Why do people buy games? Actually, why do people buy anything?
We’re not talking about necessary things, but luxury items. Take a TV, for instance. Someone walks into a store, and how do they decide what TV they want? Sure, they can look at the box and see all the stats, see the size, the resolution, the features. They can read all that, but I bet you’ve never bought a TV like that. No, you walk through the electronics aisle, do your homework, then you look at the TVs on the shelf. You get to experience it before you buy it. The experience is just as important as the box, and it’s the same way for almost every other luxury item.
So let’s apply that to games. What influences people in buying games? Being a famous designer is great, if you are one. Then again, you probably aren’t (me either!). Having great features on the box and good reviews from others is also necessary. But nothing will excite people about your product as much as them being able to experience it for themselves. Of course, if your project is headed to Kickstarter, there likely isn’t a physical product they can buy. Instead, you need to put together a print and play.
Simply put, a print and play is a version of the game that people can download and print themselves. Note that I don’t say “the game” but “a version of the game”. Some games lend themselves perfectly to printing at home. Other games are way too large for anyone to logically print at home. But even if your game doesn’t lend itself well to home printing, you still need to put together some kind of version that can be downloaded.
There are 400 Nouns and Verbs in Bill Shakespeare is Dead. Very few, if any people are going to print out all of those cards. And frankly, you don’t need that many cards to get an idea of how the game plays. Instead, I cut that number to somewhere around half in the print and play version. It’s a simple version with simple art, and even so the whole thing comes out to about 50 pages. Do I really think someone is going to print out 50 pages and cut out all those cards? No. But I do not doubt my decision to put in the effort to make the game.
“But!” you might say, “I have a totally valid reason to not do a print and play!” Well, I already think you’re wrong, but let’s break down three common reasons that I hear.
1. People are going to steal my work.
No they are not. They’re not. There’s no “code” in board games that can be stripped and reskinned quickly. You can’t make “flappy catan” and throw it up on the app store real quick. Creating a tabletop game is a lot of work. You already know that because you’ve made one, right? So repeat after me: nobody is going to steal my idea. And so what if someone did? The best way to prove your copyright is to have the game out there on the internet with a time stamp and everything. And you know what does that? A print and play.
2. It’s too much time to do and nobody will print it anyway.
Yes, putting together a whole other version of your game especially for 8.5×11 pages is a lot of work. It can be a huge pain. But are you making a game because it’s easy to do? And looking at it from another angle, would you want to buy a game from a creator that avoided hard work? Would that kind of attitude inspire faith that they are going to produce a great game?
Also, you might be right. You might post it and have nobody print it and play it. Just like you might do the video on your Kickstarter and few people might watch it. Or few people might read the reviews for your game. But I can tell you that people want to see that you’ve done it. You inspire faith in your backers by showing them that you’ve taken the time and put in the effort that is necessary. You are asking them to trust you with their money. You have to earn that trust.
3. My game doesn’t work well for print and play because (insert gameplay reason here).
I will say, that there are cases where a print and play of the game really isn’t feasible. Take Trickerion, which had something like 600 pieces. Can’t really print that. However, let me offer a potential solution. Take an element from the game, a cool hook, and develop a smaller thing around that. Maybe it’s just a 5 minute mini preview that gives people a taste of the cool gameplay. Maybe it will play differently than your final version, but it gives backers someone to get excited about, and isn’t that the point?
Of course, I couldn’t do a post about a print and play without adding my own. Here you can find the print and play for Bill Shakespeare is Dead. Print it out if you like. Play it if you want. But even if you don’t, I’m glad I made it:
In the next post: The Campaign Page