Key Product Details

Key Product Features

Introduction

Allow me to show you a picture. Please don’t let it upset you.

Monopoly on Amazon

This is the main ‘splash’ of the UK Amazon product page for Monopoly. Note that it’s broken up into two main parts – the image, and the game details. Pride of prominence on the right hand side is given to bullet points that are used to provide some targeted data to draw browsers into actually making a purchase. They’re pretty important. Good titles for a listing are great, but so are optimised key product features. Generally they’re the second or third thing a viewer will read when they happen upon a listing. There’s lots of guidance on how to do this properly. It’s been demonstrated than the majority of people will spend less than fifteen seconds checking a product page before moving on, and people will look at the bullet points before they go onto a wordier description.

This is prime real estate for selling, but you’d never know it from casual browsing. This is how Hasbro sells Monopoly to their potential customers:

  • Fast-dealing property trading game
  • Players buy, sell and trade to win
  • Houses and hotels
  • Change your fortune
  • Item is London version of the Monopoly game.

And really, this is fine – anyone searching for Monopoly probably already knows what they’re looking at. But doesn’t this strike you as odd? It’s weird to me that this hugely important part of the listing is given over to what sounds like a third year high-school student bluffing their way through an oral presentation for which they never prepared.

‘Tell me why I should buy Monopoly.’

‘Players buy, sell and trade to win!’

‘Okay, keep going.’

‘Change your fortune!’

‘What?’

‘HOUSES AND HOTELS!’

‘See me after class’

This isn’t just me taking another chance to dunk on Monopoly. It turns out this is endemic across Amazon but especially problematic when you look at board games. Let’s browse for some popular titles and see how they’re pitching themselves to an audience that will give them 15 seconds of time to make their elevator pitch! Bullet points were accurate at the time of writing and I can’t guarantee that they’ll be the same when you read them.

Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven is currently the #1 rated game on Board Game Geek and is a critical and commercial darling. A massive box overflowing with content, promising years of adventure in a darkly gothic world of violence and intrigue. It costs £160 at full RRP. For those coming to Amazon without buying expectations, it’s going to have to be a tough sell but there’s plenty to keep you interested. Surely the bullet points are gonna be good. They need to overcome the initial trauma of seeing the unexpected price-tag for a board game. And here they are:

  • For 1-4 players
  • 60-120 minute playing time
  • A game of euro-inspired tactical combat in a persistent world of shifting motives

Well. I guess you can’t fault it on accuracy but if you weren’t already planning to spend ONE AND A HALF HUNDOS (that’s how people speak if they’re cool) I can’t say this would be the kind of pitch that would keep most people interested beyond the sticker shock. The last bullet point alone is asking an awful lot of its readers. Sure, casual browsers probably aren’t hunting for Gloomhaven without being at least a little prepped… but some will be. Some people will have just heard ‘Gloomhaven is amazing’ and thought ‘Maybe I will get it for Christmas for my son / daughter / weird and perpetually infantalized distant cousin who is into cardboard the same way some people are into latex’.

Still, this is useful information at least. It’s just weird that it should be given such prominence when this kind of thing is something to save for when someone is considering the logistics of play rather than the promise of it. When I see £160 and I see this as being the three key selling features… well. I back away, and I don’t come back. £160 and that’s the best you have to tell me? Pass.

Through the ages: A New Story of Civilization

Through the Ages goes for an interesting blend in how it approaches its bullet points – it has aspirational stuff at the top, facts of play at the bottom. It’s… fine? It’s okay. It’s fine.

  • Through the Ages: What story will you tell?
  • Shape history with your political skill.
  • Strike a balance between resource and food productions, while developing science and culture!
  • 2 to 4 Players
  • Ages 14+

But it’s not exciting. It’s not taking the opportunity to try and convince you to make a purchase. At least there’s something here to get people intrigued – you get to know a tiny bit about the game. You’ll shape history. Balance production. Invest in science and culture. Tell a story of civilization. Okay, I’m in but I can’t help but think this would only work on people like me – those that are a soft touch for a civilization game of any type. For anyone else? This is as enticing as a list of historical dates printed in a textbook from the 50s.

Pandemic: Legacy

Pandemic Legacy has a better one, leaving aside the typo. I mean, it’s five bullet points – couldn’t someone have proof-read?

  • Ever-changing elements means that every game will be different to your group
  • Shape the world, the characters and even the diseases
  • Create your own Pandemic Legacy experience
  • Available in two difference box colours (contents are identical)
  • 2 to 4 Players, ages 12 and Up

I would have liked something that actually contextualised the claims here (what does it mean to shape diseases?) but this is at least selling me a promise. Different for my group! Create my own experience! And it even resolves some anxiety I might have had about the difference (teehee) choice of box colours. It gives the logistical information in one single bullet point and doesn’t use up two of the scant quota provided. You actually can have more than six bullet points but the rest are hidden behind a link and nobody is going to click there. It’s good, although it does kind of depend on the name recognition of Pandemic. Still – solid work here.

Ca$h ‘n’ Guns

On the other hand, Cash and Guns struggles a bit.

  • Even more entertainment than the first edition
  • Hilarious art from fan-favorited John Kovalic
  • Fast-paced and action packed
  • Playing Time 30 minutes
  • The richest surviving gangster wins the game

What first edition? John Kovalic is great but how much casual browser name recognition is he going to have? Fast paced and action packed… what kind of action? What am I doing for those 30 minutes?? WHY ARE GANGSTERS SUDDENLY INVOLVED? Are… are people going to die playing this game?

This is a summary that leaves me with considerably more questions than answers.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

The key product details for One Night Ultimate Werewolf are pretty much perfect.

  • Each player gets a unique role: A Werewolf, Seer, Troublemaker, or another, all with special abilities
  • After a secret night phase that includes changing roles, players have just 5 minutes to find a Werewolf
  • Includes a free iOS/Android app that makes playing incredibly engaging and addictive
  • May be combined with One Night Ultimate Werewolf Daybreak and One Night Ultimate Vampire for epic battles
  • 3-10 players, Ages 8 and up

What criticisms I have here are minor. You know exactly what’s going to be involved and I think you can see the fun in this short description. It feels communicative – even eloquent – about the game experience. Good work.

The Resistance

On the other hand…

  • An intense social deduction game
  • Includes Inquisitor expansion
  • Playing Time: 30 mins
  • Ages 13 +
  • 5-10 players
  • Third Edition

Remember – these key features are what you use to sell a game to people that aren’t already planning to buy it. What’s a social deduction game? What is the expansion and why do I care? Does it matter that this is the third edition? Is the third the latest edition? Do I need to go hunting for the newest version? I wasn’t thinking or worrying about editions and now I am. Again, so much given over to logistical information that it’s hard to work out anything about the game other than ‘nerd stuff for nerds’.

Sheriff of Nottingham

I love it when a game, as one of its key selling points, promises it will include the rules.

  • An exhilarating Board Game!
  • Sheriff of Nottingham is fun, easy to learn, and keeps advanced players on their toes
  • From the renowned Arcane Wonders Studio
  • Great fun for the entire family
  • Includes extensive game explanation and game rules

An exhilarating Board Game! From the renowned Arcane Wonders Studio! Bear in mind it will have been someone involved with Arcane Wonders that wrote these bullet points and so it’s a little bit smug to call yourself renowned. It’s great fun, which is a useful market signifier because you want to make sure you don’t mistakenly tap into the difficult-to-please ‘games should be boring’ market. Aside from the specifics of the names here, you could lift this verbatim and apply it to any game. It’s the marketing equivalent of a Forer Statement.

Imperial Settlers

Oh.

  • A exhilarating Board Game!
  • Imperial Settlers is fun, easy to learn, and keeps advanced players on their toes
  • A Classic Game
  • Great fun for the entire family
  • Includes extensive game explanation and game rules

I don’t know who was being paid to put these together, but I think at least one company deserves their money back. Although to be fair, this one does drop the self-satisfied ‘renowned’ label in favour of introducing weird casing, and calling its own offering a classic. So, you know… it’s not like nothing was done to the template.

Suburbia

Wait, have I stumbled on some kind of crime here? Whose wallet was murdered in the pursuit of these dreary descriptions?

  • A exhilarating Board Game!
  • Suburbia is fun, easy to learn, and keeps advanced players on their toes
  • From the renowned Bezier Games Studio
  • Great fun for the entire family
  • Includes extensive game explanation and game rules

Double whammy here of weird casing and ‘renowned’ self identifiers. Is every game studio renowned? Maybe only non-renowned studios produce classics.

This, word for word, is the description for dozens of games. And other things. This one is easily my favourite. I too enjoy playing an exhilarating deck-box.

Ganz Schon Clever

Well, I hope you know your niche board game awards.

  • Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018 nominee
  • Dice game fun for all ages
  • All play at the same time
  • English rules
  • 1-4 players

Again, the presence of rules is considered a major selling point. There must be a glut of games being sold without any explanation of how to play them. Some of these descriptions remind me of home shopping channels where you can tell someone is desperately vamping for time with increasingly irrelevant facts until saved by a commercial break.

Tiny Epic Galaxies

It seems someone may have copied the product key features for Beyond the Black here.

  • Tiny Epic Galaxies gets pilots, new ships, press-your-luck, and set collection in this full-box expansion! Requires Tiny Epic Galaxies to play.
  • 1 to 5 Players
  • 30 to 60 Minutes play time
  • Ages 14 and Up

If not, well – it’s good to know that you need to own Tiny Epic Galaxies in order to play Tiny Epic Galaxies. That’s clear. To an extent.

When I Dream

My favourite games are those where the product description is indistinguishable from someone on mescaline recounting their last fever trip.

  • Become a good spirit and help the Dreamer by giving him clues about the dream before the naughty spirits mess it up.
  • Learn how to play in a few minutes and have a great laugh right from the start.
  • 4 to 10 Players
  • 20 to 40 Minutes Playing Time
  • Ages 8 and Up

Comes with a helping of magic mushrooms in every box.

Mysterium

This pitch sounds like someone inviting me to a car key party in an abandoned mansion for aging swingers.

  • Welcome to the haunted manor of Mysterium!
  • Enter in this strange manor and let yourself be led by your intuition!
  • Ages 10+
  • 2 to 7 Players
  • 30 to 45 Minute Playing Time

Nibbles will be provided. Someone will almost certainly be killed in a sexcapade gone wrong.

One Deck Dungeon

Full play experience sold separately.

  • One Deck Dungeon is a 1-2 player cooperative game
  • 30 Minute Playing Time
  • With multiple sets or expansion, you can add up to 2 more players

I love One Deck Dungeon but this seems like someone trying to sell me on making a down payment for a full game. When I looked up the new Games Workshop Warcry box set and found it was £100 for the ‘perfect starting point’ I bailed out instantly. I get that it’s nice that One Deck Dungeon sets can be banged together to support larger player counts but it still doesn’t make a great bullet point the way it’s phrased. It just seems like you’re buying part of a game.

Twilight Struggle

This one just straight up lies to you.

  • Deluxe Edition
  • Relive the cold war and change history
  • Quick-playing, low-complexity
  • 2 players
  • Ages 14+

It’s only quick playing if you lose in the first few rounds like I always do. And considering that this is a ‘low complexity’ game it’s nice for a product description to rub your face in your own bemused incompetence. ‘How can I be finding this so difficult? It’s a low complexity game!’. Bear in mind Twilight Struggle currently has a BGG weight of 3.57, and that seems like a stretch for ‘low-complexity’. Pitching it this way is just going to leave a lot of casual customers feeling pretty angry – assuming any were drawn in by the lacklustre pitch in the first place.

Galaxy Trucker

This one is lifted directly from the Uber product roadmap.

  • In a galaxy far, far away… they need sewer systems, too. Corporation Incorporated builds them.
  • Everyone knows their drivers — the brave men and women who fear no danger and would, if the pay was good enough, even fly through Hell.
  • Ages 10+
  • 2 to 4 players
  • 60 minute playing time

This takes a very funny game of real-time ship building and just makes me feel sad about late-era capitalism.

Decrypto

Oh, we’re back on track – a good set of product features that give you everything you should know about the game!

  • New party game where teammates try to transmit secret codes without letting the opposing team intercept them
  • Components use anaglyph effects to scramble the codes; slide cards into the screen to decode your words
  • Strong interaction between players and no down time between turns; everyone needs to focus while the other team plays
  • Highly addictive gameplay; you’ll play round after round
  • For 3-8 players; ages 12 and up; 30-minute playing time

Good, informative, explains why I should be interested. Great!

High Society

Inspiring.

  • Players 3-5
  • Playing time 15-30 minutes
  • Ages 10+

I don’t know about you but one of the first things that really draws me in when deciding on a new game purchase is the often arbitrary and situationally convenient age rating.

Above and Below

Confusing.

  • Brand new
  • Manufacturer: Red Raven Games
  • mashup of town-building and storytelling
  • Release: 11.11.2015
  • Card Game

I mean… I wouldn’t even really call this a card game. The only line that seems worth having here is ‘mashup of town-building and storytelling’ and I’m not sure that conveys any real meaning. Am I really going to buy a game on the basis of its manufacturer? Do I care all that much about its release date, especially since that’s going to make the game seem increasingly stale with every passing month? Of all the nice things I would say Above and Below, this is approximately none of them.

Blood Bowl

Repetitious.

  • Blood Bowl (English 2016 Edition)
  • Blood Bowl 2016 Warhammer Miniature Game Games Workshop
  • Miniatures are supplied unpainted and assembly is required.
  • Additional miniatures and rule books are required to play Blood Bowl.
  • Includes 24 Miniatures

Nothing gets my plums pumping like a restatement of edition information followed by what looks like a stern warning about doing my chores. It’s the game equivalent of ‘If we get a dog it’ll be your responsibility to feed and walk it I mean it’. And then to be told that at the end, apparently I can’t play the game even though I can. Additional miniatures and rule books are not required to play. They’re just required to play the best version of the game that can be. This does not pitch an experience for which I would be willing to pay an RRP of £76.

Castles of Burgundy

A mix of Forer statements and weirdly specific inventory.

  • A fun game for all the family to play together
  • This item includes 164x six-sided tiles, 42x goods tiles, 20x Silverlings (game’s currency), 30x worker tiles, 12x bonus tiles, 4x victory tiles, 8x playing pieces, 9x dice, 1x game board, 6x player boards, 1 x set of instructions
  • This game is suitable for 2-4 players
  • Suitable for ages 12 years and up.
  • Playing Time: 30-90 minutes

Who cares about the exact numbers of each of the components? I don’t care there are 164 six-sided tiles. Nobody cares. Nobody is going to look at a product listing for Castles of Burgundy and ask ‘Okay, but how many silverlings are in the box?’.

Why are we even here?

Okay, we get it

I mean, I get it – nobody likes writing marketing copy. Except for the people that really do. And it’s easy to think that this stuff goes unnoticed, or everyone reading it is already there to purchase the game. There are lots of good product key descriptions out there, and I have obviously gone for the ones that most clearly demonstrate my point. But there are a lot of games that absolutely fail to sell themselves because they assume that everyone coming along is ready to buy.

That’s dangerous thinking because distributors are basically discarding the huge benefits that visibility on Amazon brings. Instead they give the easiest and most perfunctory technical overviews of their product. The right way to think about these bullet points is as extracts from the most inspiring review you wish you had received.

Let’s take one of these games at random. Galaxy Trucker. It’s kind of in the right area by telling me why I should be interested but it’s aimed at the wrong audience. Anyone that already knows Galaxy Trucker doesn’t need to know much. You want to pull in the people that stumbled on these pages by accident. As such, you need to avoid jargon, general knowledge of board-gaming, and any expectation that they the reader will know anything other than what you tell them.

So, instead of…

  • In a galaxy far, far away… they need sewer systems, too. Corporation Incorporated builds them.
  • Everyone knows their drivers — the brave men and women who fear no danger and would, if the pay was good enough, even fly through Hell.
  • Ages 10+
  • 2 to 4 players
  • 60 minute playing time

Why not something like…

  • Galaxy trucker is a game where everyone simultaneously works to build a rickety spaceship that will almost certainly be destroyed before it reaches its destination!
  • You’ll fly your dodgy death-trap alongside other players to acquire riches, have adventures, and hopefully manage the rare accomplishment of arriving with your cargo and crew somewhat intact!
  • Meteors will bounce off and through your hull! Pirates will fire lasers at your engines! Bits of your starship will blow off, sending them and their crew into the icy depths of space! Work the shields! Work the guns! Try to survive!
  • It’s a hilarious game of mad-cap catastrophe set in a world where the malevolently indifferent Corporation Incorporated is the only employer that’s available for the likes of you!
  • Ages 10+, 2 to 4 players, 60 minutes playing time

You get 255 characters per bullet point. 500 in some circumstances. Use them.

That’s not a perfect product description, but it’s one I wrote in two minutes and if it made a single sale it would have more than earned that time back. If nothing else, it communicates the quality of the experience far more effectively than the existing description does.

What’s in a Description

A good product description has many of the qualities of a good review, except it’s written by someone that has a vested financial interest in the success of the product. It’s about as golden an opportunity as you ever get, and it’s amazing to me that so many sellers on Amazon are leaving this prime real-estate unexploited in their descriptions.

Here’s what I’m looking for when I browse a game page:

  • Tell me what the theme is, and how it’s incorporated into the game.
  • Tell me the tone of the game. Is it deep and strategic, or quick and comic?
  • Tell me some of the things I’ll be doing when I play and why they’re exciting or fun.
  • Tell me what makes this game must buy over the hundreds of others I could get.
  • Tell me, if you must, the logistical details of the game

In other words, make me excited. Get me interested in what you’re offering. Show me you care about the game, because if I don’t see that I’ll be skeptical there’s any reason I should.

That’s another reason to spend a bit of time on these product descriptions… a lot of them look like nobody involved is remotely interested in what they’re selling. Three perfunctory bullet points has a perception cost. It makes a game look sketchy. It makes a game look unloved.

There are other benefits too that come with a well-crafted description. For one thing, they’re usually storefront agnostic. If you’re not too bothered about Amazon that’s fine, but you can reuse your carefully crafted key descriptions anywhere. They should be part of your sales strategy – they’re like the carnival barkers that gets people through the door. Once they’re in there you can sell them your grander vision in the description, but you need to get them in the door.

There’s a term that’s often used in marketing, and that’s ‘above the fold’. It’s where the most important content in a site is placed because it’s where a visitor’s attention is first anchored. Board games often do a terrible job of leveraging the above the fold aspects of their presentation in store-fronts. I suspect it’s losing publishers more drive-by business than they would believe.

Conclusion

Not all of the people that will land on a product page in a store-front are there specifically to find your game. Many of them won’t even have been thinking about your game in particular. And yet, the massively prominent real-estate afforded to key product features is hugely underused for many board game publishers. Rather than seizing the opportunity to get someone interested, they fill their scant allocation of bullet points with perfunctory data rather than exciting inducements. Games are amazing, but you’d never be able to tell that from the cut and paste copy-job that is done across hundreds of games in dozens of storefronts.

Even when they aren’t half-hearted, they’re often laden with jargon that will not entice a novice to try out your offering. They’re full of names that get geeks interested but have no meaning outside a niche community. They list awards nobody will have heard of. They include counter-productive messaging – giving you reasons not to buy. They’re pretty bad overall and they could be much better.

Seriously, if you’re selling on Amazon, spend an hour or so tightening up your key features. I’m willing to bet you’ll earn back that time in spades before you get too much older.

 

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