Recently we created a couple surveys (see data below) to help us understand the value of a print and play version of our games with regard to how people back and purchase our games. But first let’s cover a few basic things:
A print and play (PnP) version of your game is simply a downloadable set of graphics and instructions to allow someone to craft your game at home. This can be used to help spread the word of your game or get it into the hands of people overseas who can’t afford high shipping/import fees, or just people who enjoy the hobby.
The PnP Distributable
When creating your distribution files here are some things to keep in mind:
- Format: You should make all your files PDF. Using anything else can be computer and printer dependent and change the final sizes of the document when printed out. You need to make sure that everything is the right size and fits together when you distribute your PnP, so you should make use of PDF. Most graphic and even word processing software can output into that format and there are free converters. It is also much easier to work with your files if you provide several files instead of one PDF with many pages. Some items like cards might have a back side, which you could include as the second page.
- Paper size: It’s best to just use the 8.5 x 11 inch USA format as it fits the A4 Euro paper. You might be tempted to make 11×17 or some other format to allow for larger game boards, but it’s not a good idea as few people have these papers on hand. It’s best to offer large artwork in 2 formats: 1) the original size, 2) a chopped up version that can be printed on 8.5 x 11 and cut and pasted back together.
- Resolution: For years I’ve been releasing my PnP files as 150 dpi (dots per inch) and no one complained as most printers can’t print anything higher with any real noticeable difference in the outcome. My latest release though we got complaints about using this size, so I think it’s time to start using 300 dpi, but the file sizes really go up when using it.
- Guidelines: Help make things easier on person crafting your game… give them guidelines in the borders to help cut the right places. A sheet of 9 cards for example should have some guide lines in the margin to help line up a paper cutter. It’s also a good idea to include a readme/help doc in your release to explain what all the files are and how many times you need to print each file.
- Quality: You can create a PnP with limited artwork or black and white for handing out freely to spread the word of your game. You can also charge for a full art high res version of your PnP files on sites like WarGameVault.com – Some people also prefer to have a color-lite version of the game in case they are concerned about cost of printing it out. So in most cases it’s wise to provide a low-ink black and white version with your full art/color version.
- Content: Some companies will release the free version of their game with some elements missing. That could be art but it can also be actual game elements and rules. Unless you’re really sure you can get the full game concept and mechanics across in an abridged version, I recommend you include all the rules & elements to play the full game. The few people that are going to bother to print it out and play it will appreciate it, and most will never go that far anyway, so so them what your game is about in full.
Tips on crafting your own PnP projects: https://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Print_and_Play_Games
Usually I just provide a PnP of all our games as a low pledge level in the Kickstarter and then later sell them cheaply on the WarGameVault.com site. During a recent campaign for our DragonFlame card game we wanted to try to get an idea of how much the PnP influenced the purchase/backing decision as well as attempt to get an idea of who the people actually are that crafted and played PnP games. So, this time around we crafted the PnP files BEFORE the Kickstarter even started and released the full art full version of the game for free to everyone. Well not totally free, you had to provide a valid email address.
To this end, we came up with a survey to ask our backers (people who put money down) and one to ask the 1000 people who downloaded our free PnP. About 630 backers responded to our survey but of the people who got this FREE PnP from us, only about 150 people answered our short survey. This could be because the backers already answered mostly identical questions, it could be that my mailings ended up in junk folders, but it’s still a low % of people. Not an initial favorable sign for good will built by releasing a PnP for free. We needed to ask this group of people (the downloaded email list) because they are the ones who may have decided NOT to back us because of the PnP.
This survey was an attempt to quantify whether people are actually using the PnP and whether that PnP file actually influenced their decision to back our project (or purchase it in the future). One big caveat with this data, we are Minion Games and we have a good reputation and so a certain percentage of our backers already trust us. Thus, my guess is that the PnP will actually be a bit more important to those who are newer to publishing. Also, if your game is more than just cards and game board, less people will bother making it. Anyway, on to the questions and results and my take on them…
Even though we did several mailings to our past backers, made postings to Facebook and Twitter, links on google plus+, and even had the link on the top of the Kickstarter page itself, it appears that nearly 25% of our fans didn’t even know there was a PnP to be had. This may seem a bit shocking, but it’s human nature to gloss over things… A lesson in it’s a good idea to repeat yourself when it’s something important.
Only about another quarter of the people who participated in our surveys actually downloaded the PnP. Several people mentioned that just knowing it was there to download was enough for them to trust us and back us, so they didn’t download it but it still had some effect on them.
It’s very common when you offer something for free that people will just download it and never even open the file. Some will download it and at least take a look through it to see how the final copy of the game might turn out and to assure themselves that they are backing someone who knows what they are doing. So it’s not shocking that a vast amount of the people who downloaded the files never actually printed them out. About 17% of our survey participants actually made (or plan to) use of the files for their intended purpose.
Here we see that at least the majority of the people who bothered to print the game gave it a playtest. But still, about 5% didn’t take it any further then printing it out. Probably within the margin of error for this survey. So we can assume that most all the people who bothered to print it at least got to play it or still plan to do so.
Now we get down to the heart of it… Was the PnP something that effected a person’s purchasing decision. As you can see from the numbers, only around 15%-18% were really influenced by the availability of the PnP.
We asked the question in another form so that we could close in on a true number. Here we see that the number is closer to the 18% estimate. But what’s even more interesting is that 7% of the people who just downloaded the PnP files chose NOT to back us after seeing what the game was really about. That’s not to say they would have all backed if they didn’t see a PnP but since they bothered to answer in the question that way it’s probably accurate. One could assume based on our reputation as a publisher and the cheap entry cost of this game, that at least 5% of them probably would have taken the chance and backed us. So the release of the PnP might have cost us $200 in $5 PnP pledges.
Still trying to hone in on the true numbers, we ask the same question in another form, but this time only to the people who downloaded the files (not the backers). Again we see about 8% saying they bailed out of backing us cause of the PnP. That’s more or less in line with the above data. Also the 17% or so that backed it cause of the PnP is in line with the above estimates.
A new data element here, about 35% of the 150 people that responded to the downloader survey said they’d still consider buying the game in the future. That’s good to know, but not overly helpful for seeing if the PnP is useful. It simply affirms that many of the people who grabbed the PnP didn’t really do much with it and it didn’t sway them enough to put money down now.
One argument for providing PnPs is that people outside the USA who don’t like all the shipping and import taxes on Kickstarter games, would be more inclined to print out and play a PnP. This was my thought and anecdotal evidence from past campaigns, but as you can see here, the answers to the survey do NOT support that theory. This is odd to me.
So of the people who said that downloaded the PnP, more of them outside the USA say they actually played it. But they are so close that the margin of error in this survey makes these numbers the same. So regardless of where you live, the likely-hood of you playing a PnP seems to be the same.
My Take Away
Minion Games usually makes a few hundred bucks off a PnP (10-15% of the backers buy at $5) during a Kickstarter campaign and a few more hundred over the endless life-cylce of the PnP on a download sales site. So to provide this game for free in full resolution up front probably cost us $500 of revenues (at much higher than normal profit margin). So the question then is simple, did we generate enough interest and good will and future sales to pay back that lost profit. In other words, if we consider it an advertising expense, was it worth it in the long run?
Only about 15-18% of our backers were influenced by our releasing the PnP. I’m positive a good percentage of that would have still backed without the PnP being released up front. So if we graciously assume that about 10% of our funding was directly related to having the PnP released up front, that would equate to about $2000 of pledges. We figure we lost $200 in pledges we probably would have gotten if they didn’t see the files first. We lost about $500 in actual PnP sales (we typically see 10-15% sales of $5 PnP copies – which is all profit) earnings that we typically make on a PnP in the Kickstarter. So that means in the end, releasing the PnP netted us about $1300 in gross revenue dollars for the printing of this game than if we had not done so. Publishers with less of a track record would probably see a greater amount of return on their PnP version being release before/during the campaign.
One thing not addressed by our survey, is the fact that we released a full color and ink-lite version of our game at the same time. It is my educated guess that a majority of the benefit of having a PnP released early and for free would still be there if you ONLY released the ink or art lite version up front and charged $5 for the full art version in the Kickstarter. That is what we plan to do going forward when possible. PnP files are sometimes not ready ahead of time, but I think this survey indicates that we should make more of an effort to provide a playable version of the game during the campaign.
I will say though, that I was disappointed by the small amount of extra publicity and exposure that the PnP files got us. We basically gave a card game away and we expected the campaign to do much better than it did. It could have been timing (running late in the year near the holidays) but it really didn’t get the buzz we hoped for. Releasing the PnP a month before the KS campaign didn’t seem to help us any – though it didn’t seem to hurt.