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Munchkin and GURPS maker called 2023 a “golden age for gamers” amid second year of sales loss

The longstanding industry player openly wrestles with tough times.

Financial reports delivered to stockholders and investors often have this air of wrapping bad news in a palatable context, like trying to feed a child vegetables, or your pets their medication. That was not the case with the 2023 retrospective that Steve Jackson Games’ titular co-founder recently published, delivering some tough news about his Texas-based business as the company looks forward to a more conservative 2024.

Jackson reported that the company responsible for the Munchkin card game and GURPS roleplay system did not have a particularly profitable year, posting $3.5 million in gross revenue - a decrease from the $4.7 million in 2022 that Jackson clarifies was “overstated…due to confusion about BackerKit proceeds.” While the company’s cash flows were “acceptable” in Jackson’s eyes, the team will need to mark 2023 down as a rebuilding year and move forward.

Don’t start gnashing teeth and rending garments, as the co-founder said Steve Jackson Games has “plenty of runway left” when it comes to business costs. And it wasn’t all bad news - direct-to-consumer selling proved a reliable girding of their bottom line even as Amazon and crowdfunding remain significant piece of the overall financial pie, and Car Wars 6th Edition reportedly sold well after its successful crowdfunding campaign. A digital version of Munchkin developed in partnership with Dire Wolf is considered a major success, and supplements are already in the works. The company’s deal with Paizo to create a Pathfinder-themed version of Revolution also landed well with hobbyists and fans alike.

7 best two player board games to pick up in 2024. Watch on YouTube

Amongst the wounds being licked is a lack of hardcover releases for GURPS, which Jackson called a “struggle to produce”. Delays to planned projects such as The Fantasy Trip’s planned bestiary didn’t help their 2023 release calendar, and one major secret project was pushed off during late stages of development because “it wasn't up to our ideas of what a game in 2023 should look like,” according to Jackson.

Addressing the state of the tabletop industry, Jackson claimed that the variety of available games and density of projects hitting shelves and crowdfunding platforms has created “a golden age for gamers”, but the other side of that coin means even the biggest design outfits and publishers fighting a losing battle for the attention and wallets of customers. Shipping costs are reportedly dropping, but Jackson couldn’t say the same for printing costs from major factories in China continues to cause expensive headaches for the company (Both Dungeons & Dragons 5E and Pathfinder raised the price of books in 2023, ostensibly to offset the rising international cost.).

Looking forward, Jackson planted a flag in the ground regarding Steve Jackson Games’ release schedule and held himself and the team to shipping what they promised before heaping on more cool projects. Munchkin plans to release a boxed version based on the Mongoose Publishing’s Paranoia RPG, amongst other as-yet-unnamed projects. That big secret project that Jackson kicked down the road should be ready for an official announcement before the end of the year if all goes well.

In an industry that often refuses to share numbers, obfuscates them in layers of C-suite language or straight up does not release them, it’s refreshing to ready a report with numbers, facts and a refreshing level of candor. Steve Jackson Games is bringing a strong team and clear-eyed goals into the rest of 2024 and remains optimistic about the veteran game company’s future.

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