A Singaporean Game Developer Challenges of 2021
2021 has been another challenging year at Capital Gains Studio. The continued ravage of COVID-19 meant that the team has to largely work from home while suffering from intermittent lockdown. The positive thing is that we have largely adapted from the work from home measures in 2020 and work is more or less smooth. Here are some of the biggest challenges we faced while navigating 2021
Rising production cost
With 5 games lined up for 2021, we were hit with a rising production and logistical cost as the pandemic disrupted supply chain meant that raw materials and shipping became much more expensive over the last one year. Our annual strategic planning has kinda of projected the rising cost and we decided to postpone all our heavier games that uses a lot more materials and cost a lot more to ship and focus on smaller card games, where we see the most manageable price increase in cost material. The cost of shipping and storage for smaller games also meant that we are able to keep our per unit storage cost low. Bigger games tend to cost much more per unit to store and every day it sits in the warehouse meant that your margin erodes over time.
Moving to a new office
Our lease at our old office was actually up in May of 2020 but due to COVID lockdowns, we are not able to go for any viewings. We begged our landlord to extend our lease in view of the pandemic and luckily, our landlord understood our plight and extended our lease till we can find a new place. As the regulations loosen later in 2020, we rushed to make viewings at various industrial estates. We were lucky in a way, that rents of industrial estates were pretty attractive than, as companies hit hard by the pandemic, had to let go of their premises and we managed to get a great value at Bukit Merah Central, along with all the great food it has to offer in the area. We moved in during the summer of 2021 and we couldn't get much work done during that period as the team was busy packing, renovating and cleaning stuff.
Bankruptcy of our largest retail distributors
With 2 of our largest retail distributors shuttering their doors in late 2020 and mid of 2021 and declaring bankruptcy, we had to deal with the fallout while having had to write off the money owned to us. We were lucky in a way that the closure of Naiise, brought much needed attention of small artisan product designers in Singapore and this brought a lot of attention to the products we designed and produced. We had a lot of support from other retailers who came in to offer their help to distribute the games and we managed to meet great new friends and business partners through this saga. Our Singaporean boardgame collective, Singapore Boardgame Design (SBD), also started to gain traction on local e-commerce site, Shopee as the go to place to find uniquely Singaporean designed games. SBD was initially meant to be a stop gap measure which we intended to close down when the pandemic would be over by 2021... but the COVID virus had its own plans and the pandemic didn't end in 2021. However, thanks to the encouragements from fellow designers and the positive feedback from our consumers, we decide to carry on with the initiative and plan to expand on it's capability to help bring untold stories, from local Singaporean tabletop designers.
Kickstarter logistic woes
Another huge challenge was planning for the Kickstarter for Zombielife Insurance. While fulfilling our games for Dirty Money, we already saw a steady increase in shipping cost and had to absorb the increased cost. As we started on our planning for Zombielife Insurance, we were asking this question... what if shipping rates jumped another 50% or even 100% in the near future, do we have the capability to fulfill if we were to make a loss on every set due increased shipping cost? With this caveat in mind, we decided to use a pledge manager for the first time, as it allows us the flexibility to collect the shipping fees at a later date, when the game is about to be shipped. True to our prediction, shipping rates went through the roof in November as we were just about to ship, especially to USA, where most of our backers reside. We had to design a complex logistic plan, that involves shipping from 2 locations, and multiple logistic partners, and coming up with the most cost efficient weight combination for those backers who ordered more than 1 games, as a bid to lower the shipping cost. Even though we determined our shipping rates in Oct, shipping rates shot up by another 30% one week after we announced our new rates to our backers and we had to absorb the increased shipping again. Thankfully, our backers are understanding of our plight and we were able to complete most of our fulfillment, but not without a lot of work from our logistic team. A big kudos to their meticulous planning!
A year of change... A year of learning
"Everyone has something rare and powerful to offer society and the human ability to adapt is our greatest asset." - Quote from a TED Talk by paralympic, Aimee Mullins. This is indeed what we went through in 2021. We re-designed our product range, our operational process, our marketing strategies, in a bid to keep our head above the water in these trying times. However, it is up to our human ingenuity and adaptability that we will succeed in what we do and that is no different for a small game developer in Singapore, creating games and bringing fun and laughter to friends and families in this somber time.