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If You Can’t Go to the Con…

have the con come to you. Because I skipped GTS this year (for the first time in memory), I missed out on seeing a lot of friends that I often only get to see at that show. Some of them, I’ll run into at Gen Con, of course, but that’s a bigger show with so much going on that it’s easy to miss people entirely. Fortunately, my friends have not forgotten me.

Last night, Dan Tibbles and Anthony Gallela stopped by my place in the middle of their barnburner tour of all the games distributors in the Midwest. They’re pushing their new company, Bucephalus Games, a tabletop games publisher with an aggressive schedule of board and card game releases. They got here in time to meet all the kids before we bundled them off to bed, then I took them out for dinner at Domenico’s, a family-run Italian restaurant here in town.

Dan and Anthony spent the night on brand-new air mattresses in my office. I picked these up that morning to replace the last one that the kids had decided worked great as a trampoline. With my in-laws in town as well, we had a full house, but it worked out great.

Bucephalus launches its first raft of games in August, and it already has 31 games scheduled to hit shelves this year. This sounds like a lot—and it is. However, it’s also clever-smart.

Many people get into game publishing because they have a single game they want to see on shelves, and they either can’t find a publisher for it or don’t trust anyone else to handle it just right. They go to all the trouble to set up a new business and learn the ropes of game production, marketing, distribution, sales, and more just for one game.

The trouble is it’s hard to recoup all those sunk costs and ongoing overhead from things like warehousing, offices, etc., when you have to charge them against a single game. This only works if the game is a huge hit, and it’s foolish to build a business plan around such hopes. If it was easy for smart, experienced people to come up with hit games (or films, or TV shows, or books, or whatever), we’d never have any flops, but that’s clearly not the case.

However, if you can amortize those costs against several games—an ongoing series of releases—you can bring the cost-per-game down low enough that you can comfortably make a tiny profit on each. Then, if any of the games is a moderate or even a huge hit, it’s all gravy.

This is not a plan, of course, for the inexperienced or the faint of heart. Dan and Anthony, however, are neither of those things, and I have high hopes for both them, their company, and their games.

[Edited to fix typo mentioned in the comments.]

Comments 8

  1. Post
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  2. On the other hand, rule #2 for new games companies is “Choose a name that people can spell when you say it over the phone.” Hogshead regularly got letters addressed to Hog Shed Games. In these days of Google, this one is a biggie.

    Case in point: you spell ‘Bucephalus’ two different ways in your post. And you’re smart.

    (The codicil is “Don’t choose a common word and then mis-spell it.” RIP Brittannia Games.)

  3. On the other hand, rule #2 for new games companies is “Choose a name that people can spell when you say it over the phone.” Hogshead regularly got letters addressed to Hog Shed Games. In these days of Google, this one is a biggie.

    Case in point: you spell ‘Bucephalus’ two different ways in your post. And you’re smart.

    (The codicil is “Don’t choose a common word and then mis-spell it.” RIP Brittannia Games.)

  4. Glad to hear you think I’m smart, James, all evidence to the contrary. At least I linked to the right sight.

    You have a good point. Few people know that Bucephalus was the legendary horse of Alexander the Great, and even fewer probably know how to spell the name. Stranger yet, the Bucephalus Games website is a .biz, and there’s nothing interesting parked at the .com. One good reason to pick an obscure name is so you can secure the .com domain name, but that’s not true here.

    It’s hard to make names foolproof though. After a few interesting misunderstandings, I now carefully pronounce “Game Manufacturers Association” so that it doesn’t sound so close to “Gay Manufacturers Association.”

  5. Post
    Author

    Glad to hear you think I’m smart, James, all evidence to the contrary. At least I linked to the right sight.

    You have a good point. Few people know that Bucephalus was the legendary horse of Alexander the Great, and even fewer probably know how to spell the name. Stranger yet, the Bucephalus Games website is a .biz, and there’s nothing interesting parked at the .com. One good reason to pick an obscure name is so you can secure the .com domain name, but that’s not true here.

    It’s hard to make names foolproof though. After a few interesting misunderstandings, I now carefully pronounce “Game Manufacturers Association” so that it doesn’t sound so close to “Gay Manufacturers Association.”

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