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The story of Splotter

Splotter was founded in 1997 by Herman Haverkort, Tamara Jannink and Joris Wiersinga, three members of a student gaming society called "Het Duivelsei". Members of this society had been designing a couple of games (among which a game called Off the Edge, now known as D'raf; and the precursor to Roads & Boats, which was called Transport). We thought it might be a good idea to make some more copies of these games and sell them to members of the society and others.

Our goal therefore was to market cheap, low-priced games. Since we had no money to invest, we decided to be careful. We bought a cutting machine and photocopied our first hand-made set of games: Tetragons (80 copies), Web (30 copies) and D'raf (30 copies). After considering cardboard boxes (way too expensive) and tin cans, we opted to pack these games in videoboxes. We thought this to be a very smart, compact and cheap way to package games.

In that same year two other Dutch companies were founded: Pseudon (Theo Jansma; games include Erfenis, Opus, Trackgammon, Route NL) and Cwali (Corne van Moorsel; games include Oroen, Visjes, Isi, Morisi, Titicaca). We met each other at a meeting for games authors organized by Ducosim, and decided to join forces in hiring a stand at the Essen games fair 1997. Between the three of us we brought 14 new games. This created quite a stir among those who actually found our little stand, with some people remaining in our stand for two whole days to sample all of the games!

Apart from the three videobox games mentioned above, we brought our prototype of Roads & Boats to show off. Quite a few people seemed interested in the game, but as we'd spent about four weeks making the prototype (made out of wood) we told them the game was not publishable. Little did we know that this very costly and complex game would be a best-seller a few years later!

In 1998 we published more videobox games: Gossip!, Chameleo Chameleo, and a reprint of Web and D'raf. However, it became apparent that videoboxes were not an ideal way of packaging our games. The games were fully packed, which led some people to complain that getting all the stuff back into the box again was a puzzle in itself. Even more importantly, we found that cheap games, and videoboxes in particular, do not sell well. Most people prefer nicely packaged games, so we decided to switch.

So, in 1999 the last videobox game saw the light (Kiek) together with two specimens of a new generation: Bus and Roads & Boats, packed in cardboard boxes, both in hand-made printruns of 30 copies. This turned Splotter life upside-down. Before the 1999 fair game even started, we had sold out all of our games; we spent the rest of the fair apologizing that we were out-of-stock.

We got so many enthusiastic reactions in magazines and on the web that we had to face the fact: our strategy had to change. Instead of producing cheap games, with some bigger games as a side activity, we had to give the longer, more expensive strategic games the attention they deserved. With the money we earned designing games for commercial purposes (in particular Spöl, a game for the city of Enschede which ordered 70.000 copies), we financed a "large" print run of 500 Roads & Boats and 150 Buses; again, we sold almost all at the Essen fair and the storm of mailorders in the two months after the fair.

By this time, Theo had (temporarily?) left the gaming business, and both Splotter and Cwali had grown big enough to have a stand of their own. Our games have entered the catalogues of resellers, with internet companies like Funagain, Boulder and small shops buying a significant part of our print runs.

As we'd all taken up full-time jobs, it became hard to manage Splotter with three people. In 2001, Jeroen Doumen, a successful Splotter author from the beginning, became a partner in the company. We hope the four of us will manage to organize all the printing, packaging and selling we have to do to keep publishing our games in the future!

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