Thursday, April 8, 2010

Game boxes - setup box vs. tuckbox?

In an earlier post on boxes, I faced the conundrum of whether to go with a simpler tuckbox for my game, Diggity, or whether to pay more to get a two-piece base-and-lid style box (called a setup box by many in the industry). Within the tuckboxes, there was the question of whether to go single-deck (a small, thick box) or double-deck (wider and thinner). As I discussed before, the tuckboxes are cheaper and more resource-efficient, but most games like mine are sold in setup boxes in stores, and a setup box looks and feels more significant.

So, the comparison becomes:

Setup Box
  • significantly cheaper
  • more environmentally sound
  • smaller and lighter for storage and shipping
  • more impressive on a shelf or in a store
  • looks more professional (meets the industry standard)
  • may allow me to charge a higher price
  • easier to open and use
  • more room for artwork and text on the outside

So, what's the would-be publisher to do? Let's look at the actual numbers from one of my bids. I didn't ask permission to share these numbers, so I won't identify the manufacturing company by name, but I will say it's an overseas printer and among the lowest bids I have received. Here are the figures, for a print run of 6,000 copies:

(two-deck double width)
Setup Box 
(5.5"x4.75"x1.5" with insert)
$1.62 per copy
$10,620 total with shipping for 6,000 games
$2.42 per copy
$15,420 with shipping for 6,000 games

Caveats: these are just the printing costs (no art, design, etc.) and I'm probably only including part of the shipping, because I need to get the games to where I am in the U.S. rather than just to the nearest port. There may also be import duties and other fees. But at least it's a ballpark estimate. And for that ballpark, I'm looking at $0.80 per game for the nicer box. I got quotes for different sized print runs, and the tuck vs. setup box differential was always near that (ranging from $0.65 to $0.92 per game).

In this post, I assessed the not-too-rosy economics of publishing. The question about whether the better box is worth it depends on how much higher a price for the game it can attract. I'm guessing it will draw at least a $4-$6 per game difference in final retail price, e.g. from something like $9-10 per game to something like $15-$16 per game. Building on that, I'm faced with the following possibilities:
  • If I'm selling all my games direct to consumers, I need the setup box to be worth about another dollar per game in price in order to break even. So, not a problem if my estimate above is right. However, if I'm selling direct to consumers, I really don't think I'll be able to sell 6,000 games very quickly, maybe ever, unless Diggity really catches on.
  • If I'm selling direct to retail stores, who expect maybe a 50% discount on eventual retail price, then I need the setup box to be worth at least an additional $2 in retail price to break even. But that's hard to do; from what I've heard, retailers mostly rely on distributors.
  • If I'm selling to distributors, who expect a discount of 60% or more, then I need the setup box to be worth maybe an additional $3-4 in final retail price, especially because there will be more shipping costs involved with the bigger heavier boxes making two trips before reaching point-of-sale.
So, from the cost-benefit analysis, it's looking like a small but positive effect to have the bigger box. On the less tangible side, I get a product that looks more professional, is easier to advertise, and is at the same production level as its competitors, which might open more doors for distribution. Countering that, to get the better box, I would have to invest at least another $5,000 (or an additional 50%), and if the whole thing tanks, then I'll have a significantly larger loss on my hands. Also, I'll have to have more storage space for the games, but that's not a big concern at this point. And I'll be paying more in shipping for all orders for the entire life of the game, which might run to a few thousand dollars, wiping out any benefit from a higher eventual retail price.

Tricky stuff, but at least I've got some numbers to chew on. Let me know what you think.

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