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Holy Grail Games Has Shut Down

by W. Eric Martin

On February 14, 2023, French publisher Holy Grail Games announced that it was closing:

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On the Holy Grail Games website, the publisher posted a long explanation of how the company got into this situation, starting with a situation that will be familiar to many — Covid lockdowns:

The lockdowns we experienced in 2020, both in France and for our production partners in China, caused us to take on huge delays. This effectively bottlenecked our production schedule, blocking the projects that we had been about to produce at the time (Museum: Deluxe and Titan) as well as drastically slowing the development of our subsequent projects (Museum: Pictura, Dominations Deluxe and Rallyman: Dirt). These delays wrought havoc in our editorial calendar, worsened by our team struggling to cope with quarantining and working from home. We were unable to produce and release our games at our usual pace, resulting in the loss of a lot of our retail revenue for almost two years.

And lockdowns led to container shortages, increased production costs, and other expenses outside of what had been budgeted:

For some projects such as Titan, the increase was as high as +400%. The problems continued with increased postage costs for shipping packages to our backers, which went up by 20-40%. Fuel surcharges for logistics also went up by 200%.

Each time one of these new price increases occurred, we made the decision not to transfer any of these costs onto our backers, as we felt that we were able to absorb them by taking from our profit margins. We continued to hope that we could weather the storm.

As noted above, Holy Grail Games is a French company, and all of its crowdfunding campaigns collected funds in Euros, but the value of the Euro fell against the dollar, going from roughly $1.22 to €1 in Q2 2021 to parity $1/€1 at the end of Q2 2022:

As all of our productions are paid for in dollars this was particularly damaging, causing us to lose around 200,000 euros. Once again, we decided to absorb the cost to get the games delivered to our backers. This left us in a very fragile position, but we were confident that with the growing success of Encyclopedia and other retail releases coming very soon, we could make it through.

The situation worsened, in Holy Grail Games’ telling, thanks to poor relations with fulfillment partner Bolloré Logistics:

We had worked with them before on two previous projects, and while things didn’t go perfectly, we had extensive meetings with them afterwards and they assured us that this time, they would get it right. We had no reason to doubt a company of their size and reputation.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be a huge mistake on our part. The problems began almost immediately. Once our stock arrived in their warehouses in September, they took months to start sending it out, causing massive delays. They also lost tens of thousands of euros worth of games by sending out the wrong packages to the wrong people (sometimes to individuals who hadn’t even backed the campaign) and doing little to nothing to correct their mistakes. Backers waited months to have shipping errors corrected, and in many cases, we ended up sending things out ourselves from our spare parts stock just to get things moving.

Bolloré continued to promise that they would speed things up, agreeing that the delays were not normal. We passed this information on to our backers in good faith. Each additional delay worsened the situation for us, as our backers were understandably furious, causing untold damage to our reputation. We received over 2000 messages on our Kickstarter inbox and Helpdesk between November and January. Our small team struggled to keep up with the volume of messages, forcing us to hire freelancers which drained our finances even more.

Our next Kickstarter campaign (Copan: Dying City) didn’t do anywhere near as well as we’d hoped: we knew that the situation had cost us the support of a large part of our community. The delays also caused us to miss key retail release dates and sales periods such as Black Friday and Christmas.

Unfortunately living up to its name

With little income from sales, no willingness to run another crowdfunding campaign, invoices due for produced crowdfunding projects, and stock held hostage by Bolloré Logistics, Holy Grail Games said:

The final straw came last week, when we found out that key distribution partners would be delaying their next orders by six months or more due to the current economic situation. Their orders were the last thing that would have kept us going.

This has left us with no choice but to shut everything down.

Holy Grail Games has now entered the bankruptcy process, meaning that all of our assets have been handed over to a government official who will use them to pay our creditors. As of this week, we will lose access to all our email and work accounts, and our team will all be laid off.

Michael Mitnik, a backer of Rallyman: Dirt, which has been delivered to some of the Kickstarter backers but not all, created a Discord titled Rallyman Dirt KS Follow Up to try to coordinate outreach to Bolloré Logistics in support of backers who had not yet received their material.

Now waiting in the pits…

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