Queen’s English #11

Here’s the latest edition of Queen’s English that went out in our December newsletter:

The Queen’s English with Field Marshall Jackson

Now that I’ve been working in the gaming retail business for a while I’ve had a good chance to see things from a few different perspectives. I’ve had the chance to deal with Games Publishers directly and I wanted to give you some of my thoughts on the process of publishing a game and some of the problems and pitfalls that I see.

I thought I’d start by giving an overview of what I consider to be the major steps in getting a game published from start to finish. Obviously there may be more or different steps involved but on the whole I see it involving the following:

1. Designer designs the game
2. Designer playtests the game
3. Designer redesigns and develops the game
4. Designer playtests the game until satisfied
5. The game is sent to a publisher (or several)
6. The publishers playtest the game

Assuming the publishers want to go ahead and publish the game then we move onto the following:

7. Contract between publisher and designer is worked out
8. Publisher helps playtest and develop the game until they are happy
9. Artist is sought for the artwork
10. Publisher sources the pieces and printer (they may well have one that they always use)
11. Rules tweaks, further development and artwork all finalized
12. Printer and manufacturer produce test copies
13. Game is printed and manufactured
14. Game is shipped to publishers and/or distributors or fulfillment companies
15. Game is shipped to retailers
16. Customer buys copy of game!

Now I wanted to go off at a slight tangent and talk about excellent sites like Boardgamegeek and Boardgamenews. These sites are invaluable to designers and publishers for generating buzz and interest in their games and I believe they can vastly increase or decrease the number of sales of a game.

However, it causes one major headache for publishers as well. Almost right from the start, number one in the list, when a designer is designing the game, there can be buzz, interest and demand for knowledge about the game. Some designers now do ongoing diaries explaining the design process. Others create ‘Print and Play’ copies of the game so that people can print it out at home and play a copy right away. There are many playtesters out there who will then often put out word about the game into the community.

This all means that the gaming community has knowledge about these games from a very early stage and is constantly clamoring for more information and detail about when the game will be available to buy.

For a publisher it causes a dilemma. Do you put out information and set a release date when it’s possible that some things may change or there may be complications and setbacks along the way. In almost every step of the process there can be problems that delay things. Problems with shipping or customs. Problems with printers making mistakes with colours. Mistakes noticed in the rulebook or some of the components after printing has already started. All of these can mean that a release date given by the publisher gets put back and put back and put back.

In society these days there is very much a demand for having things right now. Everything is all about speed and getting things right away. The whole process of publishing a game can take years and so I often see impatience when things take so long and release dates get put back. As a publisher there are so many things out of your hands that you have very little control over and yet when something goes wrong it is you who has to take the blame and the flak from the consumer.

Some publishers are getting wise to this and, despite the constant demand for information, are not giving out any release dates for their products. The big downside to this is that there isn’t anywhere near as much buzz when a game just appears in store, compared to when people are expecting and anticipating it.

In conclusion, it’s a tricky tightrope that publishers have to walk in order to ensure the products are anticipated, while at the same time avoiding the impatience and ill-feeling that can occur when things go wrong. As a gamer myself I know well the impatience of waiting for a hot new game to come out, constantly checking with our distributors to see if it is in yet, and being disappointed when it’s not. I am trying to remain pragmatic now though, and be realistic in my expectations of when a game is finally going to arrive. I hope you can all do the same!

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for future articles please let me know.

My email is ops@sentrybox.com

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One comment on “Queen’s English #11

  1. Cool post.

    I’ve seen a few different tactics for entertainment type companies over the years…..The mystery thing (Its too cool to tell you about, so thats all we’re going to share with you)….The complaint factor (This thing is so cool, but it would be way better if I could change it)….The beat you with a stick tactic (Everyone’s experiencing it, so should you). I think the cool part is when you get the game and can decide for yourself if you like it or not. Some of the best games have no hype factor at all. Some of the coolest games you can only play once every six months. Some games just never die.

    I think thats why i’m so into games is that there’s always games you haven’t played yet just waiting to be discovered.

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