Three days ago I was informed Archmage Rises was selected for a booth at Indianapolis GenCon 2016. GenCon started as a table top role playing convention, the largest in North America. (It is the birth place of Magic: the Gathering as something to do between D&D sessions). BioWare did sneak previews of Dragon Age: Origins there. Last year 61,000 gamers attended.
This is a huge opportunity to make a splash for Archmage with hard core role players, board gamers, and card game players.
To take full advantage of this opportunity (and get ROI on the cost) I need to do three things:
- Allow players to play a brief demo the game to get a taste for it
- Take a pre-order with a special offer
- Have a set release date
The conference is Aug 4-11 so pre-orders will begin on the website Aug 4.
Now before I explain how I'm doing pre-orders, first a quick analysis of the industry.
Analysis of Pre-Orders
For the last year I have pondered how I will do pre-orders. As I write this XCom 2 is available for pre-order on steam. I have loved XCom since the 90’s and want to play it. I would like to play it on release date. But here are the problems:
No Incentive to Pre-order
Unlike a kickstarter (which isn’t a pre-order though many people treat it that way), I get nothing special for ordering right now.
If I pre-order right now I pay the same price as when the game is released. Why should they have my money now instead of in 2 weeks?
If I wait, I’ll catch a Sale
Unlike fashion which stales quickly, games are just as awesome now as in 3 months as in 3 years. Experience has taught me in 3 months I can probably get the game 25-50% off as part of a steam sale.
If I wait a LONG time I might get it in a Bundle
Right now XCom 1 is in Humble Bundle which I can get for a minimum of $1. This strategy is less certain than the steam sale, but the reward is much greater. For waiting I save 98%.
The results are:
- The dedicated fans who value and appreciate the game and gave money before they even got anything, they pay the most.
- The people who don’t care much for the game pay the least.
In my opinion, this is messed up and backwards.
Who Has done Pre-orders Well?
Minecraft and Prison Architect.
When Minecraft was just a buggy Java alpha you could pre-order it for $10.
When it was more complete and closer to release you could pre-order it for $15-20.
When it was finally released it was around $30.
Prison Architect did a similar approach, except they had tiers of pre-order with rewards. It was similar to a kickstarter with no time limit.
What both of these games did right was:
1) The earlier you pre-ordered, the better the price/value.
2) You got something when you pre-ordered. Something you can play today.
Pre-orders solve a number of issues for me.
- It will show my wife that what I spend all day (and sometimes night) building people really do want. Trust me, that’s real important! :-)
- I’m two years + $40,000 invested with another $50-60,000 to go. To get the game done faster will increase those costs even more. I can use pre-order money to get some help and finish faster.
- The amount of pre-orders determine interest which tells me how much more I should invest in it to make it a richer, higher quality experience. The amount I invest in a game that could at most sell 10,000 units verses 100,000 units is quite different.
- It indicates how popular this game is and helps me create the right marketing plan for getting it in front of others. The approach for a game that sells 100,000 copies verses 10,000 is quite different.
- A dedicated group of testers from which to try builds and dialog about the game.
- The more pre-orders, the more likely games journalists are to take notice and write about the game.
Archmage’s Pre-Orders Begin Aug 4
I don’t have all the tiers and specifics worked out yet. The released version of the game will retail from $20-25 US. This is what I do know:
You immediately get access to a demo build which contains the first hour or so of the game. It will be polished to release quality.
Best Value Evar
As a reward for pre-ordering you will get the Founders Collector’s Edition. It will give you the game, season pass to all DLC, art book, soundtrack, exclusive founders content, and more. I commit to you this deal will never ever be matched by a steam sale, humble bundle, or anything else. I reserve the right to limit the number of Founder’s Collector’s Edition I sell. This exclusive offer will be available to everyone signed up on the newsletter list.
But what about the Release Date?
And the final piece is I estimate the whole game could be finished by late 2016. But here’s the thing: with all the AAA games coming out Sep-Dec, it’s death for a little indie like me to try and release something then and get noticed. So the smarter confident release date is Feb 2 2017.