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Game a Month Publishing Idea

13 replies [Last post]
Joined: 09/20/2009

Hello All,
I recently self-published my first game, and it was a lot of work :) it began me thinking of ways for more people to have that opportunity. I heard on the radio a model being used to help artists gain an audience. People buy subscriptions and have art pieces sent to their door once a month, what arrives is a surprise, but is always unique and something they cannot get anywhere else. Here is the game idea...

12 months of gaming

Step 1 Find 12 games which are production (near production) ready within a certain price point (i.e.manufactured between 10-15$ per unit) Games would need to be under a certain size (to allow for cheap shipping domestically and internationally). Once the 12 games are found, there would be a short term contract signed. Basically stating that the game designer gets all production rights back 12 months after their game is shipped to subscribers, and that the game company running the 12 months of games can either sell the designer left over copies, or sell them on the market until they are gone. I think a key to this succeeding is to have the game only available for subscription for the year to drive sales.

Step 2 Subscribers: Getting at least 100 subscribers for the year would allow 100 games to be made of each of the twelve games. I think this would give a significant production discount and deliver an audience to the unknown designer. Also having the subscribers gives the capital to make the games without anyone going broke in the process. Each of the designers could rally around the process, and I could see game groups pooling money to subscribe as a group to support indy games and truly add a unique offering to their game library. I estimate the 12 months of games costing subscribers around 1$ a day (365$ for 12 games) shipping included. So just over 30$ a game sent to your door step.

Benefits in Short: Designers get help polishing/finishing off their design. They get an audience outside friends and family, marketing help, and the dream come true of being published. Gamers get 12 games that are unique, relatively cheap, and who knows might be collectors edition in the highly unlikely but possible event a game "makes it big". I don;t see there being high profits from this venture, and I see all designers sharing equally in the subscription "profits", with the people who did all the marketing, production/manufacturing leg work.

Again, just floating the idea, I have thought out a lot of details, but not everything, I know I lot of details are components driven, and there would be a lot of work to be done art, submission, polishing wise. I am very excited to see if this would be a possible way for others to experience the joy of seeing a dream come true, as I recently have been able to do!

So.... Let fly with the thoughts, critiques, blind spots, encouragement etc.! Thanks BGDF for your feedback!

Joined: 02/10/2011
A very interesting concept

A very interesting concept and one that I would definitely be interested in given the fact that I can't afford to self-publish my big ideas. Do you have a time frame in mind? I have a beautiful game that I could get art for if you'd be willing consider it for your system based on the content currently there. Furthermore, I have several smaller games that are much further along in production and require very little art due to their style. If your business model would accept the possibility of two such games being mailed in one month (or a game and an expansion to the game), then I have several other matches for you, as well.

It's a very clever idea and I'd love to partner up :)

Joined: 09/20/2009
Perfect world, perfect storm

The ideal situation would be to get the games then subscribers asap once having both the target would be the following calendar year, i.e. soonest would be Jan 2012, that is the perfect world scenario, with games that need more polish/refining and other assets (art, components etc.) the time table would need to be expanded accordingly. The first step is games and once we have those (or before in form of pledge) subscribers up to the magic number (100). Thanks for interest, and spread word in your design circle(s).

Joined: 01/24/2010

This honestly sounds like a great idea for a Kickstarter campaign. Round up the 12 games (I honestly think that fewer games would be better as it would be a lower buy in cost for the subscribers which would allow for more subscribers and a higher production run for the individual games which again would lower costs... and 12 games is a LOT of games) and put together a good Kickstarter page that highlights all the games (id push for about 5).

Find a known publisher that will back the project (no $ out of their pocket as the project wont go through until it is funded), as they have name recognition, branding and the know how to get a good finished product into the hands of the subscribers. Unless you were thinking about doing the publishing part yourself?

Either way, Kickstarter sounds like it would be a great way of moving this along.

Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
You'll need to make thousands

You'll need to make thousands not hundreds to get the price down using traditional publishing methods. I guess you could use a service to produce the games like game crafters but I think you under estimate the time it takes to bring a game to market. Even if the game is finished rules editing, art and file preparation takes some time. In other words prepping and publishing a game a month is a colossal undertaking.

Joined: 12/01/2010
1000 games is a standard

1000 games is a standard minimum, and 2500 - 5000 is where you start seeing real breaks in costs.

I think this idea has a lot of promise. If you could partner with a good company ([12] 1000 print run games might pique someone's interest). And use standard mark-up on these simple games - you would need at least 200 subscribers - and you'd end up with 1000 of each game. (Using cost of 20% of retail - which is the lowest you'd ever really want to go). You could then create a basic website to sell what kickstarter didn't sell - and have some kind of sharing with the guy setting this all up and the designers - how ever you'd like to do that. Assuming everything sells - the second run of 1000 of any of these games would be cheaper because you wouldn't incur the tooling charge a second time.

If these are simple games, like basic dice game, and card games - the subscriptions might be able to get down to between 100-150$ which I think might be something people could get behind - like a game of the month club.

Kickstarter would be an awesome idea for this. However - having completed a successful kickstarter project - I'd just suggest that you get the large majority of your ducks in a row before you get going. Most games have a 75 - 115 day lead time from artwork submission to receiving the finished product - and that's assuming you can turn around proofs in a day (which would mean no problems - which [since I haven't gotten that far yet] I think would be unlikely). So you'd want to have the first few games ready to go before the kickstarter kicks-off, already know the quotes for production for the majority of the games, and have your manufacturer lined up.

I would definitely be willing to submit some games to get into this program - even if it wouldn't end up making a profit - because I love the idea.

If we could come up with 6 - 12 types of low component dice/card games - it would be interesting to do something akin to GDS - where people submit games, and then a group votes on which of those games to progress to the next level - and then do a lot of collaborative iteration on the games to get some really awesome products. That way people who love abstract strategy could make some of those games, those who like party games could do those, those who like theme heavy economy games could do those - etc.

This would be a huge undertaking - but I'm incredibly excited about the concept and would love to help make this happen.

Joined: 01/24/2010
I would be interested in

I would be interested in helping out as well. Kickstarter fascinates me as a new way of producing capitol and a new distribution method that is superior to old fashioned middle-men distribution companies (which provide a valuable service but at a huge cost).

I'd suggest coming up with some projections and ROI analysis of using Kickstarter for certain amounts of print runs with some simple product guidelines. Aim at a low production cost per game.

Put some feelers out on BGG to see if the market would be interested in subscribing to this form of publishing/distribution method. I understand that BGG isnt exactly the end all, but it is a huge resource and probably where a majority of interest/buzz would be generated for a project like this.

I know an artist who has been itching to do boardgame design work as well. She did the mock-up art for my Rolling Plunder entry in the last GDS.

bluepantherllc's picture
Joined: 07/29/2008
Board Game a Month

If you plan ahead for the first few games in this series, you can lower your costs.

Example: choose a box size that will fit the first 3 or 4 games you will publish. Buying 3000-4000 boxes may seem like alot, but it will get your unit cost down considerably And if you can plan a whole year's worth of games to use the same box, then you can order 2500 or 3000 at a time when you need them and when they run out (in 2 months or 6 months - depending on how successful the titles are) you can always get more. You can either get the boxes blank and then color wrap them yourself, or you can ask the printer to split the graphics for the order. Either way, cheaper than 1000 boxes at a time.

Same thing for the other components - use standard sheet sizes for the rulebooks - you can get good quality paper and you won't pay setup charges for non-standard sizes. Get a standard box insert, use the same board size, etc.

One last thought - you need some upfront money to make this work. Kickstarter has worked for a few recent game companies - and it seems like this idea is tailor made for that funding mechanism. For a certain amount invested, they would get the full year subscription, for lower amounts maybe a quarterly or 6 month subscription.

Last thought, have your first few titles ready to go when you start your Kickstarter run. You will have enough to do getting them published once you get to that point - no time for playtesting at that point.

Joined: 01/26/2009
finding 12 games... ... and a business plan

You're definitely in the right place to discuss this...

I don't think it would be difficult to get 12 playable games within 1 year (the catch, of course, is that you would need to start NOW to ship the first one to subscribers by May 2012).

A couple things:

1) MARKETING THE SERVICE - Things like Omaha Steak, Gevalia Coffee, Publisher's Clearing House, BMG Music, etc... have MILLIONS of subscribers - you would simply need to market the distribution service. Unless people know about it, you won't ever get your 5,000 subscribers to initiate the process. I think 5,000 is an appropriate (and yet still conservative) number of subscribers to target starting with, given the comments already stated in reply to this post. Also, once word gets around, that number will grow.

2) COST TO SUBSCRIBERS - If you had a contracted guarantee of 1 game per month at 5,000 or more copies, I'm sure you would have no problem getting a job shop to run it for you at a low cost - they would have guaranteed sales dollars each month at (most likely) a standard, predictable gross sales rate. It would help any company's bottom line to have a guaranteed invoicee monthly. The catch, is that in order to make any money at this (which you would need to do simply to maintain a supply chain infrastructure) you would need to charge each subscriber 12 times the production cost of a game, a small amount for shipping (bulk rate parcel is not as expensive as it might seem), PLUS approximately 11% for overhead, project research and enterprise growth - JUST TO BREAK EVEN AT THE CURRENT RATE OF INFLATION. The project research would have to include the cost of evaluating new games, even if the testplayers, modifiers, editors and planners all worked as volunteers - there would be correspondence costs (mail, website hosting and upkeep, database storage and maintenance, postage), production cost for proofs to give to the production company, unless that cost could somehow be rolled into the production contract. The enterprise growth would come in if you wanted to expand the service to keep people interested (i.e. - Holiday gifts for subscribers that referred retainable new subscribers, bonus games for 5-year, 10-year and 15-year subscribers, Birthday gifts, newsletters, promotional catalogues to buy games from past months and years that you didn't get because you weren't a subscriber yet, etc...).

All in all, the service would most likely be expensive (approx $10 per game, approx $4.50 for shipping and $1.60 for growth all times 12 would come in at about $200.00 per year per subscriber - just to break even), but not totally unreasonable - especially as a gift for someone else. You could also have tiers ($200 for basic service, $500 for gold service, $750 for something awesome) to offset some of the cost of running the whole thing.

3) OBTAINING SALABLE PRODUCT - Most people on this site alone, not including the other development sites like boardgamegeek, have at least 2 if not 5 games about 80% of the way through the development process, many of which will never see a store shelf. That abundance could easily be weeded through in the form of a monthly contest. If you started now, the May 2011 winner could be the one shipped to subscribers in May 2012 (possibly sooner). That system could continue following suit so that there is 1 year to fully evaluate, playtest, edit and produce a viable prototype for production for the service - FOR EACH GAME SHIPPED, thereby practically GUARANTEEING a quality, exclusive product shipped each month!! It is not unreasonable to assume that each month you would find at least 1 game to fulfill the high standards necessary to retain subscribers of the service. In fact, if that is not the case, I'm sure that in at least one of those months, you might find 2 so that you could cover a short month or use it as a promotional item a-la the enterprise growth and special incentives for retention and referrals.

All in all, it is not an unreasonable goal, you would simply need a viable business plan and someone (or a service) to aggressively market it. In addition, if it takes off, you may end up being able to partner with established game companies to market their games through the same service so that they could not also offer the same mail-subscription service at a lower cost than you would - they would instead use THIS service at a far lower overhead than they themselves could do it for.

I am incredibly interested in this, and (though this opens up a WHOLE NEW TANGENT to this conversation) would not be above suggesting an electonic subcription for iphone / ipad / NintendoDS / PSP platform versions of many of the board games shipped through the mail. It is definitely a viable business opportunity that should be seriously investigated, as it could eventually become a cash cow

rcjames14's picture
Joined: 09/17/2010
Becoming a Publisher

stubert wrote:
All in all, it is not an unreasonable goal, you would simply need a viable business plan and someone (or a service) to aggressively market it. In addition, if it takes off, you may end up being able to partner with established game companies to market their games through the same service so that they could not also offer the same mail-subscription service at a lower cost than you would - they would instead use THIS service at a far lower overhead than they themselves could do it for.

A game of month is roughly the rate of publication for a medium size game publisher in this industry. I believe that Z-Man, for example, currently publishes at a slightly higher rate than once per month, when averaged out. So... there are a couple of questions you have to ask yourself:

1. Do you want to primarily design games or publish games?
2. Does any publisher currently do it? If not, why not?

1. Publishing games is a business. You are a businessman and ultimately the bottom line is what matter. You will be working full time and you will be on the flip side of the relationship: squeezing marginal profit wherever you can and being in the unenviable position of having to turn away a lot of designers/designs. You need to really like the people and practices in the industry and start off with a good deal of capital. And, you most likely won't succeed.

2. Given all the benefits to monthly subscriptions and known revenue streams, why is it not employed (more commonly)? Publishers may know something you don't about people's spending habits and the feasibility of this kind of endeavor. Are games impulse purchases or do people rationally plan out their gaming over a year? $200-$300 is not a lot of money to spend on games over a year, but it is a lot of money to spend at one time. It is one thing to spend $25 for a year long subscription or $25 bucks for a game at store or $100 for a batch of games online and another to commit yourself to a number of unknown, unreviewed, games for hundreds of dollars.

This idea is really cool though. Just ask yourself why you want to do it and why it isn't currently being done so that you know what you're getting into.

If you could figure out a supply chain that would allow you to bring the subscription cost under $100, I think you'd find enough people willing to take a chance to make it work. But, it is really hard to achieve that cost effectiveness unless you're Hasbro. So, that's why most hobby game publishers focus on big box large margin games with expandability. Unless you can go super mass market, you need to go super niche and provide high value added products, target your marketing to your niche and rely upon a tremendous amount of volunteerism.

Joined: 09/20/2009
Amazing insight and expertise

I am blown away by the expertise I see on these forums. Just a little clarification. I was thinking a less is more approach would keep the project manageable.

I completely agree that getting the games finished in advance of promotion, subscription and so on is a must. I could see a compromise on the price point by having levels of subscription, which I see another company doing with "classic" games. 3, 6, 12 months subscriptions would make good levels for kickstarter promotion (with costs/benefits fitting to each level.

I think finding 200 subscribers seems ambitious, but reasonable as long as the ending total allows for production (without huge capital investment). I do believe that it is manageable (with direct sales and the size restrictions I mentioned above) to keep profits/manufacturing costs in balance. There are small run companies with good quality production. Adding in distribution (the extra % associated with it) would sink the ship in lower quantities, as has been alluded to above.

To reiterate, I see the purpose of this is not to start another publishing company, but to give more designers a shot at exposure and ultimately the best of which might get noticed by a larger company, many of which are participants on these forums. I believe that BGDF has the talent to pull something like this off, though not a businessman myself, I do have experience managing volunteer staff and see this as an opportunity to shine as a community.

I welcome all further thoughts, and perhaps will begin a googlegroups list of people interested and see where it leads. I especially would like to hear from those who have experience with sifting through submissions/marketability testing.

Pastor_Mora's picture
Joined: 01/05/2010
Financial Approach

Well, supposing you need 180 suscribers to get out even when publishing 12 games. You'll just need 1/12 of that to publish the 1st. That's just 15 people that need to join the ride every month to keep you above surface level. So if your figures are right (I have my doubts, see below) and you have the time to pull this off, it could work.

On the long run, if you have starting funds, as said before by stocking large quantities of generic components (boxes, cardboard, etc) you could also make a difference. I would include proffesional services here also, like a graphic designer, illustrator, lawyer, etc. Granted all your games will look alike, but if they turn out cool, nobody should mind.

As a side note, I think you should brand your subscriptions (collections) by game genre/type, such as: wargames 4-2 (meaning for two players), abstracts 4-2, SOs (special other) 4-2, etc. Because, again, people may be uneasy about what they'll be getting, so this could be a way to narrow it down for them.

I don't imagine people putting up-front more than $15 per game. Not the first year at least. So, with 15 people joining every month, you get $15 x 12 months = $180 x 15 people = $2700. That's the money you'll have to work with. Good luck with that.

On the contrary, if you go for 600 suscribers, that's 50 a month, and $9000 for every game. You will be still not making any money as a publisher, just to cover for your personal and some extra expenses, but sounds more feasible. The bad new is that at this rate, your financial pyramid could end up needing some $50k in "bridge" loans (don't know how you call them) in case things don't go your way.

Not trying to be an ass here. But don't do this unless you have 3 months of suscribers on board. Kickstarter, as stated before, sounds like an efficient way to get there before getting things rolling. You'll be aiming at 150 starting people for $27k for 12 600-games print-runs.

Keep thinking!

Joined: 04/14/2011
definitley in


Love the Idea. How would you go about selecting the "game a month" if you have well over that many submissions? I am currently thinking about alternative ways of financing/publishing the games I have designed and built and have in process. let me know what kind of kickstart investment you need from each contributor. thanks


Joined: 09/20/2009
Game Submisions

There are so many factors in selecting a game, production costs, marketability and uniqueness (fun factor) are on the top of my list. I have been thinking a lot about this project and I think finding games would be the first, and pretty laborious step. As for kickstarter i think having levels of subscription makes sense, 3, 6, 12 months (with $ amounts depending on over all production costs (which is why hashing out game production costs is key). Thanks for the interest TJ!

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