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The future of playtesting: online innovation and worldwide collaboration

Websters’ innovative adaptation of playtesting and interpreting processes in response to the pandemic has revolutionised our offering to the games industry, enabling worldwide accessibility and invaluable insights for designers.

White person's hand rolling a dice while playing Ludo to illustrate online playtesting service

For nearly two decades, we have immersed ourselves in the realm of content creation and in-person playtesting for board games and strategy games across various languages, collaborating with major toy and game companies worldwide. However, the arrival of COVID-19 disrupted our conventional methods, presenting an opportunity for innovation: we transitioned our playtesting process online, making it accessible to game designers – wherever they are in the world.

We carry out the online tests in European countries via video calls into players’ homes and schools. Aided by Websters’ interpreters, English-speaking game designers and executives attend these sessions, allowing them to observe the gameplay, ask questions to the players, and gain real-time insights into the action as it unfolds.

Recently, a leading toy brand – whom we shall refer to as “WonderRealm” to maintain confidentiality – entrusted us with the testing of their new family game in the French and German markets. Having actively contributed to the game’s content creation and collaborated closely with the designers on illustration requests, we eagerly took on the request. WonderRealm sought our expertise to ensure the game rules play well and the content resonates within the local French and German markets. The valuable feedback we provided would aid in refining the gameplay and enhancing the overall experience.

As part of a comprehensive and robust testing strategy, we meticulously organised four separate weeks of playtesting, involving ten different families in each country. Facilitated by our experienced French and German games editors, who lead our in-country writing and editing teams, these playtests were carried out via video call, with interpretation.

The initial step involved recruiting families that precisely matched the desired demographics for game testing, particularly those who actively engage in playing board games as a family. WonderRealm provided prototypes of the game for the families – who were under strict instructions not to open the game until the session: the unboxing moment is key!

Throughout each playtest, the players are observed and gently guided by the facilitator, who skilfully strikes a balance between offering guidance and preserving the participants’ autonomy. Meanwhile, WonderRealm observed and listened in via the interpretation channel, receiving real-time interpretation of the gameplay.

To conclude each session, we engaged the families in a thoughtful dialogue, gathering their invaluable feedback on aspects such as the game's name, potential confusion regarding the rules, and suggestions for improvements. Our facilitators compiled these well-rounded insights into detailed reports and provided a concise summary of the key findings. Following the testing, we worked closely with WonderRealm to tweak the content as needed, along with rulebook changes, and the game goes off to production soon!

Through our innovative playtesting approach, Websters have successfully navigated the challenges posed by the pandemic, revolutionizing the playtesting process. Our ability to adapt swiftly and harness the power of online platforms has not only enabled unparalleled accessibility for designers but also provided a treasure trove of insights that will shape the future of tabletop games.

Get in touch to find out more about how Websters can facilitate playtests for your game design in multiple markets.

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