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Prototype costs that I should expect

13 replies [Last post]
Joined: 06/08/2009


Im new to the game design world and would like if someone could give me an idea of their experiences regarding the amount of money they have shelled out on their projects. Did you spend on things that were a waste etc?

Mine is a trivia board game and I am at the moment trying to gather quotes on prototypes. (a full finished product box Inc)

I have a complete game concept and have done the design graphic that I'd like on Inkscape (found inkscape thanks to this helpful forum).
I have no clue what sort of prices to expect, Im in the UK and I am getting quotes from a uk manufactuerer and a American manufacturer. (


gameprinter's picture
Joined: 08/06/2008

The American manufacturer you mention is a US company that produces in China, so their price will be very low compared to your UK quote. My experience is that printing in the US will cost the same or slightly less than in Europe, but you'll have to weigh the cost of shipping against that. The US prices look better the worse the dollar is doing! Make sure whoever prints your game can help you navigate the new safety laws in the US if you plan on selling here.

As for other costs, they will vary wildly based on how many cards in your game. We usually do prototypes at $500 for 3 games, but that only includes 10 cards per game since they are difficult to do by hand. We charge $1/card for prototypes with more cards than that. Thus, to do a game with 100 cards would cost $600. I have no idea what others will charge you for your prototype. Our price assumes that you have the art completed.

Things I have seen people waste money on that you should not:

Prototypes - when you've already committed to production. With US/Europe production running at 6-8 weeks and prototype making running at 3-4 weeks, why not just wait? Of course, if your game is in China, it might make sense given the longer lead time from there.

Blank Scorepads - Your customers will have blank paper at home.

Printed Shipping Cartons - Usually, its cheaper to get them stickered below 5000 games worth.

Money/Cards - Don't waste money printing extra money or cards. Figure out from your playtests how much play money (or cards) you need.

devin's picture
Joined: 05/03/2009

p.s its best to buy five times as much as you need its cheaper and you can
use the rest later

ilta's picture
Joined: 12/05/2008
What is the purpose of your

What is the purpose of your prototype? Are you looking to see if/how the game works? Are you past the playtesting stage and ready to try to shop it around to publishers? Are you planning to self-publish?

These things make a huge difference, and "prototype" can be used to describe all of them.

If you're still playtesting (you have playtested a bunch, right?), then I've heard it said that you shouldn't be spending more than $20 (US) on a prototype. Too much is going to change; more importantly, you need to keep things very flexible and having a "pretty" prototype is going to keep you mired in your original (possibly flawed) design.

Imagine you were designing Trivial Pursuit. How much would it suck to spend a bunch of time and money making a five-section playing piece, and then realize after playtesting that you actually want SIX trivia categories? Would you really be able to trash your (expensive) custom plastic components? Print what you can on an inkjet, and steal bits from other games.

If you're shopping around to distributors then you can spend a bit more, but probably you want to keep it under $30 or maybe $50 if it's really piece intensive. Keep in mind that you'll still want several copies so you can keep tinkering while you send copies out to multiple companies. Also remember that whatever art you want, publishers will probably have their own ideas about theme and style. Don't give them something TOO polished, or they'll think that you won't be able to change it (see above).

Don't overspend, they all have great imaginations anyway. As long as what you show them is playable and professional (no ink-and-napkin boards), you'll be fine. Check out Matt Leacock's prototype images for Pandemic to get a good sense of the level of completion he was at when he shopped it around.

If you're planning to self-publish, of course, then you want something that closely resembles the final product. In that case you're on your own. But the advice above is good: don't spend money on things that people are going to have lying around at home. See what you can re-purpose from other things: do you NEED custom player pieces, or will 1000-to-a-bag mini poker chits work just as well? Does your card printing need to be full color? On both sides? Do you need a solid board or will a wargame "cardboard" board work well enough? And on and on and on. Be ruthless. Don't ask yourself what you want, but rather what you NEED.

truekid games
truekid games's picture
Joined: 10/29/2008
i didn't realize

i didn't realize sources from china, that makes their AWFUL poke-me-in-the-eye-instead prices that much weirder.

Joined: 06/08/2009

What great advice from you all, thankyou so much.

I have three ideas two are board games and the other is pc rom game.

Im focusing on my customised opoly game at the moment since I feel this will have such appeal to my target audience.

So I have been getting quotes, I wanted to self publish as this would be very do able for the market that I am targeting, however realisitcally unless I get an investor I will struggle to do it alone.

Which leaves me with going through a publisher I have identified a couple that do my sort of games, but Im no to to sure how it all works, would they pay the manufacture costs? what sort of percentage from the profits should I expect, would I be signed into and stuck with that publisher with my game and so on.

I tried to draw my own board but it looked so ameatuer I wanted to present a real professional finished product to the publisher.
I will check out matt leacocks prototype images as well to get more ideas.

ReneWiersma's picture
Joined: 08/08/2008
My "prototyping kit" consists

My "prototyping kit" consists of the following (roughly in descending order of price):

A computer with internet connection
Printer ink cartridges
Hundreds of colored wooden cubes, discs, meeples, pawns, etc, in different colors
A color printer
Card protectors
Dice in all size and sorts
Spray adhesive
Cardboard and colored paper
Unused common Magic cards

I can make almost any game I can come up with with those components. The quality of the prototypes is good enough for showing them to publishers, but not for self-publishing.

Redcap's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
I have been finishing my

I have been finishing my basement as of late and realized what an awesome untapped market Home Depot has for prototyping material.

I can buy 8ft X4ft of .25 inch wood for about $8.00 and just went and bought some insulation foam board for about $2.00. I am using this for board components and it is working great. You have to have some saws and stuff though, but those tools are useful to have whether or not you are making a board game.

Joined: 03/04/2009
I have a question, I'm

I have a question, I'm currently working no my first "real" game, that I could see myself sending to a publisher. Currently my game is using a chessex battle mat with hexs, wet erase markers for the map spaces, and mini poker chips with stickers on them for the game peices. What kind of quality does my prototype have to be before it can be sent to a publisher?

ilta's picture
Joined: 12/05/2008
If you're ready to send to

If you're ready to send to publishers, then presumably your design is more or less complete, and you've playtested all the map permutations. Your map is therefore ready to be something a bit more permanent. Print it up on cardstock and you should be good to go. If you really want to get fancy you can get some heavy "science-fair display" foam-board and glue your map on that.

But are you really done? Have you playtested it lots and lots and then some more? Don't send it before you're truly finished with the design.

521 Promo
521 Promo's picture
Joined: 07/01/2009
Prototype Costs


I have created a game and had the prototype made through Basically if you are going straight to a manufacture the prototype will cost you around $600 US. If you do not place an order with them. I know with this company they charge $600 for the prototype but if you place an order of 1,000 games they take the $600 off the top of the total order so it ends up being free. I'm not sure how much you are looking to spend, but publishers usually only give you anywhere from 3-7% of the sales. If you are looking to make more money your best bet would be to produce it yourself and sell it that way if you have the budget and time to do so. They also do custom playing cards those are WAY cheaper to create if you are into making a playing card game. Hope this helps a little bit. Good Luck

Joined: 06/08/2009
thanks again guys!

I'd really be making a few mistakes if it was not for the valuable advice that your sharing with me so thanks so much for that.

Well Ive had a few quotes back in for manufacteuring costs and to make it viable I need to really make an order of at least 5000 boards costing around £36k which is more money that I have ever had at any one time in my life.
Im going to get someone to make me prototype board instead.

So realistically I think I should go with the idea of using a publisher this first time, that way I can get to know the ropes and the industry a bit more.
I just need to know how the publishers work, will I have to pay them ANY money etc I will make a seperate thread in the publisher section about this.

I am going to check out that site custom playing cards now.

rainbowprototype's picture
Joined: 10/24/2009
we can provide you the best price for prototype in china

We're mainly manufacturer in rapid prototyping and molding from china,apply to Medical Equipment,Auto Parts,Electronic and Toy's Area etc. Our main service:
kinds of Moulds(Lead time: 15 to 35 days)
Rapid Prototyping(Lead time: 2 to 5 days)
SLA(Lead time: 2 to 5 days)
Metal/Plastic Parts production/CNC Machining Parts(Lead time: 3 to 5 days)
Die casting mold(Lead time: 2+ weeks)
We have experiences in this area than 10 years, Rainbow Rapid Manufacturing Company offers the best of the west,but at One-tenth of the price.
If you has any questions,pls contact us freely.


Rainbow Rapid Manufacturing Co.,Ltd
Phone: +86 133 4723 0346

Darkehorse's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008

This post from Rainbow Rapid Manufacturing is bordering on blatant advertising, something that we DO NOT tolerate on BGDF. However, it is on topic so I will allow it to stay (that's not to say one of the other moderators might remove it anyway). The difference between this post and someone like Gameprinter's is that GP has an established relationship with this community and he also provides valuable knowledge/information, not just a sales pitch. Also, since no one here has used Rainbow Rapid manufacturing, I would say to use extreme caution if you do decide to use them yourself. AKA, buyer beware!


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