How To Manage A Portfolio Of Established Board Games

How To Manage A Portfolio Of Established Board Games

One of the best features of the board games business is that once established, board games can sometimes just keep selling and selling year after year. Clearly you have to launch a fair number of games before you stumble across a ‘perennial’ seller, but once you have one or even several in your portfolio business will become easier and your business will also be secure, because your game is known and trusted by both game players and retailers.

If you sell mainstream mass market games though, you may need to protect yourself from the toy effect – mass market retailers are often conditioned by the toy business and its endless cycle of new product launches. Therefore, mass market retailers are conditioned by the toy business into constantly seeking ‘new news’. If you have a top seller this probably won’t affect you, but if you have a stable of solid dependable board games but no big hits you can over time lose listings as ‘shiny object syndrome’ strikes and buyers chase new over dependable.

Our team has managed some of the biggest evergreen board games out there including Monopoly, Clue/do, Risk, Game of Life, Payday and others. This experience combined with more than 20 years of working in and observing the board games business leads us to offer the following suggestions for successfully managing a portfolio of established board games:

  1. Accept the ever-present need for ‘new news’

It’s an old cliché, but the saying ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ applies in this case. Rather than thinking you can just leave everything as is forever more, you will be more successful if you embrace the mass market requirement for novelty. This doesn’t need to represent fundamental change, but maybe just an added gameplay feature, a packaging tweak or something along those lines. This then allows you to show that you aren’t just selling old fashioned products but that your company and your products are moving with the times.

  1. Understand, manage and exploit product lifecycles

Not everything lasts forever. Once perennial classics do sometimes fade away if not managed well. The trick to managing this situation is to not try to do everything all the time – understand the product lifecycle. Even for your most classic games think about a 3 to 5 year lifecycle. If you have done nothing to the game, the packaging or the marketing in 3-5 years then you should probably consider it!

  1. Utilise brand extensions effectively and with realistic ambitions

One way you keep freshness in your portfolio is to launch new brand extension products. The biggest and best examples of this strategy would be the new ‘headline’ version of Monopoly which tends to launch each year. Whether it is a rule refinement, and added feature or theme, Monopoly is one of the best managed board games in the business. Even if the traditional version of Monopoly is not changed that much over time, each and every year new innovation and extensions are launched to keep the brand fresh and interesting. Clearly this iconic board game brand will do things on a scale few can match, but there is a lot to be learnt from the way the Monopoly brand is kept relevant after all these years.

  1. Sometimes a game needs to go away to come back stronger

Sometimes a game has a tough year, or just starts to fade away a little, and if the above tactics don’t work, then maybe the game needs a break from retail. Everybody loves a comeback story, and one quirk of human nature we have seen repeatedly is that at the time of a board game receding from the high position it may have held, people only see the negative movement. A few years later though, the memory has faded and maybe the buyers have moved on, and then you can go back and resell the product back into retail based on where peak sales were. We have seen this happen so many times, so it would seem that there is something in this strategy.

There are of course many other facets of managing a portfolio of established board games, but we only have so much scope in these articles, and of course we need to retain some key success factors for our clients. For now though, the above suggestions may help those struggling to progress an established collection of board games.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping board games companies to grow. We have experience of most major board games markets around the world and our team has developed more than 200 board games including versions of classic games like Monopoly, Clue/do, Risk, Game of Life etc. For more information on our services (including our Export sales Consultancy) please just click here: https://www.boardgamebiz.com/index.php/board-game-business-consultancy-services/

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The Best Selling Board Game Of All Time Is…

The Best-Selling Board Game Of All Time Is…?

If you guessed that the best-selling board game of all time is Monopoly, that’s a fair guess and a very common one – but that’s a wrong answer! When we ask this question some people also ask if the answer is Trivial Pursuit or Clue/Cluedo (Clue in the USA, Cluedo in Europe & mostly elsewhere). Think about it this way though, Monopoly having launched in the 1930s and having been a best-selling board game ever since had a massive head start on Cluedo (launched in the late 1940s), and Trivial Pursuit which achieved mass market popularity in the 1980s.

There is no doubt Monopoly is one of the all-time best-selling board games, but it is a comparatively modern game when compared with the actual best-selling board game of all time – Chess!

Chess is a game which has evolved over a very long time into the current version of Chess we have known since the rules were standardised in the 19th century. Earlier versions and precursors of Chess date back to Spain in the 15th century, which was when the playing pieces we know today were defined, and before that the basic premise of the game is known to have been in India in around the 6th century.

In case you are thinking that somehow we asked a trick question due to Chess having been around in some form for more than a millennium and therefore must have sold many copies in this time, there is no trick! Even today Chess sells many millions of units around the world each and every year. It is hard to quantify just how many copies the game sells since it is considered a generic gameplay i.e. it is the equivalent of open source code in computing – nobody owns the intellectual property for Chess, and therefore anyone can make a version and sell it. Therefore, the total Chess game market is so fragmented and global that it is not going to be possible to know exactly how many copies the game sells…but we have read data sources estimating that around 3 million copies of Chess sell every year in the USA alone. And bearing in mind Chess is a truly global game, you would have to think that the global total is at least double that amount.

Which makes Chess not just an old classic, but also an ongoing massive seller. Needless to say, the competition is rife, but regardless Chess is one of the most stable underlying pillars for the global board game and has long since proven that its impact is timeless and seemingly eternal.
There are several reasons why the gameplay is so compelling, but not the least of these reasons is that the gameplay has been play tested to near perfection over more than a millennium! Which yet again goes to show just how important playtesting is to ensuring a board game stays around.

At this point we obviously don’t know which of today’s board games are going to stand the long-term test of time, but we can learn a lot from the ongoing success of Chess!

We run a Consultancy business helping board games companies to grow. We have experience of most major board games markets around the world and our team has developed more than 200 board games including versions of classic games like Monopoly, Clue/do, Risk, Game of Life etc. For more information on our services (including our Export sales Consultancy) please just click here: https://www.boardgamebiz.com/index.php/board-game-business-consultancy-services/

Sign up now for our free BoardGameBiz newsletter offering insights, news and analysis of the business of Board Games. We’ll also send you a free copy of our book ’55 Features of Best Selling Board Games’ – just click here to sign up.

Why Board Games Instructions Are A Game’s Biggest Marketing Opportunity Or Risk

Why Board Games Instructions Are A Game’s Biggest Marketing Opportunity Or Risk

 Of all the elements that go into a board game, the element which gets far less attention than it deserves are the instructions. Clearly the instructions are incidental in terms of the gameplay mechanism and the general concept of the game, but they are absolutely integral to the gamers experience.

Rules which are hard to read, overly wordy or which don’t quickly summarise the main rule ideas in a visually compelling way will cause more impact in terms of future sales of the game versus even the most robust of marketing campaigns. There is a basic truth underlying board games marketing – you sell more games by getting more people to play games and have a great experience so they will tell their friends. That is the bottom line! Forget fancy social media campaigns, forget gimmicks and forget nearly anything else. To sell more of a good game you need to get more people playing your game, then the players themselves will do your marketing for you.

So, if your instructions do not get people up and playing quickly & with least stress then they are actually acting as a barrier to everything else you want to do. Good instructions will (for most games) allow for 2 types of instruction readers:

  1. TOPLINER – these gamers just want to flick through the instructions to get the basic idea & then use the instructions as a point of reference if there is anything they can’t work out. This type of gamer is most likely to set out all the contents of the box & try to intuitively work out what happens in what sequence.

 

  1. DEEP THINKER – these gamers are normally the minority, but they will interrogate every line of the instructions in great detail and work out in their minds first how to play the game before doing anything else. With these gamers, the instructions had better hang together robustly without contrasting/unclear points, because they need laser precision in terms of the gameplay patterns, interactions and mechanisms.

There may be some reading this who are fans of ultra-involved board games, you are likely to either be a TYPE 2 – DEEP THINKER, or you need to have gameplaying friends who are so you can get them to absorb the instructions and show you how to play.

For most games targeted at a mass market audience though, you need to write your instructions primarily from the point of view of TYPE 1 – TOPLINERS. You need a quick start callout, which looks graphically different and which summarises getting started & the key phases/movements of the game.

The bottom line on board game instructions is that if you don’t get people quickly past the instructions and into playing the game, you may have lost them. The implication of this is in one sense not a disaster – they might just not play the game and leave it in a cupboard, but where it really hurts you if your gameplay is compelling is that they won’t tell anyone about what a great time they had playing the game, which means you fail to get the knock on effect of one satisfied gamer selling your product for you to other people.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping board games companies to grow. We have experience of most major board games markets around the world and our team has developed more than 200 board games including versions of classic games like Monopoly, Clue/do, Risk, Game of Life etc. For more information on our services (including our Export sales Consultancy) please just click here: https://www.boardgamebiz.com/index.php/board-game-business-consultancy-services/

Sign up now for our free BoardGameBiz newsletter offering insights, news and analysis of the business of Board Games. We’ll also send you a free copy of our book ’55 Features of Best Selling Board Games’ – just click here to sign up

Why The Outlook For The Board Games Business Looks Great!

Why The Outlook For The Board Games Business Looks Great!

The consumer and trade media tend to report on the board games business with a short-term outlook i.e. what is happening this Christmas, what is happening with retail this year or reporting on quarterly results from the major stock market listed companies who have board games in their portfolios.

But bearing in mind that most games companies are not reporting sales on a quarterly basis and are typically owner managed or owned by investment companies who typically have a 2-5 year timeframe of reference, this short termism can sometimes allow us to lose sight of the woods for the trees.

The reality at the time of writing this article is that by most measures the board games business has never been in a better position. Here are several factors to justify this bold statement:

  1. Market size (as per reported public domain data) suggests the market is up and has been nearly continuously up for a decade or more. This is not true for every product category.

 

  1. Breadth of product has never been greater – going back about 10 or 15 years the board games category was a bit staid with many different versions of more or less the same thing in the market. The issue was that there weren’t as many places to sell games as now, and there wasn’t as much strength and critical mass behind online retail. But today, retailers like Amazon can support a massively broader range vs years gone by when we would be trying to shoehorn an extra game or two onto an already packed planogam in physical retail.

 

  1. Routes to market have become far broader and easier to access and barriers to entry have come down – crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter allow nearly anyone with good ideas and execution to bring a product to market. Importantly this is direct to consumer selling, so instead of gatekeepers like publishers and retailers whittling out anything creative, new or ‘out there’ now anything goes…if you can persuade a couple of hundred other people to buy. Plus, manufacturing is easier than ever with more choices and options to manufacture in smaller quantities.

 

  1. People are playing games – it’s weird that this is only point 4, but in the end board games offer a social connectivity play experience. As humankind become more and more addicted to tech devices and screens, board games can offer the antidote to this and allow people to enjoy each other’s company face to face. At the time of writing, the coronavirus pandemic is still rocking the world, and making face to gameplay less do-able in some countries, but families are definitely playing more, which bodes well for the future, as game playing is a habit which once picked up can be harder to quit than narcotics!
  1. Sustainability – much of the toy business faces a major risk right now from consumer plastic rejection. The board games market does not need to see this as a threat. Whilst there are some kids games which are all plastic (i.e. Connect 4), the majority of games can be primarily and mostly manufactured from sustainable and recyclable materials. Some companies are going to need to raise their game in terms of FSC certification and other environmental considerations, but the board games factory is well set to deal with a new business and consumer perspective on sustainability.

The future then for the board games business looks good, even if there are some major short-term disruptive factors in play.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping board games companies to grow. We have experience of most major board games markets around the world and our team has developed more than 200 board games including versions of classic games like Monopoly, Clue/do, Risk, Game of Life etc. For more information on our services (including our Export sales Consultancy) please just click here: https://www.boardgamebiz.com/index.php/board-game-business-consultancy-services/

Sign up now for our free BoardGameBiz newsletter offering insights, news and analysis of the business of Board Games. We’ll also send you a free copy of our book ’55 Features of Best Selling Board Games’ – just click here to sign up

 

The No. 1 Marketing Factor In Selling More Board Games

The Number One Marketing Factor In Selling More Board Games

There are plenty of complicated marketing plans out there for you to try to persuade people to buy your games. There are certainly plenty of companies willing to take your money for advertising across many media.

There is however one fundamental marketing activity which nearly always works for games which are compelling to play. That primary activity is getting people to play your games! This won’t work of course if your product is all glitz and promise but lacking in compelling gameplay – you need to have a good game for this to work.

The reason why more board game companies don’t spend as much time, energy and money as they should do in getting people playing their games is because it takes a lot of hard grind and a willingness to think laterally and not just to follow the crowd. Parts of the board games business are driven by massive toy companies who have the typical model of launching by selling as many boxes into retail as they possibly can and then spending 15-20% of their forecast revenue on mass market media campaigns.

Hasbro as the long time biggest board games company in the world tends to follow this classic toy business approach, but then they have some massive advantages that you won’t have – they have so many of the all time classic games brands that tend to sell themselves and keep performing year after year.

Hasbro’s Wizards of The Coast (WOTC) business is a better model on how a games specialist business should run marketing though. Massively under rated and under reported, WOTC was bought by Hasbro primarily for Pokemon trading cards back in the day, but came with the unexpected long term hit trading card game franchise Magic: The Gathering. There is no doubt that Magic is a great game, but when that underlying awesome gameplay is combined with structured grass roots marketing (which is all about getting people playing the game and looking to buy more cards to upgrade their deck) you get a powerful formula as follows: great gameplay x game play stimulation x building a fan community.

One of the reasons why Asmodee has built such a brilliant business over the last decade or so, when they moved from being primarily a distributor with some own brands/products in the French market and a few other toeholds around Europe to being the biggest games company which isn’t also a toy company! One of the fundamental drivers of Asmodee’s success has been the practise of gameplay demonstrations – at festivals, in stores and in other locations. We attended an outdoor music festival in the north of the UK last year, and needless to say Asmodee had a tent there getting people playing games. When Asmodee brought Dobble over from France (where it had become a top selling game), there were some who laughed at the idea that such a quirky unusual looking and unusually named game could establish a presence in the cynical, label/license and mass retail driven UK market. A few years later and Dobble is a MASSIVE success in the UK board games market. The path from start to success was not driven by media spend, online metrics or any of those other factors – although they may have played a part – the success was driven by getting people playing a game which is simple enough that nearly anyone can play, but so compelling that nearly everyone becomes heavily immersed in the game.

That is the type of game which people will go out and encourage their friends to buy and play, and this is exactly the formula for organic growth in the board games business.

The challenge is that it takes time and effort to find ways to get people actually playing games instead of just buying them and leaving them in the shrink-wrap in a cupboard. But for long term success, building brands and organically growing games with great gameplay away from the pressure of needing instant HIT level sales via mass market retailers becomes the only logical step.

How many games has your company launched with the strategy of nurturing and taking years to grow sales based on the most fundamental factor of letting great gameplay speak for itself?

 

We run a Consultancy business helping board games companies to grow. We have experience of most major board games markets around the world and our team has developed more than 200 board games including versions of classic games like Monopoly, Clue/do, Risk, Game of Life etc. For more information on our services (including our Export sales Consultancy) please just click here: https://www.boardgamebiz.com/index.php/board-game-business-consultancy-services/

Sign up now for our free BoardGameBiz newsletter offering insights, news and analysis of the business of Board Games. We’ll also send you a free copy of our book ’55 Features of Best Selling Board Games’ – just click here to sign up

 

 

5 Factors In Selling More Of Your Board Games Internationally

5 Factors In Selling More of Your Board Games Internationally

While most board games companies have an established product range that sells for them year after year, many struggle to find strong and consistent sales growth internationally. There are a number of reasons why this happens to some board games companies. This article looks at 5 ways to sell more board games internationally:

1. Develop Games Suitable For As Many Markets As Possible
One of the biggest export sales inhibitors we come across when we are Consulting with board games companies is that they primarily develop board games based on their needs and product preferences of their home market. This of course is essential if you want to succeed in your home market, but board games are cultural products. There are many forms of culture, but only a few which will apply in all countries across the world. For instance, if you are a German company, your consumer’s expectations in your home market is for in depth rules and gameplay mechanisms, whereas in some markets that type of game instantly = NICHE, because mass market gamers in many countries don’t have the patience for lots of rules. So, if you want to sell more of your games overseas, perhaps you can restructure your product development efforts to give you a better chance of success internationally. For instance, if you usually develop 10 new games each year focused primarily on your home market, perhaps you can switch to making 2 games which are primarily focused on export markets. This way you still have a core offering for your home market as per usual, but also have some gateway products which can bring export markets into your games and brand.

2. Grow & Own Your Community
Of all the marketing activities available to marketers in board games companies, community-oriented marketing will build your company the most long-term value in most instances. Those gamers who are really into your products will work wonders for you over time, especially if you nurture them. These dedicated fans of your output will spread word of mouth for you and get their friends and families playing your games. We all understand that there is a need to sell each and every box we ship into retail, and as a result we focus our spend all too often on trade marketing activities which often have poor buy-in from stores, or mass media which may shift a few boxes but doesn’t have quite as dramatic an effect on the number of people actually playing a game. If you grow your community and resource to have ongoing 2 way dialogue you will develop games that people want to buy and play, and you will build your own marketing platform which you can use time and time again to support your new product launches. This applies both in your home market and internationally. Some board games companies change overseas distributors like a fashion fan changes dresses! If your distributor does change overseas clearly it is in your best interests to own your own interaction with fans of your games in those countries instead of losing it every time you switch distributor.

3. Distribute your distributors products
If you distribute your distributors products into your home market/s then you gain deeper and stronger relationships, which in return will lead them to be more likely to push your products or to at least deepen your interactions to the point that they tell you exactly why your products are a tougher sell than you may think. You do not need to distribute products which have no chance of success in your market, but why not ‘cherry pick’ a few games which you think have a good chance in your market?

4. Build Top Selling Games In Your Home Market
There are so many products out there for distributors to chose from that they will often review 10 or even sometimes 100 products to find one to sell. That is the reality of the industry we work in. There is a veritable plethora of games out there. The simple, but nevertheless difficult way to make export distributors sit up and take notice of what you are offering is to have top selling games in your home market. If you have a game which is an established top seller in your home market you will be far more likely to sell it overseas. If you have a range of fairly low but steady performers, that is a good way to build a solid dependable repeatable business in your home market but will not necessarily help you to find success internationally. But if you have a game which has sold hundreds of thousands of units you will find placing that game overseas much easier.

5. Ask Distributors What Games They Want, Then Make Those Games
This sounds blindingly obvious, but like most blindingly obvious things it is often not integrated in the development approach of many board games companies. The best salespeople we have worked with excel in asking questions first and foremost. If you go to the trouble to find out what your distributors are actively seeking, and then you deliver what they have said they are looking for you are more likely to place the game than if you try to sell them what you already have in your product line. Of course if you take this approach you will have the frustration of taking a game to someone based on what they said they were looking for and finding that they either already got it from somewhere else, or that their needs have moved on, but regardless of that this approach is more likely overall to lead you to selling more games internationally.

We run a Consultancy business helping board games companies to grow. We have experience of most major board games markets around the world and our team has developed more than 200 board games including versions of classic games like Monopoly, Clue/do, Risk, Game of Life etc. For more information on our services (including our Export sales Consultancy) please just click here: https://www.kidsbrandinsight.com/services/

Sign up now for our free BoardGameBiz newsletter offering insights, news and analysis of the business of Board Games. We’ll also send you a free copy of our book ’55 Features of Best Selling Board Games’ – just click here to sign up

Why Playtesting Games Is So Important To Their Long Term Prospects

WHY PLAYTESTING GAMES IS SO IMPORTANT TO THEIR LONG-TERM PROSPECTS

Games with good concepts and good marketing can sell well for the first selling year, but they tend to fade away if the gameplay is flawed. The reason for this is that sales of board games are reliant on word of mouth, whether that’s spoken face to face or passed on in some online way. And people don’t tend to recommend games which aren’t fn or which have some kind of gameplay flaw which stops them being compelling.

From a business perspective, it is easy to take the view that most new board game launches don’t stick in the market, therefore why pay too much attention to them when we will have to develop new games again for next year anyway. The point though is that there is nothing more profitable normally than a game which sells year after year without additional development or marketing investment.
The way that you make games compelling to play is by taking time to test and tweak the gameplay in depth beyond just a quick playtest. How much longevity and repeat play value is there in the gameplay mechanism? How likely are people to have such a good time that they choose to recommend to friends, and above all can they get into playing the game quickly and easily?

These questions can all be resolved via repeated playtesting ad nauseum. In the same way as an author is often truly sick of a book by the time they have finished writing and tweaking it, that’s how it should feel to finally send off a game to manufacturing.

Playtesting shouldn’t only occur among your highly board games literate colleagues though, you should seek to play the game with as many different people as you can to enable you to deliver a game which appeals to the broadest possible audience – that’s how you maximise sales over the long term.

We offer a range of Board Games business Consultancy services, including professional research playtesting. We have playtested many iconic games for board games companies, including Monopoly, Cluedo, Risk, Trivial Pursuit and more. If you are struggling to get ahead in the board game biz, maybe one of our services can help you. For more information, please click here: https://www.boardgamebiz.com/index.php/board-game-business-consultancy-services/

 

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