Inferior, Normal, or Luxury Games
Ed Stockton “Duke of BAzlandia”
Before we begin, two things.
First, we have added a store to the homepage. If you are in the market for some nice-looking board game art prints or canvases to hang on the wall, go ahead and click on Store in the Top Menu.
Second, we will be building off of last week’s blog post. Reading it isn’t necessary but may avoid some possible confusion.
Below, I am going to divide this post into three parts and cover some thoughts on designing games and purposefully making a game with the end product being an Inferior, Normal, or Luxury good. I am going to make some generalizations. I ask that people not jump to conclusions and think that I think that a particular product is inferior, normal or luxurious, but that it is possible that a product or type of product possibly falls into that category. No offense or judgement is meant.
Inferior Game Design and Manufacturing
This is the subject that is most likely to get me into trouble, but hey such is life. Once again these are just thoughts and generalizations. Games that are designed with inferiority in mind, are games that are designed for the bottom line. The game is meant to have as few components produced as possible, for as cheap as possible.
Print and Play games are an inferior good (hear me out, I know this doesn’t apply to everyone who do it as a hobby. Also, they are not necessarily cheap to make for a print-n-player). But when it comes down to it, there is nothing cheaper to produce and sell then digital files when compared to a physical product. If this is your product you don’t ever actually manufacture the game for sell.
You may say to yourself though that people buy the physical game and a print-n-play version. I agree, some people do, but it is usually due it the physical product not being available right away (crowdfunded games). Another reason could be it is worth the price to the consumer to try the game that way first before purchasing a game. However, I would venture, that the general populace of board gamers would choose a physical product over one that has to be produced by the consumer (I know there is a segment that this does not apply to).
Another aspect of inferior games is making components as cheap as possible or replacing components to decrease manufacture cost. When doing so it may be to the detriment of the consumer or possibly takes away from gameplay/reusability. An example of this is when a game has cheap feeling components, artwork, or doesn’t provide a component that would increase player enjoyment such as player boards, trackers, enough tokens, etc.
Normal Game Design and Manufacturing
Most board games fall under the Normal Category as a good. When designing a game, you should keep in mind what your end product will be and what its potential selling value will be.
This was mentioned in last week’s post, but certain types of games tend to be a certain price regardless of the number of components or lack of components. So, when designing a game, you need to keep the cost to manufacture within a reasonable ratio to retail price.
This requires the designer to optimize his game design with components. This may require you to use new approaches to solve problems in your game. It may even drive you to change a perfectly functioning portion of your game and change it due to component price or the number of components that are required.
I know the above is quite general but what holds true in one situation doesn’t always hold true for all. For example, most games use tokens to track goods. The more of a good you have the more tokens go into your play area. This works great in most games. However, in some games there is a constant flow/exchange of good. Tracking them through tokens becomes tedious and the constant exchange can be a detriment to game play. Also, the amount of extra cardboard needed to produce tokens may be too expensive for the game.
If players already have a game board, it may be worth looking into replacing tokens with a tracker. This eliminates the piles of tokens, the reaching across the table, and the constant flow of goods is tracked by a single marker on a player board that is already necessary to play the game. It is possible to streamline your game and decrease the cost to manufacture by moving to a different tracking system.
The above is just one example, but I think it would be an interesting article to read about what designers have used as alternate systems in their games.
Luxury Game Design and Manufacturing
This is where the truly awesome can happen. Now, most games that fall into this, in my opinion, fall into a couple of categories.
The first category is board games with high quality miniatures. There isn’t a miniature game out there that uses miniatures that couldn’t get by with standees. They really wouldn’t play differently. That being said, there is a feeling when a game is all laid out and the miniatures are in place you get low on the table and gaze at the pure awesome. It is a sight to behold. Truly Epic.
The second category is game niceties that can add to the experience much like miniatures. This would include metal cubes, game organization devices, playmats, metal coins, fancy dice, custom game boxes and the list goes on. These are the things that can add feel to a game, add to the overall theme of the game but are not necessary for it to be fun or functional. They don’t add functionality but add “experience”.
When designed, a luxury game is about predicting what the market has an appetite for. Luxuries are extra, purely extra. There is nothing necessary and there are times when the extra is no longer the thing or viewed as kindly in the market as it once was.
Kickstarter is a great place to see what luxury currently is. What is currently being sold as extra. I would even say Kickstarter in and of itself is a luxury. It provides consumers the luxury of having a game first. Being able to provide feedback to the process. Getting exclusive content or components that will not be sold at retail.
Care should be taken as you can also price yourself out of the market. Luxuries are nice but if they cost too much to produce, the consumer may not want to buy them for the price you would need to sell them, or you may not be able to produce enough to sell them at the price the consumer wants.
In conclusion, when you are designing a game, it is important to know what the end state of your product is going to be. It is tempting to say all of your products will be luxury products because they are the best. This isn’t true. Inferior products are not bad products, and luxury products aren’t necessarily good products. It really comes down to what you are trying to accomplish with your game, what type of game you are producing, what the market is, and, if you are a designer trying to sell your game, who you should be selling the game to. It would be a hard sell to take a game design that you would like to see produced as a luxury product to a company that sells products that are the complete opposite.
Also, no offense to Print-n-Play Gamers. They are great people, with a phenomenal hobby. They can often times produce an end product that is more luxurious than store bought. The craftsmanship and ingenuity that can go into their products are outstanding.