Essentially, P500 is built to foster stability in our cash flow as well as to ensure that we are producing the games that our customers want to buy. As long-time gamers know all too well, inadequate cash flow and "guessing wrong" about the sales of future games have each played a large part in killing or handicapping numerous game companies over the years. The nature of the game production beast is that a game company must invest tens of thousands of dollars to conceptualize, develop, test, print, package and distribute a game. If that game hits the market and receives insufficient acceptance (for whatever reason!), the company loses. If that happens a few times, cash flow takes big hits, production flow slows down, and eventually, the company dies, then, (if it's a company we like) we all lose that source of new games.
Now if you're a big company with deep pockets, small cash flow hits here and there are not that big of a deal (kinda like having one of your MMGs jam in SL/ASL when you have bunches of machineguns in the fight - not the end of the world). But we're not such a company, so the consequences of "guessing wrong" or taking several cash flow hits on production-related mistakes can be pretty dire, even fatal. For years in the early-mid 90s, we played the "guessing game"; and even though we guessed right more times than not, we still ended up spending way too many productive hours worrying about cash flow that could have been much better spent on developing new and better games. Out of our frustration with this situation, we asked a better question, and came up with a solution that was so simple we were amazed we hadn't thought of it before:
What if the company knew ahead of time that there was a committed interest in the game, before they committed all those funds? They could produce exactly the games that their players want!
And that's exactly what Project 500 allows us to do. It also happens to fit really, really well with our desire to communicate with and hear from our customers, as it lets us tailor our game release schedule to get the "most wanted" games turned around quicker than those that fewer of our customers commit to. Essentially, you guys get to determine to a large degree what our future production schedule looks like. That's always been our favorite part of P500, as it gives the gamer/hobbyist a very real way to significantly affect which games we produce.
How P500 Works: We have design/development teams constantly working on new games. When the designer and developer tell us a game is nearing completion, we get final component lists and price the game. We then add these games to the existing P500 listing, with a (roughly) 30-40% discounted price (varies by game) to anyone who orders them from the P500 list before the Charge Date (see below). We then make them available to order on the Web Page (or by calling the office), and begin to track order numbers for each game. Our P500 page on the new website updates order totals and status as new orders are made, so players who order via the website can track the progress of their ordered games in near real-time.
Once a game is available to order from the P500 list, you decide whether you want the game. If you do, you order it by credit card, and we add your name to the list of buyers. We DO NOT CHARGE YOUR CARD. When we reach 500 buyers, the game has passed P500 and has “made the cut" (see note on how this is evolving, below) we begin to wrap up playtesting and begin final editing and prepare for production . Then when the game is ready for final production (usually about 700-750 orders), we announce a Charge Date (the date we actually charge your card for the game + shipping). We aim to ship the game in 12 weeks or less from that Charge Date. Occasionally, some products may have longer lead times which we announce before charging, and others may be delayed in production. This doesn't happen often, but if it does, we'll keep you informed via the News section of this site's Home page. Over the past few years (2011-13), there have been MANY times when we shipped a game within just a couple weeks after the charge date.
If for some reason we don't get 500 interested gamers to commit to purchasing the game, we do not charge you anything. There's absolutely no risk on your end. And you can cancel or modify your P500 orders at any time here online (Look in your account history and use the Delete or Add/Subract options. Your order will be updated in real time).
How is P500 Evolving as GMT grows? Thanks to the support of our many loyal customers, we've substantially grown our project teams, our product line, our sales totals, the size of our print runs, and our customer base over the past few years. This growth has been accompanied by our production of more and better games across a broader spectrum of game types. It has also brought us talented new team members - designers, developers, testers, editors, and artists, whose talents are enabling us to produce better and better products. As you might imagine, growth has also brought its fair share of challenges, and at least one of those, having to do with our increased print runs, has affected how we use the P500 program.
Because of the terrific support you guys have given us in continuing to buy and play our games, we have significantly increased the size of our print runs recently (it was that, or be out of stock on 2/3 of our game line- ouch!). This is very good for the long term, because our cost per game goes down with larger print runs and we have a larger percentage of in-stock games (in stock for a longer period of time) to appeal to the pretty large number of new customers that have been finding us lately. But the impact on short term cash flow has been pretty harsh, because with the higher print runs, 500 orders (the benchmark at which we originally printed a P500 game) no longer covers the basic printing costs for a game. It took us a while to home in on a good approach to facing this challenge but this is what we've come up with and, it seems to be working pretty well.
500 orders is still the level at which a game "makes the P500 cut." Now, however, we don't automatically and immediately send such a game to the printer. Instead, we look at how quickly its numbers are rising as well as how well the final development is progressing, and and slot the fastest-rising and most-ready "over 500 games" as they near the 700 order mark (because 700-750 orders is about what it takes now to pay for the printing).
The important thing for us in making these modifications to how we work with P500 is to keep production flowing smoothly. As you can see from what P500 has done for our production ability over the past few years, the system is doing what we all hoped and intended for it to do. Now, we look forward to bringing you many, many more "cool games" on a schedule of production that is determined in no small part by our community of gamers.
There has been a question about "how many" orders does it take to get a game into production once it has made the cut and gone above 500. There is not a formula that can be applied across the board. A good rule of thumb is somewhere between 700 and 750. Also, if a game is not ready to enter production because final testing is ongoing or the developer tells us it is not quite ready or the art for components has not been created, etc, the game will not be charged even if it has crossed this rule of thumb threshhold.
We hope this information is helpful and informative and invite you to let us know which games you want us to produce by participating in the P500 program.
Updated January 2014