Laptop notebook

The Importance of Technology in Board Game Development
Sam Schirmer - 09/17/2015

Bring your board game company into the present.

If you're a tech startup or budding video game studio, the first thing that you need to do is embrace the internet and technology culture. You need to make sure you have a solid, mobile responsive website, an above-average social media presence, and a way to take payments over the internet. It's known by the company and expected by the customers. For some reason though, board game companies don't seem to be on the same page.

Board games are pretty classic: paper, cardboard, wood, and plastic. Maybe this is why a lot of young (and even established) board game companies don't think it's necessary to leverage technology to the same degree that tech startups do. Whatever the reasoning, nowadays, almost any new company is a tech startup, whether they want to acknowledge it or not. Not only is technology important to connect with your customers and fans, but it's important for internal processes as well.

You need a decent website.

This is a no-brainer. The majority of web browsing is done by mobile devices. You need to make sure your website is mobile-responsive. Don't have a developer? That's not an excuse. What year is it? There are so. many. options. for non-developers to built a decent website that it's unbelievable that some companies try to justify having something that looks straight out of 2006. I'm not even going to elaborate on this any more, because I shouldn't have to. If you don't have a decent website by 2015, it's just lazy. If you don't think so, be assured that your customers do.

Social media is kind of a big deal.

You know that Facebook account you made when you were first starting out? Or that Twitter account you created so you could just keep tabs on the bigger players in the industry? You need to use them. Having a Twitter account with 14 followers screams, "this guy is out of touch!" The problem (and beauty) of building up a social media presence is that there's no real shortcut. That means you have to dive in and get involved. Learn how hashtags work. Chime in when you can contribute to a conversation. Go to conventions and sit at a table, bored and kinda hungry, for 7+ hours while people around you have fun and gather email addresses on a signup sheet, then email them and ask them to follow you.

Doesn't sound like fun? As it turns out, running a business isn't a game, and it's not fun a lot of the time, even if the business is a game business. Social media is hell to build up and maintain, and there's no easy formula, but guess what? When you look one day and have 500+ followers that you attracted organically, it's a fantastic feeling. These aren't bots or spammers... you managed to build a sizable audience that actually cares about what you have to say. It's a big achievment, and can help you a ton in the long run.

Technology is, well, convenient.

This applies both internally and externally. What if someone wants to read your rulebook? She should be able to go to your website and download it. What if someone else wants to buy a copy of your game online? You should have an option to buy your games on your website. This is important for your bottom line, especially if you're just starting out. In our case, with the way we're handling component sourcing and packing/shipping, it's a necessity. We can't afford to sell our games to a distributor for 40% of the MSRP... we'd literally be losing money on every game.

Don't understand Stripe's API? Again, you don't need a developer for this. There are numerous. cheap. e-commerce. platforms. out there. Figure out what fee model works best for you (percentage of sales vs monthly fee) and get going on it. Don't rely on selling only at conventions or local shops.

As far as using technology internally, I don't think the convenience of Google Apps can be stressed enough. I know we've mentioned it in a couple other blog posts, but really: having realtime, collaborative document editing and file storage (for free!) feels like cheating. Maybe things are different if you're a solo developer, but even then, if you're working with a freelance artist, web guy, or marketing person, it's invaluable.

Fake it 'til you make it.

The old adage is true. Don't think your company is big enough to have a website? Keep your doubts to yourself and make one anyway. A decent website, an active Twitter account, and a professional attitude will help you look legitimate when you ARE ready to start selling your games. Kickstarter is a fickle beast. Too many people have been burned by shady campaigns, and there have been too many headlines questioning the legitimacy of the platform. Backers want to be reassured that they're dealing with someone that can actually deliver, not someone looking to snag a few bucks from some anonymous suckers.

The quickest way to earn that trust is to actually show you've invested yourself into your craft and business. Is a scammer going to have an active social media presence, stetching back several years? Is he going to have a professional looking website? Probably not. It really sets you apart, whether you think you "deserve" it or not.