Making Games For A Living!
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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Eighteen months ago I started a company making Board Games to sell a game I had designed. Eighteen months on I'm going to quit my day job and go professional for a year to see if I can get that company off the ground. Here's how it happened...
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1. Board Game: The Big Idea [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2902]
Jackson Pope
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It all started about six years ago. I played a game of Mighty Empires with my two best mates. We met at one of their houses, and spent all weekend playing the game. Thirty-six hours, with only minimal food and sleep breaks. At the end of that thirty-six hour marathon, some mad thing involving dragons occurred, and the guy who was comfortably winning is suddenly in last place. We called it a day there and went home. I realised that most people don't have thirty-six hours for a game - we lead busy lives these day, so I though I'd come up with something with a similar feel that was much shorter. I had 60-90 minutes in mind.
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2. Board Game: Border Reivers [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:9844]
Jackson Pope
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Over the next three years Border Reivers took shape. I mostly playtested it with friends and family, but I got it to the point where it worked. Then I bunged it in a Tupperware box on a shelf and forgot about it for a couple of years. When I found myself hating my day job I thought about it again, got it out and started playing it. I thought, seeing as I'd made a complete game it was a shame to leave it on a shelf - I should make it and try selling it. I reckoned I could sell 50 to friends, family and a few gamers, but when it came time to make it, I couldn't get it half-way to affordable without making 100. Big gamble. But it paid off, I sold out in 11 months.
 
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3. Board Game: Candle Quest [Average Rating:6.97 Unranked]
 
Jackson Pope
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A post on my blog (click the microbadge under my profile if you're interested) about my new website, led to Yehuda asking if I was interested in publishing other people's games. Interesting. Why not? So he sent me a copy of The Menorah Game. I loved it right from the very first play, but I couldn't see the religious theme playing that well with my customers (primarily in the UK), so I asked Yehuda if he was happy for me to re-theme it? It had already had several different themes during development, so he was fine with that.
 
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4. Board Game: It's Alive! [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:2616]
Jackson Pope
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Slight theme change! From nice religious game to collecting body parts Still, I though it would prove more popular with geeks, and I was right. I'd decided to make 300 copies of It's Alive!, still by hand, but it was much simpler to make than Border Reivers, 90 minutes work instead of 3 hours! The huge backlog at the beginning led me to getting the boxes made professionally, which further trimmed construction time to 45 minutes. Still, with 300 to make that's a lot of work.
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5. Board Game: Quanta Costa? [Average Rating:4.33 Unranked]
Jackson Pope
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The other downside of making the games by hand is the cost. It costs me more than half of the £15 price tag for a copy of It's Alive!, and so it was difficult to sell to shops, several were interested, but I couldn't really afford to sell it cheap enough for them to make a decent cut. A few picked it up, but the exchange rate with the US really hurt me, and I couldn't afford to deal with the US suppliers interested in it. So I've sold most of them at conventions and via my website. Still got some left though.
 
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6. Board Game: Let's Go Shopping [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Jackson Pope
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The more I think about it, the more I need to get my games professionally manufactured, that way I can afford to sell them to distributors and shops, which will increase my visibility enormously. But that means larger runs, higher initial outlay and greater risk. Sounds exciting
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7. Board Game: Dream On [Average Rating:3.13 Unranked]
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Ever since I started the company I've been dreaming about doing it full-time at some point in the future. It's a pipe-dream, I can't afford to risk it.

But wait! I've been diagnosed with a critical illness Still, the silver lining is a payout, which means it's now a possibility.

That just makes things worse. Now I'm agonising about it. My dream for 18 months is now a possibility, but really, is that wise?

My day job becomes less and less fun, and with this hovering over me it's hard to conjure up any enthusiasm for it. Sod it! I do the sums, and I can afford to try the company out for a year. If it works, I'll have got the company off the ground enough that I can afford to keep going. If not, I'll have wasted some savings. I promptly hand in my notice.
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Jackson Pope
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Now I'm committed, I need to build up a pipeline of games. A request for submissions generates a lot of interest, 11 submissions so far
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Jackson Pope
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I've chosen my next game, another submission, this one submitted last year by a previously published designer. Unfortunately I can't start publicising it until I've chosen a name. A request for ideas leads to a lot of suggestions.
 
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10. Board Game: In the Beginning [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Jackson Pope
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My first job is to get some good advice. The small business adviser, my bank manager and contacts at distributors and manufacturers all need to be plumbed for information. I've not been in this business very long, and I've never got a game manufactured for me, or sold through a distributor, time to learn all I can in a short space of time.
 
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11. Board Game: Hexcite [Average Rating:5.54 Unranked]
Jackson Pope
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This is both exciting and terrifying, it's a big step giving up your day job, but my wife, friends and family have all been very supportive. Now I just need to come up with the goods. Wish me luck! Or call me a idiot. I probably need more of the latter.
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