Most game store owners know why running an in-store demo is a good thing. Running a good demo of a game will generate better sell through for that game and build consumer confidence. Running a demo is not a fire and forget type of thing, however. Just because you run a demo, does not mean that you will have more sales. If the demo is run poorly, it can have the opposite effect and in fact turn customers away from that game or they may lose confidence in your vast gaming knowledge all together.
Know the Rules
How many times have you sat down to get a demo of a new game that you were super pumped about and the person demoing it had to keep referring to the rule book to teach you each phase of the game? Isn’t this guy supposed to be the expert on this game?
When a customer walks into a game store, there is an automatic expectation that if you work there, you are the alpha-nerd. With great power, comes great responsibility. Working at, or owning a game store, makes you an ambassador of games (time to update your business cards). So knowing the rules inside and out before you demo is imperative to keeping up your ambassador status.
Infect Your Customers
We are not talking about Ebola here. We are talking about Enthusiasm (that’s right, capital E). If you don’t have enthusiasm from the start, don’t even continue. Find someone else to run the demo, or chug some Red Bull. If your demo is going to put someone to sleep then you have not infected them with your enthusiasm. Players not asking questions or players fiddling with their phones are signs that you are boring them. Ian Richards, the supreme leader of all things playing in an organized fashion, once said, “tis better to not play, than to play poorly”.
Humans Actually Can’t Multitask
So you are a one man shop and a customer walks in and actually asks you for a demo. You may think this is a great opportunity. You know the rules of that game inside and out, you just finished up your second Red Bull, let’s do this thing right? Wrong!
So let me paint you a little picture. Tom walks in and wants you to demo the latest LCG. You think to yourself that you can play right there at the counter so you won’t be too far from the phone or register to ring someone up. Right as you get to the good stuff with playing the demo, Mike walks in and has some product questions. You politely pause your game and answer the questions, however this takes you away from the counter now leaving Tom alone and feeling abandoned. You get done and run back to Tom who has lost all his moment and enthusiasm for your game. You do your best to get things rolling again and now the phone rings, and you put the demo on pause again. At this point Tom is likely to be nice and saying something like “I see you have a lot of work, I’ll come back later”. Guess what, he is not going to come back later and he just left your store disappointed. Hence, humans cannot multitask.
Signs you are doing it wrong
- If your players are texting on their phones, because you are not engaging them, you are doing it wrong!
- If your players are spending more time looking at the game at the next table while you read the rules, you are doing it wrong!
- If your players are asking lots of questions because you are explaining things in an unorganized fashion, you are doing it wrong!
- If your players are yawning because you have not had enough Red Bull, you are doing it wrong!
Well great Chris, you told us all the reasons to not run a demo, how about some helpful Pro-Tips on how to make my demo kick ass?
- Start with the fluff to get them excited. “In this game you are a badass orc that terrorizes villagers, eats small children and bashes other orcs in order to gain enough power sit upon the throne of awesome.” Oh yeah, sweet, let’s play!
- Before launching directly into the rules, it is important to let everyone know what the object of the game is and what they need to win. This will give context to all the rules you are about to explain and give players a sense of a goal.
- Outline how the game plays before getting into the nitty gritty – Example: The game is played in 6 rounds and there are two phases to each round.The pillaging phase and the beat the snot our of your opponents phase.
- Now that you have given your players a really good idea of what this game is all about, how to win, and what the structure of game play is, now you can go into the rules of how to play. Stick to the order in which the rules are written. Generally the game designers have worked out the best way to learn the game, but don’t read the rules aloud, you should already know them by heart.
At the end of the day you want to give your players a great experience that they will share with others, and inspire confidence in their purchases with your store. Give them a reason to love your store.
* Illustrations by Stephen Shepherd