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Inventing board games.

billwillbillwill Registered User regular
edited August 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
So yeah. My hobby for the past few years has been inventing board games that I play with my friends.

I've gotten pretty serious about it in the past few months, after one of my last board games, Rule Da Block (a humorous take on gang warfare) took off outside of my circle of friends. I've sold twelve copies of the game at sixty dollars a pop (I'm not making a profit, it just costs that much for me to make each one personally). Anyway, I just finished my latest board game today, and I have to say that I'm very proud of it. I officially played it a few times with friends at a party and they loved it. I want to try and get this one actually published.

Here's the rub(s), though:

1) It's Harry Potter themed; apparently Mattel owns the rights to the board game (or at least they're the company that has made all the HP board games in the past).

2) How would I even go about pitching my board game? Obviously the Harry Potter one might be a shot in the dark what with potential licensing issues or whatever, but I'd like to get some of my past (and future) board games published as well. I literally have no idea as to how I should go about this. Should I try to self-publish and get someone's attention like that? Or go straight to a company?

Any advice would be great. Thanks!

I hate you and you hate me.
billwill on

Posts

  • Skoal CatSkoal Cat Registered User regular
    Your best bet, especially in this day and age, is to give your games for free on your very own website. Especially games you can't legally make a profit on.

  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    If you self publish you're going to need to figure out how to bring your cost WAY down. $60 is nuts.

    Otherwise, why not write places like Fantasy Flight Games and ask them how they handle submissions? Go to your local game store, write down a bunch of companies, and just start sending out emails to figure out how they deal with these sorts of things.

    As for the Harry Potter, good luck on that. You'd be best of reconfiguring that game under a new IP.

  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    Well I'd like to make some money out of it, but if that won't work for some reason I'd be perfectly fine with just putting them out there so people can enjoy them. I mean it's always going to be my hobby; I was just hoping I could turn it into something.

    Esh, thanks. I'll write them immediately. And yeah, I'm not hopefully for the Harry Potter thing. I mainly did it for my friends who are obsessed with the books/films.

    Another thing is, my games aren't really American (even though I live in America), if that makes sense. They're not like the zero-sum games that are so popular here. I definitely follow the European mindset of board gaming, so I guess I should look up some European board game companies as well and write them.

    Should I just email their general email address with my inquiry? Or try and find a person within the company that might be better suited to help?

    I hate you and you hate me.
  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited August 2011
    Well, just from Fantasy Flight's "Contact" page...

    Card and Board Game Guidelines

    Fantasy Flight Games does not accept unsolicited game submissions.


    So, that's right out. I feel like this is going to be the case with a lot of companies though. They're not going to want to fuss with an outsider. They'd rather create in-house and keep the money themselves.

    I have a feeling that self-publishing is going to be your only real bet. I figured as well you were talking about European style games.

    EDIT: Go here...

    http://boardgamegeek.com/forums/region/1/boardgamegeek

    There's a whole board game design sub-forum. That's basically the premier place for board game discussion on the internet.

    Esh on
  • JebusUDJebusUD Adventure! Candy IslandRegistered User regular
    I'd suggest you look into copyrighting your boardgames. (or whatever protections one would do with a board game) especially before you start parading it around on the internet or anything.

    and I wonder about my neighbors even though I don't have them
    but they're listening to every word I say
  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    JebusUD wrote:
    I'd suggest you look into copyrighting your boardgames. (or whatever protections one would do with a board game) especially before you start parading it around on the internet or anything.

    This is probably just my ignorance on the subject but I thought copyright was just something that automatically applies to any unique idea?

    I hate you and you hate me.
  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited August 2011
    billwill wrote:
    JebusUD wrote:
    I'd suggest you look into copyrighting your boardgames. (or whatever protections one would do with a board game) especially before you start parading it around on the internet or anything.

    This is probably just my ignorance on the subject but I thought copyright was just something that automatically applies to any unique idea?

    No, not at all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

    Esh on
  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    Esh wrote:
    billwill wrote:
    JebusUD wrote:
    I'd suggest you look into copyrighting your boardgames. (or whatever protections one would do with a board game) especially before you start parading it around on the internet or anything.

    This is probably just my ignorance on the subject but I thought copyright was just something that automatically applies to any unique idea?

    No, not at all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

    I'm not saying this in a sarcastic tone but am I still missing something? I read this:

    "In all countries that are members of the Berne Convention, copyright is automatic and need not be obtained through official registration with any government office. Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form, for example by securing it in a fixed medium (such as a drawing, sheet music, photograph, a videotape, or a computer file), the copyright holder, or rightsholder, is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights. However, while registration isn't needed to exercise copyright, in jurisdictions where the laws provide for registration, it serves as prima facie evidence of a valid copyright."

    Which seems to reinforce my original statement, right? Or is something still going over my head?

    I hate you and you hate me.
  • Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco I wanna be an owl, Jerry! Owl York CityRegistered User regular
    Esh wrote:
    If you self publish you're going to need to figure out how to bring your cost WAY down. $60 is nuts.

    Otherwise, why not write places like Fantasy Flight Games and ask them how they handle submissions? Go to your local game store, write down a bunch of companies, and just start sending out emails to figure out how they deal with these sorts of things.

    As for the Harry Potter, good luck on that. You'd be best of reconfiguring that game under a new IP.

    $60 is below what I generally expect to pay for a board game, so I don't really think that's a discouraging amount.

    The base set for Twilight Imperium ran my group something like $90, if I remember right.

    And when I hear Rule Da Block, I think Saints Row board game style. That sounds fucking sweet, to me.

  • Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco I wanna be an owl, Jerry! Owl York CityRegistered User regular
    billwill wrote:
    Esh wrote:
    billwill wrote:
    JebusUD wrote:
    I'd suggest you look into copyrighting your boardgames. (or whatever protections one would do with a board game) especially before you start parading it around on the internet or anything.

    This is probably just my ignorance on the subject but I thought copyright was just something that automatically applies to any unique idea?

    No, not at all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

    I'm not saying this in a sarcastic tone but am I still missing something? I read this:

    "In all countries that are members of the Berne Convention, copyright is automatic and need not be obtained through official registration with any government office. Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form, for example by securing it in a fixed medium (such as a drawing, sheet music, photograph, a videotape, or a computer file), the copyright holder, or rightsholder, is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights. However, while registration isn't needed to exercise copyright, in jurisdictions where the laws provide for registration, it serves as prima facie evidence of a valid copyright."

    Which seems to reinforce my original statement, right? Or is something still going over my head?

    If I understand it right, it basically means it's not entirely necessary for you to register a copyright, but having one would make it pretty well airtight.

  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    billwill wrote:
    Esh wrote:
    billwill wrote:
    JebusUD wrote:
    I'd suggest you look into copyrighting your boardgames. (or whatever protections one would do with a board game) especially before you start parading it around on the internet or anything.

    This is probably just my ignorance on the subject but I thought copyright was just something that automatically applies to any unique idea?

    No, not at all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

    I'm not saying this in a sarcastic tone but am I still missing something? I read this:

    "In all countries that are members of the Berne Convention, copyright is automatic and need not be obtained through official registration with any government office. Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form, for example by securing it in a fixed medium (such as a drawing, sheet music, photograph, a videotape, or a computer file), the copyright holder, or rightsholder, is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights. However, while registration isn't needed to exercise copyright, in jurisdictions where the laws provide for registration, it serves as prima facie evidence of a valid copyright."

    Which seems to reinforce my original statement, right? Or is something still going over my head?

    If I understand it right, it basically means it's not entirely necessary for you to register a copyright, but having one would make it pretty well airtight.

    Also, you need to patent.

    http://www.ehow.com/how_4899582_patent-game-idea.html

  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    Esh wrote:
    If you self publish you're going to need to figure out how to bring your cost WAY down. $60 is nuts.

    Otherwise, why not write places like Fantasy Flight Games and ask them how they handle submissions? Go to your local game store, write down a bunch of companies, and just start sending out emails to figure out how they deal with these sorts of things.

    As for the Harry Potter, good luck on that. You'd be best of reconfiguring that game under a new IP.

    $60 is below what I generally expect to pay for a board game, so I don't really think that's a discouraging amount.

    The base set for Twilight Imperium ran my group something like $90, if I remember right.

    And when I hear Rule Da Block, I think Saints Row board game style. That sounds fucking sweet, to me.

    Thanks! I haven't played Saints Row yet (though the third one looks great), but I do have a general idea as to what it's like. Rule Da Block is like the most politically incorrect thing I've ever made (which is saying a lot). There's a card, for example, that taints the cocaine supply of a rival gang and lowers their moral for two turns. It gets much worse than that but that should give you a general idea.

    I hate you and you hate me.
  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited August 2011
    Esh wrote:
    If you self publish you're going to need to figure out how to bring your cost WAY down. $60 is nuts.

    Otherwise, why not write places like Fantasy Flight Games and ask them how they handle submissions? Go to your local game store, write down a bunch of companies, and just start sending out emails to figure out how they deal with these sorts of things.

    As for the Harry Potter, good luck on that. You'd be best of reconfiguring that game under a new IP.

    $60 is below what I generally expect to pay for a board game, so I don't really think that's a discouraging amount.

    The base set for Twilight Imperium ran my group something like $90, if I remember right.

    And when I hear Rule Da Block, I think Saints Row board game style. That sounds fucking sweet, to me.

    No, most board games (European and otherwise) are $50 to $60 retail. Poke around on Amazon. Some massive games run into that realm, but even then, I seriously doubt their cost to make is $60 even with taking economy of scale into account and I don't think the OP is putting together something like Twilight Imperium, Runewars, or Descent with all their intricate pieces.

    Esh on
  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    Esh wrote:
    billwill wrote:
    Esh wrote:
    billwill wrote:
    JebusUD wrote:
    I'd suggest you look into copyrighting your boardgames. (or whatever protections one would do with a board game) especially before you start parading it around on the internet or anything.

    This is probably just my ignorance on the subject but I thought copyright was just something that automatically applies to any unique idea?

    No, not at all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

    I'm not saying this in a sarcastic tone but am I still missing something? I read this:

    "In all countries that are members of the Berne Convention, copyright is automatic and need not be obtained through official registration with any government office. Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form, for example by securing it in a fixed medium (such as a drawing, sheet music, photograph, a videotape, or a computer file), the copyright holder, or rightsholder, is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights. However, while registration isn't needed to exercise copyright, in jurisdictions where the laws provide for registration, it serves as prima facie evidence of a valid copyright."

    Which seems to reinforce my original statement, right? Or is something still going over my head?

    If I understand it right, it basically means it's not entirely necessary for you to register a copyright, but having one would make it pretty well airtight.

    Also, you need to patent.

    http://www.ehow.com/how_4899582_patent-game-idea.html

    Well I know about patenting and how I would need to go about doing that. It's just the copyright thing I wasn't clear on.

    I hate you and you hate me.
  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    Esh wrote:
    Esh wrote:
    If you self publish you're going to need to figure out how to bring your cost WAY down. $60 is nuts.

    Otherwise, why not write places like Fantasy Flight Games and ask them how they handle submissions? Go to your local game store, write down a bunch of companies, and just start sending out emails to figure out how they deal with these sorts of things.

    As for the Harry Potter, good luck on that. You'd be best of reconfiguring that game under a new IP.

    $60 is below what I generally expect to pay for a board game, so I don't really think that's a discouraging amount.

    The base set for Twilight Imperium ran my group something like $90, if I remember right.

    And when I hear Rule Da Block, I think Saints Row board game style. That sounds fucking sweet, to me.

    No, most board games (European and otherwise) are $50 to $60 retail. Poke around on Amazon. Some massive games run into that realm, but even then, I seriously doubt their cost to make is $60 even with taking economy of scale into account and I don't think the OP is putting together some like Twilight Imperium, Runewars, or Descent with all their intricate pieces.

    The $60 price isn't really a big deal. I'm hand-making each one of the games; there is no automation at any point. I'm sure if I had higher demand I could streamline the process and sell the game for considerably less by buying in bulk, etc.

    I hate you and you hate me.
  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    billwill wrote:
    Esh wrote:
    Esh wrote:
    If you self publish you're going to need to figure out how to bring your cost WAY down. $60 is nuts.

    Otherwise, why not write places like Fantasy Flight Games and ask them how they handle submissions? Go to your local game store, write down a bunch of companies, and just start sending out emails to figure out how they deal with these sorts of things.

    As for the Harry Potter, good luck on that. You'd be best of reconfiguring that game under a new IP.

    $60 is below what I generally expect to pay for a board game, so I don't really think that's a discouraging amount.

    The base set for Twilight Imperium ran my group something like $90, if I remember right.

    And when I hear Rule Da Block, I think Saints Row board game style. That sounds fucking sweet, to me.

    No, most board games (European and otherwise) are $50 to $60 retail. Poke around on Amazon. Some massive games run into that realm, but even then, I seriously doubt their cost to make is $60 even with taking economy of scale into account and I don't think the OP is putting together some like Twilight Imperium, Runewars, or Descent with all their intricate pieces.

    The $60 price isn't really a big deal. I'm hand-making each one of the games; there is no automation at any point. I'm sure if I had higher demand I could streamline the process and sell the game for considerably less by buying in bulk, etc.

    It is to the people you're selling to. Unless you don't care about profit.

    Go to the site I showed you. That's where you're going to find the information you need and discuss with other people who are doing the exact same thing you're attempting.

  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    Esh wrote:
    billwill wrote:
    Esh wrote:
    Esh wrote:
    If you self publish you're going to need to figure out how to bring your cost WAY down. $60 is nuts.

    Otherwise, why not write places like Fantasy Flight Games and ask them how they handle submissions? Go to your local game store, write down a bunch of companies, and just start sending out emails to figure out how they deal with these sorts of things.

    As for the Harry Potter, good luck on that. You'd be best of reconfiguring that game under a new IP.

    $60 is below what I generally expect to pay for a board game, so I don't really think that's a discouraging amount.

    The base set for Twilight Imperium ran my group something like $90, if I remember right.

    And when I hear Rule Da Block, I think Saints Row board game style. That sounds fucking sweet, to me.

    No, most board games (European and otherwise) are $50 to $60 retail. Poke around on Amazon. Some massive games run into that realm, but even then, I seriously doubt their cost to make is $60 even with taking economy of scale into account and I don't think the OP is putting together some like Twilight Imperium, Runewars, or Descent with all their intricate pieces.

    The $60 price isn't really a big deal. I'm hand-making each one of the games; there is no automation at any point. I'm sure if I had higher demand I could streamline the process and sell the game for considerably less by buying in bulk, etc.

    It is to the people you're selling to. Unless you don't care about profit.

    Go to the site I showed you. That's where you're going to find the information you need and discuss with other people who are doing the exact same thing you're attempting.

    No, you don't understand. I'm saying it costs $60 because I'm not bothering to cut corners or streamline the process right now. I'm not saying "screw the consumer, blah blah blah." I'm just commenting that the price could easily go down.

    I hate you and you hate me.
  • JebusUDJebusUD Adventure! Candy IslandRegistered User regular
    edited August 2011
    I don't actually mean to point out copyright in particular, I just am saying that you should make sure you have the proper legal protections for your works so no one else can make off with them.

    edit: wikipedia claims you should put the copyright symbol on your things anyway even though it is automatic, to reduce peoples chances of claiming "I didn't know!"

    JebusUD on
    and I wonder about my neighbors even though I don't have them
    but they're listening to every word I say
  • mightyspacepopemightyspacepope Registered User regular
    You can also use Quickstarter to try to promote it and presell it to a larger audience. If you go this route, though, you'd definitely have to deliver if it passes the mark of funding that you set.

  • EchoEcho ski-bap ba-dapModerator mod
    edited August 2011
    Esh wrote:
    Well, just from Fantasy Flight's "Contact" page...

    Card and Board Game Guidelines

    Fantasy Flight Games does not accept unsolicited game submissions.


    So, that's right out. I feel like this is going to be the case with a lot of companies though. They're not going to want to fuss with an outsider. They'd rather create in-house and keep the money themselves.

    The most common reason for this is they don't want some random dude to send them his idea that just happens to match a game they're working on, publish that game, and then have the guy sue for stealing his idea.

    edit: also, there are very few game mechanics that are unique enough to claim copyright.

    Echo on
  • SammyFSammyF Registered User regular
    edited August 2011
    Echo wrote:
    Esh wrote:
    Well, just from Fantasy Flight's "Contact" page...

    Card and Board Game Guidelines

    Fantasy Flight Games does not accept unsolicited game submissions.


    So, that's right out. I feel like this is going to be the case with a lot of companies though. They're not going to want to fuss with an outsider. They'd rather create in-house and keep the money themselves.

    The most common reason for this is they don't want some random dude to send them his idea that just happens to match a game they're working on, publish that game, and then have the guy sue for stealing his idea.

    edit: also, there are very few game mechanics that are unique enough to claim copyright.

    You can't copyright the basic mechanics just like you can't copyright the rules of grammar. You can, however, own the rights to your specific and unique expression. For instance, you can't own the rights to using a board as a component in any game generally, but the design and art for your own specific game board which you created for Rule Da Block is all yours.

    As far as your question goes about publishing past and future board games, I'd personally go with self-publishing if I could get my hands on the machinery necessary to scale the production of a game. Talk to a lawyer and an accountant about setting up an LLC. Build a brand locally by taking it around to every game store you can find in a 50 mile radius and pitch it directly to the store owner for retail space, augment it with a website where you'll also sell the product. Utilize social media sites like Facebook or Twitter so that existing customers can easily refer future customers to your products and so that you can keep in touch with your customers.

    Once you build a brand both for your games and for yourself personally as a game designer, you'll be in a much better position to approach a company like Fantasy Flight to license and sell your product. Not only will you be more likely to get a meeting for a sales pitch, you can leverage the strength of your brand to ask for more money in exchange for a license. And a national company has a harder time ripping off an existing brand than it does ripping off a guy no one's ever heard of, so that brand also offers an additional sense of protection for your intellectual property.

    If you're rich and famous in five years, I expect a free copy of Rule Da Block.

    SammyF on
  • DracilDracil Registered User regular
    You can also use Quickstarter to try to promote it and presell it to a larger audience. If you go this route, though, you'd definitely have to deliver if it passes the mark of funding that you set.

    You mean kickstarter? That's an awesome place, and I've backed several things on there already.

    As far as costs, yeah, handmaking is expensive. Once he gets them mass produced costs should go down a lot. However, from there costs go up a lot when middlemen (stores) become involved. That's one of the things Sirlin discovered when doing Yomi. And telling it like it is tends to piss people off.

    As far as theme and licensing goes, that's not necessarily a biggie. Many games undergo theme changes when they get published. http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/16285/theme-changed-by-the-publisher

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  • DracilDracil Registered User regular
    edited August 2011
    doublepost

    Dracil on
    3DS: 2105-8644-6304
    Switch: US 1651-2551-4335 JP 6310-4664-2624
    MH3U Monster Cheat Sheet / MH3U Veggie Elder Ticket Guide
  • mightyspacepopemightyspacepope Registered User regular
    Whoops! Yeah, totally meant Kickstarter.

  • Zombie NirvanaZombie Nirvana Registered User regular
    You should probably check out boardgamegeek.com. There are many designers there, some self-published. There is also a design forum where they can lead you to other appropriate forums to see what you're up against in publishing (either self or through another). Kickstarter is your best bet for self-publishing. PA isn't really the place to get accurate info on this. $60 is definitely not a bad price if you've got a good game. A buddy of mine just set his up through kickstarter at that price minimum and he had about 20k in donations during the drive.

  • acidlacedpenguinacidlacedpenguin Institutionalized Safe in jail.Registered User regular
    the question I have is this: would your game continue to be a fun and interesting game without the harry potter theme? If not, somehow secure the rights to create the game and sell it, make sure the next game you design doesn't suck. If so, ditch the harry potter theme entirely and sell it as your own thing, possibly using kickstarter to secure the extra cash needed to get it mass produced as well as drum up demand for your good game.

    maybe what you could do is kickstarter some of your games that you own all the rights to, get a couple of them under your belt to legitimize you as a designer which would make it infinitely easier to get even a meeting with the content owner.

    Man, kickstarter is like, the greatest thing to happen to the independent game designer. It really is a revolutionary delivery system for modern day board gaming.

    GT: Acidboogie PSNid: AcidLacedPenguiN
  • DiannaoChongDiannaoChong Registered User regular
    I hope this is constructive enough to warrant a post. I was doing some research a while ago and found a series of youtube videos from a toy/game creator. While the industry looks similar to the film industry (they do anything they can from having their internal IP they create come from the outside or look like it was taken from someone), they actually do take submissions from outside and buy ideas often. You just have to talk to the right people, and not the people they direct you to speak to. I however cant find that series of videos or his site anymore though.

    steam_sig.png
  • dukederekdukederek Registered User regular
    http://www.terrorbullgames.co.uk/about/

    These guys seemed to do it right, they don't appear to be immensely successful (in $$$$ terms) but they've got their game into shops and stuff. They seem quite approachable from their website, they might be able to give you some advice on getting started.

  • SammyFSammyF Registered User regular
    the question I have is this: would your game continue to be a fun and interesting game without the harry potter theme? If not, somehow secure the rights to create the game and sell it, make sure the next game you design doesn't suck. If so, ditch the harry potter theme entirely and sell it as your own thing, possibly using kickstarter to secure the extra cash needed to get it mass produced as well as drum up demand for your good game.

    On the topic of the theme -- I mentioned earlier that you can't own the idea behind mechanics, but you can own a unique and individual expression. This is also true for fictional stories. J.K. Rowling owns the rights to Harry Potter, not to stories about young children attending boarding schools for wizards. Many other distinct stories about that specific theme have been done; Ursula K. Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea springs to mind.

    If magic is an important component for your game, I suggest reading that book and others of the same milieu before taking a month to percolate on your own unique expression of the theme. If it's not important, ditch the magic entirely and just make it about a regular school. Or a unique school which focuses on something other than magic.

  • FairchildFairchild Rabbit used short words that were easy to understand, like "Hello Pooh, how about Lunch ?" Registered User regular
    I am reasonably certain that Fantasy Flight has their own internal stable of game designers with their next few years' publication schedule already established with key properties such as Conan and John Carter already licensed, so I don't think you'd be able to make a dent there. The game that you are describing doesn't sound like FF's milieu, anyway.

    However, there are many game companies out there not named Fantasy Flight. I'm a wargamer and so not deeply plugged into the Eurogame market, but you could do a lot worse than going to a big game convention and introducing yourself to some of the game companies. A poster up top mentioned Boardgame Geek, which would be a good place to start.

  • LibrarianLibrarian The face of liberal fascism Registered User regular
    I know of at least 1 German publisher that is pretty big(and boardgames are big in Germany anyway) that is taking submissions and has a really encouraging page for boardgame authors, but they have no English language page.
    They also do a lot of localization of Fantasy Flight stuff.

    Basically what they tell you to do is make a pdf of how your game works in terms of mechanics with some pictures showing what the board might look like etc.
    They are not interested in a theme or background as these might change.
    Also it is important to point out how your game differs from other boardgames and what games it might be similar to and how it works better than those other games.

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