Interview with Jim Crabtree of Lock’n’Load
When GrogHeads’ Editor Jim Zabek saw that Lock’n’Load redesigned their website last week and launched a new crowd-funding pledge system he knew he had to chat with Jim Crabtree, Lock n Load’s new Business Director.
Jim Zabek (JZ): Wow, so there are several big developments going on with Lock ‘n’Load. Let’s start with why you decided to get involved with Lock’n’Load. Did you wake up one morning and think, “I’m going to work at game company?” Why specifically Lock ‘n’Load?
Jim Crabtree (JC): No, I actually came across the opportunity by accident. I have been gaming since I was young and never stopped. One night I was out playing games with a few buddies, and I said, “I would love to do this full time”. My friend told me he knew a game company that was for sale, so I made a few phone calls and spoke with Mark Walker. Mark was a joy to talk to, and we were very excited about what we could do as a team. I really love LNL games, and I am really looking forward to see what the future of the company holds.
JZ: As the founder and driving force behind many of the game designs, what will Mark Walker’s role be going forward?
JC: I am running the business side of LNL, and making sure the day-to-day operations run smoothly. Mark is our lead manager of designers and developers. Mark is doing what Mark does best – designing and developing games.
JZ: Tell us about your new website!
JC: Our new website is lnlpublishing.com, and our old url will redirect you to the new site. We offer boxed and downloadable products.
Our systems will keep complete history of what the customer purchased, tracking numbers and access to download links. We also offer LNL Gift cards for download. The website features a Wish List, Customer Support Desk system, and forums.
We added an Article page to LNL that allows members to write strategies, reviews, create scenarios, and share them with other members on our site.
JZ: You had a rough start getting the new site going?
JC: Yes, we had some problems with the old server provider and decided to move it to another server provider, so we would eliminate any future problems. Everything looked great, and then, WHAM, it caused an issue with our credit card provider, the forums, and system email. We have a great team and they worked night and day to fix the issues and get us running again. Everything is great now and all services are available.
JZ: I hear you’re bringing a new kind of crowd-funded idea to gamers. What’s it called and how does it work? What makes it different than previous crowd-funded instruments out there like Kickstarter?
JC: The crowd funding idea is not new to gamers, but we have taken the idea and molded it to fit our customers better. One of the first things I did was ask our customers what they like and don’t like about our company. Some of the answers I got were eye-opening. Crowd funding and preorder systems were a popular topic. Most customers did not think waiting a long period of time for funding, project design, development, production, and shipping is worth the investment. People would rather spend money on something they could play now.
The new system also cuts down the time it takes to re-print our popular products when our inventory runs out. We decided to start printing almost all of our product in the United States. We can print smaller quantities with less printing time, and by the end of the year we hope to have most of our previously out-of-print games back in stock.
Our new crowd funding site is called “I Want This Game”. We have taken our old preorder system into the new age of crowd funding. The new projects will have a limited time to be funded unlike the old P500 system. We limit the time a project has to be funded. For a project to be considered a Game Product it must be completed somewhere between 65% – 100%. If the project is less than 65% completed we will call it a Game Design. This tells the customer how long it will be before the game is completed.
JZ: Why do you think game designers and gamers will like this better than other “traditional” (if we can call them that – they’re pretty new) crowd-sourced mechanism?
JC: We have all seen great designs miss the mark because they didn’t receive the funding they needed, even when they were close. LNL has designated “project funds”, so we can invest in projects and give them the little push they need to reach the funding limit.
We also charge a smaller percentage than the other crowd funding sites, and provide convenient services. A designer may have a great design but is not an artist or skilled at marketing. We provide artists, editors, graphic designers, and programmers from the LNL team to help complete the project. We offer access to large distribution channels, and can make the games available in our online store.
JZ: What will happen to games that are in transition from the old P500 system? For example, Ring of Hills.
JC: All current P500 products on LNL are being carried over to our I Want This Game funding system. We are converting some expansions to stand-alone games. Customers that have already preordered on the old system will still receive their games when they arrive at the warehouse. If pricing levels have changed (increased), they will still be charged the amount they pledged.
JZ: We read some posts of customers asking if they can view their old orders from the old Lock ‘n Load Site?
JC: Customers can check the status of orders placed on the old LNL site at http://18.104.22.168/_orders.
JZ: Lock ‘n Load already has one PC game that is nearing release, Heroes of Stalingrad. Are there any other electronic games in the works? Maybe an Xbox or tablet game?
JC: Heroes of Stalingrad should be out soon from Matrix Games. We also have some more PC, Mac and iOS projects in the works, but we are not ready with those details yet.
JZ: How about giving us a hint as to what’s to come that folks may not have heard about yet? Any new franchises that gamers have to look forward to?
JC: We have some great new games in the works, but they are still a secret to the public.
JZ: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JC: Line of Fire Issue #14 is at the printers now. Jeff Lewis and his team did a great job. Our plan is to include an expansion game with a map and counters in each issue. This issue includes World At War expansion module: Baltic Fury, which expands our Blood and Bridges game designed by Matt Lohse. We also include many new scenarios and articles for modules for our other games. Line of Fire Issue #14 will be available in September.