Monthly Archives: March 2010

How to sell Go? An amateur market study

Running to the centerAs I said in my previous post about spreading Go, looks like nobody has done a real “market study” about selling Go. It’s really easy to realize there are 3 separate “targets”, perhaps 4, based on the age, and for each case a different approach has to be applied.

· Children
They do not decide, parents decide for them. This means you have to sell Go to the parents, telling them that Go will help the kid become more intelligent. As a mental discipline, this is a reality, and actually some studies show improvements in IQ and concentration on children who started playing Go. Different parts of the mind are improved, from spatial sense to coherent judgement, and not only calculation abilities.

The problem here is the infrastructure, that is, the things we need to support a Go academy for kids. We need teachers, we need good books for kids in their mother tongue, and we need continuity. We have to train players to teach properly to children, because nowadays most of them are horrible at teaching. We have to create relations with Go books publishers and try to translate books for children to our local languages. And (the most difficult part) children should keep playing/studying. Usually in Europe an amateur player goes to a school and runs some kind of Go introductory course; then they learn to play. But later, when the the course is over, they do not continue playing. That’s because the only way they have to continue playing is in a real club (with people smoking or using bad language) or on Internet, and parents do not allow it most of the time. So the way to keep children playing is creating a children-focused space (real or virtual) for them, with some teacher/tutor/guard taking after them.

· Teenagers
Actually not so much work is needed with this group. They usually discover the game via Hikaru no Go, and start playing a lot, spending the enormous free time they have. The only problem they suffer is their tight budget. That is, it’s not easy to buy a Go book, which are quite expensive here, starting at 15€. Moreover, it’s not easy to travel to take part in a tournament. So the action to take here is try to lower the prices of books (perhaps prepare a grant for this), and help them to take part in real tournaments.

· Adults
Why don’t we just sell Go telling people it’s a fun game, instead of a complex one?. Usually adults looks for activities to enjoy with, in their spare time. If you tell them Go is a complex thing, most people will not look at it. So the idea here is selling Go as an enjoyable game, with a bit of “it will keep your mind young”. Think about all those “brain training” videogames that are succeeding lately; despite in theory they are boring (you have to solve maths) they sell them as an enjoyable game, and people keep buying. Of course, you also have studies on Go and brain activity to use as background. Moreover, Go magazines or newspapers could keep adults playing the game.

· Elders
Do you know that Go helps to prevent dementia? This could be a nice slogan to start with. There are studies which show that mental activities like Go help the brain to remain healthy. They have a lot of free time, so introductory courses could help. Also they can take part in tournaments, read magazines and such.

So summarizing, we should STOP telling people Go is a complex thing!!

How can we spread Go?

Go game The population of Go players in Asia, specially in Korea, China and Japan, is enormous, compared with the tiny group of people who plays Go in Europe and America. Why? How can we spread Go effectively in Europe? That’s the million Euro question!

In Europe people learn to play too late and too badly. Usually a Go player learns to play at the University, because he meets other players, specially studying technical degrees. Sometimes he learns a bit earlier, during High School, because he reads Hikaru No Go, and gets interest on Go. Usually a new player learns the rules and start to play games, lots of games, usually on Internet, without even read a book. The result is a careless style of playing, in which the luck most of the time decides the result of each game.

In Korea it’s just the opposite. Children learn to play really young. They have baduk (Go) academies, mostly like we have in Europe language academies or martial arts academies. Children don’t play a lot, but study books, specially life&death problems. Later they develop their own style, with solid foundations.

Moreover, in Europe people sell Go the worst way. Usually they say to non-players things like “this is like Chess, but 4 times more difficult”. Or “Chess is just a knife fight in a lift, Go is a real war, really complex”. So the idea people get is “Go is a rare thing, too complex for me”. Usually this kind of selling only works for logical minds, that is, people with a maths, physics or computer science background. As a corollary, there are not so many female players in Europe, because there are more males interested in technical degrees.

Paul Smith, from the British Go Association, did an interesting work [PDF], analysing the image of Go we’re creating.

Anyway, in my opinion there are 2 mistakes with this usual selling:
1.- comparing Go (rare thing) to Chess (well known thing)
2.- Go is complex.
As an analogy, imagine that somebody sells electric cars, telling you “it’s better than a normal car, and 4 times more complex”. People will choose the old well known thing, and supposedly easier thing, always.

So, we need a market study to tell us how to sell Go properly.