Industry Standard, What does that mean?
As I look forward to the convention season heating up this summer, I have been thinking about some of the things I enjoy most during conventions. One is the atmosphere and camaraderie that can abound as you talk and enjoy the presence of fellow hobbyists, designers, and publishers.
As you sit to listen and converse with those around you, you know that you are among friends who understand and have some of the same feelings as you discuss, agree, and disagree on a game related subject. You know these are your people because you all speak the same language.
You all understand what is meant by that game is “heavy”, I want to play something that is a little “crunchy”, or even my favorite part of that game was how game mechanic “X” was implemented and interacted with “Y”.
This is an example of a shared understanding and definition of what is being referred to and what is expected when those words are being said. While not exactly a pure example of “Industry Standard” (except for maybe game reviewers) it is a decent example of what is being referred to. Below is the definition from Free Dictionary.
Industry Standard – Established as being of the required standard or norm in a particular area of business.
(I like my example better though.)
industry standards & where they come from
As B.A. Games continues on this lovely adventure of making games and seeing if we can make this into a full-time job and business, there has been a certain amount of learning curve about the unwritten norms and expectations that make up the Industry Standards for board games.
One of the first things we learned is that the industry is much more fragmented than we originally thought/knew. Yes, there are some very big players in the space but there isn’t anyone who owns or controls the market in board games like Games Workshop does in miniature war gaming. This doesn’t mean there aren’t others but for the most part Games Workshop IS the Industry Standard.
After discovering this, it was important for us to figure out where do the Industry Standards come from and what that meant for B.A. Games.
So, where do these Industry Standards come from for board games? This question really has a two-part answer.
The first has to deal with the shapes, sizes, and many of the “standard” manufactured components. What I am referring to here are the normal size of things such as cards, cardboard thicknesses, manufacturing processes, and readily available and commonly used components. These have largely been determined by tradition, manufacturing machinery/cost, and components that are viewed as common.
The “prosumer”, hobbyist, or enthusiast is where the second part of the answer comes from. These are the members of our hobby who have driven the Industry Standards of “quality”. Once again there are two ways these people have been able to determine the standards of what is considered acceptable quality.
The first being their vocal opinions and published reviews of games. While some could point the finger to various game reviewers and new organizations, the reality is they are expressing their opinion and while louder than others, it is the masses at large who follow, agree, and support them. It is the masses that have decided that a certain quality level is required.
The second way the hobbyist drives the quality standard is by where they spend their money, and on what they spend their money on. The reality is, as much as I would like to own almost every board game in existence, I only have so much money to spend on them. With this limit I have to determine what games I buy. This drives the publishers to compete for this money. It is needed for them to keep doing business. This drives the publisher to make sure their game is the one being bought.
This in turn drives the minimums of acceptable quality. To see this in action one only has to look at the history of Kickstarter campaigns or browse the selection at your local game store and compare that to what was on the shelf a decade or two ago. The difference at times is drastic. At one point in time Kickstarter campaigns could fund successfully from hopes and dreams scribbled on a napkin. This is no longer the case. A game campaign must be near complete at a minimum in order to be successful (there are exceptions).
why it all matters and other things
So why does this all matter? Well, it matters due to the fact that there are hundreds of games that arrive to the market every year. In reality the consumer has all the options in a market that is crowded. Outside of sales gimmicks and fads, in order for your game to be noticed and be successful it has to meet at a minimum the norms.
So, what are the quality norms you have to follow? Well, that is a topic for another day, but I can tell you the best place to do your research are at local game stores, crowdfunding campaigns (successful ones and, if not more insightful, unsuccessful ones) and most importantly your fellow gamers and wherever they gather (in person or virtually).
My brother Sam often states that I end these blog posts too soon and that he often feels like there is more to cover on the subjects. He is absolutely right. There are many more things that are Industry Standards that I have not covered or will attempt to cover. For the most part I have covered the importance of knowing what is normal and what is normal quality. I haven’t even begun to actually cover regulations, legal requirements/standards, import/export requirements, and innumerable other things under this topic.
One of the reasons I don’t fully expound on a topic is due to the impossibility of doing so. Second, I am not an expert, far from it.
Lastly, I personally like to read what I would call a thought snippet when it comes to a blog. I like to read an initial thought or idea and use it as a springboard throughout the day or week to explore and do some of my own research.
So, if anyone else feels this way I apologize, but hey, if you ever run into me at a convention feel free to have a conversation. I would love to talk your ear off for hours about almost any subject of your choice.