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Too Many Games!

February 27th, 2013 Posted in business
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We’ve been slowly seeing more and more games arrive, more releases as the entire market and Kickstarter come into play.  And I have to say, there’s major disadvantages to this flood of games that keep arriving.

More Badness than Ever

It’s safe to say that there are bad games out there.   In fact, there are horrendously broken games and games with themes that are just wrong.  At the end of the day, there are games that for one reason or another slip past whatever gatekeepers there are and are released into the wide world of distribution.

Let’s assume there are 10 bad games in every 100 releases.  Further, let’s say there are 60 meh games (okay, not great, not bad) and 20 good games and another 10 great games.  Now the last 30 games will switch depending on who you ask (what’s good is after all in the eye of the beholder) and maybe even the bottom 20-30 games will vary (i.e. what’s truly horrible to me might be  meh to another).   We’re still talking about a lot of bad games out there; games that almost everyone can agree just aren’t that great.  Obviously the numbers are made up, but the idea holds true.

Now, if for some reason more capital is injected into the industry – more publishers set up shop, Kickstarter gets even more popular, etc. Let’s say the ratio of good to bad games stays the same.

The end result? There’s even more bad games to wade through than ever.  The probability of you finding those 10 great games suddenly drops off, because you now have to look through even more games (in sheer volume).

Don’t Blink

I’ve talked about the lie of infinite shelf space.  Assume that we want to get as many of those great, good and mediocre games as we can onto the shelves because we know that will sell.  Now, if a 100 games release every month, we need to shift those games ever faster because we’ve now got to find shelf space for those 70 games we’ll bring in next month.

So what happens? We shift some older stock off the list – we say goodbye to Louis XIV, El Grande, Princes of Florence, classics in their own right.  This is happening right here, right now.  Mediocore games, marginally good games, all of them come in and shift off the shelves ever faster because we have to find space for the next new game.  So don’t blink, those games are gone.

Why do you care? Well, perhaps a good game that is good to most might be great for you.  Maybe it’s the perfect game for you and your group.  And you’ll never find it, because it’s gone.

Boom to Bust in 60 Seconds

Think it’s bad for you? Think about how bad it gets for publishers.  Their window of profitability gets cut ever shorter with this.  They need to start making back their funds in ever shorter periods as retailers are forced to rotate stock out.  Sure, Kickstarter might pre-sell a ton of their games but then the question becomes how much more should they print? If your average Kickstarter does 1000 games pre-sold, do the publishers just print 1000 games or 2000? Those last 1000 games have to be sold somewhere – and their window in the retailer’s shelf is ever shorter.

Eventually, publishers might cut down on their print runs further; printing maybe only a few hundred copies more than their Kickstarter numbers because they can’t afford to take the risk of sales through normal retail.  If that’s the case, then games become more expensive (smaller print runs = higher cost) and disappear from shelves ever faster; with reprints not available.

Lower Profits, Lower Service

Publishers and retailers suddenly have less interest in any one game.  If you know you can only sell a 1000 copies (most of it through Kickstarter); then if you want to make a profit you need to pump out games at a faster rate as a publisher.  That means less playtesting, less Q&A when printing.  That means any one single game is less important than making sure each new game gets out faster and that poential errors can be glossed over faster since everyone’s attention span is less.

For retailers, you can’t learn 100 games every month.  So games become commodities, things that come and go.  You can’t provide as good a service because you don’t know the games that well.  You can’t play every game, you can’t even play 10% of those games.

 It Ain’t Over

I’m not saying it’s all bad and I doubt my posts or opinions will change anything.  However, I do think it behooves us all to realise that there are major disadvantages to this move to bypass gatekeepers, to the crowd-funding of games and the increasing number of games arriving.

 

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  1. 2 Responses to “Too Many Games!”

  2. By Claus Jensen on Feb 28, 2013

    Well roared Lion 🙂

    I was actually musing on something similar to this myself, but in a slightly different vein.

    And that is the fact that with so much being produced, there’s actually more quality stuff which gets neglected in the market as well. Those games in the good/great range? Well, if people own Agricola, why would they ever buy an inferior Worker Placement?
    If you own Dominion or Ascension, why would you purchase DC Comics?

    Note, I’m not talking about the collectors or the new-to-boardgames people. I’m talking about the people who have realized the potential for entertainment here and maybe they’re looking for their third or fourth game. They’ll look at the top games on BGG, maybe they’ll look at the bestseller lists on starlit Citadel, and very likely they’ll miss something which was potentially a gem TO THEM, because it just fits them personally, their gaming group or some such.
    We see it with games like Uchronia: “Why should I get this, it’s done by the same guy who did Glory To Rome, so it’s the same game because it has the same mechanics”
    Or we see it with games like Earth Reborn or Claustrophobia, taking second chair to War of the Ring.

    I guess my point is this: This is a double problem with only a single benefit: Yes, we get more games, and the top of the line quite likely are better, but as you mention, we get a LOT more crap at the bottom, and we may only be seeing the start of crappily tested and developed games, which is a disaster considering how the entier world is beginning to adopt board gaming as the next go-to thing.
    But we’re aso shutting ourselves away from quality stuff, because we’re indulged in a facebook’esque “Like” culture, which limits our exposure to things which might actually be great!

    Random comparison: I watched Iron Sky the other night, and I LOVED it.. not because it was a good movie, but because it was a bad movie in all the best ways possible. And I would have never experiences it, had I only settled for the best sci-fi movies on IMDB.

  3. By Lee Hodgson on Mar 13, 2013

    I know a few game testers who could play stuff all dam day to see if it’s worth it’s salt !

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