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Number of Components: Designing with Cost in Mind

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dtrik's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008

Hey everyone, I've been researching alot and skimming these boards quite thoroughly as I'm working to develop my ideas (as some of you have been kind enough to help me with). However, now I've been trying to figure out how many components is too many. I know these sorts of questions are hard to answer without specific details on exactly how many of which components are required and how to price them can vary. I understand that games with many cards and figures can get expensive fast, just how expensive are cards to produce? When will the number of cards start really impacting the cost of the final game? What about figures? I plan to sculpt a few detailed miniatures for my game, how do figure costs impact a game's total cost? These questions obviously can't be answered directly, for the most part, but I was just wondering how I could get information about this. I'm fearing that the cost for my game is adding up!

The Magician
Joined: 12/23/2008
I can't help you with the

I can't help you with the cost. I am asuming your game design is not complete am I right? Your game should have the exact number of components required to produce the game status "addictive game". I don't know how far along your game is in the design process but here is an interesting rule of thumb to remember: You can add rules without adding component and features; but you canot add components and features without adding rules. How long is your rule book and is it apropriate for the style of your game?

If your game has no more or less than it requires. If you have created a super fun game, I would spend what is nessesary to produce it or find ways of cutting costs. If your game is not super fun, I would trim it or tweak the rules to creat that effect. I hope that helps.

Joined: 02/06/2009
Cards should run less than 8

Cards should run less than 8 cents per printed card. Far less with large runs.
Figures I think can be quite expensive. It will take a large run to get the cost to a reasonable level.

You should think of what kind of purchase you want your game to be. If you want it to be a quick impulse buy, then lost of high quality components is no good. If you want it to be an expensive gift, you can go wild. Although not the best example of game design, Monopoly is a good example of marketing. The first edition had players supply their own tokens (such as a thimble), now you can get versions with like actual silver. You also want to consider perception of value. If you have a game box the same size as another game, but is much more expensive, you'll tend to lose. So check out other games you feel are similar level purchases.

Also from a strict game design perpective you probably want to have as few components as possible, but no fewer. Think of the time it takes to sort them, to learn what they all mean. In general every componet has to pull it's weight in function. Ask yourself, is the game easier to learn or harder to learn because this componet is here. I mean think of Go. It's richer and deeper than Chess, but it only has three componets: black stones, white stones, and a board.

Joined: 07/24/2008
I think your best option

I think your best option would be to shop around and get some quotes.

Initially I sought quotes from Aussie publishers, they were incredibly expensive. Publishers from the USA were not able to do much better. This is not a critisism as both countries have strong policies that impact on the ability to manufacture cheaply.

Asia became our only option, and even then there is huge differences in the costings between companies. I have sought quotes from 3 companies using the same componant list and received three prices ranging from US5.50 to US15.00.

Moulds and printing plates need to be added into the costs. The moulds were the biggest suprise, the cheapest was US160, the dearest? over US 1000.

When I first received the quotes I was tempted to drop half of the components, the testers were against cutting corners and we continue to seek the perfect quote.

I beleive the language barriers also contribute to cost variations so I am about to follow adagio_burner's lead and contact the company that is manufacturing Galaxy's Edge.

adagio_burner's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
Your best option is to shop around

shazzaz wrote:
I beleive the language barriers also contribute to cost variations so I am about to follow adagio_burner's lead and contact the company that is manufacturing Galaxy's Edge.

Some manufacturers can give you good quotes on card games, but can not do plastic or wood. Others can do one of them, but outsource the other, and so on. Shop around to find a good price for your game.

Also, keep in mind that the first quote you get usually has very little to do with the actual price. This is how this business works. If you are negotiating with multiple manufacturers, you are in a much better position.

To get a good starting point for what your target should be, look at the games out there on the market. You have to divide by approximately 6 to 8 to get the manufacturing cost. E.g. if you look at a 30-dollar game, it probably cost about 4 dollars or less in manufacturing. Otherwise the publisher would be likely to lose money.

Of course, Rio Grande probably rarely prints less than 10,000 copies of any game... Ordering 1,000 is a totally different world. But orders of 5,000 or even 3,000 sets are not unheard of, and should not ruin you.

As to what components cost, cards are generally cheaper than cardboard, wood is more expensive, and plastic even more expensive. Custom moulded plastic figurines can cost you a fortune (some publishers, like Fantasy Flight, still find a way to stuff the boxes with them somehow!). And, a good quality box may be one of the most expensive parts of your game ;)

seo's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
I second adagio_burner's

I second adagio_burner's advice: start by looking at games currently in the market with which your game will compete. Look at the amount and type of components, and the retail price. Then do your math back from that.

Cards should not be too expensive to produce, $2 a deck for a run of 1000 or 2000 sounds about right, probably even less than that. Miniatures are definitely going to be a problem for short runs.

Joined: 02/07/2009
Cards are expensive

Ive heard that cards are usually the most expensive component of the game (ofc depends on the quality, but naturally you dont want your cards to be of bad quality).

If you think about Dominion: The basic set contains 500 cards and it costs 45$. Of course this includes the box and the sellers and designers cuts, but still 45$ for just as set of cards.

Wooden pieces can also become very expensive if they are big. Id guess if you get just small wooden cubes that wont be so expensive, but in general plastic is cheaper and just as durable. Although wooden pieces are considered to be better.

bluepantherllc's picture
Joined: 07/29/2008
Component Cost

Your question of cost and component count really boils down to how many copies you plan to sell. And how you plan to sell them.

There are wooden cubes and plastic cubes. Wooden cubes cost more. Wooden cubes look better. Game buyers expect wooden cubes. Plastic cubes (cheaper) work, though. So do plastic disks (cheapest). But I don't want to play my $65+ copy of Agricola with plastic disks. Some people another $20 on wooden animals.
If you want your title to be considered in the same sentence as some of the big titles out there, component choice does matter.

I read a game review the other day that talked about how heavy the box was. That's how it started - it didn't get to the play of the game til the third or fourth paragraph. I like game boards and pieces that stay in place too. But the heavier it is, the more it costs to ship. People like heavy games, but they also like cheap or free shipping. Component choices influence final product weight.

There are card makers of different quality. Dominion has 500+ cards per game, but there are 10+ of the same card. Your cost per card will vary wildly with size, volume and supplier. You can go POD for lower volumes, but you do reach a point where POD prices are higher than more traditional printers.

Want a cool game box like all the big square ones out there - unit costs drop considerably with volume. OR you could buy a foldup box (remember Pizza Box Football - they made the cheap box part of the game's name).

Do you want plastic pawns or Meeples? Carcassone has meeples and you only use each one once per game. People like Meeples. They're more expensive than the basic plastic pawns.

What about custom plastic pieces? Molds are expensive - can you get a stock piece or an illustration on a piece of cardboard? Or even a part from a novelty store (if your game uses bugs, you can get several hundred for $5). Unit prices go down drastically with volume on plastic molds, because you have to amortize the cost of the tool over the volume of product you make.

Will cardboard counters work instead of custom pieces? A lot cheaper and they can still be colorful. I own some pretty nice looking games with cardboard pieces. But would BattleLore or Memoir 44 sell as well with cardboard as it did with little plastic soldiers? I doubt it very much.

Do you really need those custom dice? Could you make 6 little chits and make the players draw them out of a cup? Can your design use regular dice?

Finally - what are you going to do with the stuff until you sell it? 5000 copies of the typical 10x10x3 or 12x12x4 box take up alot of room. Do you have an extra room or a garage or will you pay someone to warehouse them for you?

If you have a game already developed with a fixed component count, then shop around for the best deals. Most manufacturers aren't interested under 2500 copies, or if they are, your unit price will be high.

If your game does not have a fixed component count, then work your way back from the price point you plan to sell. And the channel you plan to sell in. A margin of 40% off retail sounds good - if you sell it yourself. A margin of 40% on retail price will make your product a money loser if you want to sell it through distribution channels (in FLGS). Let's say you're making a $20 game retail. If it costs you $12 to make, then selling it yourself nets you $8 per copy. If you sell it in distribution you'll get $8-$10 for it (or less) and you'll have to pay shipping to the various distributors in top of that. So your 40% winner becomes a 20% loser. I have two versions of the same game - one was sold directly by us for $50-$60 and we made a good margin on each one. We now have the second edition of the same game just released in distribution that sells for $40 retail. That means the online stores will be selling it for $30. The new version looks better, but component choices were very different because of the channel it was sold in. The game itself did not change. We still make money on each copy sold - but not nearly as much as the original limited edition. Why? Volume, volume, volume.

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