Heads up: this fulfillment article assumes you live in the USA. Even if you don’t, it’s still helpful – but it’s not as specific to your needs.
Fulfillment is one of the trickiest parts of any board game Kickstarter. It requires your inventory being sent from your manufacturer via freight shipping agencies through customs agents to warehouses and finally to your customers. It’s the part of the process that feels the most international and it’s one of the areas that feels the most overwhelming to the uninitiated. That’s for good reason: the devil really is in the details.
Truth be told, once you get past the bear of a learning curve, fulfillment isn’t terribly difficult to master. There are a number of great companies you can ask for help such as Fulfillrite and Games Quest. You can even fulfill games yourself – domestic or international – if you’re really determined. That’s why I’m here to ease you into this subject.
I’ve written a number of articles on fulfillment before including:
- 3 Simple How-To Guides for Board Game Fulfillment
- A Crash Course on Board Game Fulfillment
- How Board Game Fulfillment Works at Fulfillrite
- How I Fulfilled a Kickstarter & Bought a House in the Same Week
I love this subject. It’s maddeningly complex, yes, but it’s well-established that I’m a fan of travel and I think it’s fascinating how these things work.
A Crash Course on Board Game Fulfillment covers the basic concepts of fulfillment and How Board Game Fulfillment Works at Fulfillrite does the same basic thing from the fulfillment company’s perspective. For today’s article, I’m going to focus on two very specific ways you can fulfill games. By focusing on two very specific scenarios, I hope to give you examples that are very close to what you can expect to encounter in real life.
We’re going to focus exclusively on covering domestic shipping in the USA. Let’s save the international stuff for the following week so we can understand the basics first.
Scenario 1: You fulfill the game yourself using USPS.
I’m using brand names here, but that doesn’t imply loyalty to them.
“A hundred and sixty backers,” you say to your co-designer. “I never thought we’d make it this far, but here we are.” Having shopped around for a number of fulfillment companies, you’ve determined that it just doesn’t make sense to send all your inventory and warehouse it with a larger company for 160 packages. You have enough space in your garage for the remaining 340 units, so you tell BangWee to go ahead and ship the game to you.
Twelve long weeks pass and your game is printed and shipped from Shenzen, China to your home of Provo, Utah. It’s shipped into San Fransisco and then travels by less-than-truckload (LTL) to a nearby warehouse. You borrow your friend’s pick-up truck, move about 40 boxes of 12 games each, and regret lifting with your back instead of your knees.
You unload the inventory in your garage on a wooden pallet. You check all the inventory to make sure it looks neat. BangWee did an awesome job. You cover everything up with a tarp and get ready for a busy Saturday of preparing packages.
You’ve got a Stamps.com account and you’re ready to use it. You’ve already uploaded Kickstarter’s CSV flat file, which contains all the US-bound shipping addresses you need to ship to. You keep a separate spreadsheet open in Excel so you can mark each person’s name off once their parcel is ready. That way, you carefully make sure that everybody is getting exactly what they paid for.
You’ve already ordered 200 flat rate padded mailers from the USPS website, free of charge. You’ve also got a big roll of bubble wrap, and special label paper for your printer. You start printing off labels two at a time at the price of $7.10 each, the commercial rate of a padded mailer. A little expensive, you gripe, but you know that customers will have it within four business days and it’s cheaper than UPS and FedEx.
One-hundred sixty packages, five hours, and seven music albums later, all the packages are sealed and loaded into your car. You take them all to the post office, have them scan your tracking sheet, and you’re done. Now you can keep an eye on the status through Stamps.com and address any late deliveries.
Scenario 2: You have Fulfillrite fulfill your games for you.
Again, I’m using brand names here, but that doesn’t imply loyalty to them.
“Eighteen hundred games!” Your parents can’t believe it. How could your scrappy team of three make $51,000 on Kickstarter? That’s enough to order more than the MOQ from Panda Games, with stretch goals to boot!
You know there’s absolutely no way that you’re going to be able to fulfill this one on your own. It would take days, if not weeks. You need professionals to ship out the games, which they thankfully can both faster and cheaper than you could on your own. After reading an interview on your third-favorite game development blog, you contact Fulfillrite. You create an account, describe your needs, and they send materials that you can overview.
You contact your manufacturer and tell them to send inventory to Fulfillrite’s receiving address. You carefully relay all the information they tell you to. You prepare files exactly to their specification. Your account rep, Charlie Brieger compliments your attention to detail.
Twelve weeks pass between the funding of your campaign and Fulfillrite receiving your inventory. Two more weeks pass and everything’s been shipped. Every once in a while, you get a customer service call saying they haven’t received their package. They’re so few and far between that you send another game no questions asked. By all measures, your campaign was a smashing success and you barely had to work during fulfillment!
As you can see, fulfillment is nothing to be afraid of, even if it seems complicated. There is more than one way to get the job done. Do you have any questions about how to fulfill your campaign? What about war stories from your own fulfillment experiences? Share both in the comments below 🙂