Skip to Content

All dressed up...

6 replies [Last post]
Traz
Traz's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/06/2009

What did I miss? I self-published one of my games, but none of the publishers I've talked to [or who have talked to me] seem to be interested in taking it on for themselves.

The game, EXPRESS LINE, is a dice & card game that uses railroad logos. It took me a year-and-a-half to get all the licensing agreements from the various railroad companies. More than a few people told I would never be able to get all the companies 'on board' for the project, but I did. And now, everybody that I talk to [publishing company owners, anyway], are all shocked that I was able to do it [they all want to know how I pulled it off], but none of them want to to follow up on the opportunity - even though I've done all the licensing groundwork for them. It all seems like 'doublethink' to me, and I don't get it.

If a publisher has an opportunity to put out an extremely hard to get licensed product, but then turns down that opportunity... what exactly does that mean? I obviously don't get the whole licensing concept thing. Most of the licensed games that get into boxes are pretty lame. Once the licensing agreement has been reached, it seems many publishers just slap the first game system they can find on it and on the shelf it goes.

For those of you unfamiliar with railroad logos, you are probably familiar with train games - look closely at them. You'll note virtually none of them sport actual logos from real train companies. For the past 15 years, the train companies have been very protective of those logos and hardly anybody has been able to license them [hence the shock factor by those in the know]. Now that I was able to cross that line, I find it curious that nobody seems eager to take advantage of the breakthrough... what am I missing?

Dralius
Dralius's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/26/2008
It’s not how hard a license

It’s not how hard a license is to get that matters. It’s how much money a publisher thinks they can make from game X. The Rail games I’m familiar with are niche market products. Most don’t sell enough copies a year to justify licensing fees. That would cut into the profit. To make it worthwhile you would have to demonstrate how having the logo would lead to additional sales that would not only cover this expense but also exceed it.

From looking at your game at BGG I’m uncertain of the audience you shooting for. 3 hours is quite long for a mass-market product and the random elements might put off your hard-core train gamers. Have you been pitching it to small or large publishers?

Traz
Traz's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/06/2009
penetration

The audience this game is pitched to is just about everybody. It has something for just about everybody:

MASS MARKET - the game only lasts three hours if you have the full 10 players possible. At that point it becomes a party game and 3 hours is fine [especially when you know it going in]. For 3-4 players, a session only runs 1 - 1.5 hours [less for experienced players].

HARD-CORE TRAIN GAMERS - the feedback I've gotten from the afficianados says the flavor/theme comes through in spades. Randomness in the game system has never been called into question. In fact, the randomness generated in the game drives the play.

SMALL PUBLISHERS - for small publishers here in the States that don't have access to to the Big Box Stores or European Distributors, you are probably right. But this is the sort of game that could GET a smaller publisher INTO those markets BECAUSE it has the licensed logos.

LARGE PUBLISHERS - mass market penetration is what it's all about - if I understand how the market works. I'm a game designer, NOT a businessman. But one thing I have picked up on is that licensed material sells bigger at the larger retailers [and in Europe] because the recognition factor spurs impulse buying.

The fact that you have a functional game with some depth to it should only give it legs... nobody else has anything out there on the shelf that can display these highly recognizable logos in a family boardgame format. This game could be at WallyWorld, ToysRUs or Target and sit on the shelf with no competition. My contacts [and the few Europeans who have bought copies] all inform me that Europeans are nuts for this type of thing [of course, they could all be shining me on - how would I know?].

So, yes... I've pitched it to a couple large guys and a couple small guys to no avail. The guy I really WANTED to pitch to - LIONEL TRAINS - are the folks I can't seem to get ahold of. They have an insane market penetration because they can get product into the train hobby store/Big Box/any place else they want through distribution - but the person I was in contact with for 6 months disappeared.... *sigh*

So - I'm thinking I'm going about my presentation all wrong [I call and talk to the people in charge]. Or it might be more than that, and I'm just clueless. Which is why I'm here.

Hopefully it's the 'more than that' and not just 'I'm clueless'. :)

guildofblades
Offline
Joined: 07/28/2008
>>SMALL PUBLISHERS - for

>>SMALL PUBLISHERS - for small publishers here in the States that don't have access to to the Big Box Stores or European Distributors, you are probably right. But this is the sort of game that could GET a smaller publisher INTO those markets BECAUSE it has the licensed logos.<<

The thing is, a game about trains is simply unlikely to get much, if any penetration into the mass market at all. Why? Because model trains themselves are not there anymore. Model trains is simply not a mass market hobby anymore. These are the days when Marx and Lionel would have a presence in major retailers.

Since interest ins trains is a niche itself these days, as you might expect, the fact that a game has acquired the actual logos from the train companies is only going to appeal to the same niche.

Now, that said, its still a reasonably sizable niche. So the game has a market. That is evidenced alone by the success of Mayfairs line of train games. But don't expect Hasbro, Mattel or any other mass market publisher to get too excited about trains. I suspect they will view the target audience as being too niche these days. Could be a great game for the right small publisher though.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.gobretail.com
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com

bluepantherllc
bluepantherllc's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/29/2008
Train game

Check out my note to you offline.

SJ

clearclaw
clearclaw's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
You're not focusing on what's important to the publisher

You seem to be under the apprehension that the logos are important. They're not. There's only one thing that's actually important to a publisher: What are the risks that the game will or won't sell in enough volume that it will be at least reasonably profitable? Answer that question and you've also answered your other questions.

simpson
Offline
Joined: 10/22/2008
"The audience this game is

"The audience this game is pitched to is just about everybody. It has something for just about everybody"

No game is liked by just about everybody. Even classic games like poker, chess, go, monopoly -- each one has its detractors. The game could possibly have game elements that appeal to every audience but the takeaway gameplay will always be debatable.

"nobody else has anything out there on the shelf that can display these highly recognizable logos in a family boardgame format."

I'm a bit of a logophile but the only train logos that spring to mind are the CAT logo, Toys for Tots, and the F train.

Also, train games are a niche market in the niche market of board games so unless you were looking to reboot a franchise, you can assume that a new entry into the market will act predictably like other entries before it. If you know that, then publishers know that too.

simpson

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut