Measuring Success as a Professional Game Designer

Game designer Nick Bentley posted a thread on how Underdog Games is measuring improvements in their game design. Note that this is not a measure of sales or revenue, but literally the quality of game design. How do you objectively measure something like that? They defined success as "improve ratings on BGG and Amazon without raising complexity."

Some interesting findings: 

  1. Their lowest-complexity games correlated to higher Amazon ratings and sales. Average Amazon ratings of 4.8 are displayed as if they're full 5-stars. Amazon also displays more 5-star products more often, which attracts more clicks and improves odds of purchase.
  2. They've not yet found a stronger selling theme than Trekking the National Parks. It has a medium BGG rating, but has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. That theme appeals to a broad demographic and the promise of easy play doesn't scare away the casual shopper. 
  3. Their quality improvements have been costly. They paid more designers to spend more time developing. They also split-tested each design, which multiplied development costs.

I love seeing small publishers share real data like this. Years ago when I was hustling to sell my POD ventures, I'd share monthly sales reports to show the pragmatic reality of a tiny operation like mine. 

You can find more at Underdog Games' website.