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Subject: How Can Abstract Games Achieve Commercial Success? rss

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Andrew Adey
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An excellent abstract game (based on the Japanese game Shogi) is Navia Dratp. It has a veneer of Anime over the top which I think stopped it dead in it`s tracks as not self-respecting bloke is gaoing to pick it up with all those girly Navia in it.

YET...

If it had a Lord of the Rings veneer over it it would have sold like hot cakes.

So sometimes I feel that even though the game may be abstract a veneer of something popular can make it much more marketable.
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Nick Bentley
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russ wrote:
... why bang one's head against that wall in what is almost certainly futile wasted effort?


My own headbanging is part of an effort to resolve what, over the years, has become a pretty major conflict in my life: namely that my head is constantly flooded with thoughts about games and every day I have to struggle to fight those thoughts off so that I can concentrate on what I'm paid to do. It's just really uncomfortable. One possible resolution is to get paid to work on games. Another is frontal lobotomy.
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Ken B.
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Personally, I think they should add an attractive theme, and then additional mechanics to support that theme.

laugh

j/k


Actually, don't abstracts do just fine? I'd wager there are more Chess sets sold every year than any of the games in BGG's top 10. They just don't reach a BGG audience as well maybe, but we're a tiny fraction.
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Nick Bentley
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Quote:
Actually, don't abstracts do just fine? I'd wager there are more Chess sets sold every year than any of the games in BGG's top 10. They just don't reach a BGG audience as well maybe, but we're a tiny fraction.


Old abstracts which have become cultural institutions do great! But that doesn't much help a game designer who wishes to publish a new game.
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Dave Dyer
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By "crap" I mainly mean gems like "Justin Bieber Backstage Pass Game", which without any other information at all I can predict is absolute crap. My guess is it will sell more copies than all but the top board games anyone reading this discussion would buy.

There's also a strong second category consisting of infinite rewrapping and republishing of safe classics like chess, monopoly or boggle.
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Russ Williams
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milomilo122 wrote:
One possible resolution is to get paid to work on games. Another is frontal lobotomy.

There are various ways to get paid to work on games which don't involve directly getting your own games published. Work as a developer or editor for a physical publisher, or as a programmer/tester/designer/etc for a game programming company. Or start your own website which hosts abstract games like SDG or LG or IGGC and gain some (probably rather small, admittedly) income from ads and donations...
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Nick Bentley
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ddyer wrote:
By "crap" I mainly mean gems like "Justin Bieber Backstage Pass Game", which without any other information at all I can predict is absolute crap. My guess is it will sell more copies than all but the top board games anyone reading this discussion would buy.


Right. But those aren't abstract, so not included in this discussion. The paths to success for thematic games are different and, it appears, easier, thanks to the ability to, eg, use the theme to hook into an existing brand, as with Justin Bieber.

Although now that Blokus is it's own brand, it can be, and is being, exploited to market related properties: there's Blokus Duo, Blokus Travel, Blokus Trigon, and Blokus 3D.

As a result, the people who own the Blokus name now have the power to sell just about any polyomino game at an unprecedented scale. I wouldn't be surprised if this was a major consideration in Mattel's decision to purchase Blokus.

Here again, that doesn't help me, because I don't own a preexisting brand.
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Nick Bentley
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russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
One possible resolution is to get paid to work on games. Another is frontal lobotomy.

There are various ways to get paid to work on games which don't involve directly getting your own games published. Work as a developer or editor for a physical publisher, or as a programmer/tester/designer/etc for a game programming company. Or start your own website which hosts abstract games like SDG or LG or IGGC and gain some (probably rather small, admittedly) income from ads and donations...


No doubt. All are possibilities and I'm giving lots of thought to all. This just happens to be a post about the publishing possibility.
 
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Scott Ebent
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Albireo wrote:
An excellent abstract game (based on the Japanese game Shogi) is Navia Dratp. It has a veneer of Anime over the top which I think stopped it dead in it`s tracks as not self-respecting bloke is gaoing to pick it up with all those girly Navia in it.

YET...

If it had a Lord of the Rings veneer over it it would have sold like hot cakes.

So sometimes I feel that even though the game may be abstract a veneer of something popular can make it much more marketable.


YES! yes this is very true. When it comes to marketing. Taking the current culture into account is very important. The veneer or theme in an abstract, if chosen to have one, should not be an oversight and should be carefully chosen based on trends, fads, favorite themes. It could be a make or break. And then when the veneer is chosen the style is important too.

Marketing is very important even in an abstract game.
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Scott Ebent
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nello wrote:
Arimaa has sold and still selling well -> worldwide available, i have seen copies for sale in shops in Milan, London, Okayama...etc online available in New Zealand ,australia and so on

I guess that Zev Shlasinger has managed to sell at least 4000 copies -> standard production made in china for a first run of a board game( Omar Syed the designer is happy with the success of the game -> see also limited production of the hand crafted wooden version )
--------------------------------------
Milo -> try -> a kickstarter project for ketchup -> why not ...!!???

Nello

Well back in 2011. Omar mentioned here http://arimaa.com/arimaa/forum/cgi/YaBB.cgi?board=talk;actio...
that ZMAN had 7800 sets remaining, in their storage. So my guess is the same as Fritz's that they had a print run of 10,000. So about 2000 were sold from first appearance on shelves into 2011. I would think more sold throughout 2012 but not as many to reach 4000 units sold. It seems over in the UK and eastern countries they may still be on shelves, more so then here. *shrug*

You don't need to go much further than that to notice it wasn't a 'commercial success'. It takes more than just putting it on the shelves, having an online community with its own game website and showing it off at a few conventions and giving them out for free in hopes that it will explode in popularity. When designing the look of a game, to help market it, you don't want to just appeal/grab the attention to one niche such as abstract gamers. But also casual gamers, even ones that don't play abstracts much. And the look/veneer/theme helps to do that. Pretty stand out colors, nice attractive components and box design and art.

BUT! The great thing is, even though being out of print and hard to locate at FLGS's is that the community is growing steadily over the years. Maybe some time in the future Omar will let someone put out another edition with a new look to the game components, and promote the game up the wazoo.
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Calvin Daniels
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The issue is defining success

As an example 'household name' would mean chess / checkers and zippo others, if by houeshold you mean 6-7 out of 10 would recognize it.

I would bet in my newspaper office of 20 no one but me would know gipf, blokus, hive, abalone , all abstracts which sell well.

that said this mentioned games all have sales numbers which are strong within the genre.

I think what we miss is that abstracts are different.

The best abstract strategy games are like great Scotches, or handmade fly fishing rods, they are appreciated by discerning board gamers who want more than a fistful of dice and a deck of cards determining winners.

Many people fish, a small portion use hand-crafter fly rods.

Many people drink cheap rye, less appreciate the flavours of 18 year old Scotch.

Now playing Arimaa with a glass of old Scotch after a day of fly fishing may not make Arimaa a huge sales success, but it would be about as good a day as this world offers.
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Nello Cozzolino
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.....I was a bartender in a five stars hotel 23 years ago(in Milan) we use to buy a rye whiskey: old overholt... that was pretty expensive....A Special guest (i cannot name it) asked for a manhattan cocktail made with Rye Canadian .
Somehwere in usa they still produce 100% corn whiskey -> Capone favourite for business!devil
----
Once i sold 4 cl.(one measure) of cognac remy martin louis 15 at 150.000 liras 50 english pounds 2013 exchange rate !!
____________________

Great abstractism "gaming" comment coming from Calvin as always....
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Nello Cozzolino
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You don't need to go much further than that to notice it wasn't a 'commercial success'.

2000 copies sold for an abstract board game is not a failure...(not enough for Zev maybe to justify a reprint) considering also that Arimaa is well known not only on boardgamegeek or between a dozen of users.
Abstracts properly published having sold thousands of
copies and counting: (source Essen 2007 and London toy fair 2009-2010-2011-2012)
Pentago,Blokus, Callisto,Abalone( -> Asmodee product manager) ,Kamisado (see -> game page),Hive(chinese version hitting the market very soon),Tsuro(not sure),Ingenious, Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War -> ?.
Kikcstarter is the way forward ...is saving the life of many new projects that otherwise they will never see the light of the day.

----
An interesting reading:
http://www.pacru.com/toselfpublishornot.html
 
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Scott Ebent
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Talisinbear wrote:
The issue is defining success

As an example 'household name' would mean chess / checkers and zippo others, if by houeshold you mean 6-7 out of 10 would recognize it.

I would bet in my newspaper office of 20 no one but me would know gipf, blokus, hive, abalone , all abstracts which sell well.

that said this mentioned games all have sales numbers which are strong within the genre.

I think what we miss is that abstracts are different.

The best abstract strategy games are like great Scotches, or handmade fly fishing rods, they are appreciated by discerning board gamers who want more than a fistful of dice and a deck of cards determining winners.

Many people fish, a small portion use hand-crafter fly rods.

Many people drink cheap rye, less appreciate the flavours of 18 year old Scotch.

Now playing Arimaa with a glass of old Scotch after a day of fly fishing may not make Arimaa a huge sales success, but it would be about as good a day as this world offers.



lets not make the abstract genre into a snob niche. It isn't. It can attract some gaming snobs though. Many casual gamers, newbie gamers and other sorts of board gamers still like abstracts. There are just some who prefer abstract gaming as it provides a more refined pure and mature gaming. Your liqour analogy is good, the fishing one a stretch.
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Scott Ebent
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nello wrote:
You don't need to go much further than that to notice it wasn't a 'commercial success'.

2000 copies sold for an abstract board game is not a failure...(not enough for Zev maybe to justify a reprint) considering also that Arimaa is well known not only on boardgamegeek or between a dozen of users.
Abstracts properly published having sold thousands of
copies and counting: (source Essen 2007 and London toy fair 2009-2010-2011-2012)
Pentago,Blokus, Callisto,Abalone( -> Asmodee product manager) ,Kamisado (see -> game page),Hive(chinese version hitting the market very soon),Tsuro(not sure),Ingenious, Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War -> ?.
Kikcstarter is the way forward ...is saving the life of many new projects that otherwise they will never see the light of the day.

----
An interesting reading:
http://www.pacru.com/toselfpublishornot.html


Just to make sure of future responses I was referring to Arimaa because thats where that quote came from. I know your aware of that. So let me continue.

Based on the percentage sold it wasn't a commercial success. But it wasn't a failure either. Is it a success as a game? OH HECK YEAH!


I came across a interesting article by a gentleman when I was searching "critical acclaim, commercial success". He does a decent job explaining the difference. His article is about movies. But I believe board games could be applied here just as well. Specially in the gaming culture.

http://voices.yahoo.com/critical-acclaim-vs-commercial-succe...


**Edit to add**This particle quote is quite cool.
"All of this couldn't save "Titan" from a lack of advertising and confusion from consumers. Was it a mature thriller for an adult crowd or a zany animated flick for kids?"
The sweet spot of success is when you manage Commercial success AND Critical Acclaim. I'm positive Arimaa could have done this with just better Marketing and Advertising. If you look around online. The reviews are absolutely glowing.
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Scott Ebent
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To respond to the original post by MiloMilo.
As an example. My favorite abstract, Arimaa, was not a commercial success if you look at the numbers sold/number manufactured. Its a hit with HIGH critical acclaim. Did it reach a near sell out? No. Or go to a second print run? No. But Arimaa has the potential to be a commercial success too. If given a second chance with a new look. It did go on to have some online apps created for cell phones and other devices and this is good and important in our current culture as "apps" for games are a big thing now. It's a great way to increase the games community and cultural awareness.


I gathered a list of things across the net and within my design/advertising books here at home, that help but do not gaurentee success ( The following for the culture of games):

Game mechanics/gameplay
*Is it simple and easy to play or hard and complex? Are they fun? Do they provide depth, strategy and tactics? Is it a long or short game? Does the winner get a great sense of accomplishment and even the loser even a learning experience? Does the game require in game text?

Product design
*Do not overlook or underestimate this. Since this is a game on a shelf the packaging in itself advertises. The product packaging needs to stand out be unique new and/or visually appealing and communicate to the viewer/possible buyer. And sometimes communicate what kind of game it is. Everything from fonts to colors to illustration and textual information. This is an important part to play. This can determine who will be attracted to it. Who are you trying to attract with the packaging, a broad demographic or a narrow one? Are the game components unique, beautiful and well crafted and designed? Do the game components have the option of being portable or is the game designed to easily travel size/portable? Are the game components durable and made of quality material?

Marketing and Promotion
*Online contests, online advertisement, in store word of mouth, in store point of sale displays or point of sale cards to hand to customers. A one game free trial online at site. Prizes and cheap merchandise that further promote the product. Convention attendance with small tournaments with prizes. In FLGS store display of open product ready to play with a friend or employee? (Marbles: The Brain store does this a lot).

Easy to understand and to the point rules inserts with visuals if need be And FAQ/Clarifications at the end.

Nurture product culture It doesn't just end with advertising, convention attending and the like. Nurture this product in the culture for a long while before publishing another game. Online or within its specific gaming community. The designer should use any opportunity to show of the game.

Talk to customers(fans) The designer should be in the gaming community talking to possible customers and within the fans helping the game along.


**Note some of these are already in MiloMilo122's original list.
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Russ Williams
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bwolfheart wrote:
Easy to understand and to the point rules inserts with visuals if need be And FAQ/Clarifications at the end.

Well written rules shouldn't have/need FAQ/Clarifications at the end. I would say that they are a lazy crutch which avoids fixing the real problem. If game makers find themselves putting FAQ/Clarifications at the end of the rules, they should go directly edit/improve the relevant rules in the book and make them clearer / more complete so that the FAQ/Clarifications are not needed.
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Nathan James
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russ wrote:
Well written rules shouldn't have/need FAQ/Clarifications at the end. I would say that they are a lazy crutch


The person reading the rules may want a crutch. If something doesn't click immediately, many people would prefer to have it rephrased rather than try to puzzle out the meaning. And it's impossible to guarantee "clicking" for 100% of the population. That being said, yes, write good rules.

What I'm saying is that the FAQ should be unnecessary, but may nevertheless be appreciated by the end-user.
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Scott Ebent
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NJames wrote:
russ wrote:
Well written rules shouldn't have/need FAQ/Clarifications at the end. I would say that they are a lazy crutch


The person reading the rules may want a crutch. If something doesn't click immediately, many people would prefer to have it rephrased rather than try to puzzle out the meaning. And it's impossible to guarantee "clicking" for 100% of the population. That being said, yes, write good rules.:)

What I'm saying is that the FAQ should be unnecessary, but may nevertheless be appreciated by the end-user.


Exactly. Sometimes you just can't make the rules 100% clear, succinct and to the point for everyone. Sometimes even just one rule in a book may need clarification and more lengthy example. The more mechanics and rules a game has. The more likely it this will happen.

For example. In the Arimaa rules pamphlet the rules are easy to understand but they are not entirely clear. For the first few weeks I was playing Arimaa where you couldn't move any of my pieces into a trap even if you had a friend adjacent to it. We were only pushing enemies in and they were captured if no ally was adjacent. The rules weren't perfectly clear to us and we had conflicting ideas on how trap Maneuvering went. So we came here for clarification. We didn't know we could actually pull pieces into the trap also/or cross the trap as long as a friend was adjacent. The Arimaa pamphlet rules didn't expand enough on what happens/can happen around a trap square for us. Some people may have figured it out through deductive reasoning on the rules. My family was stuck on it for a short bit. :modest: Thankfully we had the BGG site and the Arimaa forums to help us out.
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Scott Ebent
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russ wrote:
bwolfheart wrote:
Easy to understand and to the point rules inserts with visuals if need be And FAQ/Clarifications at the end.

Well written rules shouldn't have/need FAQ/Clarifications at the end. I would say that they are a lazy crutch which avoids fixing the real problem. If game makers find themselves putting FAQ/Clarifications at the end of the rules, they should go directly edit/improve the relevant rules in the book and make them clearer / more complete so that the FAQ/Clarifications are not needed.


Sometimes rules errata is published on the game site or even an FAQ rules clarification, if questions regarding the rules arise. This is not uncommon. Just look around BGG lots of people ask rules questions. And usually on a hopeful second print run, the rules are refined and polished.
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Russ Williams
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bwolfheart wrote:
Sometimes rules errata is published on the game site or even an FAQ rules clarification, if questions regarding the rules arise. This is not uncommon. Just look around BGG lots of people ask rules questions. And usually on a hopeful second print run, the rules are refined and polished.

Certainly. But a good publisher refines the rules by improving the rules themselves, not by merely tacking a FAQ at the end of the book, which then requires people to look in two different places to find info (e.g. about how movement works, they now have to look in the movement rules and in the FAQ) instead of looking in one logical place (in the movement rules).
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