Pre-Orders Begin Aug 4 2016

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:

  1. Allow players to play a brief demo the game to get a taste for it
  2. Take a pre-order with a special offer
  3. 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.

Highest Price

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.

Why Pre-orders?

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:

Play Immediately

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.