Over the past year or so as we've been working behind-the-scenes on Movie Plotz, I've seen this question come up more than anything. How do you package a microgame? And the definition of microgame varies, but for the purpose of this blog I mean a game that is 12 cards or so.
Packaging is a tough task because the standard packaging in gaming is a box, and it's the least likely candidate here. A typical two piece box is expensive. It's expensive to make and expensive to ship. With a game with such a small footprint, you really want to be able to save on shipping. So I had to start thinking outside of the box.
An envelope could work and we've now seen it used in the Tasty Minstrel Games line (Coin Age, Burgoo). I was looking into envelopes a little while back and found sources that can print on envelopes. This was important to me, as I wanted to be able to express something on the games packaging. I wanted to tie it to the game in some way. I also wanted it to be re-usable and looked into envelopes with metal clasps. Tasty Minstrel would up using a very sturdy cardboard envelope that naturally stays together, which is nice. But I still kept searching.
Ziploc / Polybag
I tried to avoid this if possible. It's simple and you can buy them in every size, but I don't even like to keep my prototypes in bags. It just feels like the last (or only) resort and doesn't do anything for the game. Might be personal preference, but I wanted to keep searching.
Resealable Clear Sleeve
This is something that I do like, although it doesn't allow for you to brand the packaging in any way. A clear plastic sleeve, similar to a comic bag. Put the cards in, and fold over and seal the top flap. It separates itself from the Ziploc in one big way: no ugly seal at the top. This is nicely folded over and in the back, out of the way. If you go with a clear sleeve and want to achieve the feel of a packaged game, you'll need to make sure your front card represents the game. It could be the back of your cards, or the back of your rules. Something that tells everyone what this is. Since microgames barely make it to retail beyond a convention floor, this isn't as important for online sales. But conventions and other sales situations will benefit from the presentation side of things.
We've seen this done with Love Letter and a few others from AEG now. But even with this method, the bags were further packaged inside a clamshell case for retail. With a bag only, you would at least need a tag with the barcode and important information. You would also need everything to be tightly packaged inside something that is inside the bag (a bag within the bag) so that everything doesn't fall out. That isn't the end of the world. A positive side to cloth bags is that you can print on them, and they area little more durable than all of the above methods (aside from Tasty Minstrel's super thick envelopes). The bag can be tossed around and provides a buffer between the game and everything in the real world that is trying to destroy it.
For Movie Plotz, we thought about all of the above, as well as our concerns. We want it to be portable, but we also want it to be protected. We want it to look presentable and make sense economically. We ultimately settled on the Resealable Clear Sleeve, but then found something new.
This is a fold over vinyl wallet usually used for business cards, and sold at 4imprint.com (I'm sure others do as well). You can print on top and inside you can fit 12 to 18 cards or so, plus small rules. The best part about using a vinyl wallet for packaging is that it's made for portability. It's made to protect the items inside. So with a cards only microgame, there was no other choice. We decided to make this the "travel version" as it costs a little more than using a Resealable Clear Sleeve, but to me it's the essential version. The only downside is that it will not work with any non-flat components. You can fit cards, rules, stickers, thin cardboard punch sheets, but you aren't getting a wooden cube in there.
Hope this helps those of you looking to package a microgame. If you have any other ideas, please share them!
Also, if you want to see the vinyl wallets in action, Movie Plotz has 15 days on Kickstarter and as always, could use your help. It's hopefully the first of many pocket sized games using the wallets as packaging.
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