“Announcing: Good Games Publishing”
That was the title of the email that landed in my inbox last week and I was immediately intrigued. In order to bring you all up to speed, here is the rest of that email:
As many of you may be aware, Good Games has been hinting and discussing in dark back rooms that we’d like to start publishing games. We’ve taken the first step with co-publishing Monstrous, which after a successful Kickstarter campaign, is soon heading to the printers. We’ve deemed the process to be fun and worthwhile, and as such we’re now officially announcing the beginning of Good Games Publishing.
Kim Brebach (gamer, Monstrous designer and project guy) will head up Good Games Publishing and we’re looking to hit the ground running. Jaime Lawrence (gamer, owner of Good Games Hurstville and teacher) will assume a number of roles including new game design intakes. We’ll be looking at game submissions soon (more on that to come) and already have a few irons in the fire.
We will always be looking for those that want to be involved in making games – designers, testers, artists, graphic designers and translators. We’ll have more information on how you can be involved soon.
We have a specific view about the games we are going to be publishing and we have a unique take on the games industry, being involved in it already in at a gamer, retailer and distribution level.
Keep an eye out for lots of announcements and wish us luck!
Fantastic news! The Australian “Indie” scene for tabletop gaming has been growing considerably over the last year or two with many local developers having great success with the Australian Kickstarter. It can still be a very daunting task though and a professional helping hand is likely going to be a great asset for the community.
The email seemed a bit brief though and I was hoping to get in touch with Kim Brebach to discuss Good Games Publishing in greater depth and go over some of the points in the email. Thankfully Kim was more than happy to speak with us!
ATGN: Kim, thanks very much for taking time out of your schedule to speak with us and congratulations on your new placement with Good Games!
KIM: Thanks Toby. I’m happy to be here.
ATGN: So Good Games Publishing is now a thing and you’re the man heading it up. What does ‘Good Games Publishing’ mean exactly? How does this affect the Australian board game scene, broadly speaking?
KIM: Good Games Publishing is a new Australian tabletop publishing company. We aim to publish good, fun, high quality tabletop games for an international audience. Many of our games will be Australian designed but we will work with designers from anywhere if our goals align. I’m the director but Jaime Lawrence will scout, test and develop game designs too.
What does this mean for the Australian board game scene? That’s actually a really big question.
The Australian board game design scene no doubt has the the same per capita design talent as any other country, but we haven’t had the community and industry here to foster and bring to a global market the game creations I think we are capable of.
Until recently there haven’t been any Australian publishing companies who would take on Australian game designs and take them global. There are a few Australian designers of note who have succeeded through the ‘find a US or European publisher’ route (Tim Roediger, Peter Hawes, Matt Dunstan, Phil Walker-Harding to name a few), but the barriers to that traditional publishing route are high. When you pitch games to US publishers you are often asked to attend a US convention and book a time to pitch your game for 10 minutes or so, or maybe hit the speed pitching session. But it’s incredibly expensive for Australian designers to travel to major US or European conventions. So the end result is that Australian, or other distantly designed games, simply get less exposure to publishers, and lower rates of published games. Such is the tyranny of distance and it’s only natural with US and European publishers being spoiled for choice with designers who are literally in their faces.
But lower barriers to publishing like:
● growing online design communities (BGG, BGDF, various FB groups) with…
● more shared knowledge about game design and development
● lower minimum order quantities from manufacturers
● the cult of the new and its appetite for new niche games in the golden age of gaming
● the increasing viability of Kickstarter, now also in Australia, and
● recent growth in local design communities in some Australian cities mean that Australian designers, like many elsewhere, are chancing their hand at self publishing, often via Kickstarter, to make games. So riding on the back of this historical confluence of factors driving the modern tabletop game industry, we now have a fistful of Australian indie publishers who are making games on top of other work. It’s a really exciting time for Australian game designers.
As many Kickstarter creators know, this is NOT an easy path, despite how it may seem looking at the occasional shining Kickstarter successes from the outside. Kickstarter is demanding, and the ecosystem constantly evolves. What succeeded 2 years ago may sink today because the bar has been raised. You need to be really lucky and/or good at many aspects of the game making business; game design, development, art and graphic design direction, networking, marketing, communications, project management, logistics, people management, business and dark magic to succeed. Some people are better suited to this than others and there is an increasing understanding that it’s good to work to your strengths and have others help you in their areas of expertise. So some designers want to just be designers, some want to be jack-of-all-trades, and we think some want to do some of the things in between. So we want to provide a few different ways for this to happen in terms of publisher / designer collaborations.
Australia is a small but growing market for games, so to succeed financially in game publishing we need global sales. But just about all Kickstarter game creators struggle to take their their games to global retail markets at levels close to their maximum potential, and follow through with the marketing required to help them sell. We will use our global distribution connections and retail experience to help solve this problem.
We want to provide an important local pathway to publishing, and a global audience for Australian and other games. We also hope that our ability to do this and attend some of the bigger international conventions may open other pathways for Australian designers to international audiences.
ATGN: At this stage is the plan to assist game developers with getting their games on Kickstarter or are you looking to skip the crowd funding thing entirely and go to direct publishing? Or a bit of both?
KIM: Kickstarter offers publishers a chance to take and mitigate risks and give successful games very wide exposure. They can also test demand for a game. A failed Kickstarter campaign may save a publisher from printing a few thousand copies of something that had a very limited audience. So we will use it as much as we need to.
Our first game, Monstrous (coming to retail in early 2016), was born from a successful Kickstarter project and we will continue to use Kickstarter to test, fund, and market many of our games. But we’ll also be looking to publish some games via traditional publishing models.
We will take some games completely through development, to Kickstarter and finally to retail. We’ll also look out for already successful Kickstarter games that we think have good retail potential too. Not all games suit Kickstarter so we will likely offer more traditional publishing arrangements for the right games.
ATGN: Jaime Lawrence (Owner of Good Games Hurstville) will be, amongst other roles, looking at new game design intakes. Assuming for a minute that I’m an aspiring game developer what sort of criteria would you be looking at? What would I need to do to get your attention?
KIM: Jaime has tremendous knowledge of board games and what makes them tick. On top of that he now runs his own game store which has a diverse focus on a wide array of tabletop games – so his commercial sensibilities have been sharpened. He and I will be looking at and testing a lot of game concepts in the next few months.
We aim to make a wide variety of games with different weights, themes and audiences. We want to see and make good games that promise and deliver something different. The aesthetic experience is important to us too. And then it all needs to be commercially viable.
Elements we are looking for in games include:
● Fun for its audience.
● A unique experience, twist or mechanic in your game’s core engagement. These days you need to stand out from the crowd.
● Mechanics that fit or express the theme. Players should rarely say ‘this doesn’t make sense’ or interpret something incorrectly because of thematic signals.
● Easy to learn yet hard to master – how do you ease players into the game?
● Minimal downtime, how do you scale engagement to 5+ players?
● Appropriate player interaction – if your game features barbarians it probably wants combat.
● Interesting options rather than auto decisions
● Good catch up / runaway leader solutions
● Does it change the pace so you don’t just do the same thing every turn. If it’s a thematic game, does it have a good narrative arc relative to the experience you promise?
● The right amount of play time for the theme and price point.
● Realistic component list. Every single cost in your game is multiplied down the line into retail prices.
In a pitch we would want to see;
● A workable prototype that is usable and clear. Eg good card layout, clear fonts table / spatial organisation etc. Functionality is most important but it can be pretty too.
● A strong sense of the artistic vision for your game
● A good understanding of where your game would sit in the market – Who is your audience? What other games are you competing with and how is this game different?
● Some flexibility in making changes within reason to elements of the game.
● Commercial viability – what is a viable price point for the game and can we manufacture it at a cost low enough to make money from it when selling to distributors (typically 35 – 40% of the retail price.)
We are also open to being blindsided by something very different too.
For now contact email@example.com to find out more about our submission processes.
ATGN: In the information package that went out there was mention for a call to arms for ‘designers, testers, artists, graphic designers and translators’. Will there be more in-house game development or is the plan to create a skilled team that can assists game developers coming to you? With the inclusion of translators is the plan to publish games not just locally but globally?
KIM: We are absolutely thinking global.
Games that are close to being ready to publish will have great appeal, but even they need development. We may offer publishing arrangements to some finished Kickstarter projects, but we may want to develop those in different ways and then reprint them so they can better reach a global audience. If a less polished game has something really special and fits a niche we want to fill, we will be able to bring it in house for further development. We may also be open to collaborating with others to develop and publish games. We are interested in people with a diverse range of skills too.
Being so far away from the US I think we have a keen sense that there are other worlds and markets for games that are collectively significant. This was certainly important to the success of Monstrous on Kickstarter, where we offered free global shipping and translation of summary game elements into many languages. We want to continue exploring those fronts with many games, localizing in the bigger non-english speaking markets and maybe some unusual ones too.
ATGN: Good Games Publishing, Good Games Distribution and Good Games Retail Stores. Any plans for games published by GGP to receive special treatment in GG retail stores? Will I be walking into my local Good Games store to see a special shelf area specifically for GGP games? Will published games only be found in Good Games stores (initially or otherwise) or will independent gaming stores also be able to stock GGP products?
KIM: Good Games stores will certainly stock and promote GGP games. We are likely to arrange demos and events for them too, as we do for other games that suit the GGP customer base. But our games will be available in other stores in Australia and around the world, just like any other tabletop game.
ATGN: We often see Good Games at large Expo’s (Supanova, Comic-Con, PAX). Good Games Publishing sounds exactly like the perfect thing for these events. Any plans to have a dedicated GGP stall in upcoming events?
KIM: Good Games Publishing will certainly be attending PAX to look at new game designs and have some fun (find us at the Good Games booth or the game demo area). We’ll hit other game centric events where game design events or prototypes are welcome, like CanCon (ACT), BorderCon (NSW/VIC), ConCentric (SA) where I recently held a game design day, and more. At this stage Supanova and Comic-Con would be primarily retail events for Good Games. I’ve been a very active member of the Australian game design community for years now, and Jaime has been running quarterly design meetups in store for over a year. We’ll continue to help the game design community in different ways. We are a platinum sponsor of the Tabletop Game Designers Australia pre-PAX meetup. We also plan to host game design meetups in Good Games stores where there is demand, without treading on the toes of existing design meetup relationships. It’s great to see all the more active members of the design community working together online and IRL, it lifts us all.
ATGN: So assuming I’m a simple gamer, when do you think I can start seeing GGP products on the shelf at my local store? I’m assuming Monstrous will be the first cab off the rank?
KIM: You should see Monstrous on shelves of Australian and international retail stores from early 2016, with other games following in 2016.
ATGN: Kim, thanks again for taking the time to speak with us. We wish you the very best with this new project and hope to touch base with you again in the near future to see how it’s coming along.
KIM: Hey anytime. And thanks for ATGN’s great contributions to gaming in Australia too.
So hopefully if you are an aspiring game designer this is some fantastic news for you as well. If you prefer playing games to making them then this should still be fantastic news because it means you’re going to be able to get your hands more readily upon locally developed and produced games. Overall I’d strike this up as a win for Australian tabletop gaming. We’ll be enthusiastically following Kim, Jamie and Good Games Publishing in the coming months and into next year and hopefully be able to bring you a review of their first publication ‘Monstrous’ when it releases.
If you have any further questions send Kim an email or talk to him in person at PAX Aus.