Sourcing for the Right Manufacturer for Your New Game
For the first-time board game creator cum Kickstarter, it is important to find the right manufacturer to produce your game. A wrong choice can cost you not just money, but also the trust of your backers.
The significance of finding the right manufacturer is akin to looking for your significant other. You are looking for a long-term relationship; one that you can trust and rely on for a second and with luck, the third print of your game. Changing manufacturers after the first print is not advisable as that means you need to put in another hefty investment for the mould set-up required for custom-made game components.
In general, we find these three factors important when we source for the right manufacturer.
It goes without saying that the quality of your game components is important as board game enthusiasts are known to have high expectations.
We also trust that everyone knows how to identify the manufacturer with a strong track record in quality production. The focus, however, lies in your due diligence after choosing your manufacturer.
Always double check the quality of your game, post production, even if you think nothing can go wrong. We found ourselves in an unbelievable situation once, when the actual components produced differed from the original printing plate. There was nothing wrong with the printing plate. Upon further investigation, the blunder was due to human error in the manufacturing plant. The result? We had to do a reprint which caused a delay in fulfilment of orders for our Kickstarter backers.
From this experience, we learnt to apply strict inspection at these two points of production:
Pre-production. We inspect the actual physical prototype and all printing plates to ensure that they conform to the agreed specifications. The production runs only begin after all printing plates have passed our inspection.
Post-production, before shipping. Sample copies were sent to us for checks. Aside from the components, the packaging was also inspected. Shipping to backers only begin after the inspection was done.
You should always seek for and compare quotations from no less than three board game manufacturers.
To ensure the quotations are done up in a manner that helps with your comparison later, provide a detailed list of game component specifications and request the manufacturers to give a price breakdown based on the list.
If you are not too sure where to start from, get a template of game component specifications from one of the manufacturers. Most manufacturers would have such a template and be assured that the templates from different manufacturers are largely similar.
Should you decide to source for manufacturers in China like us, take note that costs should not vary too much across the different manufacturers. This is because of the Chinese factories which source for labour and material from the same origin market.
Yet another tip to share here is that you can request for additional support from manufacturers during price negotiation. These can include:
Produce game prototypes on goodwill or of reasonable price for more units
Shipping of game sets to local port (FOB)
Additionally, some manufacturers provide value-add services that sweeten the deal. In particular, it would be prudent for new designers to work with manufacturers such as WinGo Industry, that charges a higher price but provides project management service and consultancy for manufacturing
The previous manufacturer whom we worked with for Wongamania: Banana Economy provided a very attractive quote but had assumed that all publishers are familiar with the manufacturing process. As a result, our inexperience led to multiple delays from incorrect submissions of graphic files and other issues. The prolonged delay could have been avoided if we had been guided better by the manufacturer
The location of your manufacturer’s plant is a key consideration to selecting the right manufacturer. This is because the finished game sets need to be delivered to the warehouse of a third party logistics supplier (3PL) for international fulfilment – and these 3PLs are usually located close to seaports.
Using a manufacturer who is located further inland, or worse in a different city as your 3PL will invariably incur a higher delivery cost for yourself, Moreover, the extra week required to truck the game sets from an inland location to port or between two cities can impact your Kickstarter rewards delivery date.
On the contrary, when the manufacturer and 3PL are located in the same city or province, there is a good chance that the manufacturer can absorb the delivery cost for you. (don’t be shy, ask for it!)
Most board games are manufactured in China today. Thanks to the many game creators’ generous sharing over the internet, there are a few reputable names that you can start with. Even so, tread carefully to protect the interests of your backers whose money and trust they have placed upon you.