I received the nicest e-mail from a publisher yesterday thanking me for taking the time to write these, and wanting to talk about how to get his games on these best sellers lists. It was nice to have someone both say they were learning from my little project here, and to ask how he can do things better with his company.
As this person has made one of my favorite games ever I was happy to offer my thoughts on why some things are harder to sell than others. So, I went back to those Top 20 lists from the last two years and tried to figure out how games ended up on the list.
Best-Selling Board Games by Dollars - 2016
1. Settlers of Catan
4. Star Wars Imperial Assault Base Game
5. Lords of Waterdeep
6. Star Wars Rebellion
7. Colt Express
8. Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow's Walk
9. Ticket to Ride
10. 7 Wonders
11. Pandemic: Reign of Cthulu
13. Power Grid
14. Ticket to Ride: Europe
15. Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails
16. King of Tokyo
17. Jim Henson's Labyrinth
18. Carcassonne Base Game
20. The Legend of Drizzt
This list is the product of a simple, and poor, philosophy, on board gaming.
"Buy everything, do no work, see what happens."
Two games on this list saw demo table time last year; Splendor and Lords of Waterdeep. Lords of Waterdeep is a favorite around here, so we stuck it on the demo table a few times last year. Splendor still gets some demo table on a "regular" basis, in that if I'm out of something on my demo table chances are good I drop Splendor in that space with no thought whatsoever. We have a demo, and Splendor is in stock.
It is worth discussing those demo tables last year as well. You see, at the time I was buying too much crap and using tables to store things. Last year I had a new release table, it was the first thing you saw when you walked in one of the two doors. Now, those new releases are on a fixture, you still see them pretty much instantly, but the two tables that used to be covered with boxes are now two more tables that I put demos on.
During 2016 I think we typically had two demo tables up.
Look at what changed in 2017.
Best-Selling Board Games by Dollars - 2017 1. Dark Souls: The Board Game 2. Settlers of Catan 3. Bunny Kingdom 4. Used Board Games 5. Ethnos 6. Betrayal at House on the Hill 7. Star Wars Imperial Assault Base Game 8. Mountains of Madness 9. Star Wars Rebellion 10. Colt Express 11. Splendor 12. 7 Wonders 13. Element 14. Pandemic Legacy S2: Yellow 15. Lords of Waterdeep 16. Small World 17. King of Tokyo 18. Kingdomino 19. CLANK! 20. Castle Panic
A lot of these saw time on my expanded demo tables this year. Right now I'm looking out at a store that as six demo tables (it was five, but I added the Renegade table to the store last week), and you can see Ex Libris, Bunny Kingdom, Clans of Caledonia, Mountains of Madness, QueenDomino, and Onitama on my demo tables right now.
Of these top 20, eight of them saw some time on my demo tables during 2017. In 2017 my board game focus became less of a shotgun approach to buying some of every new release, and more a laser tight focus on buying things I was confident in. This change in ordering techniques allowed me to do something that I look at now as an absolute gift from the heavens.
When you're buying everything, and don't have tons and tons of money laying around, you end up being wide and shallow. This shallowness means you might sell the one or two copies of the hot game you bought, but if it was really hot, you're not restocking it at all. Some other retailer, either because they properly identified the hit, or