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How does the Board Game Industry Work?


        In the digital age, many would say that traditional games are falling out of style and being replaced by video games. Such an opinion would be misinformed, however, as board and card games are actually making a comeback, with 2016 especially being the turning point in this versus war. The board game community's growth is rated at 28%, far faster than that of any video game. Therefore, an opportunity to take a look at the business of board games is a fun one.

        The process starts with the board game creator. A person or a team of people gather their thoughts and begins to plan. Board games can go in any number of directions, and so there is a lot of creative liberty involved. The most popular type of board game, however, is a eurogame, which is a game that focuses on making the board random, possessing resource cards, and keeping every player involved until the very end. German publishers popularized the eurogame in the USA with the famous Settlers of Catan. To conserve time, this explanation will walk through the creation of a standard eurogame (one of the most popular types of board games).

        Now, once the person or team have created a concept, constructed a series of rules, sorted the pieces, and playtested their game, it is time to bring their board game to a larger audience. From here, the board game industry path diverges into two steps. The first step is to pitch their newly created game to a board game company, and the second step is to Kickstarter the game.

        Pitching a game can be quite difficult, for reasons similar to that of the publishing industry. There are many hopeful game developers to be split among the various companies. In contrast to the output of the publishing industry, companies like Mayfair Games and Days of Wonder produce few games every year. Nevertheless, there are also fewer hopefuls in this industry. It is rare to hear someone say that they would like to make games for a living, while writing aficionados are far more numerous.

        A perspective switch must now be made from the game developer to the game company. Naturally, it is the responsibility of the company to look through the board games being pitched to them. The decision of which games will prosper in the current market and the sorting of bad ideas from good ones weigh on their shoulders.  About a couple times each year, the game company chooses a game to work on.

        Once a game is chosen, the original game developer(s) work together with the company to improve the game. More testing, called Beta and Gamma testing by people in the field, occurs, smoothing out any rough edges in the design and rules. Once the game company feels confident in the game developer's creation, then they allow funds to be allotted towards mass production.

        Up to this point in the process, any playtesting and creation likely occurred through print-and-play prototypes. Playing like this saves a lot of money from the manifold changes that occur during the development stage. Also, because creating games can be a risky business (judging what a community wants can be difficult), the company uses as little funds as possible until the mass production stage.

        Once a company decides to support a board game, however, they will splurge as many funds as necessary to ensure success. After they flesh out a professional design for the game pieces, rules, other assorted bits and advertise a little, their main concern is how the box looks.

        Yep. The box is essential to creating a favorable first impression in the purchaser. Board game companies have a limited amount of surface area to create the desired effect in the purchaser. The aesthetic must reflect that of the game's design and theme while also being pleasing to the eye. They  must then deliver a one-line sales pitch that the potential buyer can read and be intrigued by. If the game has managed to win any rewards whatsoever, they place them in prominent view of the purchaser.

        The final important part of the board game publishing industry is the decision of what quantity of games to mass produce. Particularly if the company is small, a fatal overproduction of board games can leave invested dollars wasting on store shelves. At the same time, if the game turns out to be unexpectedly popular and they don't produce enough games, then their company could languish back into obscurity. A balance must be struck. After that, it's time to pray for the game's success.

        That is the traditional job of the board game industry. Nearly ten years ago in 2009, however, Kickstarter was born. Over a third of all projects on Kickstarter are board games, and they have a high success rate. Using Kickstarter, a game developer can sidestep standard game publishing companies entirely. This process allows supporters of the game to gain their own copy of the game upon completion, as well as special additional content, like limited editions or Kickstarter-only game objects. It also makes purchasers more invested and enthusiastic in the product, as they want it to succeed, and if it does, they will spread the word with incredible zeal.

        Just like with the self-publishing/Amazon approach in the publishing industry, however, Kickstarter has the gargantuan obstacle of self-advertisement. Nobody's going to support a project they don't know exists. Nevertheless, if this obstacle can be overcome by the game developer, all the aforementioned pros will apply.

        So, that's the board game industry in a nutshell! Hope this was insightful.
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