Saturday, July 21, 2012

Inc. Articles on TSR

Reader Markus Siebler passed along a couple of links I thought I'd share, since they provide fascinating looks back on the history of the hobby. They're both from the February 1982 issue of the business magazine Inc. The first, "TSR Hobbies Mixes Fact and Fantasy," talks about the phenomenal growth of the company since its incorporation in 1975. I found this quote from the particularly amusing:
In their business explorations, TSR's owners and managers have been called upon to use many of the skills that are required to play Dungeons & Dragons. "I quit playing the game about two years ago to get some objectivity," says Kevin B. Blume, 30, chief operating officer."I love to play, but it wasn't that difficult to forego. Now I'm playing a much larger game called business. That's why we're intuitively good businessmen -- because games are a great way to learn."
The second article, "Why TSR Hobbies Is So Profitable," includes an income statement for fiscal 1981, which reveal the company had net sales close to $10 million, which would have been a significant amount 30+ years ago.

The articles are short and filled with self-congratulatory puffery on the part of TSR (there's no mention whatsoever of Dave Arneson, for example), but, even so, it's fascinating stuff, not least because it was written as the company was still riding high. However, it wouldn't be very many years in the future before the company's fortunes were quite different, posting a net loss in revenue and having to lay off large numbers of its staff.


  1. Pre-tax income of just $2 million out of $10 million in sales? Wow, they had a lot of overhead it seems.

  2. FY1981 was only 9 months long. So they were actually on a $27 million run-rate. Their margins looked pretty good too.

  3. "I love to play, but it wasn't that difficult to forego. Now I'm playing a much larger game called business." I can envisage him saying this in a smug condescending tone...

  4. That's actually really good. a 20% pretax margin is great for any business. Hard to believe that in a decade they would be flying off the rails.

  5. Blume was an intuitively good businessman the same way I was an intuitively good nuclear physicist.