We've heard these kind of things before:
"Learn what you did wrong."
"Look for ways to improve your presentation."
"Find out where your rules didn't make sense."
These are all true, but I've recently been thinking about something else. Yes, it's true that your game designs (and my designs, absolutely) have flaws. Yes, they could be improved, they could be tweaked (endlessly) to make them a little better. We all know this.
Use the negative comments about your game to focus your game. The people who found your game boring, flawed, themeless, too hard, too easy, or whatever... these aren't your target audience.
Here's the different bit, the GameDesignNugget:
* Use the negative comments to polish your game in a way that encourages the people that will love it to buy it and play it. At the same time, you want to present your game in such a way that those people that won't enjoy the game will stay away from it, not buy it, not play it, and therefore they won't leave a bad review. It's not just about production/presentation, though that's often the easiest thing to notice. You'll want to make sure your game mechanisms fit your audience's desires, and the game length, and the rules difficulty, and so on.
There are so many different genres, and we all tend to like some genres/themes/mechanisms more or less than others. Figure out how to target your audience, and put in triggers that warn the people that won't like your game, and you'll be on your way to positive reviews.
I'm trying to make it clear, in my new game Zombie House Blitz (on Kickstarter in March), that players should expect a light speed game with a zombie theme. Will I hit the right people? I certainly hope so.
What games have done this well or poorly? I'd like to hear your ideas, here's a few of mine.
Mage Knight Board Game - Have you seen the ratings graph on this? 76% of the 4704 people that have rated this game here on BoardGameGeek have given the game a rating of 8 or more. Three out of four people playing this game love it. I love it, and I could see many ways other people would dislike the game, but the never get to rating or commenting, because they can see that it's not the kind of game they want to play.
Glory to Rome - This game started out doing it poorly, and then the redesign hit the target much better. The original edition's comic-clip-art design gave the impression of a lighter, perhaps more "casual" game, but many people didn't find the presentation to fit the depth and complexity of the game. Then the Black Box version came out, and seemed to fit the "image" gamers had in their head for the game.
Zombies!!! - Certainly not a failure in marketing, Zombies!!! sells a lot of copies. One of the failures of this game is in game length. People playing the game aren't expecting it to last as long as it does, as evidenced by the comments left. 40% of 7605 raters give this game a 5 or less rating, yet I can see how people going in with the right expectations would like it more.
Your thoughts? How about video games, or RPGs?
Feel free to talk about this on twitter, using the hashtag #GameTarget : @Jeremiah042
Check out Zombie House Blizt on Facebook at: Facebook.com/ZombieHouseBlitz