How many people own a chess set, a game of Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit, or a computer game like Super Mario? These games have sold in their billions all over the world, and give an idea of the amazing sales potential that games and related products have.
The truth is you don't have to have invented a billion-dollar board game in order to profit. Devising games, puzzles and quizzes for a variety of markets has more modest, but still excellent, money making potential. And, as ever, there are plenty of buying and selling opportunities. You'll find that even if you hate games and puzzles, there are many low cost start up businesses you can set up to take advantage of them.
Here are 20 ideas for easy to start game, puzzle, and quiz related opportunities. Of course, if you have devised the 'next Monopoly', I'll explain how to profit from your invention!
1. Video Games
It's a common sight in busy pubs: someone piling cash into a video game machine in pursuit of computerised thrills and a possible cash win. But the real winners in the long run are the owners of the machines. By putting them in areas where they will generate good custom - busy pubs and clubs, cafes, bars and so on - each machine can generate well over £200 a week, which is split with the site owner. The best way to get involved is by examining the trade press (e.g. Coin Slot magazine) for a supplier which will help set you up as a local operator. This requires signing a contract and making an investment of around £1,000 to £2,500 per machine. Usually it will be up to you to research the best sites in which to have your machines installed. The great thing about coin operated games is that any profits, after giving the site owner their share, are yours.
Once the machines and sites are established, your main job will be emptying the cash box once a week. It is best to invest in a few machines and ensure they are placed in the busiest pubs and public places - check your sites carefully, as re-siting is costly. You must ensure your machines are up to date and in good working order, and should make any repairs quickly. It is best to contact the British Amusement and Catering Trade Association (BACTA) for advice before you invest. Make sure your supplier is a member of BACTA.
2. Second-hand Slot Machines
Many people won't be able to afford the initial investment necessary for a new games machine. However, a more modest profit can be made from buying and installing second-hand machines, which can be purchased for less than £200. Persuading site owners to install them may be more difficult than for a new model, but you shouldn't have problems providing your machine is in good condition. By spreading your marketing net widely, to include places like company canteens, community and social clubs as well as pubs, you should be able to generate a good return for very little outlay. The best sources for used and reconditioned machines are the aforementioned trade press, along with classified ad-mags such as the Exchange and Mart.
3. Pub Quizzes
Having exploded in popularity over the last decade or so, it is possible to earn a full time income from compiling pub quizzes. General knowledge and trivia quizzes usually have 20 or 30 questions and a tie-break at the end. Other popular subjects are pop music, entertainment, sport and the 1950s and 60s. Try to gauge the difficulty of the questions - they should not be too difficult but shouldn't be too obvious either. Approach the landlords of as many pubs as you can with samples of your quizzes - you can sell one quiz to many different pubs. They often get quizzes through breweries, so it is worth contacting these also. You could advertise on the Internet - customers could download your quizzes directly.
4. Puzzle, Game and Quiz Compilation
The market for original games, puzzles and quizzes is huge. Crosswords, word searches, quizzes of all kinds, word games, vocabulary tests, mathematical puzzles, spot the difference - these are just a few popular forms of competition that appear regularly in magazines and newspapers, who pay well to be regularly supplied with original items. Contact the editors with suitable examples of your work. Either tailor your puzzles to match the publication (for example, send an animal related crossword to Pet Monthly) or try 'general' publications like women's magazines, puzzle magazines and Reader's Digest. The Writers and Artists Yearbook (published by Black) is available from book shops and lists the editors of UK consumer publications.
5. Quiz Games Shows
Radio and TV companies love quiz game shows because they are popular and relatively cheap to produce. A quick check of the TV and radio schedules for the week will reveal an amazing number and variety of quiz game shows being broadcast. The creators of these programmes are paid a lot of money, and if the show has become successful may continue to receive payments for their initial idea. If you have a good idea for a game show format your financial rewards from contacting TV and radio stations may be huge, particularly if the show becomes one of those 'hardy perennials' like Have I Got News For You, Call My Bluff, or My Music. If you are a quiz writer it is well worth approaching radio and TV stations to see if they require specialist questions.
6. Devising Tests
Tests - serious or light-hearted - are used for a variety of reasons. Some magazines feature IQ, creativity, suitability (such as for a job), personality and vocabulary tests, where the reader can test him/herself on a certain subject. Common in men's and women's magazines are 'fun' tests along the lines of "Are you a good lover?", or "How much do you know about your boy/girlfriend?". Devising this kind of test - where a score is awarded according to which answer the reader gives - requires a particular talent, and publications often buy such articles from writers. If you are talented in this area, as well as contacting magazines you could market an employee test to companies, develop tests for business publications (an example might be "Would you make a good entrepreneur?") or even market them via computer companies - they could develop automated tests for a variety of purposes.
7. Designing Computer Games
Computer software companies are always on the lookout for exciting and original ideas for new games. You need to design a 'story board' showing the different characters, settings, moves, methods of scoring, and so on, in your computer game, which generally gives an idea of how the game will look and progress. You may be given a one off payment for your idea if it is original enough. Alternatively, you can negotiate to be paid a percentage of the total sales, which could be highly lucrative if the game becomes successful. Software company telephone numbers and addresses can be found in the Yellow Pages.
8. Setting Up Treasure Hunts
People love challenges in which they can pit their intellect and ingenuity against others to win a prize - just one reason why treasure hunts are often used as fund-raising events by charities, social clubs, businesses and other organisations. People are generally given a list of clues which they have to follow in order to be the first to reach the prize at the end. Devising a treasure hunt requires good knowledge of the local area and an especially keen eye for small but important details. It may take time for you to research questions and a route for the hunt, but once finished they can be sold to many different customers. Try advertising in a local paper, or better still contact suitable organisations directly. Charge around £30 to £50 for each treasure hunt. People will be happy to pay because a good treasure hunt might get 100 entrants, who can each be charged between £1 and £5 to enter, leaving plenty of profit once the prize has been paid for. Another idea is to devise treasure hunt puzzles to boost the circulation of newspapers and magazines, where the clues are hidden in earlier editions. Since every inch of the publication has to be read to find each clue, advertisers and editors love these puzzles and pay decent fees for them.
9. Lottery Fortune Telling Systems
In the National Lottery, since each ball is equally likely to come up, there is no method to statistically boost anyone's chances of winning. There is a market, however, for predicting lottery wins based on astrology, numerology and similar topics. If you have an interest in these areas, you could set up a lottery prediction phone line, or develop and sell astrological/numerological lottery prediction charts. Get customers by advertising in magazines and 'occult' publications.
10. Sell A Car By Lottery
Here's an ingenious way of using a 'game' in order to sell something for far more than you would normally get for it. Let's say you're trying to sell a second-hand car for £500. Instead, you buy a book of lottery tickets and sell them at £2.50 a ticket with the winner getting the car. By selling the tickets at social occasions and/or at busy shopping centres, you can soon sell enough tickets to put you in profit. This technique can be used in all kinds of situations. Be sure to check the legal and tax implications before you proceed though.
11. Clubs, Magazines, Schools and Correspondence Courses
There are big opportunities in setting up games related clubs, publications and schools. Local games playing circles and schools may be lucrative in some areas. You book the venue (this could be a local community hall or someone's front room if large enough) and, for a small weekly fee, people gather each week to play their game of choice. The most suitable games are 'upmarket' card games such as bridge, poker and blackjack, or board games such as chess, draughts, backgammon and Scrabble.
People who enjoy these games often can't find playing partners, so will jump at the chance of joining a club where they can play with fellow enthusiasts. A local game school could work along similar lines, tutoring people in the rules and tactics of certain games. It's up to you whether to focus on one particular game or provide a general selection. Advertise in local newspapers, shop windows and notice boards for members.
Publishing a magazine or correspondence course covering a particular game or puzzle is another idea. Enthusiasts may want to learn more about how to play/devise them, share ideas, skills and tactics, and meet up with possible playing partners. Good examples of potential mail order correspondence courses or magazines include computer games, role playing games, bridge/poker/blackjack, crossword puzzles, chess, board games (perhaps covering a different game each month), and puzzles in general. Sell them by advertising in national general-interest and/or game and puzzle related magazines.
12. Devise a New Board Game
Undoubtedly one of the most lucrative opportunities in the games world is developing and marketing your own original board game. It should be reasonably simple to learn and fun to play, but must be totally different from any established games. Once you have your idea you should obtain patents and trade marks for it - contact the Intellectual Property Office (Previously called the Patent Office) for details. The next step is manufacturing and marketing your game. This will be extremely costly, so it is important to carry out market research before this stage to establish the viability of your idea. The main way independent game manufacturers approach retailers is through trade fairs such as the Olympia Toy Fair - large orders can be secured this way. The trade press carries details of forthcoming fairs. If you can't afford the huge investment involved in independent production you could take your idea to an established manufacturer of games (Spears or Waddingtons, for example). If you are lucky you'll be paid for your idea. Sadly, few games are accepted in this way. Potentially a more successful way is to submit your game to a manufacturer through a specialist agency (see Further Information). They will assess your idea and pay you a commission when sold.
13. Role Playing and Fantasy Games
Commanding cult status among those that play them, there is a growing demand for fantasy games and related products. Devising an original role playing game could be a good money maker. It doesn't necessarily have to be a sword and sorcery style game - it could be a simulation of something as 'mundane' as running a business or shop. Alternatively, you could develop role playing games based on biblical stories, being a famous pop/film star, or something even more weird and wonderful. You don't necessarily have to invent a new game - you could buy and sell a range of fantasy games by mail order, getting customers by advertising in suitable publications.
14. War Games
In both model and real life form, war games remain popular with both young and old. There are various ways you can tap into this popularity. You could produce model soldiers, battlefields and other equipment, or buy and sell these items by mail order. War game re-enactment societies exist in many towns and cities - as well as advertising in suitable publications you could target these societies by direct mail. You could make extra cash by renting out the equipment. Many people re-enact famous battles or get involved in fake conflicts by donning army regalia and replica weapons themselves and going out onto the battlefield. There is certainly money to be made from buying/selling/hiring army uniforms and replica weapons. Also, you could organise holidays and courses for people who want to play at being soldiers. The games/subjects might include pursuit, obtaining and transmitting information, defending positions, and physical objectives.
A more fun, friendly and safe version of war games - paintball has become a hugely popular pastime. It has become a common form of corporate entertainment too, where companies pay for day/weekend sessions as rewards for employees, to keep clients sweet or to build team spirit. There are two ways you could operate. The cheapest method is to purchase suitable paintballing weapons and lease some land (wooded areas and fields are ideal) to put on outdoor events. Target this service at businesses, societies and other organisations - you can charge fees upwards of £50 per person per day. Alternatively, many leisure companies have been successful in setting up indoor paintball warehouses, where people pay a fee and have a set time to blast as many people as possible with their paint gun. Although far more costly to set up, in a town of reasonable size, this should generate huge interest with evenings and weekends being particularly busy. Since you can charge £5 for a half hour session, this could be a profitable venture. Before you start you must check that your equipment is safe and that you have the right insurance cover.
16. Executive Games
One successful market is executive stress relieving games and puzzles. You could either develop new 3-D puzzles yourself, or else buy and sell a range of executive games. Targeting companies by direct mail may prove particularly fruitful.
17. Outdoor Games
Setting up a game stall at fairs, car boot sales, markets and other outdoor events can offer a useful part (or even full) time income during the summer months. Such events normally charge stall holders only a small amount of cash, and if your stall is popular you can earn hundreds of pounds for just a few hours work. Skittles, coconut shoes, darts and hoopla stalls are commonplace at fairs, and the materials necessary for making them can be purchased very cheaply. A more original idea is to build a set of wooden goal posts with a wooden 'goalie' in the middle on springs. Customers could pay £1 for three shots, and if they score each time they win their pound back along with a prize. Every time someone steps up to take a shot you must set the 'goalie' in motion. Of course, not everyone will win, so you'll still make big money, but the game is not so difficult that nobody can win, so a steady supply of customers will be guaranteed.
18. Game Related Products
Take a look at what's hot in the games market. Could you produce or sell a related product which you have given a new angle to? With an original idea and a knowledge of what sells well, you could profit from this approach. One example is to make/sell souvenir chess pieces in eye catching designs at gift shops, or personalised playing cards featuring a particular theme or even a company logo. You could put a new slant on an existing idea, developing a games compendium with a 'strip' theme, or a range of jigsaws with factual designs, for example. There are all sorts of products you could invent, but take care not to breach anyone's copyright.
19. Games Playing Conventions, Weekends and Holidays
Many people are so passionate about their favourite game, puzzle or quiz that they will travel long distances to meet fellow aficionados, swap tips and experiences, and play the game they love. They'll pay well for the experience, which is why organising games conventions is a good part time earner. Your guests may want to play the latest video games, bridge or another card game, chess, Trivial Pursuit or another popular board game, or a selection of current and classic games. If you throw in food and accommodation as part of the package, you can charge well over £100 for a weekend ticket. Instead of paying a flat fee to your chosen hotel and caterer, you could arrange a deal whereby each party gets a proportion of the ticket proceeds - they may even contribute to the initial marketing costs. The best way to publicise a games convention is by advertising in games related magazines.
20. Games Rental
A good way to keep a party swinging is by having plenty of games on hand. For this reason party hosts will pay well to hire out video arcade games, pinball machines and board games. Used video machines can be purchased for as little as £200, and a selection of board games could be purchased for even less. You can earn this money back in just a couple of evenings - don't forget to charge each customer a deposit. Market your service by advertising in local newspapers, freesheets and shop windows, or better still, link up with local caterers and party supply firms. You could also approach pubs and clubs, who may wish to hire out your games.