There's an elephant in the room... people noticed that there are some quality issues with Exodus and we feel it is our responsibility not to remain silent and to explain what is NSKN doing to address this issue.
I will have to start by bringing some light on the less know part of game publishing, the negotiation and selection of the manufacturing company for the mass production.
Since Exodus is part of our second generation of games, we looked everywhere in the world for manufacturing companies with experience in board games. There are only a few countries which have tradition in this industry, so we got offers from Germany, Poland, China and US. After a first screening we kept contact with 5 of these companies and we negotiated separately with each of them. We did our best to keep the production in Europe, where we would have had more control over the whole process, including the quality, but due to the enormous amount of components in Exodus (9 punch-boards, 300+ wooden tokens, 48 space ships, 7 play-mats, etc) we could not find any offer that would allow us to keep the retail price below 80 USD (65 EUR).
After careful consideration which included calling references from Europe and US, we chose a manufacturing company in China which produced all the parts (except the plastic space ships, bought from a third party) and assembled them in the boxes.
Quality check and reported problems
Before the mass production started, we received one sample of digital print with all the graphics of the game and we were very happy because everything was looking awesome. After the mass printing and before overseas shipping and paying the second half of the production cost, we received another sample, this time "straight from the assembly line" (the quote is from their sales representative). This very copy is the one that we played early in October, we took it to Spiel Essen and played it roughly 15 times during the four days of the fair, them we played some more back in Romania and a lot more during Lucca Comics & Games and the game is still in good shape. So, in my opinion, it passed almost all the quality checks.
We had an Indiegogo funding project which was successful (thanks again, guys!) and most of the game boxes we sent to the backers have already arrived. The first reaction of most people was about the rather poor quality of the laminated components and there have been very specific comments saying exactly what is wrong with the games. We opened some random games ourselves just to check and see that some of the games share the same problems that people reported mostly on BoardGameGeek.
First, we addressed the problem and offered replacements to those who found damaged components in their boxes. Having a list of the problems and complaints at hand, we contacted the manufacturing company and asked for a joint solution for the quality issues. That happened already a week ago. Yesterday we sent a similar complaint letter, documented this time with pictures, to the management of the same company, hoping for a positive answer.
The answer or the lack of it and what's next
Sadly, at the time when I am pressing "Publish" there is still no relevant answer to any of the emails concerning the printing quality from the responsible party. There won't be any replacements from them, no financial support, not even the acknowledgement of their fault .
The reality is that we're alone in this and it will be only up to us to make it up to those who bought game boxes which are not in the best shape. We don't have any means of putting pressure on a company which is 5000 miles away and the most we can do is stop working with them.
Right now, the only thing we can do is to focus on customer service and try to solve the issues on a case by case basis. We can also hope that the game play will be good enough to compensate for the 'holes' in the quality and judging by the little feedback we've got this is happening. We're not looking for excuses, we're merely attempting an explanation for this situation which could very easily damage our reputation and put us in a hall of (what's the opposite of fame?).
I am still optimistic and I believe that NSKN will find understanding in this amazing community which will help us move past these issues and keep climbing the ladder. We have a lot of new, innovative ideas and we want to continue to put fun, interesting games on your gaming tables.