I’ve previously written about how the Unplug Yourself campaign is going from two perspectives, namely Stefan Roets of Blowfish Entertainment and Eugene Vermeulen of Skycastle Games. To round off the trio of tabletop gaming-obsessed companies, I also sat down with Fabio Salvador of Boardgames.co.za to chat about tabletop gaming and how Unplug Yourself has worked for them.
Fabio Salvador: Boardgames.co.za
As you might have guessed, Boardgames.co.za handles the board games business. They distribute some of the biggest titles like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, King of Tokyo and so on. Fabio founded the company in 2004, and I’ve written about them before.
NAG: How has Unplug Yourself been going for Boardgames.co.za?
FS: For us, I think it’s been fantastic. The retailers that we’ve discussed this with are very excited about, first of all, that three distributors would even dare to work together. And that we would cooperate for multiple years to achieve a common objective. And really, quite simply, it’s saying, “We know what drives the growth in this business, and it’s about people experiencing the product firsthand”. So the campaign is to get as much of that going in the country as possible, and we figure let’s rather work together to make a bigger pie for everyone, retailers and distributors. To that extent, we’re looking at over 300% growth in the last year alone. Every distributor has grown, and with one or two exceptions, every retailer has grown substantially. So it’s been a good bet for all the companies, and we have exciting plans in the future for Unplug Yourself.
NAG: What’s next on the Unplug Yourself roadmap? What’s your next goal?
FS: Unplug Yourself right now is finding a home for itself inside expos. We’d like to take Unplug Yourself to the next level, where we have stores certified as Unplug Yourself destinations. And I think there’s room for us to take it to two other destinations. One being a roadshow kind of mechanism, city tours, mainly in shopping malls. Then we’re really going after the casual gamer, right in their home territory (laughs).
The second is that we’re seeing a lot of casual pop-up play venues. So in Johannesburg, there are pop-up venues exceeding 150 people attending. And in the Cape we’re also starting to see some good traction. And even in Durban. So, there’s an opportunity for those to be certified Unplug Yourself events. All of this takes quite a lot of sophisticated planning and marketing, so that’s why we’re treading slowly, and making sure we understand ourselves, the animal we’re creating. Because we want the brand to be a trustworthy one, and one that people will know “ah, that’s the experience we’re going to get!”
NAG: What future board game are you most excited about?
FS: I think on our radar, it’s the new Days of Wonder game Quadropolis. The early reviews are saying that it’ll be like another Ticket to Ride kind of hit. They (Days of Wonder) are a very highly rated board game developer, but for the last couple of years they’ve been dabbling in some stuff that hasn’t gone quite as mainstream. More or less in middle-to-late May, we will be officially launching it to all the chain stores.
NAG: What advice would you give to prospective South African board game creators?
FS: It’s definitely in our mid-term strategy, is to create a studio of sorts that will help coach designers. Kind of to finalise their designs, and to use the contacts we have in the industry right up to the supply chain level and help consult on box shape, box design, component pieces, so on. To make sure the game comes in at the most effective price point. On top of that, there’s the opportunity to assist those designers with crowdfunding, help them produce a compelling video to secure as much crowdfunding as possible.
The design is, unfortunately, about five percent of the work, even though it’s the most important work. With video games, you can release patches to fix any design problems. With board games, you only get one shot. And with component costs, there are ongoing costs to designing board games. But we’re in a good phase of the industry, where the chances of having a moderately successful game that could sell 50,000 units worldwide are quite high.
Big thanks to Fabio for his time, and we look forward to seeing Boardgames.co.za and Unplug Yourself at rAge Johannesburg. If you want to try some tabletop games in Cape Town, check out Quantum Gaming, the Cape Town retailer for Unplug Yourself.