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Playing The Name Game: Why “Board Game”?
On November 2, 2011
The feedback for the new site as been great and we continue to tweak and modify the site to help the community have the best possible experience. Don’t forget if you’ve feedback on the site, check out the thread; a lot of people have already commented and we’ve been addressing those comments appropriately, as we can.
However, there’s been a lot of debate over why I chose to call the new site “BattleTech: The Board Game”. I thought I’d walk you through my thought processes.
Right up front, the goal of the new naming convention is about marketing and clarity. And hopefully through that clarity we can grow the community.
Despite 25+ years of published books and games and literally hundreds of thousands of boxed sets—not to mention novels, sourcebooks and so on—sold around the world, those who know BattleTech through the MechWarrior PC game series dwarf those numbers. Over 11 million copies of the PC games have been sold…and that’s not even counting the additional hundreds of thousands that purchased the MechCommander series and the MechAssault series.
That the audience for those MechWarrior PC games still exists was made fantastically clear in the summer of 2009 when Piranha Games released their marketing video for a 3015 game. As they talk about in their Dev Blog 0, the resulting buzz was awesome and ferocious in the number of people declaring their enthusiasm for MechWarrior and their desire to play in that universe vie a computer game once more.
I’ve always been a big believer that pushing all aspects of BattleTech (whether it’s the miniatures, the table-top, computer games, fiction, miniatures cases, t-shirts, you name it) helps BattleTech as a whole, and provides a more exciting and fulfilling experience for the community. The more you can showcase all the universe has to offer, the cooler and more interesting it is. However, that very depth can also be intimidating, so you have to work hard to convey it as clearly and concisely as possible.
When Piranha Games informed me of the coming MechWarrior Online, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to create a central “portal site” in BattleTech.com that would create an easy, quick introduction to the universe of BattleTech and then provide links to spiral people down into the most prominent ways in which they can enjoy BattleTech.
It also was the perfect time to revamp classicbattletech.com, creating its first new look in half a decade, while allowing us to generate a new presentation of information and book/game details, based upon all we’ve learned during that time.
So while all of that was coming together, I was thinking of all those computer game fans that have no idea there’s anything to the MechWarrior universe beyond what they know. While it’s always been a struggle to convey the table-top side of things to the computer game communities, my talks with Piranha Games led me to believe we’ll have more opportunities for cross promotion than at any previous time in BattleTech’s history.
With that in mind, and also remembering how intimidating the shear depth of all that can be done in the BattleTech universe can be, how do I parse it out in a clear and concise way?
There’s many ways we might have done that. For example I could’ve chosen the tag line that even after almost thirty years is still great: A Game of Armored Combat. However, while there’s a lot of flavor there, it doesn’t explain ‘what’ type of game it is. Computer? App? Miniatures? Since the description attached to the site should instantly convey the specific type of game at a glance (setting it apart a computer games), a flavor description is out.
But BattleTech really isn’t a board game…it’s a table-top miniatures game! That’s one of the biggest statements I’ve seen…and it’s an absolute correct statement. The issue is that once you move beyond our hobby (where most computer game players live), ask them what “table-top” means and almost every last one is going to stare at you in confusion. Just as “RPG” in computer game circles doesn’t reference pen-and-paper for most players, “table-top” does not create an instant connection to ‘how’ you play our game.
But “board game” is demeaning to all that’s BattleTech! I understand the concept behind the statement; i.e. it doesn’t encompass all you can do and experience. Unfortunately almost no tag line will possibly convey the depth of what can be enjoyed within the BattleTech universe.
Since we have BattleTech.com, there has to be ‘some’ tag line attached to the site oriented towards the table-to side of play.
Furthermore, don’t forget my number one goal is oriented at ease of recognition, and to grow the community: the potential millions of players that love playing the MechWarrior computer games. And just a slice of those that have never heard of the BattleTech game might be willing to give it a try if they can be given a brief, easy-to-following glimpse of it. And to do that, I felt we needed to use the term any of them would instantly understand.
Can using the “board game” term confuse and hence possibly turn away table-top miniatures players that might be interested? Absolutely. However, if they’ll take even 10 minutes to peruse the site and check out the quick-start rules they’ll know the game not only goes far beyond “board game,” but can, in fact, provide all the depth and style of play of any table-top miniatures game.
Can using the “table top” term confuse and hence possibly turn away computer game players that might be interested? Absolutely. However, if they’ll take even 10 minutes to peruse the site and check out the quick-start rules they’ll know the game not only goes far beyond “table-top,” but can, in fact, be a relatively quick, easy board game experience.
You’ll notice that the two situations above are almost identical, just from a different point of view. With that in mind, a few things I considered (please note that while exceptions will be found to these ideas, I believe the generalizations are completely valid):
- More and more companies are publishing games that appeal to table-top miniatures players, yet they blur the lines between table-top and board game play. I believe this has already started to lessen the stigma of a “board game” for those style of players.
- The best possible way to convince table-top miniatures players to give the game a shot is to see a nice miniatures game set-up and a bunch of players having fun in a store setting, run by one of the Catalyst Demo Agents; we have that avenue and are working hard to expand what the demo agents can do for the community. So if a table-top player comes to the site having experienced it through a store, the “board game” nomenclature shouldn’t give them pause…he or she already knows they can find the enjoyment they’re looking for.
- We don’t have the same type of avenue for the computer game players. The only way the lion’s share of them will find and experience the BattleTech universe outside of the computer games is through the websites…so we need to ensure they are as crystal clear and easy to understand out of the gate as possible.
- Most importantly, since both sides above can potentially run into confusion, a deciding factor must be chosen. And MechWarrior computer game players are an order of magnitude greater than table-top miniatures players; not to mention the potential MMO-style players not even aware of MechWarrior yet (and that’s an order of magnitude even above that).
All of that thought process lead to the use of “The Board Game” subtitle for the website. Using my line of logic above, it creates the best possible path of least resistance for computer game players to find their way in our direction.
As mentioned in a previous blog, that potential—along with the cross promotion possibilities with Piranha Games—is also why we launched the site in a very rough form, so we could coincide with the announcement of MechWarrior Online. That it gave us the opportunity to have the community provide feedback for improving the look and usability of the site was a great bonus.
Now, the 100 C-bill question…will it work? No idea. Could it all fail utterly to bring in a single new person from the computer game side to try another way of playing the game? Yup. Absolutely. And in fact, attempts at cross promotion in the past with the computer games have been failures
However, I’m an optimist and a person that’s always going to give an opportunity a try while there’s a chance for success. The shots you never take, always miss (that’s what heat sinks are for).
Second, in all my years of working on BattleTech, I’ve never seen the burgeoning relationship with a computer game company that I see now…if ever there’s a moment to showcase all that the table-top has to offer to a whole new generation of MechWarriors…I see that time as now.
Am I right? Once again, no idea. But the logic behind my choice feels right. However, as the long time playtesters and fact checkers can attest, I don’t mind being wrong. If I see a good line of reasoning from multiple sources pointing out where I went wrong in my thought process, I’ve no issues changing course. After all, if you type “BattleTech” into Google, it instantly brings up this site…so it’s not about changing branding in search engines or on any books. It’s simply about making that instant connection on a first view of the site to ease a possible transition.
Feel free to comment on this blog in the forums and I’ll be watching to see where the discussion goes.
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