Good marketing comes down to creating great experiences for your customers. This is known as UX, or user experience.
In this week’s episode, we’ve brought on Sean Fallon, longtime UX consultant and owner of Smunchy Games. Sean’s passion is to create amazing tabletop games based on rich, complex worlds. Tune in to this podcast to find out how he uses his experience as a UX designer to do exactly that.
Pierson: Hey everybody, it’s Pierson Hibbs with “Marketing is the Product”. Brandon Rollins over there. And today we have a really cool guest. Brandon, you wanna go ahead and give us the intro for it?
Brandon: Sure. Alright, it is my very good pleasure today to bring on my friend and mentor, Sean Fallon, owner of Smunchy Games and long-time UX user experience consultant.
Sean: Hi. It’s good to be here. [chuckle]
Pierson: Well, Sean, why don’t you wanna go ahead and get started by just telling us what you do currently, what got you to that point, and we’ll go from there.
Sean: Oh man, buckle up. [laughter] Alright, so…
Brandon: I’m laughing ’cause I got an idea of what’s coming.
Sean: Yeah, there’s way too much coming. Alright, so where do I start? I am a UX consultant. I do run a small company now known as RSD. Literally, it really doesn’t stand for anything, which is wonderful. [chuckle] I do typically have a lot of different UX, Fortune 10 through 1 clients. Even beyond as well, I’ve done work for AT&T, Walmart, Sony, Yum! Brands, Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Blizzard Entertainment. God so many… Bank of America… I could list here forever, I’m not gonna do that.
Brandon: You’ve got a lot of experience.
Sean: But, you get it. I’ve been around the block. Yeah, so in all different industries from oil, finance, general goods, products, retail, you name it, I’ve been there. Now, with that said though, that’s my UX side. I’ve also created startups, I’ve sold startups, I’ve owned equity in startups, I founded startups and then backed out and helped others just through philanthropy to try and get them going and not taking any cash, which is a… That’s another interesting story we’ll go through. And then from there, my career just built up, and at one point in time, I had a small UX agency. Shut that down, and now it’s just me. So that’s where we’re at there. On the other side of the coin, I own Smunchy Games. So Smunchy Games is my games publishing company, we primarily focus on tabletop, so RPGs, card games, maybe board games in the future. [chuckle] And then something actually unannounced that I will announce here is we’re actually gonna be publishing video games as well. So we are working on a pretty big video game coming up, it’ll probably be released in 2022, we’ll see. If you’re into turn-based RPG type of games, video games and 2D, has a feel of like, Paper Mario meets Darkest Dungeon in the Parseling’s universe. So that’ll be fun. But yeah, that’s really what I do.
Brandon: That is neat. And we actually know each other through your work with Smunchy Games ’cause that’s how we met. This whole podcast, this whole company, everything we’re doing with “Marketing is the Product” came from Pangea Games, which was my own games company, and that’s… We met over Discord, I believe it was.
Sean: Yup, that’s right.
Brandon: Yeah, we are still chatting on Discord.
Sean: Yup, that’s right. And…
Brandon: Actually, this is something I feel like I got to point out, “Marketing is the Product”, the name, came from something you had said earlier, which was UX is the product, that’s how we got our website name. [chuckle] I asked for your blessing, of course. I wanna make sure the listeners understand that.
Sean: You sure did.
Brandon: Yeah, what you’re listening to now is basically…
Pierson: So in a way, we owe you thanks.
Brandon: Inspired by a lot of what you’ve already done.
Sean: I guess you’re welcome. [chuckle] I don’t know to say.
Brandon: You’re royalty check is in the mail.
Sean: Appreciate it. [laughter] But no, yeah, I mean… Gosh, Brandon it’s been how long? Are we going on three years?
Brandon: We’re going on three years. Pierson asked me that before the show, “I was like, oh shoot, I gotta do some math here.”
Brandon: It’s been like three years now.
Sean: Oh, man. It’s been a while, jeez.
Brandon: It’s been a wild, strange three years. Not even just with what’s going on in the world, just a weird three years for us.
Sean: Oh, man that’s an understatement. Oh man, but yeah. It’s one of those things where Pangea was, and still is, very much a blessing in disguise for most. I don’t know if anyone else learns that or realizes that, but that place has probably connected more people, I think, in the tabletop games industry than anywhere else that I know of today.
Brandon: And I actually, I wanna point out for people listening to this, a lot of you don’t know about Pangea Games ’cause you’re gonna find this through Pangea marketing agency or through the blog. The whole reason I’m here, the whole reason I even got to this point at all is because I started a Discord chat room where I connected a bunch of board game creators, artists, designers, basically anybody who was interested in making board games, I’ve got ’em all in one chat room. And that’s still running today, and I don’t even have time to really stop and say hi anymore, but some people are still there other chatting it up.
Pierson: Wow. How long has that been up and running?
Brandon: I guess three years now. Last I checked, there was 2200 people in there. I’m not sure what it is anymore.
Sean: Yeah, there might even be a little more.
Brandon: Yeah, the Facebook group’s like 26, 2700. So, yeah.
Sean: Yeah, I made a lot of great hires from there too. So, I…
Brandon: Yeah, you used it for finding people. I know you found Emily through there and she does… She proofreads your rules, I believe.
Sean: Yeah, she does editing. I found Will through there, so Will…
Brandon: Oh, yeah, Will, yeah.
Brandon: He was doing live streaming for board games, probably still is.
Sean: Not as much anymore, but he still does sales stuff with me. He’ll reach out to game retailers and set things up with them and… We have shippers, that when we have our games in, he’ll go and help them stock those things. He does a great job with it.
Sean: But yeah, Will, and then even Jordan was on there. Jordan TabletopCrow. I don’t know if you’ve ever spoken with him. Found him through there too. I don’t know, we also just have a bunch of friends on there too, so we found friends.
Brandon: Yeah, we do. Yeah, even still. So every once in a while, I’ll check up on people I haven’t talked to in a while, and I see that they are releasing another game, where they finally got some commercial success, and I’m like, “This is everything that I wanted to happen with this room it’s finally coming to bear fruit.”
Brandon: Takes years sometimes. And the way that we built that up wasn’t with contests or anything, it was just sending about 10,000 direct messages on Twitter and Instagram to different people, just asking them if they’d wanna join, and we had like a 8% response rate or something. It was really low. I got blocked by a ton of people for that, but a handful of them came through.
Pierson: It’s pretty impressive that it was able to go from that to what it is now…
Brandon: Modern-day cold calling basically. [chuckle]
Pierson: Just from a lot of direct messaging and cold calling essentially.
Brandon: And one thing I wanna point out that a lot of people don’t know about community building is once you get to a certain point it will build upon itself. And I think that tends to be around 1000 active people. For whatever reason, it seems to be around 1000. If you get 1000 true fans, I think that’s a Seth Godin thing, it probably is. Yeah, it sounds like a Seth Godin thing. Once you get 1000 true fans, they’ll start bringing in more people and you won’t have to do nearly as much. And I think that’s a threshold you have to cross when you’re building up a business, when you’re building up a community, is you just get 1000 people interested, which often means asking 10,000 questions and getting 9000 noes. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on with Smunchy Games?
Sean: Yeah. Oh, man, oh, where do I start? So, okay, I actually just got a message from Adam for an unannounced project.
Brandon: Adam Leny?
Sean: Adam… No. No, no, no. [0:09:15] ____… Actually, he was on Pangea too. Gosh, yeah, see, it’s all connected.
Brandon: We can’t even call each other by first names anymore.
Sean: Right, [laughter] I know. But no, yeah… No. So Adam, he’s actually the vice editor-in-chief of The World Building magazine.
Brandon: Oh, oh yeah, you told me about this.
Sean: Yeah. So he’s also my lead game designer for all my card games. Fray actually is the one that was out on Kickstarter recently. That was successfully funded.
Brandon: Link in the show notes.
Pierson: Link in the show notes.
Sean: There you go. Thank you.
Brandon: Pierson, put the link in the show notes.
Sean: Yeah, and actually I may have some value bombs on that one drop too, ’cause we found some interesting things out, but yeah, Fray, that was one of our biggest ones. Something really interesting about Fray that I think might… Or at least your listeners might benefit from, if they ever do a Kickstarter, if they’re listening from the games industry at least, essentially on Fray we had such a small goal for the game, I think we only funded at 3100 bucks. The interesting part is that the pledge manager, on the other hand, brought in almost triple that amount…
Brandon: Oh, there you go.
Sean: And it’s because the… Essentially, the retailers are the ones who were knocking on the door, and it wasn’t even just from individuals. Something that I learned that was very interesting from the retailers is that they’re like, “Well, you haven’t sold it to everyone, so we want that piece of the pie, so to speak, so we’re willing to actually take on your game and sell it for you.” So that’s a big deal. [chuckle]
Brandon: Physical distribution is a big deal with board games.
Brandon: To put it lightly.
Brandon: I guess I wanna provide additional context by saying a lot of people go into Kickstarter with the mentality that you raise your funds this one time, maybe you get a little extra with the pledge manager on add-ons or whatever, and that’s pretty much it. You just make the money, you print the game, that’s it. Maybe you sell a little bit afterward, maybe you get in retail stores, but I think it’s important for people to realize that you actually can raise money in that pledge manager that exceeds the Kickstarter, and you can raise money well after the campaign, and then if you actually do a really small campaign, that can… You don’t have to use Kickstarter as your primary way of generating revenue, you can use it to get attention and then get at what you want in another way.
Sean: Yeah. Yeah, it’s true. And that’s actually why I guess even Brandon and Pierson are here ’cause marketing that is so important, and understanding how that works, and why it works that way, and why you need it. In our case, we did our best with it, and we’ll continue to, but yeah, you’re right there are… We’re actually gonna be changing our business model up a little bit here soon because of that reason. Now, that’s not to say we won’t use Kickstarter, but yeah, it just won’t be as often, so to speak.
Brandon: Now, is your business model still essentially what you are calling transmedia publication?
Sean: Yes, very much so. Yeah.
Brandon: Okay, can you expand a little bit upon what that is?
Sean: Yeah. So essentially, in our case, it is, well, really, media publication. So in this situation, a lot of people will know us for tabletop, however, things like video games, comic books, literature like novels, novels, novellas, those types of books. It could be films, TV shows, movies. It could be any of those things. So transmedia publication. And something that we’re doing, and especially now, and…
Sean: I haven’t fully announced this yet, either, so this will be another one here. Well, the first one I had already partnered with Tikids Media, they’re a book publishing company. And then we actually partnered now with a second one, called Kyanite Publishing. And they’ll be putting out all the different books from our different worlds, essentially. So that flows into the transmedia publication concept. And it’s the idea of not just doing the one type of media, but diversifying your portfolio, so to speak. Don’t put your eggs all in one basket. [chuckle]
Pierson: Casting the net wide.
Sean: Oh, okay. Yeah, exactly. Yep.
Brandon: Yeah. The basic idea, I think, is that you create an intellectual property or multiple intellectual properties, and you are able to basically be in several different industries with the same connecting principle. Which is, again, huge for just mitigating risk. As well as there’s more upside from… There’s more money upside too. If your RPGs do really well, you can go further into that. If your books do really well, you can go further into that, and so on.
Sean: Right, yeah, absolutely. That’s what we’re doing now. Fray is based in the world of Adia. And then we have an RPG that is called Paths: World of Adia. We have a novella that’s out called Paths: A War Drum of Death. And then we’re gonna have that entire series come out. And we’re doing that with each of our IPs, so the intellectual properties that you’re mentioning. So we have Paths: World of Adia, we have Parselings, we have Shadow Tantrum, Necromancer 3086. We’ve Dawn of the Dragon King. And then here, newly coming up, we have Fourth Horizon. So each of those… Oh, and of course, Rift Shifters.
Brandon: Oh yeah, yeah. That was the original.
Brandon: That was your first one, too.
Sean: Yep. [chuckle] So…
Brandon: Also Rift Shifters, it’s not this massive universe unto itself. Can you give us a brief overview of what each of those is about?
Sean: Yeah. So… And I will keep it super brief, ’cause there’s so many. So Paths: World of Adia is essentially a… It’s a fantasy world. So think of Dungeons and Dragons, but it has its own spin on it. So that’s in it’s own unique corner. You then have… Let’s see, where did I go next? So you have Parselings. Parselings is a… Wow. How would I describe Parselings? It’s future tech? So it’s sci-fi to some degree. Still urban a little bit. You got some modern stuff in there, but it’s really based on word magic. So that one’s very interesting in the way that it plays and works. But it’s all about a Parsecyte, kind of like a parasite, that infects humans. Becoming either powerful beings of coherency, and they can get together and “parse”, in other words. Put in air quotes on that one. And then a magic thing happens, or they become incoherent and they are no longer really mentally there. So they turn into just a monster.
Sean: And then you have Lingua, which are little ink things that grow bigger based on the words they eat. So that’s Parselings. That one has been ridiculously popular. If you actually go to any of our social medias, you’ll see the game trailer for it, which is cool. And that’s a tabletop RPG. And then we have Shadow Tantrum. So Shadow Tantrum is another sci-fi world, but it’s more anime as well. I guess Parselings has some anime in it, but this has more anime esthetic too. It’s more Wild West sci-fi, but comedic. With some old stereotype tropes, with dwarves and goblins too. So it’s a fun mix. But it’s actually gonna be on our system Tide Breaker. And Tide Breaker is an OGL, an open game license. So that means anyone can actually pick it up, the system, and publish anything they want on it commercially. Which is cool. So we even promote them.
Brandon: Actually, I’m gonna interject here. Because…
Brandon: That’s more complex than people… A general audience is gonna be able to understand.
Sean: Yeah, you’re right.
Brandon: So basically, RPGs run on specific systems. This is how you interface with the game. The same system can be used across many different games. The big ones, correct me if I’m wrong, are 5e and Fate.
Brandon: So, for the most part, new games will just take an existing system and they’ll do their own thing with it. As if you’re taking an existing software language and writing a program out of that. But what you’re doing is actually creating an entirely new system on which you will create some of your games.
Sean: Right, yep. Yeah, there’s two other big ones. There’s Pathfinder as well, that’s another system. And then that new one that’s been creeping up, called Powered by the Apocalypse. So those four are the top dogs. But at the end of the day, yes, exactly what you just said. That’s what it is. And we’re doing this because we believe that there’s tons of creators out there, they have a ton of awesome things that they can share. And why not publish commercially to also gain revenue for yourself? It just makes sense to me. [chuckle] So if we can help, we will. So Tide Breaker’s that system that’s gonna do that. Parselings, actually, is also gonna do that as well in time, the Parses system.
Sean: And then the other titles… So the other two I mentioned, Necromancer 3086 and Dawn of the Dragon King, this is actually a good transition into it. Because what you just mentioned was 5e. These are actually gonna be settings that we’re publishing on 5e. Dungeons and Dragons 5e, to be exact. So you’ll actually be able to use those rules for these settings. So it gives you a good example of how that OGL works on those systems. So that’ll be fun. And then Fourth Horizon is actually a card game. So think of it like Dominion meets Magic: The Gathering. We actually have budget to do such a large card game like that now. And what is interesting… This goes back to the transmedia, I know we’re jumping around a little bit. But there’s gonna be literature published through Kyanite, using Fourth Horizon IP. So we’re gonna actually have books there and a card game here, which is unique. ‘Cause normally you have RPGs and books, but this is gonna be… In fact it’s funny, ’cause Wizards of the Coast mentioned long ago… They were like, “Man, I wish we did that with Magic: The Gathering.” And I was like, “Cool, I don’t wanna make that same mistake.” [laughter]
Brandon: Yeah, exactly. When Wizards of the Coast says they wish they did something, you generally wanna be the one doing it.
Brandon: Yeah, and this is all… Everything you’ve said, it’s so massive in scope, you’re talking like five, 10, 15-year time frame.
Sean: Yeah, it’s already been five years for Paths, for sure. So at least for developing it. Game development. That’s been five years there, and then tack on another 16, 15 for the lore. So that’s been like a 20-some-odd year project. But yeah, the development… Paths will launch on Kickstarter next year. Again.
Brandon: Yeah. [chuckle]
Sean: I should say, but with the new model we’ll be publishing things out pretty quick too.
Sean: But yeah, mostly… So Paths is five years. Tide Breaker is two, Shadow Tantrum is three, Parselings has been two and a half, Rift Shifters has been three, Necromance 386 has been one and a half, so yeah, these are long projects, very wide timeframes, but that’s ’cause once you get them, since it is an IP, then you continue. Helps with marketing. It actually makes the marketers… Your marketers life easier as well.
Sean: To some degree, and then it just kinda puts you out in the forefront ’cause then you’re building on behalf of that community actually. Like you mentioned, Pangea funny how we’re circling back to that.
Brandon: Oh, everything tends to circle back given a long enough time. That’s a philosophy I work under.
Brandon: It’s so uncommon in the games’ world for people to think on five and 10-year time frames. Because I have been working for almost four years on the blog at this point, and I have been saying to people, think long-term, think two years out. And I have to do so much convincing with this. Have to write, these 1500 word pieces to describe to people, why you need to think 18 to 24 months out, but… And that’s necessary for launching a product or a couple of products, or even making a publishing company, but what you’re talking about, you’re talking about not the creation of a publishing house, but a… Well, yes, by definition a publishing house, but almost like a conglomerate of sorts. You’re talking about multiple different product lines, you’re talking about multiple products within those lines, and I just don’t hear people talking about that in the game world, I don’t know why there’s billions of… I think it’s like a billion and a half in tabletop games right now, I don’t know why people aren’t talking about that.
Pierson: It’s something that I’m not as familiar with, as either one of you naturally being two game developers, but it’s something that from an outsider, it’s very fascinating to learn about the ins and outs of this industry. You said something that you’re fascinated by how these games come from an idea into development and then into a reality and it’s not really something that as a consumer, you’re ever really thinking about from that long term of a perspective. So hearing that these games that you’re releasing and about release are these incredibly long-term projects, it’s like, “What?” It’s just beyond the scope of what I can conceptualize me doing.
Brandon: Yeah. Board games are… Creating tabletop games are master classes in marketing and UX. And it sounds strange. [chuckle] It does, it sounds so strange, but they are. Cause think about this, in order to make a game, you have to craft a rule set that is going to be interpreted, by somebody else, and God knows what they’re going to get out of it. You have to make materials, you have to design packaging because they’re very very obsessed with boxes and components and stuff like that, you have to design all that, you have to relay that to somebody in China who will print it on your behalf. You have to coordinate all that to get it into the US and then get it shipped out and you have to do all of this, while making sure that people have a good experience, while making sure that it’s a genuinely fun game. You can’t successfully launch a game without either having a good understanding of just marketing in UX or having someone on your team who got does.
Sean: So true. I back that 100% man. So true.
Brandon: I’m finding a weird amount of people are actually going from board games to marketing for the very same reason that I pointed out, some of it being because digital marketing and UX are both growth sectors, you can work from home, etcetera. It’s an interactive field for many reasons, but also it’s because they’re finding out… I think people are waking up to the fact that their skill sets actually make sense in those industries.
Sean: Absolutely, yeah, marketing and UX. It’s funny because, yeah, the games industry brings them to light, I think, more than any other industry out there today. After being in, doing so many different things, it takes a lot of… Even automotive, I’m doing a lot of automotive stuff right now, and it’s taking them some time to be like, “Oh yeah, we need UX. Oh yeah, hey, we should probably rely on our marketing people to push some of these things the way that we need them to.” And actually set up proper strategy and campaigns, it’s taken them some time, they’re like, okay, especially with the new world we live in now. That’s been a very hard pill for them to swallow, so to speak. Because now, it can no longer be, “Oh, I’m just gonna go show up at a convention and be like, ‘Hi buy my product and push my sales team.'” So you very much have to rely on those pieces and I think tabletop games, especially. Video games as well, they put a spotlight on UX and marketing, and it’s because the gamers are so critical on what these things are.
Brandon: Gamers are a tough crowd.
Sean: Yeah, yeah. So it’s very much an important thing on my side too, even with even with my lead game designers. I actually asked them, aside from just game design, I need them to think a little bit with some marketing principles when they’re doing things, as well as some UX principles. They need to think about, in some cases, empathy and how that empathy will work. And they need to think about having their finger on the pulse, so to speak. And then from the marketing side, they need to think about how they’re delivering set messages, what’s gonna be some of the copywriting here. It goes pretty deep, especially when they’re doing play tests, too, especially now because we can’t be face-to-face at a convention. They need to understand how to pull up a camera and smile, in some cases, but even just being friendly and understanding how they can really understand what it is the needs are of said gamer. So yeah, that’s a long way of saying, “Yeah, those are both really important things.” [chuckle]
Brandon: Yeah, but it’s so important ’cause the minute you have a bad or slow experience in the game, people just… They’ll say, “I don’t wanna do this anymore. I have 500 games,” ’cause some of these people genuinely have, no kidding, 500 games in their house. They’ll say, “I could just play more Clone Haven.”
Sean: Yeah, right, yeah.
Brandon: More Terraforming Mars, more Rising Sun.
Sean: Yeah, as you can see, the shelves behind me, these are my games, but downstairs, I have our family games, and that lines the wall of stuff. And then…
Brandon: “I got ’em here, I got ’em in a book shelf there. I’ve got the upstairs shelf.”
Sean: That’s so great, see, exactly. Yeah, and even when we’re talking about consoles, too. Great.
Sean: Video game things.
Brandon: Yeah, but Switch has been really big lately, too.
Sean: Yeah, it’s a hot thing.
Sean: But yeah, it’s a great example of that. And even if… And if you aren’t even in games. If you are… I guess that’s why I gave automotive as an example, but you could even be running your own small business retail shop. The UX, that experience that you give your customer, that’s very important. It could be even something as simple as a brochure or something as like how they walk in the door and how you greet them or… And this is where marketing then comes in, and this is why they get married. Marketing says, “Well, if the experience is you’re going to wanna do this for them, why don’t you give them this type of product for free? I don’t know.” So those are other pieces of this that we could probably dive into, I don’t know if you want to, but yeah.
Pierson: Talking in terms of development, when you’re starting to develop a game at whatever step that might be, what are some of the first elements of user experience that you’re thinking of?
Sean: Oh, okay, yeah, so… Oh, man! That’s such a good question, too. Oh, geez! So this is where it gets interesting because the UX side of things, when I’m actually thinking about creating a game or creating any product for that matter, it’s always gonna come down to… Well, a few things then. So if I had to, I don’t know, I’m drawing, I have a whiteboard in front of me. Essentially, the first circle is going to be actually empathy. It’s gonna be understanding what that person wants, feels emotionally and acts with all of those things across the board. But then I have another circle next to that that says how to market it. Then I have another circle next to it that says the product. And then the other next to it, I have process, and then I have my business strategy. So I have to think about all those things across the board to actually get to the next circle underneath UX, so to speak here.
Pierson: Wow! Yeah.
Sean: So yeah, it’s a lot in parallel, it’s a lot to take in. It’s, in fact, something that I almost feel like would be great material to put into some white paper download or something of some kind for people, but…
Brandon: We can make that happen.
Sean: Sweet, yeah. ‘Cause it’s that type of parallel cross that you have to think about when you go through the UX, or at least when I go through it. Because if I don’t have all of those pieces together on that very fundamental foundational row, it doesn’t work. And let’s just assume in this case I do have that, and I have thought through those things, and I’ve gone through my mind maps and journey maps, and even before that, the product and the business strategy and the marketing campaign strategy, let’s say I have all that lined up. I then look at my processes and how I can achieve the goals and… The smart goals, essentially, that I set out for. From there, then I really dive into, “Okay, I’m about to deliver this experience to someone. I need to make sure that when they first open this thing or when they first receive this thing, that it’s not DOA,” because that first impression is very important. And actually, that’s how, again, you can see that ties into marketing and everything else. First impression, if you have an ad out on the platform, you got their first maybe 10 seconds, at best. There’s probably even a better number than that, maybe even you were at the five-second mark today, but that’s all you got. And the experience from there, once you get them, so I always call it the hook and climb.
Sean: In order to climb, you need to have the hook, to begin with. And then UX, that’s where UX marketing come in. Marketing’s gonna be my hook, the UX is gonna be where the climb goes. So marketing, in this situation, I’ll put out whatever is required for this game. Let’s say it’s, I don’t know, let’s say it’s an RPG, more than likely, it’s gonna be artwork, and there’s gonna be some level of lore story to it, and that’s gonna be the hook. And then the climb is the experience getting them into the wider cone of that view of more of that, the game play mechanics, what the game’s actually about, why they should stay and play it, those types of things, and then why you should buy it. And then that actually goes into lead funnels, sales funnels, and all the other fun funnels that are out there. [chuckle] So…
Pierson: You’re having to really go all the way across on every level and think about things from the moment of conceptualization to delivery to the customer, and that’s what is hard, is it takes a lot of time to do that.
Sean: Absolutely, and especially even the development and processes of it. So I’m sitting here working with my entire staff, so there’s 30 of us now, and I… [chuckle]
Sean: Yeah, watching Brandon’s face is great. So there’s 30 of us now.
Sean: And I’m sitting here having to queue things up and set up all these plates and make them spin and be like, “Alright, here, Bailey, take this, make that spend for me.” She’s my lead writer. “Hey, Jake, go do this from this lead game design piece.” And then I’ll sit here, and even sometimes, I just hit up Emily tonight, or last night, I should say last night, not tonight, today’s today. I hit up Emily, I was like, “Hey, do you have time for editing? Is there something that I can get you quickly or whatever the case may need to be?” So those processes, while they’re all spinning, I then have to take into consideration project management, which is something that Brandon and I don’t often talk about, but we do, in a way, but it’s just ’cause we’re both so good at it. I’ll make him blush a little bit here, he’s great at that. [chuckle]
Brandon: [0:34:29] ____ won’t come across and…
Sean: So it’s the project management side of things is so intense because you have to get all these things going. And especially in the game world, game or software. Let’s say you’re developing an application, same thing. You have to be able to plan at least those 24 months out, the two years out, what you’re gonna release. And something that I’ve been working on closely with my staff, my team, is they always bring up the question: Why are you planning so far ahead? And now, they realize it with Fray that has come out because now, we’re getting demand. And they’re like, “Oh, my gosh! I’m so glad we planned out these other expansions and these other settings,” because if you drop the hype ball, your marketing team’s sitting here, they’re trying to help push you out, and they can’t push you out if you have nothing to push or nothing to sell or none of those things or nothing to hold them into funnels. If you have no content, content marketing, what are you gonna do about it? So it’s very important to plan those things. And in this situation, that’s what we’ve done. So they’re like, “Okay, now, I get it.” And I just saw this entire document get dropped from one of my designers about a future expansion in the next three years. So that’s where you go.
Sean: And that’s what I’ve done with software, too, in the past, even some inventory software, for example. I worked on one of those back in the day. And they didn’t plan out what would happen if X, Y and Z, those edge cases were to come up, and it bit them a little bit, but thankfully, they’re recovering, but it’s stuff like that why you have to dig deep. So going back to that UX process, I guess, of your initial question, it runs deep. And then when I do have those things, there’s something called a journey map. So a journey map is essentially the emotions that I’m mapping of the end user and I then grade that journey. So it’ll be little smiley faces I will have to, give you all something that I used to do that. But more often than not, I always try to shoot between a B plus and an A for that experience just ’cause I have such high standards. Other companies, normally, sadly go, are around a D or C in their experience, and it’s just how it flows. And I do that, there’s the overall, the end-to-end experience journey map, and then there are the micro journeys that go through. So a micro journey could be someone, a user coming into marketing is the product here, and going to find this episode, and then clicking play, and listening. In some cases, if they can’t find the show, that’s a red mark on your experience. So those are important pieces.
Sean: At the end of it, really, experience-wise, I think everyone needs it and they do need to think about that, for sure. And there’s ways to do that. So something I’m actually doing that I haven’t talked about really yet, Brandon knows a little bit about it, but I’m actually gonna be creating a UX… Really, it’s an overall business thing, but heavy focus on UX about something that I’m doing called Fabled Keys. So I actually just secured the domain and I think it’s about time that I just put out some stuff for everyone so yeah, we’ll have fun with it.
Brandon: Yeah, yeah, you sent your early… One of your early articles a couple of days ago.
Sean: Yup, so Fabled Keys will be the big one. Go ahead, sorry. [chuckle]
Brandon: Oh, no, no, no, it’s good. I liked where you were going with it because you touched on a lot of the very same things that we try and get across in our own writings, that you just… You have to be very, very considerate of the customer and what they’re actually going through whenever they try to interact with you. And it’s not easy, it’s not easy to take a step back and see yourself at the way that somebody else is going to. But you have to be able to do it ’cause most businesses, I feel like they screw up the basics. Marketing is sharing ideas. UX is expressing ideas. And a lot of the times, the mistakes that companies make are just… They don’t think about what happens when somebody calls our customer service hotline. They don’t think about whether their checkout page is working as it ought to. They’re not thinking about whether they surprise people with shipping costs and stuff like that. It’s little things like that break experience. Or they won’t ask if the product, their service they’re making is something people want in the first place, and they end up making a ketchup popsicle.
Brandon: You should probably explain that one.
Sean: Yeah, do you wanna explain or do you want me to…
Brandon: No, no, go for it, go for it.
Sean: Yeah, so essentially, ketchup popsicle is more or less a product that you like, you think it’s great but that’s not something that’s gonna taste very good to other people for sure. And then you’re gonna have to try and sell it. You’re gonna have to use your persuasion skills to sell this ketchup popsicle at… Man, I don’t…
Pierson: I’m trying to think of how that would actually taste if you actually did go through with making a ketchup popsicle, and I can’t think of a better example.
Sean: Yeah, I had another one. A friend of mine, he was like, “Man, you thought a ketchup popsicle was bad. This one’s a mustard popsicle.” I was like, “Alright, we’re good.” So…
Brandon: I actually, on one of my blog posts for the game dev blog I made, it was like how to vet your game before going to Kickstarter or something and… And the featured image I used was a Photoshopped popsicle box and it said, “Ketchup barbecue ranch.” And I got crap on Twitter and I think maybe Facebook too, they’re like, “This image is disgusting. Why did you post it?” I was like, “I was trying to make a point.” I’m like, “I know the whole purpose, of these two social media networks is to yell at people, but I’m trying to be a good person here, I’m trying to help.” Yeah, but ketchup ranch and barbecue, it was pretty bad.
Sean: Yeah. Like it’s not a flavor that people want. And that’s the great example of this is when you are creating those things and you are trying to sell something, ’cause that’s… I think really, actually, that’s the meat of this, the meat and potatoes, is people are trying to make money. They’re trying to make a living off of what they do and I would say probably about 89% of the time people get hung up in that realm and… They go either one of two directions, either they act out of fear because the unknown is they don’t know if they’re gonna, have tomorrow to eat. Or they go the other direction and they don’t do anything at all and it’s just… It’s hard, for sure. And sometimes you know, people buck up and they will be like, “Okay, I’m just gonna do this hell or high water.”
Sean: That’s what I did, and it sucked. I remember there’s all those great crazy fancy entrepreneurs out there that will talk about eating ramen and PB and J’s. Yeah, that’s true. That’s absolutely true. I remember for like a year straight, I ate nothing but rice and chicken, like that’s it, for like a year. And that was just to survive at that point and just while I’m investing, like I’m pouring buckets of money into the things I’m doing like… And it’s funny because at that time I was sitting here taking the advice of a lot of these other bigwig names, and a lot of them, they do have good advice, but they don’t tell you everything, they don’t tell you all of those pieces that you really need to know. And it all stemmed down to UX and marketing. Everything came back to that. And it wasn’t until probably my first or second… No, it was my second year in, when I learned that investing 50 grand upfront is painful when you lose it.
Pierson: I can imagine.
Sean: And especially when you have nothing.
Brandon: The most I’ve lost is eight grand in one business venture, and that sucked.
Sean: Yeah, I know, and my… I even have a good friend of mine… And so that’s part of my story. His story was even worse. He lost 4.7 million. So it’s like when you go that deep right into numbers, you really need to start questioning like those things of why am I losing my money? And that’s what stops people from moving forward, it’s that fear, you’re losing that. And they don’t know how to gain it. And really, when it comes back to that, when it comes back to that meat and potatoes type of thing, people like myself, Brandon has gone through this experience, and Pearson, it sounds like you’re coming up in hot and ready, so to speak too. You learn from those experience and you’re able to help others. And that’s why we’re here. We’re talking about these things and being able to help others is my goal too, at the end of the day.
Sean: I say kind of, but it’s exactly my goal because I’ve been there and the struggle is real. I would say the one thing outside of this would be the unrealistic expectations that are set. A lot of people go in thinking, “Okay, and I’ll just take my number 50 grand, I’m gonna walk in with 50 grand and I’m gonna come out with this new shiny product or service, and all of a sudden I’m gonna start making cash left and right, right? Money hand over fist.” But it doesn’t work like that.
Brandon: No, you can do things perfectly, and unless you get really lucky, you’re looking at a three or four-year period of time before you start really seeing your effort pay off.
Sean: Exactly, it takes a lot of time. So, it’s why whenever if I’m coaching an executive or I’m coaching… Which is funny ’cause I don’t normally do life coaching, this is more like mentorship, I guess, but even that, it’s people talking at that point. And when I’m talking with other executives or I’m talking with CEOs or Board of Directors and investors, even sometimes like top venture capitalists, they always make the mistake of doing those things. Now granted they… And by doing those things, they don’t consider their UX piece, they don’t consider the timeline that they have to put in, they don’t consider the marketing pieces. Now for them, they can take that risk because they got the cash now.
Sean: But for those who don’t have the money, for those who are coming in this, with maybe 50 bucks to their name, can you actually create a business on 50 bucks? Yeah, you can actually. You can do it really well.
Brandon: It’s doable, yeah.
Sean: And it just depends on what you’re doing, because in some cases, it doesn’t even take money at all to start a business, and it’s fascinating when you hear those things, people are like, “Wow, how do you do that?” Well, it comes down to patience and time, that’s really what it is, and if you don’t have the time or the patience, then you need to learn that first, or get that first. Because even if setting aside an hour a day to work on stuff is better than nothing, and you can pull yourself out.
Sean: And then I would say the third piece, important piece, is the people. You need a network, you need to talk with people. And people in our… I don’t know, space, I guess. I don’t know what you would call this, but our space essentially are very nice and very happy, they’re happy people, they’ll speak with you for sure and share their issues. I won’t go too much deeper unless you want me to, but… [chuckle]
Brandon: In the board game community stuff…
Brandon: Yeah, it’s a whole different… Yeah.
Brandon: It’s a huge can of worms.
Sean: Yep. Yeah, and it’s hard for me because whenever… If I’m speaking with someone who, let’s say they own a… I don’t know, let’s say they own a digital inbound marketing company, it’s easier to speak with those people because they understand why they need these things done. Like, they get it. Where, when you look at the game side of things, people are so focused on the game design that they completely ignore everything else, and when they do that, they go, “Why isn’t my game selling? Why aren’t people interested in my game? Why can’t I do these things that these other companies do?” And the reality is, is that the other companies didn’t do that.
Sean: Now, it’s so weird because now what I’m about to say, and I’m gonna put a little disclaimer on this, I very much care about game design, and I do think it’s one of the most important things in there. [chuckle] So I’m gonna put that disclaimer on that, but I am gonna say that your game design will not matter if no one is interested in your game, period.
Brandon: It’s the truth. Yeah. It’s the cold, honest truth. Same with just product design in general.
Sean: Yep, yeah, it’s like trying to… It’s that ketchup popsicle again. To you, you may think it tastes like raspberry, but to someone else, man, that is super bitter and they’re not even interested in it.
Brandon: There’s a finite number of game ideas in the world, you can express them in different ways, but there’s only 80 odd mechanics that can be classified by the obsessives at BoardGameGeek. Whatever you make, it’s not gonna be super unique or original and has to fit what people already want, and you put your own spin on it, and that’s genuinely creative that way.
Sean: Yeah, exactly. And the argument is always, well, then you need to make interesting decisions. And while that’s fair…
Sean: Yes, you do. Yes, you need to put that in your game design, and yes, that’s an important thing. That’s a part of the climb. That’s a part of the experience. So yes, it’s very much tied into the UX aspect of it. However, if you are going into something like Kickstarter, or even not, let’s just say you’re trying to find a publisher to look at your game. The publisher isn’t just looking at your game mechanics, that’s not what they’re doing, they’re gonna look at your game and go, “Cool, can I actually put some great artwork to this and sell it?” They’re going, “Can I market this as a whole?”
Brandon: Publisher goes into your pitch, they open up your email, they open up your envelope, and they go, “Materials cost, art cost, long-term business potential as a product line,” and none of this stuff has to do with mechanics. Of course, they wanna make sure the gamers love it but they’re looking at all these different layers of just really gritty business detail that totally goes beyond game design.
Sean: Exactly. Actually, you brought up material costs, that’s one of my favorite ones, because…
Brandon: Oh, I’ve been working with a guy on material cost out in North Carolina. He came up with just this brilliant game. It’s genuinely brilliant. I can’t share too much about it. Probably, I think I’m under NDA or something, but we’re trying to get material costs down because until we can get material costs down, forget it. Most of the time, these board game folks will tell you, whatever it costs to make your game, you need to be able to sell it for five times what it cost to get in the States per unit. And you can fudge that number a little bit. But the point is, if it cost you 15 to make a game, you can’t sell it for 30.
Sean: Yep, it’s true. It’s very true.
Brandon: That one is brutal.
Sean: Yep. And that’s exactly why I focus on RPGs and card games right now, because the cost is so low to get in aside from art. Art is probably gonna be your killer. But getting in there, that’s exactly why I focus there. And even to switch gears a bit for your other audiences that are listening, let’s say you’re gonna open up a retail store, [chuckle] you wanna talk about cost. What are you gonna need to invest to open up that retail store? Oh, man. [chuckle] So those are your materials. Or, if you wanna go into making software, what’s your overhead? Now someone say, “Oh, well, there’s no overhead on software.” It was like, “Yeah, but if you’re… Are you gonna pay your developers? Or, are they partners of yours? Is there gonna be partners of yours? Are you paying your marketing people? What’s your ad cost? What’s your hook, man?”
Sean: And that’s why that material cost, whether it’s digital or physical, whatever you want it to be, man, it’s so important because it’s true, it’s what you need to focus on, ’cause then your numbers come in to play, and you’re selling something, you’re selling value. So even in this case, what I wanna do with Fabled Keys, I’m gonna write some books and I’ll… I don’t know, maybe make courses or something, I don’t know, but even a blog. You run a blog. I’m sure you got some cost fees there. That’s…
Brandon: It’s not much. But my time is worth something too, so…
Sean: Right. Yes, your time is worth something. You need to value your time. If you’re putting in, like me… So I think this week, I’ve now put in 95 hours this week, working. And [chuckle] it’s… When you think about that time… And for my UX clients, I’ll charge anywhere between $100-500 an hour. So, that’s insane, right there. So, if I just take all that time and put it to UX, holy crap, I would say, this week I’ve done 55 hours in UX work, and then, the rest of it has been Smunchy Games, and I’ve gained very little from that, as far as payments. So it’s like… It’s very true of… You have to… You gotta pick that battle, and what you’re going to invest in as well, but knowing these things that we’re talking about here, will help arm you, it’ll be in your arsenal to pull from, and then be able to execute, so…
Pierson: I was gonna ask, Sean, if you could go back 20 years to when you started getting these games developed, what would you change? What would you do differently? If you could go back in time with all of the knowledge you’ve got now, how would you change how you approached it from the get-go?
Sean: Man, that’s such a good question. I think what I would’ve done, and man, I might get crucified on this one… So disclaimer for anyone else listening. I would’ve not pursued board games, at all, I wouldn’t have even touched them. In fact, I would’ve gone straight into RPGs and card games, and it’s because, I think, at the time when I went into board games, there was something that I didn’t understand, first, and the thing that I didn’t understand then, that I would tell myself then, now, so to speak here, is understand what actually drives the industry. And I know that sounds vague and a little cryptic, but I’ll explain it a little bit here.
Brandon: There is a reason for that.
Sean: Yeah. So, conventions are super important. They are the things… That’s why, actually, board game industry is hurting right now, they’re trying to do all these virtual conventions, because they’re trying to make sales. The board game industry, they are very tight-knit and close, that’s not to say RPG and card isn’t either, but the very distinct difference is that, board games are very hard to play online, where an RPG, all you need is a book and they have virtual tabletop stuff like Roll20, that was already popular. So, you don’t need to go to a convention to play RPGs, and heck, they do it on Twitch all the time now. So, you don’t need that.
Sean: Card games too, card games, you can… They have software for that. It’s very easy to import. Board games are very different. You have two options, you have Tabletop Simulator and you have Tabletopia, and it makes it very, very difficult, unless you are just gonna create an app, or you’re gonna port it over like an actual video game. And I think I would’ve saved myself a lot of heartache, if I didn’t go into board games first, and it’s not because they’re not fun to play or because I don’t enjoy making them, I like… There’s some games behind me, I love 4X games, Heroes of Land, Air & Sea, is one of my favorite board games. But to also understand that the offset price, Brandon was talking about required materials, it is so high to get into.
Brandon: Offset printing is a bear. Yeah.
Sean: It’s so costly. To give you an idea, I know five people, five publishers, indie publishers right now, they are $180,000 in debt, because they cannot pay for shipping, they can’t pay for manufacturing, and that’s even having a half a million dollar funded Kickstarter. They still can’t pay for it and they’re still in debt. So it’s like board games are great, they are awesome, but you need to know what you’re getting into, when it comes to that, ’cause the barrier to entry is so low, but once you’re in there, then you’re like, “Oh crap, I made a mistake,” and that’s really what this is.
Brandon: It’s a really good second or third product to get into, for sure, because once you have that established IP, you get a 1000 unit, you can sell a 1000 units, you will make a good return on it, but if you can’t sell at least 1000 or 1500 units, you’re gonna have a hard time in board games. To put it into perspective, we did what I consider to be a nearly optimal run on my last Kickstart. Tasty Humans was everything we wanted, and in fact more, and at the end of the day, we raised about 30 grand in Kickstarter BackerKit and then some e-commerce sales before the end of the year, and it cost 26, 27 to get those in people’s hands, all totaled. We made a profit, we walked away with some money in our pocket, and honestly, that’s rare in the board game world, but people don’t realize that it’s that hard, and we had to put like a year’s worth of effort into it. It did more for us, by gathering attention, than it did in terms of just money.
Sean: Yeah, absolutely.
Brandon: The attention was worth a lot more than what we got back in the money.
Sean: And that’s really what it is, it’s that multiplier. And it makes sense, it makes sense, when you’re gonna do that with the board game scene. I think, something that people often forget, and I’m gonna drop a couple of big names here, like CoolMiniOrNot, or Awakened Realms. What people don’t know about them, is that they didn’t start off doing board games, they started off doing miniatures. They did miniature sculpts and all those things. They were basically a team of artists and they shared those things out, and then they went into it. And it’s like, in my situation, I started in board games and thought this would be great. Well, actually before that, I technically started with video games, but that’s… We could talk about that later in the show if you want.
Brandon: But you technically started in UX.
Sean: Right, yeah, and then, which I technically did that, so it’s all this back and forth, but… Board game-wise, I think I would have cut that out and saved that for later. The RPGs though… And this will be some other hopefully big value pieces for people that are listening now. RPGs, you do walk away with money. You do walk away with profit and gaining that because it’s easier to manufacture a book than it is an entire board game. And, so it’s like your margins go from 50 cents on the dollar [chuckle] at best maybe with a board game. Sometimes, you can get some better margin.
Brandon: That’s pushing it.
Sean: That is pushing it, right. With RPGs, you actually can gain between $5 to $25 on margin, which is huge, it’s big deal.
Brandon: A lot of businesses, they’d make money in ways you don’t expect them to. I was reading up on restaurants, how do they make their money? A lot of them, they get it from alcohol, they sell alcohol and that’s how they make their money. It’s not those $19 meals or something, it’s the alcohol sales. That’s how they profit. Movie theaters make money on the concessions, and I make more money on the game dev blog through advertising, than I probably… No, I don’t know about that, but it’s pretty close, it’s between that and games.
Brandon: It’s important, I think, for people to keep in mind that the way you make money is not always what’s gonna be obvious. With RPGs ’cause the material cost is so much lower and the value to the customer is the same, if not higher, it just works out better. The business model makes more sense.
Sean: You can’t see this but this is one of our books that are coming out, and this thing has, I don’t know, endless hours of game play in this book. You’re looking at least for sure, two to 400 hours right here, which is more than any video game, that’s for darn sure.
Brandon: It’s more than most board games.
Sean: It’s way more than most board games, yeah. So the value in this book is like… This is a $45 book. So this book has about 200 and so pages in it, it’s $45 book, and you’re gonna be able to get some pretty amazing things inside of it as well, but the value, you’re right, is much higher, and it’s because of this, this is also… And this goes back to now UX, so circling back to Pierson’s original question of, where do you start? Is it easier to take this with you in your bag? Or, is it easier to take one of those huge board games in your bag.
Pierson: Very fair point.
Sean: When you travel.
Pierson: It’s not what you think about.
Brandon: They stream better and they travel better.
Sean: Yeah, and that’s… It’s… That’s just… It’s the truth. And even cards too. This is the deck that comes with Parselings, and you’re able to take this with you in your bag and play with your friends. So, overall.
Sean: Overall, it’s one of those things where when you do look through your business model and what you’re trying to do, and your product, or your market, or your service, whatever you’re doing, make sure you take those things into consideration. Even starting any service or product, and even a service has its own issue sometimes too. You’re investing a lot of time into things where if you were to sell a product, you may have half the time, but that also depends on the service too. Software as a service, and maybe you’re having the must time. So, those are other things to map out, and that’s actually the reason why I bring that up, is because instead of just UXing your product or your service, you’re also UXing yourself and your time; providing yourself a better experience too, because as a business owner or even someone who is just helping the business owner, let’s say you’re an employee or a staff member, hopefully your leader has also thought about your time too. I do that with my staff as well, all the time. So, that was a lot. That’s mouthful.
Brandon: That’s a skill I’m still trying to work on, ’cause I’m still bad at estimating how long stuff is gonna take to do. I’m accurate at estimating my own time, but other people, it’s like, oh, shoot. That’s where things start getting hairy.
Sean: It gets hard.
Sean: ‘Cause they’re their own individual person. I just so happen to… I’d started that earlier as well, my staff, I’m very on point with them, but something I always like to do is keep what I call mental health days or letting them tell me when they feel like, “Look, I’m about to burn out, I need help, I need time.” Like, “Cool, go take a week off, I don’t care. [chuckle] Go help yourself then.” Because if you do, then I know that you’re gonna come back and work way better, you’re gonna knock it out of the park. It always happens. One of my lead designers, he has those times where he needs to go and just take time off, and then when he comes back, he gets something that would normally take him a month to do, he does it in three days. So, that’s also stuff to think about as well.
Sean: But yeah, great question. That spun a whole great discussion there. [chuckle]
Brandon: You got any more questions, Pierson?
Pierson: As a game developer, can you pick three board games, all time, top three?
Sean: Three board games of all time. Oh, man. I’ll answer that in the multiple different sectors of things. So board game-wise, Gloomhaven is gonna be your number one top, like straight up.
Brandon: Obligatory, yeah.
Sean: Yeah. Some would argue with Kingdom Death: Monster. But I’m gonna say Gloomhaven because Gloomhaven has the most… The best marketing practices, the best everything. They did well. Gloomhaven’s number one. Number two, that’s a hard one. Number two and three are really hard because I would have originally said Catan, but the problem with that is, it has definitely fallen to the wayside in the last four years. It’s really difficult to say what number two and three would be. I guess, if I had to take a stab at it, number two would be the Nemesis series by Awaken Realms. They just even released another expansion for it, they’re killing it. Man, they did so well. And then number three would probably be…
Sean: CoolMiniOrNot Zombicide. And they did that for so long. Now it’s funny because all three of those are heavy mini games, by the way. So, they are games that are very heavy in what they do and… Yeah, so that’s that answer there. [chuckle] So that would be my top three board games, RPGs are a different thing. Outside of my own, because that’s a lot of bias, ’cause I’m always gonna say my own. Mine are the best. [laughter] But I would say the king is Dungeons and Dragons, for sure, 5e. I would say number two is gonna be Pathfinder, and then number three is probably right now gonna be Powered by the Apocalypse. So those are gonna be top three there.
Sean: And then card games, Magic the Gathering is gonna be your top bet. Pokémon is gonna come in second, Yu-Gi-Oh is gonna come in third. And that’s just ’cause they’re so popular now. If you’re talking like indie scene, that’s a different story. Some would say Dominion, some would say Arkham Horror. But that’s where you’re at. Great question. That’s a good question. I like that.
Pierson: Is that one of the main components that makes a game… What makes it fantastic, is it doesn’t lose its coolness, for lack of a better word.
Sean: Yeah, it’s like that evergreen type of concept. Yeah, absolutely. Dungeons and Dragons is probably gonna be the one there to stand the test of time. Heck, Dungeons and Dragons has been around for what, oh man, 70 years, now? 60 years? Something like that. Yeah. It’s been around a long time. Yeah. Dungeons and Dragons was first conceived in the ’60s, yeah.
Brandon: 1974. Yeah, it’s been around for a while. Basically, before that, you didn’t have any games like that, but even like big sci-fi universes and big fantasy universes were relatively new too. To put that in perspective, your two watershed fantasy sci-fi that even paved the way for D&D to exist, were “Lords of the Rings” and “Dune” and I think “Lords of the Rings” was probably the ’50s and “Dune” was ’65.
Brandon: So that’s how ingrained DND is at this point.
Sean: Yeah. Even before that, miniature war gaming was in the early 1900s. So I forgot, I think it’s actually started by a president, I forgot which one, or some kind of politician. But anyway, that was 1912, I think, is when they were started miniature war games, so mini war games have been around a long time. [laughter]
Brandon: Knowing presidents, it was probably somehow Teddy Roosevelt, he probably somehow did it.
Sean: Gotta love that guy. But yeah, so tabletops been around forever, like a long, long time. It really wasn’t until recently… In fact, I would even say a little before that, so probably when I was… I don’t know, I was way young, but around, mid-90s, early 2000s is when things really started picking up.
Brandon: 1995 was Catan, that was your first big one. 2000 was Ticket to Ride, and then I think the next like big, big event in tabletop was 2009, and that was Kickstarter. And once you have Kickstarter, the floodgates just opened to fantastic games from everywhere.
Sean: Yeah, see, and even for me before that it was like… So 1985 is when Warhammer came out.
Sean: And then you had D&D and then you had Magic the Gathering, which came out in 1994. And then you had… Yeah, and then you had Catan, right, and then just continued down that path. And, man, I don’t know, it is crazy to see where we’re at now in 2020 because not even 10 years ago, this wasn’t really a big thing. I mean it was big, but it wasn’t this big.
Brandon: Yeah, I don’t think there was a CMON, there was no Asmodee, there was no Stigma, there was none of that, none of the modern board game world that I can think of beyond Catan and Ticket to Ride, really.
Sean: Yeah. That’s true.
Brandon: And maybe a handful of other big games. Dominion maybe.
Sean: Yeah, Dominion.
Brandon: Your Spiel des Jahres winners but that’s getting into German culture, so.
Sean: Yeah, it’s true. It’s true.
Pierson: Brandon? You have anything, Brandon?
Brandon: No, no. Any last questions?
Pierson: I don’t have any other questions.
Sean: I can definitely tell you that like as far as… So maybe some like parting advice, I don’t know if you’re…
Brandon: Yeah, if there were like… What is some parting advice that you have for listeners? If they take one thing out of this show today?
Sean: I would say always… Gosh. Always plan ahead of time and always consider your choices. That’s very like fundamental types of things, like rudimentary, you would think “Oh that’s not real advice”, like business advice, but I mean it really is, ’cause at the end of it from like UX and marketing, how we talked about the parallels. Everything goes together, no matter what you’re doing, and if you make sure that you have a plan set, and not everything goes according to plan and that’s okay, make sure you got that set and make sure you really think about your choices. Don’t rush into things, really consider and weigh those things and you will end up okay on the other side, no matter what happens.
Pierson: Spoken very well.
Sean: That’s what I got. [laughter]
Pierson: Well, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, meeting you and hearing your story.
Sean: Yeah. It’s been fun, for sure. I’d love to do these more in the future with y’all.
Brandon: Yeah, and we might be able to make that happen. It’s always a pleasure catching up with you.
Brandon: Let us know what you’re up to. I don’t have enough time to really do that like I would like to these days.
Sean: I totally understand. [laughter] Yeah, so… Yeah.
Brandon: Alright, that’s everything that we’ve got for you today, this has been the Marketing Is The Product podcast. Just saying the name for anybody who walked in at the last minute. Good for you. I’m Brandon Rollins.
Pierson: I’m Pierson Hibbs and this is Sean Fallon.
Sean: This is Sean Fallon.
Brandon: And here, because this is a marketing show, I have to leave you with… [chuckle] Because this is a marketing show, I gotta leave you with our call to action, you can find us on, let me see if I got it all right; iTunes, Spotify, Alexa’s TuneIn, I think that’s what it’s called, Stitcher, and probably some other places too, anyway any place that you get your podcast we are now listed on there. Leave us a nice five star review, some friendly comments, tell your friends about the show. We really appreciate it. It helps spread the word and what we really wanna do is just get other people’s stories recorded and release them to the largest audience that we possibly can. Thank you for listening in, we really appreciate it, and we’ll see you in another couple of weeks.
Pierson: See you.