With the start of the year, and BattleLore’s one year anniversary just behind us, we thought now would be a good time to recap what has happened, what hasn’t, and what lays in store for this game and its fans.
In December ’06, the game launched and immediately surpassed our wildest expectations, becoming our fastest selling game ever (with the notable exception of Ticket to Ride in the months that immediately followed the winning of the Spiel des Jahres).
While a pleasant surprise, this wave of enthusiasm quickly strained and even temporarily overwhelmed our support capacities. As a result, we spent the better part of the next few months catching up, answering product related questions and putting the proper infrastructure (Online compendiums, etc…) in all three languages (English, French, German) to manage this better and more efficiently going forward.
Starting in Q2, we began releasing expansions for the game, in a format that, for most of these expansions, differed significantly from our initial packaging plans of releasing new units, creatures, … in individual blisters.
This change was the result of feedback from distributors and resellers who made it clear they did NOT look forward to supporting the blister-type of packaging we had initially envisioned. While it may not seem like much, this left us scrambling from an operations and production standpoint.
We did manage to hold to our original schedule and release some key expansions (Call to Arms, Epic, …) on time, but the packaging changes, compounded with the initial wave of support required, had significant repercussions further down the road; a few mistakes were made (wrong banners in one pack, wrong card backs in another) in the rush that ensued, making things worse for us again (sending out those replacement banners does take time from all of us as we’re still a small company!) and for you, our customers.
As a result, some of the other BattleLore expansions we had hoped to introduce later in the year (including the Heroes expansion we’d alluded to as a possible shipping candidate for late 2007) began to slip.
A female Sorceress
This delay highlights the reason we don’t like to pre-announce products or discuss our plans ahead of time – it seems like every time we do, delays or changes occur and we come to regret the frustration it causes for all of us.
In late September/early October, armed with feedback from customers’ likes and dislikes regarding the expansion packs already released, we made the internal decision to significantly revamp our expansions plans.
We took the fateful decision to shelve our then-current design of the Heroes expansion, and revamp it into something better aligned with the oft-stated desire from customers on the forums to see more complete ready-to-play, background rich expansions, as opposed to the toolkit based approach we had been pursuing up to this point.
While we are convinced this is the right step for the game’s long term future, there is a price to pay for this decision and we are by no means done yet; this transition and product redesign is still ongoing. We do not even have a shipping date we feel we confident we can share with you yet.
We realize this is not the news you were looking for, but we would rather be upfront about where we stand and the reasons behind this delay.
When we release an expansion with plastic pieces, there is often a year that elapses between the original sketches and the final, in-your-hand game pieces that reach your store…
As an example, the Scottish Wars’ figures that are just now reaching your stores were designed at the same time as the entire first wave of expansions (Goblin skirmishers, Dwarven Battalion, ….) in January of ’07.
Doing individual, monthly or even quarterly mould designs and productions are prohibitively expensive so to keep costs and prices down we have to plan far ahead when we make these design decisions.
The fact that some of these expansions may only be coming out now doesn’t mean we don’t care about product or packaging feedback we’ve received in the interim.
A mounted Thief
In other words, we do care about the game, its future and our ability to fulfill the promises it holds. The road to get there is, and will continue to be, a somewhat bumpy one (and we also won’t ever be able to fulfill everyone’s wish for it, which is why we were initially leaning more toward a toolkit-based approach for the first couple of years, a decision we’ve now partly reversed).
To keep things in perspective it was just 6 months ago that the Memoir ’44 community was “up in arms” about how we had “abandoned” that game to the benefit of BattleLore.
While amusing (in an ironic way) for those of us who were deeply involved then in what has arguably been our most important expansion for that system (the Memoir ’44 Air Pack), it is a reminder that a bit of perspective will help us all keep our sanity while we work to deliver you new games and expansions.
2008 is full of surprises for the core system behind Memoir and BattleLore, some small, some rather large. We will undoubtedly make additional missteps (hopefully small and hopefully not the same ones!) during the course of the year. But through it all we will strive to keep improving the quality of all our releases and the games we love.
As many of you had already noticed, we’ve had no communications of late on the BL blog; going forward, minor updates will be announced informally in the forums for their respective games, and major announcements on this blog. This will free up some valuable web development time as we keep integrating our company blog better with the new online tools we will unveil in the coming months.
We will make additional, product-related announcements (BL related and otherwise) once we have them ready. In the meantime, and most importantly, we wish all of you and your families a very happy new year 2008!
CEO – Days of Wonder, Inc.