Finding a Manufacturer and How to Be Better Than Me

With the production period behind me, now is a good time to talk about my experience with getting Mothership manufactured by WinGO which should hopefully assist you with choosing a manufacturer yourself.

Shortlisting Manufactures

Selecting a manufacturer was tough. I waded through the massive list over at James Mathe’s blog and settled on six companies that looked good. I chose them based on their minimum print run, cost estimate, general feel of their websites and some quick Google searches. QPC Games, Longpack, MeiJia, WinGO and Ninox to name the ones I can remember.

Then I wrote up a large, detailed ‘quote sheet’ complete with pictures and specifications of all the parts I needed. That PDF was sent to those companies and I waited eagerly for their reply.

Every part in every detail.

Mothership is a big game. I expected big costs but I was surprised at how much they varied. For 1000 copies, I was quoted $20,000 all the way up to $45,000 USD. That was a huge surprise to me. My cognitive bias’ started to kick in now as I considered “What’s wrong with the cheaper companies? Why is this other one so expensive? Why did that one take so long to reply?”

For 1000 copies, I was quoted $20,000 all the way up to $45,000 USD.

As a side note, over the course of this project I have emailed hundreds of people. If I wanted someone’s business and they never replied quickly enough, I dropped them. Service was a huge part of my selection process and anyone who didn’t seem to want my money was quickly passed over.

All of the companies listed above had fairly quick turn around times for their quotes, which was about 1 to 2 weeks.

Why I Chose WinGO

Initially my decision was based on the following:

  1. Price was right
  2. Email turn around time was great (my timezone and China are similar which helps).
  3. People in the community knew of Kickstarters they had produced and said the quality was good
  4. Really good first impression from the representative (my rep was Alison)

After that was out of the way, I gave the quote to my accountant along with a heap of data about predicted costs and waited for him to crunch the numbers (money is a huge topic for another post).

Before and During My Campaign

If your going to crowd fund a board game, please be more organised than me. I thought I knew every nook and cranny of Mothership, but as the realities of fitting a big game inside a box became evident, I soon learnt how quickly things can change.

My accountant’s estimate of the entire project was around the $28k mark. “Sweet,” I though. I then wrapped my campaign page in a neat little bow and launched. As I worked through all the components more thoroughly during the Kickstarter month I responded to backer feedback as planned…

…”oh this looks cool, let’s add this as a stretch goal, that won’t cost much.”

…”wow backers are really responding to this feature, let’s create a new render for that part and make it cooler!”

…”a few more cards? No problem? A few more space ships? Yeah okay! A space for each ship on the tray? How hard can it be!”

Mothership Tray

It looks great now, but the tray was a nightmare to get off the ground.

I’m dismissing the finer points of my thought processes here, but essentially that’s how it went down. Every new part, new card and tray change had a flow-on effect that increased weight, complexity and above all, cost. “Peter, you’re an idiot, I could have told you that,” you might bawk. Yes, that was obvious to me at the time, but I still underestimated the cost.

The tray was great example of this. I had the coolest tray rendered and ready to impress only to find out there were technical limitations to what I was asking based around the vacuum molding process. Once the tray was revised, the box needed to be bigger. Now that the box was bigger, the weight was higher. Now that the weight was higher, every package cost more to send. Now that the box had unusual dimensions, fulfillment teams had to order special packaging to post it, therefore costing me more.

See how it all fits together?

My Top 3 Tips to Not be Like me

Are you going through this right now? Here’s my list of tips to consider:

  1. Part out and consider all components thoroughly. Engage your manufacturer before hand to consider potential limitations to your design.
  2. Plan out all stretch goals and be ready to flexible to feedback…but not too flexible. Feature-creep is a huge issue that can cripple your game post-campaign.
  3. Try your best to have all files ready to send to your manufacturer after your campaign. The shorter your pre-production, the better for everyone.

Common Sense

I wish the advice I’ve written in this post was more insightful than it really is…most of it is common sense. If you’re going to follow through with a huge project, make sure you have the resources to finish it.

Don’t let the vocal minority dictate decisions for the silent majority.

But in the heat of the moment, during the campaign, you make rash promises with the intent of appeasing your supporters. Don’t let the vocal minority dictate decisions for the silent majority.

Stick to your plan. If your plan actually sucks though…well that’s a post for another day.

9 Comments

  1. Hi, Great article, thanks for it! How did you find the transition between WinGo and your fulfillment company? Did everything arrive at the fulfillment company ready to ship? Any other gotchas about how WinGo/Fulfillment fit together?
    Thanks again!
    Ray

    Reply
    • Hey Ray! Really good actually. The fulfillment companies organised shipping agents to transport the games to where they needed to go. If was going to do it again, I’d get one agent to ship the goods to all the destinations.

      I had no problems with getting it to the fulfillment warehouses which is good. It’s hard though, you kinda have to just trust these people that you email that they will get your 1000 games to where they need to go.

      Since you mentioned ‘gotchas’ I would recommend specifying exactly how you want your games to be packaged. And make sure EVERYTHING is labeled with an SKU. Every baggie of spare parts, boxes, EVERYTHING. It will make your life easier, trust me.

      Reply
      • Nice, that’s good to hear. I had read some horror stories about stuff arriving at fulfillment warehouses in less than ready to go condition.
        Do you mind sharing what fulfillment company you used or an agent who ships all the way to the buyers?
        Also, echoing the comment on reddit, Why attach a sku to everything in the box? At what point would this have been handy?
        Thanks again for all the info,
        Ray

        Reply
        • So I used happyshops for Europe, Aetherworks for Aus / NZ and fulfilrite for USA.

          SKU labels on every product your shipping makes it easy for the people picking and packing to identify what is supposed to be posted. Smaller companies don’t require this, but fulfillrite actually required either an SKU or barcode on everything before they would even accept it into inventory.

          Reply
  2. Lots of useful little bits. Thanks for posting

    Reply
  3. This is a good bit of sharing. I’ve gone through similar steps and also settled on WinGo. Out of curiosity where are you located? I am in Australia so we are finding in time zone manufacturers to be the best ones to use to avoid the 24 hour delay in emails.

    Reply
    • I’m in Melbourne, so yeah being in Australia is great. Getting replies within the day is helpful, and they have skype too for chat.
      WinGO is good, just make sure you’re specific on what you want, hammer them on the smaller details and make sure they understand. The language barrier wasn’t bad, but I did need to make sure they understood certain things a few times.

      Reply
  4. Wow! This is very helpful and insightful. Thanks for the well-written article Peter. It kind of makes me think twice of trying to create a board game now lol. At least I know I can’t do it on my own.

    Reply
  5. Great write up Peter. It is always interesting to hear this side of things. Lots of helpful tips in there as well for others to take advantage of.

    Reply

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