Tag Archives: tabletop games

Thoughts on Publishing – Pricing an Indie Card Game

Isaac and I have been working on our upcoming card game, Battle Decks: Trials of Blood and Steel, and we had a gaming-experienced friend come by a few days ago to test the game. He gave us a lot of great advice that we’re now looking into implementing. Our date of release may have been pushed to a later date now, but we should have a better game for it.

In the meantime, Isaac and I have been thinking about how to price Battle Decks, as well as how to make it available to the largest number of people (and still make at least a small profit).

Currently, we’re printing Battle Decks through The Game Crafter, a print-on-demand company for tabletop games.

The downside with any version of print-on-demand is the cost. For books, this has become increasingly better over the past several years, and it is now reasonably possible to be competitive with traditionally published books). For tabletop games… they could use a bit more work.

But here’s the problem. Since a customer typically only buys one game at a time, the cost per game is relatively high (at least compared to what you would find in stores). This can be offset by purchasing a large number of games in bulk, but for a small business, this quickly adds up.

Take, for instance, our current version of Battle Decks with all its bells and whistles (four glossy rules pages, a pair of dice, 108 tokens, 126 cards, and the box). The base cost for buying just one game is $28.00, not including shipping. Once you add the cheapest shipping–short of will call (sorry, we’re not traveling to Wisconsin to pick up a box)–we’re looking at $36.00 per game. That goes down to $26.50 per game if we buy ten games at once, but when we add shipping, the price comes to $303.00, or roughly $30.00 a box.

(Note: Shipping costs may vary by location.)

Say we chose to purchase ten boxes at $30.00 a box. We still want to make a profit. If we sell them ourselves, we could offer them for $40.00 a piece and make $10.00 per game, minus sales tax if we factor tax into that cost. However If we take it to a store and ask them to sell it, they’re going to want a wholesale discount. I expect stores want at least a 35% discount off the retail price, and the one store I’ve spoken to thus far preferred a 50% discount off the retail price. Which means that, if we sold our game at $40.00, we’d be selling the game to 35% stores at 26.00 (we lose $4.00 per box), or at $20.00 to 50% stores (we lose $10.00 per box), which basically means that price isn’t feasible.

So, if we push the price of the game up to $50.00, the 35% store wants the game for  $32.50 (we make $2.50 per box), and the 50% store wants the game for $25.00 (we lose $5.00 per box).

However, now we risk pricing the game too high for potential players to take the risk on a new game.

Now, keep in mind that I haven’t done nearly as much research on what stores want in regards to purchasing indie games as I have with books,  so it may be that they want a lower discount. But given that many stores offer discounts to their customers (such as a 10% student or military discount), and they also want to make money (make sense, since they need money to stay in business), and indie games don’t usually have the name recognition that traditionally published games do to help keep those games selling, rather than sitting on the shelves, untouched, I expect that stores will want a decent-sized discount. (Note: See the comments below for input regarding wholesale discount ranges from an experienced seller. According to him, 50% is much less likely to be the norm than a 35% or smaller discount).

I’ll be doing more research in the form of talking directly to stores in the future, once we have more funding available to do a bulk purchase.

In the meantime, yikes.

Our best bet of keeping the game somewhat affordable and still making a small profit is to sell online. However, we’re still looking at a roughly $35.00 to $40.00 game, plus the cost of shipping.

So how do we make the game more accessible?

There’s a few possible options that I’ve found thus far.


While browsing The Game Crafter website, Isaac and I noticed that a few games (card games, in particular), had print-and-play editions. With a little more research, and I discovered that Cards Against Humanity has a free print-and-play edition as well as their regular edition.

Basically, a customer pays a small fee (.99 cents to a few dollars) to purchase a PDF file with all the cards ready to print. They print the cards, cut them out, and read any rules that come with the game. They can start playing almost instantly. No shipping time, and low cost.

The downside is the lack of quality control. If a player’s printer renders cards dark or blurry, it may turn other players away from the game. Or maybe the cards aren’t printed on card stock, and shuffling is therefore terrible. (Cards Against Humanity gets around this by putting a set of instructions at the front of their PDF with suggestions on how to print quality cards).

The other downside is that if your game has a lot of cards, and the player uses their own printer, they may end up using a lot of ink.

So… Isaac and I are thinking this isn’t the best alternative option for Battle Decks.

Card-Only Variety

Another option we’re considering is offering a stripped-down, card-only version of the game. No dice, no tokens, a smaller box, and online PDFs you can download and print at your leisure.

This brings the cost of each box down to roughly $17.00 (plus shipping), and if we wanted to make a $5.00 profit, we could offer the game online for $22.00. Shipping would be anywhere from $3-$9, (not sure, since I couldn’t put an unproofed game in my cart). But it’s considerably more affordable, and suitable for players who have plenty of dice, don’t typically use tokens, and don’t mind printing the rules themselves.

We’re thinking of offering the full edition of Battle Decks, with all the additional pieces, along with the card-only version, which gives players more options in regards to how much they want to spend on the game, and how they want to play the game.

Character Cards Only, and Players Use Free Trial Print Version with Proxy Decks

The final option we have considered is offering a small pack of just character cards. (18 cards in a poker card wrap). Base cost $5.00, plus shipping (probably around $3.00, given the piece of one of our other purchases with a slightly larger tuck box).

The idea behind offering only the characters is so that people who play the trial edition (which is a PDF we plan to release that shows players how to proxy the game using poker decks, and includes a single team for each faction) can enhance their game-play while still using the proxy decks, thus making the game more accessible by offering an even lower cost.

However, this only works if you don’t mind using proxy decks. At the moment, I’m leaning toward offering a card-only variety of the core game, in addition to the full version.

Note: These prices may change over time depending on what is being offered at The Game Crafter. Also, further research is needed to determine what indie games of this particular type would reasonably sell at.

Anyway, those are our current thoughts and theories. We haven’t actually tested selling the game with any of these methods.

I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂 If you were to buy a new, indie card game, how do you prefer to buy it? What prices do you feel are fair?

Further Reading:

http://gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/27490/how-do-you-decide-upon-the-price-for-a-game – (2011 article, so information may be out of date) One of the people on this webpage make a great point about pricing (indie computer) games based on what platform you’re selling them from.

http://positech.co.uk/cliffsblog/2011/05/08/indie-game-pricing-pressures/ – (2011 article) This article talks about indie (computer) game pricing pressures. It’s a bit off in regards to how books are produced, but the comments do show concern at an expectation for low prices. Those comments also show example of higher-priced (and high-quality) games selling well).

http://danielsolisblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/q-on-card-game-design-costs-and-prices.html (2011 article) – This post details a card game with components, and what pricing various people consider fair for that game

http://gotgeniusgames.com/kickstarter-topic-4-manufacturing-a-card-game/ – Details on card deck pricing from various printers. (I haven’t read through this yet, but it looks like it has potentially useful information)

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/926760/card-games-what-price-too-high – Discusses profit difference between core games and expansions.


Filed under Business Ventures, Gaming