The cost of a mistake
Making a physical game is hard, not only do you have to design the game but then you need to put together artwork and rules, you need to get the components right, manufacture and assemble the game, and then ship it somewhere.
There are countless steps and the chance of a mistake happening is high, but just how costly is it?
Let’s take an example, I am printing 5,000 copies of a new game and in that game players draw 2 cards from a pile each round, but I accidently wrote “Draw 1 card from the deck” in the rulebook. This is a simple mistake that will not get picked up by spell checkers, and proof readers will only know it is wrong if they are familiar with the game rules.
Yet, despite being simple it may well break the game for players as they find themselves running out of cards midway through the game.
Proof reading step
If you identify this issue during the proof-reading step then it’s unlikely to cost you any money to solve, or at worst, an hour of someone’s time to update the file and regenerate it.
Digital sampling step
Once you have provided files to your factory and they have sent you digital samples to check, then identifying this issue is also unlikely to cost more money. It may delay your project by a few days, but you should have allowed for this in your timelines anyway.
Colour sampling step
After approving the digital samples I get printed colour samples and these are the last time I can make corrections for free.
If a mistake is found and corrected and I believe it will have a significant impact on colours, I may request a second round of colour samples which can cost a few hundred dollars, but this is rarely needed.
Now things start to get expensive, you’ve had many chances to catch errors up until now and hopefully you took advantage of them.
At this stage all those rulebooks are printed, if I find a game breaking mistake I need to fix then they will need to be reprinted. This might cost $3,000 and will add a couple of weeks delay as more materials need to be ordered prior to a reprint taking place.
Luckily, as the games are not yet assembled there are no other costs.
In the warehouse
The games have now left China and are in my warehouse but I’ve noticed this game breaking issue, it’s not going to be cheap to fix.
I’ll have to pay to print new rulebooks, pay to ship those from China to the warehouse, and then pay the fulfilment centre to correct the problem.
The simplest way for the publisher is just to tape the rulebook to the game box. The hardest way is to remove the shrink-wrap, put the rulebook inside the box, and then re-shrink the game.
Taking the cheapest option here is likely to cost you $7,000 to fix the mistake, and will delay your shipping by up to 2 months which could incur extra storage costs.
In the customers hands
The worst place to identify an issue is once the game has arrived in a customers hands, at this point your only option is to run a second fulfilment process for the replacement part.
This could easily be $50,000 to fix, and likely much more.
Consider your options
Of course, in the above example I’ve suggested the best path for the customer which is sending a full replacement, there are other options but they all come at a cost. Depending on the error you identify and when you discover it, you will need to choose the best option for your customer that you can afford.
When you are finalising your files and sending them off to your factory, I highly recommend you give yourself enough time to do a full review of everything. Get friends to help and pay people to help make sure everything is correct.
Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!