Sprout

New Board Game Company Starter Kit
Sam Schirmer - 10/10/2016

So you want to start a board game company?

Starting a board game company is a wild ride, and there's a lot to consider. There's the obvious stuff you need, like a sense of design, creativity, at least marginal math skills, and the ability to take non-nonsensical criticism. If you're even thinking of starting a board game company, that stuff is usually assumed. There are some other boilerplate necessities, though, which might not be as obvious when you're excited to dive in and get started. Keep in mind that this list is meant for people bootstrapping a self-publishing boardgame company from the ground up. If you're just pitching ideas to publishers, this is all probably overkill.

1) Figure out your company name

This seems obvious, but it's not actually something you can afford to put off. A lot of groundwork needs to be done, and almost all of it requires you to know what you're going to call your company. Spend some time Googling for your ideas to make sure they're not taken.

Do the same with domains. For example, if you name your company "Mystic Ape Games," you want to make sure you can get "mysticape.com" and/or "mysticapegames.com". Don't settle for a *.net, and definitely avoid those new gTLDs, like *.work or *.shopping. They're funny, but not memorable for the general public. This could easily change in a few years, but for now, it's best to stick with *.com.

2) Actually start a company

If you're going to be launching a game on Kickstarter, you can't treat the business like a lemonade stand. You need to actually register your company with the government. Good thing you already figured out your name! I'm not going to pretend to be an authority on doing this in countries other than the USA, but at least IN the USA, all you need to do is go to your state's Secretary of State website and look for the business services. If you can't find it, Google for it.

The cost varies, but for the most part, it's relatively cheap and you can complete the entire process online. It's very simple. If you're not sure what type of company you need, just go with LLC (Limited Liability Company). If there's more than one of you, as in, you have partners, go with an LLP (Limited Liability Partnership). There's lots of discourse on the internet about what's the best type of company to use for different applications. If you care enough to research it, do so. If you don't, just stick with LLC/LLP.

As soon as you're legal, you need to apply for an EIN (Employer Identification Number) with the IRS and use that to open a bank account. A business bank account. That's different than your personal checking, and you need it to be for liability reasons. If you have a partnership, banks will usually want a copy of your company's Operating Agreement. If you're not sure what that is, Google it. It's basically a contract between the founding partners to determine what happens when someone quits/gets fired/dies, how disagreements are resolved, and who has what legal authority in the company.

3) Develop a web presence

Once your legal stuff is squared away, it's time to focus on the company's face on the web. As of this writing, it's 2016. There is no excuse to have a bad or non-existent web presence. That means website, social media, and email at the very least. I actually discussed this in an earlier post, so if you need more detail, read that other article. The basics can all be done for free, sans buying your domain (which is like $12 per year).

Get a Squarespace or Wordpress website and hook your domain up to it. Companies like GoDaddy make this easy, as you can just buy your domain and they will walk you through a one-button Wordpress install, already hooked up to your domain. They'll even make email addresses for you. Dead simple. Build your website next. Find a decent theme and go to town. You can make a landing page for your upcoming first game, a blog, a bio, anything you want.

Social media is obvious. Create your Facebook/Twitter pages and actually use them. Don't worry about ads, at least yet. Just fill out your profiles and engage with people. Twitter is easier than Facebook on this front. Follow everyone you can find in the game industry (psst... @mysticapegames) and jump into conversations when you see something interesting happening. Twitter is mostly public-facing, so it's easy to get involved. You'll slowly-but-surely build your follower count.

You also need a newsletter and the means to email people. Create a free Mailchimp account. Next, put a form on your website to capture email addresses. All popular website creation applications will have a plugin for Mailchimp, which will make this very simple to do.

All this will take a while to do. It's not an overnight process, but making a real company is real work. If you're getting dizzy looking at the above list, you're probably already in over your head, and you might want to get some partners to even out the load or re-think your strategy altogether. That said, if you dissect things piece-by-piece and take time to digest them, none of it is particularly difficult.

4) Set up a way to take payments

If you've made it this far, you'll have no problem with this part. I'd recommend setting up a Square account. They'll send you a free smartphone reader. You can now take card payments in person, or you can send invoices via email. The fees are all on a per-transaction basis, so there's no monthly fees or anything like that. It's completely free to keep around for when you DO need to take a payment someday.

That's just the baseline

Obviously there's more to the equation, like motivation, creativity, an understanding of what fun is (very existential, eh?), and decent social skills, but the list above represents a general overview of the more technical things you need as well. Don't underestimate how much work it is to start a company, whether you're a freelance journalist, a coal mining company, or a game company. Even though the games are meant to be fun, the business side is, well, all business.

Good luck!