Thursday, January 7

Sales Over Time

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.

The Sleeper

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.


daje10 said...


Nice to se youre back bloggong again =)

I can onley think of one thing you can do, rais th egeneral poblics awareness about youre company and youre games. Ofcours you can do this in lots of ways.

1. Clever marketing, costs money and the result might not be so good compared to how mutch money you spend.

2. Awareness on the geek and other gaming forums. Posting geeklists and/or being generaly active in difrent forums. No cost but again might not be so affectiv in selling games, probobly more affectiv in raising awareness about youre company.

3. Competitions with youre games as prices. Start a competion in BGG, raises awarness about the game and about youre company. Dont cost so mutch.

4. Revucopies, giving revucopies to difrent podcasts or gaming magacins and hope the revu youre game and in that way reatchout to the people. might be so so expensiv depending on how manny ganmes you send out.

5. Giving games as prices to podcasts. A litle combination of previous options but is deserving of its own mention I think.

6. Contact difrent gaming groups and maby submit a game to there collection if the group is big (have manny activ members) and in that way start the awarenss process.

7. Make a nice deal fore people, bye al thre games and get shipping free. Or get 5$ discount on the second game. Manny different options here. This is good to combine with almost anny of the above options. (starting a competition where you have to submitt youre email to be in the raffel and mailing every one that dident win and say "you can still bye this game and heres a 10% discount cupon")

8. Travel to manny conventions and work the crouds...

Well these are the options I could think of, you probobly already know of them al so its no nwes to you. If I think of somthing new revolutionacing thing I will maby tell you depending on how good the ide is. ;)

Also using the clasic marketing trix always works.
Pricing it 9.99 and not 10.
Onley one per person (might not be so good here tho =)
Fore a limited time onley.
Sending cupons directly to people, makig them sem special and important.

I dont know if you have a newsletter or a mailing list. If not it might be a good to start one. That way you can email and get into contact with petential customers directly. Also you can sort the people into diferent geografic regions if you have the list there conties. That way you can target difrent geografic groups if you make a deal or some other reason.

Best regards

daje10 said...

Hi again!

I just rememberd another thing, same thing my last post might be so incoherant =)

I was up alnight playing games online with my friend at
and I just think adding sumeria and carpe astra there (thows two games I think will benefit the most from being added there) might realy increas peoples awareness about the games. Witch probobly will lead to more sales =) I know you already have sumeria at another online gaming engin. I dont know if that have shown anny results? Just figured if you have one you might just aswell have two =)

Bye again.

Darren, London said...

I recommend The Game Inventor's Guidebook by Brian Tinsman if you want more information about various board games and their histories, as well as the industry. It is an uplifting and inspirational read.

Stay away from that other board game book, Paid to Play. It's a downer.

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya Daniel,

Good to be back :)

Lots of the things you recommend I already do to some degree or other, some I'll try out over the next few months.


Thanks for the recommendation, I'll get my hands on a copy.



Sound Strategy said...

Really, I think the most important thing for you at this stage is encouragement, and to follow the path you've been laying down thus far. At this point, blood, sweat, and tears is what's going to get you to the next stage. Although, here's a little food for thought:

Any presence you could have at conventions in North America (GenCon, ChiTAG, etc.) would help here. The only problem is logistics.

You might try contacting Nate Scheidler. He's super-involved with the US gaming community, and he's got lots of ideas to work with and promote game companies. For instance, he worked with Rio Grande to create a game design competition last year, which not only garnered Jay Tummelson a lot of great game designs (he only promised to publish 1 game, but ended up choosing 4), but also lots of exposure to potential game designers and their friends.

These are people who are highly active in the gaming community and seek out new gaming experiences. Nate is on BoardGameGeek, which might be the easiest way to find him.

Have you heard of The Dice Tower podcast? These guys have a pretty large following. If you got them to review one of your games favorably (Tom is notorious for rarely giving bad reviews, although they do occur), you'd surely see an uptick in interest in--and thereby sales of--your games.

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya SS,

Yeah, US Con attendance would be great, but from the UK the cost is _a lot_ when you include con fees, flights, accomodation and everything else.

Tom has already reviewed my games, and I'm sure it helped with sales a bit.



Sound Strategy said...

I must have missed that review. Do you have any idea what episode? No need to search for it if you can't remember off the top of your head--I was just curious.

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya SS,

I found the It's Alive! and Sumeria reviews on BGG:

Couldn't find Carpe Astra, maybe he hasn't done that after all.