This is Part 3 in the blog series: So you’ve designed a game… now what? 

If you’ve not yet done so, please read Part 1: What’s your motivation? and Part 2: Testing and development. Links to future parts will appear here over the coming weeks. In those posts, I will cover:

So you’ve designed a game and you’re keen to see it come to life, but which road should you follow: Pitch your game to established publishers? Or self publish it? 

To help you decide – and for a bit of fun – I’ve written job descriptions of these two different ‘roles’ you could adopt.

Independent Designer

Responsibilities & duties

  • Research publishers and their games
  • Establish connections with relevant publishers
  • Create marketing assets for your game including written hooks and overviews, images, sell sheets, rulebooks and short videos.
  • Pitch your game live, via video conference, by email and possibly through Tabletop Simulator (or similar). 
  • Create playable prototypes to send to publishers on request.
  • Follow up, wait, follow up, wait (repeat). 
  • Develop the game in response to feedback from publishers.

My study – ready for 3 days of online pitching through the Mojo Pitch.
3 days, 21 publisher meetings, 27 games

A Midsummer Fayre is being released by Gamewright in Summer 2024.
It was pitched to 23 different companies and was signed 10 months after it was pitched to Gamewright, after a lot of development. 

Skills

  • Game design & development (obviously)
  • Presentation skills
  • Networking
  • Patience
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Ability to cope with rejection
  • Ability to maintain an emotional distance from your game(s)


Pay & benefits

  • An advance on royalties from around £500 (It could be a lot more if you sign with a mass market publisher). 
  • Somewhere around 5-7% of royalties.
  • The publisher deals with artwork, production, distribution, marketing, fulfilment.

Independent (Self) Publisher 

Responsibilities & duties (not all self-publishers will do all of the below)

  • Research similar games on the market.
  • Ready the game for production: artwork, graphic design, blind playtesting, proofreading, legal requirements.
  • Create marketing assets: full copy, images, overview and how-to-play videos.
  • Marketing (oh so much marketing): Build email lists, attend industry events, create a social media presence, do interviews, write articles.
  • Develop relationships with reviewers and send them prototypes or final games.
  • Research and liaise with manufacturers: check samples, arrange regulatory testing
  • Organise shipping, fulfilment, warehousing.
  • Create budgets and manage finances around the whole project.
  • Create, manage and run a Kickstarter campaign (if crowdfunding).
  • Pitch to retailers and distributors (if not crowdfunding).
  • Find and set up e-commerce opportunities – Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, own website.

Reviewers compilation of Uranus! Self-published in 2021

A couple of small mistakes with the first (self-published) Buzzlebox taught me the importance of subcontracting a proof-reader.

Skills

  • Game design and development
  • Financial management
  • Marketing and sales
  • Production management
  • Logistics
  • Presentation skills
  • Admin 
  • Attention to detail
  • Time management


Pay & benefits

  • 100% of the profits after production costs, fees and overheads.
  • Full control over the game rights, artistic direction and production of the game.

In a nutshell

Self-publishing a game is like setting up a business. It takes time and a wide range of skills to do well. This route may be more attractive to a partnership or small team, where duties and decisions can be shared. You do, however, get to make exactly the game you want to make.

Pitching to publishers is much less time intensive and is an easier option for the lone designer, but it really helps if you’re comfortable with selling yourself (lean into your inner extrovert). Finding a publisher can take a long time though, so a tough skin and flexible attitude is a must.

In the next two posts, we’ll look at the steps you need to go through when pitching to publishers and self-publishing in more detail.