5 Top Tips For Board Game Inventors & Board Game Start-Ups…
Seems like every other person who approaches our company has invented a ‘new’ board game…which is great, because the board games category historically relies on independent board game inventors to inject new life into the category in terms of stretching the boundaries and looking at things differently from the established experts and established board game companies.
The challenge though is that those outside view factors are often what creates most problems/challenges for the inventor in terms of a lack of commercial and industry understanding.
So here’s some top tips to help:
1. Playtest (and tweak) Your Game (until you are thoroughly sick of it!) – there are a few companies who don’t play games they publish, but in nearly all cases your game will be playtested by professional games developers. So if you submit to them and they discover obvious fundamental flaws in it before they’ve even finished reading the rules, how much chance do you think you have…? That’s right, not a lot. Games get rejected for the most ridiculously minute reasons, because there are so many to choose from, and a decision to manufacture a game is the most significant financial risk a board games company makes. So for heavens sake make sure you have playtested it and that other people genuinely enjoyed it/wanted to play it again.
Let me give you an example – I recently introduced the game ‘Dobble’ or ‘Spot It’ as it’s called in some markets at a dinner party after several glasses of wine to a crowd of non gamers who were very cynical/not that interested in playing a game at that point. Within 60 seconds of starting to play the game it was absolute pandemonium because the game was so great, so compelling, so immersive, so tense and so much fun. Do you get that reaction from your game…? Because that’s the type of game you are competing with!
2. Research What’s Already Out There – there are so many games already in existence, and so many concepts floating around that it sometimes seems like everyone has already seen everything before – certainly when you pitch board games companies they will clearly be trying to place the game as ‘like’ such and such a game, except maybe a bit different because…
So to save yourself and them time, and to risk losing your credibility, go to www.boardgamegeek.com and search their online database of board games, so far it’s easily the most extensive games database I’ve encountered.
3. Understand the business model/royalty structure – I was once harangued by a want to be games inventor at a trade show when I was trying to sell to retail customers. The gentleman in question was berating me because I dared to suggest that he the mighty creator of the game concept would only get a 5% royalty. The reality is we could debate royalty rates paid to toy and game inventors until the cows come home, but the bottom line is that you are likely to be offered royalty rates in the region of 5%, and if you have a great concept/some one really wants it you may be able to push that up to 6% or occasionally 7%, but beyond that it’s very unlikely. So aggressively pushing for significantly higher royalty rates is likely to leave you disappointed/alienate and/or switch off the games company you are talking to.
4. Things take time, don’t be a pest – even in small companies where one or two people make the decisions, they have businesses to run beyond your concept submissions! If you have been asked to submit a physical prototype, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for confirmation of receipt, but from that point you would be lucky if you got feedback within a month, and in most cases would be more like 2 months. The more you pester during that time the more likely you are to switch off the person you’re dealing with, or to push them to a quicker conclusion than is necessary, which mostly means a quicker ‘no thanks’. Some companies / people are better at responding than others, so based on my experience I would suggest contacting them every 3-4 weeks after the first month has passed unless they suggest otherwise.
5. Invent more than one game – without being disheartening the odds are stacked against you in the board game invention/concept creation business. Major global companies review as many as 2000+ games concepts each and every year in order to select a handful to launch (maybe!), and even smaller companies can review 300-500 concepts every year to again launch a few. So the odds are against you. The way to increase the odds in your favour is to have multiple concepts to present (of equally high quality/appeal). Presuming all concepts are equal (not actually true, but anyway!), if you submit one concept to a global games company, you have c. 0.05% chance of being successful, whereas if you submitted 10 concepts you would theoretically increase your chances to 0.5% or one in 200. With smaller companies, one submission gives you a c. one in 400 chance or a 0.25% chance of placing a game, 10 concepts would give you (again theoretically) 2.5% chance, or one in 40.
You will see stories about the inventors of classic games who only invented one game before they had a global hit on their hands – well congratulations to them, but if you want to know how the professional inventors do it, you can be assured that they have a much greater output.
That’s it for now, but if you found this useful you might be interested in our advisory call service where we talk through your concepts, the business and how you can increase your chances of succeeding in it: Expert Call service