The Real Costs of The Shipping Crisis in Board Games


24 August 2021
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We take a brief look at the way the spiking shipping costs caused partially by the Coronavirus pandemic has effected games publishers across the gaming industry

You’ve probably had the email already, in some form. It’s from a Kickstarter that actually finished in 2019, before we entered into the ‘new normal’ of lockdowns, masks and an increased layman interest in shipping and freight. The email, or Kickstart update explained to you the stark reality for board game publishers and creators across the world – the cost of getting you this game has changed in the last 16 months, and they need some help.

Some, like Clint Bohaty, the designer of Necromolds, laid it all out for backers – shipping for the game about smashing your opponent’s play-dough monsters increased nearly $10,000. UK import costs were compounded by the withdrawal from the EU, creating a jump in costs of 522%.

 

For a creator putting together their first ‘big’ game – this was a huge sum of money. The designer’s response was to do a savvy, Kickstartery thing, and create an additional incentive for those who would be able to pay a little bit extra and help cover the costs – in the form of Necromolds Champions Holographic stickers.

 

Necromolds is on its way to backers this month, and we reached out to Bohaty to discuss how the extra funding went. The designer was extremely open to sharing his costs and the impact on him and his game.

 

Necromolds finished its campaign with 1,100 backers – with an increased additional shipping cost of $9,682.40. Bohaty asked backers to buy a totally newly designer holographic sticker for $14 to fund this additional expenditure.

 

Of those who backed the game, 217 paid $14 or more for the stickers – becoming a ‘Necromolds Champion’. The real costs of the stickers to Bohaty can’t fully be known as neither the time and effort that went into the sticker design and time spend managing orders was not tracks – the raw cost for production was $1.22 however.

 

“I was very surprised at the number of contributions for amounts over $14. Only two contributions were less than $14. The average contribution ended up being $20,” says Bohaty, “Only 20% of our 1,100 backers contributed to help offset the freight and shipping increase. My gut tells me that this is more of an issue with backers reading KS updates vs not being interested in helping. I had assumed we'd receive less $14 contributions and many more $5 contributions from a greater number of backers.”

 

The stickers raised approximately $3,980 for the designer and the campaign. Bohatys out of pocket costs sit at $5,702.

 

“I am lucky enough that the increased cost wasn't something that would kill the project, even if no backers contributed,” says Bohaty, “I've always looked at Necromolds as a long-term investment. I won't make a dollar from Necromolds until we're on our second print run – that's how expensive it is to manufacture and publish games at small quantities as an indie developer.”

 

Whether this is a way that other developers can fund their excess shipping or not leaves Bohaty sceptical, “For Kickstarter creators who cannot cover the increased costs themselves and take the further debt, I don't think a volunteer-based solution works,” he said.

 

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Patrick Leder, the founder of LEDER games and publisher of Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile, recently commented on Twitter on behalf of smaller publishers.

 

“Please, please be patient with smaller publishers. They are having to make some hard decisions right now. Your game will still arrive at some point and punishing them for it now is not going to help,” wrote Leder. In an interview with Dicebreaker, the publisher explained their predicament in direct terms – “In a typical year we would pay US$5,000 (£3,600) per container in the weeks surrounding late January. We bid US$19,000 (£13,750) for a container and did not get one.” 

 

Bohaty had a similar experience with Necromolds shipping, “Freight and manufacturing supply issues seem to only be getting worse. It is hard to convey how stressful it is to have your copies – and investment – stuck at a warehouse or at a port with the only solution being to give your fulfilment team a blank cheque to get the product moving,” says the designer,  “I had no idea what the cost would be to get on a ship until we were on the ship. That's scary – and there is no way you can sustainably build a business with so much uncertainty. Uncertainty in manufacturing cost, manufacturing timeline, freight cost, freight timeline.”

 

Other publishers, working on large multi-year projects like Triton Noir, who were planning to deliver Assassins Creed: Brotherhood of Venice this summer asked for additional payments to ensure the game could be shipped at all. The company was open about the concerns for its continued operation.

 

Much of this was further compounded not only because of the grounding of flights around the world – it’s a previously little known fact that your holiday hopping flights carried a lot of freight in the hold – but also the jamming of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given a container ship that froze $10billion of trade each day it spent sideways.

 

As a community, supporting our designers and publishers in these difficult times is important, assuming we can afford it as customers.

 

“An unforeseen positive of the Champion sticker is that I now have a list of backers who are extra invested in the success of Necromolds,” says Bohaty, “they are backers I can rely on to stay involved and help introduce the game to new families.”

 

Necromolds should be landing in the hands of backers in the coming weeks.

 

 

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