Monthly Archives: January 2014

2013 in review

So how was 2013 for Freeform Games?

Actually, it wasn’t great. Sales were down by about 20% in 2013 compared to 2012. In fact, it was our worst year since 2005. Ouch! Affiliate sales were particularly badly hit and were down about 40%.

We believe that much of this is thanks to Google’s latest algorithm updates. Over the last couple of years Google has been “improving” the quality of its search results, and it has been targeting spammy websites and other “black hat” search engine tricks. We’ve not employed any black-hat tricks, but we think we’ve been caught in the wash.

So we’re trying to improve our website (you’ve probably seen the redesign), both from our visitors’ perspective, and Google’s. And as Facebook becomes more important, we’re being more active on Facebook. But we’ve still got a lot to learn.

Way out West - one of our top selling games of 2013

Highlights of 2013

  • Our stalwarts continue to sell well – Casino Fatale, Way out West, Hollywood Lies. Pirates seem to have lost their lustre; A Dead Man’s Chest used to be one of our more popular games, but appears to have fallen from favour. We need Disney to reinvigorate Pirates of the Caribbean!
  • We published one new game, Lord and Lady Westing’s Will in 2013.
  • We’ve continued our Facebook page, and I think we’re starting to get the hang of it now. We see Facebook as a place where you can contact us easily, and where we can ask questions and post things that interest us that we think might interest you.
  • We started this blog! And we’ve posted over thirty times – roughly once a fortnight. We see this blog as an opportunity to talk about our games in a bit more detail than on Facebook.
  • We also now sell games in multiple currencies – US $ and Euros as well as good old pounds, shillings and pence. So now if you are buying our games from the USA or Europe, you know exactly how much you’ll be paying.

Things we should do better

  • Playtests – we didn’t run any playtests ourselves in 2013, partly because A Speakeasy Slaughter wasn’t quite ready. But we did commission three that others ran for us – two of Murder on the Dancefloor and one of A Speakeasy Slaughter.
  • Unlike our Facebook page, our Google+ page isn’t anywhere near as popular. Google+ is a different audience – we probably need to think about how we make the best use of G+, instead of simply reposting everything that we post on Facebook.
  • Pinterest – we’re on Pinterest, but not really so that you’d know it.  We need to do better.
  • Twitter – we have a Twitter feed, which currently echoes our Facebook page. But it’s another way that you can get in touch with us.

Looking forward into 2014 Playing Casino Fatale

  • First priority has to be to get the website into healthier place. We need to get it re-liked by Google, and we also need to make sure it’s visitor-friendly.
  • We are hoping to publish two games in 2014: Murder on the Dancefloor and A Speakeasy Slaughter. We might also get Death on the Rocks out as well.
  • We’ll update All at Sea, bringing it into line with our recent games.
  • Mo and I may get together one weekend to see if we can write a game together, a bit like Peaky. If that’s a success, we’ll do more of them and that may mean we can publish more games each year.
  • And we’d love to hear from you – what do you think we should be doing in 2014? Or what should we stop doing?

Why do we have a separate host for our murder mystery games?

Our murder mystery games are different from many others in many ways, one of which is that our games need a dedicated host. Instead of playing a detective or a suspect along with everyone else, our hosts oversee play and coordinate events and the rules.

The Karma Club

I know that some people would like to be able to host their game and play in it, but our games really do need a separate host. We didn’t have to write them that way – so why did we?

With our background in tabletop roleplaying games, it was perhaps inevitable that Mo and I would write games that require a “gamesmaster” role in our games. But that’s because the kind of games and events that we want to write about require such a thing. They can’t easily be done without a dedicated host.

So here, in no particular order, are just some of the reasons our games require a dedicated host:

  • There’s no need to worry about inadvertently reading a game secret when you print out the game. If the host is also a player, then they have to be very careful about what they read, just in case they find out the identity or the murderer or some other piece of key information. (And that’s assuming they resist the temptation to cheat.)
  • A dedicated host allows us to introduce rules that require a neutral referee, such as combat and pickpocketing. If we didn’t have a neutral referee we wouldn’t include these rules.
  • It’s easier to cast your players if you can see the characters first. The host usually knows most of the players, and can cast accordingly.
  • A host can focus on making sure that the party is an overall success, and won’t be distracted by trying to achieve their in-character objectives.
  • They can adjudicate on any of the wild and wacky ideas that the players may dream up. This is perhaps one of the most important roles of the host, as our murder mystery games give the players considerable flexibility in how they achieve their goals. Instead of endless, overly complicated rules, the host oversees the game and adjudicates on player requests to ensure that everyone has a good time.

Having said all that, we’ve written before with tips for playing a character and being the host.

But if you want to both host and play our games, then the best solution may be to host one game, and then get a friend to host the next.