In August we sent out a questionnaire to gauge interest in an all day design event in Massachusetts. Several people asked if we would share the results so here they are along with some commentary. The event is happening October 19th in Taunton, MA and we followed these results pretty closely for the format. If you are interested in attending the event, you can get all the info at theboardgameworkshop.com/design-day.
We had 61 responses to the questionnaire, but there was no prevention of people responding twice either on purpose or accidentally. Originally people that answered no to the first question did not move forward in the questionnaire. I quickly changed that in favor of sorting the results later. So even people who didn’t plan on attending could still give their opinion.
Some questions were more general about what you want in a location and later questions focused on 3 possible formats for the event.
The first question was to find out how many people were interested. We need people for the event to work so this was by far the most important question. With over 80% of the respondents answering yes or maybe, it seemed like the event would get a decent reception.
The importance of the split between designers and play testers varies depending on the event format. Since this questionnaire was shared with mostly game design communities, it isn’t surprising that most said designer.
This was to get an idea of what people wanted in the event location. While play testing is the focus, the entire experience of the event is important. I was surprised by how much the results skewed away from public transit and towards parking. For a first year event this was very helpful, since cheaper locations to rent tend to be away from public transit.
This is another one that surprised me. Not so much that preorder won, I expected that, but that backing a kickstarter was so low. This did have an effect on the planning of the event. A kickstarter would have given us the safety net of getting people to commit up front before we rented a location. Not having that, cost became a bigger factor.
The rest of the questions were based on 3 different event formats. One based on the Unpub model of designers paying for table time and play testers coming for free. Another based on the Protospiel model of having open play testing with everyone paying the same entrance fee and forming groups on their own. And the last taking elements from the other two and adding the idea of incentivizing play testers to play your games.
System 1: Table Purchase
Designers purchase a ticket to attend the design day. For the ticket price they get a table for 3.5 hours. They may demo and test any designs they like within their time. Designers would have to recruit available players for their games. When they are not running a table, designers would be expected to play other designers’ games. Attendees who do not want a table could get reduced price or free entry as a play tester only.
This was the clear favorite with more than 67% rating it a 4 or 5. and less than 11% rating it a 1 or 2. I think this has a lot to do with people wanting something for their money. Getting the table space is a tangible thing, even if you fail to recruit play testers. This could also have to do with the Unpub model being more prevalent on the east coast where we are holding the event.
I was surprised at how high these results were with over 34% saying they would pay $40 or more and no one saying less than $10.
Again I was surprised how high this went. I would have expected it to be mostly “Less than $10”.
System 2: Open Testing
Designers purchase a ticket to attend the design day. For the ticket price they gain access to the event. Designers would need to find their own table space and group of players to test their games. Designers would be expected to play each other’s games. All tickets would be the same price.
This was the least liked system. I’ve never been to a Protospiel event which are structured this way, but from what I hear they are pretty well regarded events, so I was surprised at how poorly people rated this. In the comments the biggest reason seemed to be a fear that some designers would get all of the play time while other designers got nothing. This could also be because there are no Protospiel events in this region and people are unfamiliar with it.
Unsurprisingly, people aren’t willing to spend as much when they are not guaranteed something, like table space or play time.
System 3: Play Tester Incentives
Designers purchase a ticket to attend the design day. For the ticket price they get a number of raffle tickets. Designers would need to find their own table space and recruit players to test their games. Designers would give the play testers raffle tickets for playing their game. Play testers would then use the earned raffle tickets to enter any of several raffles for board games, gift cards, prototyping materials, and other related items. The more games you play as a tester, the more tickets you will earn. Attendees would also be able to test games without raffle tickets if the testers are interested. Designers could get entry tickets for different prices with higher priced tickets giving them more raffle tickets for play testers.
This was a system of my own design. The intent was to use the more open Protospiel model, but add incentives to balance out the fear of some designers getting all of the play time. Also to allow differentiation between designers and play testers so play testers could attend for free. As you can see, it was a bit more polarizing than the other two with some people liking it and some really not liking it.
In the comments some very good points were raised about the system incentivizing shorter games to get more tickets. And also that the term “raffle” has some legal implications attached. I think this system could be improved to provide the experience I envisioned, but I’m not sure if the work of designing and running it is worth it when simpler systems do pretty well.
These results were pretty varied which I attribute to people not having a clear idea of how it would work.
These were close to the second system, which isn’t surprising since they have a similar structure.
Again, I don’t think there was a clear idea of how this would work, so people’s opinions varied.
Making The Event
So those are the results from the questionnaire. Based on these we started designing the event. With less than 2 months of prep time finding a location wasn’t easy. We ended up getting only one response for a location, the Holiday Inn in Taunton, MA. But they were willing to give us a very good price that made it easy to choose. Since public transportation was less of an issue, this seemed like a good choice.
We decided to go with the most popular system of having designers pay for table space and letting play testers come for free. The original plan of 3.5 hour blocks was based on 3 blocks in a 12 hour rental.
Since we were able to get a larger space than originally expected, the numbers shifted and we could split it into 2 longer blocks. So each designer gets a table for 5 hours for only $30.
We also managed to get some sponsors to donate games and prototyping materials so we can still have random giveaways for the attendees.
With my normal optimism boosted by the questionnaire results, and knowing that there is a large designer community in southern New England without any larger play testing events, I thought this would sell out reasonably fast.
That has not been the case. With less than 2 weeks to go we are still well below covering the cost of the event, even with sponsorship. This could have to do with the short prep time for the event, poor scheduling, limited marketing, or just that people are waiting until closer to the event to purchase tickets.
In any case, the event is already paid for, so it will be happening this year. How well it goes this year will determine wether it is worth running again next year. If you are interested in having an annual, larger play testing event in New England, please think about supporting the design day. The most important thing we need is attendees, both designers and play testers, so spread the word.
We are also still accepting sponsors to help finance the event. So even if you are unable to attend, you can still support the event. For as little as $25 you can get your logo on a banner at the event, in the program, and on the website.
I hope these results are interesting and maybe even helpful to your own projects. And if you will be in the Southern New England area on October 19, 2019, come by the design day in Taunton and play some games. All information on attending and sponsoring can be found at theboardgameworkshop.com/design-day.