The Forge Forums

General Forge Forums => Independent Publishing => Topic started by: MatrixGamer on June 02, 2009, 06:23:33 AM

Title: New business model - The Artist/Craftsman Game Business
Post by: MatrixGamer on June 02, 2009, 06:23:33 AM
I've been kicking around ideas on how to proceed with my game business. I want to make money and have tried out many product formats and have sold lots of games over the years mail order, online, and at my Gen Con booth. I've always been leery of distribution sales because they never served little companies well. I like Guild of Blades direct to stores approach because I'd like to have games in stores. Recently I was reading Steve Cole's pdf book "How to run a game company" in which he described the nuts and bolts of running a small (100k in sales a year). It's a full time job - since I already have a full time job that I've committed to my wife to keep I can't do another full time job. There needs to be another way.

The Artist/Craftsmen model is a step between PDF/POD selling and the small game company model. I'm able to pursue it because I've built up a small production shop in my garage. I've got enough machines to make 100 units of a game or book in a month. This exceeds my selling online and at show needs but would be less than a small game publishing company would need. Say my yearly output was 500 games. If they sell then I'd only be able to service 30 or so stores. This would mean the sales work would be correspondingly limited which fits the part time I have to do it. When I do this I want to have one game store in any given market so that I get wide exposure and the local store gets to have a special nitch to help them stand out from other stores. Since I make my products in house I'm in profit from the first book sold because I only print as I need them or in very small numbers. It looks like it should work.

The A/C approach is not going to to for everyone. My Dad was a painter and etcher so I grew up around art production and selling. I ran Dad's business after his suicide while I was in college. I really don't recommend doing that to anyone! Still I inherited a number of machines that I still use. Because I never managed to get a company to want to publish my games back in the 90's I started learning how to do it myself. More machines followed and though my books have never sold I found that hardback book making transfers directly into boardgame making. Now to call something art it needs to have a good level of workmanship which I've tried to build up. Those who've bought from my Gen Con booth can tell you that every year I sport a new format and that the production qualities have gone up. Of course I'm still nervous about whether stores will want them but that won't ever go away because there is always the thought "Will they want the next thing?"

One thing I've been very mindful of is finding materials that are safe to work with. There are wonderful varnishes and adhesives out there that produce wonderful results and kill the production people fast. Clearly they are to be avoided! Fortunately I've found that wheat paste and shellac (which is thinned with ethyalcohol - so if you don't drink it it won't hurt you) are  effective "safe" materials. Add in a tabloid color laser printer and I'm not messing with offset printing (and the many carcinogens which are part of it) and I have a safe hand crafted production method.

Since I've been at this for years I've got a backlog of over twenty boardgame products they I can release. They've all been out at Gen Con (in lesser quality formats) but stores (and the people who go to them) have not seen them so the back log would mean I wouldn't need to make new games for maybe five years for store release. Of course I'm always working on new games but knowing I don't have to is a relief.

If some game does take off (you never can say when this will happen) it would out grow my capacity to make which would give me a track record that I could take to a bigger game company to sell the game to. That way they could pick up on a sure thing and I wouldn't have to change my business model to pursue bigger sales. Seems like a win win to me.

I'm apprehesive about starting the sales calls but I'm certain I will do this. I can see just what to do and the power remains in my hands. I think this will work.

I'd love your feedback.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games

Title: Re: New business model - The Artist/Craftsman Game Business
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 02, 2009, 07:36:22 AM
Hi Chris,

One important point from my perspective is that if one or more of the games begins to sell very well, then you don't need to give up ownership. There are plenty of production-only companies that can print and package your game as a strict service to you as publisher, not by becoming publisher. Guild of Blades would certainly be a candidate, but I'm sure there are others with a wide variety of deals. It'd be a plain old service-for-pay arrangement, and you'd still reap the benefits of the profits of the larger scale of sales.

That way, you wouldn't suffer by becoming "too big" either, or by having to scale up production yourself.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: New business model - The Artist/Craftsman Game Business
Post by: guildofblades on June 02, 2009, 08:52:13 AM
Actually Chris, we will shortly begin some experiments with mounting chipboard in a production efficient manner. If we can set it up to be an efficient production method, we plan to offer POD board and box making at print runs starting at 100 units. We'll be building specialty mounting tables for these purposes, for quickly applying adhesive and doig the mountings, plus building a fair number of drying racks. But you know more than I with regards to the adhesives, so I have been meaning to contact you to pick your brain about that.

Once we have the mounting process all set up, have a new die cutter machine custom built and upgrade our printers, we will be in a position to offer POD services on soft cover and hard bound books, pod cards, pod game boards, and both small and large two piece game boxes. We should also be set up to finally launch our wholesale service, acting as a distributor for said games to retail stores. Of course, that would be a totally opt in option that is separate from simply POD producing items for folks. The long term goal is also to support our POD clients with retail presence through a chain of our own stores, but, well, that's going to take some time to build what with our first store open less than a year still.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group -
Guild of Blades Publishing Group -
1483 Online -

Title: Re: New business model - The Artist/Craftsman Game Business
Post by: MatrixGamer on June 02, 2009, 10:07:08 AM
Ron, Ryan, thanks for the feedback!

I don't really want to let go of ownership if a game takes off but know I can not give it the time to service it myself. The making and selling takes some real time. I'm certainly interested in Ryan's POD boardgame and even more wholesale capabilities. The artist/craftsman model then functions as a profit producing marketing tool. The key point though being that for it to be art it has to be good, which is my job.

What I had happen when I was reading the "How to run a game company" book was thinking about what I wanted to do with my time. I like being a social worker and living my nice quiet life in Southern Indiana. I don't want to make gaming my livelyhood because that would preclude being a psychotherapist. The art route seems like a way to do both.

Ryan - contact me off list about adhesives. I'll share all I've learned - and about shellac as well.

Chris Engle

Title: Re: New business model - The Artist/Craftsman Game Business
Post by: Seth M. Drebitko on June 02, 2009, 05:33:43 PM
  As I get closer to finishing up some of my own work I have been thinking about this very thing myself. I think I might create an artsy hand crafted version of each book and determine a moderate number of books I could make a month. Say the first certain amount of orders that come through each month get to buy hand crafted books, and the rest will have to wait or buy pdfs.  Possibly when I could afford something larger and crazy ( offer lower priced physical models with the “collector” type hand crafted books still being harder to get.

Title: Re: New business model - The Artist/Craftsman Game Business
Post by: MatrixGamer on June 03, 2009, 06:01:43 AM
Cool video! Definitely a POD machine.

I like being able to control the means of production. It's cool to make things.


Title: Re: New business model - The Artist/Craftsman Game Business
Post by: slingshot on June 11, 2009, 08:55:09 AM
I could also be interested, I'm writing a rpg game about Newsies (not the film :) ) so well, perhaps we could work together or something

Title: Re: New business model - The Artist/Craftsman Game Business
Post by: MatrixGamer on June 12, 2009, 06:47:40 AM
If you are at Gen Con or Origins come by and talk. At Gen Con I'll be at the Hamster Press booth most of the time and at Origins I'm running Thunder Hamsters and the Temple of Cheese (a board game) with Rogue Judges.

Chris Engle