Valley Games Responds.

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These are the Answers to your questions. Kevin Nesbitt from Valley games responded to the questions users posted here on F:AT last week.



1. Is everything okay at Valley Games?

Yes, generally speaking everything is fine with us.  We're moving slower in our 2008 year than we had planned, but other than that, the outlook is bright.  We're anxious to pick up the pace of games that we release, but it seems that we're not at that point yet.  Our customer's anxiousness is not lost on us either.  We understand they want to see these games sooner/faster.
Part of the problem has been due to the nature of the printing business itself, which is run by injecting huge amounts of cash into a project at the start, in the hopes of a reasonable trickle-back of funds for future projects.  Because we started out as a very small company, our challenge is to maximize the number of projects that we're able to do given our small budget.  It's a bit of a catch-22; we need large amounts to invest into projects to secure a reasonable trickle-back, but we cannot obtain the large amounts to invest without a significant trickle-back.   
People seem to think that we're some massive company, probably based on the reprint titles that we've announced, but I must caution that we are still a very small company.   In order to secure these big titles, we had to obtain them all at once, or risk other larger companies stepping in to take them away.  Opening preorders for all of these games all at once may not, in hindsight, have been the best method of securing funds to print these titles.  However, offering preorders for Euro titles is rather new in the industry, and we are taking steps to improve the way this occurs, even though it may mean that we have to operate the 750 Special in a slower, more orderly fashion.  In the end it's about getting these games to see the light of day again, and we intend to make it happen.     
2. How is Titan coming along?
Titan is practically finished, and essentially ready for the printing stage.  We've got a retail shelf date of July set, although I expect that preorder customers should have it before then.

3. Republic of Rome?
Republic of Rome is still in the "design" stage.  It needs to have artwork done, and components set.  I know that the rulebook is getting a few "going-overs" to get it up to our specifications.  While there aren't any major rule changes, there are definitely some rewordings and clarifications necessary.  We're looking for this one in 2008 at some point, probably in the late Summer or Fall.  I'm really excited for this one, as I don't have my own copy.

4. Generals?
Ah, the generals!  You wouldn't think that we'd get such a nasty fight from such tiny warriors, but they've proven quite worthy opponents.  They are finished, and boxed (as is my understanding from China).  There was a last minute concern from us that they all be tested for North American and European standards, and I have not yet been updated as to where that stands.  Needless to say, we want to bring these guys home, and we're moving along with them as quickly as possible.  I realize that our estimates have fallen through over the last few months, and for that I apologize.  I know the final product will justify the wait, and I'm thankful for our customer's continued patience with this.  At this time, I can give no new estimate for arrival, but I'm hoping that it's soon.  Customers WILL receive their generals. 

5. Who is Kevin's favorite Spice Girl?
I'm gonna say.. um....  okay, I don't know their names all that well, so I'll say "Cinnamon".  She's SO much better than Garlic Spice.
1) Will there be a second printing of Hannibal?
It's entirely possible that we will do a second printing.  I can't promise it at this point, but we were very happy with the way our first printing was received by the community, and we think there are still people left who are looking for a copy.

2) The Oilers or the Flames?
Well, for me it's neither. I'm a Toronto Maple Leafs diehard.  Now, once they do their yearly "Oops, we didn't make the playoffs!", then I'm just a fan of Canadian teams.  The kind that make the playoffs.  Except the Ottawa Senators; nobody likes them.
1) How many copies of HANNIBAL were preordered, how many were shipped, and how many copies have been sold to distribution? How do these numbers compare to Valley Games' projections?
We sold, via preorder, about 1500 Hannibals.  The bulk of these were sold to customers in North America.  The remaining 3500 were sent into our distribution outlets (with the exception of ones we sold directly or at shows).  Of these, we have a few dozen remaining, and that number dwindles daily.  This game has matched our sales projections, although it has done so at a more rapid pace than we thought possible.  This has heightened our attention to wargames (a.k.a. our "Tactics Line") and we've got high hopes for more great wargames in the future.

2) Has the preorder system proven itself through HANNIBAL and other Valley Games titles to be a viable business model for niche reprints? In particular, I'm interested in hearing how essentially getting "early adopters" to provide production capital has panned out.
Yes, I think the preorder system works well for wargames.  Eurogames, I'm still not so sure, but we've not really had a fair chance to test them out.  Getting people to help sponsor a production has been largely successful, but there are still some things that we would like to improve on.  We'll have a revised preorder system once our store comes back online; a system that puts more emphasis on us to meet our production-speed goals. 

3) How much is actually in writing in terms of the titles that Valley Games has announced? Are licensing agreements and publication rights secured or are things up in the air or unsubstantiated on anything that is currently available for preorder?
Every game we annouced is under contract by Valley Games.  We will never announce a game that we have not secured rights for.  The only thing holding us back from printing *ALL* of these games at once is the huge financial obligation that would create.  For now, we just have to accept that we will be moving at a slower pace than we had anticipated.

4) Moving forward, has Valley Games taken any steps to redress the widely reported communications difficulties, delays, and failures that many have experienced? Will any such steps be in place before the next Valley Games title is released to the public?
Hopefully we've addressed some of these concerns.  Yes, we will be putting some new measures into place, including a smaller preorder window for 750 Special games.  This way, our customers will have a pre-defined time frame for their game's arrival, and though we can't account for every problem that arises, our goal is to meet that time frame in 90%+ of cases.
We acknowledge the shortcomings of our company thus far.  In the end, our focus remains on delivering the highest quality game that we can, because that's the heart of the matter.  Following this priority, we're trying to find ways to improve in customer service and delivery times.  The previously-mentioned changes, along with some additional ones (that will be announced once our site reopens) will hopefully improve these issues moving forward.   Please understand though, that Valley Games is just 3 people.  When we receive 600 emails in 3 days, as happened this previous weekend, you can understand how we would be challenged to respond to all of them.  When we get questions like "When do I get my copy of Republic of Rome?", those types of questions simply must take a backseat to questions like "I am missing a piece, can you send it to me?".   In the near future we're hoping our website will be better at addressing the former types, while leaving us to concentrate on the latter.

5) Is there a firm release date for TITAN?
Our distributor has set a shelf date of "July" for Titan.  Yes, we would like to have it sooner too, and our goal, if possible, is to have the game to our preorder customers in June, so that they can spend a couple weeks mocking their friends who did not preorder. 
What is your single biggest success and single biggest regret of the last 15 months?
Our biggest success has been our business plan.  We set a goal for ourselves of producing high quality games at a reasonable price, and I think we've acheived it.  I'm proud to have such beautiful games sitting on my shelf and know that I had a part in it. 
Our biggest regret has been the slow speed at which we are moving.  This is a near-constant thorn in our side. 
How has the relative weakness of the US dollar affected Valley Games' publishing schedule?
I know this has hurt a lot of U.S. publishers.  I've carefully watched the news of whole-catalogue price increases, maximum discounts being set, and production being moved to China.
From our end, yes, it has made printing in Germany nearly impossible.  In fact, for those that don't know, often the projects we price out in Germany exceed what we would make from them!  This is a bad situation, and I expect that the U.S. dollar will continue to weaken, making European printing a thing of the past for many publishers. 
Our goal remains the same:  Deliver the best product that we can at the best price we can afford.  While we may be forced to go to China with our productions, we have no intention of raising our prices, or setting maximum allowable discounts.  Both of these latter actions directly affect our customers, and it would be unreasonable of us to start asking for more money from customers whom are already beginning to feel the effects of an economic slowdown.  We will exhaust all other measures before requiring our customers to pay more for the same product.
Questions to satisfy my curiosity as much as anything else:

1) Hannibal, Die Macher - and from the initial reports Titan - have had no actual rules changes although the rules have been rewritten. Did you actually ever consider making material changes to the rules of these games? If not, why not? Might you make substantial changes to the rules of future re-release titles that you publish?
We're tempted to make changes at times, but for the most part we try to keep the game as close to the original as possible.  I'm sure at some point there will be a major change that we'll make, but for now we envision that our customers aren't looking for a total rewrite with just the theme left alone.  If a reprint comes along that needs a major update, we'd probably do it, but so far we have not encontered such a title.  I suppose that may weed itself out in our selection process before we sign the game.

2) Given the fairly large number of very good games which are worth of a reprint, how do you go about selecting the ones you're going to try and acquire the rights for? Do you plan on being exclusively a company which re-releases classic titles or are you going to try and pick up some bespoke designs?
It's a simple formula:  If all three of us like a game, we try to sign it.  If two like it, they have to convince the third. 
We plan on continuing our pursuit of reprints, but as those dry up, we'll also be continuing with our new releases.  It's the same formula there too, by the way.

3) Is it true you have your games printed in Germany? If so, why can't I get orders direct from there and save me on the exorbitant shipping costs I'd have to pay from the states? I'd pre-order Titan and RoR in a shot if I thought the P&P was from elsewhere in Europe!
Yes, we do print *some* games in Germany.  Hannibal is an example of that. 
The reason you are not able to access a shipping discount is because it's still added cost for us to allow you access to your game whilst still at the factory.  For this to occur, it means we must pay someone to grab you a game, put it in a box , and ship it.  From our end, this is the same cost as bringing it to North America before sending it.  Because we don't save anything on such an arrangement, we have no savings to pass on to you. 
A shelfish question.

Will there be an on-line store or something up before Republic of Rome charges pre-orders? My billing information has changed and there seems to be no way (currently) to update it.
Yes, the store will be open before RoR charges.  In fact, our whole preorder system is changing, so you'll have adequate warning for both the reopening and closing of the RoR-specific preorder period.

I'd just like to add my thanks that RoR will be back in print. I've been waiting a lot longer for the reprint of Barbarian, Kingdom, Empire. So no worries :) 
s there a date for the web store front to be back?
Soon.  I'd like to say "the end of this month", but I'd risk being wrong. Again. 

C&C:A dice still available?
These are pretty much sold out.  We're examining a reprint, but this is not a guarantee.  If you make it out to any shows that we're at, you might find us selling a few of the remaining sets we've got.

Thanks for bringing these games back from the grave. 
I was one of the people who received but was not charged for Container (also received Mordred at the same time) I have remitted since I was notified of the issue :) What happened there? I had pre-ordered several games but this shook my faith a bit. In addition to that I have never received the pre-order bonus containers - which is not a huge deal but just shows a pattern of issues.
 We had a credit card server snafu.  Not a security risk mind you, but rather just the opposite.  Our security features were set too tight, meaning our credit card server blocked our ability to charge a number of our customers for the game.  We didn't want anyone to wait any longer for the game, so we elected to ship the game before collecting payment knowing that our customer base is honest enough to pay for it later. 

So, this is a long way of asking, what can you do to convince someone like me that you guys are back on track?
Well, keep in mind that we don't charge full price.  We give a 30% discount.  Plus we give a substantial preorder bonus.
The Tanga issue I've explained previously elsewhere, but in short we can't stop stores from selling our product at any price they like.  Tanga decided to sell our games at a loss, and if that's their business model, that's their choice.  I suspect they used it as a way to encourage more traffic to their site, and beyond that it was just unfortunate timing for us.  
I can't tell you anything that will convince you that we're back on track.  All we can continue to show is that we deliver a great product for the money spent, whether you purchase the game from a no-discount store, or from a cut-rate retailer.  Looking at Hannibal, for example, I would openly challenge it to be one of the best "bang-for-the-buck" productions seen in wargames for many years.  If you would like to continue to see productions like that, then you'll know what to do.

Many thanks for being willing to tackle these issues and I sincerely wish Valley Games the best.
Does Valley Games have email software that allows you to send out a mass email to all purchasers of a game?
No, we do not have this software.  Hopefully the upcoming changes to our preorder program will make communicating with our customers substantially easier, as they will be able to access all the information regarding dates/prices etc. directly from our site.

On February 13th, you wrote on BGG: "I don't yet have a date for delivery of the generals, although I can tell you that they are done, packaged, and going to be coming to a front porch near you very soon." Do you just need to buy the stamps?
Pretty much, yes.  We had some last minute product testing that was necessary given the products origin, but that should be done, or nearly so.  Customers WILL receive their generals.
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