What does publishing a game require? A lot of work. Game development, promotion, and crowd funding are easier said than done. I have a lot to learn, but here is my understanding of the process. A similar, less detailed, checklist can be found here and James Mathe’s checklist with Excel/OpenOffice downloads can be found here.
- Read advice, such as James Mathe’s brief advice to here and more detailed advice here.
- Have an overall idea of the game rules and components.
- Develop rough drafts of the rules and components.
- Design the look and layout of the game board, tiles, and/or cards.
- Make a medium quality prototype of the game.
- Playtest and revise the game. Change the rules and components based on feedback and the impression you get. You need to revise the game several times. Rotating the games you playtest can also be a good idea to see the game in a new light. Revising will likely take at least three months, but my first published game was based on an idea I worked on in various forms on and off for about ten years.
- Optional advice: Repeat this process to develop two or three significantly different versions of the game, such as with different levels of ability power.
- If you use cards, tiles, or a game board, you will have to have extra room around the image files. You can find information about a Poker card template here.
- Manufacture high quality prototypes, such as with The Game Crafter.
- Make a good rules material—a booklet, document, and/or card. Test it by having players try the game using the rules material. You can mail out at least two prototype copies of the game to playtesters from elsewhere for more feedback, especially to make sure the rules are clear and sufficient.
Promotion & preparation
- Produce ten to twenty high quality prototypes of the game for reviewers, prizes, and distributors. (Two to three months prior to the Kickstarter campaign.)
- Advice: Schedule events at conventions months ahead of time, before, during, and after the game’s publication. Try to get people to sign up for a newsletter there.
- Make a newsletter sign up sheet, and write emails for an email newsletter.
- Develop a Facebook page for the game.
- Promote a Facebook group for the game.
- Offer high quality prototypes of the game as a prize “giveaway” for people who sign up for the newsletter and facebook group. For example, a random person can win a copy the first of the next month. You can assign each person a number and use a random number generator, such as random.org. This is a legally regulated competition, so you will need to develop the terms and conditions. Do not charge money for it—not only is that ungenerous, but it can violate lottery regulation laws.
- Read advice about running Kickstarter campaigns. James Mathe’s brief advice can be found here, and has links to more detailed advice here. Collections of hundreds of links to Jamey Stegmaier’s advice can be found in links found here.
- Look for reviewers. Request reviews on the Facebook group, Boardgame Reviewer. You can post one request there each month. Send high quality prototypes to them. I advise at least two reviewers, but ten of them is also a good amount. Consider paying for a review or preview from a well known reviewer who has quality work.
- Schedule demo events at brick and mortar stores. Events during other events that already draws people there can help, but developing fliers for the store to advertise the event can help, and the store adding the event to their schedule and mentioning it on their Facebook page can also help.
- Contact manufacturers & get quotes. Go here for more information. Many are likely to ignore you.
- Contact distributors, who could get your game to stores. They are unlikely to be willing to take your game, but it’s worth a shot. They are likely to want to pay you after the game sells (by taking your game on “consignment.” Go here for more information.
- Develop a print & play version of the game for a Kickstarter reward or for free (perhaps a black and white version). You can post a link to your print & play version and use it to request feedback from playtesters on the Board Game Geek Forum here.
- If you add the print & play files to your Board Game Geek product page, you can add the game to the Free Print & Play forum post here.
- Make Promotional material, such as photos of the game box.
- Get advertising from Board Game Geek.
- Get contact information from stores—emails, addresses, and phone numbers. Contact them about your game.
- Get a business fictional name and checking account. You need the checking account to get funds from Kickstarter.
- About a month in advance, film for the Kickstarter promotional video.
- Add the game to Board Game Geek, the most popular tabletop site similar to the Internet Movie Data Base, but for tabletop games. More information here and here.
- Add the Kickstarter information to Board Game Geek. Go here, here, and here (or look for the thread of the current year). Keep updating your post there.
- Develop a press release. You can send it out early. Go here for more information.
- Work on your Kickstarter page, and get feedback from the Facebook group, Tabletop Game Kickstarter Advice. (A good place to look for advice in general!)
- Advice: Invite people to a launch party the night of your Kickstarter campaign at least three days in advance.
- Launch your Kickstarter campaign.
- Contact everyone in your newsletter, and contact family and friends separately in more individualized emails.
- One hour before the campaign ends, update with a link to preorders & develop a page to take preorders.
- After the campaign ends, allow Kickstarter supporters to buy additional copies of the game and add ons using paypal, or some other service.
- Get a barcode for the game (such as from Nationwide Barcode).
- The manufacturer might need you to convert your image files to CMYK. PNG files won’t work. TIFF and JPG files will.
- The manufacturer might require you to put all the files into a PDF, and make sure it’s using CMYK colors (if applicable). For example, each card might have to be on a single page of the PDF.
- Ship out the final product.
- Send Kickstarter reviewers the final version of the game.
- Make the pre-order page a regular order page.
- Ask for more reviews of the final product.