Happy 2023 to all! As we swing into a new year, it is worthwhile reflecting back on what did (and didn’t) happen in our first full year of operations.
Firstly, we provided several operational updates during the year, so there may be some repetition in this post. You can read our Quarter One Review here and our Quarter Two Review here. You may note that there was not a Quarter Three Review - we held that back and ultimately supplanted It with our Launch Anniversary post here.
We released two new titles during the year. Naval Campaigns Kriegsmarine in May and Panzer Campaigns Rumyantsev ’43 in November. We had more games planned for 2022, but for a variety of reasons they have slipped into this year. One of the slipped titles is Panzer Campaigns Philippines ’44 that is in final testing. The Quarter Two Review mentioned a ‘tentative pre-Christmas release date’, we can confidently confirm it will be a ‘post-Christmas release date’! This title and the Musket & Pike Great Northern War announced here should be out in the first half of the coming year. We have a big pipeline of new projects, and we expect some will be ready for the second half of the year. No announcements yet, but once things become more concrete, we will share more.
There were four new Demo titles released. This doubled the number of demo games from four to eight allowing players to ‘try before they buy’. The Civil War Battles Demo was released in June and had additional content added in November. This coincided with the new Little Big Horn game (Early American Wars Demo) and Modern Air Power Demo released in November. The final demo to be released was Modern Campaigns Quang Tri ’72 sneaking in at the very end of the year.
Demos will continue to be an important marketing tool for Wargame Design Studio, and we can hopefully create versions for the four series that are not yet covered. All demos are being updated to our latest standard for the series and you can expect to see new versions as these upgrades occur. An example of this is the Napoleonic Battles ‘The Final Struggle’ that now has the latest updated artwork and features from the Waterloo title. The Panzer Campaigns Demo Mius ’43 is one of the original demos and is being considered for a revamp this year. We are hoping to go the path of the Panzer Battles Demo and provide more content beyond the single battle currently included. Watch this space, but with Panzer Campaigns, our biggest series by number of releases, it is only appropriate that the Mius ’43 Demo reflect that. More on that as all firms up. Finally, to underline their value, downloads of demos was nearly 40% of our total download volume for the year and would have been higher, except the newest three came out at the end of the year.
The biggest focus for the team beyond the work needed for new releases and demos, were updates and upgrades for the existing catalogue. We have put a big emphasis on reviewing all the products, and where possible start to standardize across all. This is one of the reasons there have been significant changes to the user interfaces and hot keys in many series. Though a potentially polarising move for some long-term players, the ability to move between series and see a level of consistency was deemed worthwhile. Our apologies to those who may not agree.
During 2022, the Napoleonic Battles had the most updates, progressing from 4.01 in May with 4.02, closely followed by 4.03 in September and finally 4.04 in October. We can with confidence say that patch version 4.05 is currently being worked on.
The Naval Campaigns series followed a similar arc with Kriegsmarine launching as version 4.01 and was followed by Wolfpack in June. Subsequently all six titles were updated to 4.02 in August. Some issues necessitated a further round, moving the series to 4.03 at the end of September.
Civil War Battles rolled out version 4.01 in March. This was the very first series to get the new toolbar configuration and informed us as we looked at implementing that in the remaining series. Like the Napoleonic Battle series, a 4.02 version is in testing that includes the new Game Action Speed system and other features as implemented elsewhere.
Panzer Campaigns by product count, is our largest series with twenty-seven titles. With the release of Rumyantsev ’43 as the first 4.01 version, we targeted the Winter sale as a logical time to have all products updated to the 4.01 standard. 4.01 is probably one of the most significant changes in the history of Panzer Campaigns and we staggered the update across a range of releases. You can read more on various updates here. East Front part 1, Southern Front, East Front part 2, Asia & East Front part 3 and Western Front. France ’40 was included in the Western Front updates as the first 4.02 version. This corrected several issues that had been subsequently identified. All Panzer Campaign games will be updated to 4.02 soon.
First World War Campaigns also moved to version 4.01 and was part of the very first Panzer Campaigns update release.
Modern Campaigns was the final series to be upgraded in 2022, making the New Year’s eve deadline, just. This series skipped version 4.01 and was released as 4.02, the same as Panzer Campaigns France ’40. You can read about the various changes to Modern Campaigns here.
The Panzer Battles 4.01 update did not make the 2022 cut-off but is almost ready. Though the changes are not to the depth of the Panzer Campaigns upgrades, the range of enhancements will hopefully be welcomed by the community.
Musket and Pike also have a 4.01 update in testing, and it is expected that the current two titles will probably be updated when Great Northern War is released.
In all, seventy-three of the one-hundred-and-five titles have been upgraded in 2022. That is seventy percent of the catalogue and has required significant time and resources to handle new builds, patches, and the support to migrate you, our customer base. One series conspicuous in its absence with sixteen titles is Squad Battles. The planned 4.01 upgrade is a monster and will be the basis of an increasing amount of news in 2023. This series includes some of the most diverse topics of any, covering battles from the First World War through to the present. The graphics requirements alone are very significant. Expect revamped order of battles, scenarios, and overall improved presentation of the series. Expect a staggered release over the year as titles are ready.
We also saw enhancements made on the Customer Support side of things. In the first quarter the data entry project was completed getting all previously migrated HPS games entered into customers Store accounts. Also, orders from the original JTS Store (2010-2012) were entered. This enabled you to see everything in a single location - with the added ability to grab fully up-to-date installers at will and also see your serial numbers.
In August the ability to view the contents of each order from the Store Account screen was added, without having to go to an additional page. And finally, towards the end of the year our vendor, Shopify, gave us tools to enable us to Merge Account Records, for all those who had duplicate entries in our store.
Blog posts and email have been an important way for us to both message and interact with the community. There were thirty-seven blog posts during the year, a rate of three per month on average. Many of these posts have been linked to above, but increasingly they have prompted many questions and requests. We encapsulated our responses in three Question & Answer posts in January, April and November. We plan to continue this approach, but many of the more immediate questions and feedback have moved to the dedicated forums that we launched in July and announced in our Quarter Two Update. Moving into 2023 we would like to post even more blog posts and would canvas submissions from the community. We would particularly welcome after-action reports (AARs), player reviews of titles or series, game play insights and game modifications. If chosen for publication, at a minimum there is a free title of the authors choosing.
Finally, a few statistics for the year.
Our total orders were up by 84%. Though a huge increase, this was largely due to the volume of free demo downloads. This was reflected in our average order value being down by 45% due to the mix of demos and full product, ordered.
We saw our number of site visits (or sessions) up by a huge 177% over 2021. Sessions are a way of measuring both the number of visits and time spent on a website. This is not particularly surprising as prior to the launch of the WDS website, John Tiller Software was carrying different information across multiple websites and hence the basis for comparison is skewed. Probably more important comparing December 2021 to December 2022 with like for like web properties, sessions were up by 49%.
An important, related statistic is the returning customer rate. This measures the number of customers who bought twice or more in a year. Over 68% of our customers bought from us more than once and the rate was actually higher for first time buyers. Overall, out of our total customer orders, 15% were from first time customers who had never bought from JTS or WDS previously. New customers are always a good indication of how well you are reaching people who didn’t previously know about your products.
Looking at which series was the most popular.
Panzer Campaigns led with 25% of all sales followed by Civil War Battles (18%) and Napoleonic Battles (15%). Keep in mind these three series have the most individual titles compared to the other series, so have a range advantage. All three also have a free demo game, with Civil War Battles particularly assisted by the new demo made available in 2022. They have all at least received a 4.01 update in 2022, something that several other series have not.
A fairer view is when the volume is divided by the number of titles in a series to get an average per title volume. This resulted in a very different mix.
Panzer Battles was a better performer on a per title basis, something that we had seen anecdotally. The Panzer Battles series has been very solid with each title released. Early American Wars was strongly elevated due to the new Little Big Horn Demo as was Civil War Battles. Net net, we need to get Panzer Battles Moscow out!
At a product level, demos were eight of our top ten downloads and included Quang Tri ’72, which is remarkable considering it was only released on December 31st! The other two titles in the top ten were the new releases, Naval Campaigns Kriegsmarine, and Panzer Campaigns Rumyantsev ’43.
The statistics we are sharing here are all healthy indicators of support from you all. They vindicate many of the decisions we have made in terms of resourcing and which series to focus on. We are hopeful we can maintain the momentum and at a minimum get all the remaining series enhanced to a level we are happy with. So many businesses fail in their first year, but we have been fortunate to inherit both the legacy and goodwill John Tiller built up servicing the community. We plan to continue the support for the products you have bought as John has in the past.
When we posted our 2021 End of Year Update, we finished by saying:
2021 was a year of unexpected change. 2022 will be a year of consolidating what was done in the run-up to the launch of WDS. We have our work cut out for us, but with your support we believe we can continue to deliver the games you love to play.
We feel we have largely delivered on that January 2022 hope and go into 2023 looking to get both new titles and refreshed series into your hands.
Thank you again for all your support, we could not achieve anything without you all.
Onward to December 31st, 2023!