Board game economics – who gets a share?
Continuing our series about the board game industry, it’s time to talk money – namely, who has what share in a board game’s price and how much can that be?
The author hands over the game rights to a publisher. Depending on the development status, the author’s name recognition, and the expected target group, the author receives between 5-12% of the net sales price per game. Alternatively, the publisher can commission a game from the author, in which case the percentages are a little lower. Also common in the industry are staggered fees depending on sales figures. The author usually also receives an advance payment when the contract is signed because the period until the game is actually marketed can often exceed two years! After publication, the author receives regular payments as agreed in the contract. However, it must be said that being a board game author is not the road to riches… As such, most authors work on a part-time basis..
Illustrators are responsible for game layout and design
This can range from drawing or creating images to arranging the layout for cards, rulebooks, boxes and more. Illustrators are typically commissioned directly by a publisher in collaboration with the author. The earnings of an illustrator depend strongly on the game and the effort, measured by an hourly rate or a fixed contract. An illustrator’s hourly rate depends on the artist’s notoriety, usually from about 60€ per hour upwards. Design costs for a simple card game are typically around 2,000€, while cost for a more complex connoisseur’s game can easily go over 6,000€. Like authors, illustrators can also receive success fees..
The translator is responsible for localizing a game into another language.
Much like illustrators, translators are paid according to fixed contracts and hourly rates. Usually it is payment per word. Interestingly, due to the different length of texts across languages, illustrators often have another task here: adapt layouts for other languages.
The producer of a game is usually a printing company with appropriate specialization.
The producer manufactures everything from cardboard, cards and game boards to other materials such as dice, markers and tokens. It is not uncommon for sub-manufacturers and suppliers to be brought in for different materials. Typically the production price is about ¼ of the selling price. The producer is also responsible for packing, assembling, and shipping. Shipping prices depend on the game and the target market. Often larger pallets are shipped to central warehouses in Europe, North America, Australia and Asia to trigger the further distribution chain.
The publishing house and distributor organizes the game’s sales alongside with its development up to market maturity.
This calculation is more complex. Distributors ship games to retailers, wholesalers and usually also have direct sales via their own online store. Larger publishers also operate flagship stores in major cities. Depending on the distribution channel, the publisher naturally incurs costs. Roughly 10-25% of a game’s price usually goes to the publisher, about one-third each for publishing, distribution, and retail costs.
The government, as with all industries, also has its share in board game revenue.
In addition to country-specific sales tax, there are customs duties and, depending on the legal form of the publishers and retailers, income tax and trade tax. All these can really add up. For example, when transporting board games from Europe to the USA, there is a customs fee of 25%. Then there is the sales tax, which is usually between 7.5% and 20%.
This is of course only a simplification, and in reality the shares and costs are more complex. After all, there are lots of players and pieces needed to bring a board game to market – pun absolutely intended.
Surprised by this composition?.