Freeform Games’ review of 2021

As you might expect, the pandemic dominated 2021 for Freeform Games, but we slowly started to recover from 2020.
We’ve been doing these reviews since 2013 – you can read them all here.

Online and offline play

While 2020 showed a strong interest in playing our games online (using Zoom or similar), in 2021 we sold fewer copies of our online games (Reunion with Death and Death in Venice). Instead, our smaller games continue to sell well (a trend that started in 2020).

Playing Way out West in 2021

We suspect that’s because although many restrictions have been lifted with the vaccine rollout, many people are still wary about large gatherings. However, smaller groups (maybe family and close friends) appear to be okay, hence the popularity of our smaller games.

And while October and November had strong sales (compared to 2020), December’s dropped back. This was presumably due to the Omicron variant and fewer parties being held. (That’s not surprising – our own party season was quiet, too.) We’re keeping a close eye on how Omicron plays out, but early signs are looking promising.

Best-selling games

Our best-selling games for 2021 were Way out West (10-24 guests), then A Will to Murder (6-9 guests), then Casino Fatale (15-30 guests). Casino Fatale sold half as well as the other two, demonstrating the popularity of games for smaller groups.

As mentioned above, Reunion with Death (6-9 guests) and Death in Venice (5-9 guests) didn’t sell well, despite being for smaller groups. I think this is because we promoted them for online play. Both can be played in person—and because they are simpler (no combat or items) they are suitable for the host to play. So we are thinking about promoting them differently.

Our new game, Murder on the Istanbul Express (7-11 guests) has started strongly, although time will tell if that’s just because it’s the new game.

New and updated murder mystery games

We published one new game in 2021, Murder on the Istanbul Express. It’s been on our to-do list for ages, so this year we knuckled down and pushed it over the finish line. We’re really pleased with it.

We also updated The Night Before Christmas and Dazzled to Death to our current format.

We also updated the covers of all our games to make them more striking and obvious.

Scratching an itch

We created a page on itch.io for our games. Itch is ‘an open marketplace for independent digital creators with a focus on independent video games.’ It also has roleplaying games and larps, and we thought we’d add some of our games.

Our itch.io page

We’re not expecting sales through our itch.io page, but we have our free version of Way out West there and it gives us a little exposure to the indie gaming scene that we might not otherwise have.

Last year’s goals

We set ourselves a few goals in 2020:

Improve our website: We made a few improvements this year:

  • We added a banner made up of lots of customer photographs.
  • As described above, we changed all the cover photos for the games, making them brighter and clearer.
    We created theme pages for bestsellers, Christmas games and Halloween games.

Publish Murder on the Istanbul Express: Published!

Another new online game: We talked about another online game, but given the drop in sales of Reunion with Death and Death in Venice (as noted above), we didn’t push that.

So that’s two out of three goals achieved.

Plans for next year

Improve our website: Specifically, we have plans to expand the game themes and bring a little animation to the book covers.

Resolve the payment process glitches: We’ve had a few payment glitches lately—customers not receiving the download email (or it going straight to the spam folder). So we’ll investigate and fix that.

Continue to work on new games: We have a few new games in the pipeline, but realistically I don’t think we’ll be ready to publish any in 2022.

Run games online: We will try something new and run an occasional game online. We’ll promote this using our Facebook page.

Games the host can play: Change the focus of our two online games and promote them as games the host can play. As they don’t include items or money or the complicated rules that require an independent host, they are ideal if you want to host and also play in a game. (Steve ran Death in Venice this way back in 2020.)

Summary

Although 2021 was bad, we weathered the pandemic and released a new game. Sales are slowly recovering and as normality returns, hopefully we will return to playing our games in person.

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