[Interview] Timofey Bokarev, CEO of Tabletopia; digitizing board games
An up and coming Kickstarter platform called Tabletopia has taken the internet by storm with their interactive interface for board games alike. From well-known publishers to the new players on the field, Tabletopia is made for unique games that can be played with your friends near and far.
I was lucky enough to grab a Skype interview with the CEO of Tabletopia, Timofey Bokarev and pick his brain about how Tabletopia came into creation, and some of the business models behind the company. With the help of Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight, Tabletopia has gained a huge following of board game and card game enthusiasts around the world, and is bound to become a revolutionizing way of playing already popular and blossoming new games.
Their huge Kickstarter campaign has 1,216 backers for a total of $59,297 funded towards their goal of $20,000. With still 20 days to go, Tabletopia is destined to go beyond their Goals and Achievements; having already passed $35,000 for Original Dice and $50,000 for Sound Disks.
Their upcoming achievements that are put in place is $70,000 for Playing Cards, $??,??? for Skyboxes, and $??,??? for More Meeples. While the team anticipated a large popularity, it's skyrocketed above their anticipations and adjust their goals to the funded totals.
The Creation and Vision of Tabletopia
While sitting down with Timofey Bokarev, he divulged the vision of Tabletopia and inspiration that helped to develop the digital platform.
Courtney Gamache (CG): What inspired your team to create such a large platform for board gaming? Was there any childhood experience that fueled the development?
Timofey Bokarev (TB): I've always loved board games and have a large collection. Having a good understanding in marketing and digital development, the formation of Tabletopia was made through investments of an international team made of co-workers throughout the Ukraine, Moscow, and Germany. There are digital platforms like the Kindle for reading books and Spotify for music, so the idea of Tabletopia as a digital platform for board games came into formation.
CG: As CEO of Tabletopia, what kind of expectations do you have for the game in the long-haul?
TB: There is some interest in famous games - but in my opinion, it's more focused on giving new publishers a chance. Also, Tabletopia opens up the door for very unusual games that are difficult to create in real-life.
For longer expectations, Tabletopia plans to hold tournaments and events that users and their favorite publishers can participate in. By inviting the author of the game, we will then feature it; and they'll have their own dedicated page for their fan base
CG: What was it like approaching publishers to get them in agreement for licensing on Tabletopia? Was there a business model that was very appealing to their monetary goals?
TB: It was a good surprise that most of the publishers we spoke to liked the proposition of Tabletopia. The business model is very flexible where publishers can withdraw their games from Tabletopia with no strings attached. Using the business model that is similar to Spotify, being the bronze, silver, and gold; stretching from free to premium.
The whole catalog with full versions of games will be available to premium members that pay the monthly fee, while a free version is still available for everyone to enjoy.
CG: Is there a nitty-gritty way to explain the business model and how the money from users is spent?
TB: The money gained from users having the subscriptions of Silver ($5) and Gold ($10) through monthly fees is split up into 30% towards the company and development of Tabletopia, and 70% into the publishers that participate. This 70% will be divided among publishers in proportion of the hours spent by users on each game.
This is to reflect how some games are ten-minute plays while others are hours. Open statistics for how many hours each game is played will be available for view.
CG: Were there any unexpected difficulties when importing the board games onto the digital platform?
TB: It was a disappointment when the Unity plug-in was going to not work on Google Chrome because it was very important that all browsers are supported. Since Google dropped support for Unity we overcame the letdown and look forward to our Steam launch that will make life a bit easier cause it'll use a program instead of a browser.
CG: Is there any type of promotion and marketing that the future of Tabletopia will be taking part in for the company and publishers?
TB: We have so many ideas for promotion and marketing. We're hoping to get exclusive expansions for many popular board games for Tabletopia and have close integration with publishers. If they will be happy with Tabletopia and will find it helpful and effective for them - they will bring their fans to our platform. This can be the most effective marketing channel for us.
CG: Are there plans to implement popular miniature tabletop games such as Warmachine and Warhammer in Tabletopia?
TB: It could be a very big market for us and we're considering it right now. As of last week development for an interface to upload custom 3D models was finished so we aim to build some demos with miniatures and to talk to the larger war gaming companies.
Anything is possible in Tabletopia. One of my favorite card games I play with my family called 1,000 I have yet to find a good implementation of the game, but it is possible in Tabletopia. Tabletopia doesn't include a built-in A.I. system or rule enforcement yet, so users can play games the way they want with their own rules giving an experience that can be found in real-life using a table.
CG: How is Tabletopia a catch for publishers? What benefit does it give them along with the company?
TB: We are going to help all of these groups - publishers, game authors, retail companies, and players in different ways; in regarding publishers and game authors they can use our system to test their prototypes, present their games to partners and fans and monetize them. And using Tabletopia can increase the sales of physical versions of board games after users try them out digitally.
For many small publishers and game authors it could be also a stepping stone to bigger publishers.
It gives them a chance to publish their game.
And there are so many cool out-of-print games... some of them have only a hundred fans - so it is economically not possible to print them - but with Tabletopia it will be possible to play them. So we are going to encourage our players to speak with authors or publishers of out-of-print games and if they will allow - publish their games here.
In my opinion there is many different ways Tabletopia could help publishers and gamers. There are many crazy ideas along the way - even adding a later possibility to print physical copy of the games based on them being uploaded to Tabletopia with the game graphic files.
If the idea of Tabletopia is appealing to you and your future endeavors of board and card games, there is still plenty of time to fund their campaign on Kickstarter which gives early access and beta access.
There is also ample information on their official Tabletopia website, announcements on their Twitter account @TabletopiaGames and information on their Facebook Page.
Below is also Tabletopia's anticipated timeline for production, support, beta access along with upcoming future projects surrounding the company.
What do you think of Tabletopia? Do you have any questions for Timofey Bokarev? What's appealing in the digital platform? Share your thoughts below!