A couple of months ago, I asked the readers of this blog to send in answers to the question “what confuses you most about board game development?” I got a lot of responses, and one of them was about how to find an audience for a board game. That’s what I’ll be talking about in this post.
This week, I want to respond to a comment by Nikhilesh Chitlangia. I want to particularly focus on part two, which can be roughly summarized as, “how much should I spend on manufacturing for my board game?”
Basics of Board Game Manufacturing
Before I talk specifically about how much to spend on manufacturing, I want to take a moment to go over how to find printers, how to create specs, and how to test samples. This will not only cover some of Nikhilesh’s other inquiries, but it’s also a necessary primer for this post.
First, when communicating with board game printers, you need to be able to create specs. This article is a must-read to tell you how to do that. This is longer and more detailed than I am able to get into for the purposes of this post.
Reaching out to Printers
After you choose materials for your game, create print files, and meet legal labeling requirements, then it is time to reach out to printing companies. Some companies you can reach out to include BangWee, LongPack, Panda Games, and PrintNinja.
Once you have specs ready to go, you can send them to the printer and request a quote. Please note that most printers who create board games at a reasonable price are offset printers, and those require a minimum print run of at least 500, and usually 1,000 or more. This is the minimum order quantity (MOQ).
When you send out specs, pay attention to the quality of their communication. Printers should provide timely and useful information, have a solid grasp of English, and should be able to recommend ways to save money on printing.
Once they send samples, you should check the quality of the games. Check the quality of ink used in printing as well as the materials used. You may not be able to get a custom sample for free, but printers should at a minimum provide a sample kit consisting of games already printed for free (or the cost of shipping only). It’s sketchy if they don’t.
Total Cost of Manufacturing
Bear in mind that when you receive a quote from the printer, you will only see the cost of manufacturing. If you are trying to figure out the cost of printing a game and having it sent to a warehouse to be distributed later, that’s a different number. That’s called the “landed cost.”
The landed cost of a game includes the cost to manufacture, ship via freight to the warehouse, plus customs and tariffs. To get to this figure, you need to add the manufacturer’s quote to a freight quote (which can be obtained freely from online freight marketplaces like Freightos). Then you need to add the cost of customs and tariffs, if applicable.
How Much You Should Spend on Board Game Manufacturing
As a general rule of thumb, the price of your game should be five times the per-unit landed cost of your game. Therefore, to determine how much you should spend on manufacturing, you need to figure out how much you can sell your game for. This article can help you determine a reasonable price.
To use a specific example, our latest game, Tasty Humans, has an MSRP of $34.99. We printed 1,250 copies for a total cost of $10,703, broken down as:
- Manufacturing: $7,979
- Freight: $2,127
- Customs: $597
The landed cost for each unit, therefore was $10,703 / 1250, or about $8.50. You’ll notice our MSRP is closer to four times our landed cost than five. That’s because we have really close connections to Fulfillrite, which saves us a lot on shipping. Therefore, we felt okay about skirting the “five times landed” rule a bit.
Get Quotes Very Early in the Design Process
The single biggest tip that I have for people manufacturing a board game for the first time is in the headline. Get quotes as early as you possibly can in the design process.
It’s very helpful to know which components are going to be prohibitively expensive to ship. That way, you can remove the expensive components when your design is in an early enough stage for you to be able to find a workaround.
This is why, for example, Tasty Humans uses punchboard and not Azul-like acrylic tiles. Both the manufacturing and shipping costs would become prohibitively expensive.
Thankfully, determining how much you can spend on board game manufacturing is relatively straightforward, at least compared to advertising. Ideally, you want to be able to charge five times the landed cost per unit, which includes manufacturing, freight, and customs.
That means that once you determine an appropriate price for your game, you can back into an appropriate per-unit cost of manufacturing. If your initial quote ends up too high, you can always change the components to reduce the manufacturing cost.