I don’t normally use exclamation points in the title but this is really important. Always think about the cost of production for the game you are creating. Save yourself the agony of spending hours and hours over the course of month after month, making the greatest game you have ever known and then shop it to a publisher (or try to self publish) and find out that they game costs $120 to produce. That awesome custom dice set you made up, the 800 cards or the 200 miniatures are all awesome, but some components are expensive. And then, when you find out that the production is too expensive, you will have to cut up the game you love into a smaller game that may or may not work as well as the original, but the game will never feel the same.
We did this with Line of Scrimmage. We built the game to include 37 (ack, prime number) custom d12. We made them from blanks, permanent markers and spray sealer. This was great for the prototype, but when we looked at the cost of a custom d12, we were heartbroken. The game would have cost over $80 and while we are biased and believe there is $80 dollars worth of game in the box, we don’t expect people to pay that much for a game that doesn’t have a properly defined end user.
There are benefits to always think about the cost of a game. The primary benefit is that cost will force designers to be creative with the resources they have available. If you want to make a $10 game, you will have a very limited amount of things to work with. There are enough things to make a game, but it is up to the designer to exercise their creativity on how to use the components the have to work with.
There are many ways to estimate cost and the way we do it is by starting at The Game Crafter. We are able to enter the parts list of our games and TGC will spit out a basic cost to produce each game. While the numbers provided are not bulk production numbers, TGC does provide bulk prices so you can so a little math and at least have a general idea of what you are getting yourself into. Now, having never self published or published through a publisher, I don’t have an clue as to the cost of bulk orders, but the point of this exercise if to give yourself a ballpark figure to work with and streamline your games as much as possible so you can design the best possible game with the lowest cost possible.