My understanding is that a book publisher typically publishes the work of an author, and takes responsibility for the printing and distribution of the book, and take some kind of percentage of the sales of the book.

Are board games published in a similar manner, or do board game publishers design games 'in house' and pay designers a fixed salary?

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    The answer is going to depend on the game publisher and the game itself as publishers can have both models for different games (or even game expansions)
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 4:31
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    @JoeW Yes - I'm looking for an overview of how the industry as a whole works. Examples from some of the larger companies would work.
    – dwjohnston
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 4:50
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    That would make for a very broad question as each company will have several different methods for how they develop games and not one set method. If you start looking you will find that both methods are used a lot as that helps lower overall costs for the companies.
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 11:37
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    Both. I work for a publisher that publishes third-party designs. The big dogs (FFG, Hasbro, etc) all have designers on staff. Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 20:05
  • @TheChaz2.0 Sounds like you could write an answer? Even if you don't elaborate a whole lot, knowing that there are all kinds of publishers seems like it addresses the question pretty well.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 20:23

2 Answers 2


There's publishers who only have in-house staff, there's ones who farm projects out to freelancers, and there's ones who buy games off designers.

Some companies only use one of these models. Some companies use two or all three of these models.


  • Buying Games from Designers: Richard Garfield went to Wizards of the Coast to try and sell them a complete game he'd made called Robo Rally.
  • Freelancing: Wizards of the Coast said they were looking for a card game people could play between events at conventions, and if he could come up with one they liked they would buy Robo Rally as well. He came up with Magic: The Gathering.
  • In-house staff: Richard Garfield was eventually hired by Wizards of the Coast and later came up with Netrunner while employed by them.

So there's one person, who has designed games published by one company, under all three models.

  • I'm sorry... what?? MTG was designed to be a "filler" game to be played between events at conventions? You're blowing my mind here dude. So what was WotC doing before Magic? I was expecting that to be the story of King of Tokyo no Magic.
    – Wolfkin
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 19:59
  • Roleplaying games. The two biggest ones being The Primal Order and the third edition of Talislanta.
    – Bez Bezson
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 11:18

You might get better answers from Tom Vasel of Dice Tower fame. He does weekly live Q&As on his youtube channel. I even feel certain he's talked about it on Board Game Breakfast at one point. You might be able to go through the titles and find one that looks like it might be related.

The long and the short of it was that different publishers do different system. There are some designers who are basically linked to a specific publisher. Other designers are more free to design for whomever they're up to design for. There are presumably pros and cons to each system. All of the examples in my head are mixed up. I wanted to say Eric Lang was a one publisher guy but I'm not certain that's true. And honestly I can't remember the names of a lot of the European guys whose situations I do remember better.

  • I think pointing to other resources is a pretty good answer. Does Tom Vassal use boardgames.se?
    – dwjohnston
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 8:24
  • I doubt it. Tom is the creator and director of Dice Tower which is has a fairly big and substantial presence in the board game world. Even more so in the anglophone board game world. As far as I know he only speaks English (possibly Korean as i believe he taught English in Korea for a while). The Dice Tower includes a YouTube channel, multiple podcasts, it's own convention and now a cruise. They're heavily involved in the industry and as a result Tom is an incredibly busy guy. However he does answer email tom [at] dicetower [dot] com i think is his email.
    – Wolfkin
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 15:18

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