Revealed: Playing Card Designer Randy Butterfield Issues Letter Regarding Imperial Deck Release

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Revealed: Playing Card Designer Randy Butterfield Issues Letter Regarding Imperial Deck Release

In a letter posted on The Discourse ( playing card forum this evening, playing card designer Randy Butterfield issued a public statement to all playing card fans and supporters regarding his upcoming Imperial Deck release. is publishing the following letter that was posted that details recent changes with the project, which was intended to be released solely through The House Of Playing Cards (HOPC) as it was exclusively released in a story on early in June. Read further to understand the changes to the project directly from the project's creator as well as's response to the changes....
Hello Everyone,

In a few days the Imperial Deck will be launched as a Kickstarter project with myself and HOPC! I figured some people on the forums might have some questions/concerns with HOPC being involved in a Kickstarter campaign, so I wrote this up in advance to explain our reasoning.

The decision to take the Imperial Deck to Kickstarter was mostly due to the rapidly changing marketplace for custom Playing Cards. Other factors included a behind-the-scenes change I cannot elaborate on further and the idea that a unique and artistic design like the Imperial could do very well on Kickstarter. When the original Ornates were released last August, Kickstarter Decks were popping up at a much slower rate than they are now - just one year later. 2013 has seen an explosion in Kickstarter success stories in the Playing Card world.  I think it has altered the way ALL of the Card and Magic companies handle new Deck releases. Kickstarter Decks that do well have a HUGE advantage with the 30+ days of funding, that is essentially a long Pre-Order period!

I will admit that a small factor for my part in the decision is ego. I've watched closely this past year as beautiful Decks have done extremely well on Kickstarter. It has enabled designers like Encarded, Uusi, Jackson, 4PM and others to assemble a large fan-base and receive critical recognition. Watching the success of the great Kickstarter Decks is almost like sitting the bench, just waiting to get into the game and give it your best shot!

It's my opinion that the success of Kickstarter Decks has made it hard for companies like HOPC to entice some of the talented designers. Designers who choose to take the roll of the Kickstarter dice instead. We're trying out a unique way to release the Imperial Deck by having a Kickstarter Exclusive Black Bicycle version that won't be available after the KS project is over (and won't be offered to resellers at reduced prices - in order to keep the exclusivity viable). The Red "Base" version will be available in the Kickstarter project and will be added to the HOPC catalog after the Pledge Rewards are all mailed out (with a price point of $9.95 + Shipping).

If the Imperial campaign is successful, the Co-HOPC Kickstarter project mold could be a great way for designers to release their dream Deck with the best of both worlds: The unlimited potential and exposure of a Kickstarter project + the stability of partnering with HOPC to handle the shipping and production roles, and later adding the Deck's "Base" design to the HOPC catalog.

The current landscape of Kickstarter Deck fulfillment is either hit-or-miss. HOPC's involvement in the Imperial campaign makes it a sure thing that the Pledge Rewards will go out to Backers as soon as they're ready. Just look at some of the failed or late KS projects and tell me having an established distributor like HOPC doesn't provide an extra peace-of-mind!

During the campaign we plan on having some fun with voting by Backers, similar to what other campaigns have offered. We will also have a couple other cool items available besides the Red and Black Decks, some meaty Stretch Goal items are planned out and we will have some Early Bird reward levels.

Here's a few images from the KS presentation, including a look at the the Black Bicycle Imperial Deck!  

Thank You, Randy Butterfield Response:

This came as a surprise at first but given the parties involved and the success they have seen with other releases, it is actually quite refreshing and validates the idea of crowd funding as a source for a buying (err, funding) playing card releases. With that said, change is hard but I'd say going with Kickstarter was a good move regardless of what happened behind the scenes. I am confident the deck will get funded and Randy and HOPC will deliver on their word.

However, Randy's letter paints an interesting picture that makes us wonder what is in store for the future of HOPC and how they will release playing cards from now on. Heck, it makes me wonder about playing card releases industry wide given the bump Kickstarter has received this year. The playing card industry is filled with many creative minds and a lot of possibilities but we are definitely learning that the "crowd" is powerful. This year alone we have seen over 1 Million dollars go to Kickstarter playing card projects! In fact, we have seen one single project earn over a half a million dollars in funding. We have also seen the dark side of Kickstarter as certain projects turned out to be nothing but scams and rip-offs.  Randy is right when he said that "The current landscape of Kickstarter Deck fulfillment is either hit-or-miss." There needs to be more accountability.

Despite the negatives, the crowd funding model is proven. If there is one company that is definitely in the "publishing house" of playing cards it would be HOPC. That is the main reason they formed the entity. If Randy's Imperial deck proves a success, will HOPC strictly release through Kickstarter/crowd funding going forward? Will HOPC eventually change their site model? That would definitely be interesting but right now only time will tell. Who knows maybe we will see all the big companies pulling for the crowds on Kickstarter.... or even launching their own crowd funding platforms creating a better and more reputable source for custom playing cards. Whatever comes of this, the whole idea of crowd funding becoming the norm for buying cards isn't a far cry. As Randy said to me in an exchange we had "Hell, even Spike Lee is on Kickstarter now!!"

The times are exciting!

- Scott
Revealed: Playing Card Designer Randy Butterfield Issues Letter Regarding Imperial Deck Release Reviewed by Ivan on 8/09/2013 Rating: 5


  1. Scott,
    Let me first say that I have been excited to see the teases of The Imperial Deck on FB and cannot wait to back this campaign. I agree with your observations about KS Playing Card Campaigns. As a backer I have been privy to posts of other backers, both good and bad, and saw some of the negative press about rip-off or scam campaigns. I think the addition of Randy with the HOPC could be the start of a great thing for cardists and magicians alike. I wouldn’t mind seeing a KS-like crowd funding site specifically for playing cards and playing card/playing card themed/magic items. As Randy mentioned in his letter, it would be a great 30-30 Day Plus pre-order/planning tool. It would also help eliminate overhead, excess inventory, etc. for designers and playing card companies, similar to just-in-time manufacturing. There does exist the possibility of creating a secondary collector’s market via auction sites, but that headache can be between the buyer and seller at that point. I think it is interesting from any aspect or vehicle to see market forces at work where collectors and enthusiasts are involved.
    You mentioned the KS campaign that earned over half a million dollars. That was through a popular gaming company on KS and a fantasy author through a licensing agreement with the author. Further to sweeten the crowd funding pot, two other fantasy authors and an actress (minimally) offered their likeness to the design of some of the playing cards. I am just imagining what playing card designers could do with having access to the characters of the authors that leant their likenesses. I feel that this would create another avenue or subculture within a subculture where licensing of characters could open up another market and perhaps generate further interest in playing cards as a whole.
    I think with the addition of Randy and HOPC to KS we will see the smoking out of ineffective campaigns, rip-offs, and scams. Maybe fledgling designers could work with established designers who have had successfully funded campaigns as a mentoring process. Or we could see a vetting program of some sort. I am not suggesting it will be fool-proof, but it may help with some of the issues I have noticed with what appears to be a self-policing crowd funding site and designers who go from promotion to pan-handling tactics with some of their campaigns.

  2. Basically, Kickstarter has morphed from a way for unknown artists to get funded, to a greed based, for profit, scam. (Just my opinion)

  3. I agree. The possibilities are there and the environment is ready for new business models in the card and magic industries to pop up. Kickstarter is changing the way some of the bigger companies do business as we see here. The question is who will make that move to a new way of doing things - a new player or an existing company? Whatever happens hopefully we see tighter projects and less scamming happening.

  4. Sometimes those unknown artists are doing the scamming. It is a shame really.

  5. One byproduct of a full fledged company with warehousing/fulfillment entering into Kickstarter (which honestly, as a small independent designer, seems a little dubious to me as they have plenty of marketing muscle on their own and shouldn't need funding to produce their project) is that now the individual designers that work hard to pursue a dream of making a new deck on Kickstarter are going to inevitably be compared to a "real business" that has many advantages over a first timer.

    When that new person has a little delay, or works hard to ship out things but can't do 1000 orders in a weekend, they are going to have a perception that they aren't doing things properly, "because that Imperial deck got shipped out in like a week." I find that a little distressing and hope that people backing projects on Kickstarter understand the differences.

    I get why they are doing it (the $$$ available on Kickstarter is obvious) but when a company already sells out their decks routinely and have 12,000+ fans on Facebook it seems a bit disingenuous to talk about getting cards in front of "more people."

  6. […] 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 […]


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