What Sells a Game?

Lately, I’ve been playing a few new games (Ora & Labora, Forgotten Planet & Leviathan to be exact) and it struck me how different each of these games are in terms of prices, themes and contents.  Combined with my own research recently into what games sell,I thought I’d write a little article about what drives the sales of a game, especially on a first impression basis.

Disclaimer – the following is completely my own opinion, barely backed up with any numbers.

a) Cover Art

Cover art is important.  Art in general is important (prettier / nicer it is; the better generally) but good cover art makes people pick-up a game.  When we are at conventions, it makes a huge difference of which games we’ll display and which games a customer will pick-up, look over and consider.  Without good cover art, you never even make it to the ‘this looks interesting’ phase.

b) Pretty pieces

Leviathan does pretty pieces so well.  Yes it’s more expensive; but there are certain segments of the gaming population who’d buy a game just for the pieces.  Same with Dust Tactics or many other FFG games.

c) Box Information

One of the most frustrating things I run into all the time.  Box covers that provide no information on the game.  Minimum information required is:

  • No. of players
  • Age range
  • Game Duration
  • Photo of game-play & pieces

d) Box size / Price / Weight Ratio

We instinctively expect more pieces, more weight when a game is more expensive.  If you have few pieces, but are in a large box, we almost feel cheated especially if the price is high.  I had that with Forgotten Planet. It doesn’t matter how good the game is, I expected more considering the cover price.  On the other hand, Ora & Labora has a nice heft to it.  You ‘know’ that you’re getting a good deal, even before you play the game.

No it’s not logical, but it it does seem to play out quite a bit.

e) Themes

Themes seem to have a strange relationship to sales.  Some customers buy into products / categories based on theme – they’ll specifically ask for ‘Fantasy’ or ‘Science Fiction’ games.  On the other hand, a lot of our bestsellers are more real world or generic in themes – e.g. Dominion, Settlers of Catan, Pandemic.

I think it’s a matter of tapping into bases.  With a highly themed SciFi / Fantasy game, you get those interested in that genre but might miss out on everyone else as the theme is restrictive.  On the other hand, more ‘generic’ themes might not restrict your base but you then have to compete with a lot more games too.

f) Play Time

Looking at our sales stats, I have to say; the vast majority of our bestsellers play within 2 hours.   In fact, a good portion of them (7 Wonders, Forbidden Island, Dixit) play in less than an hour.


2 thoughts on “What Sells a Game?”

  1. Three things that can lead to a game purchase for me are:

    1) Recommendation. A game that my friends are playing and recommend carries the most weight in my purchase decision.

    2) Reviews. A positive game review that piques my interest especially if it includes photos/video of the game components.

    3) Nostalgia. Sometimes a new edition of an older title that I enjoyed will draw me back.

  2. So many good games get missed because of terrible cover art or even just the name of the game. I have no trouble getting people to sit down to play Nightfall, but good luck getting people excited about Medici, Alhambra or Modern Art.

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