Board Game Production – Tips & Pitfalls To Avoid
Recently we’ve had an upsurge in enquiries relating to board game manufacturing and how to find the right board game factory from people/companies looking to manufacture their own games.
No doubt the paradigm smashing impact of Kickstarter has had an impact in this case. Because now there is an option for Game designers/creators to go direct to the consumer without board game publishers as gateway to retail and therefore the end player/purchaser.
However, inexperienced people and board game production can often be an expensive car crash waiting to happen. Here’s some tips & pitfalls to avoid:
1. Think Long & Hard before you press that button & commission manufacturing – the moment you confirm production start/pay upfront manufacturing fees is the moment you are stuck with whatever comes off the production line! So be certain you want to take on the risk before you start. And do everything you can to test demand/interest. We’ve often been asked to look at games where the client has tens of thousands of units sitting in the warehouse because they can’t get anyone to buy them…not a lot we can do at that point apart from hand over the contact details of clearance dealers!
2. Reduce the risk as far as you can – i.e. playtest the game and the game instructions until you can’t bear to play it any more, pre-sell as many copies as you can ideally 100% of your shipment, but if not, the prudent operator would look to pre-sell enough copies of the game to breakeven before even manufacturing. And check for typo’s, spec issues to the most minute detail you and several other people can bear.
Just to emphasise the importance of this point – in the past we’ve worked on Board Games selling tens of millions of copies…and there is no worse feeling than having to eat up margin/delay shipments to customers or having to dump your newly delivered stock due to errors/issues. In the past we’ve gone to such lengths as flying to the board game factory to watch the game on the production line to ensure print bleeds and other factors were as we wanted them. The unsupervised game that makes it into and out of the factory with little vigilance is often the one that causes all the problems!
3. Work with professionals who can fill in your knowledge gaps – there are numerous factors involved in board game production that go beyond what you can expect to pick up as you go along. And the reality is why would you want to take such a slapdash approach when you can employ qualified, experienced expertise to reduce the risk of getting it wrong? You can easily find top quality board game graphic designers who don’t cost the earth, for sure you can find someone else who can make an image look good, but that’s only the glossy part of the process - experienced people can help deliver artwork on spec to the factory die-lines to reduce the risk of errors which will cause you stock obsolescence/money down the drain. You need to find the right factory to manufacture your board game as well…
…so now we’ll look at how you can go about that.
4. What you need to look for in a board game factory –
a). Hunger for your business – there is nothing more dispiriting than trying to spend huge amounts of money with suppliers who aren’t that interested in your business.
b). Fit between your forecast and their overall business – the bottom line on this is there are dozens of good board games factories we could recommend, but not all of them would actually want your business, or even more importantly, be able to fulfil it to the standards we would want. For instance if you want to manufacture 2,000 games for Kickstarter or some other purpose, there are giant conglomerates churning out millions of games who just wouldn’t give your order that much focus, whereas there are smaller factories who are not set up to manufacture millions of board games. Getting the right fit between your order size and factory is normally a key start point.
c). Customer service/communication is key – regardless of what else a board games factory has going for it, if the customer service is poor or absent you will eventually pay the price by way of costly mistakes. A hungry supplier should respond to all your communications within 24 hours unless there are mitigating circumstances i.e. for china board game manufacturing Chinese new year, for USA board game manufacturing labor day, thanksgiving etc.
Above all you need a factory with a proactive, responsive and customer centric approach. There are factories out there who are very production focused i.e. they deal well with the challenges of producing your games, but not so well with interfacing with you.
d). Reliability – this often becomes THE most critical factor, because the bigger your company gets, the more demanding your customer becomes. For instance if you are supplying major grocery stores i.e. Carrefour, Tesco, etc., or US mass market accounts i.e. Walmart, reliability of supply becomes a huge factor for them due to the nature and complexity of their business/supply chain.
e). Competitive costings – many companies we work with focus almost entirely on costings. There is of course no doubt that you need to get competitive manufacturing costs for your board game manufacturing…however, in this day and age the difference between the credible suppliers is not so great as it perhaps once was, and so we find that often while it’s a given that every board games company wants the best price possible, other factors can outweight this concern.
f). No skeletons in the cupboard – your board games factory of choice needs to be capable of meeting the most stringent of ethical and QA audits if you want to build/keep business with major retailers. The reality is that there are companies who can crank out good products at a good price, but in a way which would send a shiver up the spine of most ethical people in the West. Look for appropriate certifications as a start point.
5. Sourcing Agents can save you money and reduce your risk – sometimes even comparatively large board games companies work with sourcing agents to find the right factories in China and other countries. The reason being that the legwork involved can be prohibitive. But perhaps more importantly, a good sourcing agency will pull together a strong credentials deck for any factory they recommend, in effect handing to you on a plate a credible and comparatively more reliable option. Don’t ever pay upfront fees to Sourcing Agents though, their upfront advice should normally be free, with their remuneration coming as a fee based on amount spent i.e. a percentage. This normally works in your best interests because you only buy if the pricing package is competitive, regardless of the agency fees.
We offer a sourcing agency service, so if you have any questions on how to get your board game manufactured, if you are an existing company looking for new reliable suppliers who already supply well known board game companies or if you’d like assistance securing quotes from the right factories, please feel free to get in touch.