One of the most frequent questions that will arise when publishing a board game: Should I self-publish or use a publisher?
All those months of planning and scrutinizing over every detail have now come to fruition and your game is selling to customers. This process of selling to the end customers is the ultimate and final point of Publishing a Board Game.
Although, self-publishing is a little fish in a big pond. There are several game developers and publishers in the industry which have been producing games for years giving them the advantage of customer loyalty, credibility, and a large marketing budget. A self-publisher lacks all three of these attributes making it difficult to establish themselves in the market.
For many first-time board game developers, it can be a difficult choice to make whether to self-publish or join forces with a game publisher. There are pros and cons for each approach. Here we will examine some of the factors you should think about before making your decision.
|Self Publishing a Board Game
|– All profits directly to the creator
– More creative control
– Quality control
|– Low customer awareness
– Lack of market knowledge
– No guaranteed profit
|Using a Game Publisher
|– Larger client base
– Upfront or royalty payments
– Industry knowledge
|– Less money in your pocket
– Highly selective
– Less creative influence
So, if you are choosing to self-publish a game, the question is “How to Self-Publish a Board Game” We will quickly review here 4 methods for self-publishing a game:
- Create A game Website
- Selling through Amazon
- Finding Distributors
One popular method for beginning your board game journey is by using crowdfunding. Websites such as Kickstarter, GameFound, Indiegogo, and Verkami are but a few places where a game creator can pitch their game idea and find financial investors. This will ease the stress of how to pay for your game manufacturing and give you more freedom to focus on game quality.
There are two downsides to crowdfunding. The first is the costs of campaign development. If you want to have a successful KS, the costs of launching such a campaign can reach and surpass 10,000USD. You will need to create a video, develop all the art assets on your page, get three to five samples to send to multiple reviewers, build a webpage that converts, have a few months of social media advertisements to grow your following, and even if you do all of these, your KS might not be successful, and you will not raise enough money.
Secondly, if you get people to subscribe on your crowdfunding page you do not have access to specific data such as who is visiting your page making it difficult to target specific markets. Although, among the game creator community, Kickstarter is a proven platform to gain credibility and traction in the industry. The conversion rate for subscribers on KS can go up to 20% and if other board game developers or enthusiasts are backing your project, this means your game is on the right track!
Game makers might also use some of the resources to create their own website. Sites such as WordPress or Shopify can make this daunting task a little easier while giving your game a direct channel to attract investors and/or customers.
A home website is much more broad net marketing as it can be linked to social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Reddit, etc., as well as online retail sites such as Amazon. Remember, once the game is finished, it is all about the marketing well enough to get the sales that made all that work worthwhile.
A personal website can also provide customer engagement options such as newsletters, subscriptions, blog content which will help track visitors and give you more customer data to help improve your advertising. You will have access to data analytics, which is to say you will know what type of people are visiting your site based on age, location, gender, etc. This is a huge plus for creating advertising for specific target markets and will result in more sales.
Amazon is a popular means of selling products, however expenditures such as warehousing, shipping, commission fees, and advertising can be expensive. Hero Time recommends you thoroughly research all available selling options so that your marketing budget can be utilized effectively.
Amazon charges an 15% commission on each sale made via its site along with various shipping and warehousing fees. While this is not uncommon and financially manageable for most game makers, the area of concern is advertising.
Amazon is one of, if not, THE most dominant online retailers in the world. Therefore, sellers will have many competitors to contend with when selling their products. If you had had experience with Google Ads or Facebook Ads, Amazon is similar in that you pay to make your products more noticeable to relevant customers. Without doing this, your game could become lost in a sea of searches for “Best Board Game” or “Fun Games.” The price of advertising alone could potentially overshadow the profits of your game, so make sure to do your research and figure out a firm financial budget before selling with Amazon.
However, if your game ranks quite high within Amazon’s algorithm it could do quite well in sales. For example, a Hero Time client created a game called Gift Grab Game specifically for Christmas and gift giving and Amazon immediately recognized this as a niche top performer and ranked it top of its search results for “gift exchange games.” The number of customer reviews can also be detrimental to boosting sales as word-of-mouth is one of the cheapest and most effective forms of advertising for a seller.
Gift Grab Game amazingly sold out of their 1,000 units before the end of October! Imagine if the client had anticipated such a huge response and manufactured 10,000 units or more. This is an encouraging success story which shows if you do your research on keywords, tagging, and place your game into the right search bracket, you could do quite well for yourself on Amazon.
Another key component to remember in using Amazon is promoting product awareness. As mentioned earlier, by creating your own game website and social media presence, you can reach a much larger audience and generate a buzz about your game. But Amazon, being the dominant online retailer, is where someone might go to purchase your game as the transaction feels more secure and credible rather than buying on a low-ranking website. So, again, it is important to examine and estimate where your game may fall into the spectrum of the online marketing ecosystem and how you can take full advantage of all opportunities which could generate sales.
Many self-publishers choose to reach out to private board game distributors. Stores that sell specifically to the gaming community either online or through all the stores connected to the distributor. For example, this can be highly efficient if you are a game developer in Argentina and want to sell your game in Spain. For a small percentage of each sale, your game can be distributed in multiple countries. Depending on the agreement between the game developer and the distributor, other costs including warehousing and shipping could be part of the distribution agreement, so it is important to find a distributor you communicate well with. It is possible that a distributor will contact you once you have established your game through one of the above-mentioned windows.
Board game publishers can be advantageous because they already are firmly established in the market which means they have access to a larger customer base. This allows your game to be seen by many more potential buyers thus possibly greatly increasing your sales.
Also, it is possible you will receive royalties for each game sold and publishers might provide upfront payment for your available units.
While a board game publisher has access to a larger customer base, for every sale made they will receive a commission meaning less money in your pocket. So, if your game sells well this may not be a huge issue for you, but if you are not selling many units, it can decrease your profit expectations and deflate your confidence.
Game publishers are also highly selective about what games they market. You would not recommend a horrible restaurant to your friends, right? Similarly, publishers will not market low-quality, non-entertaining games in their product line-up. This means the publisher has the right to influence your creative process and potentially alter your initial idea.
Publishers can create a contract or agreement with game developers to ensure both parties are happy. However, the publisher will always have the upper hand in this negotiation because they receive 100s if not 1,000s of submissions a year from other game creators, so you must be flexible if your game is lucky enough to be chosen.
If you have the skills, dedication, and confidence in your game and its marketability, Hero Time recommends the board game self-publishing method. After all those months of working to perfect your dream game into reality, why should someone else get to benefit from your labors?
However, if you have a lot of games in development, a board game publisher might be the best route as they might select one of your games to market giving your brand more exposure and credibility. Just remember not to get discouraged as not all game publishers are the same. Some are highly scrutinizing and firm their selection process while others may provide more flexibility with game creators.
As a kid, I used to play a lot of board games with my brother. He is an avid board gamer and board game developer who has already created a few titles already. In 2018, I was living in China and my brother created his first board game and he needed someone to produce it. He contacted several different factories but was overwhelmed with the amount of manufacturing information he was not knowledgeable about.
So, he contacted me and said he needed help. I took it upon myself to travel to these factory locations scattered throughout China. As I was merely searching for a manufacturer, the amount of non-transparent details involved in game manufacturing, such as shipping, fulfillment, etc., snowballed. I had no idea of what I was getting into.
As I went through this process of producing my brother’s board game and absorbing as much information as I could, I contacted one of my friends with extensive experience in the printing industry and together we decided to open our own facility to start making board games. There was a lot for both of us to learn at the beginning, but we really feel we have mastered the entire process. We are constantly finding ways to improve and be more efficient so that every game that comes out is 100% perfect for the creator.
To summarize the purpose of Hero Time: We are here to empower board game creators. We want to get them their game as easily as possible while making it affordable.
Game creators could go with another factory and find a much cheaper price, but you will not know the quality of your game until it is completed and the money is spent. There is also little communication and updates provided by these cheaper manufacturers.
Another alternative are large manufacturers such as in the U.S., but the prices are quite high making them unsuitable for mass production.
Hero Time aims to give the best possible board games for the best price possible. We are the only English/Chinese speaking board game manufacturer in China. We are on the production floor while your game is being developed and can keep you constantly updated on the progress of your game.
Our motto is: We make it right!