How a Singaporean Boardgame Company is Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic
The first sign of trouble came when our trip to Taipei Game Show was cancelled in January, just days before we were about to board the plane. A flurry of activities broke out, trying to ask for refunds from hotels and airlines. Singapore, being one of the first countries in the world to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, saw tourist arrival plummeted and citizens queueing up for toilet paper. The retail front for our games were badly hit as the Government started to put in measures to restrict crowds and social distancing measures. Based on our experience with SARS, we were thinking that the COVID-19 pandemic should be something similar and the pain should end by May. At that point of time, we were more worried if we had enough game stocks in Singapore as we lost our access to bulk of our stock in a warehouse in China, as the entire China went into lock-down. Singapore was handling the crisis well and we were hopeful that the virus would be limited to Asia and life would be back to normal soon.
Fast-forward two months later, things turned for the worse as Singapore was hit by a second wave of COVID-19, this time, brought in by returning Singaporeans. The virus took hold in the crowded foreign worker dormitories and the Government instituted a country wide "circuit breaker" and we were all sent home packing. The pandemic also spread throughout the world and our plan to participate in UK Game Expo was also shelved as Europe and US became the new epic center of the pandemic. Our overseas sales and distribution plans were postponed as shipping rates tripled and we had no choice but to halt taking in orders from our overseas customers. Meanwhile, the Singapore government instituted stay home orders and we shuttered our office and started working from home.
As our main source of revenue in board game sales slowed to a trickle, what are we doing to survive?
The first thing we did, is to put more focus on our Singaporean e-commerce platform, by running a store-wide promotion and running Facebook ads to promote our products, as well as some of our friends' games. We are thinking that Singaporeans may turn to board games to pass their time, during the one month lock-down and this may be an opportunity to introduce our titles to them as Singaporeans take a break from their usual busy lifestyle.
One of the bright spots we have is that our game consulting business is still receiving inquiries and we are seeing requests to help to manufacture board games for Singaporeans. Printing houses in Singapore and Malaysia are forced to close due to stay home measures and we are lucky that our manufacturing contacts in China have re-opened just as we started our shut-down. We have been able to help Singaporeans get their dream board game manufactured in China and shipped them back to Singapore. We were also approached by corporations who are using boardgames as an engagement and training tools and we are working to help them with the gamification of these subjects, which greatly differs from our usual financial games. We earned a high praise from one of our institutional client when they told us, "If you can gamify cryptocurrency, I think you can gamify any other difficult topics as well!"
We also took the chance to work on our up-coming projects and the team are having daily Zoom meetings to discuss various progress of our game development. We are also running daily game hackathons internally to create game ideas using one or two mechanics to keep our mind alert as we are locked out from playing board games with our usual team.
All in all, we are still doing okie but we are praying everyday that the world can come together to solve this pandemic together, as we are itching to play test some of our newest designs and complete the game campaigns which were forced to a halt!