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The Importance Of Board Game Inventors To The Board Games Business

The Importance Of Board Game Inventors To The Board Games Business

The unsung heroes of the board games business are board game inventors! In so many cases, classic games which are now cultural icons came from the minds of independent or start up inventors before being taken onto a bigger commercial stage by more established board games publishers.

The challenge for board games publishers with highly experienced staff is that there is often a feeling of seen it all before and of doing things a certain way. Creatively speaking, outside inspiration often stretches what a board games company will do and makes the company look at things in a different way.

In some ways board games publishers have the easiest R&D model of nearly any business out there – there is a vast array of tested and honed board game play concepts out there. The average small to medium sized games company will review many hundreds of new concepts each year, bigger companies may review more than a thousand. And from this mighty array of options they can whittle the options down to as few as they can viably launch. That is not to say that there is no work required from that point on – far from it, things need to be tweaked, artwork needs to be developed and any plastic components designed, engineered and manufactured, but nevertheless the pool of creativity available to board game companies is close to unparalleled.

Many games companies hit a rough patch and have a bad year or two, but there can be no excuse that they didn’t have enough ideas to develop! The trick for board game companies is to develop strong filtration systems and processes which can sort the wheat from the chaff. This can take some effort, and every established games company has somewhere along the line turned down a game that became a top seller elsewhere, this is because games publishers can bring in way more concepts than they have time to properly review and it is difficult to predict which games will take off and which will fail spectacularly.

This of course is the main challenge for even professional board game inventors – the high level of competing games concepts and the high quality of many of those concepts makes it hard to place even strong games from originators who really know what they are doing. Therefore, the business model for games inventors is massively stacked with upfront opportunity cost and emotional investment based on faith and love of the game. All this effort and energy needs to be expended well ahead of actually selling anything and making a living. Nobody knows exactly how many board games get published globally each year, but it is in the thousands at least, maybe even ten thousand or more. So, despite heavy competition there is ongoing demand for the output of board game inventors.

For those still unconvinced of the need for or importance of board game inventors in the games business, consider this – all of the following popular and iconic games were created by independent inventors: Monopoly, Clue/do, Trivial Pursuit, Settlers of Catan, Operation, Cranium, Scrabble, Dobble…and many more. So, here’s to those plucky game creators and their glorious output!

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.

 

How To Find Reliable & Cost Effective Board Games Manufacturing

How To Find Reliable & Cost-Effective Board Games Manufacturing

If you’re in the board games business then you need a reliable and cost-effective board games factory. By far the largest expense you have is the manufacturing cost – generally speaking board game manufacturing costs account for around 25-30% of a company’s revenues. So, if you are looking for ways to make a board games company more profitable it logically makes sense to look at the area where spending is highest i.e. spend on manufacturing wiht a board games factory.

Pricing isn’t everything though, even though it is usually the first concern. If you can’t make your games to meet demand and you lose sales, then your company loses far more than it gains by shaving a couple of points off manufacturing spend.

Nevertheless though, there are several tried and tested ways to reduce manufacturing costs:

  1. Get quotes from multiple suppliers – this is evidently an effective strategy because so many companies use it. With this approach you quote every new game with a couple of factories in order to ensure you get competitive costing. The drawback with this approach though is that it can be overdone. In the end while there are quite a few board games factories out there, board games manufacturing is a finite capability. So, if you routinely make 3 or 4 factories quote for your products and deliver very little business to any of them you will find that they will lose interest in quoting for you and before long you will have nowhere to manufacture your games. Beware of taking a transactional approach, an effective and sustainable approach to sourcing requires relationship building with suppliers and an appreciation that they are also in business to make money. We would normally suggest board games companies with multiple new products launching each year focus on building two strong factory partnerships. This allows for the benefits of good working relationships, allows for some supply chain diversification and offers two sources for quoting to ensure pricing is competitive.

 

  1. Work in partnership with the factory on the product spec – there are normally some features of the product spec which are sacrosanct, but there are others where there is more leeway. One mistake we have observed over time is board games companies and their Sourcing Managers really screwing down a factory on pricing without asking the factory to challenge the spec. We have worked with many of the most respected board game factories in the business, and one opportunity we recommend our clients to take is to ask the factory to proactively challenge the spec and to find cost savings based on process, materials and overall specification. Clearly they would rather take this approach versus making less margin, and often their solutions are better anyway in terms of setup experience or gameplay experience.

 

  1. Use factories with established customer base – we would always be wary of an inexperienced factory. Why would you take the risk of working with a factory on their first few projects when they have yet to develop the expertise to ensure consistent quality & delivery standards? Maybe you could work with an inexperienced factory for a significant cost reduction but aside from this we would normally suggest it is prudent to review the existing customer base of a factory. The easiest way to find out who else the factory is supplying would be to ask them, most factories are happy to share the list of companies they supply, you can also check how good they are at protecting the details of their clients projects by probing and asking for more information, if they tell you everything they are doing with no respect for client confidentiality you can expect them to treat your confidential projects with the same approach!

 

  1. Review carry forward product pricing on an ongoing basis – when a company sells a product year after year, and where the pricing seems ok and is fairly stable i.e. not increasing all the time, it can be all too easy to leave things be. This though is often where the biggest cost savings can be made, by refining costings and spec on an ongoing basis. One project we worked on was for a long-established board game with some plastic components and plenty of cardboard items. Typically, this type of long-standing multi-component game can offer good opportunities for cost savings as technologies and cost barriers are broken down over time. When we reviewed the company product portfolio and the sales and profit of each product this particular game stood out like a sore thumb due to good levels of recurring sales, but low profitability. By identifying the problem and getting the team at both the company and the factory thinking on how to rework the spec, the manufacturing processes and the materials we were able to deliver cost savings of more than $150,000 while also delivering a far better experience for gamers.

 

  1. Work with experienced 3rd parties to get better value and find more cost competitive sources with reliable delivery – in theory nobody wants a middle man, but often in the world of Sourcing middle men can actually save you money. The average board games company we have worked with (based on having worked with, consulted for and sold to more than 200 board game companies) typically has just one Sourcing Manager or sometimes a person with remit for sourcing and other functions. Presuming they are sourcing in the Far East, they may actually visit the factories once per year, sometimes even less than that. They tend to spend far more time on the process of ordering and shipping than they do on actually sourcing. By using 3rd parties you can often find better solutions and cost savings due to added resource, expertise and knowledge.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping board games companies to grow & be more profitable. We have saved our clients more than $10m on sourcing over the past decade. We work with the most reliable board game factories in the business with strong capabilities and competitive costings. For more information on our services (including Sourcing) please just click here: https://www.boardgamebiz.com/index.php/board-game-business-consultancy-services/

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Understanding The Longevity Of The Board Games Business

Understanding The Longevity Of The Board Games Business

Technology was supposed to kill the board games business! The video games business came out of the periphery of the toy industry originally, and toy and game companies like Hasbro & Mattel made very committed (& costly) forays into this space looking back in time. The video game business is now worth many $billions in its own right. But video games did not kill off board games.

Then came smart phones and tablets which were supposed to kill off all home based non-digital leisure pursuits, and yet again the board game business continued far less spectacularly in the background.

For those of us who have been around a while in the board games industry there are two often heard comments from people not in the business:

  1. Is anyone still buying or playing board games today with all this technology, video on demand and digital gaming? Answer = a thoroughly emphatic yes!
  2. I read that board games are making a comeback this year, is that true? Answer = they never went away!

These two comments are nearly as recurring as Christmas time itself!

The more important question for those of us in the business is why is it that the board games business has not just survived but has thrived as technological revolutions abound? There are several strong factors driving and ensuring the longevity of the board games industry:

  1. Technology has enabled more effective marketing – the classic big company way to launch board games was with shipments to all retailers across the trade and with heavy marketing investment via TV advertising primarily. This launch model has been especially prevalent among toy companies who also sold board games, because that is the toy marketing business model. The most effective marketing tool over time to launch board games which last in the market though, especially for games with compelling gameplay, is to get people playing the game and recommending the game to friends and family. Technology, especially social media has been a huge positive driver for the board games business because this facilitates word of mouth, which has always been one of the top drivers of board games purchases.

 

  1. Human beings are social to their core, and there is no better social facilitator than a compelling board game – if anyone was in any doubt about the need for human beings to connect socially in a face to face, non-digital way, then the strong impact of covid-19 induced lockdowns around the world on mental health and happiness should be clear evidence that humans need to hang out with other humans! Sometimes though, even when we are with our nearest and dearest family and friends conversation can be a bit stilted or perhaps the ice just needs to be melted sometimes when drawing different people together! Aside perhaps from alcohol, there is no better way to bring down social inhibition and get people enjoying each other’s company than playing a good board game. So far, despite all the massive technological advancements, some illustrated cardboard and a few other physical components thrown together in a box have still not been bettered by technology. In time, technology may enhance the experience, but we have seen many attempts to utilise technology to enhance board game experiences and not many have stuck. So often companies chase whizzy technology over just delivering a compelling fun experience!

 

 

  1. Human beings need an antidote to technology addiction – aside from the need for social interaction, humankind is increasingly aware of screen time and tech addiction that is more impulsive and harder to resist than some narcotics! Therefore, one of the key modern drivers of board games purchases and board games playing is backlash to too much screen time.

In conclusion, this is an exciting time in the development of humankind. Technological advancements are accelerating, and in the not too distant future technology will deliver impact on our lives that most adults could not have imagined would occur during their lifetimes. And yet the humble board game continues to represent a growing global market with a richness and diversity of content offerings that is way beyond that of even a decade ago.

So, our prediction is twofold: a) Massive ongoing technological revolution and b) Continuing growth and health for the board games category.

 

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 Important Role Of Pay Off And Climax In Board Games

The Important Role Of Pay Off And Climax In Board Games

There are many different reasons why people play board games and various different parts of board games play which are enjoyed. People aren’t all the same, so they choose to play and choose what to play based on often quite different motives. Historically at least, the archetypal driver of board games play for families was the mother of the household who would want to use board games as a way to bring the family together. While much has changed in society in recent decades, this role of the matriarch of the household is still a strong driver of board games play. But even then, this is an over simplistic characterisation of what drives interest in playing board games. Everybody is different, and therefore they are motivated by a number of other factors, and their choices tend to be different based on the complexity of the human spirit and personality.

Having said all that, one fundamental perennial factor is that those games which deliver a pay off moment along with a rising climax seem to appeal to something universal in all of us. A classic example of a game driven by pay off and climax would be Jenga. Jenga is a game which tests dexterity and visual analysis of a structure, which doesn’t sound that exciting, but the climactic build up to the crescendo of the tower collapsing is a thoroughly compelling factor.

More broadly though, aside from just the sheer climax of a game like Jenga, many long-term classic games deliver a pure moment of someone winning and someone losing. There are many examples of board games that don’t have this of course, but those games which don’t have a big pay off tend to need a really strong and engaging theme or a really compelling and engaging social interaction built into the gameplay.

When you launch your next new board game , perhaps you could view it from the lens of whether it is delivering a compelling build up to a major event or win for one or even better all of the players! If we go back to the example of Jenga, the moment the tower collapses is a fairly shocking event for the person who touched the tower last, but for everyone else it is a moment of relief and ‘schadenfreude’ (meaning taking pleasure in the humiliation or suffering of other people!). There are many ways in which board game mechanisms can deliver this type of climactic event, and that is a long-term proven driver of commercially successful 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/

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.

 

 

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/

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 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