A few years ago I was listening to a podcast where the podcasters were lamenting their recent board game Kickstarter failure. They were talking about how they were throwing in the towel on being a game publisher because they couldn’t raise enough money to publish 3,000 copies of their game.
More recently, I’ve seen people in game publishing groups chastise people for wanting to make or produce their own games.
I’m not sure where this obsession with the PRODUCTION of games has come from, but I’m here to tell you that it is quite alright to make and sell handmade board games. Here are two stories I’d like to share.
Splotter is a Dutch game company that has gained notoriety recently for their game Food Chain Magnate. Did you know that Splotter started out in 1997 as a gaming group that hand-produced games to sell? Their first games like Tetragons, Web and D’raf were made in batches of 30 to 80 games. The games were packaged in video game boxes to save money. They continued to produce the video box games until 1999 when they brought 30 large handmade copies of Roads & Boats to the annual game fair in Essen, Germany. These sold out immediately. Using some money from a game they had designed, the group financed a print run of 500, of which they again sold out at their Essen booth. They kept at it, and have now had 6 print runs of Food Chain Magnate.
In 2015, Flatlined Games produced a limited run of Mark Gerrits train game “SteamRollers.” The game was limited to 200 numbered and signed copies. Each was produced in a brown kraft cardboard box with a full-colored sticker on the cover. It came with wood components and included laminated cards and a pad of player maps. The cover described it as a preview edition. The game did well and a reprint is scheduled to launch on Kickstarter in 2017 with new art and a bigger box.
I’m not saying you have to start off with making handmade games, I’m saying it OKAY to consider it as an option. Don’t listen to people who tell you otherwise. If hand making your first games gets you started, DO IT. Buy some boxes, labels, components and make 50 games. If the games look presentable and appeal to an audience…you will sell them. Now use the money from those 50 games to make 200 more.
Game publishing is not an all or nothing venture. We live in a time where the options for get started are available to just about everyone. So, don’t listen to people who tell you that you will never make it by producing your own games.
Does it scale? Probably not. But, it will get you started, which is the most important thing when you are starting out.
Are you thinking about producing your own games?