Remembering that my goal is to give comprehensive advice in a single place, this is going to be lengthy and frequently updated. Every bulleted item from Article 7.0 will be detailed-out here.
Let’s jump in.
1 Your Main Game quote (from manufacturer)
Price varies DRASTICALLY by game and quantity. Ask for quotes.
This is pivotal. I’ve heard of many games that “guessed” at the cost of making their game based on another’s game. Don’t do that. You were smart enough to make a game, follow that through to the end.
To get a quote, visit pandaGM.com, LudoFact.de, and a few other companies (some will surprise you with their quality), and ask them to quote your game based on an actual component list. (Always price compare!) As a courtesy to all, please don’t guess at your needs. These companies very busy, and you’ll wait a long time (and so will everyone else) to get a quote that you can’t even use because you “played around on the site”. Have a very solid idea based on a homemade prototype before you ask. Then you can start strong and save time!
Ask to be quoted at: 1,500 copies (MOQ – “Minimum Order Quantity” for many companies), 2,000, and 2,500. If this is your first go at this, unless you’ve got some big hook-ups like the Robot Turtles and Exploding Kittens guys did, or major IPs like the Batman game, you’re not going to manufacture more than this on your first print.
2 Your Add Ons
Price varies drastically $0 to several thousand.
Add Ons are totally optional. I won’t discuss whether you should have them or not, only how to budget for them…
3 -quote (from manufacturer) (optional)
Like your Main Game quote, you’ll ask for a separate quote for your Add Ons. Having a separate quote is good because you can order a smaller quantity than the number of games. If you make 2,000 games, you can order only 1,500 sets of add ons. This is good because only about 1/3rd of your backers will go for the Add Ons.
4 -uniquely ordered (for self-fulfillment) (optional)
If you’re fullfilling your game (or even just the add ons) yourself, you might be able to order some items yourself from suppliers/warehouses directly. This will be cheaper than going through your manufactuer. Don’t pay them to pay the other guy. Call your custom dice supplier yourself. Again, this is ONLY if you’re fulfilling these items yourself. Otherwise, you might just wanna let them do it all; though you can outsource and ship to your manufacturer at times. Do this ONLY if they can’t make the item you need.
5 “Overbilling” (be prepared for this sneaky game changer)
Estimate at 5%, though formulas to get there may vary
What I refer to as “the sneaky little bastard” in my budget spreadsheet. Overbilling is what happens when your manufacturer, for quality control purposes, prints x% more games than you asked for, and then charges you for them AFTER the quoting process. Quotes from certain manufacturers do NOT include this. Be sure to ask. (Our Overbilling for TKA was estimated at +2% +$900. That’s well over $1500 extra dollars on our quote.) Be aware.
1 Freight shipping
Roughly $5 per Game.
Shipping from the Manufacturer to your Fulfillment Center (Amazon, Shipwire, or your Garage). For full box games, you can expect roughly $5 +/- per game. Much less for card decks only, a bit more for bigger heavier games. Note: Nobody will promise you anything on these prices until the game is made and weighed though, so guess high to be safe.
2 Fulfillment – Self or 3rd Party
Varies drastically by game size, weight, shipping location, & shipping destination.
This is the actual cost of sending your game from you storage place (Garage/Amazon/etc.) to the backer. It includes: The box, the filler, the tape, the man-hours, and the postage.
If you are in the USA fulfilling yourself using the USPS, the Flat Rate Boxes are going to be your best friend (they’re free, and your game’s weight is now inconsequential). Visit USPS.com and calculate prices to every major shipping destination on the globe in the box you know your game will fit in (design it to fit in a Small or Medium Flat Rate Box).
If you are anywhere in the world and plan on fulfilling with FBA (Fullfillment by Amazon, your “EU Friendly Shipping” partner) then read this and this, then to get really solid pricing estimates visit these: USA, Germany, UK, Canada. Look for “Standard Size Non-Media” and “Multi-Channel Fulfillment”.
If you’re fulfilling yourself from the USA, know that EU backers will have to pay VAT (a type of EU-style sales tax on imports that can be crippling). Therefore you’ll have a lower percentage of backers in the EU, and thus a lower total number of backers. (And a bunch of people outright yelling at you for not offering EU friendly shipping, all because somebody *ahemJameyahem* ; ) made it look easy. But it’s not, it is lot of work. Be prepared to take the insults with a grain of salt if you choose this. But you MUST choose one or the other BEFORE you launch.)
If you’re fulfilling with EU friendly shipping by freighting to EU, prepaying VAT yourself on the discounts you’ll save, know that you’ll have a larger percentage of EU backers, and thus a larger number of backers period. (It’s hard, but financially it is worth the effort.)
*I encourage you to take my shipping advice with a grain of salt as we haven’t shipped yet, but I have done a ton of research worthy of talking on.
3 Direct shipping for self-fulfilled items/add ons
As above, only with strict regard to Add Ons and USPS (or your countries’ post). Visit the price calculator and, knowing your net add ons size, pick a shipping method, and then multiply by 1/3 to 1/2 of your backers.
Note: Thin add ons (cards, etc.) will ship cheap in envelopes. Thick add ons (dice, etc.) will ship Flat Rate in a small box. Do NOT make your add ons larger than the small flat rate box unless they’re pricey enough to pay for a medium one (which will result in less sold add ons).
Art prices vary drastically by type, size, usage usage rights, and artist. See my post on that here. Set a budget for art (how much am I willing to pay per piece, by type?) and then put it in your spread sheet as a goal price per piece. I give a rough range for each, but know they are exactly that: rough.
1 Sculpts for minis (3d or physical)
These are a fortune. If you want good ones, don’t pay less than $200 for 3d sculpts. We paid more than that. Make sure your artist knows the final medium and casting type so he/she can make them printable. Plastic is more easily printed than metals, but metals are far cooler. Make sure you discuss design needs with your mini molder/caster, and relay them to the 3d artist. Details here in our “How to get Miniatures” column.
All items listed below are what we call “painted” art.
2 Box art
The cover and sides of your box, the single most expensive piece of art. It’s big, it’s complex, it needs to be excellent. You’re looking at $200 to $500.
The box bottom may be the same, or it may be put together by your Graphic Designer (#12 below).
If your game has a board, it’s going to be the 2nd most expensive. It might even surpass the box lid. $200-700. Don’t chince out. Good artists with good personalities that get your project are rare. Work with them. Our TKA board is modular and consists of 16+ Map tiles and an interconnecting border. We had to price our board as 16 + 12 separate pieces of art. Some of which we duplicated ourselves to save costs. Even with our duplications, the total was high in the above range.
4 Character art
Got People, Fantasy Races, Monsters, Aliens, or Superheroes, in your game? Characters are more expensive than items, because drawing people (faces & hands & poses) is hard. Price it out per piece $50-$120 depending on size and level of detail (bust, waist up, full body, full body with scenic background). It’s possible to pay $250+ per piece… but it’s also not necessary.
5 Card art
The fun little pictures that grace the inside of your cards giving them flavor. These are usually painted MUCH MUCH larger than they are printed, so they are not necessarily cheap. Decide if they’re scenes, characters, items, or other, then price them in those categories. If they’re items $25-50 each. If they’re “small scenes” $40-$90 each. If they’re characters, as above.
6 Graphic frames & backgrounds
Ok, you have art, but you can’t just leave it that way. You gotta spice it up with text frames, card borders, and shiny backgrounds. These are all costs. Prices vary from $20 for simple textures to $120 for nice frames. (Reminder: These are ROUGH estimates based on innumerable factors).
Ok, now you have art, and nice frames, but your text won’t fit in the boxes. Use symbols. These can (and should) be cheap and bought in bulk. We paid about $100 for all the many TKA symbols all at once. But again… it’s a cost, don’t miss it.
Your fonts are boring, and you need a game logo that isn’t made by a $50 graphic designer. Pay for it. You can also get graphic #s and symbols while you’re at it, and if you’re patient, you can spell your own words.
9 Promotional art
You want to give out “Desktop & iPhone Wallpaper with a $5 pledge”? Or maybe be able to print a flippin’ sweet promotional Poster/Banner? Ok, that’s bigger art. Budget for it. My suggestion: Pay the same artist to add a simple background to the character, you’ll save money because it’s the same character (not paying for it again) and backgrounds are cheaper.
10 Misc tokens
Player turn markers, symbol references, hit point counters, etc. They can be cheap, and if you’ve had enough of the above already made, you can probably make some yourself, but don’t forget these little guys. It all depends on your time, talent, and treasure.
11 Company Logo
Ever run into a person and recognize them, but not remember their name? Humans are visual. We remember what we see better than what we hear.
Get a snappy logo that is themed after your company name. $150-250. Some “logo-making” websites will charge you $2000+. Don’t you dare. Have your favorite artist on your team make your logo, and pay him like it’s any other piece of art, but offer a touch more so he makes it perfect; you’re going to be stuck with it once you publish your first game. Don’t accept anything other than what you think is perfect here. Spare no expense…. err… up to $250 anyway. In the long run nobody really cares but you. Look at your game shelf… some of those company logos are… well… not interesting at all. Do you care? No. But you will about your own.
12 Lastly – Graphic Design (arranging all this into final products)
This is a huge expense. If you don’t have skill points spent in “Graphic Design”, already have an eye for what artistic beauty is, have a detailed vision for the end product, AND have the time and resources to do it yourself… this is going to cost you anywhere from $500 to $5000. Every card with it’s text; the box back with it’s layouts; every player board with stats/rules/etc, and the manual…
…are all in need of graphic design. Don’t hire your cousin. Pay somebody you can respectfully but impersonally tell what to do to. Get your vision, not their “Sure, buddy, I’ll do it for free” vision. You get what you pay for.
*WARNING: Most costs in this category are called “Sunk Costs”. They are irrecoverable, even if your Kickstarter fails. If you fail, you can tell your artists to stop, cancel the skype date with your graphic designer, and email your manufacturing account manager a very depressing email…. BUT you can’t email the following list and ask for your money back. This WILL be paid out of pocket up front, but may be REIMBURSED (to self) when you succeed.
1 Banner Adverts
$50 to $800 per site.
“Gosh, I don’t know if we can afford those.” You can’t NOT afford them. BGG Banner ads start at $800 (they have lesser amounts, but you get a bonus if you do $800, a worthy deal). Kicktraq starts at $140 for a 2-week run. The Dice Tower is surprisingly reasonable and effective. Start with those 3. Then every other gaming site in the world would be happy to run your ad for only a couple bucks a month. Most give us 2 weeks to a month for less than $100 each.
Read more about advertising in Article #17 – Advertising Tips and Stats.
$5 to $200
If you have industry contacts, schmooze. Arrange a meeting months before your launch date, pay for their meal, ask about their spouse and kids.
Back other projects! Then do it some more. $1 for the ones you don’t want to own (cause you can’t afford to), and full backing for projects that you want to be able to say “Hey, can I pick your brain?”. Nice guys like Jamey and I will be happy to answer some Q’s without you first buttering us up, but some do it professionally, others you might need a little oil to get em dancing. Either way, this will let you study their campaign, read the updates, post comments, etc. Don’t use people. At least pay them a dollar for their time and help their #s look better.
$0 to $400 each.
Some are free. Some are paid. Some are print (text only), some are video.
Get a video review. Period. If your game doesn’t suck, you have nothing to fear. If you’re scared, maybe your game sucks. If you’re prudently nervous, well, it’s a 50/50 chance. But people like to see professional video reviews. The cost is anywhere from Free (pay them with a free game or 2 if you succeed), to $400. It depends on the reviewer.
Print reviews should be cheaper, but they’re not all that way. I avoid the $200 print reviews. That’s up to you. Regardless, seek lower prices with high readership.
For more information on how to get reviewed, read our KSAC on the topic.
$0 to $2500
Going to conventions to demo your game? Getting space in the demo hall? Most local conventions let you demo for free; the big guys charge $150+ per ran game. You can always panhandle in the “Open Gaming Room” for new players. Regardless, budget in your cost for travel, badges, and event hosting costs. Don’t make backers pay for your dinner, you would have eaten that anyway. Some don’t budget this in and do it out of pocket.
1 Sales tax
Varies greatly by region. In California I’m only responsible to pay sales tax to games I ship to backers ALSO in California. If I ship to another state, i’m not responsible. If I ship to the EU, they have to pay VAT. In YOUR state/country/province/region, it IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT. You can only look into this yourself. For me, I estimated (total guess) the # of backers in my state, and applied the local tax rate to it. Do the same, round up.
Barcodes are cheap; and all legally obtained barcodes are equal. There’s no such thing as a premium barcode. Click here to get 10% off your order at barcodestalk.com. It’s where I always get mine because they’re the least expensive you’ll find before the 10% off. Less then $1 per barcode. I tend to order a ton, and then pick the numbers I like the most (because I’m silly like that). – Wherever you get them, just make sure you get yours from an accredited site; otherwise you risk buying fake or used barcodes.
These come in two varieties: Homemade & Professional; $50 to $350 respectively.
Homemade: Get your art, lay it out in GIMP, insert into Word or Excel documents, and then print it on cardstock from a craft store (always bring a coupon from their website). For your board, glue the printed art onto foamboard. Don’t have art yet?, then just leave those print areas blank or fill with card title/text. Estimated cost: Depends on your ink cartridge, but roughly $5-$30 + an ink cartridge or two.
Professional: A step for after you have your art, but before your manufacturer sends you initial copies. Email this guy. Print on Demand game items! Brilliant. You can get a deck of 54 cards for under $20 bucks and you only need to order 1. If you go to any other Print on Demand publisher, they’ll give you minimums of 20 to 100 copies. Andrew is your new best friend. Save this step till you have your art though. Browse the site to get costs. Ours run $375-ish, but our game is very big. Further, check FedExKinkos for quick and dirty prints of player boards, etc, if you need them fast (decent prices, local pickup, and you can pre-arrange multiple items onto a single 8×10 size sheet to save money.)
4 Business Cards
Business cards are just a good idea, keep them simple and easy to find your contact info on. VistaPrint.com is your friend here. Print 500. Keep em around for while.
(If you need them in a mega hurry you can use a local printer, and pick them up the next day, but you’ll pay double.)
5 Promotional Items (Flyers, Postcards, etc.)
Going to a con, you’ll need business cards and flyers/postcards. Postcards are heartier so they get more respect, flyers are bigger so you can jam more pics and info on them. UPrinting.com is good for flyers & brochures. Print 50-200. You’ll have to try really hard to give out more than that at your average con and they’ll be largely obsolete after the event they were made for.
6 Software Upgrades (Photoshop, Movie Editors, etc.)
Varies by need: $0 to $30/month.
Gimp is free, but it’ll crash if you’re doing your own graphic design with 100+ layers.
Photoshop is pricey, but you can get it monthly now. Plan for how many months you actually need it. Should you use this toward paying a graphic designer instead?
There are a lot of Movie Editors. We used CyberLink Power Director. It worked plenty well.
7 Hardware Upgrades (optional)
$0 to $900
Depends on the software upgrades. I nearly burnt out my old computer doing our layouts. So we had to upgrade to a “gaming computer”. Now the software can’t keep up. That’s a fun feeling.
8 Incorporation Fees & State Franchise Taxation
$180 + $800 per year
IF you incorporate, do so on Rocket Lawyer. $180.
Each year you’ll have to pay the state franchise tax board a boat-load of money, in Cali it’s currently $800 per year, and they delay the first year to help you start up.
If you can, incorporate early in a calendar year, do so as an S-Corp, do NOT give any stock to ANYONE other than yourself, and set your accounting as “Accrual”. It’ll save you a lot of fear and stress later when you get funding, then hit the end of a tax year before spending any of it!
9 Hired Help
Well, you’re not doing this alone are you? (fyi: you might be).
Did you pay your buddy to help layout art, or cut a prototype?
Did you buy your friends pizza when you forced another play test revision on them?
Do you have so many add ons that you need an add-on party to box them all?
Do you plan on hiring a maid to save you time?
Do you need an economist because this Article has you terrified?
Will you need a lawyer because you plan on being sketchy with other people’s art? (don’t do it!).
Who might you hire? Call them for rates. Put it in the budget.
Costs for Graphic Designers and Artist are the inherent costs above.
Various based entirely on personal desire: $0 – X,000
You’ve put in countless start up hours to make this thing happen. What’s it worth to you? Do you budget in a couple grand for your effort? Do you set aside a vacation fund to treat your spouse with when it’s done? Or do you budget nothing, doing it for the love of the game, and only take what’s left over if you over fund?
For us, we ran a VERY tight campaign, for a VERY expensive game. We also did it for the love of the game. So we chose to put $0 in the budget for ourselves, our sincere reward being the success & new friends. Fortunately, a bit of over-funding left us a pittance to take a small vacation with. Everybody won.
Note: There can be prudence in budgeting yourself in. A) It will likely serve as a motivation to keep going when the going gets tough. B) It’s technical wiggle room in the budget, if you failed to budget well in an area, you can take from your own potential coffers to make up the short-fall and still manage to publish instead of making every backer suffer by never getting a game.
Kickstarter & Amazon Fees
10% of your set Funding Goal
Kickstarter & Amazon take a combined total of 10% before you get to touch it. Technically it’s less than that, but you’ll have pledges the don’t go through on invalid credit cards and possible requests for refunds in first few hours after funding that you’ll probably honor. This will work out to 10%. When choosing a Funding Goal you DO factor this in by multiplying your NEEDED amount by 1.12 (112%), and setting your Funding Goal at that amount.
Ie: If your total TOTAL EXPENSES are $25,000 you’ll ask for $25,000 x 1.12 = $28,000; because $28,000 x .90 = $25,200, your actual need.
Pledge Manager Fees (not really part of the initial budget).
Just a side note: If you use a professional pledge manager such as backerkit, they’ll take another 1% off the top of your Kickstarter Amount plus a fixed set-up fee to the tune of $200 +/-. They’ll also take this or more from monies raise in Pledge Management. No service is free.
WARNING: Never PLAN on Pledge Management funds to pay for the main campaign. Each should be exclusive unto itself. Though Pledge Managers (on campaigns with Add Ons) tend to pay for themselves fairly easily (hence not needing to put it in the initial budget).
You should only budget this into your main budget if: A) You’re sure you’ll use a Pledge Manager, B) You have complicated Add Ons that make a Pledge Manager with your money, and C) You don’t have the time or energy to organize it yourself. – So long as you only have a base game with only a couple add ons, I don’t see PMs as necessary. Though I welcome your thoughts on the matter.
Sources of Income
1 Your wallet
You have to risk some of this. This will pay for your “Sunk Costs” (Marketing, Early Art, etc.)
You can reimburse yourself later. If you attempt to Kickstart without any art or prototype or video… it’s not going to happen.
Mostly a joke, but bumming around your family saying “Can I borrow $1,000 to try to kickstart my business dream” isn’t the worst idea ever. You can also try this at your local bank. This is the solution to a distinct lack of #1.
3 Asking your Father to sell half his property so you can have your inheritance early so you can squander it on a life of debauchery and board gaming.
You wouldn’t be the first. Remember, your family is more important though. Strike the balance of “Let’s do this together” with “Don’t want to drag you down”. This usually only happens when the Bank says no. Just hope dad takes you back when you fail and have nothing to show for it. There’s a parable in here somewhere. ; )
4 Kickstarter Funding
The meat and potatoes. This comes from the campaign. You hope you over fund, but you don’t count on it. Know your expenses, set your goal, run a brilliant campaign, and watch your dreams come true.
How to build it…
Now that you know your EXPENSES, thus your needed ASSETS, building your Budget Spreadsheet is easy. Here’s mine. Feel free to use it and adjust it as necessary.
Sadly necessary waiver: I, by downloading the budget spreadsheet on this page declare that understand that it is only a tool, and will not hold the creator, Gate Keeper Games, or any other entity responsible for any negative effect of using it what-so-ever. (This keeps me from needing a lawyer. ; )
Basic Instructions for Use of Budget Spreadsheet
- Insert each Expense in the Blue Fields as you find out how much it costs.
- Rename any Green Fields as you please.
- Input your art quantities and max cost per piece in the blue on the right.
- Select from the Tan Fields, answers from the drop down box.
- Input all other misc expenses, adding ones unique to your game/campaign.
- Set a marketing budget and stick to it.
- The TOTAL EXPENSES x 112% will become your KICKSTARTER FUNDING GOAL (at 1500 copies). Use the additional quantities’ information to know costs when over-funding.
Download the Budget Spreadsheet by clicking the Link here…
Kickstarter Budget 9.0 <– Updated 3/22/2018
Note: If, when you click the link, a download does not begin, email me and I’ll send you the file directly.
Rule #1 of Budgeting: Round all Expenses UP, and never “hope it’ll be less” thus putting a lower number.
Have you tried our budget? How did it work for you, or is there anything we could add?