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Which game types sell best?

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Verseboy
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Joined: 12/31/1969

As I said in my introduction to this list (in Game Publication), I have far more experience with and knowledge of party games rather than strategy games, German games, that sort of thing. When I go to Boardgame Geek and look at comments, it seems like far more response is generated by these strategy games than by the party games. Monday, I braved a blizzard and drove an hour to Games by James. The party games are all up there in the front of the store, the first thing you see. The strategy games are in the back, kind of buried in a corridor leading to the stock room. Anyway, that got me to wondering, which games are going to sell more units in a year or a lifetime? Will Settlers of Cataan outsell Apples to Apples? Or are the adherents of Settlers simply more impassioned and vociferous, even though their numbers are smaller? Does anyone have any concrete knowledge on the matter?

The games I've designed fall firmly into the party category. Obviously I have to work in the areas I'm most comfortable.

While at Games by James I bought a party game called Things, which is absolutely brilliant. I had played it once before. I then picked up Citadels, based on the reviews I had read. It sounded like a good introduction to European games. I was going to get Bohnanza, but one of the well-versed employees steered me to Trans America instead. We spent much of yesterday playing it. I have a 14-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome. It's impossible to include her in some games, but Trans America is one she can play and enjoy. She even won the last game of the evening.

Back to the question at hand: Which types of games sell best? Thanks.

Steve

Scurra
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Which game types sell best?

The games that sell best are the ones that get into the big stores (ToysRUs and WalMart). Those are either kids games - Candyland, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders etc. - or the "classics" - Monopoly, Risk, Clue(do) etc.
The other ones that sell well are tie-in games, although they are mostly the usual suspects as well: Star Wars Monopoly, Lord of the Rings Risk, Harry Potter Clue(do) etc.
Cranium did well because they hit upon a unique marketing strategy, which was to sell through a different outlet.

In the US (and the UK), "games" are played within families, mostly at holiday times. No-one wants an intellectual exercise so they stick to what they know or can easily handle. Thus party games are big sellers at holiday time but generall very ephemeral, with only a few reliable "brands" surviving each year. New spins on classic games appear each year but generally don't get reprinted. Apples to Apples may break this pattern if it is lucky.

In Europe (and Germany especially), gaming is slightly more popular as an entertainment form (although still not as huge as you think.) Thus the mainstream shops stock Settlers and Carcassonne as well as Monopoly and Risk. This helps their sales but still only to a limited extent.

So the basic answer to your question is that no games sell well apart from Monopoly et al. Some party games sell exceptionally well but usually through fluke (Trivial Pursuit) or clever marketing (Cranium). Strategy games will never sell hugely: it's a specialist hobby, which is why you have to go to a specialist shop to buy them :)

The reason we all talk about strategy games, however, is that there are things to talk about! There are mechanical structures, rules of play, interaction concepts, production elements etc just in the design process, and then there are the actual strategy and tactics of play to be discussed too. You simply can't do that with a party game.

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Which game types sell best?

Verseboy wrote:
Back to the question at hand: Which types of games sell best?

I think most strategy games don't sell a lot of copies. There are a few exceptions, of course. I think on the whole party games sell more copies than the average strategy game. The bulk of the sales come from the "standard" games, such as Risk, Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, etc. Strategy games are more interesting to write about, but that doesn't say anything about the volume sold.

I do suspect it is harder to get a party game published than a strategy game, because there are more companies that do strategy games in small print runs. There are less publishers of party games and they are more often than not aiming at mass marketing. So, while it is probably harder to sell a party game design, it is also potentially more profitable.

The best selling board games in Germany last year were:
1. Monopoly Standard
2. Lotti Karotti (400.000 units, a children's game)
3. Dr. Bibber (aka "Operation", also a children's game)
4. Der Palast von Alhambra (SdJ winner 2003, strategy game)
5. Original Scrabble
6. Tabu (Taboo, party game)
7. UNO (cardgame)
8. Laser Light Tennis
9. Carcassonne (strategy game)
10. Risiko (aka "Risk")

Keep in mind that the public Germany is probably a slightly more leaning towards strategy games than the US public. Als, there is no equivalent of the "Spiel des Jahres" in the US to help boost sales of a strategy game.

- René Wiersma

SVan
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Joined: 10/02/2008
Which game types sell best?

Americans are slowly breaking out of their shells, but it isn't really the game business that is the problem, but the fact that Americans on the average are getting more and more use to doing things on their own, or instead of using their imagination, they prefer for others to do that for them (i.e. watching movies.)

I believe I heard that Monopoly is mostly bought as a gift, so I wonder if people still play it. A couple months ago, I bought a monopoly party game for my gamecube, which allows all players to take their turns at the same time. I actually like this game a lot, because on the average games take anywhere from 30 mins to an hour to play. It would be interesting to see other games get made like this. However I'll probably never play the actually board game for Monopoly again.

I think the mainstream market for strategy games is untapped. I can see strategy games in Wal-Mart someday. Hopefully by the end of the decade. Even if it's just one or two, it could open the door to the others.

-Steve

DavemanUK
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Rollers vs Thinkers

SVan wrote:
Americans on the average are getting more and more used to doing things on their own, or instead of using their imagination, they prefer for others to do that for them (i.e. watching movies.)

And of course there's no better 'delegation of thought' than to roll a dice and move along a track :) Of course, to most people, this is what they want to do in their leisure time rather than do any calculative thinking.

I do feel that a strategy game could "appear in WalMart" if its initial concept to the browsing shoppers is a simple 'roll and move' (as seen in Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Clue/Cluedo) or 'stare at huge, bright, plastic thing' (as seen in Pop-up Pirate, Buckaroo, Kerplunk, etc.) but this is hard to design (although Basari and Settlers of Catan make good use of the dice) and possibly unethical (trying to sell something under the guise of something else).

However, as a basic design exercise to see if there's any mileage in the above idea, take the board layout and roll and move aspect of Snakes & Ladders and add a layer of strategy, e.g. a set of action cards (Torres, Basari) or action points (Torres, Tikal).

Scurra has described to our group how Monopoly would be hugely improved with the use of 'dice cards' (but that's for him to relate) :)

Dave W.

SVan
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Joined: 10/02/2008
Re: Rollers vs Thinkers

DavemanUK wrote:
I do feel that a strategy game could "appear in WalMart" if its initial concept to the browsing shoppers is a simple 'roll and move' (as seen in Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Clue/Cluedo) or 'stare at huge, bright, plastic thing' (as seen in Pop-up Pirate, Buckaroo, Kerplunk, etc.) but this is hard to design (although Basari and Settlers of Catan make good use of the dice) and possibly unethical (trying to sell something under the guise of something else).

However, as a basic design exercise to see if there's any mileage in the above idea, take the board layout and roll and move aspect of Snakes & Ladders and add a layer of strategy, e.g. a set of action cards (Torres, Basari) or action points (Torres, Tikal).

Maybe that has to be the first step, to design a roll and move but strategy game, to get Walmart to sell it. But, probably more than anything, you need name recognition. Or if there is no name recognition the theme is the next thing people are going to look at. It won't matter how good a game is, if it is based on chemistry or something complex. The public want something they know and something easy. Unfortunely, most of them realize that there is better games besides monopoly which not only are funner, but are a lot shorter (does monopoly or risk ever last shorter than 2 to 3 hrs?)

And I think that is the problem. If people knew about the games that are being produced and that they are easier to learn than monopoly, play faster, and are funner, I think they would be bought much much more. Advertising is everything. Unfortunely none of companies have the money to advertise the games enough to let America know that they exist.

Hasbro has something to do with that too. Sometimes I wonder if they purposely try to suppress the newer games so that they can fill their pockets from the older ones.

Nazhuret
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Rollers vs Thinkers

SVan wrote:
DavemanUK wrote:
.....

Hasbro has something to do with that too. Sometimes I wonder if they purposely try to suppress the newer games so that they can fill their pockets from the older ones.

oh i'm sure they do. maybe not suppress so much as just not take a chance. why should they when they can just keep on selling the same games that have always sold?

i really think that the vast majority of people out there don't think it's even possible for there to be more than 100 or so board games. they know what they know from the local department store and ads during christmas... anything other than those are considered some freaky geeky sub culture thing that they want nothing to do with.

of course if you basically force them to play they are amazed at how easy yet incredibly fun these "weird" games can be... and how many of them there are out there.

anyway, i'm just ranting...

Anonymous
Which game types sell best?

Hey all, long time lurker, first time poster. Please take the following with a grain of salt as I am a game retailer.

All this talk about German Games being sold in Wal-Mart as a great and desirable thing has me suprised. As game designers, that should be the last thing you want. Wal-Mart is never in a million years going to sell your game and the small game stores that would sell your game will be driven out of business as their best sellers get cherry picked. Then when Wal-Mart decides that they're not making enough money off them and drops them, who are the game making companies going to sell their copies of Carcassone: Scooby Doo to?

Anyways, back to the original question, my top selling games over the past year in a small retail store:
1. Apples to Apples
2. Set
3. Apples to Apples Crate Edition
4. Cranium Hoopla
5. Quiddler
6. Risk Lord of the Rings
7. Fish Eat Fish
8. Settlers of Catan
9. Seattle Shuffle (local game, *cough cough*)
10. LCR

Okay, now back to my rant: Note that only one of those (Risk LotR) is something that WalMart carries. All the rest are small(ish) companies, one is even local. All of them are games I personally recommend. Well, not LCR, but what you gonna do? If Wal-Mart ever starts selling German games, I hope you like Puerto Rico: Jennifer Lopez Edition.

sedjtroll
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Challenge

So why don't we try it? Why don't we make a Roll and Move strategy game? How hard can it be?

First off, when rolling dice the result can be 'random' (roll 1dX), or can be 'probabalistic' (roll 2dX). This can be used to the designer's advantage.

Also, what if there were more than 1 track? Then while the number rolled is random, the player must decide which track or tracks to move on. A simple example might be that you roll dice and split that number of movement however you want between 2 or three tracks. Maybe 1 track is a Victory Point track, where your poisition on the track directly translates to VPs. Another could be a poisitional track, where your position on the track scores VPs relative to other player's positions. A third track could have to do with some other aspect of the game- maybe along that track there are spaces were you draw a card, and the cards help you in other ways... thereby your position on that track indirectly scores you VPs.

Any thoughts?

Chip
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Which game types sell best?

Grendel makes some interesting points about Walmart. In fact over the past couple months I've been contemplating whether if and when the time comes, would I choose to put my game on the shelves of Walmart, Target, Kmart, or other discount merchants. At the moment I'm actually inclined to say that I wouldn't. Obviously the shear volume of games that could be pushed through Walmart is what makes it appealing, but as Grendel astutely points out, you'll choke the independents that got you going in the first place. What happens when you introduce another game that isn't immediately picked up by Walmart? Will local game stores across the country be real enthused to promote your game if they think they're going to get hosed again in the long run?

One of the big issues in the toy industry at the moment is the brand dilution created by Walmart in particular, but others such as Target as well. It's been written about quite a bit in industry pubs over the past year or so. The presence of product on Walmart shelves, although appealing to manufacturers in the short term because of the volume of product moved, and appealing to consumers because of reduced prices, actually cheapens product brands in the long run. Nerf, Monopoly, HotWheels, Cranium are all affected. The name has less meaning, less value in the long run and won't likely command a premium price for new introductions no matter how good. Prices drop (and in some cases quality drops, both physical and intellectual) and strength of brand goes with it. Perceived value in the short run perhaps goes up a bit because price drops fairly significantly. But in the long run, the quality of the brand goes down. Everyone can now have these product, whether they get played with or not.

Chip

Anonymous
Re: Challenge

I always figured the reason games like Monopoly and Risk still get played is because 1) clear progression toward a goal 2) lots of screw your neighbor.

Quote:
Another could be a poisitional track, where your position on the track scores VPs relative to other player's positions

Kind of like Hare & Tortoise? I like the game but I only got to try it after I told a customer, "I've never played it, but if you don't like it, I'll buy it back so I can try it." She brought it back. It was too much for her kids. I think the somewhat heavy math element of the game drove them (and my wife) away. Though Hare & Tortoise does include a lot of Goal Progression and Screw your Neighbor... I think the main thing it has going against it is that the theme seems to target younger kids while the mechanics are too tough for most young kids.

Another approach: two tracks, one you roll and move on, the other you move based on what happens on track #1. Like Trivial Pursuit really, you move around on one track, but you win by finishing the other track (the pie pieces).

Nazhuret
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Which game types sell best?

for my part i wasn't talking about walmart or any other particular retailer... i personally HATE walmart and their horridly evil business practices...

i was talking about the larger publishers and the public at large no matter where they buy their games...

i'm sure there is somewhat of a connection between these things and the retailers but that's not what i'm talking about.

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