Monday, March 15, 2010

The Problem of Boxes

I'm finding boxes to be the most expensive part of a game.  Looking at my card game, Diggity, the initial quotes I'm getting are for a simple one-deck tuckbox - i.e., a one-piece box with a flap that tucks in, like a regular deck of playing cards.  Now, Diggity has 96 cards, so it's more like the size of two decks stacked on top of each other, but the cheapest quotes are still for a single-deck tuckbox.

My problem?  I've only ever seen one stand-alone game marketed that way recently, and that's Fluxx.  Maybe that's just because I tend to shop in big chain stores or online rather than in specialty game shops, but I think it's generally not done.  Even Fluxx has now changed their packaging.  See here for their new Family Fluxx version, and notice how the cards are in a little chamber inside of a big box.  That's pretty typical; as another example, nearly all the Gamewright line of small card games which used to be sold in tuckboxes are now in boxes that measure about 5"x6"x1.5" (e.g. Chomp), even though most of them consist of a deck of about 50 cards.  The single deck of cards sits inside a little plastic tray with an empty margin of wasted space around them, almost an inch and a half on each side.  I'm told by one of the manufacturers I've contacted that the plastic trays are very expensive to set up (thousands of dollars), but then cheap to produce.  Prohibitively expensive for a small-timer like me.  A cardboard platform might be workable if I want to do a three-piece box.

Environmentally, this is nuts.  I'm paying extra and using more resources to package and sell empty space.  Fitting-your-games-on-your-shelf-wise, this is also nuts, for the customer and the retailer and the distributor, since a game that would have taken up 14 cubic inches in a tuckbox will take up close to 45 cubic inches in the three-piece box, for the exact same contents.

Marketing-wise, thought, it's quite possible that people are happier dropping $18 for something that has some heft to it, even if the heft is artificial, and the number of cards actually lower than Fluxx or Diggity in a tuckbox.  But the only things that seems to be sold in tuckboxes now (other than standard playing cards) are games like Old Maid or Hannah Montana Uno, and those are only going for $8 or so.

So, what do I do?  A three-piece box is going to add at least $1 per copy to the manufacturing cost, maybe more like $3 per copy, for a game that is would only be $2-$3 per copy to produce in the tuckbox.  Insane - doubling the manufacturing cost to get a box that's about three times as big but holds the same deck of cards!  But apparently not insane if my game would fetch a far lower price in the tuckbox than it would in a big, wasteful box.  If I can retail at $18 for a three-piece big box version that costs me $5 to make, and only get $10 retail for a tuckbox version that costs me $2.50 to make, then I make significantly more on each sale of the big box, even though I'm just selling air.

A halfway option for me would be to use a tuckbox, but have it contain two half-decks of 48-50 cards side-by-side rather than one thick deck - that makes the box a little bigger, and might make it look more impressive on a store shelf.  That's the route that the makers of Set have taken with some of their games.  Set (81 cards) now usually comes in a double-deck plastic box with a printed cardboard wrapper, which is probably more than I can afford at this point, but Five Crowns and Quiddler are multi-card games in wide tuckboxes (although even they have some extra space added to the box to make it wider). I'm looking into that and soliciting quotes.  Any advice is welcome.

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