5 Lessons from Spiel Essen 2019
Spiel Essen has been an annual event for Capital Gains Studio as we always attend to say hi to old friends and make new friends. This year, we headed back to Spiel Essen 2019 without a brand new game. This year, we are only bringing over a 2nd edition of Wongamania: Banana Economy and a set of prototype of our to-be launched game: Kaiju Exchange. With only a 2nd edition game to sell, how did we fare? I will say pretty good actually. These are the lessons from Spiel Essen 2019.
Increase sales through an increased frequency of play
In 2018, we took the standard 2 X 5 booth and had a table for Debtzilla and Cryptocurrency each. Like all new game launches, people are eager to try out the game, but each game takes an hour to play. We often have to turn away players who are looking to try the game, while trying to encourage the present players to cut short their game play. However, they almost always pleaded with us to let them finish the game and we always relented. With more and more games being launched at Spiel Essen each year, visitors are spoilt for choice and most gamers will prefer to buy games that they have tried and liked. Moreover, Spiel Essen is the sole convention which we attend outside of Asia, and hence it has became our most important channel for us to introduce our games to an western audience. We decided to increase our booth size to allow more visitors to try out our games. Allowing as many gamers as possible to play your game help to spread the word and increase your sales!
Showcasing old games is good for business
As the result of a larger booth with more tables, we managed to interact with more gamers as they came to try our games. Some of them even remarked, "Hey, this is the first time I seen your game. Is this a new publish?" Spiel Essen has grew quickly in size since our first attendance in 2015 and it is now near impossible for visitors to see everything in a single year. Even though we have presented our games in 2018, the titles are still relatively new to the visitors, due to a lack of marketing budget for a small indie publisher. In 2018, we didn't manage to sell out or copies of Debtzilla and had to carry back cartons of unsold goods. This year, we managed to sell out all our Debtzilla sets by Saturday! This debunks the conventional wisdom that old games do not sell as well in Spiel Essen.
Large scale playtesting for new games
We brought our latest game "Kaiju Exchange" to playtest with the visitors and even though the game was play tested extensively in the past 6 months, we are still able to find new improvement as a result of the feedback from a more seasoned audience pool at Spiel Essen. You will have game designers, media people and publishers coming by to try your game and giving critical feedback, ideas and possible new mechanics. The kind of feedback we get from Singapore and Spiel Essen is quite different due to the kind of gaming experiences they have. Singapore, with a less mature boardgame industry, tend to give more feedback on graphic design while the Spiel visitors are able to deep delve into mechanics and statistics discussions which helps tremendously in moving our mechanics design forward.
Diversify your logistics.. but things can still go wrong!
This year we shipped our main batch of games by air to Spiel Essen while bringing a small quantity of games with us on our check in luggage. Lady Luck decided to take a rest break and our main shipment was stuck at the German custom due to high volume and one of our checked in luggage with minted sets got lost in flight transition. Other than our marketing collateral and demo game sets. We literally have nothing to sell for the first day, until a huge amount of frantic phone calls both from Singapore and Germany managed to solve the problem. We managed to get our main shipment of games in by day 2 but the damage to sales was done. This year, we took the extra care to ship in the games 1 week earlier than the previous year and bad things can still happen. In fact, we talked to some other publishers and many of them also have goods that were stuck at the customs. Guess we need to do more planning and diversification in getting our goods to Spiel Essen next year.
Branding.. Branding.. Branding..
We started promoting Debtzilla to the Spiel visitors in 2016 and this year, we often here visitors walk pass us and remarked "This is the Debtzilla company!". Though we are still relatively unknown in the western gaming markets, our Debtzilla branding did help to increase the mindshare of the visitors in Spiel. Our "Poke Debtzilla for Luck" activity has been tremendously successful and many visitors couldn't resist the temptation to give our cute Debtzilla plushie a poke when they walk pass us.
All in all, Spiel Essen 2019 has been a fruitful year for us as we talk to old friends, make new ones, sold our games and we learnt quite a bit in the logistic crisis management on how to better prepare for our next Spiel Essen.