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Prototype Complete, Game Playtested, Rules Reinforced, Presentation Ready... What to expect after submitting to a developer...?

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Saratar
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Hello to all! I'm new to BGDF (and to the whole board game industry, really), and I've just submitted my first card game invention to a developer company and I was wondering: What happens now?

The BGDF forums are ripe with information and advice, and I've done my fair share of research online. I'm in understanding of the necessity for patience and well-timed persistence, but I'm curious to know what to expect now that I've begun to submit my card game invention to prospective publishers?

There is an active community here I'd love to be a part of, but I'm still so green on all of this that I feel I could grow the most from hearing what everyone else has to say.

This is an exciting time. I find myself biting my knuckles without even realizing it. It's a good kind of excitement... like waiting for that phone call, or buying a lottery ticket and digging around in the car for a loose penny. :)

truekid games
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Every publisher is different.

Every publisher is different.

Generally you're corresponding with them a couple times, sending a sell sheet and/or rules, and then they may say they're not interested, or they may ask for a prototype. Send this to them ASAP, and assume you will never get it back. Full physical prototype (needs to be functional, does not need anything more than clipart or stick figures for graphics) is preferable to files for everyone involved, since them printing out the prototype is just one more delay/obstacle to them actually testing it.

Some will get their rejection to you within a week, some will take literally years. It's ok to send a follow up email every month or two asking if they've gotten a chance to evaluate it yet (use your best judgement here, based on whatever their previous correspondence has been). I say rejection just because that is most often what it will be.

If it is accepted (they want to publish it, and you sign a contract), what happens next varies GREATLY. Sometimes you won't hear anything else about it until it's on store shelves, sometimes you'll be very involved in every step of the process. If the publisher does development, expect any number of changes to your game- thematically and mechanically. Remember that they're trying to put together a product that they feel will do well for them. If you feel a change would result in a bad experience, it is ok to express that. This can be hard to discern though, as often changes just result in a DIFFERENT experience than perhaps what you'd envisioned, which does not necessarily mean bad. Try to detach yourself from your baby and recognize what is actually "bad" and what is just "different", and remember that they have the final say.

Saratar
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Thanks truekid!

Wow, thanks for the informative response, truekid. I really appreciate the points you've made! It's a big help to have a good idea of the possible near future, positive or negative.

While I've only contacted/submitted my game to one company, I found it interesting that one of the first things they asked me was whether I'd be attending GenCon or any other gaming conventions, this year. I wouldn't be against the idea, certainly, but they are states away and I work full-time. Having no reputable background in this industry I don't have much leverage to convince a company to see my work outside the scope of these events, and I was grateful the company agreed to let me submit right away. That's not saying I want to dispose with the formalities, but in that I'm wondering... How necessary is it for some inventors and game companies to meet up at these conventions before future considerations even apply?

questccg
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Not all rosie...

The thing to remembers is that you may get "rejected". Which has happened to a lot of "Published" designers. One on this site can tell you he waited 2 year for a deal and then the company decided not to "go into" business in board gaming (Dralius). I myself had a my rulebook, artwork and other material with a publisher for almost 1 year and then they decided they were not pursuing the publication of the game.

So sometimes a publisher may be *hot* and then change their mind. Some of the publishers may ask you for a "Concept Document" or "Sell Sheet". If you are unfamiliar with these simply Google them and you should find samples.

The thing that I find peculiar is the question: "So how is your game different?" Most, if not all, games are different. So once you answer this question, it is strange if the reply is: "I don't understand" or the re-ask the same question: "So how is your game different?"

Just recently my current WIP (Work-In-Progress) has one aspect that is similar to the card game "San Juan" (SJ) which is oddly enough is similar to "Race for the Galaxy" (Race): as it turns out both games are VERY similar. This was a pleasant surprise, because I had not planned on this... I knew nothing about "Race" only that my roles were sort of inspired from SJ.

That's what happens when you show your game to people... They tell you what it is similar to or reminds the of. Which is good because it gives you a better understanding about what type of game you have designed...

It's true that publishers do go to Cons - but they usually don't make deals at them. They like to see what is being offered, but as another designer told me: "They said that they liked my game so much, they would get me a deal in a few weeks." Well IDK if that designer ever got that deal... :(

Anyhow this is what you should expect from publishers... They are a precarious bunch. Even some designers who were very "accessible" when they were designers, have gotten a tight lip when they moved to the publishing business. I guess publishers don't like to be so involved in the development of game or they want something and then they buy it outright...

Update: Come to notice that people who HAVE published their games by a publisher - really don't SHARE their experience with the rest of us... I don't think anyone has chimed in with a "Yes, this is how my last game was published and these were the terms, etc..." Maybe that's some kind of truth telling ... in that designer DON'T seem to share their publication experiences! No need for names, just how it "went down"! :)

Saratar
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A fantastic sell sheet leads to a fantastic sale?

I've read comments here and there mentioning sell sheets but I hadn't looked into them until your suggestion, questccg. After a quick google search I found this excellent site of sell sheet examples:

http://www.leagueofgamemakers.com/how-to-build-a-sell-sheet-for-your-game/

Structurally, my game is fairly simplistic. Progress of the game got hung up for a while because I was looking to self publish, but I was never able to come to a design decision that I felt would give my game that visual WOW factor that would mean the difference between night and day; that's why I'm particularly excited at the possibility of a professional game developer stepping in and inputting their own experience toward the game's design.

I've read that some developers will welcome designers to provide marketing as well as art direction for a submitted work. I'm sure this depends entirely on a case-by-case basis, but I'm curious: if a company makes such a request what does this mean for a game's future with the company?

The Professor
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You're on the road to success...maybe

Saratar,

Just a quick note as a professional developer ("professional" in the sense that I dedicate myself to the craft, not that I do this for a living)...it's great that you've sent your game out to a Publisher, however, as they're given you no commitment, don't feel as though you can't shop it around to others, as well. That's completely fine. However, if a Publisher decides to go to the the next step and have you sign-on with them, it's bad form to have your game out with other publishers. Two books I'll recommend that you read include "The Game Inventor's Handbook" by Steve Peek and "The Game Inventor's Guidebook" by Brian Tinsman.

As to the marketing and artwork, I can tell you that I'm currently serving as the developer for a "monster" WWII game, which is a follow-up to the designer's original game. He'll work very closely with his cartographer and the publisher will handle the marketing aspect. As for me in the developer role, I'll establish play-testing groups; define the criteria by which the play-testers will evaluate the game; review the feedback and produce a report to the designer so that he may, at his discretion accept or reject suggestions; and write and rewrite scenarios and sections of the rules. Designers generally lack the ability to render well-written rules...their skills lie elsewhere.

Anyway, I wish you the best of luck!

Cheers,
Joe

lewpuls
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Potentially long wait after acceptance

Keep in mind also, even after acceptance it may be many years before publication, or they may change their minds (a contract isn't a promise to publish, it's the opportunity to publish). I have a game at Mayfair that they've had 6.5 years (including the year they took to decide). Or maybe 7.5 years. Yes, the contract allows me to pull the game back, but how often do you get a chance to have a game published by a major publisher?

And that's not the longest wait I've had.

The Professor
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Unbelievable

Dr. P.,

That's rather amazing that you've had a game with Mayfair that long...I understand the attraction of having something published by a major publisher...but, you're actually not having anything done at the moment. Do you have a P-n-P version or are you currently having your game play-tested? Much can happen in nigh on a decade.

Cheers,
Joe

Dralius
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lewpuls wrote:Keep in mind

lewpuls wrote:
Keep in mind also, even after acceptance it may be many years before publication, or they may change their minds (a contract isn't a promise to publish, it's the opportunity to publish). I have a game at Mayfair that they've had 6.5 years (including the year they took to decide). Or maybe 7.5 years. Yes, the contract allows me to pull the game back, but how often do you get a chance to have a game published by a major publisher?

And that's not the longest wait I've had.

Lewis

What game is it? I have helped playtest for Mayfair for about a decade. I wonder if I have played it.

Saratar
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Thanks for the feedback! About contacting multiple companies...

Thank you for your feedback, The Professor and lewpuls.

One particular point of interest for me which was addressed was about submitting a game idea to more than one company at a time. From my understanding, like with literary publication, it's considered bad 'etiquette' to submit a game to more than one company at a time, although I must admit that I've strongly considered the idea. After some research, I compiled a list of companies and prioritized them in regards to the content they publish and my personal interest in pursuing the publisher for the development of my game. I'm wondering, if a company green lights (the opportunity) to publish one's game, what would be the best way to go about approaching the situation if your submission is out with more than one developer? I'm guessing that transparency is ultimately the best approach, but what if a second company, upon informing them of another company's interest, showed interest, too, in your product? I don't mean to get too complicated with the idea, just curious to know if this opens opportunities for leverage or could ultimately backfire the relationship?

The Professor
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there's etiquette and then there's pragmatism...

Saratar,

When dealing with etiquette, it cuts both ways. If game companies displayed a degree of etiquette commensurate with the efforts put forward by game designers, they wouldn't hold their games in abeyance for months and years at a time. To that end, it's completely reasonable to send out the game to multiple companies, but should one come back with an offer, it's considered polite an professional to call back the other copies.

Cheers,
Joe

truekid games
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Except, that assumes ALL

Except, that assumes ALL companies hold the majority of games for such a period. Since that's not true, you'd be saying it's ok for the designer to be unprofessional to ALL companies because SOME of the companies he/she may deal with will be unprofessional.

Some will, for sure, but burping in everyone's face because one guy did it to you isn't a good plan.

In reality, it's very reasonable to ask individual companies if they're ok with you submitting to other companies at the same time. I have yet to encounter one who didn't have a concrete and polite yes or no answer, because it's in their best interest for the policy to be clear.

In the hobby industry it's USUALLY the case that submitting initial inquiries to multiple people is ok, but if someone has your prototype, they probably assume they're the only one who does. In the mass market industry, they more often assume it's being shopped around. This is in part due to the opportunity cost at the scale of operations- a small company spending 40 hours playtesting a game, only to be burned by the designer saying "oh BTW, I signed this elsewhere" is a much greater relative expenditure than a multinational company doing the same thing. But really, regardless, just ask.

The Professor
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Well stated...no argument here

Truekid,

I'm in full agreement, and haven't encountered the issue myself, but when a company such as Mayfair doesn't move with greater alacrity, I'm simply surprised. Either way, I wish the OP luck in pursuing several companies.

Cheers,
Joe

truekid games
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6 years is an abnormally long

6 years is an abnormally long time, for sure.

lewpuls
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Joe, An advance makes a

Joe,

An advance makes a difference.

Also, my Achilles heel is in submission of games, I'm just not very good at it, in part because I'm not given to hyperbolic enthusiasm, in part because I don't want my games screwed up by publishers (which certainly happens).

And if I have enough games, I can leave one sitting for years after acceptance by a publisher, and still have others to offer publishers.

LP

lewpuls
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Dralius, The game is Law &

Dralius,

The game is Law & Chaos.

Btw, I was told that Mayfair had "Nuns on the Run" for about 8 years before publishing it.

And when a big company is slow to respond, it's often because they have more submissions than they can deal with, OR, it's because they aren't interested in new submissions, they already have so many games they like.

This is a reason why so many people have turned to self-publishing.

The Professor
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Thanks, Dr. P!

I greatly appreciate your insights as someone who has, as they say, "been there, done that." There's always a wealth of info from the contributors on this site.

Cheers,
Joe

Saratar
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Not to keep them coming, but...

Another question, if I may...

If a company asks for a working prototype, would a crude build of the game reflect badly toward its submission?

For example, mine is a card game with few pieces and a loose concept for a 'board.' If a company received nothing more than some blank card stock with standard font text on them and wood 'chits' painted in a hasty white, would such a submission deter a company from further consideration, or simply suggest that the game's design is still quite open for interpretation?

truekid games
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As long as the game has been

As long as the game has been thoroughly playtested and the prototype is very functional (playable without having the rulebook open constantly), you should be fine.

The Professor
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Good to go..

Saratar,

Just to echo truekid's comments, publishers will have artists, developers, etc., so your focus should remain on constructing a solid game.

Cheers,
Joe

Saratar
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It's been a big help

OP here, just wanted to say thank you to everyone who posted. I really appreciate your comments and suggestions, and I feel a lot better about some of the unknowns ahead of me after submitting to a developer. I have a whole new world of respect for you guys out there who make this your life, be it a hobby or a career. While I'm just getting into the industry with a single idea, I hope that I can be a part of something as exciting and involving as creating and publishing board and card games.

Really though, thanks again, and I look forward to furthering the conversation if needs be and questions unknown.

Best of luck to you all

Mechadonic
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Everything you said is really

Everything you said is really helpful but i have a different question. How can you be sure that the company won't just say "i am not inerested in your game" and then steal your idea and publish it themselves?

The Professor
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Unfounded fear

Mechadonic,

One would think that in an industry which keeps its collective mouth shut, turns down designers at an alarming rate, and has access to new ideas would in fact steal ideas. In reality however, and this will echoed by others here and other sites, that it just doesn't happen. One of the main reasons why it doesn't happen is because your game, in the end, isn't that special.

Many years ago, in a creative writing class, the professor alluded to the idea that there are only about 20-30 truly independent plots for any story you want to tell. It's what you do with the setting and the dialogue, etc that makes it different...that makes it unique. To that end, publishers are quite busy either publishing games, to which again they have access to many great ideas, or in the case of many, many small publishing houses, most notably in the war game genre, they're at there day job and publishing is a side-line hobby, like for many of us, designing and developing games is clearly not putting on the table.

In short, make the best game possible and submit it to a publisher once it's been thoroughly play-tested and wait...but don't worry about some publishing company stealing your ideas.

Cheers,
Joe

Mechadonic
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Thanks for the info

Thanks for the info professor, at least we have something less to worry about :)

wombat929
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multiple submissions

The Professor wrote:
...it's great that you've sent your game out to a Publisher, however, as they're given you no commitment, don't feel as though you can't shop it around to others, as well. That's completely fine. However, if a Publisher decides to go to the the next step and have you sign-on with them, it's bad form to have your game out with other publishers.

Thanks for this info -- there are some fields where simultaneous submission is discouraged or even a big faux pas.

If you have the game in consideration at multiple publishers and one commits, I assume you just email and withdraw the game from consideration?

The Professor
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Courtesy is a two-way street

I've no doubt that there's a sense of peculiar, one-sided decorum in some industries, but I fall back on simple courtesy. Additionally, I'm not one to ruminate on an idea ad nauseum...act or get off the pot.

If you find yourself in a position whereby a publisher has made a good faith offer, it is absolutely incumbent upon you to close the loop with the other publishing houses, thanking them for their time and consideration. I tend to remain old school, despite being only in my 40s, to pen a letter to the company versus sending an e-mail.

Hope that helps.

Cheers,
Joe

boardgameguru
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1988

I have had a party word game since 1988 trying to get a publisher

IT was professionally developed with prototypes.

It was juts as good as Pictionary Taboo etc.

In fact I just about invented Taboo before the actual person who published it did as I was way in to board game designing.

I guess I have a life of bad luck

Icynova
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Simultaneous Submissions

In the publishing industry, simultaneous submissions are not universally allowed or prohibited. Each publisher will post their submission guidelines on their web site, and those will almost always clarify whether they are receptive to submissions that are currently being considered by others.

In my view, look very carefully for any guidelines posted by your prospective publisher. If they don't specify, then they should expect that designers will submit elsewhere.

Also, in my opinion, it's a bad (very bad) idea to try and play one publisher against another. Don't say that someone else has sent you X offer to see if they will offer you something better.

If game designs were nickels, we would all be rich. Publishers know each other, and they talk. Reputation is important, because in the end, your relationship with a publisher may be defined by a contract, but your next contract will have to be signed by a person. Don't make that person regret doing business with you.

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