Party games have exploded in popularity this year as people find ways to connect despite social distancing, with social games like Among Us taking over Twitch. Jackbox has also seen a huge rise in popularity, with gamers digging into the company’s catalog of Party Packs to play games like Quiplash and Trivia Murder Party with friends they my not be able to party with in person.
Jackbox has a long history of making party games, but in recent years it’s found that bundling them together is the key to their success. The company makes games people play through their mobile phones and tablets, often sitting on couches and coming up with funny answers and drawings to make their friends laugh. They can be competitive, sure, but it’s more like a Whose Line Is It Anyway? gaming experience — the points don’t really matter, the laughs do.
Party Packs, the seventh of which will hit consoles and PCs on Thursday, seem to follow a similar pattern when Jackbox Games designs a release. There’s usually a fill-in-the-blank game, a drawing game and a kind of Werewolf-style social deduction game. There are a lot of them, but that’s the point. And according to Jackbox CEO Mike Bilder, the formula for a perfect Party Pack is much less concrete than checking boxes on a game type.
“There’s a bit of a formula but it’s not maybe as explicit as you might think,” said Jackbox CEO Mike Bilder. “It’s never for example ‘Well we don’t have a drawing game yet so we need to put a drawing game in the pack.’ It’s not something like that, we don’t have any hard and fast criteria like that.”
— Jackbox Games (@jackboxgames) September 17, 2020
Bilder described the “bell curve” Jackbox has in mind for its party packs. Most of the games should be quick, easy to learn and get easy laughs. Newcomers to Jackbox games are sometimes hesitant to get started, so the company makes its pregame tutorials as simple and quick as possible. It’s also why you might start with a game like Quiplash for new players first: don’t panic, just write something funny based on the prompt then pick your favorites others wrote. But the outer areas of their “bell curve” are where the company lets its game designers get a bit more creative and.
“It makes for us an opportunity to explore some great games that we might not otherwise do if we were to sell them on their own,” Bilder said. “Under the guise of the Party Pack of games you have a different value proposition, you have a different price expectancy for a consumer.”
And as Bilder pointed out, Jackbox hopes gamers love every title they make, but selling them in groups of five helps keep most gamers happy even if they don’t love every game.
“If you pay $25-$30 for a Party Pack, and you like two or maybe three of the games in the pack, you’re going to feel very validated with that purchase,” Bilder said. “You’re going to be happy with it, you’re going to enjoy it. If you enjoy all five, amazing. We’ve knocked it out of the park and they all resonate with you.”
Party Packs also give some tougher-to-sell games a chance at a wider market and more opportunity to catch on with people hesitant to give them a try. If you market a Party Pack as a chance to play a new Quiplash, as some Jackbox fans might view Party Pack 7, you also get four games they don’t know in their hands, each of which has the potential to be the highlight of the night with the right crowd.
That's what I call "I've got your back" support! #Quiplash3
— Jackbox Games (@jackboxgames) October 3, 2020
“If we were to take those games and sell them individually, there might be a couple that would work really well. There might be a couple that might just really have a hard time just being sold on their own. The games might be polarizing,” Bilder said. “But under the umbrella of the Party Pack they’re both a fun experiment that we can do and also, to some people, they may become their favorite games in the pack.”
Bilder pointed to hidden identity games like Push The Button, which was in Jackbox Party Pack 6. It’s a lot like Mafia or Werewolf or, fittingly, Among Us, an indie title that took two years to catch on in a big way on Twitch. It might take a few plays to understand what’s going on in Push The Button, but the payoff can be huge for players who love those kind of parlor games. Bilder said it took years to develop to the point where it made sense, and without the Party Pack formula to bundle it with other titles it may never have found its way to release.
“Its one of those games where it takes a few more people to play, it’s very strategic, it takes a bit to understand it. You have to play it once or twice,” he said. “But for the people that put the effort into it, they absolutely love that game. Absolutely love it. And that’s an example where we may not been able to sell it as a standalone game, but under the umbrella of a Party Pack it allows us to do some fun and creative stuff.”
Like many party games, the titles are often only as fun and funny as the people you’re playing with. But Jackbox has certainly found the formula to get the right tools in the hands of gamers over the years.
“We’re on twelve different platforms and we’ve been doing this for a while so we have the nice back catalog of games. We have 30 games that we’ve made over the last five years,” Bilder said, with five more on the way later this week. “It’s nice because it adds variety as well. If people like a certain type of game or they have a good time playing one of the Party Packs but they feel like they’ve worn it out playing it a few days or weekends, there’s always more they can go out and find.”