Game Design

Where did all the money go?

I thought it would be interesting to give you a pretty rough breakdown of the funding from the Micro Dojo campaign to see where money was spent (and maybe help you plan funding for your own campaigns).

Design includes the artwork costs, some rulebook translation, and other minor costs like licensing fonts.

Promotion is the cost of creating review copies and advertising spend during the campaign. Note that I did no advertising prelaunch.

Product is the cost to physically produce 3000 copies, which was done in two separate print runs (of 1000 and 2000). There is some stock left over as 2100 copies were sold, but since Micro Dojo doesn’t have a direct line to retail this stock isn’t as easy to count as future profit.

Shipping includes the cost of freighting the product to the UK from UAE, and the cost of shipping all of the individual copies to backers (as well as shipping materials). I didn’t use a fulfilment partner.

Fees and Costs includes Kickstarter fees and payment processing fees, PayPal fees from late pledges, and also includes VAT costs for UK backers. I absorbed the costs of VAT for UK backers which offsets the import VAT costs to bring the goods into country, and so were not included above in shipping.

Profit is exactly what is says. I expect there to be some further future costs to replace some missing/damaged copies etc. but this shouldn’t materially change the amount

One of the things that immediately jumped out to people is the cost of shipping, well known to be astronomical at the moment. This didn’t sit right with me though because Micro Dojo was designed to be ultra cheap to ship, and even using a standard parcels service to freight from the manufacturer to my door was still a similar cost or cheaper than a commercial air or sea freight option. An alternative way of breaking down the costs then was to split it by the phases of the project. This is a similar split to above but basically includes the game design phase (pre campaign), promotion during the campaign, production and freight post campaign, and then fulfilment to backers.

What’s Missing?

Time. A question that comes up for new designers, but not often enough, is how much is your time worth?

Making a game is a hobby for some designers, and even for some budding professional designers it is considered a success to run a campaign that doesn’t lose too much money. So ending with some amount of profit from Micro Dojo was a massive success far beyond what I could have hoped. However, it also put into perspective how difficult it can be to make designing board games sustainable.

Micro Dojo from first conception through to the end of (the majority of) fulfilment took 10 months. On that basis it’s a small return over that time period, but I was also working a full-time job which meant I wasn’t quite doing 40 hours a week on Micro Dojo. That said, I estimate that somewhere between 20-30 hours per week is an average time spent.

A large part of that time was spent on campaign details and learning about other factors like manufacturing, logistics, the changing VAT situation etc. Further till some time was spent on things important to the development of myself and Prometheus Game Labs but were not strictly related to Micro Dojo. Playtesting others games, reading books and articles, developing and sharing my thoughts on this blog, and so on. Whilst future campaigns shouldn’t take as much time to cover the basics, it’s still worth noting that game design was actually a very small component of the overall time spent to bring a game to life.

Was it worth it?

From a purely financial perspective, I would have been better putting my spare time into working a second minimum-wage job, though I would have learned and created very little. However the Micro Dojo campaign gave a ton of value beyond the financial return:

  • Expertise in game design and publishing
  • An audience for future games and campaigns
  • A creative outlet
  • Engagement with people in the design and gaming community

Totally worth it. Micro Dojo was intended to be a launch towards larger campaigns (and larger games) and it’s provided a fantastic start. The format of the game allowing for a low price and low cost international shipping was well received, and future games in this format are also likely to be successful. Making games of this type sustainably in future though will require reducing the time spent on the project, or increasing the reach.

I hope this article helps other designers looking at their costs and breakdowns, as well as provides an interesting insight to fans of the game that want to know more about what it takes to create and launch a game.

One reply on “Where did all the money go?”

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