Joel Schuster
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Just noticed this article published by Süddeutsche Zeitung and I thought it might be interesting enough for sharing. I just did a quick google translation and went over it to make it actually readable. I hope it carries the content at least

http://sueddeutsche.de/karriere/beruf-spiele-autor-das-ass-i...

The ace up your sleeve

by Peter Seifert.

Game author is a dream job for a passionate puzzle freak, but few can live on it. Unless they do a best seller. But that needs the X factor.

When Klaus Paal plays, he keeps a record. He records in a table, how many times his new board game Galápagos has been played. The last entry bears the number 43. Paal meticulously records the duration of every match, once it is 72 minutes, an other time only 31. Between the two matches he has altered the rules of the game, and he also neatly recorded that. Klaus Paal, 50, unemployed computer scientist, is a games freak. He wants to be a game-author. Full-time.

It is unlikely that he will ever realize his dream. "I think this is unrealistic," says Christian Beiersdorf, chairman of the nationwide game developers guild. Approximately 420 members are registered there, 60 percent have already published a game - but only 20-30 game designers can live off this work also says Beiersdorf. "In most cases, it is not possible without an extra job." Exceptions are stars of the scene as Klaus Teuber, creator of the "Settlers of Catan", or Reiner Knizia (Amun Re, Euphrates and Tigris).

The Games and Puzzle industry in Germany is booming: last year it increased its sales by five percent to more than 400 million €. Children's games sales even increased 30 percent. Although this is only about one fourth of the volume that the video game industry generated last year. But according to the Federal Association of Interactive Entertainment Software, revenues have slightly declined there.

In analogue games, 2009 Ravensburger alone did sales of more than 293 million €, 77 percent of them with games, puzzles and creative products. Total profit: 34 million €. Ravensburger employs 1,400 people, including product managers, innovation managers, packaging mechanics. There are also games editors that are comparable to book editors - but no authors, for they work independently.

Those who manage to do the job they do it properly. Reiner Knizia has published more than 400 games, Klaus Paal only one in 1998. He can still see the yellow box of "Cheops" often at flea markets. He invented dozens of other games in his living room. Ideas he collects on slips of paper, which he keeps in a round box, now there are a couple of hundred notes. On one of them you can read "Williams p. 243". Tad Williams writes fantasy books, and Paal is Fantasy fan. Ideas for new games come to him while reading or in the middle of the night. Then he gets up and records the ideas.

"Galapagos" is about discovering islands and explore flowers or birds. Paal revised the game several times, he has drawn new fixtures, new map handicrafts and sent the whole thing to a publisher. Because whether "Galapagos" will stand in the shelf some day or not, is decided by game publishers such as "Hans im Glück" in Munich. Bernd Brunnhofer founded the company 30 years ago - and he has success. With only four employees, he already won "Spiel des Jahres" six times.

All games are tested by Brunnhofer and his gaming friends. It sometimes takes months and requires patience from authors and publishers. "In principle, each author has the same opportunities," says Brunnhofer. 300-400 games are sent in every year, 15-20 enter the list to have a closer look on, three or four make it to the market. Ravensburger previously received up to 2,000 proposals per year, but now they delegated the assessment to the Agency of the game-guild-chairman Beiersdorf. His assessment costs the authors 65 €. The number of entries is thus reduced to about 300. Beiersdorfer also receives a monthly fee by Ravensburger - and a success fee upon publication.

Because game publishers rely on the ideas of their authors they even take care of some people such as Klaus Paal who can only dream of being an author at the moment. "Hans im Glück" for instance has an author's guide on their website. Meetings such as the International Game Inventors Fair in Haar near Munich are obligatory dates for publishers as well. Maybe between thousands of ideas the new "Spiel des Jahres" can be found ?

The game developers guild wants to ensure that also the creators, like the publishers, are more widely known. "The creative minds behind the games shall be more popular," says Beiersdorf. It was not until 1988, that the publishers name was put on the boxes. From "Hans im Glück", the author obtains six percent of the factory transfer price, which makes up about half the retail prices. A game that costs 20 €, will therefore be sold for ten euros to the trade and the author gets 60 cents. That is less than book authors receive. "The book has only two covers and between them 500 pages in black and white," says Brunnhofer, "a game is four times as expensive to produce."

"A game is a success if 30 000 copies are sold" says Brunnhofer. This represents an income of 18,000 € for the author. "Spiel des Jahres" really sell alot, at least 300,000 times says Brunnhofer "The ordinary consumer often purchases only one game per year, just before Christmas - and that's just the game of the year," he says. Not all publishers are paying six per cent per copy, supplemented Beiersdorf. The industry has five percent in commission more regularily. Even two and a half or three percent - for a book implementation. Their success is relatively safe, he says. Sometimes even just a fixed amount is offered, regardless of success or time investment.

The games creator Klaus Teuber can live on his success. He developed the "Spiel des Jahres" winner "The Settlers of Catan". All authors share a passion for board games. It is not a properly planned career through an education and a solid job: Reiner Knizia was previously a mathematician, Klaus Teuber dental technician. Like them, Klaus Paal plays with passion, alone, with girlfriend Gisela or acquaintances. Drinks do not get on the table, but on the sideboard - they might tip over and destroy the otherwise arduously improvised cards. With a pretty picture on the box, with laminated cards and a beautifully designed game board Paal fulfills much of what is recommended by the game-guild developers to their members.

Once a year the association organizes an author meeting, with the aim to draw professional lines within enthusiasm. "Behind every game there should be a well thought out concept", says Beiersdorf. "Moreover, it is important to build good prototypes and present the invention appealingly". This is not self-evident: to the Chief publisher Brunnhofer games have been presented in a pizza box before.

There is no guarantee of success even when the game is designed professionally. "Galapagos" was tested by Brunnhofer - and sent back. But Paal will keep on dreaming. He has now written to a different publisher, and he is sure he will succeed eventually. Paal said, "Galapagos" is his best game so far - and his next project already nearing completion.
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Thanks Joel, very interesting.
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Joel Schuster
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You're welcome. And thank you for the tip !
 
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Rich P
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Umbratus wrote:
Ravensburger previously received up to 2,000 proposals per year, but now they delegated the assessment to the Agency of the game-guild-chairman Beiersdorf. His assessment costs the authors 65 €.


Am I reading this right: this chap charges 65 Euro for the privilege of him assessing your game. And designers pay this? wow What a rip-off! Why would you bother? It certainly sounds like he knows how to make money from boardgames.
 
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Joel Schuster
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Yep, as I understand that, Ravensburger had to deal with assessing 2000 proposals per year and that was quite a big effort for them to filter through. So they now decline to take and consider your game design unless you are willing to pay 65€ for having it assessed by that guy.

Only thusly assessed proposals are eligible for this publishers consideration. Sounds like they effectively cut down the amount of proposals to the really ambitious ones. Still, if you are fully convinced of your design you'll pay the 65€. If not then your design probably needs improvement anyways and is very unlikely to make it to publication as it is.

And yes that guy is the winner but he also does the job which was formerly done by Ravensburger themselves, he sort of preselects the good from the bad proposals. And this is partly done already by raising the threshold for sending in your mediocre hobby design by paying a fee. So I dont think he really lives off that 65€ a piece.

What it shows is that despite the gaming hobby being all about having fun, its also a very economically orientated business.

There are also other publishers, I dont know if they all proceed likewise. Ravensburger certainly is the biggest one by far in Germany, we learn that from the numbers in the article. So they are probably flooded with proposals and had to find a way to make their selection mechanisms more efficient.

Not to defend their strategy, but that is probably just the reality how you need to run a business if you want to be and stay on top of the market.

There are also alot of smaller publishers which you may try. For more success ? I dont know, probably not.
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Richard Dewsbery
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Unless of course you already have a track record with some success. Somehow I don't see Ravensburger charging Reiner Knizia €65 each time he submits a game to them. People who have already had a few small successes, or one big one, get pretty good access to the publishers AFAIK.

Interesting article, and thanks for the translation.
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