Dan Molina of Your Go Games in Surrey (British Columbia), Canada read Dan Yarrington's column on the positive trends in the game industry (see "Get In The Game--Better Than Ever!") and shares a couple of his store's successes due to the availability of game demos and previews.

This summer has been a successful one so far for our newish little store in Surrey, BC (Canada) for various reasons.  Board game sales are up as are new products releases which has exposed certain trends in our shop.  I want to focus on two recent product releases that we felt were successful in terms of attention gained and in terms of sales: Small World Underground and Quarriors!

The number one reason we can attribute to these two games having successful launches vs. others (say Battleship Galaxies or Star Trek Expeditions) is the availability of discounted preview or demo copies ahead of the game release.

Days of Wonder offered Small World Underground at a small discount for stores that signed up with them to host a Demo/Preview night.  They promoted these demo nights on their Small World Underground mini-site on their webpage.  Wizkids/NECA did not have any such requirement for a discounted copied and it was offered at a much better cost!

As a result, we had copies of these games before product launch as well as having the games available for our board game night (which I'm sure every game store runs) where all the most likely customers to buy the games were in attendance and eager to play something new and exciting.  We sold out of our Small World Underground pre-order and needed to restock immediately and we have not yet had a copy of Quarriors hit the shelves after a large pre-order and two restock orders!

In my opinion both launches were a success although Quarriors demolished Small World Underground in terms of sales; many owners of Small World did not see a need for an other "version" of the game, and frankly Quarriors is more fun and accessible.  Who doesn't want to check out a game where everyone is throwing dice and cheering/jeering at some result?

I also wonder how many people checked out the Days of Wonder's Small World Underground mini site for preview or demo information and went out to those stores hosting them?  I don't know if we could ever have those metrics.  What I do know is we didn't see anyone we didn't already recognize as a customer and who weren't directly told about the demo night by our staff for Small World Underground.

What worked:

--  Fun games!  Indeed there are way too many releases for store owners and consumers to make purchasing decision based on buzz, BBG, and box art.  Stop flooding the market with mediocre games.  Focus on the winners!

--  Promotional copies.  Getting the game into our hands for preview is directly correlated to sales of the game.  It's no wonder we easily sell better than 3:1 copies of games that are in our open game library than those that are not. And get those games into our hands early.

--  Demo nights.  Small World Underground got a dedicated preview night.  Advance copies of Quarriors made it onto the tables on board game night ahead of launch and we sold through our pre-order's that night.

--  Great art.  Both games have beautiful and captivating artwork.  People are drawn to it, identify with it, and then want to own it.  I wonder how many more copies of Ascension we could have sold if only the artwork was

What needs improvement:

--  In addition to the next point, we need lists of upcoming promotional offerings and sku's in a dedicated and updated place.  The only reason I found out about these promotional copies was because I was paying close attention to Short Solicits from Alliance Game Distributors.  Had I not spotted the one liner with promo sku's I would not have requested them from my sales rep.

--  The board game industry should take a cue from Wizards of the Coast, whose Magic: The Gathering set launches have clear and defined launch dates with supporting promotional materials, events, and previews.  We had some confusion despite these promotional offerings from both companies about the release date for their games.  There is no real communication to stores and to consumers about solid launch dates.

--  Promotional materials making it out to stores is either lacking or not useful.  In Canada, it seem in particular, we do not get much promotional material. I read about stores getting posters for various games such as Pathfinder and Chaostle (excellent examination of what works in a poster and what doesn't).  The only promotional posters we receive at our store are WPN materials, Redakai, and Days of Wonder... perhaps we need to do more to get on some mailing lists?

--  Promotional game copies.  See above but free or very cheap is better.

--  We need a better way of encouraging Demo Nights for particular games to happen.  Whether this is a RPG, Board Game, Mini's Game, etc.  Store owners can't always be the ones to do it, volunteers are needed. Either store supported or industry supported, they need to be excited and compensated better for doing these demos.

What can you offer us, dear publisher, to help us improve accessibility, availability, and cost effectiveness of demo's resulting in greater sales of your games?

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.