Board game fulfillment is really complex. In fact, fulfillment often determines how big games are and how many components can be included. Many game developers think about fulfillment only after their project is complete – and you can certainly get away with it! But today, this guest post by Michael of Fulfillrite will explain why you should think about board game fulfillment on day 1 on game development.
If you’re unfamiliar with the basic concepts of fulfillment, go ahead and take a few minutes to read other articles on the subject I’ve done:
- How Board Game Fulfillment Works at Fulfillrite
- A Crash Course on Board Game Fulfillment
- 3 Simple How-To Guides for Board Game Fulfillment
- How to Prepare for the Cost of Board Game Fulfillment
- Fulfill Your Board Game Kickstarter: Sending Products Outside the USA
- Fulfill Your Board Game Kickstarter: Sending Products Within the USA
- How I Fulfilled a Kickstarter & Bought a House in the Same Week
Anyway, that’s enough out of me! Over to you, Michael…
For all you boardgame developers, you know how much creativity and hard work is involved with getting started. From scribbling your ideas onto the proverbial napkin, to actually crafting prototypes, play-testing, redoing it all, and finally getting your game to reviewers, there is no shortage of details and learning curves. You rely on amazing communities like this one to educate, encourage, and inspire.
Once your game is finally in the manufacturing stage, whether you got there through crowdfunding campaigns like Kickstarter, or for the brave, through out-of-pocket investment, many creators rely on publishers to handle, or at least guide them, through the rest of the process. But aye, there’s the rub. “The Rest of the Process” is all about logistics, freight, customs, tariffs, shipping storage, and ultimately, fulfillment. These are not the terms that lit the fire that got you into boardgame development. In fact, they can make your eyes gloss over, and have you reaching for some Rolaids.
If you’ve read this far, it probably means you are an optimistic person, who is hoping this article will solve this problem for you and lead you straight through Logistics Confusion, and on to Tabletop Nirvana.
So, good news and bad news. The bad news is you are going to have to get educated and spend some time involved in an area of development you might not have wanted to. The good news is that this article will cut through the underbrush, machete-style, and focus on giving you the education you need to make the best decisions for successful game fulfillment.
So let’s dive right in.
Q: Who are you, and why should I trust you? And what have you done with Brandon?
A: I’m Michael, and I work at Fulfillrite, an order fulfillment company that has worked with Kickstarter for years, especially in the tabletop arena. We have fulfilled hundreds of boardgame projects for one-time and serial game publishers. We got into this business because of the passion and creativity of the creators we work with, and have built a business model that is all about the success of each individual project.
Brandon is fine. He is an old colleague of our CEO, Charlie Brieger, and has collaborated with us in the past. He will be returned to you unharmed. Promise.
Q: As a boardgame developer, when should I start thinking about fulfillment?
A: Before you think you should. When you are sketching out your early ideas for the physical game, thinking about fulfillment is already important.
Q: Why so early?
A: The simple answer is money. Ultimately, for your game to be a success, it will have to be lucrative. And, what many folks don’t realize is that aside from the actual manufacturing of the game, the supply chain logistics – freight & customs, storage, pick & pack, and, most importantly postage – will be the single greatest expense in the entire process. For example, when doing a basic profit analysis, lots of developers will approach it like this:
– COSTS (in order: manufacturing, art and design, marketing, misc.)
PROFITS minus a small amount for shipping and fulfillment.
In actuality, the calculation looks more like this:
– COSTS (in order: manufacturing, fulfillment, art and design, marketing, misc.)
Q: Ok, I understand that the costs of fulfillment are high. How can thinking about it early help?
A: Good question. The more you know about which particular factors affect the fulfillment costs, the more actions you can take early on to create, market, and sell your game for maximum profits, and lowest fulfillment expenses.
Q: For example?
A: To start with, we’ll use the single biggest cost factor in fulfillment: postage fees. And the most important aspect of postage costs are the size and weight of the game. The smaller and lighter your game is, the lower your costs will be to ship. Now, while you are developing the look, feel, and physical properties of the game, understanding this fact can change what you create and how it is presented. Using a smaller board, lighter weight pieces, and fewer cards will allow you to ship the game for less. Mentioning your concern about economical shipping to your game manufacturer will give them an indication of which options to offer, and how you would like the game put together.
Q: So, lighter is better. But my game needs a larger board. And the cut-outs, meeples, and other inclusions simply need to be sturdier. Is there nothing I can do then?
A: You don’t want to compromise on the playing experience, and the right materials and size of the board are important. Still, there’s a lot you can do. There are fillers and trays that can be reduced or eliminated which won’t affect the playing, but which do take up a lot of space and volume. Sometimes there are more expensive and luxurious options like titanium meeples, which you opt out of because they cost more, but are in fact much lighter and cheaper to ship. Instruction booklets in their own compartment and extra packaging may feel like a nice, inexpensive touch, but when you factor size and weight, they might be a bigger expense than you think.
Q: You keep mentioning size. Aside from the weight, how does that factor in?
A: When carriers decide how much a package will cost to ship, they use a calculation commonly called “dimensional weight.” This is how they are able to charge you for more than just the absolute weight, but for how much “real estate” your parcel takes up in their trucks and facilities. Each carrier has their own version of the formula, but for now, just keep in mind that the larger the actual package is, the more you are likely to pay. The good news is that there are things you can do to lighten the dimensional footprint without changing anything about the boardgame experience. Fillers, trays, and the way the components are packed can be optimized for a smaller size boardgame.
Q: How much more is shipping, say, per ounce, or per centimeter?
A: I wish there were a simple answer to that question. It is more about which shipping tier the item fits into than an ounce here or there. For example, for an item to fit into a first class USPS postage, it needs to be less than 16 ounces. The difference between 15 ounces and 16 ounces is far greater than the difference between 10 ounces and 15 ounces. The same is true with sizes. There are certain limitations to less expensive shipping methods, after which the shipping becomes much more expensive.
Let’s say you mentioned the size of your board. Once you are somewhat familiar with the size limitations for all three dimensions, as well as the weight, you can actually have the same product produced, but since it is configured differently, you can fit it into a less expensive overall package, meaning a less expensive shipping method. A board folded into four or six sections might be a whole lot better when it comes to shipping than the same board folded in half.
Q: Wow. I can’t possibly know how all the sizes, weights, configurations go together and what the shipping costs will be. Nor am I about to learn them all, frankly. What do I do?
A: Don’t panic. We’re here to help. And by “we,” I mean the people in the fulfillment industry. Get in touch with a great fulfillment center early and tell them about your project. Give them some basic weights and sizes around which you can create a game. Also, reach out to your manufacturer and find out what the standard size game boxes are so you can inform your fulfillment partners. They will help you understand where the various cut off points are for the choices you are considering. We at Fulfillrite, for example, work closely with game manufacturers when they are putting together games so that the game is produced with shipping optimization in mind.
As you can see, board game fulfillment is pretty complex. You have to consider factors such as size, weight, and cost without letting your product quality slip. It’s a tough balancing act!
By thinking about board game fulfillment early, your business is in a much better position to succeed. And of course, if you need help, you can always turn to Fulfillrite.