So you want to start a board game company? I could go into a page of details of each of these bullet points below (and maybe I will in the future), but for now I wanted to just take the 10,000 foot view of what it takes to make a hobby board game these days. I have done this now for over 14 games. This process can take 1 year to complete. Printers take 60-90 days and overseas shipping takes 21-30 days.
- Accept or Create a game design
- Typical contract to a designer is 3-5% of MSRP. 5-6% of Wholesale. 20-25% of Net Profit.
- Some publishers pay a signing bonus but not many.
- There should be a clause to get the game to market within 2 years
- Develop & Streamline that design
- Get outside help to polish the game
- Remove excess rules or those that break rules where possible
- Remove fiddly bits or sub-games
- Try to attend a Protospiel event to get good feedback from other designers
- Blind Test the game
- Have people you don’t know play the game without your help
- Hire an artist
- Hire a manual editor / writer
- Designers can’t write manuals. Get a professional to help.
- Here’s a great article about rules writing by Seth Jaffee.
- Hire a Layout / Manual designer
- Manuals are printed any size but in 4-page counts.
- 100-150 gsm, 4/4 color, CYMK
- To make your artwork pop
- To make icons and rules clear
- Costs around $500-2000
- Producer and Project Manager
- Someone to organize all the staff, manage the logistics, and keep people on task
- Most likely this will be you. Get some tools to help you.
- Create components spec sheet
- Printers will want to know thickness and finishes on all bits
- Cards are typically 275-300 gsm of CARD STOCK (a multilayer stock)
- Boards/Tokens are typically 1mm-2mm thick with a Linen finish
- Wood bits are typically around 8-20mm in size.
- Get bids from printers (see my RFQ post)
- Every die you make for tokens is going to have a $300 setup cost, try to share 1 die.
- For a plastic figure you need to pay for a mold which is $3000-5000 setup fee.
- Custom dice are expensive and unless you’re doing 2000+ ganes, they are usually not worth the costs, try stamped or stickers
- Card sizes – EURO: 59x91mm, 44x67mm – USA: 63x88mm, 57x87mm
- Don’t forget extra zip lock bags and the e form to hold stuff from moving.
- Don’t get talked into printing more than 1500-2500 copies.
- Player boards will warp if printed on only one side, always worth the extra cost to do both.
- Watch out for short cuts, humidity problems, just poor quality control from China
- Ludo Fact in Germany does good work. Here is a video of them.
- PandaGM.com is out of Canada and overseas a China printer for high quality
- Do not pay for safety testing from the printer as it’s just a racket to rip you off. Most games do not need this, but if you are targeting under age 13 you may have to.
- Set your Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price
- A simple formula is to take your total printing+shipping+fees and divide by the # of games and multiple by 5 or 6 to get the MSRP.
- Simple 1 deck card game should be $9-19
- Light family or casual or party games should be around $20-39
- Typical 3 pound 12”x12” board game has a value of about $50-60
- Big box or heavy components games can go as high as $99
- Setup a Kickstarter campaign page with rewards & stretch goals
- As a publisher there is never a reason NOT to run a kickstarter campaign – so do it.
- Setup your Amazon payment account right away, don’t wait. Even though the KS site says you’ll get your money 1-2 weeks after your campaign, it’s actually delivered the night the campaign ends.
- Setup 80% of your Kickstarter page and submit it for review. You can update it more later
- Make sure you have a $20-$30 item to buy as that’s the most popular buy-in
- Make a video even if it’s just a simple iPhone introduction. Keep it short < 3 min.
- Run your campaign for about 30 days not much longer. Start and end dates should be chosen based on typical employer pay days.
- Stretch goals should contain upgrades to bits or special cards but no new rules. They should not be required to play.
- People will pay $10-20 extra for signed copies. They will pay $25-50 extra for the ability to add content to the game in some form.
- Good a la carte items are pins and t-shirts.
- Market & Manage Kickstarter campaign
- Social networking and having a base readership BEFORE your campaign starts
- Post updates regularly (1-3 times a week)
- Run contests to give things away and draw attention to your KS page
- Add yourself to the KS announcement thread on BoardGameGeek.com.
- Get interviewed on websites and podcasts
- Get a review of the game done, if possible by a third party
- Pay Down Payment of 50% plus setup fees
- You’ll need to wire the fees to the printer. Your bank with charge you $20-40 for this.
- Build any 3D objects for the printer
- Hire a sculptor ($300-500)
- Create water-tight 3D model
- Build Mechanical Files for the printer
- Mechanicals are the files with bleed and all items positioned on a die with die lines, etc.
- Sounds easy but it’s a bit of a pain. Most require 3mm bleed around everything and some tokens will require 5 or 6mm. The box cover and main game board will probably require a 10mm wrap-around bleed.
- Make sure the back cover has a UPC (you can buy them for cheap online), Age range, Play Time, a choking hazard warning, and NO PRICE. Put an E symbol on the box if you want to sell in Europe. If you make a game for kids under 13, you’ve got a lot of other hassles to deal with from the child protection laws recently passed.
- Solicit product to distribution & retailers
- You’ll get 40% of MSRP if you sell direct to a distributor and they will want free shipping
- You’ll get 34% of MSRP if you sell through a fulfillment house and are listed in many distributors
- Direct sales to retailers will be at 50% of MSRP and free shipping.
- Gamesalute.com also offers some solutions for those only wanting to print 1 game.
- Using a fulfillment company like ImpressionsADV.net or PubServInc.com is highly recommended
- Get “white box” sample from printer
- Details all components and physical materials so you know what you’re getting
- Mailing will usually be a Fedex box and cost $100-300 for this. It’s worth it.
- Pay final printing and shipping bill
- The printer will not ship until you do.
- Arrange shipment / customs to warehouse
- Shipping overseas is by volume and will cost you about $3000-4500
- Once in the USA you need someone to deliver the product, most printers will help you but it might cost you a few hundred more as could customs fees.
- Storage at a warehouse can be free or up to $15 a month for a pallet. About 300-600 games fit on a pallet. If you have no warehouse be prepared to fill your garage, hallways, basement, and more.
- Ship out Kickstarter copies and add -ons
- This will probably take you a week to get done, be prepared by ordering boxes ahead of time
- Remember all those add-on a la carte menu things you offered – you’ll regret that now!
- Sell to Distributors
- If you don’t have a fulfillment company working for you, you need to contact distributors yourself. ACD, Alliance, GTS are some of the larger US ones. Esdevium Games and Brave New World are big in the EU. Lion Rampant in Canada.
- Don’t think the fun is over, you still have to make all the royalty and tax payments
- Continue marketing and convention support
- Create a webpage to promote and direct sell the game (only at MSRP).
- Give out review copies to podcasts and video reviewers
- Post and run banners on BoardGameGeek.com
- GAMA Trade Show (Spring – Las Vegas) : Show for meeting retailers
- Origins (Early Summer – Columbus) : Good show to demo at. Hookup with the CABs there
- GENCON (Late Summer – Indianapolis) : Biggest US event and great vendor hall
- Internationale Spieltage (Fall – Essen, Germany) : World’s largest consumer show
- BGG Con (Fall – Dallas) : Great exposure for demos
Click HERE for a Project Milestone Checklist that I use.
Top Ten Tips for Game Publishers
Board Game Business Podcast:
The Cost of a Board Game in Time:
Designers events: http://www.Protospiel-Milwaukee.org
Obtaining an SMC number (first part of your sku) for use on your products in the hobby industry contact:
HMA Executive Secretary
1410 East Erie Avenue
Philadelphia, Pa 19124
Written by: James Mathe