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Subject: What if.... rss

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Kyle Carter
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Now I know making a career as a game designer is... almost as likely as winning the lottery bit I have an inquiry. Most game designers pump out 1-2 games a year right? WHT if someone pumped out 4-6 a year? All these games would be ideally a year long in making but if someone pumped out that many a year, how do you think they would do financially if they are medium ish games, not any big ones.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Some designers do more than that even.

Thing is. Having alot of games out means you need even more money to fund production.

Why?

Because with many publishers profits go back into producing the next game. So if you are doing several in tandem then the funds have to come from elsewhere. Then theres storage. Do you have the space to store all these games? Do you have the funds to pay for all that storage?

The other problem is that you can end up with your games competing against eachother. The market can only sustain so many. There may also be the problem of lack of propper playtesting time. And you NEVER know what will fail miserably to sell.

In the end. More product does not necessarily mean more profit.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Even simple can fail. There are A-LOT of simple games out there.
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George P.E., PMP, DM
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Omega2064 wrote:
Even simple can fail. There are A-LOT of simple games out there.


I guess I can't just sell a crap-ton of copies of my Pet Rock Race! franchise, even the Pet Cthulhu Rock Race! version.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Expansions and spin-offs can be a different matter. Very different.

FFG for example puts out tons of little expansions for their games. But these tend to be cheap and mass produced. Factors few other publishers and nearly no indies have.
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George P.E., PMP, DM
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Omega2064 wrote:
Expansions and spin-offs can be a different matter. Very different.

FFG for example puts out tons of little expansions for their games. But these tend to be cheap and mass produced. Factors few other publishers and nearly no indies have.


We're always surprised at all the Pairs versions, which are basically just different sets of artwork. They come up with minor rules variants, but the cards are still 1-10. Then again, there's Munchkin.

Don't get me wrong, I own and like playing both of those. I just wonder how they make much money having to continuously pay artists.
 
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John "Omega" Williams
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Its SJGs biggest moneymaker. But SJG has a very tight budget. A prime example of funneling profits into projects. And things are such that they toss other games aside to focus on it.
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Craig Stockwell
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Wizo wrote:
Most game designers pump out 1-2 games a year right? WHT if someone pumped out 4-6 a year? All these games would be ideally a year long in making but if someone pumped out that many a year, how do you think they would do financially if they are medium ish games, not any big ones.

In very simple terms, let's say you had a [back]catalog of games that sold well; you were a big enough name to receive 5% of MSRP in royalties; that you pumped out two medium games/year which sold for $25 and $40; that your publisher printed 20,000 and 10,000 (respectively) of each - and they all sold (over a few years, but let's figure prior years' sales taking the place of unsold units from the current year).

You'd be making $45,000/year (pre-tax, pre-expenses). After taxes and expenses (including convention-going, when someone else isn't footing the bill) call it $35,000/year. If you're single with no kids, living cheaply, that might be okay ... but probably better when combined with a "day job".

It's not impossible to pump out more, of course -- but the challenge is designing, playtesting, developing, pitching, signing, and promoting. Even big name designers don't place 100% of their games (60% is respectable, from what I've heard). If you could produce six games/year, and sell four of them, that would definitely qualify as "making a living as a game designer", I'd say.

There are some amazing designers who do a lot of work, and/or have a lot of copies of their work sold year after year (or both!)

Let's consider Paul Peterson -- his "day job" is in the video game industry. Outside of work hours, he has family time, and time for game design.
In 2016, he'll likely have out:
2 Smash Up expansions
Titan series game for Calliope Games
Ninth World [Numenera] (with Bo & Mike)
Apocrypha (as part of LSG)
1-2 PACG sets (main box + 6 additions)(as part of LSG)
... and maybe other projects yet to be announced

While that's really amazing ... what if he can't place his games for a couple years? What if PACG and/or Smash Up runs dry? I think it'd be just too hard/stressful to 'rely' on selling 'X' number of games/year.

Gaming companies -- tabletop and video -- do hire game designers/developers. Don't think the only way to a full-time career in game design is through selling your designs; they could end up being an "in" to a "day job" in the industry.
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B C Z
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Do one thing well; Not a thousand things poorly.

You've had a lot of posts recently about making a career out of being a game designer.

Have you entered any of the currently running design contests?

Do you have any prototypes to share?

It seems like you're more focused on the question of "can I support myself by doing this?" than the more important question of "can I do this thing well?"
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Sturv Tafvherd
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byronczimmer wrote:
Do one thing well; Not a thousand things poorly.

You've had a lot of posts recently about making a career out of being a game designer.

Have you entered any of the currently running design contests?

Do you have any prototypes to share?

It seems like you're more focused on the question of "can I support myself by doing this?" than the more important question of "can I do this thing well?"


Frankly, that's not the best question, in my opinion. But yes, the motivation or attitude behind the action is indeed important.

Should your motivation be money? ("Can I support myself..?")

Should your motivation be glory? ("Can I do this well?")


To some extent, those are important factors; and they can help motivate you. But in my opinion, if you're looking at doing something long-term, you need a deeper motivation. It has to be more than money and glory, because money and glory will fade over time.

Does boardgame design fulfill you?




 
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Kyle Carter
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I have always wanted to be a game designer, and suck at art so am working on learning the art programs when I can and making prototypes as well as showing off a few games. In fact there are two conventions coming up that I want to market a game in. I am merely curious if there is a way to make it a day job rather than a hobbey. I have gotten burned a lot on connections and pepole bailing on making art for games, and knew not how to even really approach publishers or what to do. Recently I heard about bgg helping designers from a convention where no one usually mentions half the helpful things they did, or you guys do. I am for the first time learning about what a designer makes, how publishing truly works (5-6 times manufacture price is the final pric) etc. So a lot of things haha. Thank you all for your help though, and for answering my questions not only if a career I possible, but also art, decency needed for a show able prototype, and publishing etc.
 
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Jay Sears
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I'd suggest not going gung-ho and instead releasing 1-game a year. It takes a while for a game to gather pace and you don't want to just keep releasing games for the sake of it. You want to build up anticipation and interest, you don't want to overwhelm people. As people wont know you or your company it will be a fail to start releasing 4-6 games a year, start with just the one.
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Tor Iver Wilhelmsen
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Quote:
WHT if someone pumped out 4-6 a year? All these games would be ideally a year long in making but if someone pumped out that many a year, how do you think they would do financially if they are medium ish games, not any big ones.

You could ask Phillip Kilcrease about what happens when you try that, when you totally rely on game A (Smash Monster Rampage) to ship in time and start making money to fund the release of games B, C etc. I think the effects of his bankruptcy have subsided now, but backers of Chroma Cubes, Ghosts Love Candy and Mob Town are still largely unfulfilled (except those that took an offer from QPC Games for some of the game stock left in the wake of the crash and burn).
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Jake Staines
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GeorgeMo wrote:

We're always surprised at all the Pairs versions, which are basically just different sets of artwork. They come up with minor rules variants, but the cards are still 1-10.


And Cheapass ran a KS campaign to fund the artwork and production, and only made so many decks in the first instance as they already knew they could fund because they already had the money. James Earnest has over a decade of goodwill from gamers and experience designing fun games, and therefore a lot of people are willing to spot him money to make his latest Fun Game; Random Bloke On The Internet Who Wants To Be A Professional Game Designer can't necessarily count on that. Even if they're a game design genius, nobody knows until they've designed, produced, manufactured, shipped and sold their first few games, which could potentially be a very expensive investment.

Plus, Pairs is made with nothing but cards, which puts it into the cheapest possible category for game manufacture (there are several companies who literally do nothing but print cards and have the efficiencies down) and shipment (a deck of cards takes up less physical space than pretty much any other game ever).
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Boaty McBoatface
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SPI used to do this (and more something like 13+ games a year) it's one of the things that killed them.
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Brendan Riley
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I think if you look at the people who seem to be making a lot of great games (I don't know about their finances) as designers, you'll see they have a long pedigree of experience and success. Like anything, it takes time to get good at it.

Better to find a job that's not awful to pay for milk and gas, and do this as your hobby while you work on making it pay for you.
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Jeff Warrender
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byronczimmer wrote:
Do one thing well; Not a thousand things poorly.

You've had a lot of posts recently about making a career out of being a game designer.

Have you entered any of the currently running design contests?

Do you have any prototypes to share?

It seems like you're more focused on the question of "can I support myself by doing this?" than the more important question of "can I do this thing well?"


1000% agreement with this.

To the OP's point: the rate-limiting step to pumping out games is play testing throughput. People like Reiner Knizia publish so many games per year in part because they have multiple playtest groups that meet multiple times per week. To ramp up to being able to produce 3-4 excellent games year in year out, it's not just a question of your creativity or willpower, it's quite simply a question of how willing your friends are to lend copious amounts of their spare time to support your livelihood. Or, how many friends you have or are able to make!
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Craig Stockwell
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Wizo wrote:
I am merely curious if there is a way to make it a day job rather than a hobbey.

As you've gathered, it's possible -- with hard work, skill, and (at least some) luck.

My recommendation is to design a game, sharpen it to the pitch-point, get it signed, and see it published. After you've been through the process once, you'll have a fair idea of what's involved. You might decide one or more facets is so off-putting that you don't want to go through that again (and again, and again ... )

But maybe the elation of seeing your game on the self of your FLGS makes up for it. If so, do it again. See how the playtesting and pitching meat-grinders are the second time around. If everything works out again (and you feel good about it), I'd say you're cut out for designing.

With two published games under your belt, maybe you want to explore publishing. Get a third game through its iterations, polished as if it were going to be pitched ... then dip your toe into publishing by running a KS campaign. You'll have to manage more than just the game's development now; you'll have to take on sourcing art, graphic design, editing, marketing, print buying, and distribution/fulfillment.

After this, you'll have a feel not only for whether or not you're okay doing this kind of work, but if the finances could be feasible.

I s'ppose the point I'm trying to make is that the question isn't necessarily "can someone make a living at this?" but rather a two-part question -- "can _I_ do this well enough to make a living *and* (after trying) would I want to?"

For an example of one person's journey becoming a successful small/independent publisher, I'd suggest checkign out Patrick Nickell (Crash Games). Between his own vlogs and assorted interviews (e.g.: Meeple Syrup Show #10), you'll get a sense of how challenging (and rewarding) being a small game publisher can be.
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Derek H
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Excellent points - this should be pinned as the "go to" thread to link to every time someone says "so, I want to be a professional game designer"!
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Steven Tu
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Thanks guys, the insights here have been valuable for me too

To reinforce what's been said before:

Asking or knowing about this is putting the cart before the horse. You need to do it at all to see if you can do it well. You won't magically become a game designer who earns anything just because you've "decided" to "put your mind to it".

Join contests. Make stuff. Practice practice practice.
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John "Omega" Williams
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The other recurring problem seen is new game designers expecting seasoned game designer royalties right out the gate.
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Chip Beauvais
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That's a good point. Phil's case is a cautionary tale.

For those who backed Chroma Cubes, there is a PnP (just updated a few days ago) available here on BoardGameGeek.

If you'd like to be notified when I find a new publisher, or as I release new puzzles, please sign up for the newsletter (even if you're not a backer): http://flyingsheep.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=9e1a301a8...

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Cameron Taylor
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Don't become a boardgame designer if you want to earn money. You'll live like a pauper. Do it because that's what you love. You may need a second job to pay for your living expenses and print-run costs.
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