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How does the board game industry work for job seekers?

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luckybastard
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Hi dear BGDF,

as a 4th year almost graduate in game design I am wondering the following:

- How do you get a job as a game designer at a company which produces board games?

The problem is my study prepares you for the creation of video games, but I have learned that creating board games is more awesome, and rewarding. And because my study only prepares you for video games they do not have any knowledge about the table top game market, or any companies who might take graduate intern ships.

So I went to a big publisher here in Holland called 999 games. And I was told that they buy 90% of their games from other countries and translate them, and the last 10% they pick out of what game ideas they get send by mail.

I was shocked and stunned, for I knew somewhere in this world there would have to be some kind of table top creating company where people have a 'regular' job creating table top games all day.

And I hope I am not wishing too much when I am also hoping that they are making interesting and hard to master games which are fun to play for adults. And where they are not just trying to push a cool looking game on the market which is broken beyond repair, and where the only real challenge is finishing the game before it gets too annoying. And your urge to use a blowtorch instead of the conventional game rules to finish the game gets the better of you.

My name is Johannes and I am looking for a (foreign) intern ship designing board games in a company near you! :)

schmanthony
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Trying to get hired right off

Trying to get hired right off the bat as a board game designer is somewhat like trying to get hired by a major book publisher as a full-time fiction writer. In the very least, you'd need one hell of a portfolio.

If it is truly your passion to be a board game designer by trade, try first to get some sort of job - any job - at a publisher. If you are fresh out of college, express your incredible enthusiasm for secretarial work and menial tasks to the best of your abilities if that is what it takes. Also, plan on living on a modest income - for perhaps your entire life.

In additional to a meager paycheck, this job may give you valuable contact with people in the industry. These may eventually provide you with much more significant advice and opportunity than you'll get from this forum.

Meanwhile, develop your ideas, keep an article on BGG for each one that has made it through the early stages of playtesting, and when you have one that actually generates enthusiasm amongst people who don't know you and don't care about your feelings - enter it in a contest. Share the details of your exploits with your employer.

clearclaw
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Almost all designers are independent

Very few game publishers have internal designers. Off the top of my head Fantasy Flight Games and Hasbro are the only two I can think of. The rest of the hobby games market is populated with independent game designers who design games and then find publishers who think that publishing their game will be a profitable exercise.

MichaelM
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Tasty Minstrel Games has an internal designer/developer

Tasty Minstrel Games has its own inhouse design/developer. BGDF's own sedj. Unfortunately for him it pays nothing.

The bottom line is that unfortunately there are few companies with a regular revenue that is large enough to support a salary for such a position. Additionally, most of the board games that are published in a year will turn out to be a 'failure'. If an initial print run of 2,000 sells out, then a game can be considered good. Gamer types of games that sell copies in amounts exceeding 5,000 or 25,000 are considered blockbuster hits.

Let us do some basic math, let us assume that a game sells for $40 retail.

$40 paid by consumer
$20 paid by Retailer
$16 paid by distributor
Out of that $16 shipping, manufacturing, graphic design, marketing, insurance, royalties, etc has to be paid. Once all of the expenses are paid, there is often not enough left to pay for an office.

Tasty Minstrel Games is run out of my house. I also plan on using a fulfillment agency to coordinate shipping, selling to distributors, and marketing. So my quick calculation looks more like this.

$40 paid by customer
$20 paid by retailer
$16 paid by distributor
$13.60 paid to me by fulfillment agency when copies are sold.

If I sell out of my initial print runs, I am probably looking at a profit of about $5 per game. This is before considering any necessary office expenses (I run out of my home), Legal expenses (formation of LLC to protect my personal assets), Insurance (to cover potential problems), 3rd party safety testing (no lead paints here), Accounting (I do not want the IRS on my back), Computer Equipment, Web Hosting Expenses, Web Design, Marketing / Advertising, Value of time spent working on publishing.

In addition to that I have to provide the initial money to publish a game. I have the opportunity to lose a large portion of that money.

I am willing to publish high quality, and well tested fun designs. The problem for a designer is that there is a lot of competition for the publishing dollars that are available. Sometimes it is a question of who you know, not how good is your game. I certainly feel that is the case of the games I am publishing, Terra Prime and Homesteaders. They are interesting, fun designs with well integrated themes. Often ignored by other publishers for whatever reason.

For those reasons it is unlikely that you will be able to find a job as a fulltime designer. However, if you get that clerk job at 999 games, I have a couple of games that I would like them to consider for translation.

Michael

ReneWiersma
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Johannes, only very few

Johannes, only very few companies have inhouse designers. Most board games are developed by professional freelancers (such as Reiner Knizia), or by those whose hobby it is to design board games (like most of the people on this forum).

Also, suppose 999 Games (or Phalanx games, more likely) had an opening for an inhouse game designer. You and I and Corne van Moorsel would apply. Who would get the job you think? Me, with only one published game to my name? You with, as far as I know, no published designs, or Corne van Moorsel who has designed and self-published a dozen of games? I would place my bets on Corne van Moorsel :)

Moral of the story, try and build up a name and a portfolio, and then you can start daydreaming about becoming an inhouse designer, maybe, some day!

Kjev
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Excuse me..

Out of sheer interest: are you a HKU student?

End of Time Games
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ReneWiersma wrote:Johannes,

ReneWiersma wrote:
Johannes, only very

LMFAO!

Katherine
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why?

why?

End of Time Games
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Jahannes Vermeer

shazzaz wrote:
why?

One of my favorite artists and master painters. My bro Jahannes is laughing too.

http://www.essentialvermeer.com/lost_vermeer_self_portrait_baron_rolin/v...

seo
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End of Time Games

End of Time Games wrote:
shazzaz wrote:
why?

One of my favorite artists and master painters. My bro Jahannes is laughing too.

http://www.essentialvermeer.com/lost_vermeer_self_portrait_baron_rolin/vermeer_face_comparison.jpg

So you find hilarious that someone's name is Johannes?

luckybastard
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my conclusion

So as a short summary:

- First get some type of job at a publisher of games, and then try to make yourself into a gamedesigner?

OR

- Get married, become house man and create games while the wife creates cash income.

Both don't really appeal to me except for the having a nice girlfriend with who I would get married part :)

Maybe my world view is a bit twisted since I got lucky on my first internship and became assistant game designer and level designer for a Nintendo DS video game (so I even have 1 international shipped title). I am guessing in the normal world that would never happen.

It's just that everything I create needs to follow just one rule: namely that I have never seen or heard about it anywhere so that I can honestly say it's original.

http://www.lucky00.com/school/twif/images/IMG_1636.jpg << image of my board game

My board game followed the same rule evidently, and I guess I'll just get in a company as board game designer right away, because no one else ever did and because of the same luck I used when getting my first internship place.

Wish me luck :)

luckybastard
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Kjev wrote:Out of sheer

Kjev wrote:
Out of sheer interest: are you a HKU student?

nope

kunst en techniek Enschede :)

schmanthony
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I don't understand the

I don't understand the direction this thread has gone. I'm with the original poster... what's the joke? The original question seemed sincere and doesn't deserve mockery.

Dralius
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Good Options

luckybastard wrote:
So as a short summary:

- First get some type of job at a publisher of games, and then try to make yourself into a gamedesigner?

OR

- Get married, become house man and create games while the wife creates cash income.

Both don't really appeal to me except for the having a nice girlfriend with who I would get married part :)

Both sound like great options to me. The third one which is what most of us here do is work a day job to to pay our bills and make games in our spare time.

schmanthony
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luckybastard wrote: ... I got

luckybastard wrote:
... I got lucky on my first internship and became assistant game designer and level designer for a Nintendo DS video game (so I even have 1 international shipped title). I am guessing in the normal world that would never happen.

It's just that everything I create needs to follow just one rule: namely that I have never seen or heard about it anywhere so that I can honestly say it's original.

http://www.lucky00.com/school/twif/images/IMG_1636.jpg << image of my board game

To clarify, there is a world of difference between aspirations to be a video game designer and a board game designer. It seemed your original question was about board game design, so that steered the nature of the responses you have received.

Your board game does in fact look unique, and that is certainly important if you are selling to the hobby market. A game that is almost a clone of another established game will certainly generate little interest. However, I would almost argue that polished rules, balanced gameplay and "fun" factor are more important than uniqueness. A successful game needs to offer something unique, this is true, but it need not be utterly groundbreaking if all other aspects are great. And making a one-of-a-kind game means nothing if it doesn't play well.

Questions about your game:

Is it an abstract?

Is there a reason it plays on a sphere besides the "coolness" of it? Could the game be converted to a flat board without substantially changing anything else? (Consider how Pandemic plays on a Globe with wrapping around the board.) Producing a game on a large sphere will be expensive for many reasons, and hobbyists will dismiss it as a gimmick unless it provides a novel experience in the gameplay.

End of Time Games
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luckybastard wrote: - Get

luckybastard wrote:

- Get married, become house man and create games while the wife creates cash income.

That's not a bad idea. You're a luckybastard if you can manage to pull that one off. I wish you lots of luck! I wasn't making fun of you BTW. Pleas don't take it personally. I and sombody thought your picture was resembling somewhat a Dutch Painter. All light hearted fun. I hope you don't take my words the wrong way. Sheesh! how many time do you use the word luck? Could 'you' be the luck?

I think it is hidious that some people on here have such a hard time with jokes. I understand that we don't want to let a thread turn insulting or too far off topic, my god! Jahannes Vermmeer. Your picture brings flashbacks of duch painter. I don't think I am mis-interpreting what's his name who addressed you as "Jahannes".

InvisibleJon
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Okay. I'll put my two cents in...

Here's what I did and how it's worked out:

*** Work a day job. Continue working your day job throughout this process.

1) Make one game in one month.
2) Post the game online for free print-and-play download.
3) Repeat steps (1) to (2) 99 times.
*** Note: The first seven iterations will be difficult, but it will get easier after that.
*** You will probably have more than 100 games after step (3). This is a good thing.
5) Politely submit game proposals to any company that accepts unsolicited submissions. Respond to requests for prototypes with prototypes. Remember to follow up.
6) Attend game industry trade shows. Pitch to any company that will listen to you. Respond to requests for prototypes with prototypes. Remember to follow up.

At this point, I've licensed two games to one company. I've designed one game on spec for another company, and have been asked to work up another. I declined an offer to work another spec job. I have a bunch of prototypes and proposals at different companies in different states of development.

Your goal is to become an in-house board game designer. I think that this is a tough goal to meet. Unfortunately, the board game industry works with much smaller budgets than the video game industry. Also, board game companies fall in two categories: small and large. Small companies almost invariably consist of designers who formed the company so they could publish their games. Generally they are not large enough to support any in-house designers beyond the ones who started the company. Large companies tend to be very conservative. They're looking for reliable designers with a proven track record. Your odds of getting hired by a big company are dramatically improved if you have multiple published designs with a track record of success. Having a portfolio of designs helps too.

I'm not saying that you have to do what I've done, 'cause there are lots of people who have not and are more successful than I am. To hit your goal quickly, I recommend designing another 20 to 30 games of different types. This builds up your portfolio, showcases your design style and strengths, and implies that you're able to produce on demand. Try to get some published, and start building connections and contacts at big game companies. Attend trade shows. Make friends in the industry. Look into getting a game agent to represent you to those companies.

I wish you the best of luck in your quest. I hope you get what you're hoping for.

Jonathan L.

luckybastard
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schmanthony wrote: Questions

schmanthony wrote:

Questions about your game:

Is it an abstract?

Is there a reason it plays on a sphere besides the "coolness" of it? Could the game be converted to a flat board without substantially changing anything else? (Consider how Pandemic plays on a Globe with wrapping around the board.) Producing a game on a large sphere will be expensive for many reasons, and hobbyists will dismiss it as a gimmick unless it provides a novel experience in the gameplay.

I was reading Tracy Fullerton's book called: Game design workshop while making the game. And it pretty much stands up to all of the demands there were in the book. Except for being playtested by people whom I do not know.

- it's a sphere because if stuff falls off you lose life points
- You need to have your units on specific locations on the ball to be able to use action cards
- you need to form specific symbols on the sphere to play action cards which stay in play

I am a long time table top gamer myself, and am currently board of a student gaming club with over 40 members. The people I tested it on all came from a university and had a lot of experience playing board games. They all loved the game for it's complexity of the game grid.

Bottom line: because it's a sphere you will need to think in a spherical mapping, which is pretty difficult since you never did such a thing before.

luckybastard
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End of Time Games

End of Time Games wrote:
luckybastard wrote:

- Get married, become house man and create games while the wife creates cash income.

That's not a bad idea. You're a luckybastard if you can manage to pull that one off. I wish you lots of luck! I wasn't making fun of you BTW. Pleas don't take it personally. I and sombody thought your picture was resembling somewhat a Dutch Painter. All light hearted fun. I hope you don't take my words the wrong way. Sheesh! how many time do you use the word luck? Could 'you' be the luck?

I think it is hidious that some people on here have such a hard time with jokes. I understand that we don't want to let a thread turn insulting or too far off topic, my god! Jahannes Vermmeer. Your picture brings flashbacks of duch painter. I don't think I am mis-interpreting what's his name who addressed you as "Jahannes".

No problem man. Just so you know out here Johannes is the equivalent of John. So it's a pretty common name although a bit archaic.

schmanthony
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luckybastard wrote: - it's a

luckybastard wrote:

- it's a sphere because if stuff falls off you lose life points

Well, that justifies the sphere over the board right there if this is a core mechanism of the game. Does this give it a dexterity element, or is it fully determinable when an action will cause something to fall off?

I assume the sphere rotates. How do you have it suspended above the table to allow this? How does a player perform the action of rotating the sphere?

I don't have nearly enough information to praise or criticize your design, but you should still be aware that your game, if ever produced, will incur large production costs simply for taking up so much space in a crate or on a shelf. Also worth considering is custom tooling if this is to be massed produced and not individually hand made. You might be looking at a $100+ retail per game (e.g. Master Thieves). I have no idea what the marketability or profit margin of a beast like that might be.

Outside Lime
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I think I get it

Ok I think I've pieced together what happened here.

1. Luckybastard writes a long post, and at the end of it, mentions that his name is Johannes.

2. René writes back to him referring to him as Johannes.

3. End Of Time Games (who didn't notice the part in the original post where Johannes shared his name with us) sees this, looks at luckybastard's picture, sees a resemblance to a Dutch painter, and thinks René has seen the same resemblance and is making a joke.

4. Much confusion ensues. I'm pretty sure that E.O.T.G. still hasn't noticed that luckybastard gave us his name in the original post, and that he thinks people are messing with him for finding René's "joke" funny.

....Am I right? Do I win a prize?

~Josh

luckybastard
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100+ per game

About the costs:
- sure it'll be expensive but I didn't create it to be produced :)
- I created it to show people I was able to create something unique and awesome, and for 10 EC (study credits)
- And most of all I thought that if I would just play it with a game company director he'd say wow you are capable of awesome things, why wont you work for me and make more awesome stuff.

And by the way it's about 2 times the size of master thieves (45cm diameter) and players loved it because it was so huge, any smaller and they said it would be bad for the awesomeness factor of the game :)

All the rotation rules are there by the way, it has a standard. and players rotate it, i even made rules to exactely determine the top space. people budging hard against the table is by far the biggest problem, cuz stuff falls off the sphere then. Fortunate it's always evident who budges the table so that player can get a penalty for making an illegal move :)

I am planning to make a short movie of players playing the game from a birds eye perspective camera. But untill then you are welcome to come over and play the game :)

Katherine
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and to add to the confusion

and to add to the confusion ... I thought it was the word "very" that was the joke.

luckybastard ... if you want to get some experience in game design try the GDS.

Good luck with the spere, it looks interesting!

End of Time Games
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Outside Lime wrote:Ok I think

Outside Lime wrote:
Ok I think I've pieced together what happened here.

1. Luckybastard writes a long post, and at the end of it, mentions that his name is Johannes.

2. René writes back to him referring to him as Johannes.

3. End Of Time Games (who didn't notice the part in the original post where Johannes shared his name with us) sees this, looks at luckybastard's picture, sees a resemblance to a Dutch painter, and thinks René has seen the same resemblance and is making a joke.

4. Much confusion ensues. I'm pretty sure that E.O.T.G. still hasn't noticed that luckybastard gave us his name in the original post, and that he thinks people are messing with him for finding René's "joke" funny.

....Am I right? Do I win a prize?

~Josh


Yes that pretty much sais it all.

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