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McMiLLER is a teeny-weeny, queer-owned company that makes epic party games

McMiLLER was founded by real-life partners David McGranaghan and Julian Miller, and their games, such as It’s Bananas, UpRoar, and Fire In The Hole, have had over 200 million TikTok views, won multiple awards, have been featured on NBC, FOX, ABC, ITV and BBC, and are some of Amazon’s top-selling products during the Christmas period.

They start with a fun idea, work with talented designers to turn that idea into a product, and then mass produce, ship, and sell online and in stores throughout the U.S. and U.K. They pride themselves on how truly multigenerational their products are – they want granny to be laughing as much as the kids.

Meet The Makers

Both David and Julian started their careers as actors on stage and on screen. Julian acted opposite Melissa McCarthy in the movie Spy, as well as Will Ferrell in the Netflix movie Eurovision, and David was one of the Jersey Boys on London’s West End stage, as well as playing leads at the Royal Shakespeare Company

With an actor’s income being so unpredictable, David decided to start a business on the side to supplement his income.

In between acting jobs, he taught drama to kids, and would often invent games and challenges to make his students (and himself) laugh. He quickly realized that kids and ‘tipsy’ adults often share the same silly sense of humour – so converted those same drama challenges into his first-ever party game, Game For Fame. When Game For Fame became Amazon UK’s #1 selling board game (four Christmas’ in a row), he met Julian, and together they decided to leave the performing industry and focus entirely on all things McMiLLER. Since then they have developed four hit games, won several awards including the 2022 Rising Stars at the Toy and Game Awards, and have been featured in multiple newspapers, magazines, and tv shows in the U.K. and the U.S.

Challenges in running a game business

Boardgames are highly seasonal items with 90% of the yearly sales taking place in the three weeks preceding the Christmas holidays. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on every department; from logistics to advertising.

The entire year is building up to these pivotal three weeks, so making sure you order the right amount of stock, and that the stock arrives at the right time is key. Too late and you miss the sales window, too early and you have to pay hefty storage fees for warehousing.

 Both David and Julian are incredibly hands-on and head every department of the company, as they feel this is the only way they can make well-informed decisions. Like all business owners, this can be mentally exhausting, but they rely on each other to keep moving forward and work together to make the best decisions (most of the time).

 Board games; an ever-expanding market

In 2017, the global board game market was worth around $7.2 billion, today it’s worth $12 billion. It seems as if people want quality time with loved ones without screens, hence the big resurgence in board and card games. With the industry growing so rapidly, McMiLLER feels like there is lots of room to expand their current and future titles.

Like all markets, the tabletop industry is very competitive with 1000s of new titles being released each year. McMiLLER feels, from their recent success, that their originality and sense of humour is what helps them stand out from the competition, and plan to stick to this formula for all forthcoming games. 

Their latest title, Fire In The Hole, is 100% plastic-free, carbon neutral, and biodegradable, making it one of the most sustainable games on the market. As they aim for all future titles to share the same eco-credentials, McMiLLER will be one of the only companies in the industry offering a wide range of colourful, fun and sustainable games – something that is sure to become more of a priority to shoppers over the next decade.

Interested in starting your own board game business?

Launching and mass-producing board and card games is far from easy, but McMiLLER have shown that it’s not impossible. It all starts with a great idea: something that is simple yet unique is key. Take that idea and test-play it with anyone who is willing to help. Put your ego aside and listen to their feedback – this is the kind of feedback you will receive in future Amazon reviews so best to solve issues now before you go into mass production.

Once you’re happy with your game, you must team up with a talented designer. Your game can be the best game on any shelf, but if it doesn’t look good/interesting, no one is going to pick it up, so working with a great graphic designer and illustrator is key.

Once you’ve got all your elements ready, the next step is mass production. For your first-ever order, start small, you can always order more. It’s more expensive per unit but you’ll learn so much so quickly that you’ll no doubt want to make adjustments to the game pretty soon after launching. This can be anything from box dimensions or components to save on costs, to the gameplay based on customer reviews.

Once your games are ready you’ll then have to ship them to your warehouse, start to sell them (online to start via Amazon or your own website), and then run your advertising campaign that should consist of organic social media, paid advertising such as Amazon and Meta ads, and of course all other areas of a small business like logistics and finances.

It’s sadly not all fun and games every day, but entertaining millions of people with your product while running a healthy business can be a very rewarding career. 

It’s Bananas –

Fire In The Hole –

Elena Ognivtseva