How to Sell a Game

As far as getting a game made, hard but doable. But getting sales for your product once its finished, that is another task entirely. How do games become a hit. The short answer is that most of them don’t. We have all heard of Candy Land and Monopoly. In fact, most people have played these popular games at one time or another in their lives. I for one used to be terrified of Molasses Swamp as a child. The fact of the matter is that Monopoly, Clue, Trivia Pursuit, and many other games that are considered “American Classics” were all rejected initially by major game companies such as Milton Bradley and Hasbro. Who knew, Monopoly for which more money is printed every year than actual U.S. currency was rejected as a game by the industry. Trivia Pursuit has the same story, “adults don’t want to play games” the creators were told. So what happened? How did these games come to sit on all of our shelves if they were rejected as great ideas? Simply put, the creators believed people wanted to play them, and in fact they did. Monopoly’s creator started selling it to people he knew and small independent store. People loved it and started asking for it, soon more stores started calling him and asking if they could sell it in their stores. Eventually, the big boys took notice and asked him if they could sell it. the rest as you know is history. Cranium was sold exclusively in Starbucks for the longest time before hitting retail stores. UNO was sold out of a barber shop until game stores started requesting it. All of these games we know and love were developed by people who wanted to make a game people would love to play. All of them were rejected. The truth of the industry is that the best games come from independent inventors and developers, not research and development departments or people in white suits.

The difference between Who’s Counting™ and some of the games I have listed is that Who’s Counting™ is not targeted towards mainstream. The target players of Who’s Counting™ are probably not people who shop at Wal-Mart and Toys’R’us. Interestingly enough there is a market where games sell that most of us have never heard of in our lives. This market is called Hobby Games, or sometimes Strategy Games. And there are thousands of these stores across the country. Most of them are also independently run and operated. For example locally we have one called Black and Read, it is a book/music/game store, in fact they have a little of everything. But if you know what you are looking for you can walk to the back corner of this store which smells heavily of incense and old books, and you can find hundreds of games that you have never heard of or seen before. And I do mean hundreds. The store itself has a cult following, that is people come in once a month and buy 20 of the latest games which came out. Games are added to the stores selection purely by recommendations from store patrons, “Do you have the game Black Dalia? Oh, well you should because it is a lot of fun and it has these really cool pieces that change color.” If enough people suggest a game the store will sell it on a trial basis to see how it does. It is a very neat market segment because these people really know their games and they know what they like.

Many famous games have taken this course such as Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons, both hugely successful games which millions of people play and millions of dollars have been made
from these games. While there is more of a fit for our game here than there is in the retail segment this is still a tough sell for Who’s Counting™ because it is an educational game designed to be sold to schools and teachers. That isn’t to say there isn’t a certain appeal to the hobby game segment, just that it won’t be the biggest hit in that particular market. The best chance for a game like ours is twofold. Firstly, in the game industry awards mean a lot. I can’t emphasize that enough. If you win the right awards, suddenly your game is propelled to the accolades of the game industry. This is the path that Munchkin took, a wildly successful card game people love, it was nothing before it won the Origins Game award a few years ago. Many titles that become famous overnight do so because they have won a prestigious game award. Of all of the game awards that can be won, none is more prestigious, or a surer way of making money than the Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year).

Winning this award is a sure way to become an overnight sensation, in fact the well known game Settlers of Catan was the 1995 Spiel des Jahres award winner in 1995 and Origins award winner in 1996. These awards meant the game could sail the ocean blue from Germany to the United States where it is sold by Mayfair Game. If Settlers of Catan had not won these prestigious awards you would never have heard of the game, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing about it. Yet, since the game become popular there have been numerous expansions and spin-offs released including a video game version and a card game. Many German games are made each year, and most of them are designed and produced by individuals. Germany is a huge game market, especially compared to that of the U.S. There are a few game designers in Germany who are equal to fashion designers in the U.S. And when one of these individuals makes a game, you bet people buy it. It is also quite typical in Germany to for a game to feature the designers name on the front of the packaging, this isn’t seen much in the U.S. market, probably because 90% of our games come from Hasbro.

Who’s Counting™ may win a game award because for most awards educational consideration is a component of judging the games. In this regard Who’s Counting™ should get a high score. We have a different market segment than most of the games out there however, this is an educational game. It is not a hobby game, not a family game, and certainly not a strategy game which often involves painting armies of little figurines before you can play.

Cody

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