Recommend
7 
 Thumb up
 Hide
51 Posts
1 , 2 , 3  Next »   | 

Abstract Games» Forums » General

Subject: How can board game publishers predict which games will sell? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Nick Bentley
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb


So I'm still studying the board games industry and one thing that sticks out is it's hard for publishers to avoid publishing duds. So I've been thinking about dud-avoidance measures, and decided to write about some of my less-stupid ideas (note "less-stupid" is a relative term). Enjoy (or at least happily ignore).

2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Darrell Hanning
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I spell it "convention" in general, and "Essen", specifically.

Didn't read your article. Don't know about abstracts, but for the other 90% of the boardgame market, it has to do with what has been successful of late (such as worker placement in Euros, CDGs in wargames, etc.), and how players at conventions react to the prototype.

Then there's the "P500" concept, such as with GMT (which is really just an offshoot of SPI's Strategy & Tactics magazine "Feedback" section and cards), where potential buyers essentially "vote" with commitment to purchase, before a game gets approved for printing.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Salim Khoury
United States
Houston
TX
flag msg tools
Give Grace, Always.
badge
Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
milomilo122 wrote:


So I'm still studying the board games industry and one thing that sticks out is it's hard for publishers to avoid publishing duds. So I've been thinking about dud-avoidance measures, and decided to write about some of my less-stupid ideas (note "less-stupid" is a relative term). Enjoy (or at least happily ignore).



You mean other than Kickstarter? Kickstarter is the ultimate answer to gauging demand...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Salimo wrote:
You mean other than Kickstarter? Kickstarter is the ultimate answer to gauging demand...

At least to finding out demand among the people who tend to fund Kickstarter projects....
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nick Bentley
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
russ wrote:
Salimo wrote:
You mean other than Kickstarter? Kickstarter is the ultimate answer to gauging demand...

At least to finding out demand among the people who tend to fund Kickstarter projects....


Exactly. Kickstarter only works as a gauge for games targeted at gamers, but not for games targeted toward a more general market. To take an example from my essay, I doubt Bananagrams would do very well in Kickstarter, because everybody would be like "Isn't this just Pick-Two?", and they would be right.

A related point: it's easy to forget on BGG, but the more general market is much bigger than the gamer market, so if your only guide is Kickstarter, you can miss important stuff. IMO anyway.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Richard Hutnik
United States
Albany
New York
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
milomilo122 wrote:
russ wrote:
Salimo wrote:
You mean other than Kickstarter? Kickstarter is the ultimate answer to gauging demand...

At least to finding out demand among the people who tend to fund Kickstarter projects....


Exactly. Kickstarter only works as a gauge for games targeted at gamers, but not for games targeted toward a more general market. To take an example from my essay, I doubt Bananagrams would do very well in Kickstarter, because everybody would be like "Isn't this just Pick-Two?", and they would be right.

A related point: it's easy to forget on BGG, but the more general market is much bigger than the gamer market, so if your only guide is Kickstarter, you can miss important stuff. IMO anyway.



My view of the boardgame business is that the hobbyists are akin to early adopters. One can say "well the general audience doesn't buy the same stuff", but there is someone you have to run things by to make it so. If it would be to stocked, then the publisher would need to run it by distributors and they would have to feel if it would go over well. There needs to be hooks and other things to get things to work.

In this, there is a bunch of luck involved also.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
docreason wrote:
My view of the boardgame business is that the hobbyists are akin to early adopters. One can say "well the general audience doesn't buy the same stuff", but there is someone you have to run things by to make it so.

Hmm, but the "early adopter" model (as I understand it) is the idea that for a given product, the early adopters will buy it first, and then mainstream people follow and buy it later. E.g. LCD monitors were first bought by early adopters, and then became mainstream as most computer users (both the early adopters and the mainstream users) started buying LCD monitors instead of CRT monitors.

So when we're talking about games like Bananagrams which the stereotypical BGG style "hardcore" gamer doesn't buy in any case, but only mainstream gamers buy, it seems like the "early adopter" model doesn't apply. It would be like saying people who only watch hifalutin arthouse films are the "early adopters" of mainstream mindless summer action films.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
christian freeling
Netherlands
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmb
docreason wrote:
There needs to be hooks and other things to get things to work.

In this, there is a bunch of luck involved also.

It depends on what you want. Do you want to design the best possible game as a "sports weapon of the mind" or do you want to design a game with the highest degree of social interaction and fun?

If you want to sell a product, go for the second category. In that case it's good to study people. What attracts them, what motives are behind their choices, how can I use that knowledge to sell my product.

If you're interested in the first category, this doesn't matter, and you don't have to bend your integrity to please the public. Dameo for instance is a better weapon than International Draughts and probably the best weapon I made. It is played on a Chess board with draughtsmen and you don't have to buy it. The fact that draughtsplayers are stubbornly holding on to a terminal game isn't my problem but theirs.

My goal is to make the best possible games, not to sell a product and dodge the inherent integrity questions.

4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nick Bentley
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
christianF wrote:

If you're interested in the first category, this doesn't matter, and you don't have to bend your integrity to please the public. Dameo for instance is a better weapon than International Draughts and probably the best weapon I made.


Although, one of the reasons Dameo is a very nice game, in my view, is that it has a certain seductive quality that may go beyond the normal criteria one might apply to evaluating a "sportsweapon" (sounds so violent!).

I've noticed that even among pure abstract games, some games have a certain kind of "resonance" er, something, with people, something that "pleases the public" if you will, and that this extra bit of fairy dust is important if you want a person to play more than once.

The issue with Draughts v. Dameo has nothing to do with this, however. Draughts persists because of legacy inertia and not because it would win a Pepsi challenge against Dameo in a blind taste test.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nick Bentley
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
russ wrote:
docreason wrote:
My view of the boardgame business is that the hobbyists are akin to early adopters. One can say "well the general audience doesn't buy the same stuff", but there is someone you have to run things by to make it so.

Hmm, but the "early adopter" model (as I understand it) is the idea that for a given product, the early adopters will buy it first, and then mainstream people follow and buy it later. E.g. LCD monitors were first bought by early adopters, and then became mainstream as most computer users (both the early adopters and the mainstream users) started buying LCD monitors instead of CRT monitors.

So when we're talking about games like Bananagrams which the stereotypical BGG style "hardcore" gamer doesn't buy in any case, but only mainstream gamers buy, it seems like the "early adopter" model doesn't apply. It would be like saying people who only watch hifalutin arthouse films are the "early adopters" of mainstream mindless summer action films.


I agree with this. Lots and lots of games get popular without any help from gamers. I think our tendency to think of gamers as the Sun around which the rest of the board game universe orbits is just a consequence of having our perceptions distorted by hanging out on BGG too much.

EDIT: this isn't to say that NO games get popular through early gamer advocacy. Some do, but they tend to be of a specific type: light (for gamers) strategy games, like Ticket to Ride.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim Koppang
United States
Westmont
Illinois
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
"It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy..."
badge
"For the listener, who listens in the snow, and, nothing himself, beholds nothing that is not there and the nothing that is." -- Wallace Stevens
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
milomilo122 wrote:
I've noticed that even among pure abstract games, some games have a certain kind of "resonance" er, something, with people, something that "pleases the public" if you will, and that this extra bit of fairy dust is important if you want a person to play more than once.

I think this is more true than many abstract fans are even willing to admit. Certain games feel very cold and mathematical. Others are warm, and more exciting -- as if they tap into some humanistic quality. Obviously, tastes vary, but the "feel" of a game is important, even for abstracts.

Quote:
The issue with Draughts v. Dameo has nothing to do with this, however. Draughts persists because of legacy inertia and not because it would win a Pepsi challenge against Dameo in a blind taste test.

+1. Tradition is tradition.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nick Bentley
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
tckoppang wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I've noticed that even among pure abstract games, some games have a certain kind of "resonance" er, something, with people, something that "pleases the public" if you will, and that this extra bit of fairy dust is important if you want a person to play more than once.

I think this is more true than many abstract fans are even willing to admit. Certain games feel very cold and mathematical. Others are warm, and more exciting -- as if they tap into some humanistic quality. Obviously, tastes vary, but the "feel" of a game is important, even for abstracts.


Yep, that's a great way to say it. The more I design games, the more I come to feel the truth of this.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
I must be missing something, because I'm not sure why this would be "more true than many abstract fans are even willing to admit." It seems kind of obvious conventional wisdom to me; I can't imagine (or remembering hearing/reading) any gamer (abstract or otherwise) who disagrees with the idea that some games just feel more appealing / fun / intriguing / magical / strike a chord / etc than others.

I.e. "it's not just the size/depth/complexity of the game tree" that counts.

Am I missing something?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nick Bentley
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
russ wrote:
I must be missing something, because I'm not sure why this would be "more true than many abstract fans are even willing to admit." It seems kind of obvious conventional wisdom to me; I can't imagine (or remembering hearing/reading) any gamer (abstract or otherwise) who disagrees with the idea that some games just feel more appealing / fun / intriguing / magical / strike a chord / etc than others.

I.e. "it's not just the size/depth/complexity of the game tree" that counts.

Am I missing something?


I don't know if you're missing something, but this aspect of things seems often under-emphasized in discussions among abstract game designers about how to make a good game. Maybe it's because it's really hard to talk about. I can feel when a game has it, but I don't understand how to design it in. It just shows up if I'm lucky.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
milomilo122 wrote:
I don't know if you're missing something, but this aspect of things seems often under-emphasized in discussions among abstract game designers about how to make a good game. Maybe it's because it's really hard to talk about. I can feel when a game has it, but I don't understand how to design it in. It just shows up if I'm lucky.

Indeed, although that seems true about pretty much all creative endeavors (games, music, literature, film, art, whatever); they may be technically fine, but somehow just lack a certain spark of magic.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Richard Moxham
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mb
milomilo122 wrote:
russ wrote:
I must be missing something, because I'm not sure why this would be "more true than many abstract fans are even willing to admit." It seems kind of obvious conventional wisdom to me; I can't imagine (or remembering hearing/reading) any gamer (abstract or otherwise) who disagrees with the idea that some games just feel more appealing / fun / intriguing / magical / strike a chord / etc than others.

I.e. "it's not just the size/depth/complexity of the game tree" that counts.

Am I missing something?


I don't know if you're missing something, but this aspect of things seems often under-emphasized in discussions among abstract game designers about how to make a good game. Maybe it's because it's really hard to talk about. I can feel when a game has it, but I don't understand how to design it in. It just shows up if I'm lucky.


Under-emphasised in particular, it seems to me, by aficionados of placement games - the majority faction (would you agree this is fair comment?) in the Abstract sub-community of BGG. I don't think your observations would come as news to many Chess enthusiasts (which I myself am only from afar, by the way).
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nick Bentley
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
mocko wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
russ wrote:
I must be missing something, because I'm not sure why this would be "more true than many abstract fans are even willing to admit." It seems kind of obvious conventional wisdom to me; I can't imagine (or remembering hearing/reading) any gamer (abstract or otherwise) who disagrees with the idea that some games just feel more appealing / fun / intriguing / magical / strike a chord / etc than others.

I.e. "it's not just the size/depth/complexity of the game tree" that counts.

Am I missing something?


I don't know if you're missing something, but this aspect of things seems often under-emphasized in discussions among abstract game designers about how to make a good game. Maybe it's because it's really hard to talk about. I can feel when a game has it, but I don't understand how to design it in. It just shows up if I'm lucky.


Under-emphasised in particular, it seems to me, by aficionados of placement games - the majority faction (would you agree this is fair comment?) in the Abstract sub-community of BGG. I don't think your observations would come as news to many Chess enthusiasts (which I myself am only from afar, by the way).


Yeah, I agree. The more minimal the design aesthetic, the greater the oversight, very generally speaking, or so it seems to me.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim Koppang
United States
Westmont
Illinois
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
"It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy..."
badge
"For the listener, who listens in the snow, and, nothing himself, beholds nothing that is not there and the nothing that is." -- Wallace Stevens
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I also think the issue comes up when designers start talking about a game in the works. It's easy to focus on the mechanics, design goals, and math of a game while ignoring the overall feel. However, I meant the statement as a generalization, not truth per se. Take it with a grain of salt.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Benedikt Rosenau
Germany
Göttingen
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
milomilo122 wrote:
The issue with Draughts v. Dameo has nothing to do with this, however. Draughts persists because of legacy inertia and not because it would win a Pepsi challenge against Dameo in a blind taste test.

I beg to disagree. I think you are in a process of exploring your own options for commercial game design, and this may blur your vision.

Checkers is still around because of what you call inertia. Being considered to be one of the elementary games helps with sales. Yet, I happen to use my Checkers board far more often for Dameo than for Checkers. Do you think the publisher will notice? What about the extra men I need - will they enter the statistics as just another Checkers board sold or will they strike it up to Dameo's rise to fame?

There is an implicit assumption in that a game sells, namely that you need a game set of its own. In my experience, that is rarely the case. At home, I have most of the stuff you need to play a good abstract, even if it is new. If I need special hardware, it is pretty likely that the game stinks. The commercial interest usually outweighs the game idea.

Yes, there are exceptions, and they are few and between. GIPF has shown how to spark collector interest. But maybe a look at Twixt helps: Twixt can be played by paper and pencil, and that is the original ruleset. However, it is nice to have a real set, and the physical set is sufficiently unique - you can hardly replace it with boards from other games. Then, a rule was changed, and the ruleset could not be emulated by paper and pencil. A clever move, if you ask me.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nick Bentley
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Zickzack wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
The issue with Draughts v. Dameo has nothing to do with this, however. Draughts persists because of legacy inertia and not because it would win a Pepsi challenge against Dameo in a blind taste test.


Checkers is still around because of what you call inertia. Being considered to be one of the elementary games helps with sales. Yet, I happen to use my Checkers board far more often for Dameo than for Checkers. Do you think the publisher will notice? What about the extra men I need - will they enter the statistics as just another Checkers board sold or will they strike it up to Dameo's rise to fame?


I don't think you're representative though. Most people who actually get their checkerboard out of the closet to play a game use it to play checkers and not other games on the same board.

And I think they do that, because for most of the world, checkers is the game they know, and for most people it's far better to play a game you know than to go looking for other games to play with the same equipment. For most of the world, even the idea that there are other games which could be played with a checkers set never even crosses the mind.

So, I think I stand by my argument for legacy. Unless I misunderstand your argument, in which case, please correct me.

Quote:
There is an implicit assumption in that a game sells, namely that you need a game set of its own. In my experience, that is rarely the case. At home, I have most of the stuff you need to play a good abstract, even if it is new. If I need special hardware, it is pretty likely that the game stinks. The commercial interest usually outweighs the game idea.


I'm not sure I fully agree here. People look for different things from games. We, as abstract game enthusiasts, are perfectly content with simple, generic components. But many people genuinely (I believe) get something valuable from (well-done) fancy commercial components and graphics. Those things are an important part of the overall experience of playing a good game for them.

I teach games to non-gamers often and I can feel from the players a palpable sense of delight in games with elaborate, well-done components. Just because I don't share those feelings doesn't make them unreal or unimportant.

This isn't to say I'm not a curmudgeon who bewails how commercial we all are. At heart I am. But I'm also hesitant to poo-poo the experiences that others want.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Drink Me
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
milomilo122 wrote:

Quote:
There is an implicit assumption in that a game sells, namely that you need a game set of its own. In my experience, that is rarely the case. At home, I have most of the stuff you need to play a good abstract, even if it is new. If I need special hardware, it is pretty likely that the game stinks. The commercial interest usually outweighs the game idea.


I'm not sure I fully agree here. People look for different things from games. We, as abstract game enthusiasts, are perfectly content with simple, generic components. But many people genuinely (I believe) get something valuable from (well-done) fancy commercial components and graphics. Those things are an important part of the overall experience of playing a good game for them.

Well, okay. But look at the success of Bananagrams. Are you really going to call that game's components "fancy" or "well-done"? They're basically crappier than the components of dozens of word-tile games that most families already own. The rules themselves are just one (probably inferior) variety of an old, popular game called "Speed Scrabble" and other names, which people improvised from a Scrabble set. I am 80% sure that the only reason why people buy new sets of Bananagrams is that it is not socially acceptable to give someone a scrap of paper describing how to play a game as a housewarming present. It's pretty clear that Bananagrams is a purely consumerist invention, and people buy it purely to conform to consumerist norms.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
christian freeling
Netherlands
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmb
milomilo122 wrote:
Although, one of the reasons Dameo is a very nice game, in my view, is that it has a certain seductive quality that may go beyond the normal criteria one might apply to evaluating a "sportsweapon" (sounds so violent!).
...
The issue with Draughts v. Dameo has nothing to do with this, however. Draughts persists because of legacy inertia and not because it would win a Pepsi challenge against Dameo in a blind taste test.

Here's a page with Draughts problems. The magnificence of these problems is based on on the structure of the game, in particular the cooperation of these rules:

* Capture is omni-directional and compulsory.
* Kings capture by the long leap.
* Majority capture precedes (the king counting as 1 piece).
* A capture must be completed before the captured pieces are taken off the board.
* In the course of a capture, a square may be visited twice but a piece may not be captured twice.

Dameo, Hexdame and Medea are all based on that same structure and all capable of similar wonders. Many combinations can be translated from one game to the others, and Dameo even adds a new class of them, based on linear movement. Checkers pales in comparison. Calling these games "nice" may indicate the measure of your knowledge about them.

Regarding "violent" I'd like to quote Marcel Duchamps: "Chess is a sport, a violent sport". We're not all nice and cuddly, not all "handing each other puzzles", and not all designing "nice" placement games for the new age.

On another note, people who'd rather buy a bad game than get a good game for free are idiots. Can we all agree on that?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
sollnurspielen wrote:
I am 80% sure that the only reason why people buy new sets of Bananagrams is that it is not socially acceptable to give someone a scrap of paper describing how to play a game as a housewarming present. It's pretty clear that Bananagrams is a purely consumerist invention, and people buy it purely to conform to consumerist norms.


I like this analysis a lot. Lots of people seem to want to own a dedicated separate physical set for each game they play and are turned off by "generic" reusuable components or "game kits" like Looney pyramids or using a Go board to play other games like Slither, Ayu, etc. (Besides the consumerist element, there might also be an element of skepticism that a game built to the constraints of using existing elements could be as good as a game for which "exactly the right elements" were custom-created.)


And now I'm imagining that the inappropriateness of giving someone a scrap of paper describing how to play a game is obsolete.

The new inappropriate housewarming present should be sending someone a URL to a webpage describing how to play a game.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
christianF wrote:
Regarding "violent" I'd like to quote Marcel Duchamps: "Chess is a sport, a violent sport". We're not all nice and cuddly, not all "handing each other puzzles", and not all designing "nice" placement games for the new age.

For me, this kind of strained metaphorical appropriation of the concept of "violence" seems honestly like silly empty machismo which makes chess players (or other gamers in similar contexts) seem to be self-importantly beating their chests and trying to appear more manly or important or ... something. It makes me think "Just enjoy your game, guys! You don't need to justify it with glorious warrior fantasies!"

Violence is direct and damaging to the other person, like breaking someone's nose or shooting them or dropping napalm on them... Moving one's knight to f4 is simply not violent, no matter how intently a player may be thinking, or wanting to win, or even angrily disliking their opponent.

Quote:
On another note, people who'd rather buy a bad game than get a good game for free are idiots. Can we all agree on that?

Heck yes, we agree on that!

(Of course most of the time when people buy a bad game, that is not their intention... they want to buy a good game, but they make a purchasing mistake... and I wouldn't consider someone an idiot merely because they make a mistake, or else we're all idiots. Hey, wait a minute...)
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
christian freeling
Netherlands
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmb
russ wrote:
Violence is direct and damaging to the other person, like breaking someone's nose or shooting them or dropping napalm on them... Moving one's knight to f4 is simply not violent, no matter how intently a player may be thinking, or wanting to win, or even angrily disliking their opponent.

I agree, and I didn't bring it up. In the case of a one-on-one confrontational sport with physical weapons, like fencing, few would say that it "looks so violent", let alone be bothered by it.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2 , 3  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.