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Publishing Spielunker

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Oracle
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Joined: 06/22/2010

Based on some of the recent discussion in the Game Publication forum, it seems like we could publish 500 copies of this game for under $2000. If we can get 40 people to each chip in $50, we'd have enough money to do it.

The way the game was developed collaboratively would make an interesting story that would help the game get some attention. There's a few people here who have had games reviewed in Games magazine, so they know how it's done, and the magazine might like our angle; sort of like Linux -- we did start out with an open source analogy.

For the $50, I'd suggest each person get a couple of copies of the game.

The worst case is the game is a total flop, then we're each out $50, but at least we have professionally made copies of a game we took part in developing (about 10 copies each since we'd just divide up the unsold copies - and we all know gamers they'd make great christmas gifts for next year :) ). More importantly we'll get to go through the experience of self-publishing a game and see how it's done. The experience alone could be worth a lot more than $50 when we go to publish our own games.

The best case is the game sells well. Then with the proceeds, we can publish the next game we develop here or have another contest where the winner gets their game published by the community. We'd also each get copies of the new game without having to kick in any more money, and we keep repeating the process, so if we succeed, we'll accumulate a nice library of games for free.

This could be totally impractical. I'm just throwing it out there for comments.

Jason

hpox
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Publishing Spielunker

That's pretty good but we'd have to finish the game before :D

Oracle
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Publishing Spielunker

hpox wrote:
That's pretty good but we'd have to finish the game before :D

It's pretty slow now, probably because people are busy with holidays. I'm hoping it will pick up in the new year. The prospect of getting it published might help keep people more focused on it too.

The only real problems I see are there's a lot less than 40 people involved in the project, and it's likely that not everyone will be willing to kick in $50.

Jason

phpbbadmin
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Oracle and I discussed this in chat

How about trying a preorder thingy like JustJenn did with Politics? We could take a minimum of 100 preorders at $20 each... Then we've got our investment covered.. The other 400 copies are pure profit. Of course, we would have to request payment in advance. This wouldn't be a huge deal because we could set up a system (probably via Paypal) that people's accounts were automatically debited only when the minimum 100 preorders were reached. At that point, it would be just a matter of giving the cash to the printers, having them print the game, and then shipping them the game. We might be able to get the time from autodebit to shipped product to be around 2 weeks. To me, 2 weeks is a reasonable time to wait from the time your account was debited until you received the game. If we never managed to reach the 100 minimum preorder, then no one would be out any money and we wouldn't have to go through the hassle of refunding cash, etc. Of course, it's not quite that simple. There's the cost to ship from the printer to the 'shipping agent', then from the shipping agent to each customer. Also paypal would get their 'cut' as well. Of course we could take all of this into consideration when setting the price. I think it's doable, but I agree we need to finish the game first.

-Darke

sedjtroll
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Publishing Spielunker

Going through the process of publishing is a logical extension of going through the process of designing the game.

Darkehorses idea is a good one, but I for one wouldn't mind shelling out the $50 for Oracle's idea. If we try to get preorders, we will be waiting forever to get 100 of them. We could go with Oracle's idea, then take as many preorders as possible to reduce the $5 each down to a better number... maybe that's the way to go.

In any case, as has been mentioned, we cannot publish a gae until we are done making it. By way of summary, can someone post what we've got so far? From memory I recall the following:

Some kind of action point system. On your turn you must play a tile. A possible action migth be to play another tile. Some tiles have special symbols on them, and when those tiles come up a discovery chit and an obstacle chit are placed on the tile. Discoveries are worth points- more points for the player who finds it then the following players who experience it. Obstacles must be overcome in order to score the points for the discovery. Movement between caverns and passages costs action points, and complete passages have the advantage of expediting travel from cave to cave.

Something like that. I forget the game-end idea that we went with, but I want to say it was like... players are spelunking with their cameras, each with X blank pictures. When finding a discovery, the player takes a picture of it (and will therby score points for it), and when one player has filled their last film slot with a picture, the game-end is signaled. Bonus points could be awarded to the player who first fills their film slots, and a lesser bonus awarded to other players who fill their slots but aren't the first to do so.

How close was that?

- Seth

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Publishing Spielunker

In regards Darke's suggestion, see GMT's Project 500: http://www.gmtgames.com/p500/gmtp5d.htm

Basically they announce a game and provide information about it. Then when they receive 500 orders (with credit cards, though they're not actually charged unless the game is produced) then they go ahead and print, say, 1,000 of them, with the bucks from the 500 paying for the whole print run and any profit is made from the other 500 they hopefully sell. They've managed to do a fair number of games that way, so that's cool.

-- Matthew

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Re: Publishing Spielunker

Oracle wrote:
Based on some of the recent discussion in the Game Publication forum, it seems like we could publish 500 copies of this game for under $2000.

Wow, it seems like you guys are really moving ahead with this thing! I am impressed.

However, I'm curious where you got this number from? I ask because, to be blunt, I'd be absolutely shocked if this were a true statement. Tiles, a deck of cards, pawns for the players, and the box for $4 in a print run of 500? No way!

Or maybe I'm misunderstanding how big your component set is. But the box alone is going to be a couple of dollars each, and the tiles have got to be a few bucks themselves.

That's not necessarily a bad thing; knowing what little I do know about the game, I guess I'd expect it to retail for $20. So even if you have to pay $10 to make it, I bet you're still ok, particularly since you're looking to sell it direct.

I'll be very interested to see the final product. My impression of the project was that it was a "too many cooks" kind of problem -- that any one of you probably could have designed a game that was as good or better than the one the project will produce at the end. Still, it's a cool and original idea and worth going ahead with just for the sake of trying it. But at the end of the day, having 8 authors isn't going to sell a single copy of the game -- the game is going to have to sell itself on its own merits. But you knew that anyway!

Anyway, good luck with finishing the design and moving to the next level. Doho's tiles look terrific, and I'd almost buy the game without even knowing the mechanics just on the visual appeal of those tiles alone! Keep at it!

-Jeff

Oracle
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Publishing Spielunker

sedjtroll wrote:
Darkehorses idea is a good one, but I for one wouldn't mind shelling out the $50 for Oracle's idea. If we try to get preorders, we will be waiting forever to get 100 of them. We could go with Oracle's idea, then take as many preorders as possible to reduce the $5 each down to a better number... maybe that's the way to go.

Preselling can be a good idea. Personally, I wouldn't buy a game on pre-order even if there were discounts, I'd wait until it's available and a few people have reviewed it on BGG. I don't think I'd have to worry about it selling out before I get a chance to buy one because if it sells that fast, there will be a reprinting.

I know a lot of people are willing to pre-order so I'm sure that idea will work, it will just take a lot longer and there's a chance people who order earlier will lose interest.

That idea also raises a couple of questions. In that case, who gets the profits if there are any? We might end up with people insisting they did more work, so they should get a bigger piece, or some other person didn't do enough so shouldn't get any. With the investment idea, it's based on how much you pay towards printing it, so it's a lot easier to keep track of who owns how much. The other issue is should the developers be expected to be the first to sign up to pay $20 for the game? That doesn't really seem fair. These are both jumping way ahead considering the game isn't even nearly done yet, so I hope I haven't started an argument :).

FastLearner wrote:
They've managed to do a fair number of games that way, so that's cool.

I wonder why they don't use the profit from those games to finance future games. On the first couple of games it seems reasonable to do it that way, but after a point, it just seems unprofessional.

jwarrend wrote:
I'm curious where you got this number from? I ask because, to be blunt, I'd be absolutely shocked if this were a true statement.

I admit I didn't factor in the box at all. I was considering that a deck of cards in that quantity would be about $1.50, and the tiles would be a deck of square cards, hopefully on heavier stock, for about $2.50 (even if it's not possible to do carcassone style tiles for that price, we can still do cards). Pawns will cost a few cents at plastics for games. Considering how rough the rest of the estimate is, it's a small enough amount to leave out. This is a first printing of our first attempt at making a game, we don't have to go all out on parts quality.

$10 might be practical as far as the potential to make a profit if we sell for $20, but keep in mind we'd lose a lot of copies sending out to reviewers and personal copies for the investors. Also, that means raising $5000 which is probably impossible.

This is supposed to be an exercise to get real life experience. I don't think it's reasonable to expect that a new game designer would invest $5,000 in 500 copies if the highest possible gross return is $10,000 ignoring demo copies. Also, if we expect to sell it to retailers with a street price of $20, they'll want it for $10.

I'm not trying to argue with you. This is a learning experience for me. The components we're looking at for this game don't seem unusual for any other self-published small-run game that sells for around $20, so how do people do it? The components are very similiar to what I'd need for CityBuilder; Tiles and Event cards in Spielunker vs Contract and Stock cards in CityBuilder and pawns for both games.

jwarrend wrote:
But at the end of the day, having 8 authors isn't going to sell a single copy of the game -- the game is going to have to sell itself on its own merits.

That's true, but it's an interesting side story that might appeal to a game reviewer and make it a little more likely that we'll get a review featured more prominantly. It's something that stands out to a reviewer who gets more games than they know what to do with.

Jason

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Publishing Spielunker

Oracle wrote:

I'm not trying to argue with you. This is a learning experience for me.

Hey, me too! I think that whether or not any of us are looking to self-publish, having some idea about how the business works is important to knowing how to approach a publisher a game and what items to be flexible on. (Do I really need a deck of 62 cards, or can I whittle it down to 54?)

Quote:

The components we're looking at for this game don't seem unusual for any other self-published small-run game that sells for around $20, so how do people do it?

My guess is "volume". I would guess that many self-published games are done in print runs of 1000 to 2000. Also, I think that the more common "first attempt" at self-publishing is probably a card game like Eight Foot Llama's "who stole Ed's Pants?" or Dogtown's "Mother Lode of Sticky Gulch". Perhaps DonB can tell us more about his own self-publishing exploits, because I can't imagine it was cheap to produce the non-standard components for "Sunda to Sahul".

I have considered (hypothetically) self publishing some games, and have rejected mostly for the philosophical reason that I don't want to be a businessman, but a designer. But even setting that aside, the up-front cost of making a game is so much that I'd have to go with one of my light card games rather than a game like my "Civ lite" that I think people would legitimately like to have as part of their collection. I think I could do the latter for maybe $25 per (on my end), but for a print run of 2,000, that's $50 grand! Crazy!

Anyway, my guess is that the box is not "pennies on the dollar", but will cost you a minimum of $2 or $3 per box in a print run this small (but I could be way off!), and that will put you at $3 - $4k, not $2k. That's still not too bad from a per item cost, but you're right, you're talking about more money up front.

I could be way, way, off here. Does anyone know whether I am? I just don't see how a small print run like this could possibly come in at $4 per game unless you seriously skimp on the quality (ie, black and white graphics, cheap card stock, etc), but that would be a separate discussion you'd have to have with the others. You'd probably never get me to agree to a print run "on the cheap", but luckily, since I'm not involved in the project, you don't have to!

Hmm, this does seem to be a pickle. What, I wonder, would need to happen to make game publication more affordable? For example, "film" used to be the limiting expense that made film-making not viable for a person with no dough, but now with the advent of digital camera equipment, anyone can make a low-budget movie. What is the analogue in the printing business? What revolution could happen that could drive printing costs down to the land of the accessible? Or will it always cost a lot for small print runs, period?

-Jeff

doho123
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Publishing Spielunker

One possible attempt to keep the box price down would be to try and get the components to fit inside a VHS plastic tape box, or some other pre-existing box. I've seen a few Steve Jackson games like this (and some other in a DVD plastic box).

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