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Realistically thinking (Publishers and all that jazz)

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CrosswindsGaming's picture
Joined: 06/11/2017

Hello again!

With this year coming to a close, my mind has been racing all over about future plans with my game. My goal as of right now is to complete the final version of the prototype, which basically has just been cleaning up the artwork and tweaking the mechanics/rules.

Now, I have a few (amateur) questions about a wide variety of things. I'm sure they've been answered several times before, but I'd like to get some general info on these subjects.

1. With the size of my game, I understand that self publication/manufacturing is out of the window. While I wish I had the time, money, resources and connections to fly solo, it's nearly impossible. So I'm looking into submitting to a publisher. With that, my biggest fear is not that my game will be rejected, but it'll be accepted, and as the designer I'll be left in the dust with nothing. (A friend of mine had this problem a long time ago). What types of publishers are willing to take on novice designers, but also leave the doors open for future content? I'm planning on expansions along side the core game.

2. I've heard and read great reviews about the Origins convention. I feel like I'm at a crossroads where, should I seek a publisher within the next few months and get this process started sooner? Or hold out until next summer and hope to meet publishers in person?

3. I've seen the word "niche" thrown around the board game designer world quite a few times lately. Thinking about it long and hard, I find my niche is doing exactly what I'm doing with The 12 Towers, and continuously expanding on this concept, much like the D&D universe. While I may have my head in the clouds in this one, can a single game launch a career in the board game industry? Career has been a big scary word for me lately. While I'm hoping that my game succeeds, it would be a dream come true to hear "Your game is doing great, we'd like to see some expansions and additional content from you". Does this sort of thing happen?

My apologies in advance, I know this post seems disorganized and all over the place. I've been working night and day trying to sort out all of this nonsense in my brain and get back to being focused.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
What do you think Kickstarter is for???

1. You can't do it alone? Time, money, connections... All you need to have is a GOOD (or even GREAT) Graphic Designer who can slap together an AWESOME KS page with a pretty decent video and some kind of "story universe" and you should be able to get like $15k.

Granted that's not too much at $50 USD per game copy, that's 300 backers. A very possible GOAL even for a First Time KS creator.

If you plan for wanting a Publisher... It depends on the SIZE. But to warn you ... you're going to make peanuts. It happens to everyone and it's normal. Games don't have a long shelf-life with 100 new games each day, getting your game in stores is even less likely. Why do you make so little?

Because in general if you KS a game, you need to cover the cost of art, minis (if any), custom dice (if used), creating the packaging, etc. And if the Publisher is handling the fulfillment and covering all shipping costs... And paying for a larger print run. You may have little funds left after all is said and done.

Your Publisher need $500 minimum orders to push several games into Distribution and you can hope your game is one of them...

2. No clue so I will not comment.

3. Donald X. Vaccarino. Do you know who he is? If the answer is "Yes", then you know ONE (1) Game can forever immortalize you in this business. And if your game allows for expansions that make for more interesting play or differentiating play (meaning the game plays differently by simply adding a module or two), well the odds is that you may have something.

My game "TradeWorlds" was DESIGNED for "Expandability". The game is scenario based and we are adding on custom decks for different expansions and you can mix and match too. Go in with that mind-set/product and you may be able to make a decent game. But remember the "core" of the game must be SOLID.

So first FOCUS on making a "great game". FUN with player interaction. And some depth to encourage replayability. Do that and you're on your way ... IF you can design for planned expansions ... that something you can SELL to Publishers. Well I'm sure EVERYONE is selling expandability these days...

Just some rough answers to some of your questions. The attitude you need is "YES I CAN!" And then figure out by trying to find the BEST route for you...

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Personal journey

Three (3) years ago I made the decision to FINANCE all custom artwork for my game at that time. My artist spent 6 months doing art and it cost me about $3k USD for about 35 pieces of custom artwork.

I decided that I would SELL on "The Game Crafter" (TGC) and had my rulebook "Sanity Tested" three (3) times to make sure I got a 70%+ rating. In an anonymous Art Test, I scored a 94% (out of 100%) meaning people LOVED the artwork... And I thought to myself... "This game will sell."

So I decided to do a "Crowd Sale" on TGC, I got over 34 sales, of which 30 were my OWN money and sending complimentary copies to all kinds of people, Friends, Family, other Designers, etc. My sale was a total and complete BUST. But at least I was TRYING... to get the game to a wider audience.

That "Crowd Sale" was two (2) years ago... I decided to approach my Developer at that time (he had taken a liking to the game - and said it kept him interested while playing) and asked him to speak to Mike & Stan (Outer Limit Games). Their mission statement was that they wanted to PUBLISH great Sci-Fi Games. And so I told Joe, speak to Mike & Stan and see if we could enter into a partnership to SELL my game.

Last May (2017) we had a 30 day KS campaign and collected $42,500 in support. Less than hope for, but more than the minimum. Probably not much room left for profitability because print-runs, shipping subsidies, low price point and all the of the artwork required for the final product we were offering.

So while I still have not broken even on this AWESOME game... Looks like we have an IndieGoGo in November - and hope to get some people as backers there ... And then we have plans for a "Tactical Core" in September 2018, a couple months after people get the ORIGINAL game (shipping June-July 2018)...

We're still hustling ... because everything TAKES TIME. Nothing is overnight. We hope that backers LOVE their game and give us a strong rating. We hope to have MORE FANS of the game (we currently have over 100 fans and no one has the game yet - Not too bad!)

It's a journey and it is filled with UPS and DOWNS... You got to give things a try... Some things may fail - but others may succeed.

Best of luck(?!) with your game.

P.S.: In case you wonder what the (?!) is for... It's because you may not NEED luck or maybe only a LITTLE bit! Take as much as you need! Hehehe.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
All in all

I must have about $8k invested in "TradeWorlds". This includes:

  • Multiple versions of prototypes from "The Game Crafter" (TGC).
  • A dozen reviewers copies which include shipping to the USA.
  • Paid Previews and Gameplay Videos another $500.
  • Facebook Ads to the sum of about $500.
  • Copies for Friends, Family and other connections - Early Release (+$1000)
  • Artwork and illustrations (+$3000)
  • Creative Writing ($1000)
  • Shipping costs of prototypes to my Developer in the US.

It obviously takes "money" to make something of it. I knew that this project was important to me. And don't misunderstand. I'm not focusing on the dollar sign... I'm just open about how much it takes to INVEST in a game... To see it through at the various different stages.

The other thing is that it has taken a lot of time. I've been working on this game since 2012. So it's more than 5 years in the making... And we still have more hurdles to cross too...

Just be aware of what it takes to MAKE a game. As an example of my personal interest in trying to make my OWN WIP a success!

And believe me dealing with OLG has been a real blessing. They've done wonders for the image of the product - and we've gotten a lot of additions developed for the game. Their professionalism has been EXCEPTIONAL! Would not have the game now ... had it not been for Joe, Mike and Stan.

So you can TRY IT alone... Possible. But you get all kinds of support if you reach out to people (who can help along the way).

joebergmann's picture
Joined: 12/29/2016
I went even cheaper...

My game is not as far along as "TradeWorlds". I have done the art and design myself. I have spent about $100 on clip-art from Shutterstock, $300 in printed versions from BoardGamesMaker, and my time. I am trying my first Kickstarter in just over a week. The problem I think I am going to run into is this: I'm not an artist (engineer). People can tell. My work is "amateur" to quote one forum poster. But, I'm still giving it a go. I was able to get three reviewers to do videos for free, including Edo Baraf (Thank you so much Edo!!!!). I did my best at a couple of videos, using free video editing software. Etc, etc.

But, in my defense, I am trying! And I think you should too! Keep asking questions and for suggestions on forums like BGDF, BGG, Facebook (not Reddit, Reddit is just mean...). Do your best, spend what you are comfortable with spending and give it a shot! Also, if you are still interested, bug me to do a post-mortem on my Kickstarter. I am about 50/50 as to it's success, so a review of what happened should be interesting either way. :)

In my opinion, go the Kickstarter route first. You will learn A LOT. You will have to deal with people, you will have to deal with budgeting, you will learn about taxes, and shipping, and a bunch of hidden things I haven't even run into yet. Maybe your first won't succeed, but you will be out there, people will see it. Maybe a publisher will be interested, maybe you will come up with another game or modify your Kickstarter to succeed on the second try. You can do it!

And, you won't know unless you try.


CrosswindsGaming's picture
Joined: 06/11/2017
Excellent information!

My apologies for the delayed response, but thank you both for all of this! It definitely puts a lot of heavy stuff in a much better perspective.

WinsmithGames's picture
Joined: 01/20/2017
Hey Crosswinds, there's a lot

Hey Crosswinds, there's a lot of wisdom to be found on BGDF and other similar forums and blogs. My biggest advice is to absorb the wisdom and industry knowledge of your predecessors.

I am glad to hear at the start of your post that your primary goal is to finish your prototype.

Honestly... creativity takes a HUGE amount of focus and dedication. That cannot be understated.

If I can give some macro-level advice, I'd say create a rough idea of what you want to do by coming up with a schedule. It's as simple as this.

1. Put together a rough rulebook: 1 Week
2. Finish my prototype: 2 Weeks
3. Run 3 solo playtests, noting what mechanics work well and what don't: 2 Weeks
4. Make revisions to rules and prototype as needed, addressing mechanics that need work: 2 Weeks
5. Continue solo playtests or playtest with a family member or friend, noting what works well and what doesn't: 2 Weeks
6. Repeat Step 5. 2 Weeks
7. Repeat Step 5. (You should start to feel like the game is becoming more fun and smoother with each iteration of revision and playtest.): 2 Weeks

You can start to see that with a rough schedule of 3 months, you'll have a prototype that has already gone through multiple phases of playtests.

To answer your questions, I don't know exactly which publishers would give you more influence over the game as they develop it; that's a little more difficult to research. You will have to talk with them and ask. However, I don't think now is the time to talk to publishers. It sounds like you need to vet your game a little more. Publishers typically don't want to be pitched a game if it has only gone through minimal development.

So if I were you, I'd focus on prototyping, playtesting, and revising your game so it can be the best shape possible when you pitch it to a publisher. THAT will increase your odds of them accepting your game, and will also improve your chances of them wanting to give you more influence on the game.

Best of luck to you!

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
About Publishers...

If there is ONE (1) think that is misunderstood or simply not discussed is how valuable it can be to have a game WITH "Art". Now I know everyone says: "Forget the art, the Publisher will deal with it." Which could be TRUE; but everyone forgets the SMALLER Publishers who DON'T have an Artist on salary or other who want a picture of what this game of yours will look like.

That, for some reason, is an understatement. It's like Taboo or something...

But the fact of the matter many small publishers would love to see more polished submissions maybe not with ALL the art but some basic ideas as to what kind of art will be in YOUR game.

For example with OLG, well Mike & Stan loved Charles art - we commissioned more than DOUBLE the amount of artwork in the Early Release... Making the game that much more "meatier"...

Look at it this way: "You have vision to design your game and it's mechanics..." Now do you have the vision to help illustrate the game and it's theme. Have you lined-up someone who can make some artwork for you that you can say: "Oh and BTW I had some artist do some preview artwork for my game and this is what it looks like..."

Sure larger Publishers have artists they work with... And you could probably get away with a NICE and CATCHY "Sell Sheet"... But everyone want to know, WHAT you expect YOUR game to look like. And so sending some artwork even to a larger publisher can also give THEM ideas too!

Cheers and all the best on the next steps towards publishing your game!

joebergmann's picture
Joined: 12/29/2016
This is a really good point

I think questccg is right, art is VERY important. Which is tough for me because I have so many ideas and am not an artist, or have free access to an artist. Perhaps, and this is just thinking out loud, it is best to get your "art free" game in front of as many playtesters, other designers, and other people "in the biz" and if it looks like it could make it, then take the plunge and spend the money for art. I think that is what I am going to have to do.

Having been to a few Protospiels and conventions, I will say that good art does draw more people in and can tip the scales as to whether or not they will try a game or not.

Don't stop trying!


Joined: 01/28/2017
I'll give you my view as I'm

I'll give you my view as I'm in a similar place - slightly further along but have invested a fair bit of cash in a number of games to get them to quite advanced states.

1. My first game was a larger game (Ludus Magnus) that I decided to park because I couldn't afford to selfpublish it the way I wanted. Instead I worked on something smaller (Knossus - which has itself proven to not be cheap) and some even smaller things (which look very viable). I learned a huge amount in the process just by doing - and by talking to people on here and other places - and I am now reconsidering the first game and a smarter way I might be able to do what I want...

So without knowing your available budget, might be worth parking it and trying something else for a while and coming back to it when you either have funds from other published games or smarter ideas on how to do it within your budget.

If you have next to no budget then I think - for all the talk of Kickstarters - you are going to need a publisher.

Kickstarter is EXPENSIVE to do properly - as I am finding out. To get your reviews done by high profile reviewers with audiences, to get good quality prototypes shipped out for them to review, to design/build a decent kickstarter with good assets and playthrough videos and to pay for adverts to promote it, its not a FREE route to publishing. You can however save yourself money by working very hard and smart, and by engaging heavily with the community to garner help from people.

2. No idea about Origins but I've had great invaluable feedback from having a stand at 2 big conventions now. My suggestion (depending on your budget) would be to book a stand and playtest like crazy, plus setup meetings with publishers to discuss how you could work together. You could ditch the stand and just walk around but the playtesting will be worth the cost. We decided to self publish after going this route although I am now interested in licensing conversations with a couple of publishers.

3. I came very quickly to the conclusion that you start making boardgames for love not money. If my hobby ends up being self sustaining then I will be very happy. The only way I can see it being able to pay me a living is if we build up a LOT of IP in multiple games, all of which sell in decent amounts. Long way off - we haven't even got one published yet!

As has said before though, whats most important is that you are doing this at a time when anything is possible. You really can reach out to the industry easily now through the internet, and make meetings with publishers, talk to artists from all over the world, get minis sculpted in one country and manufactured in China without too much hassle - its amazing to have this capability.

My advice for anyone starting now - very humbly, as there are far more experienced people than me on here - is just to try stuff. Don't spend money you can avoid - use handwritten cards, pieces from other games, printed A4 sheets instead of folding boards, until you want to showcase your work to other people - then spend as much as you can afford on people who will not only make for you but can give you great advice (don't go cheap at that point).

As an example we just hired a rulebook artist on the basis that the time they spent up front, and the advice they gave us on kickstarter made them one of the smarter spends we will make. They were the most expensive quote.

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