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Albino Dragon


Gorilla Deck - Adventures in Decision Making

Posted by Erik Dahlman on

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything and I was originally going to write this for a card forum, but it seemed easier to put it here as a reference point to how we make decisions.

The Problem

Last year there was a deck that we really liked that failed to fund not once, but twice, on Kickstarter. It was the Gorilla Deck which you can see here:

I really wanted to see this deck get made the way that it was so that I could have it for my own collection. The problem became, did enough other people want to see it made as well?

So we created a Kickstarter project and put out some feelers to see what everyone thought. You can see the Kickstarter preview here.

The Feedback

"It’s too expensive."

I agree, $15 is pricey for a deck that doesn’t have foil, embossing, or a license attached to it. But that’s kind of the allure of Kickstarter, it allows something to be made that wouldn’t normally. We hoped that limiting the production run to only 1,000 units ever to be made, less than 7 cases, would be enough of an incentive. If we lowered the price, we would get stuck footing the bill to make it happen and, while I like the deck, I don't like it enough to pay thousands of dollars for it.

In this case, this isn’t the kind of deck that we’ll be printing more than once, there just isn’t enough demand to do so. So we are left with a few things to wrestle with. How do we make enough to ensure that our costs are covered with the likely number of backers?

“Why aren’t you selling this internationally?"

There are a few reasons, probably none of which will satisfy you if you live outside of the U.S. While doing projects with licensed properties that forced us to limit our international offering, we learned a few things.

  1. We tend to lose money on international shipping - No matter how much experience we have, this is always the case. We plan for rates and rate increases, but somehow these always end up being more.
  2. Kickstarter doesn’t account for shipping - This is one of the most aggravating things about Kickstarter and they set creators up for failure with this. A project creator sets their goal at say $7000 because that’s what they need to produce a thing. They then get 500 backers to help produce that thing, some of which are from outside the U.S. They then find that after Kickstarter has taken their $700, that there is $2000 in shipping costs to account for. Suddenly, the creator is now almost $3,000 in the hole.
  3. International costs vary too widely - It may cost $20 to send something to the UK, but $50 to send that same item to Australia. Instead of accounting for each and every country, we’d rather they order the final product off of our website. Since we finish Kickstarter fulfillment within 48 hours usually, they won’t be waiting very long before they can order and the website calculates our exact shipping costs. This not only keeps us from raising the price to subsidize international backers, but it also keeps the money meant for shipping intact and not just 90% of shipping costs (after Kickstarter fees).

So the end result is that even though you can’t back it on Kickstarter, you’ll still be able to order it internationally almost immediately.

“Can’t you lower the cost by using a different manufacturer?"

I could. We have places in China that I could go to manufacture everything that we have. But we have a very good working relationship with Bicycle and they haven’t let me down yet. Plus, I want this deck to be Bicycle-branded for my own collection.


Art fees, USPCC print fees, Kickstarter fees, and shipping. We don’t even account for our own time to make this happen running the Kickstarter, doing fulfillment, or accounting for any of the other details that go into making a successful project. These numbers are just the bare bones for production and shipping.

We’ll assume that we only sell one deck to each person, selling multiple decks actually increases our expenses because we have:

a. higher shipping costs and,

b. have to give a discount to incentivize backers to buy multiple copies.

The chart below shows how many backers we would need at two price points: $10 and $15 when manufacturing either 1000 or 2500 units.

At $15, we need about 600 backers to complete a print run of 1000 units. If we only charge $10, that number almost doubles. While I can see anywhere between 200-300 people buying 1-3 decks, there really aren’t 1000 people interested in buying one.

And at 2500 units, we would have to sell almost 1700 decks just to break even. We’d then be stuck with 800 units in the warehouse for who knows how long.


At this point we really only have two viable alternatives:

1. Run the Kickstarter and hope enough people want it for their collection to fund the project, or

2. Eat the loss on the art fees and file the project away forever

Hopefully this helps shed some light on how we make decisions. There is a cost-benefit analysis to everything and we’re really looking for a better ROI than just breaking even, no matter how much we may personally want to see the project made.

  • Kickstarter
  • Playing Cards
  • Small Business

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