5 Ways German Board Games Companies Can Export More Games
Germany (in conjunction with neighbouring Austria & German speaking Switzerland) is one of the biggest board games markets in the world. Board gaming is a major social pastime in Germany, to a level that is way beyond most other markets. Whether that’s devoted parents spending time playing games with their children, or adults playing the latest deeply immersive board game, the reality is that the Germanic peoples truly embrace board game playing. There is no better exemplification of the strong marketplace than the Essen Spiel show, which in normal (non-pandemic) times sees more than 200,000 gamers descend to play games, get crushed by the crowds (!) and to enjoy gaming after hours. To put this in context, Gencon gets only around a third of these visitor numbers, despite the USA having a much larger population than Germany.*
The challenge for German speaking board games companies & distributors is that the type of games which work in the market there don’t always travel all that well, certainly not compared with the apparent ease with which a successful game in the USA, UK or France can sometimes sell across different countries and cultures. We have worked with more than dozen board games companies in German speaking countries, and our team has many close friends working within the board games trade there, but the reality is that many Germanic games don’t travel so well. There are two primary reasons for this:
- Deeper, more complex game play as standard.
- Artwork style which does not translate as well to other markets vs the prevailing art style from other countries.
This is quite a risky article for us to write, because we don’t want to offend our many friends, colleagues and clients in Germany, so we certainly don’t make these points to offend people. But in order to help German board games distributors export more games and grow profitably, we need to state the truth as we see it. The standard level of complexity and depth of instructions tends to be beyond the attention levels of mainstream potential game players in other markets.
Additionally, although artwork is highly subjective, there are definitely prevalent art styles from country to country, and these can be quite different. Many of the games which sell very well in the German market have pack designs which don’t automatically translate to other cultures quite as well as from some countries.
Having started with explaining why we think German games companies don’t export as many games as they could, we will now take a look at 5 ways in which they can sell more games overseas:
- Develop some simpler but equally compelling gameplays – those German speaking games companies who have enjoyed some degree of export success tend to have success with the simpler games in their portfolios. This does not mean that you can’t still develop games to the level required for success at home, but it just means allowing some thought and development resource to be directed to the export markets. If the necessary expertise is not available in house for this, there is a myriad of freelance resource out there of exceedingly high pedigree and capability.
- Consider creating ‘export’ artwork variations on priority products – where a company is keen to sell particular games overseas we have seen more success achieved when the company is willing to adapt the original version of the game as required to meet the prevailing needs of the export market.
- Develop games to brief for other markets – then see how they can be adapted for the market in Germany. One feature of the board games business in Germany is the proliferation of board games products. So many new games come to market every year, and nearly every company has multiple new titles coming to market every year. Surely there is capacity to develop a minority of titles focused on export markets first, German markets second?
- Be flexible if you can’t be bespoke – on games which can’t easily be changed for overseas markets, ensure maximum flexibility on trading terms, MOQs etc to give the games their best chance of finding good distribution.
- Run analysis on which types of games work well in BOTH German speaking countries and outside the region – there are some types of games which work across both German speaking and non-German speaking markets. If your team hasn’t analysed all games which exported well from the German market to see what they could learn, we do recommend running that exercise to create clarity on what gives the best chance of achieving success both in and outside the home market.
In conclusion, the reality is that German speaking markets represent less than 10% of the global board games market, therefore to maximise their chances of growth, focusing on what is needed for success overseas should prove more successful in the long term versus only selling the games which have already met the needs of the German speaking markets.
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