So you’ve finished and play-tested your proto-type and you’re ready to look for a printer. Getting your game printed can feel like a bit of a mine-field and depending on who you ask you’re going to get some wildly varying quotes for printing. Five of the first things to bare in mind are:
- You’re going to want prototypes and these are best done with the printer you’re going to be using to produce the game. This way you get to catch places where they may not have understood what you want up front
- If you’re going to use traditional distribution to get your game into stores then you’re going to want to have a very low base cost as retailers look for very large margins on games (up to and over 50%)
- The printer you choose should be experienced at producing games and have the technical ability to realise your dream. Make sure that you look carefully at what they’ve produced before and if possible…get references
- They should be easy to communicate with and responsive. If you ask a company for something and it takes two weeks to get a response (to a simple question) you should consider walking away. When you’re on tight deadlines the last thing you want is an unresponsive printer
- You’ll need them to be flexible at times. You need to feel like your printer is coming with you on your boardgame journey and they’re willing to work with you to make your game work
So where to print? If you run a google search for game printing you’ll get a raft of companies coming up that print games. For early good looking prototypes Game Crafter is a good first stop but if you’re going to require non-standard pieces or large print runs at a low cost per game then you probably don’t want to use them for your production run. If you live in Western Europe or the US you’ll find a lot of great printers. The benefits of printing in country are:
- You can go and sit down with the printers and brief them in person (In the US this could involve a plane flight 🙂 )
- You don’t have to worry too much about transportation
- Depending on where you live and where you’re transporting to import duties and VAT cease to be so much of a problem for you
- People speak your language both literally and figuratively
So given all these great benefits of printing in country, why do so many games companies (even Kickstarters) print over seas. In the first instance there is only one over-riding reason; COST. Simply it’s cheaper per unit to print overseas than in either the US or Western Europe. The difference in cost can be staggering, quotes for my game in the UK were coming in at around $25 – $35 for 1000 units, my base cost in China is closer to $12, even with transportation costs this doesn’t come anywhere close to $25. Prices in Eastern Europe (Poland/Czech) aren’t necessarily quite as good although you can get some excellent prices and you have the benefit of working with a company within the EU. So bearing in mind the huge financial benefits to printing overseas, what are the downsides?
- You need to find a reputable printer who is easy to work with and both of these can be a challenge if you’re not fortunate
- Language can be hard if the printer’s contact staff don’t have good English
- It can be hard to assess quality of materials unless your printer is willing to send you pictures or samples
- You can feel a bit disconnected from the process
- You may have both VAT to pay (reclaimable in the UK if you’re VAT registered) and import taxes (Games are 0% rated in the UK and come under the import code 9504908000)
So how can you lessen the impact of these downsides? Find yourself a great overseas printer. This is down to word of mouth recommendations for people that have used them. I was very fortunate to hit upon Wingo Games almost straight off the mark. They were kind enough to provide a couple of references one of whom had been another Kickstarter project. The references were good so I asked them to quote on the game. I was immediately impressed by the level of contact that I received from Wingo, despite the fact that they company turns over millions of dollars a year my contact, Ivan (they all use western names to make themselves easier to interact with), made me feel like I was Wingo’s only customer. I have contact with Ivan maybe every couple of days and he’ll regularly drop me a line just to ask me how things are going. His English is close to perfect.
They were very flexible with me for my sample games which was very much appreciated as samples are very expensive. Typically a printer will have to include the same set up costs for a big print run in the costs for your sample games. This means that some of the quotes that you receive for samples can seem astronomical so flexibility here is very much appreciated.
The next thing that impressed me was the quality of the sample games:
Here is Creature College in all its glory. You can’t feel the quality of the materials but suffice it to say (and I fully accept that this is a little bit weird) I sometimes just run my hands over the box to feel the finish! I was very impressed with the quality of work from the thickness of the box cardboard and design of the insert straight through to the print quality in my rule book.
Finally you want to feel that your printer is a real partner. As you can see from the title picture Wingo Games has shared a stall with me at conventions and we’ll be at Essen together in the fall. I don’t heap praise on a partner without good reason but Wingo Games are a vital piece in the potential success of Happy Otter Games and Creature College.
I hope this little guide has been useful. If you’re interested in my experiences and just want to chat about your own project then feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to put people in touch with Wingo but you can also contact them yourself at email@example.com.