Now that we are moving toward getting Stones of Fate out to retail stores, one thing on my mind has been “How do I set the MSRP?” I am sure this is a question that comes up frequently with every publisher as they bring their games to market. I have heard the standard is 5 times the cost of printing and freight. That works ok and I don’t really have a problem with it. It makes it very easy, but I wonder if there is a way to determine if you are hitting the sweet spot in the market. What other factors go in to setting MSRP? What makes a potential buyer look at a game and say either, “That game is priced too high” or “That game is way under priced”?

So I decided to find out.

Where to go? Why BGG of course! I did a survey of the BGG top 100, then threw in about 70 of 101-200 as well. Finally I added in about 30 of my own favorite games to bring the total games I analyzed to 200. As we go through this analysis, I will try to provide a frame of reference by tracking the following three games through the process:
Games 1-01
Since the standard is to set your price at 5 times the cost to print, I decided to start with component count. That most directly correlates with price to print. Note: I did decide to go with total component count over looking at various types of components that may or may not drive the price such as miniatures vs. wooden blocks, etc.

Component Count

I looked at the component count for each game and created a histogram showing the total number of games in the following groupings:

component graph-01

Unfortunately, I didn’t see a lot of patterns emerge. There was a spike at around 250 components, and it appears that about 3/4 of games have less than 470 components but other than that nothing popped out. This is where the reference games fit into the component histogram:

Games 2-01

Maybe there is something else influencing the price of games. My next thought was box size. I know most boxes come in standard sizes. What if those sizes match up to various groups of MSRPs?

Box Size

I created the same type of histogram with box size, looking at the surface area of all 200 games and the number of games in each of the following groupings:

Area Graph-01

I found that games come in basically 3 shapes/sizes. I called them the small box, the medium rectangle box, and the medium square box. The three reference games we are looking at fit perfectly into each of these three categories.

Games 3-01

With significant patterns emerging with box size, I then looked at all the MSRP’s for the 200 games on my list. My hope was that they would map nicely into the 3 box size categories and I could just say that box size determines pricing.

MSRP

MSRP graph-01

What I found was that prices for games fall into about 7 categories. So a nice finished piece with box size mapping perfectly into prices was not going to happen. And to continue our tracking of the three reference games, this is where they fall on the MSRP chart.

Games 4-01

At this point it was back to the drawing board. I knew that price was influenced by both box size and component count via looking at the correlation coefficient for each when compared to MSRP (both had a fairly high correlation of 0.7). But was this a matter of the box size correlating with the component count? After all, more components generally means a bigger box. However, the correlation between box size and component count was only 0.5, so it appears that both factors weigh somewhat independently on pricing.

What Price Should My Game Be?

In order to look at both factors and how they influence pricing, I made the following chart. This chart allows you to look at the number of components of your game (x-axis) and the size of your box (y-axis) and then maps it into one of the 7 pricing categories that we talked about earlier. Note that this is not intended to be the final word on pricing, it is just a starting point derived from very preliminary research on the subject.

pricing Chart-01

And where do our reference games fall on this chart? Well, exactly where you would expect given there box size and component count. Take a look below:

Games 5-01

A couple more data points that can help in determining the price for your game is the price per component and price per square inch (surface area). The average price per component of all 200 games was $0.21. I took a look at how that compared to overall component count. Check out the following graph for the results.

Component trendline-01

It’s interesting to see that for very low component count games the price per component is well above average. After you get to about 200 components, the price per component remains fairly steady at $0.18 till you get to 500 components at which point it starts to drop.

And, the graph for price per square inch related to surface area reveals some interesting trends as well.

Size trendline-01

Like with the price per component graph, this one shows that for very low box size (i.e. the Small Box size) the price per square inch is significantly above average, running at about $0.70-$0.80 per square inch. The Medium Rectangle box also runs above average but only slightly (about $0.50 per square inch), and the Medium Square box runs slightly below average at about $0.40 per square inch.

And finally, let’s look at how are reference games compare to averages in price per component and price per square inch.

Games 6-01

A few more things to consider

  • Type of components
  • If a significant number of your components are miniatures, or if your components are more expensive to produce for some other reason, you may be on the high end of your pricing range. Or your game may even belong in the next pricing tier even though its box size and component count put it in the one below.

  • Public perception
  • Don’t underprice your game! I know we all want to provide a great price to the public, but there is a significant factor in how people perceive your game based on price. A price that is comparable to other items of the same size/shape will set the expectation. If it is significantly lower than similar items, it will be perceived as cheap or inferior quality and may not sell even with the low price.

  • Artwork
  • What does your game look like? Is it pleasing to the eye? A game that looks good will attract a customer and they will want to buy it. You can actually charge a little higher for a game with a very visually pleasing cover image. However, if your cover image is drab or dull, people’s eyes will pass right over it, and if they do pick it up are unlikely to want to pay a fair price for it.

Hopefully this will help you come up with a price for your game. Feel free to do your own game survey. Look at the games you own and see where they fall on the chart. Are they underpriced or overpriced? Maybe this chart will not only help you price a game but help you know if you are getting a good deal when you buy games as well.

Jeff calls himself an engineer but that’s just his cover. In reality most people don’t know what he does. We’re not even sure he does. Sometimes he can be found designing games, other times developing other people’s designs and bringing them to kickstarter. He is supported in all this by his loving wife and 2 boys who always keep him on his toes.

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  1. Teale Fristoe on November 17, 2014

    Really interesting article! I wish I would have seen this when I set Corporate America’s MSRP… I definitely underpriced that game.

    When you were researching for this article, did you look at any aspects of games that had no correlation with price?

    • Jeff Cornelius Author on November 17, 2014

      No, I really didn’t. Everything I looked at was tied into price in some way.

  2. Jeremiah Power on November 17, 2014

    Thanks, this was interesting. I’m not a publisher, but I’m in the designing process for a game, and just yesterday was starting to wonder whether it had too many components, and if so if that would make production cost prohibitive.

    • Jeff Cornelius Author on November 17, 2014

      Keep in mind that when I counted components, I counted everything equally. So 1 card counted the same as 1 board, 1 miniature, 1 wooden cube, etc. This is probably the biggest driver of cost outside of what I mention here and if I were to do follow-up analysis I would focus entirely on trying to identify trends in types of components and how they drive cost.

  3. Wez on November 17, 2014

    I think some weighting to these stats would be useful for component price. Both settlers and citadels get a high component quantity due to having cards.
    A weighted price points for cards > cardboard components > wooden > plastic > full miniatures would likely alter the outcome of some comparisons. Below cards you could even include things like paper money (power grid).

    • Jeff Cornelius Author on November 17, 2014

      Yep, I am already contemplating a Part 2, which will look at how the type of component will adjust your MSRP up or down from where the chart here says it “should be”

    • Wez on November 17, 2014

      I should have mentioned of course Ticket to Ride is also heavily card based though it has a plastic mould as well and wooden tokens as well.
      Blokus is 86 pieces in a large square box (far less than citadels)
      Saint Petersburg splits out money and ends up with 515 components in a medium box (still much cheaper manufacturing that the multiple moulds in blokes)

      Nice article by the way as I’m in the middle of pricing my current game as well :) I’m looking at a deluxe version which will have the same number of components but with more finishing qualities to make it very lavish.

      • Jeff Cornelius Author on November 17, 2014

        One thing I did do for the games with paper money is I counted “paper money” as only 1 component. I’m not sure if this was the best way to go about it. But it arbitrarily skewed the numbers if I counted each individual bill as 1 component. It could have been maybe 1 component for each denomination of paper money?

  4. Royce Banuelos on November 17, 2014

    Great analysis, your hard work shows in all the data. Hopefully publishers (especially smaller ones) can learn a lot from this information.

  5. James Mathe on November 17, 2014

    Another point to make that I teach on my blogs… if you price your game at $27.99 you are leaving $2 on the table as anyone willing to pay $27.99 is going to pay $29.99. Same goes for $42, it should be $44.99 – and yes you should always price a .99 not flat dollar amounts. The phycology of price sensitivity in shopping has been well researched.

    It’s important to note that Catan is a special outlier in this industry and the price point of $42 really makes little sense unless you look at it’s history.

    • Wez on November 17, 2014

      I had just decided on the $42 price point for COGZ. dammit James :)
      My logic is a $45 price point instantly in my mind is linked to $50 whereas $42 is linked to $40.

      One of the things with those unusual prices is most shops will round up to the nearest $5 as well. I’ve got told by a few retailers if they get someone come in at $42 they will sell it at $45 anyhow.

      • Jeff Cornelius Author on November 17, 2014

        In my opinion, you should have your MSRP written on your box. Given that, you should never set an MSRP that you assume a store will “round up”. Then a customer will look at the box, see $42 and look at the price that they will pay and see $45 and go elsewhere.
        ___________________________
        You should set your price to something a store can round down from so that it looks to their customers like they are offering a discount.

        • Wez on November 17, 2014

          That is tricky. In Australia we pay extra to ship product over here so if you had a board game at $50 retail any aussie retailer couldn’t sell it at $50 and still make the standard markups the country of origin does. We are a special case however as shipping to us is very expensive and we lose out on many things such as that. If you are making a product for a single country then I could see that being viable. It also doesn’t work with different currencies. I would also suggest it has little advantage to retailers only negative (try to be cheaper).

          • Jeff Cornelius Author on November 17, 2014

            That is true. Shipping overseas is a special case.

        • Wez on November 17, 2014

          Sorry my mind is in late night ramble mode….
          Retails look for profit margins from games as well. If they can round up a game it will increase their profit margin and make them more keen to stock your product. If they have to compete on price this is a different matter.
          When you are a new publisher retails look at you as a potential to make money so this will be a deciding value where you get put on shelves, how many they stock etc. if you are a popular game that there is demand for this is less of an issue as they know they can ship units even at a lower price point. (Cards against humanity is a good point of retails putting their markups on the amazon retail and still being able to sell units)

        • James Mathe on November 17, 2014

          Did you mean “should” or did you mis-type and mean “shouldn’t” ??? Cause as a store owner we do NOT want you to put your price on the box. This is cause distribution and other things can cause the price to go up on our end and we always want to make the margin we need to survive. DO NOT put your price on your box!

          • Jeff Cornelius Author on November 17, 2014

            That’s good to know. I have heard different things from different people but I will keep that in mind. However, I’m still not sure how it benefits the retailer to sell above MSRP when, even if it’s not on the box, it’s incredibly easy to find what the MSRP is. I can walk into a store, pull out my smart phone and know the MSRP of every game in the store so why hide it from me?

          • Wez on November 17, 2014

            You could probably confirm what I’ve heard as well James. If forced into lower margins for whatever reason from what I’ve heard would encourage the retails to either not stock your product, stock less or shelve the game in a less favourable position compared to higher return products. Retailers generally aim for the higher profit margin to cover their costs.

      • James Mathe on November 17, 2014

        Wez, a $42 product is an over priced $40 product in the mind of the consumer. You should price at $44 on Kickstarter since it doesn’t allow 99 cents. That way it’s a cheap $45 product.

        • Peter Vaughan on November 17, 2014

          I love this bit of wisdom, thanks James! Amazing how on one side you’re a deal, on the other side you’re overpriced. And the deal could be the higher value!

        • Jeff Cornelius Author on November 17, 2014

          You should price at $40 on Kickstarter so your backers know they’re getting a good deal. They don’t want to buy it for MSRP only to have Cool Stuff Inc offer it for $5-$10 cheaper in a few months.

        • Wez on November 17, 2014

          Valid point James and I do respect your knowledge in these areas. When I think about it $45 I think of as being $50 but $44 I would round to $45.
          I hadn’t think about the being rounded down would equate to being price inflated but I can imagine that logic in some people and marketing is all about trying to increase the percentage sales across the board.

  6. ozgur on November 17, 2014

    i’d like to see at least a multivariable regression model where you pluck in no.of components, box size plus some dummy varibles such as whether published by reknown publisher or designer, or whether there’s a kickstart campaign before, or whether it includes some popular themes such as animes, steampunks or zombies… to explain pricing to some degree..

    otherwise, plotting already correlated figures between axes does not give me an idea to price my next new hot game.

    • Jeff Cornelius Author on November 17, 2014

      Maybe somebody will take that on. :)
      __________________________
      This was not meant to be the final authority of what your game should be priced at. It is meant to give new publishers a starting point, something to help keep them grounded when dealing with the deluge of information that is the board game industry. So, no, it’s not perfect but hopefully it does what it was intended to do and helps people determine if they are in the correct ball park for their game price.

  7. Peter Vaughan on November 17, 2014

    I’ve told Jeff this, but this guide is extremely helpful to me right now pricing Letter Tycoon (currently looks like it’ll be 185+ components). Without much of a breakdown above between games under $30, it’s easily the same box size as Citadels. So, good news – $25 would ease my manufacturing cost woes. Now, the catch is this: it’s a word game. It’s a word game with special abilities on cards, plays well with gamers and hoping to give it beautiful art, but I have been concerned how TYPE of game drives MSRP.

  8. Peter Vaughan on November 17, 2014

    Also, as an artist I find it fascinating that one of my first assumptions about MSRP was art, but I remember being told by Aldo Ghiozzi that art does not really affect it, it’s component and size based, per the stats here.

    Sometimes the stats can’t take into account factors like popularity or attraction or perceived value though.

    • Jeff Cornelius Author on November 17, 2014

      There are a lot of things like theme, style, art, etc that just cannot be measured so are very difficult to quantify. Yes, these things do play a part, and maybe more than we know since we can’t quantify it.

    • Wez on November 17, 2014

      When a consumer first sees a product unless they have been recommended it or have seen it online or read reviews all they have to go on is the box itself. If they don’t pick up the box then all you have is the cover.
      So for your casual consumer (walks through a board game section with limited knowledge) you have to make an impression on how a game looks with the art. Something I hypothesised at a crowd funding panel is that poor looking art is going to instinctively be attached to low effort in the game and that is going to be assume to apply to the game play effort as well. Logically you can have a very very basic looking game which plays incredibly well but there is almost no way you would sell that to a casual consumer.
      So you are right with art being linked to Retail price to some degree. If the game looks better than a competitor at the same price point you are more likely to sell. A game that looks poor is likely going to need a lower price point to sell an equivalent amount.

  9. Tom Razo on November 17, 2014

    All other things being equal, I wonder if there is a general trend of pricing in comparison to the number of players a given game supports.

    Do consumers even acknowledge player count when comparing prices?

  10. Gamer Dave on November 19, 2014

    I think for casual customers, price perception is most important. Hard sell to someone unitiated to fork put $40 for any game when Monopoly is only $15.

  11. Kim on April 29, 2015

    Such an awesome article Jeff.

    One other thing to consider for the 3 games you mentioned is that they are evergreen well over 100k production run games so print run volumes have allowed them to compete at a lower price point than a new competitor game of similar quality / size / component count can. In that way I think they are nitbthe best benchmarks? Would be interested in comparisons of a few other similar but less popular games.

  12. Void on July 24, 2015

    I hope you took into account if the box size was NECESSARY or not. There has been a bad trend lately toward making boxes unnecessarily large and using that to jack up the MSRP (I’m looking at you Machi Koro). The box size should be site to be good for the game, not to jack up the MSRP.

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