Initially the prototype doesn’t work. It’s ugly, boring and crashes often. It takes a lot of effort to find people willing to play and test it. Friends try to avoid it, preferring other games from their collections. It starts working after a few months. It doesn’t crash. You are happy with it, after many weeks it’s finally there – your game works. You start thinking about sending the prototype to a publisher.
Stop. Before you do that, you need to answer two questions. The first one was covered previously, today the second one.
When your friends visit you, do they ask you if they could play your prototype? Do your mates say: “Could we play your prototype today?” If they ask for it, everything is just fine – send it to a publisher. If you have to persuade them to play it - throw it away. It’s not worth releasing.
A few weeks ago I came back from my holiday in Croatia, which I spent with friends and a big bunch of children. The friends are board games’ fans, so we had a substantial number of board games in the car boot, besides swim fins, swim trunks and goggles. The friends brought Dominion and Small World, and I brought Neuroshima Hex, Galaxy Trucker, Doom, Tichu, Havana and the 51st State prototype.
Throughout the entire trip we had one game of Small World, one of Havana, five games of Tichu and over 20 games of 51st State. I didn’t suggest playing 51st State once, I always waited for others’ suggestions. I wanted to see how quickly they would get bored with it, what its replayability was, how many games it would take for them to get fed up with it and play something else. I didn’t suggest playing it once. And the game has landed on the table over 20 times…
In the last evening of the holiday Piotr came to our room. They’d also had their stuff packed, their children in beds. And we’d had our stuff packed, our children in beds. We were to go back to Poland at 7am the next morning. 10pm, the last evening of the holiday in Croatia.
“How about a round of 51st State?”, Piotr asks.
“With pleasure” I say.
51st State is a winner and I’m feeling good about it. We already had sensational titles with us, the board game elite, from Dominion, to Small World, to Havana, to Galaxy Trucker. And yet in Croatia they have all gathered dust. The game on the table was 51st State, time and again.
My answer to the question: „When your friends visit you, do they ask you if they could play your prototype? – is “yes”. Yes, I sent Small World back on the shelf. Yes, my 51st State made Dominion stay in a suitcase all holiday. Yes, due to my card game we only played Havana once throughout the entire holiday.
Yes, 51st State is ready to be released. The prototype has been tested, pitted against the giants, which it’s trapped on a shelf. If your prototype is not up to such trial, don’t send it to a publisher. Nobody is going to release a game worse than the ones already present on the market. You have to be better. You have to lock the giants in the cupboards. You have to make the competition retire early.