Behind The Joy #6: It Works!!!! Now What?


The average board game takes 12-24 months to reach the point when the design is complete. The game doesn’t just work, it sings. The player experience matches the designer’s target, and new play-testers consistently want to play it again. Congratulations, designer, your job is done…almost. The big decision now is to pitch the game to publishers or to self-publish. Future articles will explore how to do both, but right now our focus is on making the decision.


The Default Answer: Pitch Your Game To A Publisher


            Pros:    You avoid production, shipping, distribution, art, and marketing headaches.

                        You are free to start working on a new game design idea.

                        You receive +2 design reputation for working with a reputable publisher.

            Cons:   Your royalties will be negligible (unless the game sells excessively well).

                        You often lose creative control over your game (depends on publisher).

                        You may lose months or years waiting for a publisher to make a final decision.


            Why is this the default option? Most designers do not have the time, resources, or desire to learn about everything needed to self-publish a game. Additionally, getting publisher feedback on your game can be a very informative, and humbling, experience for a new designer. Publishers generally have a very good read on the market, and can tell almost immediately if your game will succeed or not. Listen to them when they give you feedback. It may hurt now, but it will make you a better designer in the long-term. Next week, we will explore more about how to pitch your game effectively to publishers.


The Gutsy Call: Self-Publishing Your Game


            Pros:    You retain full creative control over your game.

                        You stand to make a better financial return (if your game sells).

                        You do not have to wait for anyone else (as long as you have resources).

            Cons:   You are now a very small, inexperienced fish in a big pond.

                        You are responsible for everything, and it is a huge time and money commitment.

                        Your ability to focus solely on game design is gone.

                        The skills required to effectively and efficiently run a business are different.

                        If you don’t have resources, you will need to acquire some.


            We are currently involved in producing our first game. It is a unique, and time-consuming challenge. We thoroughly enjoy game design. Unfortunately, we haven’t really done any in about a year. Instead, we have explored the legal, financial, production, shipping, distribution, marketing, testing, tax, and import/export requirement while overseeing the art development of our game. We aren’t complaining. We feel privileged to be able to pursue starting our own company. That said, it is a lot of work, is very expensive, and we might break-even financially. The bottom line is you need a compelling reason to self-publish. In our case, every publisher we talked about Commissioned thought the game was impressive, except for the theme. They concluded the game would not sell because of the religious theme. A few actually offered to publish it with a different theme (yes, this happens frequently). We thought the market actually would support Commissioned, and elected to self-publish. Commissioned’s performance on Kickstarter appears to support our decision. We will see what happens when the game rolls off the production line later this year.


Next time, we will walk through how to pitch to publishers. As always, fire away with comments & questions!



Pat & Kat Lysaght