Monday, July 21

Once Bitten

I'm on holiday this week, so here's a blog post I wrote last week and tried to post automatically, while didn't work, hence a day late. It'll take me a few days to respond to comments, since there is apparently no mobile signal or broadband where we're staying...

As many of you know, several years ago I started Reiver Games to publish my first board game: Border Reivers. Over five years I published four games (one of them twice!), to limited success before shutting the company down in 2011 and writing off a loss of several thousand pounds.

Now I'm designing games again and, for the first time, thinking about submitting games to other publishers. I'm also hanging out with other designers more too. Most of the designers I knew in my Reiver Games days were self publishers and most of them had been doing it for years. Noticeably, they are still going now and I'm not, so they were clearly better at it than me. In contrast, most of the designers I hang out with nowadays are not intending to self-publish but want to get their games published by existing publishing companies.

Getting my current crop of designs published by an existing publisher is one of the routes I'm currently considering, yet it's a route I've got no experience of whatsoever. I've never pitched a game at a publisher, so I don't really know how to do it. I know what I wanted back in the day, but that may not be representative of what a more successful company wants.

If I'm going to self-publish, or print on demand publish, then the game needs to be absolutely awesome as I'm the final gate before publishing. There's no-one else to block publishing if they don't think the game is good enough or to do any development to get it up to scratch. I look back on the games I published and although I was happy with each one at the time, knowing what I do now about game sales I don't think they're good enough. They needed more development or a gate saying 'not ready yet' to prevent me wasting money publishing games that wouldn't recoup the costs I invested in their publishing.

If I'm considering another publishing company do I need to polish it so much, or will they want to do some development and polishing themselves? I just don't know. Will they accept a game with potential that still needs some work, or do they want a completely finished product? I've still got some games industry contacts from my Reiver Games days. Perhaps I should do some investigating...


Paul Owen said...

In my limited experience, what a publisher is looking for in a designer is professionalism, flexibility, and patience. What they look for in a design submission is a playable prototype and well-written rules that have already been as thoroughly playtested as you can manage on your own before they see it. Also it helps if a game is designed with production cost in mind. In general, I don't think they want a designer to submit art - partly because they want flexibility in layout and production specifics, partly because they may want to modify the theme.

These are all gross generalizations, but I hope they lend you my perspective on where your focus should be before you write that first submission letter.

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya Paul,

That's pretty much what I was hoping. As an erstwhile publisher myself, I've always got production costs at the back of my mind and I always appreciated flexibility from the designers who submitted games to me. The person footing the bill and taking the risk needs to have the final say on what gets published. Now I just need to get Zombology a bit more polished...



Unknown said...

Hi Jack,

Have you thought about attempting the self publishing route through kickstarter? It would give you a good census on whether you have a good game that is likely to prove a hit.

Alternatively look at the successful board game kickstarter campaigns and think about your pitch in the same manner to a publisher. Might give you ideas on how to pitch the game mechanic and what you want them to achieve quality wise.

Just a thought.



Jackson Pope said...

Hiya Richard,

Good to hear from you again. I have considered KickStarter, and I'm wary of backing things on it, which make be a bad candidate for trying to fund things through it!

It's a good point about thinking about your pitch to publishers in those terms, though. I'm sure I can use that idea to help improve my publisher pitch - thanks!