The Board Game Design Course

Where great games begin

Game Design

Finding your niche

With 5,000 or more board games being released each and every year, it’s easy for yours to get lost in the crowd.

So how do you find a way to stand out and stand above all the other games?

I spoke a bit about this in my previous articles Why Table Presence Matters and Why Your Game Needs to Stand Out (and How to Make Sure it Does).

But there are other aspects you’ll also want to consider.

Understand your audience

As a creator, part of your job is to figure out where you fit in the market.

Is your game suited for hard-core hobby gamers, casual gamers, or the mass market crowd? Will your game be enjoyed by kids, families, couples, or friends? Will it be played solo, by two players, small groups, or at parties?

It’s important to know these demographics as a starting point. But there’s a lot further you can go with this.

Building on this starting point, we will next look at how we can narrow this down.

E for everyone

If you try to create a game for everyone, you’ll just end up creating a game for no one.

The fact is, not everybody is going to enjoy your game. And that’s okay. You can probably think of at least a few popular games that many others love, but are not your favourite.

I would rather have a small group of diehard fans of my game that love it so much that they will tell all their friends and promote it to everyone they know, naturally, than have 100% of gamers think that my game is just okay.

Birds of a feather

Elizabeth Hargrave created a game about birds. This was an unusual theme for a game and fell well outside of a lot of common gaming tropes like zombies, Cthulu, and other fantasy themes. Nonetheless, Wingspan has been extremely successful.

Hargrave wanted to make a game about something she was interested in. She got the attention of Stonemaier games, who signed Wingspan and released it in early 2019.

The artwork is beautiful, depicting various birds, and the design of the game stayed true to subject. The game has been praised, as it appeals not only to bird fans, but also other hobby gamers.

Hargrave found her niche, yet because her game was so well-received, her audience went well beyond those who are simply interested in birds.

Find your niche

If you bring this all together, what we’re really talking about is finding your niche.

A niche is described as a distinct segment of a market.

So, rather than creating a generic game that you hope will appeal to a huge group of people, it’s often better to create something that will cater to a particular group or interest. This could be one of many ideas. You just need to find one and go with it.

I’m working on a game right now that I’m co-designing with a friend, called Isle of Rock ‘n Roll. As you can guess, it relates very closely to rock music. However, it’s not a trivia game and you don’t need any special knowledge of rock ‘n roll, or music in general, to play.

It’s about forming a band, then competing for fans, popularity, and albums, in order to be the loudest and biggest band.

Will this appeal to country music fans? Jazz aficionados? Hip-hop and rap worshippers?

Probably not.

But you know what? We’re okay with that.

The reason is, those who do have an interest in rock music have seen the album charts, the stadium, and the mixing console where you score points, and have said “whoa, that looks cool! I want to play that game.”

But it’s not enough for our game to just look good. We have to then deliver on that experience of feeling like they are in a rock band that they now expecting to get from our game.

What niche have you found for your game? How is it different than others on the market?

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