The two most common things people say upon learning I invent board games for a living are: “People still play board games?” and “Oh my god. I LOVE board games!” These reactions reveal the changing state of offline game play and present a puzzling question to companies like mine: How do you market a traditional board game in today’s modern entertainment climate?
Hope lies in reaction No. 2. And if you create something people enjoy, they will buy it. So, let’s say you’ve created something you know with certainty people will enjoy. What do you do next?
1) Let your game become your life. You need to learn the industry while becoming part of the industry. And this means going to trade shows, calling on and visiting as many toy/game stores as possible, organizing ‘Game Nights’ at bars and restaurants, engaging industry influencers and working your game into every possible conversation without being the most annoying person in the world.
2) Samples sell. I know it’s hard to give the game away when you just spent all your money (and then some) developing this “life’s work,” but your game won’t have much of a life if nobody has a chance to play it. This means getting the game, or at least part of the game in the form of a much cheaper sample pack, into the hands of as many people as possible.
3) Persistence pays. There is a fine line between being persistent and being annoying, and over the last 16 years, I have fallen into both categories. But, you’re rarely going to get a “yes” on your first sales call — especially when it’s a brand new game with zero brand recognition. That does not mean you take “no” for an answer. Give it time. Develop the relationship. And when you’re starting to gain some traction and word-of-mouth for your game starts to spread, the buyer/store owner will look at you as someone who has earned their business.
With this strategic advice, keep in mind that luck and factors beyond your control can always play a role in the outcome of your game. I have developed my share of games that proved less than stellar, but I’d rather play the game and try to win than sit on the sidelines and already be a loser. Good luck!
Eric Poses is the owner and president of All Things Equal, a game company whose award-winning line includes Loaded Questions, Awkward Family Photos, Rob Delaney's War of Words, and "What Would You Do For A Klondike Bar?" All Things Equal’s games are made in America and sold throughout the country at Target, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and hundreds of independent stores. For more information, visit FamilyAndPartyGames.com.