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Kickstarter to Manufacturing to Distribution...

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rene.shible
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Joined: 01/30/2014

Hello, BGDF!

Having read and researched on various publishers, perused about at places like thegamecrafter.com, and being familiar with kickstarter, I've read a lot about the different ways people decide to get their game published (although not intimately, clearly). But it's that last one that confuses me.

For those who are taking traditional publishing out of the equation via kickstarter in an analogue medium.... how do you decide where to allocated those funds? And how do you figure out how much you need? Is there a manufacturer that people are familiar and comfortable with that makes these game components? Are people ordering and manufacturing various game components separately and then boxing them and shipping them all themselves, or is there one place that people are generally comfortable with that does all of the above? Are these the same resources the more established publishers have access to? And what about distribution? Let's say you received all of your funding and successfully manufactured your game and shipped out any copies and rewards to your backers... then what? How do you get your game into stores without a traditional publisher/distributor relationship?

I apologize for the scope of this question. I wonder if this isn't just common knowledge and I'm just missing something, hahaha.

This is my first post, but I think this is a really great board that I've been meaning to post in for a while, and I'm really looking forward to the perspective that this great crowd can offer!

~R

questccg
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Joined: 04/16/2011
Manufacturing

There are three (3) options that you can choose when getting your game manufactured:

1. You can get quotes from various US based companies that deal directly with China. They will act as a bridge between you and your Chinese producers. Why is this good? Because I've gotten some DIRECT Chinese quotes that were WAY MORE expensive than dealing with a US intermediary.

2. Deal with a Chinese factory directly. But you will need to worry about things like FOB shipping and making arrangements to have the merchandise shipped to either a warehouse or your home (hope you have the space). A Publisher may deal with the same Chinese factory - but they get BETTER pricing because first of all they do more than ONE production run and secondly they do it for more than ONE game.

3. Deal with a one-off company like The Game Crafter (TGC). Although TGC is not the cheapest alternative for production, they do offer EXCELLENT bulk orders. A Kickstarter campaign could be fulfilled by TGC with GREAT pricing discounts. The only problem is that your game may require special packaging (like a plastic tray or custom box) which TGC does not do.

Okay now for some of your other questions...

Allocating funds:

1. You should get quotes to produce your games in quantities of 500 or 1,000 units.
2. You should estimate shipping costs and determine if you want the hassle of doing international shipping.
3. You should approximate the TOTAL cost of producing the game: artwork, manufacturing, shipping and international + domestic shipping (to backers).

That should give you the rough idea about how much you will need to CHARGE backers of a Kickstarter.

Product manufacturing:

There are people in the US and China who PRODUCE YOUR GAME CUSTOM with ALL of your parameters. Box size and shape, plastics trays, custom components such as chipboard mats or scorecards, documentation and booklets (again custom sizes), etc. Everything is CUSTOM and they quote you how much it will cost. You can even show the sample dice and they will tell you how much extra for dice like that (as an example).

Distribution:

YES - this is a valid question. If you Kickstart your game, you will have a difficult time getting your game out to stores. It is best to PARTNER with a publisher who is willing to have a Kickstarter for your game. I have even seen some BIG players like "Game Salute" that have partnered with designers to lauch a Kickstarter (though not always successful).

The best bet if you want to ensure your game gets market penetration is to FIND a Publisher. These are matters that you can discuss with a Publisher aside from royalties, you can discuss initial and future production runs... This will give you an idea of how much product your publisher will be distributing for you.

And for self-publishing, well you can maybe negotiate a deal with a distributor. Online sales is another option. I've gone the self-publishing route and would not recommend it. It's better to have a little of something that actually sells versus all of something you cannot find a way to sell.

The last note, to wrap up, is that publishers will most probably do runs of 2,000 to 5,000 units for a first production run. Pretty darn good. Self-publishing via a Kickstarter can MAYBE get you 500 backers... But you get all the money not a small percentage. There is a stark difference in volume and in future sales economies of scale kick in when publishers do runs of 5,000 to 10,000 units...

Also with Kickstarters, other things to consider:

1. Can you store a pallet of 500 or two pallets of 1,000 games?
2. Remember it will take TIME to ship the game to backers if you are successful. This could take SEVERAL months to do... If you are working full-time, this may be a BIG barrier to a Kickstarter. Remember you need to package a full car load of games and then ship each one. Quite the hassle!
3. If you need to fund artwork it could take up to and over ONE YEAR to satisfy Kickstarter pledges. Be prepared to have the RIGHT estimates including SHIPPING (from the manufacturer) and MORE SHIPPING (to backers of your game).

rene.shible
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Joined: 01/30/2014
Wooowww thank you for such a

Wooowww thank you for such a productive and thorough reply!!! I HAVE in fact noticed that a lot of the more successful kickstarter campaigns tend to have a designer/publisher relationship on some level that's been somewhat of a mystery to me.

Do you think a game designer should approach a publisher after or during a successful kickstarter campaign to start talking about distribution and licensing? How receptive do publishers tend to be toward this approach? My observation has been that publishers will contact you if they like what you're doing, although I don't know how accurate this is.

It's easy to understand that each publisher will likely have different views on crowd funding for board games. I've noticed also that some publishers prefer to be in on it from the ground floor as well before any independent marketing is done.

I should clarify by explaining that I would personally prefer to contact publishers more directly. It is interesting though that kickstarter has become a real and viable option for designers... but people don't often discuss what it takes to produce and distribute a crowd-funded project independtly! It certainly makes it hard to gauge the attractiveness of the venture.

~R

Leeton
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Joined: 04/28/2013
Be Wary!

One thing to calculate with KickStarter (along with all the budgeting, costs, etc.) is how much you will have leftover after you fulfill all the pledges.

If you're being funded to manufacture 1,000 copies and you've got multiple tiers to your KickStarter (which you almost always will), you could be losing anywhere from 100 to those 1,000 copies purely from pledges. I've seen campaigns where for $15 you get a copy of the game, which easily attracts 100+ people. Yet some games even have things like $35 gets you four copies of the game. Four copies! If each of those pledges even got 50 people you'd be 250 games down for a $2,500 intake. That's 1/4 of your goods for 1/4 of the cost, as the majority of games I've seen require $8,000-$12,000 funding.

Now, while this seems fair enough and an even swap, it's not beneficial in the finances of things. Your profit margins are rapidly reduced by this, as you're only left with 3/4 of the stock to actually make money on. And to be honest, you'll probably be left with even less product after the other tiers are fulfilled!

I'm purely guesstimating on what I see, because as you said, there's no really intimate accounts of the whole thing. But I certainly would expect to be left with 50% or less of your actual order after pledges are fulfilled.

So I'd go into KickStarter to either fund a project you want to do for enjoyment, or to maybe establish yourself as a designer. It certainly won't make much money.

But as you already suggested, some publishers are happy to watch KickStarters to see what's hot and then they'll pounce. So it can be the ultimate marketing tool, if your game is good enough. :)

rene.shible
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Joined: 01/30/2014
Be wary, indeed!

You know I hadn't really considered the profitability angle, although in hindsight I definitely should have! Now, I know that this isn't the outlook that every designer would share (or SHOULD share necessarily), but I suppose I always think of kickstarter (as Leeton, you put it so well), as the ultimate marketing tool, and as a way to establish yourself as a designer.

Of course, sustainability as a designer and desirability for publishers definitely factor into my personal goals. I also don't think kickstarter is the best way to facilitate the former, but I would prefer the latter anyway. I have a day job, now let's get some games made ;D (I hope that's not a pessimistic motto!)

~R

questccg
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Joined: 04/16/2011
Effort is WORK and TIME

The biggest issue with a Kickstarter is the EFFORT, TIME and proper MARKETING. If you are going to go self-publish (or the Kickstarter route on your own), well you should from the gecko have a WEBSITE to BLOG about your game, talk about the advancement, playtests, every thing you are doing to make the game. That will help in attracting some attention and is a form of marketing.

Then the next step once you have a solid prototype (only minor things like balancing) you need to have your game *blind* tested... Not once but many times. With a publisher, they will do some blind playtesting to get a feel for the game and how it plays with its rulebook. The other thing is that it SPREADS your game around the designers circle and do some additional marketing... All good stuff you can add to the "Thank You" section of your rulebook.

I think the next step is getting your game reviewed by a well-known reviewer like "Father Geek", "All Us Geeks" or "The Dice Tower" (there are plenty more, these are just the most well known). You may in some case need to pay for this service. But it gives you credibility on your Kickstarter page if you have a positive review of your game or at least an explanation about what the game is about and how it plays.

Now you need to understand that a Kickstarted game will earn at most 500 backers. 200-300 is more on the average. That's not ENOUGH for any game to succeed in the market. It's like a penny in a pond. Self-publishing is a rough business AFTER this point. I'm not the best salesman and the number of distributors I have tried to contact are about three (3), local to my home. "Game Salute" offers some form of "warehousing" of product although I'm not too certain how effective they really are at "moving" merchandise for those games.

In my experience (and I am still working on the publisher route), self-publishing is not an effective way of selling your game. Knowing that distribution hinges on unanswered e-mails or phone calls, I would be turned off if I needed to invest money knowing it's a loss from the very beginning... Maybe I would not pursue things because there is no way of making any sort of revenue.

However there is a solid case for the "Turtle and the Rabbit" scenario with Kickstarter. You start slow with ONE (1) game and do a successful Kickstarter. The next game you do the same but sell left overs of your first game at a discout... If you do this two (2) or three (3) times, you can eventually end up with a LARGE campaign with many stretch goals and add on games that people can buy. And this is where you can "cash in" with maybe 1,000 backers. If your game is selling for $50, well that's $50,000 worth of contributions. Of course most of that money will be eaten up by your costs to manufacture and ship the games (notice I say GAMES with an 'S'). But you will definitely have some *credibility* as a successful "Self-Publisher".

The question is what does that mean?

Well I don't know if this makes you *attractive* to publishers. You could have published all three (3) games with the publisher and that would earn you some reputation with a publisher...

So really, I don't know if Kickstarting is good. By doing my own analysis, in my case the funding goal would be too high making the rewards too high. And everything eats up profitability, like Amazon and KS fees (10%) and marketing firms (another 10%), shipping accounts for another CHUNK (like 30%)...

With the math that I have done, JUST having a Kickstarter and NO publisher is a losing deal (for me). I need a publisher who has contacts in the distribution business to help sell my game to Brick & Mortar stores! But that's just me...

Evil ColSanders
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Joined: 12/08/2010
questccg wrote:The biggest

questccg wrote:
The biggest issue with a Kickstarter is the EFFORT, TIME and proper MARKETING. If you are going to go self-publish (or the Kickstarter route on your own), well you should from the gecko have a WEBSITE to BLOG about your game, talk about the advancement, playtests, every thing you are doing to make the game. That will help in attracting some attention and is a form of marketing.

I couldn't agree more. Some of that KS money needs to go into banners on BGG and sending it out to reviewers.

Quote:
With the math that I have done, JUST having a Kickstarter and NO publisher is a losing deal (for me). I need a publisher who has contacts in the distribution business to help sell my game to Brick & Mortar stores! But that's just me...

Publishers are basically your advertisers and connection-makers.
http://www.alliance-games.com Biggest distributors in the US. Friendly people. I talk with them almost daily for purchasing.
www.cyberpower.com to handle warehousing your game.

rene.shible
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Joined: 01/30/2014
Those links look like great

Those links look like great resources to have in the back pocket, and at the very least seem important to be aware of. Making a game is one thing, and I know too well how marketing and the rest is another beast all together. As I mentioned previously, I personally am more attracted to a more traditional route, and even if I venture into a kickstarter campaign, I certainly understand the importance of developing a relationship with a publisher. Well, that seems even more integral now thanks to all of the insight provided.

I'm still curious about the self-publishers (if there are any) who have succeeded at getting their games stocked and distributed on a meaningful scale, mostly because I like to learn as much as I can about these kinds of things :)

garykagan
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Joined: 02/05/2014
Effort is WORK and TIME

I agree with this as well, great article. I'm working on my first game and haven't kickstarted yet. I have the webpage, blog, I'm all over BGG and play testing of the game is going well. One thing to remember is the taxes that the government will take. I am having a hard time figuring this out, but I will. If you get $50,000 from a kickstart, that will change things if you do this in your personal taxes. If you incorporate, there are many steps to take (I'm still learning) to get setup, but I'm sure there are taxes to be paid as well when your game is funded. I'll post more when I figure this out...

My game can be found here: http://elementarycardgame.com/

-Gary

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