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Kickstarter Fulfillment

Kickstarter Fulfillment

preview-logo-dark-3cc7d7cf70cb093949e2632f21c58963Packages are all finally shipped. The last of the domestic shipments left the warehouse last week, and a small handful of international packages will finish up this week (and we are expediting the shipping methods on those).

This means that if you are in the US, and don’t have your initial Kickstarter physical rewards by the end of today (Sept. 17th), you should contact Tammie at [email protected]. For international orders, the same will be true one week from now (Sept. 24th).

I must, of course, add a caveat. Packages are still waiting to be sent to 341 backers who have still never filled out either address form that we sent out, and have ignored our repeated attempts to contact them directly. There is a misconception about Kickstarter that just because you give their payment system your address, that Kickstarter passes that address along to us. They do not. If you have stuff coming to you, and you’ve never given your address directly to us, we don’t have any way to ship your items to you.

And to be very clear, “initial Kickstarter physical rewards” means the print version of Numenera corebook and/or the Player’s Guide, the GM Screen, the XP Deck, the Cypher Deck, t-shirts, signed printouts of the Nightmare Switch, and the dice. Other rewards, such as the Devil’s Spine, Numenera Thunderstone, and so on will be coming later in future shipments.

This means that, in the last month or so, we have released eight different products. And shipped more than 6,000 packages. We’ve also sent codes for over 35,000 pdfs. That’s all quite unprecedented for the rpg industry.

In fact, let’s look at the full stats:

  • Total orders: 12,010
  • Countries shipped to: 59
  • Total physical orders: 6,014
  • Total physical items shipped: 11,272
  • Total signed items (including personalized): 2,028
  • Total PDFs fulfilled: 35,518
  • Total apps ordered (but as of this writing, we’ve only fulfilled about half of them, because many backers still haven’t specified their platform): 4775


There were many, many challenges in this endeavor.

And those challenges are worth noting, because Numenera has really broken a lot of new ground in the past few weeks. We’ve created processes where none existed before for getting games into the hands of gamers. We’ve found problems no one foresaw, and we’ve found workarounds for (most of) them. I like learning new lessons, and I like applying those lessons to create better efficiencies. And I like sharing those lessons (hence our book, Kicking It).

Fulfillment Lessons

I’m very proud to say that the products we created all are amazing, both in content and appearance. I’m thrilled with the Numenera corebook and Player’s Guide. I was actually surprised by how amazingly cool the cards and the screen were. The dice blew me away. Even the shirts are as good as I could have hoped. All of these physical products were designed, produced, and delivered to the fulfillment company on time. The ebooks were ready to go on August 1 (our target). That’s all stuff that we, as a team, knew how to do, and do well. It’s where our experience lay. For the rest, we had to turn to others.

Hiccups occurred in the fulfillment process, both in physical and electronic rewards. But in the grand scheme of things, particularly in the scheme of Kickstarter itself, I’m pretty happy with the end results of fulfillment as well. Errors occurred in communication, and those communication errors quickly turned, as they often do, into problems before anyone realized what had happened.

To be fair, no one that we worked with was really prepared to handle the size of this project. Not DriveThruRPG, not PSI (our fulfillment company), not Apple, and not even Kickstarter itself. In so many ways, Numenera was a test-case for a lot of different people (more on that below).

For example, DriveThruRPG had ways for a publisher to send download codes for ebooks, but their process simply wasn’t equipped to send thousands of them in a short time. PSI does all kinds of large shipments to distributors and major retailers (Target, etc.) but had never fulfilled a project with 6,000 individual addresses across the world, each with potentially a different configuration of all the various products shipped. Apple offers no ability through iTunes to gift an app from the US to a non-US user. None. Even Kickstarter’s tools for managing backers, addresses, and so on, was entirely inadequate for the needs of a Kickstarter with as many backers as we had.

In almost every case, it was simply the scale of things that caused the issues. But, thankfully in each case we found solutions or workarounds. DriveThruRPG, in particular, has been eager to track the whole process and work with us to come up with solutions. That’s why, for example, the fulfillment of the Player’s Guide went much more smoothly than the fulfillment of the corebook. And new processes in the works now will make things still easier the next time. (Remember, we’re not done. The Devil’s Spine ebook codes will go out in October.)

Sales Lessons

There is another way that Numenera has been a test case as well. A lot of people assumed that with a Kickstarter as successful as Numenera’s was last year, that there would be no interest in it after the Kickstarter campaign was finished. In other words, there would be few retail sales because everyone who was going to buy it had already backed the Kickstarter. We have found in the last month or so that is decidedly untrue. Numenera has had one of the biggest, if not the biggest, rpg launches in 2013. We may have seriously underestimated the game’s appeal.

That’s why we’re excited that we have Bruce Cordell on board to help support the game. He’s working with me on the Bestiary right now, and he’ll be helping out on Sir Arthour’s Compendium and the Ninth World Guidebook as well.

And with all the excitement, we have decided just this last week how we are going to expand the Numenera line beyond the products launched in the Kickstarter. You’ll be seeing announcements about these new products in the future.

Numenera, of course, is just the first of many large, successful Kickstarter campaigns to fund the creation of new rpgs. We are currently in the process of reaching out to others who will have similar issues in the future so that they can avoid some of the pitfalls that we ran into. I strongly suspect that Kickstarter and rpgs will enjoy wedded bliss for a long time to come. I’m happy to be a part of some of the initial forays into this new frontier. It’s a very exciting time for roleplaying games.

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