So last week I was invited to share my expertise (lol) for a class at MIT, along with Glen Given of Games by Playdate.
The students were great, as I described some of the 6 month struggle I’m planning for bringing Killer Croquet to market. (Welcome to the Madness). The general discussion topic was the game creation process and getting games to market, but Glen and I ranged quite a bit. Here is a brief glimpse at some of the points we made.
- Making games is a very iterative process, requiring many attempts and tweaks to get the mechanics just so. Glen applies that to the publishing process as well, creating different games very rapidly and getting them to to people in short print runs, then moving onto the next one in a very prolific way.
- Playtesting is an incredibly critical part of the game design process. Players will always find imperfections in game mechanics that simply break the game down. If you’re particularly unlucky, the mechanics might not break at all, but players might still not enjoy the game. Playtesting helps make sure the game is both playable and enjoyable, because it needs to be both.
- Getting players to finish a broken game can be difficult, but also necessary to ensure what exactly is broken with a game. This can be difficult if players don’t like a game 15 minutes into playing, and still have 3 hours to go. It’s important to pamper playtesters and let them know how important they are. Also using resources like the Game Makers Guild in Boston can be an incredible boon.
Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing
- Self publishing is a lot of effort, a superhuman amount of effort, and the returns are … modest. Getting you game picked up by a publisher is incredibly difficult, but not nearly as labor intensive. The returns you get from a publisher are . . . well. . . don’t quit your day job. There are many avenues and possibilities for getting a game to market, and it all boils down to how much of your life you want to devote to this thing.
- Brick and mortar stores are in a sort of crisis as the Internet is able to undercut them in most industries, especially the board game industry. Most Board Game Stores have begun to realize that they can’t win in the business of “selling board games”. However, the Friendly Local Game Stores (FLGS) that survive have done so by adding value through community building. A FLGS needs to give reasons for customers to come through the door. Since most can’t compete on price, they turn to other things customers can’t get elsewhere. A lot of game stores love to get designers in the door to demo a game they’ve designed. This is an excellent deal for everyone. The designer gets a little exposure, the store has a cool event, and the customers get to meet a cool designer.
Make your Own Way
- If you can’t seem to get traction either self publishing or as a publisher, that doesn’t mean you should give up. You can host your own game nights, approach stores and cafes about hosting spaces, and just generally participate in the game industry. The Internet is providing more and more opportunities to get people together and play games. The more you can get your games at the center of those gatherings, you’ll have stronger resources as you move that game forward.