The release woes of TX-1696

We have spent over three and half years developing TX-1696 which is a premium game for the Spectrum Next, and when it came to release, we prepared with a pre-order list and arranged printing of a quality soft touch box. However, this has not gone as smooth as we would like, leaving us in a position where we are having to refund everyone who has ordered a copy.

What went wrong

For our part we thought we were doing everything right by arranging printing prior to release, hooking up to a PayPal business account and installing a Pack link plugin so we can generate shipping costs and information for deliveries.

PackLink and the non global shipping

We were selling our game in a 180 x 150 x 35 mm box, a mouse mat measuring  230 x 180 mm and a vinyl record measuring 305 x 305 mm and some customers ordered multiple items (thank you), therefore you would think that the plugin would calculate the largest size for the items, however this was not the case as the postage was calculated as the first item the customer selected, therefore only charging for the smallest item and expecting us to ship the game and the record in 180 x 150 x 35 mm box and that’s without protective packaging.

Adding to this badly calculated pricing for the items the plugin also failed to produce any shipping for many countries causing the orders to be cancelled without notifying us and leaving the customer hanging. We have contacted the shipping agents support however that appears to be a black hole as they have not offered a solution.  

The Pre-orders and PayPal

Doing things correctly we set up a PayPal for business account and hooked it up to a UK business banking account and got it verified. After PayPal said we were all set and ready to go, we emailed the list of pre-orders, informing them that the game is ready and they can order.

The orders were streaming in and we within an hour we had over 30% of our pre-orders however PayPal blocked our account from receiving any money and blocked our access to the account by preventing us for logging in, after multiple phone calls to PayPal they informed me that because the orders came in so quickly, they identified this as a possible scam and that they wanted me to provide my passport and copies of the receipts for the items we were selling.

Obviously, we could not produce the receipts for the game as we wrote it, so I wrote to them explaining who I was, pointing them to google “Patricia Curtis games” and my previous works, and that we had created the game over the last three and half years, pointing them to the article in fusion gamer, and some YouTube links. Even with this information they still took 4 business days plus a weekend to come to a conclusion that this was not a scam and even then, they put a restriction on the account that we can only spend £4,000 of our much larger balance until everything was shipped.

As you will see this arbitrary limit of £4000 would not be enough.

Printers and the packaging bee

As mentioned, we wanted to ship in a nice soft touch box as this was my last game and we designed a beautiful package that contained stickers for the SD card and, special foam inserts for the box that would have made every game shipped this way into a numbered collector’s item. I spent quite some time getting quotes for the printing and making mock ups in carboard to make sure the project would work.

Most came back and offered things I did not want like flimsy flip top boxes, while others were saying the minimum order would be 3000 units. A lot of other printing companies could not supply the specifications we wanted only offering a simple box and no sticker or no insert or a fold out manual. Oh, and now I am getting spammed every day from custom boxes even though they have not offered a quote.

What I wanted a quote for was:

  • 1000 two-piece boxes 185 x 155 x 35 mm, stiff box, full colour printing with soft touch lamination
  • 1000 foam 20 mm deep inserts to fit in the 185 x 155 box above, one side full colour printing
  • 1000 printed 8-page 180 x 150 mm, 160-gsm paper full colour printing with matte lamination.
  • 4000/4 images, printed cards 180 x 150 mm, 300-gsm card stock, full colours printing with matte/gloss lamination
  • 1500 stickers 35 x 35 mm, sticker stock, artwork printing + silver foiling with matte/gloss lamination
  • 5000/5 images, size 25 x 20 mm, stickers, artwork printing with matte/gloss lamination

And if you had seen what we were going to deliver for this one-off package you would understand how it all fits together, we think it would have been as impressive as the game is, however as you will see it sadly will not be. The best quote was from a company called packaging bee who were supposed to be London printing company.

However, when we were almost ready to proceed, I noticed that they were spelling ‘colour’ the American way ‘color’ which was odd for a UK company, so I did some due diligence and checked them out on trust pilot, there were quite a few complaints stating that some orders were not fulfilled and the customers had lost their money and others that stated the company was a Pakistan based company using a UK mail box address. Further digging showed the address to be a postal box company in London.

The costs

Packaging Bee quoted £4,290 for the self-assembly boxes and then we had to buy the SD cards and cases which would have added a further £1,500 + another £1,000 for plain brown shipping boxes, and all this is just for the game, let alone the mouse mats and the 12” record.  So, as you can see the delivery of the game would have come to at least £6,790 for just 1,000 games and that’s without the duplication and shrink wrapping. Exceeding the PayPal allowance by at least £2000. And being as Packaging Bee has not been honest about their location and rather than risk your money, we have declined their Quote.

Moving forward

With this debacle of a release, and the loss if sleep stressing over it all, we have contacted PayPal and will refund everyone today, in full therefore cancelling all the orders. This will temporarily leave me out of pocket for a while as we have already ordered and paid for the SD cards and their cases.

So now we are going to step back for a few weeks and look at releasing in again a less prestigious box.