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Gabler's 2D Boy blog, where he posted a brief explanation once the blogosphere discovered the project in March, oozed excitement. "Anyway, I can't tell you how giddy we are that we actually have a shot to get indie games out there in a sexy and fashionable way," he wrote. Gabler encouraged readers to keep their fingers crossed and asked game designers to pitch their own ideas.
One week later, the technology blog Boing Boing Gadgets reported that EGP Apparel was no more, citing an anonymous designer within the project. Gabler went silent when someone pointed this out on his blog, and that was it. The test run had lasted less than two months before Target pulled the plug.
McMillen believes that sales fell just short of the goal, though the developers never saw any specific figures. "We don't even know any numbers that we've sold, and we haven't seen any money," McMillen said. "At least we got shirts."
Jenni Hank, the developers' contact at Compass, wasn't available for an interview to discuss EGP Apparel in detail. She stressed in an e-mail that the Target run was only a test. "In their opinion it did not work," Hank said. "It does not mean there is not a chance for it again, right time and right place."
The developers tell a slightly different story. McMillen said the cardboard sleeve that held each game could have been seen as an oversized tag rather than a CD case. All three developers said the shirts could have been better marketed to shoppers.
Gabler cited additional problems. Compass sent spies to select stores, and some locations, he alleges, didn't replenish their stock of shirts when they sold out. Others simply didn't display the shirts at all. Target never accounted for these discrepancies, which still hurt EGP Apparel's sell-through rate.
"Target doesn't really explain itself," Gabler said.
This is true. I sent a list of questions, both specific to EGP Apparel and in general about the company's test run system, to a Target spokesman, Joshua Thomas. He declined to answer all of them, saying the information I sought is proprietary.
Compass felt that EGP Apparel still had life after Target. The marketers said they would try to find other retail avenues, including Hot Topic, Urban Outfitters and Spencer Gifts, but that was months ago, and the developers haven't received an update since. Surprisingly, they don't seem bitter about the way things panned out.