Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all had a good Christmas (or other appropriate holiday season). I had a proper break for Christmas and New Year - it felt like the first proper break in years, but I'm sure it wasn't.
I read something recently (I think it was on BoardGameGeek but I can't be sure), that said that the vast majority of sales of a game are in the three months after release. I think they even gave a percentage. I can see that for companies with big marketing budgets that would be the case. Before the game is launched lots of money is spent to prime the market to expect and want the game. When the game comes out lots of people will buy the new hot game, but over time there's another new hot game, and then another, so sales tail off. However, I can think of at least two occasions when the front-loaded sales profile is not the case:
The Smash Hit
I've also read that over 15 million copies of The Settlers of Catan have been sold in the 15 years since it was released. Settlers has been a breakout hit, being re-published in tens of languages and becoming a perennial best seller. I can guarantee that most of those 15 million sales weren't in 1995. It's the same for Carcassonne, Magic: The Gathering, Monopoly, Munchkin, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, and any other game that becomes hugely successful. As more people play it, more people buy it and it becomes a juggernaut.
These games sell because people try it, love it, introduce their friends to it, they love it, some of them buy it, they introduce others to it and so on. As time goes on the demand for the game increases - not decreases.
When the game is unknown and the company is small and has limited marketing budget then it's possible for initial sales to be slow. Distributors and shops don't pick up the game initially, waiting to see if it's got legs before investing in it. Maybe they get demo copies, try it out, like it and get a few copies in. Those copies won't fly off the shelves because no-one's heard of it, but maybe someone takes a chance and tries it out. Things then follow the Smash Hit path but only on a much smaller scale.
Without much of a marketing budget to speak of, I need my games to fall into the Sleeper category. I've not sold the majority of any of my print runs in the first three months. I've sold a decent chunk of my games in their first three months, but not a majority and certainly not 2/3 or 3/4.
How do I intend to do this? Two main strategies. I need to reach new markets where I don't currently have any presence, and improve my market penetration in markets where I do currently have a presence.
For the first point, I'm going to be contacting as many new distributors as I can, focussing on those that have recently expressed an interest in carry my games (particularly those who approached me at Essen) and those in territories where I don't currently have a distributor (notably France and Australia).
For the second part I'm going to continue contacting shops in North America (I'll do Canada once I've finished working through the US States), this seems to be working - several stores are now going to carry my games as a result of me contacting them.
I need sales this year to be at least as good as last year - it's a tall order, but I've got to make it happen. If you've got any ideas on how to boost sales, I'd love to hear them in the comments.