A couple of days before Randy Butterfield launched his latest project, Imperial, last week on 8/13 he posted a letter regarding the way it would be released. Earlier this Summer it was announced that House Of Playing Cards (HOPC), part of The Blue Crown Network, would take on the full release but in Randy's letter we were made aware that both Randy and HOPC changed directions and Imperial would launch on Kickstarter. This would be the company's first attempt at a Kickstarter project. It was something that came as a surprise as well as a blessing given some of the scams that took place on Kickstarter in the past year. The letter also left some very important questions about the state of HOPC and where they were headed, which you can read here in our response to Randy's letter. After all, the majority of fans felt HOPC was a Kickstarter alternative and vice versa. As mentioned, it was surprising to see them join Kickstarter train but overall, it was a positive response.
When Imperial eventually launched on the 13th, funding took a steady pace. In less than a week the project reached the funding goal of $10,000. It was no surprise. However, the questions about HOPC still lingered.... until now! This week we spoke with HOPC and The Blue Crown's Director of Production, Kevin Reylek, about Kickstarter, HOPC and how everything fits together. Read further as Kevin lifts the veil on their world at HOPC, The Blue Crown and you will ultimately learn their thoughts on one of the biggest marketing tools in playing card history - Kickstarter....
Tuck Case: With Randy Butterfield's Imperial Deck being launched on Kickstarter, is this something we will see more often going forward with House Of Playing Card (HOPC) releases?
Kevin Reylek: Additional Kickstarter campaigns from HOPC are certainly not out of the question. Doing the Imperial project with Randy is obviously a sort of testing ground for us. Depending on how it goes (and whether or not we find [out if] it's easier or more complicated than a more standard release format) will determine if we continue to use Kickstarter in the future.
Tuck Case: What are your thoughts on how Kickstarter has changed the playing card scene?
Kevin Reylek: Kickstarter has undoubtedly changed the playing card market. It's allowed anyone with strong design skills to offer their art to the community for very minimal risk. Also, it lets the market decide. If a design is weak and nobody wants it, the campaign will not be successful. If the design is great and everyone loves it, it will be a smash. It also helps to eliminate some guesswork. Instead of a creator just blindly running 2.5k, 5k, or 10k decks, they can see how much demand exists and print accordingly.
So for the most part, I'd say that Kickstarter is a good thing. Naturally, there are some drawbacks. For example, those who are good designers, but lack the business skills to see the project through to the end, or don't have the time/facilities to ship large quantities in a timely manner. But for a well-organized and motivated individual, it's a great platform.
Tuck Case: Out of the decks that you see launch on Kickstarter, do a lot of them come to you for funding first?
Kevin Reylek: Some decks come to us first, some don't. I would say that a majority of the decks that are on Kickstarter do not come to us first.
Tuck Case: Why do you think some designers opt to try Kickstarter instead of trying to go through House Of Playing Cards for a release?
Kevin Reylek: It could be because the creators have not heard of us, or they simply like the Kickstarter environment. If a creator wants to do a really limited and specialized release with a lot of community feedback, Kickstarter is a good place for that. Others have their own brand/market strategies that they want to pursue.
Tuck Case: Some designers have made mention that they do not get approved or picked for release through House Of Playing Cards, what is the approval process like at HOPC?
Kevin Reylek: We would love to say "Yes" to a lot more projects at HOPC. At the end of the day, we are one small company, and we can only produce so many designs per year. We get a TON of submissions coming in daily. We have to say "No" to several designs simply because of volume issues. I think if you were to send all of our submissions and divide them amongst us, Dan & Dave, Ellusionist, Theory 11, and Conjuring Arts, we still could not produce them all.
Luckily, we are not the only game in town. People have many different options to produce their decks. Naturally, we love for people to submit their designs to us, and highly encourage it. But if we can't accept a deck for one reason or another, we hope that people will still find a way to share it with others.
Tuck Case: What advice can you give designers looking to submit their designs/ideas to you?
Kevin Reylek: For those who are wondering what to submit, I'd say that they should keep an eye on our site and see what kinds of things we've already been producing. Designs like Americana, Mechanic, Curator, and Ornate. All wildly different, but all equally awesome. We're looking for designs that will make us (and others) say "Wow." We're also looking for something new. A design may be well-executed on a technical level, but just be too similar in theme/design to something else that has already been produced. Generally, we're not looking to re-do what's already been done, we want to break new ground.
Tuck Case: When a deck is submitted and approved by HOPC, who ends up owning the artwork or is this a case by case basis?
Kevin Reylek: Artwork ownership is mixed on the site. If we approach an artist and commission them to design a deck for us (like we did with the Crown deck, Vaudeville deck, and a few others) then we usually retain those rights. For submitted decks that come to us fully-formed, we usually leave the ownership with the creator, and HOPC is simply granted the printing rights for decks. This allows the artist to also produce other related items on the side; like posters, t-shirts, etc....
Tuck Case: Recently, you released the Summer NOC through The Blue Crown Summer Club and then the mass release through House of Playing Cards. How do decide whether to release a deck through House of Playing Cards or The Blue Crown or through both?
Kevin Reylek: Deciding which site a particular deck is featured on depends on several factors. One big factor is who we think a deck will appeal to - magicians or collectors. Obviously there's some overlap there but generally, we find that collectors are into the more fancy, 100% custom designs like Randy's ORNATE series. Magicians tend to be looking for something a little more standard that they can use for all of their effects. A good example there would be the White Aladdins. The special stack and other features that we put into the Aladdins are GREAT for magicians. But a collector could probably care less what order the cards are in. What other decks we have in the pipeline and where we think they'll fit best are also factors in deciding which decks go on which site - or if they're featured on both.
Ornate deck released through HOPC in 2012.
White Aladdins released through The Blue Crown in the Summer of 2013.
Ultimately, we created HOPC as a solution to allow artists to be artists. Some artists want to wear multiple hats and create the deck, plan the marketing, do the shipping, etc. But there are many more who do not want to do that. They want to share their art with the world, but the thought of having to do all of the other "Stuff" can be daunting. We want to raise the bar and push the envelope with playing cards. We originally put ourselves out there to artists as an alternative to Kickstarter, but over the past year and a half, we've realized that Kickstarter does not need to be excluded. We can still provide excellent design and marketing feedback, shipping services, etc, while still offering the community involvement and broad audience that Kickstarter provides.
When I first created the Lefty deck about 4 years ago, I did not have a social funding option, and the minimum print run at USPCC was five thousand decks. I had to fund that run out of my own pocket, and ship all of the decks myself. If an option like HOPC had existed then, I would've jumped at the chance. I can speak from experience in saying that I do not want to personally ship thousands of decks by myself ever again!
Editor's note: The Lefty Deck was just re-released on HOPC in mid-July.
It is interesting to highlight a key point that Kevin brought up - HOPC gets a ton of submissions (answered in question 5) but only a small amount end up on Kickstarter (answered in question 3). Since HOPC does not put out decks on a weekly basis, the new question is - Where are those decks that were not released? The only people that can answer that question would be the designers and people that submitted those designs in the first place. It is a shame that there are means for people to release decks by using Kickstarter but they are not being brought to that market. Kickstarter is extremely "crowded" and it is amazing that it could get even more crowded if these designers moved forward. Some designers move forward but it seems that the majority don't. What does everyone think about that? Does this open doors for new opportunities?