THE 2 KEY FACTORS IN LAUNCHING A SUCCESSFUL NEW BOARD GAME
Thousands of new board games are released each and every year. Needless to say, very few of them stick in the market. It’s just a plain matter of fact that in order to make space for the next round of new board games last year’s board games launches need to be shuffled off to the archives of Board Game Geek.
Some games stick though, and go onto achieve ‘evergreen’ status whereby they sell year after year and become ‘must play’ games for those who are really into board games, as well as ‘should try’ for those with more of a transient interest in playing games.
if we could easily understand why some games sell well and some don’t we could begin to increase our chances of launching a game that sticks in the market and to reaping the rewards of that on an ongoing basis. Just imagine how much more profitable and dependable an established classic game is in the market, with no particular need for huge marketing spend, no expensive product development process and easier sell in to retailers and to consumers.
There is a 2 step formula for exactly this, although as with most things this will be easier said than done:
STEP 1 TO LAUNCHING A SUCCESSFUL NEW BOARD GAME:
Create a compelling concept and visual presentation of the concept.
This is so generalistic that it is almost no help at all, but it nevertheless applies across the board. Board games packaging is the primary marketing and retail sell through driver for board games. Past research projects we have conducted included walking along retail shelves with consumers to observe and assess how they pick out a game to buy, we have also conducted similar research into online shopping behaviour with regards to board games. There is no doubt from this research that the front of box is one of the primary marketing factors for persuading people to buy and try a new board game. Our experience suggests that board games should have a clear visual concept, combined with a compelling and instantly understandable topline gameplay i.e. you answer questions, or act like something or use a particular prop in a certain way. All of this should be kind of obvious from the front of the board games box. We would also suggest that simplicity is better than complexity in general terms, but it needs to be impactfully and attractively designed simplicity.
Getting this 1st step to launching a successful new board game right will often lead to people buying the game once they see it on shelf or online. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they will actually get round to playing the game though. For those of us in the board games business we tend to over think things, when everyday people think about their purchased decisions very little often in comparison! The second step then needs to help us go from selling lots of boxes to getting people to actually play the game.
STEP 2 TO LAUNCHING A SUCCESSFUL NEW BOARD GAME
Annoyingly Step 2 is also very generalistic! Presuming the general concept and look of the game packaging has allowed us to sell a significant quantity of games off the shelf, the major driver in whether the game stays in the market and keeps on selling is primarily down to the gameplay experience and how enjoyable, compelling and socially stimulating that is.
Over the years I have worked on and launched plenty of games which sold ok in the first instance because they had a good general concept and positioning which people could understand and where they could imagine themselves playing with their friends and families.
This though is the surface gloss! The reality of whether the game will keep on selling depends whether they could easily and enjoyably get into playing a game that they find compelling and worth recommending and/or playing with their friends and families.
Normally if a game sells well in the first instance but plays badly, online reviews are poor, people don’t recommend the game to their friends and family, and as a result sell through tends to fall off a cliff.
In the end, ongoing success then comes down to the substance and quality of the gameplay experience.
A recent example I would give of this effect is a recent gameplay evening we conducted for market research for a particular client in the board games business. One of the games we tested was Dobble, the modern day classic game from Asmodee. We started with a low energy atmosphere, and 30 seconds later everyone was yelling and all players were hooked and totally focused on the gameplay. We know for a fact from our follow up interviews that most of the research respondents went out and bought Dobble themselves. This really is the best illustration we can think of whereby the ongoing sales and success of a board game eventually comes down to the substance and quality of the gameplay.
So there you have the 2 key steps to launch successful new board games, clearly this is easier said than done, but for your next board game release could you improve on either Step 1 or Step 2 to increase your chances of launching an evergreen board game?
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