Board Game Design 101: Self Publishing or Signing with a Publisher?

After coming up with a great idea for a board game, playtesting it with loads of friends and family, you come to a crossroads in your career: should I publish it myself or pitch the game to game publishers in the hopes it will be signed?

I’ve come up with a handy dandy questionnaire that should help you make a decision:

1. Do I like to do art and design myself?
2. Am I tied to the creative elements of the game? e.g., theme, name, characters, etc.
3. Am I a results-oriented person?
4. Am I a good multitasker and quick learner?
5. Do I have a flexible job?
6. Do I have a couple thousand dollars to spare?

If you answered 4 or More Yes’s, then you’re ready to self-publish. If you answered 3 or fewer Yes’s, then I would suggest looking into pitching the game to a publisher.

Things to Know about Self-Publishing

Self-publishing allows you to work on all the “creative” elements of your game, from deciding the theme, the design, the art, etc., but in return, you have to put in a lot of your own time, energy *and* money into it.

For every smashing first-time Kickstarter funding success, there are dozens of games that never make it past even 50% of their funding goal. Here are some things that you should know about self-publishing.

1. Art and Design Commission

You will be paying out-of-pocket for art and design, mostly in the range of $1000-3000, depending on the complexity of your designs and how many designs you need. You need to pay for the artist’s and graphic designer’s usage in your commercial product, which also costs money.

2. Playtesting

This is the fun part, where you get to playtest it with as many people as you can, and make changes to the game based on their feedback. Be aware that not all feedback will be helpful to you and your game, because it may change the game you had invisioned. Stick to your instincts in cases where feedback strongly clashes with your intention for the game.

3. Building a Community

This is the most crucial part to self-publishing, as you will need to build a community of fans of you and your game. Whether you decide to Kickstart the game or sell it directly on your website, Amazon, etc., the important thing is that people need to know you and your game. Start by going to local board game meetups and introducing your game there – the board game community loves a local designer. Also, consider putting your game on Tabletop Simulator and Tabletopia, free online platforms, that allow you to playtest the game with people around the world. Make sure to collect emails for every new person you reach, because these emails are crucial as you build up momentum for the release of your game.

4. Be Prepared to be Overwhelmed

It cannot be overstated how difficult this path is, especially if it’s your first time in marketing, manufacturing, and logistics. You will be overwhelmed by things like import tax, shipping costs, storage fees, distribution channels. It’s okay to like you’re in way over your head, even if you’re already started this process. Feel free to reach out to me and other people in the industry, as we’ve all been there before!

Hope this video and article have been helpful to you on your board game journey.

Let us know in the comments what content you’d like to see next time!

Leave a Comment

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top