Card games

Economics of microgames

I took Shape Up! to the Playtest meeting again last weekend, and got lots of very positive feedback (some on BGG…)

This is the point where for a 'normal' game (like Fishy Business) I would be thinking about trying to get it published.  However being a microgame, I'm not sure that is really practical. I don't think established games publishers are going to be interested, because basically it's impossible to make any money out of publishing and selling such a small and cheap thing. This article by Michael Mindes, who knows a thing or two about making money from games and otherwise, explains the problems.

(There is of course the option of self-publishing, but really I'm too busy to take on all the work required in sorting out manufacture, finding distribution, marketing and selling.)

T suggested coming up with two further microgames each using 18 cards, so they could all be printed and packed together as a set ina  conventional pack-of-cards-sized box. That is quite appealing as a designer (particualrly as Shape Up! only took three months from initial conception to reach this point) but I'm still not sure a publisher would really be keen.

So I guess I might end up just giving it away as a print-and-play PDF. Which would still be very cool if lots of people did so, but it does seem a bit of a shame when the properly-printed cards are so nice to look at and handle.

Anyway, this is all very much first-world problems; the main thing is that people have been playing Shape Up! and liking it! Which makes me very happy.

10 replies on “Economics of microgames”

<applause> Good work!

One of the big problems with board and card games is the high cost of printing and distributing all the components. Simple but interesting games like Shape Up do well in the world of videogames because you can distribute them yourself and price them very low. This simply isn’t possible for a card game, which leaves that whole category of games invisible to most potential players. It’s a shame, but I can’t think of any way this could change short of a revolution in the quality of home print technology.

Mm, I think you’re right. I wonder how long it’ll be though before home 3D resin printers can produce something that’s card-like enough to play a game like this (essentailly it’s a thin tile) at an affordable price.

(You do also make me wonder whether Shape Up! would be interesting to play against an AI. Probably not as much so as against a human who you can try and ‘read’, but it might still be slightly fun in a casual app context. I should have a think about that.)

Yeah, I actually almost suggested an app, but then decided that it’s the kind of game where the human psychology of it is probably pretty important to the fun even if not to the strategy.

Might be worth talking to Angus, and seeing whether it’s something he’d be interested in publishing via Chronicle City?

(Even if the 3-game bundle proved to be the only commercially viable solution, you might find he’s either already got other small games with the same issue that could potentially be bundled)

Mm, it’s worth trying, certainly!

I’m going to take some copies to UK Games Expo and see if I can get a chance to demo it to publishers. I met up with Charlie and Alan Paull (of Surprised Stare) this weekend, and they both liked it, so that gave me a bit of further confidence in it.

Coup has far surpassed its goals on Kickstarter, and it’s a microgame.

I think there are possibilities in the indie-game space. Bespoke, small run games have their own markets in Japan, for example.

I like the idea of doing a three-pack of games.

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