playtest requirements pretty fast and loose. Send us a prototype, we’ll work on it when we can, that sort of thing. The issue is, IGA needs to hang on to a prototype for any game we work with, for a variety of reasons. So, when we only get one copy, that means Victoria and I have to do the playtests personally. As you might imagine, we’re pretty busy between day jobs and running IGA, and we don’t get out to run events anywhere near as often as we might like. This has lead to unconscionable delays in playtest feedback, and also slowed down IGA administrative work like shipping orders and developing new features.

Because we didn’t want prototypes just tossed out into the wild, we never added them to our reward store inventory. The big downside of this was that when we had extra copies of a prototype, we had no effective way to tell the minions it was available.

Well, today, we change all that. We’re announcing IGA’s new and improved playtesting service. Here’s the core of how it works:

  • Designers send us a minimum of four prototypes, and provide us all the required information for a successful playtest
  • Designers create a custom feedback survey for their game, to fine-tune exactly the sort of feedback they’re looking for from players
  • Minions who have earned a minimum of 100 loot points by running demos may join the playtesting team
  • Playtesters may select a maximum of two prototypes at a time from the IGA store, so they don’t cause a playtesting bottleneck
  • By taking a prototype, a Minion agrees to run a minimum of five playthroughs and collect a minimum of 5 * X player surveys over the course of six weeks, where X is the minimum number of players for a game
  • Once the above requirements are met, the Minion completes a brief final playtesting report for the designer
  • All of the Minion’s loot points earned as part of the playtest are tripled as soon as the playtest report is approved

We expect there will be questions. Please refer to the Studio Playtesting Guide and/or Minion Playtesting Guide for more specifics and frequently-asked questions.

For members who already have games in our old playtesting pipeline, Victoria and I will be working through these in the coming few weeks on the old system, as we don’t have enough copies to distribute to Minions in most cases. All remaining prototypes in stock have been added to the new prototype store. If you wish to discuss the specifics of your playtest-in-progress, please reach out to Victoria at vholden@indiegamealliance.com. (It still feels so good to type my last name as hers!)

Minions eligible to join the playtesting team will be receiving invitation emails today. Any Minion may learn more about the program and determine their eligibility at https://www.indiegamealliance.com/account/minion/playtesting.

As always, feedback is welcome in our IGA Developers’ Lounge and IGA League of Minions groups on Facebook. I’ll do my best to be available in both today to answer questions.

Introducing IGA Checkups

Hey there, Team IGA! I just finished implementing a feature I’ve long wanted to add to our arsenal, which I am hoping will really help you take advantage of IGA’s myriad of benefits. I can’t tell you how many times I hear members tell me, “I didn’t know IGA offered that!” We’re hoping that our new Checkups feature will alleviate that.

Once a month, you’ll receive an email that goes through all of your profile settings, games and inventory stock, and makes intelligent suggestions based on patterns we detect for demo reports, sales, and so forth. It’ll identify areas where we can work together to improve things, IGA services you could be benefiting from, and incomplete data on your studio profile or game catalog. It’ll help you stay on top of bringing new games into our system and supporting old ones, too.

Want to check your progress? You can also view your checkup in real-time at https://www.indiegamealliance.com/account/studio/checkup. Don’t want to receive the emails? You can opt out using our new-and-improved email alert settings page at https://www.indiegamealliance.com/account/studio/alerts.

These emails will go out on the 3rd of every month, but since it’s after that date now, the December ones are sending as I type this.

Any questions? Just reply to the checkup email; it’ll go right to your designated account rep. We’re really hoping that this system will help bring you timely information about the IGA services that can be of the most help for whatever you’re working on right now.

As always, we welcome member feedback about this new service in our IGA Developers’ Lounge on Facebook.

By Popular Demand: Routing IGA notification emails to different addresses

Feels great to be coding on the IGA site again! By popular demand, you can now route demo report, survey, certification, and store purchase notifications each to separate email addresses. This should help out studios which have a couple employees with different responsibilities.

Set your preferences at  https://www.indiegamealliance.com/account/studio/alerts.php!

Our Directors are Getting Married – and You Get the Presents!

It brings Team IGA great joy to formally announce that our two directors, Matt Holden and Victoria Hardman, are getting married on November 11, 2017! We’re having a sale on annual IGA Pro subscriptions to celebrate (and to help raise some dough for the honeymoon!) From now through the wedding, Pro subscriptions are just $175 for the first year — the lowest price we’ve ever had on the IGA Pro package! Plus, for the first time ever, existing IGA Pro annual subscribers can add time to their subscription at the sale price!

We had to reschedule the wedding from its original October 7 date due to unforeseen circumstances, and have had to re-plan the entire wedding from scratch in just 44 days. This came right on the heels of our Hurricane Irma recovery. As you may imagine, it has been beyond hectic here, and you may have noticed it in our response times. Victoria and I deeply appreciate how patient and supportive the IGA community has been over the last few months as we’ve worked through the myriad of distractions and chaos that have befallen us. We’ve got some big things planned for IGA in the coming months, and once we get back from the honeymoon, my new bride and I are going to get back to work in a big way. 2018 is going to be an exciting time for team IGA!

Our warehouse is currently closed until after the wedding, and support will be somewhat limited over the next two weeks. We intend to be pretty unreachable from Friday (Nov. 10) through the end of the honeymoon on Tuesday (Nov. 14).

For those of you trying to reach Victoria, be advised that her email address will be changing to vholden@indiegamealliance.com. Both the new address and the old one work now, and we will leave both up and running for a while.

If you’re curious about the wedding itself, you can get all the details on our wedding website at http://www.AsWeBecome.us! We’re looking into options to livestream the ceremony.

We’re Back!

Hey, everybody! Good news – IGA HQ is back up and running! We got power & telecom connectivity back on Monday night. As you might imagine, a week of misery has taken something of a toll on us, and our to-do list is obscenely long, but we’re working through it as quickly as we can. Thank you all for your patience — and please continue to give it for a few more days while we catch up. Thanks also to everyone for their well-wishes and concern. Now — back to gaming!

Member & Minion Support Closing 9/8 Due to Hurricane Irma

We’re closely monitoring the track of Hurricane Irma, which is presently forecast to impact the Orlando area on Sunday. As with all storms of this nature, we do not know what to expect in terms of power outages, etc. until the storm has passed. Therefore, we are preemptively closing all member and minion support effective Friday, September 8. We will reopen on Monday, September 10 if we are able to do so, and if not, we will do our best to get the word out about our status. We were already operating on limited availability due to our post-Gen Con vacation.

The data center that hosts indiegamealliance.com is also in the path of the storm, however, it is a world-class facility that’s built to withstand these types of events, so we shouldn’t experience website downtime. In the event it happens, however, look to our Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates.

As with all major hurricanes, we strongly encourage anyone in the path of this storm to check your emergency plan and supplies and be prepared. The National Hurricane Center has rated Irma as the strongest Atlantic storm it has ever recorded. Stay safe, and play lots of board games — even if you have to do so by candlelight.

Gen Con: Day 4, The Trek Home, and What’s Next

Be it ever so humid, there’s no place like home. Team IGA just arrived back at HQ after a whirlwind eight days. We are exhausted beyond belief, but excited about what comes next for IGA.

Sunday at Gen Con

Sunday was our day for Victoria and I to walk the exhibit hall and do some networking. We had some very productive meetings — including signing a partnership with a pretty major player in the industry, dropping off some review games with Tom Vasel, spent some time in the game library on the 50-yard-line of an NFL stadium, and possibly getting one of our members’ games picked up by a major publisher. It was a good day!

Meanwhile, Billy and Jason were in the booth rocking sales. As you may have seen, we broke our previous record for sales at a convention by about $300. Sunday was the slowest sales day of the four, despite our usual 10% off Sunday sale, but we’re very happy with that aspect of the con. We’re attributing our performance to a combination of our fantastic location, the new booth fixtures, and some great games on hand.

As we packed up and throughout the show, several of our members left us stock to bring home for our Minions. We have to get it all into our inventory system and refresh the store, but we think Minions will be very happy with some of their new options. We’ve got new & restocked games and accessories coming in from Gut Bustin’ Games, Overworld Games, Elzra Games, DPH Games, VRSoft, Noble Quest, Argyle Games, Zafty Games, and Thunderworks Games (yes, that one).

Saturday night’s Publisher Speed Dating was a huge success as well; we witnessed a few games get offers right there on the spot. We’re hopeful that we’ll be invited back to host it next year.  We’ll post a photo album in the coming days.

Why so Vague? Watch this Space.

We know, we know. We keep saying things like “a partner” and “a member”. You want details! There’s simply too much news to share in one post; it would be thousands of words and not do half of the things we need to talk about justice. As a result, we’ll be doing lots of posts over the coming days and weeks to announce all the new goodies as we have a chance to process them and make sure all the details are checked and the ink is dry.

We strongly recommend that you keep a close eye on our newsletter and on the Facebook groups for members and Minions — if you aren’t in these groups, now would be a great time to join.

IGA Year in Review

Not only is Gen Con the biggest show we do all year, it’s also the end of our year. This is normally when I reflect on the year that passed and announce new stuff for the year to come. On the absurdly long drive there and back, Victoria and I spent a lot of time talking about the future of IGA, and we’re going to be announcing the results of those conversations over the next few weeks. We think you’ll like what we’ve come up with. Expect to hear from us a lot soon…

… but not yet.

We’re going to need the next few days to wrap up Gen Con, and then we’re going to start working on the 2017-2018 year for IGA. Before we do, however, we’re going to go radio silent for a few days. We are positively spent after three major conventions in the span of 60 days, and we need a break to recharge. We will get Gen Con squared away first, and then after a week or so, we’ll be back in full swing, and boy, are we going to hit the ground running with what we have planned!