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Subject: Manufacturing Games in the United States with Success rss

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Jason Glover
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I had posted a really nice detailed thread as to how I produced one game and am producing another game in America. It was moved to the games page, as BGG felt it was self-promoting. I can understand the angle, but I really wanted to discuss the Ideas of manufacturing a game in America. I feel like it is a very important topic. So below I am posting the heart of my last thread, minus any links and images, in hopes to open up discussion on this topic.

First off I need to point out a few things. 1) My 1st game Plague was funded via Kickstarter and my newest game Zogar's Gaze is also being funded in the same manner. 2)I am both the designer and publisher and I handled all aspects of the process from brainstorming and conducting play-testing, to marketing, distributing, and fulfillment. Yes, I packed every box and shipping them all by hand. This time around I will certainly have help in that department.

Now I have read many threads on here discussing Kickstarter and all of it's merits and disadvantages and I really do not want this thread to turn into another thread in which some people defend Kickstarter and other gripe about it. The truth of the matter is that many games are being funded in this manner and that is all that really matters for this discussion. Obviously, I would be biased towards Kickstarter, but I am also not blind to it's flaws.

Moving on, I want to show how I manufactured Plague in America on a very small scale and was able to pocket money (pay myself for the hundreds of invested hours essentially making 50 cents an hour, lol)

I was not certain at first if people would be attracted to a trick-taking game with a medieval theme, so I built my campaign on the idea of making an extremely small run of only 100 copies. My goal was set at $2500 and I funded at a bit over 7k. I was then able to produce 300 copies. This meant roughly 200 went to backers and some more went to Fun Again games. I had 50 left over and have about sold them all. The real number to take note of was not a number at all, but a color. I stayed in the black. I did not lose money and actually I did fairly well.

How I did it:

Plague the Card Game

Cards and booklet:

I used The Game Crafter to produce the cards, booklet, and for all the doubloons (a stretch reward). TGC now has a bulk price structure built in that allows for a decent discount on a small run of up to 500 copies. They really do find themselves in a unique spot being able to do this, as every offset printer I have talked to wants a minimum order of 1000. The unit price from TGC for cards drops by about half when you order 500 compared to a single deck, which is their bread and butter.

Box:

I really wanted to upgrade the box to a two piece telescoping box and away from the standard tuck box. I researched and researched and found a company called mypoxprinter.com and I was able to make a small run of 300 boxes for about $2.25 each. The issue is the boxes shipped flat and I had to construct each one. I soon noticed during this process that the two-faced tape that was meant to hold the boxes together was not doing the trick, so I had to glue every single box. That was a lot of work and I would never want to do it again. However, the final product was sturdy and very nice! I also added velvet pouched to house the coins and I picked those up online in bulk.

Shipping and Fulfillment:

I stayed clear of flat-rate shipping and this is what allowed me to turn a profit. I bought shipping boxes in bulk via Uline for about 30 cents each! I hand shipped everything. My total package was under 13oz so i was able to ship First Class instead of Priority and that saved money as well. Overall, by shipping by hand I saved about $3 per game.

Now, all this really proves is that 1 guy can produce 300 small/medium sized games by himself and stay in the black. All the while keeping all the printing and most everything else made in America.

I had success, but I also learned a lot. This time around I researched even more and I felt that with one successful game under my belt that I could up my goals for my next game.

This time around it was clear that the road to victory was going to happen by setting my minimum goal at 500 units and push hard for 1000+. I now have all my manufacturers picked out for Zogar's Gaze and I am very proud to say that I was able to keep everything manufactured in the States.

My strong desire for this is based on the fact that I am a commercial plumber by trade and I have seen first hand the hardships this recession has had on many people including myself. I knew I would sleep well at night knowing I did the right thing, even if it cost me a bit extra out of my own pocket.

I got quotes from 2 sources in China and I am not going to lie to you, their prices are lower. About 20% lower once you factor in shipping. They REALLY become attractive when you get into the 3000+ units range. However, I found a way to keep it all in America.

Zogar's Gaze

Cards:

The cards will be produced by Customized Playing Cards out of Orlando. JT from The Game Crafter was kind enough to hook me up with the owner and the quote I got was very very good. I am both pleased with the high quality of the cards they make and their great service.

Boxes

The boxes will be produced by Brimar Packaging out of Avon Ohio. The service has been stellar. They sent me free samples and their products are very nice. You give them your size and they give you a quote very quickly. The box for Zogar's Gaze will be made with black chipboard and have a full-color wrap. It will also include a nice black chipboard insert if we hit the 15k stretch reward which looks very likely.

I tried to have the whole game produced in one place here in the States but that did not work out very well. I do not want to throw any companies under the bus, but one of the biggest game manufacturers in America gave me an insane quote that was twice as high as everyone else. My only words of wisdom is talk to other designers and get as many quotes as you can.

Shipping and Fulfillment

With boxes coming from one place and printable goods from another this forces me to have to hand pack all the games and shrink wrap them. AHHHH! Not a real big issue. The nice thing about shink-wrapping myself is that I can sign copies before I wrap them. This is important for retailers who want their copies wrapped. I have bought tools to make this process easier and I have help this time in the form of a few extra hands.

So in the end my point is that a very high quality game can be produce in america for a profit. Now for a big company they might have too much overhead to even think about this, but a small indie company can certainly make strives in this direction. Even if it is just for one part of the game, I think it is worth it!

I hope this opens up the door for discussion on the topic. I think manufacturing in the States can still be done, and while it may prove a real challenge for some companies, I think smaller Indie companies should really look into the rewards of such a venture.

Thanks
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Jason Glover
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True, "rewards" are a misleading term, because what I assume is a reward, others would claim is a disadvantage or a negative. lol

Yes, manufacturing cost more in the United States.

No, I could not find one place that could do it all in the U.S.

But it is possible and that is the reward.

If more American Publishers decided to manufacture games here at home, it would create demand. That demand might spark more companies to offer more services here and that could turn into competitive pricing. Would America ever compete with China? No. That could never happen do to labor laws and the cost of living here. But if we strive harder for American made products it would certainly create more jobs here and would certainly help lower manufacturing costs in the long run.

The real issue is most companies look at their bottom-line, and that is important, but it also creates long term issues. I do not have any disbelief either. I fully understand that by manufacturing in the U.S. that I am changing nothing and that my efforts have no real effect. But I can sleep well at night knowing that I did what I could to help. That is my reward. That alone is the reward and it is worth spending more of my own money to have that stratification.
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Kevin "Coop" Cooper
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One potential benefit is speed. Games manufactured in China spend a lot of time on boats and in customs.
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Jason Glover
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Speed I would say is a factor, but not so much shipping costs, because even when you factor in the $1000-1500 or so for shipping from China, China is still cheaper.

For example a game that costs $4 to make in China, might cost $7 to make here. Add in the shipping from China and that game might jump to $5 per unit. Still cheaper.

Speed is a big plus and I cannot believe I failed to mention it. Another factor besides quality is accountability. I mean who does a manufacturer in China answer too? If they mess something up it could be a real headache.
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Eric Etkin
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Wouldn't you also have more legal/ethical recourse to make the manufacturer own up to errors? One of my biggest worries about doing business with China is getting things fixed or replaced in event of a manufacturer error.

We ran into that problem in my old company with amplifiers manufactured there. Since we were a small company, we had no real way of "qualifying" the Chinese manufacturer. When it was all said and done, we had a DOA rate of something like 18 out of 20 that we then had to re-qualify and fix ourselves. The net result was we lost money getting these amps made "inexpensively."

Anyhow - I've said it before and I'll keep saying it - if you can point me to USA manufacturers who can provide a complete game in runs of 2000 or less that won't charge me literally 75% more than China - I'm all ears.
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Cornixt
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It doesn't sound so impressive if you realise you were successful at selling a deck of cards for $25. The stretch goals presumably actually cost you more than if they hadn't been reached because then you wouldn't have had the larger box, booklet, and tokens, and the discounts for the larger orders probably didn't balance it out.

But I do applaud your efforts at trying to use your own national economy rather than outsourcing.
 
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Jason Glover
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cornixt wrote:
It doesn't sound so impressive if you realise you were successful at selling a deck of cards for $25. The stretch goals presumably actually cost you more than if they hadn't been reached because then you wouldn't have had the larger box, booklet, and tokens, and the discounts for the larger orders probably didn't balance it out.

But I do applaud your efforts at trying to use your own national economy rather than outsourcing.


The Kickstarter for Plague balanced out pretty well. The issue was having to build the boxes by have. lol. They all shipped flat and I had to glue each and every one myself. Also the funding goal was $2500 for just the cards and intructions in the tuck. The $3500 stretch reward was the upgraded box. I knew that if I could hit $2500, that I would hit $3500. I did not expect to past $7000, but I was ready for it.

Thanks
 
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Jason Glover
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MOTHDevil wrote:

Wouldn't you also have more legal/ethical recourse to make the manufacturer own up to errors? One of my biggest worries about doing business with China is getting things fixed or replaced in event of a manufacturer error.

We ran into that problem in my old company with amplifiers manufactured there. Since we were a small company, we had no real way of "qualifying" the Chinese manufacturer. When it was all said and done, we had a DOA rate of something like 18 out of 20 that we then had to re-qualify and fix ourselves. The net result was we lost money getting these amps made "inexpensively."

Anyhow - I've said it before and I'll keep saying it - if you can point me to USA manufacturers who can provide a complete game in runs of 2000 or less that won't charge me literally 75% more than China - I'm all ears.


Agreed! I was shocked at just how high some of the quotes were that I got from "all in one" manufacturers. DeLano Games was off the charts. I really wish that there was a better option. The place that I am getting the card done at does not make their own boxes. They outsource them from China. That is the main reason for splitting up manufactures for each part of the game.
 
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David
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coopasonic wrote:
One potential benefit is speed. Games manufactured in China spend a lot of time on boats and in customs.
So do games manufactured in the USA... whistle
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tommy wortley jr.
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i applaud you for doing what you think is right. you were for the most part keeping your manufacturing in the country you live.

i would not mind paying more money for a game that is manufactured in the country of it's designer. it would keep the global economy going (even if it is just a little part of it). by having games manufactured in china you have all kinds of problems to worry about. none of that money goes back into the global economy. not to mention the lead paint, engine coolant in food products and who knows what else they use to cut corners.

i could go on a long rant about the unions and greedy corporations here in the states but i will not.
 
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Matt Brown
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Kempeth wrote:
coopasonic wrote:
One potential benefit is speed. Games manufactured in China spend a lot of time on boats and in customs.
So do games manufactured in the USA... whistle


Shipped from the US to Switzerland is still better than shipped from China to the US to Switzerland.
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Jason Glover
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Speed is quite important. I made Plague in the U.S. as well and I was able to get the game into peoples hands within 45-60 days of funding. This is huge. I backed Fallen City of Karez and it promised a quick turn around and it looks like I will be getting my copy 3+ late and that is very very common with Kickstarters. Being able to produce quickly makes everyone happy!
 
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Doug Murphy
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Thanks for starting this discussion Jason. We're also trying to go the Made in the USA route on our cards-only game (plus box and instructions), hoping that a run of 1,000 will push economies of scale enough that domestic US production is affordable.

We're getting quotes from Cartamundi, ArjoWiggins, and Delano right now, and comparing to one in China (PandGM) and one in India (PlayingCardsInIndia). The shipping time, reliability, and legal protection available from US manufacturing are big reasons why, though helping the local economy is also a factor. I'll add Customized Playing Cards (in FL) to our list. If anyone has other US suggestions, or wants to share experiences with these companies, I'd love to hear them.

Did you push "Made in the USA" in your marketing anywhere? If so, do you think it helped? I saw Ben Haskett's comment on the Zogar's Gate Kickstarter, but I'm curious if you got feedback from (non-family, non-friend) supporters that this was important to them.


P.S. I think you misspelled "myboxprinter" in your post.
 
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