Boardgames in Blighty asks… What do Non-Gamers REALLY want? The Magic 5 Needs of the Non-Gamer
Happy New Year 2015 to you all!
I’ve been giving some thought to some game designs that I have been toying around with over the last year and have come to the conclusion that they would have very limited appeal. The truth, is that although I am interested in these designs, the audience just isn’t there to make them worth publishing.
What I have realised is that for a board or card game to achieve success, it has to meet a need other than my own interest. Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice has clearly struck a chord with quite a few people and hopefully we can broaden the distribution to the much wider audience of millions of WWE and Lucha Libre fans around the world.
From this experience, I believe that to be really financially successful, a game needs to appeal to the vast audience of non-board gamers who would be open to giving it a go. It needs to be really accessible.
How to do this… hmmm….
The first problem is the perception, self-inflicted I might add, that the general public, made up of a vast majority of non-gamers, has of us.
You know its true, don’t you?
We all have loads of non-gamers in our lives right? And indeed for some, the mere invitation to a board game night makes them feel like…
And we don’t get it really, let’s be honest…
But I suspect that the key lies with bringing on the non-gamers. And I think that designers need to ensure that there is no disconnect between the game design and the user experience, especially for non-gamers.
But rather than assume, I decided to ask a number of Non-Gamers a simple question to see if I could discover the secret to attracting them to a game.
“When you can be persuaded to play, or you are attracted to a particular game despite not being a fan of games normally…What exactly do you look for in a board or card game that will attract you?”
Here is what they have told me so far…
For me it has to be able to be played within a 20 minute time frame, that’s from opening the box to finishing the game, rules need to be simple and yet allow complex play. The Builders: Middle Ages is a perfect example of a game that meets those requirement, Wings of Glory is another.
I like games that are funny or games that are in teams and they have to be simple!
One that requires a bit of thought…
Ones that don’t embarrass but make you laugh. Thought is a good thing too.
Hardly any time to explain the rules. And people don’t take 20 mins on their turn.
Other people’s turns are somehow interesting to me, perhaps influencing what I do next. Don’t like just sitting and waiting for someone to just be done with their turn. I like minimal rules to explain, easy to understand/catch on quickly. Laughing without humiliating.
I don’t play board games all that often. If I play them at all with family, our current favourites are “Articulate“, “Sorry!” and the “Pointless” board game. Oh, and we just discovered the “QI” travel version, complete with claxon. Of which the main appeal WAS the claxon!
Although I have a moderate amount of general knowledge stored in the deep dark cavern nestled between my ears, “Trivial Pursuit” doesn’t appeal as much as, say, “Pointless”, where each round varies from the last in how it is played. It helps if there’s a definite beginning and end to a game too.
A friend has introduced me to a few new little games along the way – some dice-based, some card-based, but all with a strategic element that helps give them extra depth!
Games like “Sorry!” and “Ace of Spies” have plenty of scope for twists, things never quite work out how you expect them to. No. That’s not quite true. I expect to lose Ace of Spies But the twists are good, it’s probably the only time it’s ever hilariously funny to lose something And I do lose. A lot.
Simplicity. And I love it when even if you’re losing you can still have a chance to win.
I had success this holiday period with introducing my non-gamer dad to certain games. It was very clear the games he preferred were ones that had a theme or mechanism that appealed to his “hobbies”.
Interesting comments don’t you think? The main themes that pop out here are clear. For the most part, non-gamers are saying that they would be willing to play games that:
- Are simple and easy to play
- Can be taught quickly
- Have fast-playing turns and are short in duration
- Allow for some thought and strategy
- Allows you to laugh with, not at other players
I christen these the “Magic 5 Needs of the Non-Gamer”
In a crowded market place, it is very important to stand out. Especially if you want to attract non-gamers and the huge potential that they represent in terms of units sold. My sense is that too many games have been designed at the very least, ignoring the needs of non-gamers. I don’t know why this is but would guess that designers mostly design for personal taste and preference as has certainly been my own case.
Kickstarter has proved that many games can be designed and published independently. But I think that this is a false reading of success and very short term. Take a look at what has been successful on Kickstarter. Effectively, they have almost all been pitched and supported by niche audiences so they will definitely not become “evergreen” and will ultimately die away.
There are reasons why extremely few games have been really successful. Monopoly, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, Uno, Sorry and more recently, Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride, Dominion, Qwirkle and a few others have reached the heady heights of what I would consider to be really successful games. I would argue that their success has come because the they each have addressed the Magic 5 Needs of the Non-gamer as illustrated above.
So, if I want to design my definition of a really successful game, NOT just a game for a small niche just because it interests me, I need to think about and cater for the needs of non-gamers and I would suggest to any designer that they should do the same if they want real success.
Publishers need to be thinking about this as well or they will not be as successful as they would like for sure. Actually, come to think about it, Game distributors and retailers need to think more about how they attract non-gamers. And yes, we gamers need to think about this too. Those gamers who pooh pooh the idea of evangelising our awesome hobby in a way that attracts non-gamers are ultimately selfish and damage our hobby.
This doesn’t mean that there is no room for niche games. Far from it. We need them and want them of course. I love to play niche games that others design. And there is certainly a level of success in bringing a game to publication for sure.
But why not aim higher? For me, real success for Luchador and any future design will mean lots of people across the globe recognise them, have given them a go and have had fun. If many of them are non-gamers who have been introduced to gaming through one of my games, that, my friends, will be real success.
So the ball is well and truly in my court and and the same for anyone else who wants to design games with potential for what I would call, real success. Game designing is a bit of a mystery to most people. Even myself…
But it is a fun and frustrating activity in equal measure. If I can design really successful games and this allows me the space to design games of personal niche interests, I will be a happy camper. So going forward, I will remember the Magic 5 Needs of the Non-gamer and design accordingly.