Untitled Document
 

BeWitched-Spiele has started as a self-publishing company in 1998 with the game "Stimmvieh". By now I have published six games. An early success was Hossa!, the second edition of which is nearly sold out. Here I'll provide you with information to enable you to have a start as good as or even better than mine if you want to face the risk - and the chance! - of self-publishing.

The example Hossa! - from the idea to the game

The idea
The prototype
Testing
Self-publishing
Calculation
Layout
The box
The rules
cards, board, etc.
pieces
assembling
marketing
Any questions left?

The example Hossa! - from the idea to the game

The idea

At the beginning there was ... the idea. With Hossa! it occured during a trip on the commuter train. More exactly, I had two songs on my mind, which merged into one during the trip. Analyzing this I found out that hits very often consist of the same words. The way to the game concept of having players name titles containing keywords and sing them out loud was not long.

Game ideas are everywhere. The art of being a game designer consists of discovering them. Be it the idea for Friedemann Frieses Fresh Fish that occured to him when one day he could not take the usual way with his bike because suddenly there was a newly built house in his way. Or be it the idea for Hossa! - the Goddess may praise the morning shows on the radio. Or be it ideas that occur when dealing with you daily more or less stupid office work.

The question of patenting does not occur with games in the way it does with inventions. Nobody in the game scene will steal ideas. If you have doubts whether your idea already exists or not, ask regular gamers or other designers whom you trust.

Plus: it does occur that two designers have the same or a very common idea at the same time. To find out about that it's a good idea to attend game designers' meetings such as the one in Goettingen / Germany every June. And if somebody comments upon your idea by saying "Isn't this like ...", then please accept this input and look at the game mentioned. Nothing sells worse than an idea that already exists in another form. Only exception to the rule: your initials are M.B., your game is called Memori or alike or you have some billion EUR in your back.

The prototype

The idea will only become a game when you put it down in rules and a prototype.

The prototype for Hossa! was easily made, it consisted of 60 spare cards - leftovers from "Stimmvieh", on which I wrote an English and a German word each on both sides. The counters came from "Nimm's wörtlich", from which I borrowed them. This should not be difficult with a larger game collection.

If your prototype is only meant as a step to self-publication, design is much less important than functionality. Fonts, colours etc. should be easily read and/or distinguished. It it absolutely necessary to put down the rules in written form, so as to be able to amend and correct them during testing. Finally beware of putting to much contents (i.e. pieces etc.) into you game. More material does not improve your game when the idea does not work.

Testing

I then took the prototype to Druebberholz for their gamers meeting in May 2000. Check out books like the German "Leitfaden für Spieleerfinder" or the "Game Inventor's guidebook" for more information about testing. The game designer association SAZ also has information for members.

After successfully having tested the game with several different gamers my decision was taken: After "Stimmvieh" I would self-publish my second game.

Self-publishing

For publishing my first game "Stimmvieh" I had already registered with the official bodies as a publisher - that was back in Bremen. The title of your company should give a good description of what your task is, for me it is "Production and publication of card and board games incl. distribution, publication of printware and electronic media (CD-ROM)."


The German rules for having your own business are pretty strict - also tax-wise. Please check out the German version for details. In general you should spend some thoughts on bookkeeping, as I suppose you have to present a balance at the end of the year in every country. Please also remember that all offers you get from printers etc. usually give price without tax (which will then be added to the bill).

Calculation

Before you start producing some calculation needs to be done. Please invest enough time and brains for this so as to avoid suddenly having a huge money problem. It neither helps you nor the games community if you have to invest the gains of the ideas of the coming 10-20 years to pay back credits from your first ingenious but badly marketed idea.

Main questions when calculating are:

Finances:

  1. How much money do I have without risking my existence?
  2. Whom can I borrow money from (banks, friends, relatives)?
  3. When do I have to pay back money I borrowed?
Own capacities:
  1. How much time can I spend for production and marketing?
  2. How much room do I have for the produced games?
  3. Until when do I want to sell the first edition?
  4. Who will help me with assembling and marketing?

    Even if your friends think it's totally cool that you want to produce a game, you should not overestimate the goodwill of unpaid volunteers.

Marketing:
  1. Do I want to publish the game for a certain date or event?

    It is wise to publish for the fair Spiel in Essen in October or another main games event. Attention: the big printers are often booked out months in advance.

  2. How and where do I want to market the game?

    Hints are fairs, the internet, retailers, distributors, gamers clubs, other target groups (with Hossa! e.g. choirs)

  3. What public relations do I plan for?

    Many radio stations and magazines are happy to report about new games. Just try it. A complex variant of 18xx-Variante will of course be more difficult to spread there than in special circles of collectors of train games.

  4. How much time can I invest for marketing?

    Do not underestimate the time you need! If you want to sell your game in Essen at the games fair, you easily need one week for transport, buiding and taking down your stand. Time for relaxation not included. Please consider very seriously who is going to support you there. I don't even want to imagine spending four days at my stand all alone.

Calculating the price:
  1. For what price can I sell the game to the final customer?
  2. Do I only rely on direct sales or do I want to use retailers to sell the game for me? If so, what is the price the game should be offered for at shops?

    Usually games are calculated as follows: The final customers pays about 4 times the price of production, with the retailer giving the producer (you!) the double production price. Small companies and self-publisher usually cannot stick to that formula, and both retailers and distributors know that. However, if you want to sell a relevant number of copies through retailers, you have to calculate your price in a way that leaves an acceptable margin for the retailer.

  3. Which further costs will apply (postage, package, fairs, travelling costs, advertising?)

    With Hossa! my additional costs are about one half of the production costs, this is a rather small amount.

  4. Which financial gains do I aim at? (For the economists: Finding out my planned for break-even-point)

    Even if this is only your second job, think of the money you will need for future publications.

Of course this list is far from being complete. This chapter shall only show you that while founding a publishing company is no secret it should be a well considered step.

When you have answered all these questions, you can start getting concrete and find out what the single components will cost you. Find more information about that below.


The standard way to that is requesting a cost estimate, usually by fax or email. In some situations a phone call in advance helps to ask for standard sizes etc.

Layout

I will soon translate the German information on this Please be patient.

The box

I will soon translate the German information on this Please be patient.

The rules

I will soon translate the German information on this Please be patient.

cards, board, etc.

I will soon translate the German information on this Please be patient.

pieces

Small numbers of pieces and pawns are sold by retailers or through mail order, check out the German game designers' website. If you need more than one piece per copy, you should contact distributors. Please remember that they need time to fill you order. Ask them if they assemble the pieces for you or not.

assembling

I will soon translate the German information on this Please be patient.

marketing

I will soon translate the German information on this Please be patient.

Any questions left?

And if you still have any questions left, please send me an email oder attend a game designer workshop in Drübberholz! or somewhere else.