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Thinking Out Loud

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Game Component Manufacturing – Educate Me!

Why isn’t there a US-based manufacturer that can compete with overseas component manufacturers? I’ll confess I’m completely ignorant of global economics, but it’s hard to see how repeatedly shipping large, heavy, bulky things overseas is cost-effective over a domestic option.

Sure, right now there just may not be any domestic option, forcing a publisher’s hand. But with more and more games being produced every year, is there finally a substantial enough need for this sort of service to be fulfilled here in the states?

Even if board printing and mounting and card printing/cutting/collating aren’t realistic to expect locally, what about all the other components? Custom molds for injection-molded plastic figures and bits, the omnipresent painted wooden cubes and discs, and custom-cut cardboard counters and pieces… There are bound to be businesses already set up and able to perform these functions. Is it simply a matter of scale? That the gaming industry needs pale in comparison to other businesses who need custom tooling or dies?

I wish a company would take the initiative and offer components – it’s sorely needed. Not only from the publishers themselves, but I’d suspect there would be some interest and demand (albeit rather small compared to publishers) for the casual gamer. It seems that everyone is a designer in their heart of hearts, and would love to have access to nice quality bits to develop their prototypes. Or as avid gamers who tinker with rules and customize games to suit their tastes, having a lot of extra bits on hand is always handy.

I know I’d buy hundreds of cubes myself, in a variety of different colors, to make each and every prototype I develop as professional-looking as possible. And I’d fill up my Bits Box – a large tackle box – with extra bits and pieces to serve as emergency stand-ins whenever something goes missing or we want to try out some house rules.


  • Eagle Games offers something similar to what you want on their website store, they sell the components for their games separately, so you can pick up hundreds of colored wooden cubes without buying multiple copies of Age of Mythology.


    By Blogger Mark Goadrich, at 8:41 AM  

  • Cool -- thanks for the info! I had thought Eagle only provided extra components for their game line -- but now I see some of these items could fit the bill. I'm still curious about fulfillment opportunities for US-based game publishers (established or self-publishers *cough cough*).

    By Blogger Jason Little, at 9:12 AM  

  • I agree, it would make the barrier for self-publishing much lower if there was an easy way to get bits in bulk. Luckily my first self-published game was all cards, but my current prototypes need the cubes and player pawns... I know of two game design groups that have gone in together on bulk cube orders from Eagle, and are still using these cubes in their prototypes they bring to Protospiel each year. I found a good-sized tub of plastic cubes at Lakeshore Learning, but it looks like they're no longer available there. Time to start searching the web again..

    By Blogger Mark Goadrich, at 10:25 AM  

  • Generally, it is cheaper to let developing countries produce cheap crap and then import it. Few workers in industrialized countries can compete with wages in the third world and the difference in quality of the products is not generally worth the added cost to produce such items locally.

    Nor, and this may draw some fire, should workers in industrialized countries try to compete with third world workers. First world nations are best advised to compete where they have the advantage, currently that advantage is in computer applications, entertainment, and a few heavy industries such as airplane and ship building among a few other things.

    Industrial nations should not try to protect low wage-low skill jobs as much as they should try to encourage development of cutting edge technologies, expansion of technological jobs, and let Chinese and Indian companies perform the services they can better perform without competing with them.

    By Blogger Coldfoot, at 7:46 AM  

  • I have a card game that I would like to self publish. Any advice? Where can I get the decks manufactured at a low cost but good quality?

    By Blogger Chelle, at 11:42 AM  

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