This is Part 1 in the blog series: So you’ve designed a game… now what?

Links to future parts will appear here over the coming weeks. In those posts, I will cover:

  • Testing and development
  • To find or to be a publisher?
  • How to find a publisher
  • First steps in self-publishing

Why am I writing this?

I provide an initial free 30-minute meeting to anyone who is thinking about board game consultancy. 80% of people I speak to on these calls have just designed their first game and now want some help with next steps. I have found myself saying the same thing so many times, that I thought it would be helpful to write a series of blog posts that flesh out this information. So you’ve made a game… what now?

Clarify your motivation

You’ve made a game. That’s brilliant. I guess you’ve played it a bunch and people like it (otherwise you wouldn’t be here). Great. So what is the motivation to take it further? Be honest with yourself at this point and you can save a lot of time, money, hassle and energy later. Don’t underestimate how important this is. Getting a game to market isn’t an easy road and should be embarked upon with fully open eyes. Let’s look at some common motivations and what to do about them.

Money

You’ve seen some games go Whoosh on Kickstarter and you want some of that. Or you have played Monopoly and know how well that sells, but everyone tells you your game is better than that… So you’ll make more money, right? Sorry – no. When you focus on the tiny percentage of games that do brilliantly on Kickstarter you fail to notice the hundreds/thousands that don’t fund or (worse) barely fund. Games that do well on Kickstarter almost always come from creators with large followings. Followings that have not developed overnight. 

And Monopoly? That sells because people know it. The brand recognition is insane. Good games are not hard to come by. There are new ones coming out all the time. A game being good doesn’t mean it will sell. Even if it does sell, it’s not going to fund the life-on-the-beach dream, not on a 5% royalty. So if money is your motivation, stop now. Taking your time into consideration, you’re almost certainly going to spend more money on getting your game published than you’ll make from it. 

Ego

You made something and you want to show it off to everyone. Ok. Just be aware that now you’ve designed the game, the work is only just beginning. This may be your passion project, but will you still be passionate about it now that the interesting work is done? There’s a very long road ahead. It’s going to be frustrating. It’s not going to be glamorous. It will be a long time before you walk into a shop and see your game on the shelf, if ever. 

Ego can be a huge driver, but it can also push you to value some things over others. Ego can spur you into comparing yourself to others – leaving you feeling unsatisfied unless your game is the most successful, the most talked about, and has the most sales. Think about how you will feel if your game isn’t as successful as you think it should be? How will you cope with knock-backs and rejections? If you only enjoy competition when you win, your ego might be more of a factor than you think. 

Sharing

You’ve made a fun game, but it’s currently on the back of a cornflakes packet. What you’d really like is for your game to look and feel like the published games on your shelf. You’d like full box artwork and a board that folds up. You’d like your friends and family to have their own copies too. 

Guess what? You can do that without going down the formal publishing route. You don’t need to deal with Chinese manufacturers or find the perfect publisher. You need a ‘Print on Demand’ service like The Game Crafter. You’ll probably want to spend a bit of money to get the artwork and graphics done, if your skills don’t stretch that far. 

You can find reasonably priced freelancers on sites like Upwork or People Per Hour. Whilst there’s a big debate about AI artwork for published games, it’s a good option to help a print on demand game looking swanky. 

Head over to The Game Crafter to select your components and upload your files. They’ll print as many copies as you want. Not only that, but you can add your game to their online shop, enabling others to buy it as well. Each copy will cost a lot more than it would if you were printing in bulk… but hey – you don’t have a garage full of game boxes! 

Learning

Perhaps your motivation is that you want to push yourself a bit. You’d like to see this thing through. You have enjoyed the game design, but it feels like you’ve only done half a project. You know that the chances that your game will explode in a big way are small… but that doesn’t matter. 

You are enjoying learning about the board game industry, learning about game design and learning about publishing. The whole process is interesting and exciting. You’re interested in the end result, but not at the expense of the ‘journey’. (Ok, no more reality TV words, I promise). 

Great. Keep going. Read the next posts in this series and shout if you have questions.

Enterprise

I’ve deliberately separated this section out from ‘money’. Having the desire to build a business, a brand or a following is perfectly valid. In time, with effort, you might actually make good money, but money is not the core motivation. You’d like to create a little niche within the board game world. You want to be involved with the industry and be part of it. 

If this is the case for you, design lots. Set yourself challenges to design a new game every week, or to come up with 20 game ideas in 1 hour, or to create 5 new games using just a regular deck of cards. Make sure that you love designing. Make sure that you don’t just have one idea. Playtest other designers’ games and learn as much as you can. 

If you end up pitching to publishers, you’ll have lots of games you can show them. (This is always helpful as they may reject the first one within 30 seconds). If you self-publish, you’ll get more discerning the more you design and only focus on the games that are truly special.

Maybe you’ve already got the special game… Read the next posts to find out what to do now. 

If, after reading this, you’d still like to talk, please feel free to contact me to book a meeting.