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Many people enjoy playing board games with family and friends. Board game businesses design and make board games for people to play.
Despite the growth of online platforms, the board game industry continues to remain strong. It’s grown since 2013, and the industry almost broke $10 billion in sales in 2016.
Who is this business right for?
People who are passionate about board games may enjoy owning a board game business. Developing a good board game that people will want to play requires testing and retesting a game design many times. Therefore, only those who like playing board games should try developing one.
What happens during a typical day at a board game company?
Each board game that a business develops has three distinct phases:
- the development phase, which involves testing the gameplay and designing the game’s components
- the manufacturing phase, which involves actually making the physical board game
- the selling phase, which involves marketing and selling the game
During each of these phases, the focus of a business shifts. Development involves a lot of playing and replaying, as well as conceptual design work to create the pieces and artwork. When manufacturing, there are many logistical items to see to. Once a game is on the market, selling requires advertising a game and connecting with potential players.
Businesses that have multiple games in production may be involved in each of these three phases simultaneously. Those that only develop one game will be focusing on one stage at a time.
What is the target market?
Board games appeal to a broad demographic. Even millennials are playing lots of non-digital games.
Most board game businesses, however, focus in on a particular demographic that they want to develop games for. For instance, a business might make party games for social outings, strategy games geared towards thinkers or generational games based on certain decades.
How does a board game company make money?
A board game business makes money by selling its finished board games. Games may be sold directly to customers at retail prices or to resellers at wholesale prices.
What is the growth potential for a board game company?
A board game business may be a small operation that has just one game, or it can be a major international company that has many games created by multiple designers. Cardboard Edison, which has two games, is an example of a small-time board game business. Cards Against Humanity is another, having one main game and several add-on packs of cards. Hasbro is one of the largest board game publishers.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful board game company?
In order to successfully design a board game, it’s important to be familiar with the different types of board games. David Silverman has a post on board game design that includes a helpful list of different styles of games (e.g. Euro-style games, family games and deck-building games).
There are also several online courses for game design, including ones from MIT, EDX and Coursera. Not all of these courses are specific to board games, but many of the principles taught apply to games of all types.
What are the costs involved in opening a board game company?
The costs of starting up a board game business are fairly low, although they are significant. It usually takes $18,00 to $20,000 to get a game made and start a business, but some businesses start with lower or higher costs. One board game business on Kickstarter initially asked for $29,750 in start-up funds, while another board game business began with upfront costs of just over £5,000 (about $6,600).
Assuming a business owner has friends who are willing to test a game for free, the biggest expenses are:
- Trademarking and copyrighting the game
- Hiring an artist to make the artwork
- Manufacturing the game
The costs for an artist can vary greatly, depending on the level of detail required and the experience an artist has. Manufacturing costs often run between $7 and $25 per unit, although larger orders can bring per-unit costs much lower.
What are the steps to start a board game company?
Once you're ready to start your board game company, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your board game company is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your board game company keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a board game company?
Many board game business owners launch their businesses on a crowdfunding site. In fact, more money has been raised for board games than for video games on Kickstarter.
Launching a business on a crowdfunding site not only lets business owners collect funds that can be used to pay for manufacturing expenses, but it also helps generate buzz around a game. The publicity of a crowdfunding campaign can create momentum that will generate more sales.
How to promote & market a board game company
Board games can be effectively marketed by soliciting reviews from bloggers and other reviewers. Many reviewers will write up a review for a free copy of the game, and their review will share the game with board game enthusiasts.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
A board game business can set itself apart from other games on the market by winning awards. Even winning a small competition can help boost sales if a seal is displayed on the game’s packaging.
For this reason, business owners ought to enter their games into as many competitions as possible.
How and when to build a team
Many board game businesses have just a few employees. Rather than hiring artists as employees, business owners typically give them contract work. For fulfillment, most business owners either fulfill orders themselves or outsource the work to a warehouse.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a board game company. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
Trademark & Copyright Protection
If you are developing a unique product, concept, brand, or design, it is prudent to protect your rights by registering for the appropriate trademarks and copyrights.
The nature of legal requirements in distance education is ever changing, especially in regards to copyright laws. Here is a frequently updated resource, which can help keep you aware of the legal requirements.
Here are two great links on boardgame licensing to publishers:
How much can you charge customers?
According to The Board Game Family, board games can sell for as little as $10 or as much as $70. Many games, however, cost around $30 retail.
When calculating price, business owners should try to make their game’s retail price four times the per-unit product costs. This will help ensure a business is profitable.
What are the ongoing expenses for a board game company?
Ongoing expenses for a board game business include storage costs for games that haven’t been sold yet and manufacturing costs of new units. Business owners can keep storage costs low by storing unsold games themselves. Manufacturing costs for more units can be funded by sales of in-stock units.
How much profit can a board game company make?
A successful board game business can make tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. If a game sells for $30 per copy, selling just 1,000 games would generate a revenue of $30,000. In some cases, businesses are much more successful than this. One board game raised over $1 million on Kickstarter.
How can you make your business more profitable?
A board game business can increase its profitability by creating expansion packs that customers can purchase for an additional fee. Alternatively, board game business owners can create a blog on board games.
A few board game businesses have been developed into video games or apps, but this requires a significant investment in developing digital resources.