5 January 2017 | 33 Comments
We recently decided to publish a new game submitted to Stonemaier.
It’s a lovely game. When the latest version of it was submitted to us, we played it once and immediately wanted to play it again. It still needs some work, but there’s a solid, entertaining, creative foundation to it. I’m sure I’ll talk about it here someday with more specifics.
The one big challenge with this game is something I call the “hook.” The hook is the element–or, as I’ll discuss below, the elements–of a product that catches your eye, draws you in, and makes you want it.
For my Kickstarter campaigns, I always tried to have different types of hooks like a must-have component, a unique mechanism, eye-catching art, and something special about the campaign to get people excited. I don’t think one hook is enough for a Kickstarter campaign.
In the post-Kickstarter world, multiple hooks still make a difference, but a single powerful hook can make a product stand out. It’s just that I’d rather check off as many boxes as possible.
Here are the types of hooks I’m thinking about for this new game. I’ll talk about these in reference to games, but they apply to any product or service. I’ll mention some examples from our product line:
- Art & Design: Scythe box art (and the art and design throughout the game) seems to connect with the gamer zeitgeist
- Component: custom wooden buildings in Viticulture stood out in a field of Euro games with generic cubes
- Mechanisms: Between Two Cities’ partnership-in-a-competitive game mechanism
- Name: Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia (my co-founder thought of that subtitle. I love it!)
- Marketing: the mystery and unknown elements of Charterstone seem to be appealing to people who like that sort of thing
- Theme: Scythe’s alternate-history world really captured my imagination
- Narrative: Euphoria’s backstory was a huge element of engagement during the Kickstarter campaign
Just to be clear, I’m not just saying that I want our games to have an interesting theme or a unique mechanism. Being interesting and unique are interesting qualities, but they’re different than the hook. The key to a great hook is that it grabs your attention. It stands out in a crowd.
Of course, everything I’m talking about here is, to use the technical term, loosy-goosy. What hooks me may be different than what hooks you, and that’s okay. In my opinion, the important thing is that I at least consider those different elements as I develop, publish, and market a game. It’s even helpful as a filter: If a game doesn’t have many hooks, perhaps it’s not one I should continue to design or consider for publication.
What’s the last time a product hooked you? What was it that caught your attention and made you want to learn more? Was it enough for the ultimate hook, for you to actually buy it?