April Fool’s Day and game promotion

Fifteen years ago, when the modern tech company was still being formed, April Fool’s Day was amazing. Their pranks were unexpected and delightful, and the sense of surprise was genuine. (It’s possible that, if I were as old, cynical, and crusty then as I am now, I wouldn’t recall it so fondly. YMMV. Anyway.)

These days, the corporate laughing wheeze of April Fool’s Day is something to be anticipated… and avoided. So many attempts turn out like, “yah, that was okay.” None of the shock and wonder we would have had in, say, 2003.

I’ve avoided April Fool’s pranks for Formal Ferret for this reason. Just like how I quit Reddit when I got sick of the same reposted joke over and over again (to say nothing of its other problems), or those threads on BGG Chit Chat where people amuse themselves by posting a new thread with almost the same subject line as another thread, but with one word or letter different, or someone replying to a long, belabored post with a familiar meme, it’s just not as funny as it used to be.
And this is not even mentioning the stock April Fool’s prank of posting something believable, getting others to offer genuine sympathy, and then toss that sympathy back in their faces. Sucks to be you for caring!

So… I haven’t been a big April Fool’s fan in a long time. Which is why I haven’t bothered with April Fool’s gags for Formal Ferret.

And yet, Google’s April Fool’s stuff tends to range from decent to really damn good. Today they integrated a bunch of Where’s Waldo games into Google Maps. I blew through them all this morning; they were a ton of fun. Play them if you get the chance!

It made me realize; there is still a right way to do April Fool’s here, even in 2018. It’s this: give people a genuine gift. If it’s a joke, make it a joke they can really experience, and perhaps even buy. Don’t just tease them with a Photoshopped press release; give them something they can actually enjoy. (With all due respect to my publisher friends who released Photoshopped press releases today!)

For fellow board game publishers, I think that means that if your prank is to send out a press release for a fake expansion for your game, then I think you should follow through and actually offer it. Like, as a print-and-play, or through POD, or even a tiny promo print run (assuming it’s affordable). Let your players actually participate in it, not just read about it with their April Fool’s shields up.

So much of staying fresh and relevant means realizing when a formula is tired and drained, and figuring out a way to revitalize it. For the next few years, I would love to see more companies embrace April Fool’s as a holiday of genuineness. Like, still be lighthearted and playful, but offer a genuine gift for your fans and customers.

The upshot here is: I have 365 days to come up with an awesome gift for everyone on April 1, 2019.