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Guardians of Order's last words

August 1st, 2006: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Guardians of Order's last words

has posted its own announcement of closure, the timing partly due to George R.R. Martin’s posting a summary of the situation last Friday on his website. GoO President Mark MacKinnon mentions continued efforts to rectify the remaining problems caused by the company “going dark” weeks ago, which many (correctly) saw as the beginning of the end for GoO. The full press release is copied below.

Guardians of Order press release follows:

My gods, I have no idea where to begin.

Yes … effective more-or-less immediately, Guardians Of Order has ceased operations.

First, an apology. I am terribly sorry that George Martin broke the news about our situation. That is certainly not how I wanted the information to be released, and I had thought that my frank conversation with him about A Game of Thrones-specific issues was in confidence. This is the second time now that someone other than me releases very important news about Guardians Of Order, which leaves me frantically trying to patch the holes. The polite and proper thing for me – as President of the company – to do would be to contact all of our creditors (which includes some great freelancers and industry associates) FIRST and explain the situation to them. I was working on that process when my efforts were derailed by one simple website post. So I am very sorry that someone else took it upon himself to release this information. It’s not how I was proceeding to handle things.

But yes, the end result is the same. GoO is no longer.

This was a very sad decision that I had to make, but it wasn’t really a difficult one when I took a long, hard look at the facts. The company simply accumulated too much debt, with little hope of paying it off within the next decade, and my recent plans to get the company back in shape didn’t materialise. When I kept my emotions in check and simply analysed the facts of the company’s financial forecast, the only course of action was very clear. There were a combination of factors that contributed to the ultimate inability of the company to maintain fiscal health (which I have outlined several times in other posts over the years) – the extreme softening of the RPG sales market, the drastic shift in USD/CDN exchange rates, etc – but external circumstances are not entirely to blame. Simply put, I did not have the business acumen to run the company profitably when the going got tough. I’m going to steal a John Nephew analogy for a brief explanation.

I’ve been driving down the gaming industry highway in my GoOmobile since 1997, with a coffee in the cup holder and a muffin on the passenger’s seat. For many years of driving, the highway was a straight path with very little traffic on it. Consequently, if I swerved a little as I ate my breakfast while driving, it wasn’t a big deal … the situations on the road were very forgiving and it was easy to keep on driving. Unfortunately, when the road started getting very crowded around 2003 and started making many twists and turns, I didn’t have the foresight to put down the coffee and muffin, place both hands firmly on the wheel, and pay very close attention to the road. I just kept on driving like before, assuming everything was the same. Ultimately, the GoOmobile swerved into the path of an incredibly powerful semi-truck called “Exchange Rate Fluxuation,” causing a terrible wreck and writing off the vehicle.

I’m not making light of the situation, but I thought that John’s analogy was a perfect fit. Running the company when things were peachy was easy, but I faltered when the going got tough. For my lack of knowledge and experience, I sincerely apologise to our many thousands of consumers and fans, our creditors and freelancers, and to my many friends who put their faith in my dream. I failed, and I’m sorry I couldn’t do better.

So where does that leave things now? I don’t have all the answers yet – I was trying to line them up before making this announcement – but here’s what I can say at this time:

* BESM Third Edition is finished and ready for press. Another company will be publishing it and providing future support. It’s the most elegant version of BESM and the Tri-Stat System that I have put together and am very proud of it. If you pre-ordered the book from us, more information will follow.

* Advanced d20 Magic is back from press and will be hitting stores in August. Customers who pre-ordered directly from us will be receiving their orders.

* We are still attempting to place the A Game of Thrones RPG with another company. Of course, this requires GRRM’s approval and we are still working out details. AGOT is a fantastic game, and we will do our best to see it continued.

* All outstanding orders will be fulfilled. If we are unable to ship you the order for some reason, you will have the option of having a refund sent to you. We are no longer taking any orders directly from our web store.

* Our products will remain for sale as both print books and PDFs as long as the stores will carry them. We are arranging for our products to be transferred to another company. I have no information regarding their future publication.

* Our Tri-Stat/brand licenses remain in effect for as long as indicated in the contracts, and licensees may still publish products under the terms of such licenses. Obviously, the Magnum Opus imprint will cease to operate.

* Our creditors (which includes freelancers and friendly investors) will be contacted directly in the coming weeks. There is still much to do on this end, and I ask for your patience while we get things in order and communicate with you.

Some people have inquired about my personal future, so I’ll be brief. I am leaving the gaming industry. I need to concentrate on recovering financially from the collapse of the company and on rebuilding the strength of my family, which unfortunately suffered over the past couple of years. I am now working as a real estate sales representative in Guelph, and find the work a refreshing change of pace. My health is great, my family is very understanding, and I look forward to what the future will hold.

There are so many people to whom I am grateful for all their help, advice, and support over our 9-year run. Please forgive me if I forget anyone:

* my wonderful wife, Karen, for … well … everything
* my parents for always giving me their best wishes and telling me how proud they are of my accomplishments
* Adam Jury, who stuck with the company and with me until the end
* Jesse Scoble, for sharing so very many awesome experiences under the guise of “work”
* Jeff Mackintosh, for accepting that job offer initiated in the Columbus bar
* David Pulver, for putting BESM 2e on the map
* Ryan Dancey, for always being just a phone call away; sweet, dude
* John Zinser, for showing and mentoring me in the Hard Way
* Cindy Rice, for befriending this little guy in New York many years ago
* John and Michelle Nephew, for keen insight, support, and friendship
* Alex Fennel, for working with this fellow foreigner for several years
* Joe Saul, for always shooting straight and giving me the US perspective
* Erick Wujcik, for giving me the opportunity to carry the torch, even if I couldn’t follow through
* Derek, who offered to help an old friend in need
* Andy, Todd, Jules, Lindsey, Ken, John, and Lowell for lending a helping hand
* Steve, for helping make deals happen
* The Hero Games crew, for making advertising a lot of fun
* Marcelo Figueroa, for his eternal offers of assistance and of course
* our customers, fans, and supporters – without whom running Guardians Of Order would have been impossible. You have my sincerest gratitude.

Hello and goodbye, as always.

Mark C. MacKinnon
President, Guardians Of Order, Inc.
Guelph, Ontario
July 31st, 2006

15 Comments »

15 comments

  1. Chris says:

    I find it fascinating he blamed Martin for ‘going public’ with this information. Might not have had to happen if emails and phone calls had gone answered…

  2. FoE3 says:

    Word, Chris.

    There’s an old saying: take action, or be acted upon. People who chose to do nothing ought not to complain when others take action. Mr. Martin certainly has a lot more invested in the GoT property than GoO in any event, and I suspect had been more than patient.

    Still, I feel for the guy, and hope things play out well for him in the future, and for GoO’s former gamelines. I was a fan of many of their products over the years, and thought they did very good work in general.

  3. Dai Oni says:

    Blamed or not, it was a simple miscommunication. Out of courtesy, Mark, a licensee, had to informed George that he is shutting down his business before the rest of the public. George just leaked it out, not having any obligation to Mark to make that public announcement.

  4. FoE3 says:

    Agreed that there was a misunderstanding / miscommunication, but really, my experience in business is that “courtesy” happens *before* the phones are disconnected and people stop responding. *Spin control* is what happens when people have to track one down to get an answer that should have been forthcoming.

    I agree it’s unfortunate how it came out, and respect GoO’s desire to handle in a smoother manner. Unfortunately, they’d have needed to be more proactive.

  5. Chris says:

    Dai,

    There were _several_ firms (IE Distributors and retailers) trying to contact GoO during the “dark period.” Not just GRRM.

  6. Dai Oni says:

    And he’s busy scrabmling to save his business. Gawd only knows what he was doing behind-the-scene.

  7. Dai Oni says:

    scrabmling = scrambling

  8. Chris says:

    Alienating your business parrners is simply no way to “save your business.” Frankily I am tired of the apologists for people in this industry who go dark, and then have many, many excuses as to how and why it happened. I have worked at a few companies that have shut down. There are professional ways to handle it, and then there are examples like this.

  9. Dai Oni says:

    He may not be the best businessman… If that is what is truly more important in the RPG industry than a game designer, Chris.

    Then there is some validity of hiring someone who is strictly corporate (like a former Coke ad exec) to handle a game company.

  10. Dai Oni says:

    Besides, I recalled TSR having gone dark and making excuses like “printer problems” before WotC made an announcement they’re buying the company. Granted, the management up until the last day sucked — especially when you had a b**** running the company, trying to convert it into a BUCK ROGERS merchandisehouse. But I won’t let that overshadowed the company’s many good products … far too many for fans to collect.

  11. FoE3 says:

    It’s a complete false starter around whether the best businessman is or isn’t “more important” in the RPG industry than a game designer.

    Poor game designer = poor product

    Poor businessman = poor company.

    Both are equally bad. Choosing one over the other is simply making a trade-off for the inevitable crash.

    Smart businesses seek good business saavy and good designers. *That* is what is truly important for the game industry (and any other).

  12. Dai Oni says:

    In this case, Mark admitted he did not have the business-savvy to keep his company afloat since the rough time started last year.

  13. Chris says:

    Exactly. I am glad we finally agree then.

  14. vin says:

    I’ve never run a business, so I’ll just keep my half-baked ideas about how I should behave when my dreams fall apart to myself.

  15. Ian Sturrock says:

    Mark not only “went dark”, he’s still effectively “dark” now to most of his creditors — freelancers the world over, struggling to make a living. He owes us in the region of hundreds of thousands of dollars for games that GoO has released and profited on, but he still won’t return emails. Vague promises to “contact us directly in the coming weeks” mean nothing; they don’t he has any intention of ever paying us. This announcement smacks more of a bit of spin control/damage control at the last minute — an attempt to sell a few more products, including maybe selling of GoO’s significant IP, while continuing to evade his creditors.

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