We caught up with Steve Jackson Games Chief Operating Officer Phil Reed and Munchkin Czar Andrew Hackard at Gen Con last week and had the opportunity to ask about Ogre (see "'Ogre' Print Run to be Over 10,000"), Munchkin (see "'Munchkin Pathfinder'" and "'Munchkin Apocalypse: Mars Attacks!'"), and other Steve Jackson Games plans.
Where are you with shipping Ogre?
Reed: Ogre is in the final stages of proofing. We’ve got all the production work done; the art’s completed and now we’re just going through and making the last round of checks before we send the files to print. At this point I can actually see the end and the game going to print, which is the first time we’ve been here in months. It’s really close to going to print. After that we’ll have some back and forth with the factory as we check proofs and work over samples, and then we’ll go into the full scale manufacturing and shipping. It’s anywhere from four to five months after going to print that we have games in our warehouse.
Reed: We’re targeting December. We’re trying to make sure we get to Kickstarter backers before Christmas, but it’s really going to depend on how things work out on the manufacturing side because of the complexity of the pieces. We want to test everything. We don’t want to ship the game and then have people get it and it be bad. We’d rather have some delays and get it right.
Was there a time commitment in the Kickstarter project and are you meeting it?
Reed: [When we launched] the Kickstarter project we said it would ship in November with the advance copies going to supporters in October, and no, we are not going to meet that; but we are keeping the supporters up to date and trying to make sure everybody knows why the delays are happening and when we expect it to happen. And once the game actually goes to print then we can start to nail down a tighter window.
Hackard: I just wanted to add to that the Kickstarter supporters are going to get their games ahead of everyone else. We’ve made that commitment and that definitely will happen.
When is Ogre going to go to the trade?
Reed: They will ship to stores about 30 days after they ship to the Kickstarter backers.
Reed: Possibly January. Again, I have to wait until the game’s at print and we go through the first round of samples and proofs before I can really get an exact date.
You had one of the most successful tabletop game Kickstarters ever—maybe the most successful ever. Do you have any thoughts on the recent kerfuffle on the use of retailer rewards? For a while they totally banned retailer rewards, but now they’ve backed off to a max of 10. What’s your reaction to that?
Hackard: I think the reason was is they were seeing some Kickstarters where retailers were pledging 20-50-100 lots and actually shutting out individual people who wanted to pledge and support the projects. I think the limit that they settled on finally was that you can offer up to bundles of 10 and I think that’s probably a reasonable number.
On the Ogre Kickstarter the retailer reward was four copies because no retailer in their right mind is going to want more than that on their initial shipment because that’s already about 60 pounds of game.
I understand why they did that. They’re trying to keep it focused on individual people becoming patrons of individual projects.
Munchkin has been going gangbusters. Can you comment on the year over year trendline for Munchkin?
Hackard: I don’t have the actual year over year percentage increase, but as of the end of July we have sold almost as many copies as we sold all of last year of Munchkin. The past three or four years particularly have been going up further every year.
Hackard: Part of it is market penetration. More people are aware of it. We are selling through more outlets than we have in the past. Part of it this year is the appearance on TableTop with Wil Wheaton. That put it in front of a lot of people that weren’t aware of it before.
Where’s the increase in outlets coming from?
Hackard: Just increase in our sales force getting into stores that hadn’t sold it before. We’re deeper in the mass market than we have been in the past before as well. Munchkin is now being carried in Target and has been in Barnes & Noble for several years.
You announced a new license at Gen Con. Can you tell us about that?
Hackard: Absolutely. We just signed the deal with Paizo; we’re going to be doing Munchkin Pathfinder for release next year. It’s going to be a fantasy stand-alone Munchkin game. And we’re thrilled to be working with Paizo. They’re great people; they’ve been very helpful in getting us set up with the source material that we can draw from. John [Kovalic] is going to illustrate it; Steve [Jackson] and I are going to collaborate on the writing. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great license for, we hope, both companies.
What about Mars Attacks!?
Hackard: Munchkin Apocalypse is this year’s new core game. It’s coming out in November. You get to play the end of the world and try to level up faster than everybody else. Mars Attacks! is going to be a 15-card booster based on the Topps trading cards from 1962 using the original artwork. Steve’s designing that and it’s going to be out next summer.
When did you start licensing outside IP for Munchkin, and why that change in strategy?
Reed: The first Munchkin license was Munchkin Axe Cop and when they approached us about it, it was a perfect fit so we did it. That was last winter. Almost immediately after that we were approached by Conan Properties about Munchkin so we made a booster.
Once the door was open people started coming to us and asking. Once that started, we looked around and said, "What do we want to do, too?" And the licensing has helped grow Munchkin because we are getting people who are fans of Conan, for example, and when they come along and see Munchkin Conan they say, "Well, what is Munchkin?" And the next thing they know they have a giant Munchkin collection.
Hackard: The licensing was something we wanted to do when it was ready. We wanted to make sure that we weren’t going to lose Munchkin in the process of doing the licenses. And we wanted to honor the licenses of the ones we signed. And as Phil said, Axe Cop was one of the perfect starters because it’s already that anything-can-happen, crazy sort of comic, so it’s a perfect fit for Munchkin. And once that door opened, it’s been really interesting to see the people who wanted to work with us. And, to see the people who when we approached them and they said, "Yeah, this would be a really good fit for it."
We’re very excited about the licenses that we have in print andcoming up in the next year.
Anything else that’s exciting coming from Steve Jackson?
Reed: In the next few months we have more Munchkin. We have Munchkin Penny Arcade next month, which is a 15-card booster. We have new a holiday Munchkin booster coming in October (this will be the fourth of those): Munchkin Naughty and Nice. As Andrew mentioned, we have Munchkin Apocalypse, a new core game, coming in November.
And early next year we will release Castellan, the castle building game, which is the two-person strategy game that we’ve been showing off for about a year now. That’s a lot of fun. It was very close to release and then Ogre happened.