Wingspan publisher Stonemaier Games seals year-on-year profit rise despite lowest revenue since 2019

Wingspan and Scythe publisher Stonemaier Games saw its profits rise last year despite a continued fall in revenue, which is down almost a third from the record $24.7m the company reached in 2021.

Stonemaier’s revenue dropped to $16.7m last year according to the company’s latest annual stakeholder report – down from $20.7m in 2022, and its lowest annual figure since the $12.8m it recorded in 2019.

But company president Jamey Stegmaier told BoardGameWire he had no concerns about the fall in revenue, saying, “Based on our reach and evergreen sales, I think a ‘normal’ annual revenue for us is somewhere between $15m to $20m, with the exact amount depending on when certain products ship.

“In that way, I think 2021 was an outlier (probably pandemic related) – not only was it a very strong year for Wingspan, but we also saw excellent evergreen sales for Viticulture and Scythe, and we had one of our biggest releases that year in Red Rising.

Stonemaier Games president Jamey Stegmaier.
Photo Credit: Stonemaier Games

“While there was a decrease overall revenue from 2022 to 2023, there really wasn’t anything special about 2022 or subpar about 2023. Last year featured strong releases in Expeditions and Apiary.

“I think perhaps the main contributing factors were that retailers and distributors were already well-stocked with some of our evergreen titles going into 2023 and therefore didn’t order as many last year; plus, there was no Wingspan expansion in 2023.

“But there are no red flags as I look at our 2023 that have me concerned about last year or moving forward. My goal is not ‘number go up’.”

Stegmaier said the company had managed to up its profits despite lower revenues thanks to a fall in freight shipping costs, as well as lower fulfillment expenses after the company switched from using Greater than Games to Miniature Market early last year.

Sea container shipping prices fell more than 90% last year, from a post-pandemic high of more than $20,000 to move a 40-foot container from China to the US West Coast in September 2021.

That price drop provided a huge boost to board game makers, the vast majority of which rely on manufacturing their products in China before shipping them around the world.

Container prices have risen rapidly again since November, however, with attacks on shipping in the Red Sea causing diversions and heavy delays – adding to ongoing issues of elevated inflation and high interest rates for many businesses.

Stegmaier said, “We’ve tried our best not to contribute to the inflation in product prices. Even when freight shipping rates were sky-high in 2021 and 2022, we’ve kept our prices stable and just ate the margins.

“Fortunately, our manufacturer’s costs have also remained stable (and in some cases they even decreased in 2023) – I really appreciate that about Panda. We’ve never taken an external loan, so interest rates have not played a role in our business decisions. “

Wingspan’s Asia expansion was Stonemaier’s standout release last year, and one of its biggest releases ever, with 233,000 units now in circulation – almost as many copies as it has ever sold of its evergreen hit Viticulture.

Stegmaier said the expansion was on a similar sales trajectory to the first two Wingspan expansions, each of which was separated by about two years – the European expansion has now sold more than 450,000 units, and the Oceania expansion 358,000. He also confirmed that Stonemaier is planning another Wingspan expansion, likely to be released in 2025.

Scythe sequel Expeditions sold 70,000 copies last year, and bees-in-space worker placement game Apiary 30,000 copies – and while the latter appears to be gaining in popularity, Stegmaier said he was unsure of the future of the former.

Photo Credit: Stonemaier Games

He told BoardGameWire, “Expeditions is an interesting case. The retail release happened substantially later than launch order fulfillment because we made a second print run of the Ironclad Edition for retailers to have for release. During that nearly four-month gap, excitement for the game decreased quite a bit, though perhaps if I had done a better job of capturing the magic of Scythe – my difficult design goal for Expeditions – the gap would not have mattered.

“As a result, we made a very modest quantity of the Expeditions expansion to release in a few months; I’m not sure if the game has legs, though I am excited about the expansion.

“Unlike Expeditions, Apiary has seemed to gain momentum month to month, resulting in us selling out of the first print run (the reprint is in the works).

“It was the debut game from designer Connie Vogelmann, who also designed Wyrmspan. Retailers and distributors seem eager for the reprint to arrive (along with the expansion), which is a sign that consumers are actively asking for more.”

He added, “Last year we experimented with preorders for Expeditions (i.e., we accepted orders right before we went to print instead of waiting until after we’ve already made the game). While this helped us serve retailers better, I think it also hurt the retail release, so I probably wouldn’t use that method again in the future.

“Beyond that, there isn’t anything in particular about the releases for Expeditions or Apiary that I would change in the future. I think we may have overestimated demand for the Wingspan Fan Art Pack, but I still think it was a really fun project to create for Wingspan fans, and it was a good reminder to me that we can take risks on lower-cost products and be fine if they don’t sell quite as well as we hoped.”

Stegmaier said his company would continue to aim for one or two new game releases per year alongside one or two expansions, but added that there is no set schedule – “if a game or expansion isn’t ready, we continue to work on it until we feel like it’s worthy of release. This will continue to be our strategy moving forward”.

Stonemaier kicked off 2024 in style with the surprise announcement of Wingspan spiritual successor Wyrmspan at the start of January, and revealed it had printed a hefty 100,000 copies for what was its biggest-ever launch a month later.

Stegmaier said on February 2 that the company had sold more than 16,000 copies from its website within 24 hours, with another 75,000-plus copies heading out to distribution and retailers.

BoardGameWire reported earlier this month that Wyrmspan topped the charts for most new owners on BoardGameGeek in February, according to data collected by user Igor Larchenko.

Other Stonemaier releases slated for this year include ‘some April surprises’, Stegmaier said, as well expansions for Expeditions and Apiary, a new core set for roll-and-write game Rolling Realms and an unspecified new game.

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