Inventing and Publishing a Best-selling Game
So, you are fairly certain that that game you invented in 4th grade could become the next Monopoly. Or, maybe you haven’t invented THE game yet, but, hey, you love games, what could be a better job than inventing them? It is true that many of the world’s best games have come from amateur game designers, and that if you invent a good enough game, you can make a lot of money from it. Unfortunately, Inventing and publishing a best-selling game is not necessarily an easy task. Max Osterhaus, Director of Product Development for Out of the Box Publishing shares with us his tips for inventing, submitting, and publishing successful games:
The core of a good game is a quality game mechanic. The mechanic is what you have left if you remove the theme and any components. Your new game should be a truly unique concept. While you may have elements from other games, making another ‘version’ of an existing game is generally not as appealing to publishers as an entirely new concept.
When you are inventing your game, think about the market that will want to play this game. If the mechanic is complicated, you will probably be catering to a more serious gaming crowd, if it is simple, you may be catering more to a party or educational crowd. Think about that market throughout the development process to give your game a cohesive feel.
Make sure that every element in your game has a purpose. Don’t worry about not having enough rules or components, sometimes the simplest games are the best games. Reread your rules several times and make sure that they are all necessary.
Playtest, playtest, playtest! Yes, we know your mom loves your game, but does your coworker, the local gaming meetup and your child’s classroom? Playtesting allows you to work the kinks out of your game and make a more professional presentation to publishers. It also gives you information about how much time to spend on this game.
Do some research! Make sure that you are submitting your game to the appropriate publisher. If a publisher only does chess variants, they probably won’t be interested in your party game. Research the publisher before submitting to ensure that the game would be a great addition to their assortment.
Follow the publisher’s directions on how to submit, and make sure your submission is professional looking. If the publisher says to submit an overview via email first, do just that. If the publisher requests a prototype, try to make the prototype as much like the final game as possible. You may not be able to find the seven tiny giraffes that you need, but at least use matching pawns. The easier you make it for the publisher to playtest it, the more likely their playtesters will have fun with it.
The game business is a tough business. Of the tens thousands of the games that are invented each year, only a handful are published. Listen to the feedback you receive from the publishing companies, and don’t get discouraged, your game might just need some tweaks, or you may be pitching the wrong publishing company.
If your game does get licensed by a publishing company, congratulations! Work with the inventor relations person to determine what your role will be going forward. Some inventors work closely with the publishing company, others prefer to stay silent. Just remember that it takes time for a game to gain a following, so stay patient and promote it to friends and family!