It has become a tradition to have a huge and detailed post about the history of NSKN every April. Around this date, 6 years ago, a small publisher was born out of passion for board games and the need to prove something in the business world… that’s how the usual story goes. And it is all true.
Instead of recapping all that has happened in our team and our lives for the past 6 years (wow, that’s a lot of time!), I’d rather focus on the interesting things that happened to us over the past 12 months. However, If you want to get to know some pieces of ancient history, you can simply follow these three links to get all the info you’ll ever need: NSKN Games at 5 years – part I, NSKN Games at 5 years – part II, NSKN Games at 5 years – part III.
With that out of the way, let’s quickly get back on track and start talking about recent history. Leaving this time numbers and heart breaking stories aside, there are a few truly interesting experiences our team has lived through, definitely worth sharing your attention.
In business – and board games are a business, despite what some may think – changing partners can be as painful as in life. After having conducted business together and having been friends for years, the end of the partnership can be seen in a way like a divorce, and members of both teams are a bit like children, their relationships sometimes becoming collateral damage. But I have good news for you, a partnership can also end amicably, leaving the doors wide open for future cooperation. In business, relationships are about compatibility and profit, and if one of them disappears, the partnership will most likely end. Small shifts in strategy can sometimes lead to large compatibility issues while lead to breaking of partnerships.
In the autumn of 2016 the long term partnership between Passport Game Studios and NSKN Games has come to an end. There was no business dispute, no quarrel. Life – in this case business – has been running its course and the strategies of the two companies grew different, in fact different enough that we both agreed that we need to take a step back, re-evaluate and make decisions. I am very grateful to the folks of Passport for using their superior experience to guide us through the “break-up” and for their mature and business oriented attitude, but I am most thankful that we could all stay friends. I came to appreciate them a lot, personally and professionally, and I would have saddened me a lot to see this friendship undone.
The lesson learned here is that maturity and experience, added to being simply decent human beings, can make the unmaking of a relationship less painful, to the level where everyone can meet again, shake hands, share a meal together and talk about past times without a hint of guilt or even regret. It is as important in business as in private life to know how to deal with ending of relationships.
Last year, the team behind NSKN Games launched another board gaming project called Strawberry Studio. Acting as a division of NSKN Games, sharing some of it resources but being financially independent, Strawberry Studio is dedicated to making small, family games. Those of you who know what NSKN Games is about understand why this was a challenge. We are used to talking to gamers, communicating using phrases like “game mechanisms” and “worker placement” and “simultaneous action selection”. Strawberry games are fundamentally different, and they core market are casual gamers or even non-gamers. We had to learn how to talk to… basically normal people 🙂
Having two separate brands under one umbrella is easy for corporations, but quite a challenge for a small company. We managed, but only because we love challenges and because we brought on board fresh minds who could help us disconnect emotionally from NSKN Games and what it meant (and still means) for us and treat both brands as equally important, giving each of them the time and resources it deserved.
The lesson learned here is that growth comes with a cost, but also with unforeseen benefits. For those emotionally over-invested in a project/brand/game, it provides a relief valve, a way to disconnect enough so that right decision can be made more often than before.
Gaming sleeves are an elusive concept for those who are not passionate gamers or card collectors. I had a hard time explaining my parents what are card sleeves and why people buy them, why do I buy them. Nevertheless, NSKN Games went there, into the intricate universe of card sleeves manufacturing and we have already completed stage one of our plan to conquer the world (of sleeves). Joking aside, this is another side of our business we hope you’ll hear a lot from in the future.
Adding another line of premium products into our portfolio was a logical and somewhat natural decision. As our team grew, we felt we can do more. It was another tough challenge and we’re not at the end of it, but it is interesting, it makes us learn and diversifying ensures long term survival (and hopefully growth) of our business.