27 July 2020 | 2 Comments
Every now and then I have the pleasure of chatting with author and book publisher Todd Sattersten via Skype or email, and I always walk away from our chats wanting to apply his knowledge to the game industry. It helps that Todd is also a gamer.
A conversation last month led to my blog post about tabletop brand extension strategies and how they can sometimes cause confusion for consumers. It was then that Todd revealed 3 simple questions that he considers essential for any company to answer for every product.
Below I’ll post those questions, each followed immediately by Todd’s explanation and then–in a separate paragraph–some thoughts from me.
What is it? This is a question of clarity. Do everything you can to communicate what the reader is getting, so they can know if it is right for them.
This includes the product name, the packaging, and the product page (or project page, in the case of Kickstarter). In 2020, I think this includes more than just how YOU present the product but also how other content creators reveal the product (i.e., the unboxings, playthroughs, and how-to-play videos for Pendulum).
So what? People want to know what is different. They want a surprise. I think this is the challenge with a second book or board game in the same universe. You want the familiar but you need something new.
Just yesterday I was watching a review by Tom Vasel about a game that functions great and is fun, but he questioned if it had anything really unique or innovative about it. I discuss this a bit in my article about the “hook,” the elements of a product that make it stand out and catch a consumer’s eye.
Now what? This is about utility. With board games, the utility is an activity that is fun to do with others. It is entertainment. With books, it can be a variety of things – entertainment, instruction, self-reflection, etc.
Say a consumer has gotten this far–they know what the product is and they’re excited by how it’s different. Now what? Here are a few stages of this question:
- How do they buy it? However you answer this question (Kickstarter, preorder, retail release date, etc), I’d highly recommend giving customers a way to act now. For example, there’s a big “Notify Me When It’s Ready” button on the Pendulum page that lets you sign up for our monthly e-newsletter; sometimes we even have this button take you a sign-up list for the specific product (see Wingspan Oceania).
- When they receive it, how do they start using it? Part of this is product design (clear rulebooks and how-to-play videos), but I think another part involves how you actively encourage the consumer to use the product (without being annoying). For example, if you preorder a product from Stonemaier Games, you’ll often get a one-time enewsletter before the product arrives that encourages you to open up the game for a component check (linking to our replacement parts form) and presenting various options for learning the game. I think it’s also good around this time to have reviewers share their thoughts about the game (in addition to advance-copy reviewers), as that provides a reminder to people that they were excited about the product when they originally purchased it. It’s all too easy to let a game or a book sit on the shelf for a while without those enthusiasm prompts.
- What’s next after someone has used the product? You can provide ways for people to interact with the greater community specific to that product (e.g., Facebook group, Discord channel, etc). Sometimes publishers provide fans with ways to create and share their own content, like our editable card frames or the miniature modding methods offered by Far Off Games and Cephalofair. You can also expand the lifetime of a game through promos, expansions, etc.
I love the simplicity of these 3 questions. What do you think about them? If you’re a creator, how would you answer them for your latest product?
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