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Author Topic: Online Sales  (Read 17545 times)
Lxndr
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« on: December 09, 2004, 01:40:43 AM »

Since May of 2004, Fastlane's online sales have been... well, dismal.

In total, since May 1st, I've sold 8 copies of the print version of Fastlane through Lulu (including one to myself), 2 copies of the PDF through Lulu, and 6 copies of the PDF through Rpgnow.

Yes, that's total.

At GenCon Indy, over the course of 4 days, I sold 18 print copies of Fastlane - along with another 6 that were shipped to Eero in Finland (I still need to get payment from him, but that's me dragging ass, not him).  At GenCon SoCal, I sold 10 more books over the course of 4 days (heck, in 3 days, really, considering how slow Sunday was).  Sure, some of those at Indy were purchases by booth people, but even so...

Fastlane is a good game.  I know this.  Those who read it seem to have more good words about it than bad ones.  At conventions, I seem to do reasonable sales, yet otherwise I just sorta suck.

Does anyone have any tips?  Things I could be doing better?  Things I should stop doing?  Things I should START doing?  I'd love to get this game out to more people...  

I do plan on applying to the Indie Press Revolution, as it seems like a very good co-op sorta place to deal with, and I think that might very well help my online print sales (which may or may not help PDF sales).  I also know that having MORE products will help with cross-selling within them, and I am working on that.  So, that's the extent of what I'm doing now... what am I missing?
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2004, 06:24:49 AM »

Do you have any online reviews at, say, RPGnet or Gaming Report, or any of the other sites that host reviews? If not, try and get some. Reviews (from everything I've heard) are great advertisements. I don't know this from personal experience, though - it's just what I've heard.

The other thing to do is maintain a presence on public message boards, mentioning your game when appropriate. You want to be careful not to push your game, though. Just contribute meaningfully to various conversations, and when a mention of your game would assist the conversation, go for it. Don't suggest people buy it; simply use it as an example. M.J. Young is the jedi master of this technique.

Also, change your sig into a mini advertisement for the game. Instead of just having the link to Twisted Confessions, put something like the following:

Fastlane - the game of this and this and that, too! Click for details!

Those are my suggestions. Hope they're helpful.

Edit: Double question mark typo removed
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2004, 06:35:11 AM »

Hello,

I've been intrigued by the game, but to be honest your web site hurts my eyes. How about a redesign, some more contrasting colors for the text and background, and perhaps bring the focus of the site to Fastlane, with links to the other stuff. I.e. give Fastlane the entire home page, and hype it every way you can. I'd be glad to assist with a re-design should you be interested in help?

Reviews are very important in my mind, especially a Forge or RPG.net review - IMO. Linking to reviews and Actual Play stories from you web site will also help sell the game, I know I'm a sucker for this tactic.

Ethan is spot on with his message board ethics and sig advertisements.

TTFN,

Yokiboy
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2004, 07:01:44 AM »

You need buzz. Buzz. BUZZZZZZzzZZzz... Well, you get the idea.

Consider: I bought those copies of the game as a lark. "Why not, it's a Forge game!", more than because I was convinced that it's good. Compare with, say, Universalis, which I had to have because everybody has played it and written about it and it's full of goodness in the Forge and elsewhere. I've not yet got my hands on the Fastlanes, but it's quite possible that it's a better game than Universalis. Even rather likely, considering my preferences.

So start handcrafting some buzz. That's what sells in the net, everything else from a web page to link exhanges are secondary.

How to get the buzz? Take a look at how other games have gained their wings and learn from that. Flamewars seem to be good, as are reviews. Craft some of the latter at least. Actually, all important buzz can be categorized as a review: whether it's an actual play report or a theory thread in the Forge or a flamewar in RPGnet, it's all about reviewing your game from some perspective. So get people to post reviews in different formats. Heck, do it yourself with a false name if nobody else will! I'll write a review when the books arrive if you want.

Buzz creates buzz creates buzz, so assuming that your game has merit, you don't have to do much after the first big coverage.

The goal is to be enshrined as an example of a certain kind of game. Take Trollbabe, for example: when talking about, say, feminism, or what's mainstream in roleplaying, or first-time players, Trollbabe will more than likely pop up if the participants of the discussion have any idea at all about the scene. And that popping up means sales.

So the question you should ask first is, does Fastlane have the bulk for status in par with the favourites? If not, perhaps with the second-stringers? In any case, what's the slot it fits in? What kind of theoretical or thematic discussion will it be that takes up Fastlane as an example?
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Lxndr
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2004, 07:50:42 PM »

Thanks to all who've answered so far!  Here's my encapsulated response, which hopefully covers everything that's been said.

Reviews
I have exactly one online review so far, over at Silven Crossroads ( http://www.silven.com/otherrpgs.asp?case=show&id=437 ), written by someone who's actually played in a demo.  I've contacted a few people about reviews, but so far they've fallen through.  I should get back on that.  Is it wrong to really prefer a playtest review?  So far that's been the focus of my search, eschewing the more traditional "capsule" review.

Presence on Boards
I've been lax in posting on rpg.net since my switch to a night-shift job, but I've begun starting up again.  Besides that, what other public message gaming boards ARE there, really?

I'll definitely be taking your advice on changing my signature too, ethan.  At least on rpg.net - here I'd rather be more "professional" so to speak, which means the bare minimum (name, links).

Website
Thanks for your comments, Yokiboy!  I'd rather not change the actual color scheme of my website, but I have brightened the red somewhat, and finally figured out how to change those godawful blue headers the news program was automatically generating, hopefully that will help?

I am taking your other comments to heart - i.e. giving Fastlane more space on the front page, etc.  I should have thought of that a long time ago.  Thanks for the offer on the redesign - I'm gonna try it myself first and see how bad I mess it up.  Then we'll see how much help I need.  ;)

That said - what should I do once I publish MORE games?  It seems like it might get cluttered if I showcase EVERY game.  I suppose I'll get to that when the time comes.

I'll post here again when the re-design is live, so y'all can run over and see it.  All 3 of you.  ;)

Buzz
Yeah, I know I need more buzz.  Hopefully, I won't need flamewars to get the buzz (and if I do get buzz through flamewars, hopefully I'm not involved in them directly).  

I suppose this answers my earlier question - perhaps I should stop eschewing the 'capsule' review and troll more aggressively for any rpg.net review at all.

As an aside, how were the books shipped to you, Eero, that they haven't arrived yet?!  Should I be worried?  Oh, I've almost (finally) gotten my Paypal account Verified, which should allow you to finally send me payment for the books.  I'll send you a PM when that happens.
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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Lxndr
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« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2004, 02:25:43 AM »

New look to the web-site (at least to the Fastlane portions of it).  Please criticize all you want, it's good for me!  I've emailed all the people I've quoted letting them know, and hopefully nobody has any objections to the quotes in question (all harvested from rpg.net's forums).  I've also updated my rpg.net signature to be slightly more of an advert, without (hopefully) being overly so.  I'll hopefully be nabbing a reviewer from there soon - I've given up looking only for 'playtest' reviewers.

On another note - right now I link to quite a few rpg publishing companies on my links page, many of them from the forge, 'cause I think they're good.  What's the protocol for asking "Hey, would you link back to me?"  'Cause for some reason, it seems wrong to just outright say it, kinda akin to begging.  Of course, this falls under the assumption that cross-linking is a good thing and can help boost things like sales, or at least overall awareness.  Is this true?
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2004, 04:00:43 AM »

Quote from: Lxndr

Buzz
Yeah, I know I need more buzz.  Hopefully, I won't need flamewars to get the buzz (and if I do get buzz through flamewars, hopefully I'm not involved in them directly).  


But the question, Alexander my man, the question! What makes your game special? What is it's niche? That's where buzz comes from. There has to be something that it does better than anything else!

[/quote]
As an aside, how were the books shipped to you, Eero, that they haven't arrived yet?!  Should I be worried?  Oh, I've almost (finally) gotten my Paypal account Verified, which should allow you to finally send me payment for the books.  I'll send you a PM when that happens.[/quote]

Good, we'll pay when you get that done. And don't worry about the books, I don't. It's out of our hands, and the land mail option is supposed to take 6-8 weeks. I'll start worrying if the packages are not here in January...
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2004, 10:06:18 AM »

Quote from: Lxndr
New look to the web-site (at least to the Fastlane portions of it).  Please criticize all you want, it's good for me!

Okay, if you invite critisism...  ;)

Actually, the new shade of red is a much better contrast to the site's background, but have you thought of going with a green felt background, to evoke the feeling of a roulette table? Why not use a picture of a roulette table mat outright, that could work, should at least give it a try. You could also have fun with those menu buttons and some roulette graphics.

I also like the change to your home page, with Fastlane front-and-center! Much better.

Another gripe I have is the links color, the contrast compared to the background is not high enough, so they're harder to spot, and therefore probably don't get the traffic you'd like. They would be better the same color as the rest of the text, as they're underlined they still stand out. Perhaps add a simple style sheet rule that lets them change color as users hover over them with their cursors, that has been proven to help as well. I would also bring more attention to your downloads, showing that you do indeed support the game with some freebies.

Lastly, I would recommend trying a sans-serif font, such as arial, it has been proven in numerous usability tests that sans-serif fonts are much easier to read on a monitor, than serif ones. Serif is good for print though, but that can all be set with separate style sheets.

I think the idea of bundling the game with cheap roulette wheels is an excellent idea! I was half-way to buying your game at one time, but stopped when I learned about the roulette mechanics, as I have no roulette wheel (and didn't feel like chasing one down). Had I seen it bundled with a wheel at a convention I would gladly have bought it.

EDIT: I just now found that the character sheet has some sort of roulette wheel to dice conversion, so perhaps I don't need that roulette wheel after all... must keep reading.

TTFN,

Yokiboy
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Lxndr
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« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2004, 01:47:24 PM »

I definitely invite criticism, and thanks for the reply, Yokiboy.

I've considered going with a more roulette-themed site overall, but as I do plan on releasing games that have nothing to do with the wheel in the future (and have several on the site already, like Snowball), I decided against biasing the entire site design towards one game.  Maybe that's thinking too far ahead?

As for the link color, again I've brightened the unvisited-link color somewhat (the visited link color is somewhat darker).  Perhaps now that I've switched to a sans-serif font (again at your recommendation - wow, I've just taught myself the beginnings of stylesheets, roxxors) it'll be easier to read.  I'd rather keep them different colors, as not all browsers are set up to automatically underline links, and people can (and do) turn off that feature.

As for bundling with roulette wheels, I'm still working on that.  But yeah, it doesn't absolutely require one, even if I strongly recommend using one for the full experience.

Eero>

Yeah, I know.  I need to find a good pitch, a good core for the game.  But I'm not a good salesman, so I'm still working on it.  Buzz buzz buzz.
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2004, 01:15:02 PM »

Quote from: Lxndr
Yeah, I know.  I need to find a good pitch, a good core for the game.  But I'm not a good salesman, so I'm still working on it.  Buzz buzz buzz.

Okay, with the roulette theme, and calling the game Fastlane, you already appeal to gamblers and people considering themselves to be living on the edge - so to speak. Most gamers would like to fit into that category, IMO, so it shouldn't be that hard to market, if it can back it up with content.

How about taking the opportunity now to tell me why I should buy Fastlane? I am a gambler, but more of a poker player, and really enjoy universal systems to tinker with, but what can Fastlane do that FATE, FUDGE, Sorcerer, Over the Edge, The Pool, etc. don't already do for me?

Is Fastlane a SIM, GAM, or NAR type game? Does it use conflict or task resolution? Is it a quick and loose system, or one bogged down in details with seperate rules for just about any situation?

Anyhow, just something off the cuff, it doesn't have to start as your best sales pitch, I'll follow up with some more questions, and others might join in to.

TTFN,

Yokiboy
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2004, 02:06:59 PM »

Quote from: Yokiboy

Okay, with the roulette theme, and calling the game Fastlane, you already appeal to gamblers and people considering themselves to be living on the edge - so to speak. Most gamers would like to fit into that category, IMO, so it shouldn't be that hard to market, if it can back it up with content.


Then again, IMO those are really weak points to build upon. Those are general thematic things, and here the mainstream vs. indie issue comes to fore: mainstream has the color market cornered. If you sell your game with it's color, you're essentially saying "Hey bubbo, check out my color, it's better than Exalted! And no, I'm not gonna burn you with another game that'll gonna just sit on your self, why you ask?" Things like "living on the edge" and such are what every game wants to sell, and what they claim to sell. Just read the cover copy for new WoD: I haven't the faintest what's in it, but likely it's something about living on the edge or some other buzzword.

I'm pushing this issue so hard because what I'm seeing is that the successful indie games sell because of a) better system (f.ex. Sorcerer has nothing to sell it, except the fact that the top three innovations of the '90s came from it), b) really weirdass color (kpfs sells because it's so off the wall that you just have to check it out) c) diamond focus (you wanna play tv producer, what' a better game than PTA?). Note that all these are factors that build the buzz - each is such that it naturally sparks conversation and/or recommendations. Like, if we're talking about senseless violence in games, it's hard not to take up kpfs as example. Or if somebody comes and asks for help in starting a tv show game, what are you gonna say? Or if we discuss setting based narrativism, it's pretty hard to not come back to Sorcerer.

By contrast, mainstream games garner fame by a) massive publicity campaigns (like WotC does) and b) active fanboy population (like WW has). Of course they use the above methods too, but indie publishers hardly can use these - you have to have some other plan than marketing the heck out of WotC.

If you want to sell Fastlane through the word-of-mouth, you want to have something that makes people talk about it. Even if they have only read it. Take it as granted that at most one in ten will play, and the rest will talk, if they will, based on reading the game.

Without still knowing anything about the game (how come? I do follow Forge somewhat, but apparently I've missed almost all discussion of the game...), I imagine that the thing to focus on would be the roulette mechanism. Detailed description of it in use might well spark the interest, regardless of the above points. Don't know if that'd work, depends on whether there's detailed points of contact between roulette bets and in-game.
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2004, 02:17:12 PM »

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
Quote from: Yokiboy

Okay, with the roulette theme, and calling the game Fastlane, you already appeal to gamblers and people considering themselves to be living on the edge - so to speak. Most gamers would like to fit into that category, IMO, so it shouldn't be that hard to market, if it can back it up with content.


Then again, IMO those are really weak points to build upon. Those are general thematic things, and here the mainstream vs. indie issue comes to fore: mainstream has the color market cornered. If you sell your game with it's color, you're essentially saying "Hey bubbo, check out my color, it's better than Exalted! And no, I'm not gonna burn you with another game that'll gonna just sit on your self, why you ask?" Things like "living on the edge" and such are what every game wants to sell, and what they claim to sell. Just read the cover copy for new WoD: I haven't the faintest what's in it, but likely it's something about living on the edge or some other buzzword.

I didn't say to focus on just this aspect, but you have to agree that color, to an extent, attracts people's attention? That's all I was trying to show, by using my fellow gamers (brutally stereotyped) and I as examples that would be attracted to his game on color alone. Obviously we'd want more details than that.

I am a huge fan of Ron Edwards, Vincent Baker, Fred Hicks, Rob Donoghue, and the list is growing. I do buy games based on totally different criteria now than I used to, looking for ways to challenge my way of thinking of roleplaying games, but enough of that... Could someone that's played Fastlane speak up on what makes it stand out, except for the roulette wheel, what makes it special, and for that matter why the roulette wheel, how is that used in the game?

TTFN,

Yokiboy
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Lxndr
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« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2004, 07:38:14 PM »

In short, Fastlane takes full advantage of the roulette betting system.

What this means is, Fastlane doesn't just use the wheel as a fancy randomizer with numbers from 0 to 36, it actually takes advantage of the odds of the available roulette bets.  This is why it doesn't actually require the wheel (as long as you can reproduce its effects, hence the six-siders alternative), although for color/style, it's obviously better if you have one.  You probably want a mat, on the other hand, which is why I have one available for download on my site.

The fact that it takes advantage of roulette's betting, rather than using the wheel as a gimmick, has rather far-reaching implications, as it puts the riskiness of any given contest almost entirely in the hands of the player(s) - and since the house percentage is the same for every bet on the table, as one increases the risk, the potential rewards scale appropriately.  

Players who want to play it (relatively) safe can put their chips on outside bets - even going so far as to play almost completely diceless.  Conversely, players can put their chips on the inside, where the payout numbers increase as dramatically as their chances fail - and when their number comes up, things will go very well for them.  Since most cases have players bidding multiple chips, they can (and often do, in practice) mix strategies, laying a firm foundation on the outside, then throwing a few chips on the inside "just in case."

At the same time, Fastlane takes advantage of the house percentage - or in layman's terms, the fact that most gambling is designed for casinos to make money, not the gamblers.  On average, you will lose more than you win, something that's against many mainstream games, which seem to assume a rather steady amassing of power over time.  Conversely, Fastlane emphasizes the house percentage by having statistics degrade over time, encouraging players to reach higher, in order to break even.  The assumption in Fastlane is that eventually, you will burn out (which is the character endgame), so what are you going to do along the way?

Chips are the only advancement system in the game, and the only way to use them to better yourself is to play the game.  Not only does your take from every conflict help you win said conflict, but your winnings are also the only chance you have to increase your statistics, and your bank, both of which are important to your overall character's "power."  There's no XP handed out between sessions, banked and then spent as appropriate - the numbers on the character sheet are expected to change after every single conflict, sometimes subtly, and other times in violent upheavals.

So, that's me babbling about Fastlane.  Is that a good start?
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2004, 09:33:04 PM »

Hey Alexander. I remixed your post - how do you feel about that? A true bona fide pitch is One Perfect Sentence, but that can be made later.
Quote
Fastlane doesn't require the wheel, but takes full advantage of the roulette betting system, as it puts the riskiness entirely in the hands of the players. As one increases the risk, the potential rewards scale.

Players who want to play it safe can put their chips on outside bets, or they can put their chips on the inside, where the payout numbers increase as dramatically as their chances fail - and when their number comes up, things will go very well for them. Mix strategies! Lay a firm foundation on the outside, then throw a few chips on the inside "just in case."

At the same time, Fastlane takes advantage of the house percentage - on average, you will lose more than you win. Fastlane is encouraging players to reach higher, in order to break even. The assumption in Fastlane is that eventually, you will burn out, so what are you going to do along the way?


Although bringing mini-roulette wheels is increasing your overhead (and I encourage severe caution in that regard), it's has to be a major plus to seeing Fastlane. Again, I shy from Fastlane because I don't have a roulette wheel (and because my Ebay-work from a few seconds ago didn't reveal anything promsing). I'm changing my mind, given what I hear about the 2d6 rules, but if I saw it in practice WITH a roulette wheel, it would be hard for Joe Gamer to not be wowed.

This seems to agree with your experiences - it's not a game that sells easily just online, and it does much better in person. Just hearing and feeling the sounds of the big wheel has ot make it an easier sell in person.

Incidentally, would you describe this as a game that can work for one-offs? Because I'm always looking for that (given my disposition), and I can see this as a game that can be an easy sell for making gaming look "cool" to people who are entirely new to the shtick. (Gambling is cool, roulette wheels are cool, playing as sexy desperate people might be cool.) It's a careful marketing choice - maybe you don't want to get tagged as "game for oneshots" or something - but I think you could sell this as "yes, you can play this and look cool, because there are chips and a damn wheel". You can post an entirely genuine post on RPG.net if you can get some relatively non-gamerish friends to give this a try, and like it.

Final thought for the evening - imagine some flyers (or stickers?) up at a convention, where in rather moviestyle font, you see copy like this:
Quote
Danny Crighton always thought Lady Luck was an easy score.

Unfortunately for him, Luck's no Lady.

CASH IN. BURN OUT. LIVE FAST. FASTLANE
Storygaming on the Big Wheel. Check out the demo at 7pm.
Yes, roulette-wheels with each order.
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matthijs
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« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2004, 12:30:12 AM »

Quick note about reviews:

The designer, of course, wants a playtest review - it's both an ad and valuable blindtesting comments at once.

The reviewer - myself, for example - might not have the time to play all the games he wants to read, but will still want the chance to look at new games; capsule reviews are much, much easier.

Main point: The reader, in general, doesn't even read the whole review. He'll typically see the name, and notice it if it comes up more than once. He might browse the review, paying special attention to the first and last paragraphs. From this, he'll make a decision whether or not he wants a real look at the game.

(Of course, there are readers out there who actually read whole reviews, try to understand the exact workings of the game from the review, etc. However, I believe that most just don't).

So - a capsule review is easier to get, and has pretty much the same potential for getting customers.

(Of course I understand that game designers are afraid that the reviewer won't "get" the feel of the game until he's played it. It's a valid concern; reviewers can make atrocious mistakes about how a game works. On the other hand, if the game text doesn't clearly show what's cool about the game, there's something wrong with the design. The game text is a secondary advertisement: It's supposed to lure the people who bought the game into actually playing it).
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