Making the Game is a monthly guest column by Chris O’Neal of Brotherwise Games.  Making the Game follows a year in the life of an indie tabletop publisher as they attempt to bring their third game to market.  In this month's column on developing a new game, O’Neal talks about how game delays happen, and how this one happened.

Well, April has come and gone, and Brotherwise’s promised Kickstarter for our next game, Call to Adventure, has yet to materialize.  What happened, you ask?  When do we get to see this game you’ve been talking about for a year now?  Well, I’ll get to that in a second, but let’s take this opportunity to talk about the dreaded game delay, and why delays happen.  The tabletop gaming world is rife with delays, partly because there are so many people that contribute to a game being made.  We’ll just cover the big ones here, identifying them by the people who are responsible for them.

Development delays.  Sometimes, delays happen before the gaming public knows anything about them.  Most publishers, including Brotherwise, operate on a "production calendar" that we have planned out about a year or two ahead of time.  This calendar is (generally) dictated by personnel.  Publishers try to time things such that the people making the game have a steady stream of work, and aren’t suddenly going crazy working on five games because artwork on Game A was delayed and gummed up the whole works.  When that delay is due to a design problem, the gaming public won’t ever hear about it, but they may notice the ripple of its impact as other games by that company get delayed as well.

Production and shipping delays.  This is by far the most common reason for delays for Brotherwise.  Sometimes production delays are our fault (e.g. we didn’t get the right files approved on time). Sometimes they are their fault (e.g. that one time the printer printed 40,000 units of Boss Monster with the card backs upside down).  Printing and shipping delays are generally the most frustrating of delays because there’s little that we can do about them.  If the games are on a slow boat from China, nothing we do is going to make that boat move faster.  It’s when production delays run up against overly ambitious promises that things get hairy.  Game publishers are typically keen to time their game releases to marketing opportunities like cons, or the holiday shopping season.

Strategic delays.  Very rarely, a publisher will delay a game on purpose.  Why, you ask?  Why would they do that?  Well, honestly in gaming it’s not that common, but occasionally the planned release date of a game competes with other, similar games, or happens to coincide with the new Magic release, and the worry is that gamers will be spending their money elsewhere.  Strategic delays tend to be handled earlier in production, and they tend to be less severe than other types of delays.

Delays likely have less of an effect on retailers and players than they used to.  There are so many games coming out every month now that a store is not going to miss a late game very much.  Player frustration at delays can cause negative press for publishers, and can fritter away player good will, but likewise, there are plenty of other games to salve that pain.  No, the people who suffer the most from delays are the publishers themselves, who can see considerable revenue loss, and (worse) shelf space lost to other games that came out on time.

So, what happened to Call to Adventure?  In our case, the Kickstarter for Call to Adventure has been delayed for good reasons.  As outlined in an earlier column (see "Making the Game – Playing with the Big Kids: A Small Company Hunts for Licenses"), Brotherwise has been pursuing three possible licensing partners for Call to Adventure.  Our hope was to land one or two of these possible partners and set future Call to Adventure expansions in the worlds of their various properties.  In March, as were deep in negotiations with these possible partners, it began to look possible that we might land all three of them, and land them in time for the Kickstarter.  There was much consternation over what to do.  Did we go ahead with the Kickstarter and the partners we’d already landed, or wait and see if we could hit the trifecta, including all three partners?

Obviously, we decided to wait, and our delay now falls under the familiar category of developmental delay.  Negotiations have proceeded MUCH more slowly than we expected.  With so many parties involved (and their lawyers), simply defining basic terms of an agreement can take weeks.  We had hoped to have all contracts negotiated and signed by the end of April, but two months later, we remain in negotiation limbo.  Even worse, while we’ve gotten to oral "yeses" with two of our hoped for partners, we struck out with number three.  It was a tough thing, because that partner seemed to love the game, and they seemed to share our vision for how their property would fit into our game.  When they finally said no, it was for the oldest of reasons: we couldn’t get to yes on the money.  They were looking for more royalty then we could afford to pay.  And that’s okay.  They value their property highly, and they should.

It’s my hope that my next column will be about launching the Kickstarter for Call to Adventure, but I’ve learned not to get ahead of the process.  We’ll see what the future holds.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of