Avalon Games 2011 in Review

Avalon Games 2011 in Review

Well 2011 was a rip roaring year for Avalon Games, so let’s take a look at how we did, what we did right and of course what we screwed up.

2011 was a strange year in terms of the market. While the economy was up and then down, and then a bit up, it was always down in overall terms. While entertainment is traditionally up in a bad economy, and this held true for the most part with the gaming and hobby market, overall, RPGs were down. D&D continues to lose market share, and Pazio’s Pathfinder is becoming the game of choice for many. Still, there were a lot of openings for other game systems, and many third party publishers tried to capitalize on those openings, to some success.

This was the first year that Avalon itself was in full swing and firing on all cylinders. So we will use the numbers for 2011 as a base line in future reviews. With that in mind, Avalon did well – almost tripling our sales numbers from 2010. We opened ourselves to several new markets and even found a few new places to sell our goodies. Our customer base grew a lot – up to 15 thousand now, and our branding efforts are starting to pay off with people coming to look at our stuff just on our name alone.

Our efforts to strengthen our customer relations continue, and we have added to those numbers in small ways, but each one counts for the future.

We significantly increased our market share, moving up through the ranks of e-publishers, though our position on One Book’s publishers list varied widely. Since One Book is the main venue for e-publishing in the hobby game market, this is a good guidepost of where Avalon is at any given time. For the majority of the year we where in the top 15 publishers list, and a few times we even broke into the top 10. And while we had some ups and downs on the list, at no time did we ever fall below the 30th rank all year. (More on that later)

In the area of products, we now have well over 800, and will break the 1,000 mark next year. In this area Avalon also continues to push forward with Imprint partners, adding a few more this year to bring our total partnerships to nine. This is just short of our 2011 goal of 10. In some case Avalon has either full ownership of, or a partial stake in, the imprint partner.

We added a few folks to our staff, lost a few and then brought in some more. While William and I are still the driving force behind the company, we have tried out a few PM positions over the course of the year. Some worked out and others didn’t. The two we have now are doing well, and we will continue to develop these relationships.

In terms of profits, Avalon continues to improve. It has even started to pay its owners a small wage each month. Not a lot, but the company has reached a point were we do not need to continuously feed it capital – it can more than pay its own way. Avalon stayed out of debt, paid all its bills on time, and even gave out a bonus or two. Avalon ends the year with a healthy cash reserve, several great product lines in the works, and a lot of available assets should we see opportunities on which to capitalize.

What We Did Right:
The Right People for the Right Job:
Avalon continues to be successful because we actively look for good people to work with us. A small, young company lives by those that love it, and we have tried hard to make that love real in the people we work with. Our writers and artists are all excellent, hard-working folks who don’t get paid that much. They do, however, get paid on time, and what we can’t do in money we try to make up for in opportunities. Many of those who have tied themselves to Avalon are looking toward the future, and as Avalon grows so, too, will they.

Avalon reached a point near the end of the year where creative folks came looking for us instead of us seeking them out. Word of mouth and referrals brought in a few good writers and artists, which means Avalon is building a reputation as a desirable company to work for and with.

Product, Product, Product:
Avalon kept up its drive to push out products. Our business plan of small, fast, easy and cheap products allowed us to publish almost 300 new products in 2011, and we may well do the same next year.

To reiterate, Avalon has adopted this plan in order to explore new markets, test new product lines, and find new customers in areas we think might be profitable, or just plan fun.

Brand:
Avalon continued to build its brand using our newsletter, mass e-mails (to existing customers), forum posts and other activities. We hired Jennifer to be our promotional manager, and she has done a bang up job getting the word out, which is always job one around here.

Company With A Soul:
Avalon continues to try to use its profits and market share to promote good things in the world. We made several new Kiva loans this year to good people in third world countries so they can work to make their lives better. We also provided some personal loans and assistance, not much, but we tried to be open to helping others.

Relationships:
Avalon continues to believe that we will only be successful if we have others out there helping us. To this end we returned the favor by helping other publishers when and where we could. This included placing ads in our e-zines, doing artist spotlights, offering art and advice where and when we could. These efforts go toward building long-term working relationships with other publishers and people in the hobby. How, when or what the pay off will be, we don’t know, but we are committed to fostering a positive and beneficial culture through our business.

What We Did Wrong:
Not everything goes as planned…

Web Site:
At the start of the year we were going to build a new web site, but one thing after another got in the way and we still have not gotten the new site up and running. There is, however, a bright light at the end of the tunnel – we have a new PM web master who is hard at work taming the beast, and we should have a new site up and running in the near future. (Yah, I know, I have said that several times this past year.)

Burn Fast and then Burn Out:
We started the year with a ton of great new stuff, IF being the biggest release we have done so far. This resulted in big sales numbers early in the year, which did not continue when we ran out of big releases. By the summer our numbers began to drop. They never went to the bottom, but they did drop, and it has been a struggle to keep them up since August. Some of this had to do with the uncertain economy during the summer and the perennially poor sales of the fall season. Still, if we had done some better planning we could have kept the pipeline full with larger releases and maintained more consistent sales numbers throughout the year.

For 2012 we have a lot of new product lines starting up, but this time around, instead of releasing them all at or around the same time, we will spread them throughout the year. Whether or not this will work is not known, but it’s worth trying to see if we can keep our sales numbers steadier through the year rather than the high / low we experienced in 2011.

Market Presence:
We lost one site altogether last year and had another cut us back significantly. The site we lost was of limited concern since we never seemed to sell anything there anyways. The other site, however, did well on in terms of sales, and we always ended the month as one of their top publishers. So it was a shock when they told us they would not carry any more of our new products. Seems we overwhelmed them with new stuff and their per-product numbers were not high enough to warrant keeping everything we offer. While they continue to offer our older products, we now have to negotiate with them to offer new stuff, and they only accept products they think it will sell well on their site. In the overall picture this site only generates about 3% of our gross sales, but our presence there has diminished.

Seems not everyone is on board the Avalon train ride.

What Does the Future Hold:
2011 was a great year and we hope the economy will improve so that 2012 will be even better. We have a lot of great new stuff going out in 2012 – much of it already in the works.

While I would be surprised if we triple our sales numbers again in 2012, I do think with all our good upcoming product lines our numbers will stay steady, or increase some. Some of these product lines are experimental, so we are not so much looking to make money on them as to see what will or will not sell. The hobby market is notoriously unpredictable about what will catch on.

We are also looking to expand further into some of our newer markets, including the tabletop miniatures games and paper models. Both have been noteworthy, catching our attention, so we will push further into these areas in 2012. Nova Blast will be a good indicator of what can be done in both of these fields.

RPGs will be a big focus next year with the 2nd IF release, Heroes Wear Masks, One Knight Games and some other RPG-based products. I’m hoping HWM will do well and have plans for a ton of products to support the system.

We, of course, will continue our push to improve old products with better proofing and layout, and will work to see that all new products have a consistently high level of production value.

We learned some good lessons from the 1st IF release, and will not push out a product before it is baked and ready to go. If that means we have to sit on it for a while then so be it.

Well, that’s it. I think a bright future waits for all of us here at Avalon, and I hope we all can have some fun with it in 2012.

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1 Comment

  1. January 1, 2012 at 12:31 pm

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