Last year there were 650 game releases in Essen. A year before – as far as I recall – there were 630 . This year, the record probably will be beaten again. How many of these 600 games will get to players’ wishlists? How many of these games will manage to attract attention and leave players without 20 or 30 euro? How many games will be remembered after a year or two?

Essen 2010? 7 wonders. Vinhos. Troyes. Inca Empire. London.
Essen 2009? Dungeon Lords. Stronghold. Egizia. Small World.
Essen 2008? Dominion. Ghost Stories. La Havre. Space Alert.

600 new games each year. But only a few of them stay with us for a really long time. That’s truth. The Brutal and cruel truth..

The authors and publishers of these upcoming games are on the stand today and they start preparing for the most important race of the year. Race for players wallets. How will they try to seduce?

Great, new theme? If you have the theme, you will attract players, even if they’ve never heard about you and your publisher. Tell them that you do a 4X game, and you will immediately gather true circle of science fiction geeks. And believe me, this is a very good start. In 2009, I had my Stronghold. I had great theme. That was it. The game blasted off like a rocket.

A year earlier, in 2008, I presented in Essen a game called Witchcraft – wizards fighting each other. Have you ever heard about this game? Well…

Do you have a name that makes people buy every single game of yours? An author with a recognized name is a treasure. People look for his new games, they are driving a spiral of excitement and expectation. Gossips, shots of prototype, sneak peeks from test games…

If your name is Martin Wallace, Uve Rosenberg or Bruno Faidutti, you are probably a lot less scared before Essen than young designer like Ignacy Trzewiczek.

Publisher’s reputation
Does your publisher have a known brand? Did previous games get him good reputation? Has he a bunch of regular customers who go back year after year for his titles? Such a faithful player base is a blessing.

In 2007, Portal was an anonymous company from even more anonymous Poland. I remember words from Neuroshima Hex review written by Greg J. Schloesser for Counter magazine: „I honestly do not know much – OK, anything – about the gaming scene in Poland but if Neuroshima Hex is any indication I am impressed.” Then, in 2007 we were starting from nothing.

Today, five years later, we are in much better situation, we are those people who made Neuroshima HEX, 51 State or Stronghold. I feel that, through our hard work, step by step we are getting closer to famous brands, slowly approaching CGE, Fragor or Ystari Games.

Demo games and prototypes
Had your game been presented at large cons? Did you go with the prototype and tested it by playing on every possible convention? If so, that is good. There are relations and session reports on various sites written by people who were lucky and played the game before its release. At there are first opinions, BGG is full of rumors – someone out there was playing, and someone saw, and it was a damn good…

Game becomes legend. You are lucky bastard. There is nothing better than a rumor saying that there is a great game out there, and there are some players who played it and apparently the game is great…

Traditional Marketing
If you can afford it, you will have banners on most important board games’ websites. You’ll expose the cover, show preorder offer, bundle offer or whatever. Finally, you get some attention, you are positioned in their minds. You show up on their wishlists. Your cover becomes recognized, theme is well known, even – in the end – people remember your stand’s number and Essen promotion price of the game.

Not very subtle, but it does its work.

Visual side
Okay. Time of honesty. Rise a hand to admit, but honestly, that sometimes a cover was so amazing that you just put the game in your bag not even knowing a single thing about rules. It is just the cover. The board? It’s the same thing. Hands up who had never heard of Mr. Menzel. People buy stuff with their eyes. Clothes, furniture, games, doesn’t matter.

Zack & Pack? I knew nothing about this game, yet I bought it. Golden Compass? I saw the board and bought the game. With a good illustration on the box player has zero chance of defense reaction. He sees the artwork and he buys the game.

Two years ago we paid a hell lot for Stronghold’s cover. For Pret-a-Porter we hired Tomasz ‘Morano’ Jedruszek. It was the most expensive artwork in the history of my company. This is the guy who works for the FFG on a daily basis and who made covers for Middle-earth Quest, Battles of Westeros or A Game of Thrones LCG. This is the guy.

A good cover is like Aikodo. It throws a man to the ground and simply makes him defenseless.

Preorders and promo stuff
A great preorder offer? Some promo stuff for free? This is something that can make a difference. If a customer has a choice of two games and cannot decide which one to pick, it is better to have some kind of limited bonus in your game for Essen occasion . A few extra cards. Additional tokens. Unique extra miniature figure.

The player will rather take the game with special Essen free figure. This second game he will probably buy after Essen. Or not at all.

Or maybe you just have a bust of luck? And maybe your stand in Essen – by accident – will be positioned next to some famous publisher and you will have large traffic? Or maybe you’ll manage to convince people that you printed only 500 copies of the game and they have to buy it now or never? Or maybe the game will be played by the boss of big US game store at a hotel lobby in the evening? Maybe he will fall in love with the game? And the next day he will buy 250 boxes from you?

You’ll need it all. In Essen, six hundred new games will have their debut. Famous BGG Geeklist „Top Ranked Essen Games” contains slightly more than 20 titles. So – 20 games make it and the other 580 go overboard and you will never hear about them again. This is brutal. This is cruel. This is Essen.

In 2009 and 2010 I had the honor to have my games in this 20 games list.

However, this year – after doing Neuroshima HEX, Stronghold and 51st State – I’m going to Essen with the game about clothes and fashion. Pret-a-Porter. Fashion. Clothes. Hot models.

This is crazy. I can’t believe it.

And you cannot imagine how scared I am.