The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

How to sell your game without being “salesy”

What comes to your mind when you hear words like “sales” and “marketing”?

Do they conjure up images of sleazy used car salesmen?

Are you worried that when it comes time to “sell” your game, whether it be convincing passersby to play it, pitching it to a publisher, or putting it up on Kickstarter, you’ll come across as a self-promoting weasel?

It doesn’t have to feel this way. Selling and marketing your game doesn’t have to be about acting boastful and slimy.

In fact, it can become a very natural thing that not only won’t turn people away but instead will help turn them into raving fans.

Let’s explore how to do sales and marketing the right way.

Building your following

Whether it’s at a convention, board game café, or even at your house, you need to be continuously playtesting and demoing your game with others. It’s the only way to make your game better and it’s also the best way to get the word out about your game.

Let’s say that you’re planning on running a Kickstarter campaign for your game. If you want to be successful, you need to build your following well in advance of your launch. So, you rent a table or booth at a convention (even a small local one), set up your game, and try to get people to play it.

One way to attract people to your game would be to run some kind of contest. For example, anyone who demos your game will have their name put into a draw for a chance to win your game when it’s released. This is a great way to collect email addresses, which are critical in building up your list of followers before your campaign.

Just make sure to let them know that when they sign up and provide their email address you will be in touch with them to keep them updated about your game as it develops, along with the launch date. That way, they know what to expect.

Just make sure to keep your list “warm” by sharing art, updates, and some behind-the-scenes stuff leading up to your campaign, so they don’t forget who you are and why they signed up in the first place (and then unsubscribe and label your email as spam).

Selling at a convention

Ok, now let’s say you have a game that’s already been released, or perhaps you releasing it at a con (convention). Your goal is to get people interested in your game and buy a copy.

It’s going to be a lot of work and a lot of one-on-one sales, but this is a great way to develop relationships and turn people into huge fans of your game.

I was doing exactly this at Pax Unplugged way back in December 2019. My game, Zoo Year’s Eve, was being released by XYZ Game Labs, and they asked me and the artist if we would sign copies of the game. We were glad to do so and spent two hours at the booth on the Saturday of the convention.

We were positioned right at the corner of the booth and when people slowed down to have a look at Zoo Year’s Eve, we asked if they would like to play a quick game. Many people did stop to try it out and thought it was cool to have the opportunity to play the game with both the designer and the artist.

After playing the game, we let them know that they could purchase the game right there and we would sign their copy, along with a free poster. The majority of people loved the game and bought it right there on the spot.

We were offering to give them something they just had a great experience with (the game) and gave them an extra incentive (free poster and signatures). It felt very natural to make the transition, as the interest was already there and no high-pressure tactics were needed (nor would I have felt comfortable using such tactics).

Make your pitch

But what if you don’t plan on self-publishing or selling games at a convention? What if you’re more comfortable sticking to game design and letting a publisher do the rest?

Even when you’re pitching to a publisher, you’re still essentially trying to make a sale. You’re trying to convince the publisher that your game is the right one for them.

You’ll be trying to sell the publisher on your game through your pitch, sell sheet, sizzle video, and game demo. This is all just to get your foot in the door and have them take your prototype for further evaluation. But then it’s up to your game to do the rest of the selling.

You need to get comfortable talking to publishers about why your game is unique and a good fit for them. You need to be able to talk about the benefits and great aspects of your game without either underselling your game (“it’s kind of like Catan, but different”) or being too cocky (“it’ll be bigger than Monopoly!!!”).

Focus on your hook. What makes your game truly different and stand out from others?

This is all part of the pitch, which you can use to get the interest of publishers and playtesters alike.

If you’re interested in discovering how to create a quick, simple pitch, check out my article on this topic.

Does this all make sense? Please leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions.

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