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Subject: Submitting my game to the Big Guys. rss

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Richard Negrete
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I'm not sure if this is the proper forum - but I have a feeling you guys all read the others so here goes.

My game is complete. For lack of other resources I used the "Toy and Game Inventors Handbook" (not sure if that's the exact title) to come up with a list of potential companies that may be interested in my game.
The author of the book emphasizes not to send unsolicited submissions, calling it a "rookie move." Fair enough, I can understand that.
Many of the companies don't have a website, and most have long distance phone numbers.

My question. Can I send unsolicited "portfolios"? I assumed the author was referring to an actual game submission. I have made up a batch of brief, 5 page (1 page text, 4 pages photos) packets that show the game in brief and urge the companies if they are at all interested to e-mail me and I'll send them a game.

I just can't wrap my head around making a bunch of long-distance calls and trying to explain my game, or e-mailing and waiting for a return e-mail that may never come. For those of you who work in the biz or know someone, would it be a potential deal-kill to send these types of portfolios, would they go un-read in the trash can, or if the contents were appealing enough might this be a good way to get it looked at?

Thanks in advance!
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Tony Allen
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From what I know, game companies do not accept outside game submissions. They get hundreds of unsolicited game ideas each year and they do not have the time to look through these as probably 99.9% of these games are not worth anything to them. You have to have an inside connection to even have a chance for a review of your creation. I'm afraid this is a harsh reality that you'll have to swallow. Unsolicited anything will be ignored. Sorry.

I used to be all positive in the past about this stuff, but the occasional research throughout the years on this subject has reduced my expectations down to a realistic level. Now I design for the fun of it, not out of lofty goals of a money making enterprise. My career and my hobby will apparently have to be separate.

(Somebody tell me I'm wrong!)
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Marc B.
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tada wrote:
(Somebody tell me I'm wrong!)


Actually you're wrong in some cases. I know for a fact that Z-man takes submissions for review:
http://www.zmangames.com/submissions.htm

Twilight Creations also does:
http://twilightcreationsinc.com/gamesubmissions.pdf

Jay at Rio Grande will review games at conventions.

Cambridge Games Factory accepts submissions:
http://www.cambridgegames.com/uploads/CGF_Submission_Letter....

I'm sure others do as well.

edit: Also, be sure to visit the board game designers forum at www.bgdf.com for more help in this area.
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Tony Allen
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The "Big Guys" to an inexperienced BGGer probably does not include "hobby game" companies such as Z-man. And any notion of making a career in this hobby should be tempered with cold, but polite, facts. Everybody and their mother wants to be a professional game designer, as worthy of a goal as it is, but it is for the select few (very few). And even fewer who can make a living at it, at least from what I've heard.

I'll ask though:
Richard, what do you mean by the "Big Guys"?
What are your initial expectations for this game of yours?
Could you describe that basic concepts, overall theme and general game play of it?

Thanks. We here at BGG really want to help with our input.

Edit: I found your BGG entry: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/37939

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Marc B.
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tada wrote:
The "Big Guys" to an inexperienced BGGer probably does not include "hobby game" companies such as Z-man.


Point taken. I guess if the OP is trying to get in the door at the likes of Hasbro, Milton Bradley, etc then true, it's pretty hopeless for someone without an "in". At the same time, it's also possible to get noticed by "those guys" on rare occassions due to popular designs that get published by smaller publishers.

Personally I would rather have Z-Man or FFG or the likes do one of my designs
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Tony Allen
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fsumarc wrote:
Personally I would rather have Z-Man or FFG or the likes do one of my designs


True, but a game like Rock of Ages (a comprehensive music trivia game), if that is the game Richard is referring to, will not be considered by these kind of game companies.
 
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Matt Fantastic
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So not to sound like too much of a dick about it, but isn't it pretty silly to expect a game company to make the effort of looking at your game seriously if you won't even make the effort to pick up a "long distance" phone and call them?

Also, totally wrong forum, you should put it in the Board Game Design forum if you want to get the best response (and not piss off the people who are way meaning than I about what belongs here and what doesn't).
 
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Steve Sisk
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I think your packet of a cover sheet and photos comprises an unsolicited submission. I haven't read the book you're using, but a submission is a submission whether you're sending a game or a cover letter introducing the game to them. The thought is that if they didn't ask you for a submission, then anything you send them is unsolicited. That's where you get into using game agents and so on, but I can't imagine going that way off the bat.

Granted, I don't know your game or anything about it, so I can't really say which publisher might be interested in it. But before you shell out money for an agent, try getting yourself to a major game convention (Origins, Gen Con or any number of smaller regional cons).

Just about every hobby game publisher will be there (and not just people who work for them, but the actual presidents of the companies) and they will be very approachable. They won't have a lot of time, but it's a good way to get your foot in the door to then follow up with an email where they might not be receptive to an unsolicited email in the first place.

Best of luck with your game, keep us posted!

P.S. Never send a prototype of your game directly to a company until they ask for one, even if their website says they accept submissions. Start off with a nice brief email or letter about your game and why it's a fit with their company. If they're interested, they'll ask for the rules or a copy of the game.
 
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Richard Negrete
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You guys gave spot-on advice. I appreciate that. My game is a party-game category type and if I need to make phone calls I will. I had no idea that these companies received that many submissions.
I tried to get ahold of Stategicon in LA over the upcoming Presidents Day weekend (to try to sell my game there - like I saw people doing last year) but no one has returned my call. The only other option is to fill out a form to set-up a "game-play" but that isn't what I had in mind at this point. I'll keep trying!
 
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Mark Stewart
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Generally speaking (in the book publishing world...but I am confident this applies well to games, too):

An unsolicited submission is sending your project (artwork, rules, etc) to the publisher without having queried first and been asked by the publisher to see more stuff.

Just write a query letter, preferably no more than one page, that briefly describes your game or idea, the current status of the design (how far along are you with it), your target market, and a "hook" to interest the reader of your letter in seeing more about your project. If the publisher is interested in your idea, they will contact you to further discuss it. If all goes well, you will be given the opportunity to submit additional materials and you and the publisher will get down to the business of making it happen.
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Philip duBarry
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Another option you might want to consider is producing the game yourself on a limited basis. Figure out how to make 30 copies of your game and sell them. Make a website and a blog. Show it to people at conventions. It's hard work, but if your game is truly good, it will eventually pay off. Worked for me--just don't give up!
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Hubert Figuière
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I remember reading about Out Of The Box, the makes of Apples to Apples accepting submissions:

http://www.otb-games.com/about.html#submissions

Could be worth a try.
 
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Pete Lane
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In all honesty, if you have the ability to, publish the game yourself. Game submissions usually get shuffled away at the "big guys" simply because they have a staff working away at their own projects and rarely have time to review the stack of submissions. Also, you'd make a lot more money in the long run if you did it yourself. Most game companies pay bare bones, and if it became a huge hit they wouldn't do much more than throw a little extra if it got reprinted. At best I would say you would have more clout and persuasion to be paid better if submitting another product to them.
 
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Chris Funk
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You may ask Dominic of North Star Games. Their specialty is party games.
 
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David Sears
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I think everyone pretty much covered it but I will go ahead and add my two sense of what I have heard.

I had a brother in law who was in the toy industry (closely related) who shared the following experiences and advice with me.

1) If your game isn't 100% complete don't even bother. Ideas are a dime a dozen, can't be copyrighted, and aren't complete enough to invest in.

2) Again, unsolicited is bad. The only way his company could and did sell to Big Guys like Matel, Hasbro ect was to setup an appiontment with them. In the appointment you stand infront of their panel and pitch your ideas (about 30 secs for each). If they don't like it they say something like 'we are already working on something similar'. If they do like it they will pay (depending on what its worth to them and how well-known and established you are) 10k-50k for your finished product or the exclusive opportunity to produce (or hide away) for 1-3 years. So you get the flat fee and if produced or not after the term of contract you get your product back to pitch elsewhere or do whatever you want with. The stipulations of each contract obviously vary but this is the example I was given. There was one product that they pitched, was bought, tucked away for 2 years, repitched to same company, bought again, tucked away again, repitched again and again approved without production. All in all the company got $150k over 6 years for their product which never got published. So the 'Big Guys' have money to invest but getting to that point is the nightmare especially if you don't have any 'in'.

3) The difference between the big guys and the hobby guys is volume. If you make $1 on every copy of your game that Hasbro sells and they produce 100,000 units to start out, that's a lot of money and relatively little work on your part (unless you factor in all the other finished products that were pitched and didn't get selected). If Z-man or Fantasy Flight pick up your game you might get $5 a game but at 1000 units you will have significantly less money. Lastly, if you self produce you might get $10 a copy but that extra "profit" has to be able to pay for all your labor and expenses: manufacture, store, market, ship ect.

I would as previously recommended separate my Hobby from my Career and just enjoy each separately unless you are willing to call (and not just call but also), schedule meetings, and travel to meet them and pitch your ideas (may as well do several at once to make it worth your time, and theirs). Good luck.

*****************

On a side note there was a gentleman who invented a device which could shell a hard boiled egg by just pushing down on it. It was boxed about 2 inches square and 8 inches tall. He could produce these units at $3 a pop, and had produced about half a million in product which he was storing under his workshop. He consulted a marketing specialist (who I heard the story from) who suggested he get together a test panel of retail sellers (Wal-Mart, Kmart ect). Sitting down with each he demonstrated how easily it could separate the shell from egg. All were impressed but had some unfortunate news for him. Because of the products size (shelf space being vital in retail business) they would have to sell his product for about $8-$10 for it to be worth it to them. The bad news was their experience showed that consumers would probably only pay $1.50-$2.25 (again cost him $3 to make) for it. So unfortunately for this particular inventor/designer he hadn't done proper research before heavily investing in his product.

If you haven't done all the work and research on WHY, HOW, WHERE, ect your product will sell then why should the 'big guys' invest in it and do that work?

Look at the types of boardgames that the 'Big Guys' sell and see how yours compares.
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Byron Collins
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Richard,

Your best bet would be to learn the back end of mass market game company submission processes. Understand that these companies receive hundreds of submissions each year and it's not an easy thing to bring a new game into Toys R Us or Target. But it's possible. The best person I can think of who may offer some advice to you is Dominic Crapuchettes, as also mentioned above. I met him at Gen Con last year (we were in the booth next to his). He's a nice guy, an active BGG user, and has invested a considerable amount of time and money in his success with Wits & Wagers and Say Anything, which are now in major chains such as Barnes & Noble and Target.

Dominic Crapuchettes
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North Star Games designs party games that don't suck! Play them with your non-gamer friends over the holidays.
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I wouldn't send packets of info to any publisher who hasn't asked for it (and may not be accepting submissions anyway). If they are not expecting it, it'll most likely not get read and may end up in the trash. It's like sending your resume to a company that you'd love to work for but is not hiring.

Good luck!
 
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Paul DeStefano
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stagger lee wrote:
In all honesty, if you have the ability to, publish the game yourself.


I heartily disagree.

You need to be prepared to lose tens of thousands of dollars right off. While the chance to win may be bigger, the headache is huge, it literally becomes a full time job and the initial expense is tremendous.
 
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Byron Collins
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Geosphere wrote:
stagger lee wrote:
In all honesty, if you have the ability to, publish the game yourself.


I heartily disagree.

You need to be prepared to lose tens of thousands of dollars right off. While the chance to win may be bigger, the headache is huge, it literally becomes a full time job and the initial expense is tremendous.


I agree with Paul on this one. To self-publish and do a small run for a niche market is one thing (and comes with plenty of its own headaches), but to self-publish and attempt to sell it mass market is virtual business suicide--- unless you have a sound business plan, perhaps some inside contacts, and really know what you're doing on the business and publishing side.

As a designer, if you submit to a publisher, you are also passing on the risk to the publisher if the game does not sell, which is what a lot of designers prefer to do.
 
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