Ramblings from the man behind Van Ryder Games

Ok, this started off as a blog focused on Kickstarter, but of late I've been discussing more topics and thus I have renamed the blog to a more general title. I hope you enjoy my ramblings!

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AJ's Game Success Indicator Model - A theory. Or food for thought for Designers/Publishers

A.J. Porfirio
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Here is the theory in visual form. Look at this model:


Let me preface these next comments by saying no scientific study or survey has been done. No data has been collected whatsoever in fact. Maybe that kills this discussion for you before it even starts, I don't know. But if not, keep reading...

One more thing... Unless specified, anywhere I mention "play again" I am referring to immediately playing it again after having just played it.

I've thought a lot about game length of late and what I can gather from reactions at the end of the first play of a game to get the other players' true feelings on the game. Did they like it or not? Did they LOVE it?

Typically if a game falls in the range between "not bad" and "good" you will get some sort of verbal reaction of similar nature. A lot of times that is a good indication of the true feeling, but not always. The majority of games probably fall into this category.

How do you get below the surface and get to someones true feelings? Well, I suggest this... Ask them if they want to play it again. If the reaction is neutral to negative, they probably are even less positive on the game then their original response indicated. If they respond quickly with a yes, then there is probably something compelling about the game they want explore further. That or they just had a good time playing it (which is good news). This is the first key indicator of game satisfaction.

Hold on a minute A.J., the game took 2.5 hours and you want me to ask them to play it again? Ah, great question astute reader and critical thinker! You are right, so far we've not considered game length aka the time investment the players just put in. What do you think the odds are the gamers in that 2.5 hour game want to play again? Likely 0% or close to it. But does that mean they don't like the game?

This brings me to my second key indicator of satisfaction: Thinking about the game in the hours or days after it was played. We've all played those games we couldn't stop thinking about, pondering decisions later that night or the next day. What a great indication the game was interesting! When players contact you with a rules question or to proactively provide you with some thoughts on the gameplay, that is a great sign! But really what it comes down to is are they thinking about the strategy and depth of the game. This is a key indicator in longer games. While I think it can happen with shorter games too, I don't believe it to be a strong indication of the potential success of a shorter game. What do you think? Am I off the reservation?

So that brings us back to time. As you can see in the model it is my belief that the shorter a game is, the greater % of frequency you need to have people asking to immediately playing it again. If no one wants to play your 10 minute game again after the first play, you need to work on it because something is probably missing. Similarly, if by the end of your 3 hour game all people care about is that it is over, you've got some work to do.

Obviously the assessing the longer games is a much greater challenge. Determining if there was post game critical thought from the players can be quite difficult. And even then, is it meaningful. You have to figure out how to best measure that.

What if my game falls in the middle? You know those 60-90 minute games. Well, those can have attributes of both indicators and you should look for both. Lots of people will be willing to play a medium length game again if it has the depth and fun factor level. You likely need to weigh both indicators fairly equally. Use your judgement, but assess critically if you are getting enough of each,

So there it is, I know maybe not a mind blowing revelation, but hopefully something other designers and publishers may apply or think about differently.

Am I crazy? Are there better indicators? Please disagree! Weigh in. I'd love to discuss!
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Tue Oct 1, 2013 10:05 pm
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The "If I'm Going Down Kickstarter:My Top 10 Lessons Learned

A.J. Porfirio
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Well here I am, on the flip side of the release of Van Ryder Games
first game If I'm Going Down....

So this is my Top 10 lessons learned for running AND publishing your first Kickstarter, hope it helps someone or at least is entertaining.

10. Temper expectations and be realistic - we all want to believe that we will knock everything out of the park. There will be no hiccups or problems. WRONG. Know going in that things WILL go wrong. I don't care if you are the best planner in the universe.

9. Plan, Plan, DAMMIT I SAID PLAN! - if you go at it half assed you will get half assed pledges. Do your research. What strategies are currently working? Why are some projects failing? Be a sponge.

8. Market, don't spam - No one wants a retweet everytime one of your followers mentions your project. No one wants Tweets every 5 minutes about your project. Be intentional and impactful with forum posts, facebook posts, and tweets. Tell people about your GAME 1st and your Kickstarter 2nd.

7. Quality Art is a MUST - you get 1 chance to make an impression. The artwork should represent the level of quality of your game. There is nothing pledgers will experience from your game before the Art. Have it done, have it ready, and don't cut corners.

6. Don't read the Kickstarter Doom and Gloom threads on BGG - nothing productive will come of it. I can promise you that as long as KS remains a player in the industry these thread types will consistently pop up every couple weeks or more:
"KS games are cheaper after release"
"KS is a big risk, what if the project doesn't deliver"
"No good games come from Kickstarter"
And MANY more. These threads get hot, but it is the same thing every time. Naysayers naysay, pumpers pump. Neither is a determinant of your success. Never doubt that funding through KS is viable.

5. Surround yourself with success and be a team player if possible - Go look at how many of the most successful KS were run by a team of people rather than a one man show. Most of them. Multiple people passionate about a project is far more powerful than one person beating the drum.

4. Bring your project AND product to fruition before starting another one -
Some may disagree with this, but I feel very strongly about it especially for first time publishers. There is SO much involved with bringing a game to life. Experience it first, the full experience, before trying to take over the world with 10 projects in a year. Not to mention it is more fair to your backers as well.

3. Be there and be a rock through the GOOD, BAD, and UGLY - be upfront with your backers and keep them in the loop. Always keep your cool no matter how bad it gets. Answer questions, support them when needed, and never lose confidence in your project and product because if you don't believe in it, no one will.

2. If you think you have control over printing speed/game delivery, think again - Why the hell was I shocked when the communication sucked from my printer? I was spending all of a few thousand dollars to get good service. Haha boy was I delusional thinking I would be the top priority and they would drop everything for me. It is going to take a long time, PERIOD. Plan for it, expect it, communicate and adjust as needed.

1. No matter what it takes, DELIVER. You must be willing to pour blood, sweat, tears, MONEY, whatever is needed into the project to get the backers what was promised. Don't let anything get in your way. You MUST deliver what is promised.

What would be on your list?
Thoughts?
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Fri Sep 28, 2012 4:16 pm
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Designing solo games - a fool's errand

A.J. Porfirio
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Hi. I am a fool. For I design solo games. Now before the solo gamers come in here screaming and yelling at me I should probably qualify my statement - and also mention I enjoy gaming solo myself.

Actually I can probably fix it by changing one word. "Publishing solo games - a fool's errand"

Solo games have such a different dynamic than other games and there are a number of things that make them different. And most of these things make it challenging if not impossible to publish them for profit. So naturally, me being the fool I am, I decided to make Van Ryder Games first product, If I'm Going Down..., a solo game (wah wah waaaaahhh). I won't get into why I made that decision (you can read earlier blog posts for that insight), but I do want to examine the challenges it poses, many of which I was ignorant to when I started. This probably seems like wallowing in self pity or something, but believe me when I say that is not the case at all. In fact, I couldn't be happier with where I am at with Van Ryder Games at the moment.

You see, my primary motivations for publishing isn't money. It is somewhere in the top 10 sure, but mostly I want to publish fun, quality games for people to play. Games I would want to play. Now to continue to do this it is true that the company needs to make some money. There is no denying that! Therefore, I think it is prudent to take an introspective view into the strategy (or foolishness) of publishing solo games.

Now we all know that many games that play solo also play with additional players, most often in the form of cooperative games. Essentially the game has a common goal for everyone which usually makes it something that one player could play on their own. You are playing and competing against the game, a system really, developed by the game designer. There are tons of fans of cooperative games and many that sell very well! So why all the doom and gloom about solo games A.J.? (yes fools talk to themselves and ask themselves questions).

The primary hurdle to creating a successful SOLO board game publication is the lack of a shared experience! In this ultra competitive, niche industry word of mouth is so critical to having a successful SELLING game.
Trying a game with your friends or at a con, or at a FLGS, or wherever. Now, reach back into your memory and tell me... at your last game night, at the last con you went to, the last time you went to your FLGS, how many people did you see playing a game by themselves? Really that many?
Of course. Zero.

Now obviously games that double as co-ops have a way around this, but sometimes what happens is you end up with a game that forces you to scale your responsibilities to play it solo. This is generally true for games designed to be cooperative above being solo. Think Sentinels of the Multiverse. I didn't want to wait for my friends to be able to play the game. So I broke it out and scoffed at the recommendation to play with at least 3 players and set it up to play with 2 characters myself. I preceded to get my ass handed to me game after game. And while I like the game A LOT, there is just too much to track playing 3 or 4 characters at a time.

Now If I'm Going Down... was a game built purely for solo play originally. I ended up adding rules for co-op play but also scaled elements so that you truly can play with just ONE character during the solo experience keeping it as it was meant to be, a solo game. Now you run into problems here as well, most notably the Co-op Commander problem where one player dictates actions to the rest. If you've been in a game like this you know how much it sucks.

I digress, so I've just played this great solo game! Now I go tell you my friend the gamer. Here are the requirements, or stars that need to align, for you to buy the game:

1. You need to like solo games. If you don't enjoy the experience it doesn't matter how great I tell you it is.
2. You need to trust my recommendations. You aren't going to sit down and play in front of me while I watch/teach.
3. You have to be willing to learn the rules from the rulebook or a video tutorial. It likely won't be taught to you.
4. You probably have to be willing to buy the game having not played it, unless you can borrow it first or something.
5. You have to be able to enjoy games with basically no player interaction (obviously there won't be any)

What others can you think of?

So that is word of mouth. So what? Who cares? I don't need no word of mouth! I can have a big mouth! I'm going to go to Gencon and show my game to everyone.

Me: "Hey sir! I have this great game over here come try it out!"
Man: "Oh hey honey, look Zombies! I love Zombies!"
Me: "Great, well you'll love this! have a seat. Ok now pick a character."
Man: "Hmm I'll take Beavis. Honey, who do you want?"
Me: <interrupts> "Oh, no, no. This is a solo game. She can watch, or you guys can "work together" to make decisions."
Man: <frowns> "Well we do everything together, I can't play... alone."
Me: "It's no problem, she can help you."
Man: "Nah, that's no fun. Sorry we'll pass."
Me: <as they walk away> "Any guy who says he never plays by himself from time to time is a liar!"

How unreasonable is that?!?! Ok, ok it is perfectly reasonable. See most people go to a con WITH someone. Good luck running demos for one at a time. (Even having two players limited my demoing power at Gencon)

The above is fictional by the way, to illustrate a point. But the fact that I had to tell you that proves its validity. I'm not saying there isn't some place for solo games at a con, you'll just have to be creative on getting it out there.

Yeah but come on! The internet is our friend right? Well yeah it is. This is the main and best way to promote a solo game. Print and Play is an excellent method to get the game out there. The good thing about solo games is if you can get someone to try it, they aren't dependent on someone else showing up or having time to get it to the table.

Despite the challenges, there is a niche community within our niche community that enjoy solo games. The trick is getting noticed. I believe there is an opportunity here and I've taken a shot. Maybe in 6 months I'll be back here saying how wrong I was...

But I know there are others out there like myself (or unlike myself) who for whatever reason enjoys an analog solo experience. Maybe they have 3 kids under 5 like me and gaming with friends is a much rarer occasion than they'd like, or maybe they live in the boonies 100 miles away from anything that can be called civilization, or maybe they are just someone who is so shy and is nervous about asking someone to play a game. Whatever the reason, these people are out there... and much like a good book or video game, a solo board game can provide a very enjoyable experience.

But solo games face additional challenges from a design perspective. For one there are no other players providing entertainment. You've probably played a bad game with great people that made for a great game. That ain't gonna happen with a solo game. It is incumbent on the game to provide a rich experience which is why I believe theme to be so important to a solo experience. Your game is fully responsible for entertaining the player. Story, sense of accomplishment. or sense of failure are all important elements you can employ in a solo design. Make them feel the experience.

The game must provide other things that can be obtained from having other players in a game. For instance, replayability. A game with lots of player interaction will likely play out differently each time you play, even sometimes if the game plays out in a similar way each time. Well with only one player, replayability is entirely a burden the game itself must carry. Employing randomness in the gameplay is your friend for accomplishing this, as is ensuring alternate strategies are viable. Also having different characters, locations, items, etc. from game to game will really help if you can do it.

I've learned a lot through the process and through experiencing different solo games. I've learned it is foolish to try to design, and especially publish and try to profit from, solo games.

And fool that I am, I am currently working on another solo game. What the hell is wrong with me?

Please add your thoughts! What solo games do you enjoy? What are your thoughts on designing and/or publishing a solo game?
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Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:09 am
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GenCon Report - A few interesting people part 3

A.J. Porfirio
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Ok this should be the last one. Still going to be some people I missed, but this should cover most everyone...

In cased you missed part 1...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/12684/gencon-report-a-...

or part 2...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/12720/gencon-report-a-...

and now we continue...

Jason Tagmire - twitter: @jtagmire

I ran into Jason between demos and while he was cleaning up one of his own for Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game. Jason and I "met" online connected by Kickstarter long before either of us had a successful project of our own. The 20 minute conversation I had with Jason was one of my favorites of the whole con. It was interesting to get his perspective on Kickstarter on the heels of his campaign and to hear the story of how he won the contest to help design Quarriors! Quest of the Qladiator. Super nice guy and really glad I got to meet him.


CW Karstens - twitter: @diamondkgames

CW and I go way back to days in the Game Crafter chat room. Since then we have both had successful KickStarter games. CW with Dragon Valley. I would have loved to play the game with CW but like most cases, he was busy and so was I. I did get the chance to try and neat little solo game that was basically a choose year own adventure with dice. Definitely cool.

I spent some more time with CW when we played fellow friend Jeremy Southard's robot game. That was enjoyable. CW is a smart guy and has a lot of games in the pipe. I can't wait to see what else he has up his sleeve.



Patrick Nickell and Michael Coe- twitter: @crash_games
These two were among the first two I met after Grant. You may know these guys for their successful kickstarters Rise! and The Lost Dutchman. I got to sub in for Grant halfway through a game of one of their prototypes Dungeon Heroes and proceeded to beat Patrick much like I do when we play games on the iOS

We got to have lunch with them as well and it was an overall good visit. Patrick was all over me about getting his copies of If I'm Going Down... and I'm happy to say I was finally able to get them in his hands on Saturday. I look forward to his thoughts as a fellow game designer. And hopefully soon I will have my signed copies of Rise...



Colby Dauch
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Colby probably would have no idea who I am if I saw him today, but I did want to walk up and talk to the man for a minute as I admire what he has done with Plaid Hat Games and his design of Summoner Wars. I feel like I know him through the podcast, but I understand that to him I was probably just some weird "Doug" as they call the fans of the podcast. Still he was nice enough to humor me for a moment before going back to selling.



Escapade Games - twitter: @growingupgamers
I got to talk to Angie several times. Our thing was to complain about how tired and exhausted we were which I was grateful for. It was nice knowing at least one person was as tired or more tired than I was

Angie was showing off their game Storm Hollow: A Storyboard Game, a hybrid RPG and Boardgame for families. The game is beautiful and I really wanted to try it out, but once I had my own demo and the other time she asked I was a little gamed out and honestly really just wanted a BEER! Still I'm looking for this one on Kickstarter soon and hope it is priced within my budget.


Richard Bliss - twitter: @gamewhisperer

I've had the pleasure of appearing on Richard's podcast - Funding the Dream a couple of times and have always really enjoyed conversations with Richard. It was no exception at Gencon and my only regret is I wasn't able to spend more time with him. He was very busy filming for his documentary so his time was prescious, but I did get to hear about his publishing company's current Kickstarter (Dragon Whisperer. Described as a light family game, the beautiful board and the theme really grab me. Also it is designed by a game designer you may have heard of, Richard Borg and set in a world developed by the author of some of my favorite books, Tracy Hickman. Talk about some star power!

 


Gosh their are so many others I wish I had time to write up something about everyone. Here is a list of more people I met briefly:

W. David MacKenzie (Clever Mojo Games), Chris Cieslik (Asmadi Games), Seth Hiatt (,), Phil Kilcrease (5th Street Games), JT and Tavis (TGC), oh I know I am missing some.... Forgive me!

And then some that were there but I couldn't catch up with...

Michael R. Keller of Visible Hand Games, Adam (the KickTraq guy), John DuBois, Chris (@battlejack on twitter), Jay Treat, Ken Grazier, my bud Kel (who wasn't actually there), Genegrafter, and so many more.

Thanks for reading about the interesting people I met. I encourage you to click the links and learn more about these fantastic industry folks. Try their games, their podcasts, or just play a game with them. This industry is filled with incredible people! And everyone is welcome, you just have to interact and you will be blown away by the attention, help, friendships you get from just putting yourself out there.

Join us on twitter for great discussions EVERY DAY! I'm @Vanrydergames



until next time...
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Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:50 pm
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GenCon Report - A few interesting people part 2

A.J. Porfirio
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In case you missed the first part of this report you can find it here:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/12684/gencon-report-a-...

I still have several more people to cover, let's see if we can get through them all.

Ryan Metzler Twitter: @slaqr
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Ryan of course did the instructional videos for If I'm Going Down... so it was definitely a priority to meet him in person. Of course most of you know him from The Dice Tower and his fantastic video reviews. Also with Ryan was Andrea and it was really nice meeting both of them.

I'd have liked to game with Ryan and Andrea but didn't really see them again after the first night except in passing. Still, great guy so check out his video reviews and the new Google+ show The Boardroomers.

Cyrus Kirby
- Twitter: @thefathergeek
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Cyrus was another one I met briefly, but the visit was impactful. Cyrus is as advertised and has the personality type that just draws people to him. I feel a connection with Cyrus as we both have young boys that we are raising or gamer geeks as he likes to call them. Cyrus does great reviews on the site http://www.fathergeek.com and he does them from a parent's perspective which is perfect for geek dads like myself. You also may hear him from time to time on podcasts such as On Board Games.

Our discussion was fruitful and you will most definitely see Cyrus reviewing some Van Ryder Games products in the near future.

Anthony Racano - Twitter: @cbjpodcast

Anthony is one half of The Cardboard Jungle, a new podcast you can find on iTunes. I found the podcast just a couple weeks before the show but quickly got in touch with Anthony after hearing a few episodes. You see, like me, Anthony likes to play solo games and thus he is the perfect audience for If I'm Going Down.... I suspect we may hear his thoughts on the game in an upcoming podcast perhaps.

Anthony also came out with the night crew on Saturday night and was good company there. Perhaps we came across as crazy rapscallions, but he seemed to just fit right in and a great time was had by all. I look forward to speaking to him again soon!

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You all know Tom, the most prolific reviewer in the industry. Though my interaction with Tom was brief, I was happy to have met him and show him my game. I handed over a copy so perhaps we will see a review at some point.

Tom was hard at work showing off his game Nothing Personal that he co-designed with Stephen Avery. It looks like a lot of fun and I suspect it will raise a lot of money when it hits Kickstarter.


Eric Summerer
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I met the Voice of The Dice Tower separately from when I met Tom but it was just as nice of a meeting. I am a big fan of the podcast so it was a real thrill to meet Eric. He was beaming as he showed me his pre-release copy of Merchants of Venus. We discussed a few games and events and it was a nice chat.

Bryan Fischer and John Sizemore - Twitter: @nevermoregames

Brian and John's game Chicken Caesar was one of a few I got to try in the Game Salute Event area and I really enjoyed it. A take that game of roman politics and intrigue that takes place in a chicken coop. Chicken deaths occur frequently and though I never really got close to the lead, I had a blast. Check out the game and preorder as it will be hitting U.S. soil soon!

Christopher Kirkman - twitter: @dicehateme

Chris was one of the first contacts I ever made in the industry and it was great to meet him in person. Without his better half - @monkey238 - he was still showing off the games they have published through Greater Than Games (Dice Hate Me) particularly the recently successful VivaJava: The Coffee Game.

I'd have liked to save Arkham with Chris or play something else, but our paths never really crossed where we could make it happen. I'm sure I will see Chris again and have a chance to do so.

Dan Yarrington

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Dan and Sara Yarrington along with all of the Game Salute crew have been really great with helping my game come to life. They set up the game events for me and allowed me to hang a banner in the booth for passersby to see. Whenever I needed anything they were quick to respond even though I know they were both EXTREMELY busy.

I haven't regretted once using Game Salute for fulfillment.

Jason Slingerland and Rob and Lindsey Couch - Of all the new people I met that I had no idea existed before the con, these were my favorites. We met by chance in the Game Salute booth when we all sat down to play a game of The Great Heartland Hauling Co. by Jason Kotarski who I also met at the same time.

We had fun hauling corn, cattle, pigs, and soy beans across the heartland and then after the guys mentioned they had a podcast and we exchanged business cards. They mentioned they had prototypes and I said well hey I am a publisher, so how about we check them out! Now you can hear all about their games on the podcast http://www.buildingthegamepodcast.com but let me just say that these guys have a couple of really fun games! Rob's game Damsels in Distress has you playing action cards to save Damsels before they meet a perilous fate and I was able to come in 2nd. Robs wife Lindsey (who looks so much like my sister-in-law it is crazy) had no problem messing with any of us guys. I liked her style. Rob was great at listening to my feedback and I think he is on his way to a really fun game.

Then we played Jason's Gunslin' Ramblers. An interesting game set in the wild west that uses poker as a framework for the game. I was really impressed with the game and had a great time with it. I look forward to seeing it progress.

Had I known these guys were such beer drinkers like myself, I would have made it a point to make sure I had some beers with them. But I never learned that until listening to their podcasts today. Next time!

Ok well I am definitely going to need a part 3, but then I think that will be enough. Stay tuned.
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Tue Aug 21, 2012 5:18 am
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GenCon Report - A few interesting people part 1

A.J. Porfirio
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Hey friends!

A.J. here and I am back from GenCon. I want to use this space to give a little recap, but not of the games played, no. I want to recap the people I met, some of whom I have been online friends with for a long time! I went to GenCon thinking the best thing would be the games, but it turned out it was the people and it wasn't even close!

So here comes a list of people and my "review" of them

Grant Rodiek
- Twitter: @herrohgrant So Grant and I knew we'd be rooming together for several months before the Con, and it felt like meeting an old friend when I walked up and identified him by his neon orange shoes. I couldn't have asked for a better roommate, and I consider Grant a really good friend.

Grant is the designer of the Kickstarter success Farmageddon and he was there to demo the game for the publisher 5th Street Games.


Now it doesn't take long for you to follow Grant's activities to learn that he is extremely calculating, deliberate, and a perfectionist designer. And his ability to execute on his ideas is what allows him to do this so successfully. I have not met anyone that is his match in this regard. That coupled with his charisma and ability to influence people makes him one of the hardest working and successful game designers I know.

I'm very glad to finally have met Grant in person and am sure it will not be the last time we cross paths.

Jeremy Southard - twitter: @wastexgames another game designer friend and a high level backer of If I'm Going Down.... Jeremy runs Wastex Games and has produced great print-on-demand games such as Arena of Heroes and Reversal of Fortune just to name a few.

Jeremy might just be the nicest person you will ever meet. I enjoyed getting to spend some time with him and especially getting to play and then purchase his newest and just released game: Robot Repair Crew (https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/robot-repair-crew)

Jeremy is also responsible for enlightening me about the Food Trucks at Gencon! Wow we had some great Pizza from one of those trucks!

I hope to hang with Jeremy again, perhaps next time I return home to Houston to visit family and friends.

Matt Worden - perhaps the most prolific designer in our "night time hangout group" Matt Worden is the designer of the 2011 Game of the Year Jump Gate!

Matt gives Jeremy a run for his money for the nicest guy you'll ever meet. His game Dicey Curves hit the table Saturday night on all of our last nights together and was a blast! I narrowly edged out Matt in a photo finish!

Matt was testing a couple of his new games you will definitely want to check out when they become available. Magistrate and Colonies of the Jump Gate (the sequel to Jump Gate!)

Chevee Dodd - twitter: @cheveedodd are you kidding me with this guy? He pulls off the fedora hat like no one has in decades. The guy is just smooth. Oh yeah, did I mention he has a design published by Gamewright? Well he does and it is called Scallywags.

I wanted to play this one badly at the con, but time and circumstance did not allow. Chevee was kind enough to give me a copy to take home! I know my boys and I are going to have a blast with it, such a beautiful game too.

I was fascinated by Chevee's story of how he got into game design, so if you see him, be sure to ask him to tell you about it. We also got to play one of Chevee's prototypes called Hexploration. I had a brainstorm surge that ended with some feedback that maybe there should be a mechanic to "blow shit up!" Oh yeah it is an abstract game Luckily, Chevee is savvy enough to ignore such non-sense, though he graciously accepted all the ideas I spewed out after the game. Great guy!

"Games and Grub" aka...
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was another in our night crew. He successfully provided us with one of the most awkward moments in the history of the world and it was hilarious! I'll leave it to him whether he wants to share that story or not... (probably not)

Eric runs the site http://gamesandgrub.blogspot.com/ and produces high quality board and card game reviews. He has a great perspective and really knows his games.

Not to mention he has a really cool abstract game in development called Gyre. It makes use of circle cards with gears on them and it looks REALLY good. Grant, Matt, and Chevee were fortunate enough to try it out, though I think Eric wiped the floor with each of them. Eric left with a copy of If I'm Going Down... so look for his thoughts on that soon. I know Eric will give you a true and honest opinion and it is one of the reasons I really respect his opinions.

Jeff Gracia
- twitter: @greenbriergames is the designer of Zpocalypse and helps run GreenBrier Games

Believe me when I tell you... this... game... is... AWESOME! This may just be the new king of the Zombie board games.

Jeff and crew were demoing Zpocalypse nonstop the whole con and it was great meeting Todd, Jule, and some of the others. Todd, Julie, and Jeff all got to try If I'm Going Down... and seemed to really like it. It was really cool demoing our games side by side and having so many zombie lovers around. Keep an eye on us as you may see something special in the future!

Larry Fettinger
- twitter: @InD20_Group
N/A
If I had only one word to describe this guy, it would be: classy. What a great soul Larry has. Larry lives locally to the con and unselfishly had several out of towners staying with him as his guests including Eric.

He is also a reviewer and a good one at that. He is nothing but kind to everyone he meets. He helped support If I'm Going Down... and of course I am grateful for that. I definitely look forward to his thoughts.

Larry called me the last day of the con for no other reason than to tell me he was happy to have met me. The way I see it, I am the lucky one to have met him. My only regret is we didn't get to game together, but I'm confident another chance will come along.

Ok I met so many great people that this is going to have to be broken into at least 2 parts if not more. I will try to get more thoughts out on the people I met very soon.
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Mon Aug 20, 2012 3:12 pm
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My Kickstarter goal: To no longer need Kickstarter

A.J. Porfirio
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Yes, that’s right. I want Van Ryder Games to achieve a state where to produce a game, Kickstarter is not needed. Maybe I should stop there…

I can hear the KS haters rejoicing, or maybe they still scoff as VRG will in fact be a company born of the ultimate business incubator that is crowd funding.

Meanwhile the designers and publishers who have grown to see KS as a marketing platform coupled with an inherent pre-order mechanism, shake their head wondering “Why? Fool. Don’t you realize the cash flow advantages and the marketing opportunity to “go viral?”

Maybe I am crazy… Maybe I should lead VRG in that direction, the direction so many others appear to be heading. But no, my goal has never been to KS every game. It is to build a competitive publishing company that is sustainable and self-sufficient. Because I know, that the day that VRG publishes a product that was purchased and paid for from revenue/profits, will be FAR sweeter than the still very sweet feeling of reaching funding on KS.

KS is a beautiful thing. What so many fail to realize is that KS is so many different things for so many different people. I am not so naïve to believe everyone should view Kickstarter through the same lens I do. I am glad they don’t. KS is a brilliant tool to help people reach their goals. For some that may be selling as many games as possible and for others it may be to self-publish that game no publisher would take a shot on. KS makes these goals and more possible, and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

I don’t think KS is a fad. I don’t think KS is a bubble. I do, however, think it would be foolish to assume that KS will be around forever, or always be as viable. They could always increase fees or outside forces could cause some sort of disruption. Whatever the case, to only know publishing through Kickstarter could destroy a company that knows no other way. Adjust and adapt, survive.

But the reason crowd funding (if not KS) will endure is because it is about people helping other people. Sure there are plenty of naysayers that would rather see for themselves before risking hard earned money (certainly nothing wrong with that). But there are also those who imagine the possibilities of what could be… progress, innovation, what has never been done before! As long as this thirst exists, crowd funding will remain viable.

Let’s make no mistake… this is still a game of survival of the fittest. Crowd funding offers us a chance to do something we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise… deliver! Contrary to what some think, funding on KS is not guaranteed. Not even close. Certainly one could play a shell game and get funded… once. But, this is a chance to offer a quality experience! Wow them! Get the customers wondering “What will VRG put out next?” This is how you grow. This is how you sustain.

The gate keepers are still there, but the gate has fallen. While it is easier to get in to the "town", it is certainly not easier to remain there. The community will get better and better (and has) at spotting what they want and what they don’t.

Independent. Self-sufficient. This is our goal. We are not there yet. There could be 2,3..? Who knows, how many more VRG Kickstarter projects, but the desire is to eliminate, not perpetuate, VRG’s need for KS. The fewer, the better. If there comes a point where we feel we are unable to produce a game without KS it is time to stop. There comes a point where it is unfair to ask the "crowd" to continue to prop you up. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

This is the way Van Ryder Games will fly, or perhaps fall… but one way or the other, we will one day leave the nest.
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Mon Jul 23, 2012 5:25 pm
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And now a break from our regularly scheduled programming...

A.J. Porfirio
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Ok so this may not appeal to the core audience of this blog, and then again, maybe it will. It is still about games afterall (but not Kickstarter really).

I want to talk about board gaming apps.
First and foremost I want to offer up some disclaimers and info on my app playing experience. What follows is my opinion and based on and drawn from my own experiences. You aren't going to see any data to back up what I am saying. Basically, I could easily be 100% completely wrong. But this is what makes this discussion fun. I get to see if you all agree, disagree, or it is split down the middle.

Ok so to give you a point of reference, I play on iOS using an iPod Touch.
Here is a list of some, but not all games I have and play in order from Most Played (Top) to least played (bottom). This is all time and doesn't necessarily reflect what I am playing currently.

1. Ascension (and it isn't even close)
2. Dominion (unofficial)
3. Catan
4. Kingsburg
5. Elder Sign: Omens
6. Loot and Scoot (mostly cause my son likes it)
7. Tikal
8. Hive
9. Ticket to Ride
10. Nightfall
11. Caylus
12. Bohnanza

With the exception of Dominion and Nightfall, which I only recently acquired, I do not own any of the physical copies There are more, but I either haven't played yet or rarely played them.

So I'm not going to talk about how they work or anything like that. I want to talk about some of the impacts boardgaming apps may or may not have on the hobby or even their own physical board game.

Does having a board game app increase sales of the physical game?

So you don't have to read a lot of blogs or listen to a lot of podcasts to know that those with apps are claiming that it increases the sales of the physical game. When I look at my own activity, I don't find this to be the case at all. Totally anecdotal, but it got me thinking and contemplating, if what they are saying is true, why?

First, where I am coming from and why I don't feel the need to purchase the physical copy...

Of all the games I play on iOS, Ascension is by far my favorite. I have played over 400 games and play it daily. It is in my opinion the undisputed king of iOS board game apps. As much as I love it, I do not feel any compulsion to buy the physical copy of this, or the other iOS app games for a number of reasons:

1. I do not see any scenario in which the physical game can top or even meet what the app does in terms of experience. No shuffling, no drawing, automatically plays cards at the touch of a button. Asynch play, the list goes on and on. Having experienced the app, I am afraid the physical version would seem impossibly slow by comparison. (I confess I've never played the physical copy). Exceptions would be games with heavy player interaction.

2. Expense. It is hard to get past paying 20-50x as much for the same game in whatever form. Not saying never, but it will be rare for me. Typically if I want the physical game, I wanted it before I played the app. Or if the implementation of the app does not do the game justice perhaps that is a reason.

3. Try before buy. If there is an app coming up for a game I want, I will actually hold off on buying the physical copy until I try the app. Currently, Summoner Wars is the best example. I REALLY want this game. But I am just going to wait for the app, and I probably won't even need the physical copy if the app is good. Nightfall is the game to thank for this (more on that later).

So all of this adds up to essentially making it LESS (even FAR LESS) likely that I will purchase the physical copy of a game that I can play on iPod. Maybe I am weird, but actually I think there are more of you like me out there. But I also think that there are two other types of people out there as well. And one of those groups provides the key to why 'supposedly' (I have never seen data confirming what the publishers tell us) having a board game app results in more sales of the physical copy.

1. Hobby Gamer 1 (does not own game) - this is me. The guy who behaves as above. Not likely to purchase the physical game when the app can be had cheaper and perhaps be a better experience than the physical game.

2. Hobby Gamer 2 (owns the game) - there are those out there that own the game and/or have played the game and love it. I suspect these folks jump on the app in a heartbeat. A new medium, a new implementation of a game they really enjoy. Certainly they help app sales, but given they already own the game I think we can safely say they aren't driving any incremental sales of the physical copy.

3. Non-Hobby Gamer - and this could be broken down further, but for simplicity sake lets keep them in the same bucket. Maybe they are a video gamer of just an app gamer. At any rate they likely aren't aware of the hobby gaming world and what it has to offer. These are I think where additional sales of the physical copy would be coming from and it is a great thing as it is a contributor to growing and expanding our hobby. These players may ask themselves "This is a board game? Wow this could be a lot of fun to play with my friends. Maybe I should pick it up?" And so they do. And then they discover our world. Any of you reading this fit that bill?

So that is how I see it, I still struggle with how large is group 3 and for most apps if they are really that big. I am still leery of and unconvinced that, generally speaking, sales of the physical copies improve based on the app.

And this is probably REALLY a reach, but technically with a little wordsmithing you can say, "We have sold a lot more physical copies of the game since the app came out" and it could easily be tha you have sold more copies, not that you are selling more than you were before. Again, I don't think this is an industry where folks would be this deceptive to try to get sales, but this is a comment that could be misconstrued as to its actual meaning. Anyway, I digress...

So for me and those others in group 1 there is the potential that the app actually hurts the physical sales of a game. Enter Nightfall, Elder Sign, and others. These are games that fit my wheelhouse, at least at a glance. But having played the apps I now know they aren't my cup of tea. Not only will I now never purchase them, but I don't even really want to play them. Now don't get me wrong, Elder Signs is decent and the graphics are incredible. Nightfall is a bit of a cluster, and I know from some of the friends I play ascension with that this got deleted and rarely is played by MANY. It sadly just doesn't work Asynch at all.

But wait A.J., didn't you say you own Nightfall? Yes, I do actually. I bought it and Martial law 2nd hand at a local convention. RIGHT BEFORE THE APP CAME OUT. It is a mistake I won't make again. And sure I could try the physical game before I buy too, but I am not one of those people that won't ever buy anything unless they've played it, actually I do that quite a bit. But if there is an app around the corner, I will just wait as whether I like it or not, I probably won't need to get the physical game. Anyway, if you want to trade for Nightfall and Martial law, hit me up

Now I probably seem like a real downer on iOS games right now, but trust me I love what is happening and that options are expanding. I also DON'T think that because apps may not result in incremental sales of the physical game that they aren't worth pursuing for the publishers. I suspect they make some money on their own. I would be more careful if I was a small publisher though, where the impact of mistakes is magnified. Be careful not to misjudge your resources and brand recognition when it comes to your App business strategy. I certainly would never recommend releasing an app and the physical copy of the sane game in tandem.

This is the app world as I see it, now feel free to blow me up and point out just how wrong I am on the subject.

Discuss.
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Fri May 25, 2012 5:36 pm
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Random thoughts on the ever-changing Kickstarter landscape

A.J. Porfirio
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Ok so here we go... I may be jumping around here, I have a lot to comment on and I am 3/4 of the way through a 24 oz Dog Bite (a high alcohol beer) so take my comments with a grain of alcohol

A lot of interesting things have developed as of late... here are my thoughts in no particular order.

MEGA PROJECTS! OGRE and Zombicide both shattered the half a million dollar mark. Amazing, incredible... dangerous??? Hmmm so Zombice used the "dangling carrot" strategy better than any Kickstarter to date. Zpocalypse did as well to lesser effect, but Zombicide continued to offer stretch rewards that required a buy-up to get. I.E. you had to buy the character miniature, to get the stretch reward Zombie miniature. Not only that, they spoofed pop-icons such as Sam jackson, Chuck Norris, and the Penny Arcade guy. Brilliant marketing. But now expectations are astronomic. If Zombicide does not supplant Last Night on earth (and maybe Zpocalypse) as the best Zombie board game on the market, it will not (in my opinion) have met expectations (cool miniatures or not). As for Ogre, well it is Ogre right? I confess to not having played, but it is clearly a nostalgic favorite of many. That coupled with the Ogrenourmous box gimic and the brand power of Steve Jackson Games and you have a formula for the highest funded board game project in history (at least until they launch Car Wars).

Saturation is here...
so I admit that there are officially more projects on the board game section than I can keep up with. When it was 50 or so I could manage it. Now it is over 70 (i think) and it is just too much to keep abreast of them all. So what does this mean to you as a prospective project owner? It means now more than ever you need to bring your A-game. You need to have your own network of backers, you need to have great graphics, a well presented project, and all your ducks in a row. The bar is raised with each successful project. Challenge yourself to raise it even higher!

Testing the market...
So some new strategies have been tried. Some are working, some are not. Most notably, Ace of Spies was just canceled after attempting to set a funding goal that would accomplish economies of scale benefits allowing them to offer free shipping. I discuss my viewpoint on the subject with Richard Bliss on an upcoming Funding the dream podcast. The project had slowed to a snails pace or worse (in terms of funding), but with almost a month to go I am not entirely convinced that the project would not have met its goal. I suspect there were many out there like me that were waiting to pledge or increase their pledge when the final component list came out (if it did then I missed it, but I don't think it did). Also, there is a reason 30% is the magic number on Kickstarter... the "crowd" or the Kickstarter population, likes to see projects succeed. The ability to fund a project last minute is out there and can be seen. It will be interesting to see what happens when the project relaunches...

International shipping.
Ok so Ace of Spies got me thinking about this one and so have other projects and just the subject in general. So ok, 98% of porjects charge extra for international shipping right? The same 98% charge nothing for domestic, U.S., shipping right? So projects are subsidizing U.S. shipping and requiring Internationals to pony up for the cost of shipping. Wait, so something is off here right? So we can all probably agree the cost to ship a typical game in the US falls somewhere between 5 and 10 bucks right? So 98% of projects are willing to subsidize (or build this into) the reward levels. But doesn't it feel like the added cost required of international shipping is the full amount? It seems fair that the project owners should subsidize the same 5-10 bucks for international shipping as they do for domestic! So if you calculate an average of $30 to ship international then it makes sense that you'd ask for $20 to cover shipping. I think what we've learned from Ace of Spies (who I applaud for trying some unprecedented strategies) is not that internationals need FREE shipping, but that they DESERVE FAIR shipping. Subsidize them at the same rate you do your domestic backers.

Entitlement and covering the entire print run.
Ok so I may run the risk of drawing the ire of some of my design counterparts and peers with this one, but I think it needs to be said. So of late the GOALS of some projects have been FAR beyond what seems reasonable to produce a minimum print of a game. Now I don't disagree at ALL with the desire of publishers to achieve funding that allows for greater economies of scale (basically a lower per unit cost, for those unaware of what that means), but I'm not sure I feel great about what feels like a growing expectation that the backers be solely responsible for making it happen. Even the best, most well presented games have the potential of turning out to be a dog or something that sits in the garage of the designer or publisher. Don't ask for $30k when you can print a 1000 copies for $12k. Said another way, don't assume demand (and thus scale); adjust when you achieve it. Also, I think if you are passionate about your game or project, you should be prepared to contribute a fair proportion of the cost IF NECESSARY. There are TONS of projects of late that have overfunded by large amounts and there is plenty of money for a print and then some! But there are also projects that set goals of the minimum they need with themselves covering the remainder to be able to produce the game. I am of the opinion that a publisher/designer should be willing to cover 30-40% of the printing cost IF NECESSARY. It isn't a matter of "Do you have skin in the game?", but one of "Are you willing to put skin in the game?". I hope I am making sense here...

A kickstarter metric I would like to see on the Dashboard. I think a really cool pareto to see would be backers by # of projects pledged. In other words, what % of backers is it their first project? How many have backed 1-5?, 6-10, 10+? I think it would be very interesting to see how many NEW KS backers are brought in by each project (other than manually counting the backer tab which is unreasonable).

And speaking of stats! If you have not seen Kicktraq.com you need to go and check it out. Amazing site showing trends and data for all the projects. Many of the charts you will see I was tracking manually when If I'm Going Down... was live on KS. No amount of text can convey the work put in to produce the charts. Now Kicktraq does it for you. Great site!

Ok so I think that is enough to put out there for now... thoughts? Comments? Opinions?
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Fri May 18, 2012 5:27 am
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Not so much a whisper: A response to The Game Whisperer's prediction of a Kickstarter Tsunami

A.J. Porfirio
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Recently, Richard Bliss aka The Game Whisperer released his 50th episode of Funding the Dream, in which he discusses the state of Kickstarter for board games and gives a sort of go forward forecast. This is my response to some of the thoughts and comments shared by Richard in the episode. If you haven't heard it, I highly recommend this and all other episodes which can be found here: www.buzzsprout.com/4646

First and foremost, congratulations to Richard on 50 episodes! I consider Richard a friend and I am a great admirer of his work. Any cotrarian views within this commentary are certainly not anything but an alternative viewpoint, but it is no secret to anybody (Richard included) that I don't have a problem stating my opinion.

A brief synopsis of the key points made by Richard
(in no particular order)

1. Kickstarter is here to stay...
2. ...but the landscape is ever-changing
3. Richard currently does not like these strategies:
A. Stretch Goals
B. Customization (i.e. card with artwork of backer's likeness)
4. The boardgame industry is broken (before Kickstarter). A Tsunami is coming... the Boardgame industry will radically and rapidly change. The Gatekeeper can no longer guard the gate...
5. New publishers/designers should embrace new distribution models with an online focus - specifically on Amazon, NOT traditional game store distribution. Driver: Supply pressure. Market is being flooded with supply.

Van Ryder Games responds

1. Kickstarter is here to stay...
I very much agree with this... at least for the foreseeable future. If anything, I think there may be competitive pressure as others develop sites that try to do crowd funding better. Kickstarter has too much of a head start you say? Yeah tell that to MySpace.

2. ...but the landscape is ever-changing
Yes it most certainly is! Think of how different projects are now than they were just 6 months ago. The bar continues to be raised an projects now routinely fund in the 10's of thousands with several recent ones eclipsing 100k where only one (D-Day Dice) had previously. Reward creativity continues to evolve and stretch goals are now the norm. Some are pressing the envelope on international shipping offering discounted or free shipping. The key thing to remember is that it will continue to change!

3. Richard currently does not like these strategies:
A. Stretch Goals

I disagree with Richard on stretch goals... sort of. I think that as the show is presented as an educational tool for prospective project owners. Stretch Goals however you feel about them SEEM to work at driving additional funding. I say "SEEM" because it is so hard to find an example of projects in the boardgame space that did not offer stretch goals once they were funded. I do feel confident that stretch goals provide additional pledges because they increase the value of the pledge to the backer. You can find entire threads on the "ROI" of pledging right here on the Geek for some games. I know for a fact there was one for D-Day dice since there were so many stretch goals. So my viewpoint as someone who presents information to prospective project owners is that Stretch goals are a valid strategy for increasing funding after reaching 100%.

B. Customization (i.e. card with artwork of backer's likeness)
This one I am torn on and it is purely because of my own experience doing this exact thing for If I'm Going Down.... I offered several levels that allowed backers to be "drawn into the game" either as a Character or a Zombie. Well most just wanted to provide the concept not necessarily their own likeness. Anyway, I can say unequivocally that this has caused delays in getting the game to backers. So much so that I am unlikely to have such rewards on any future projects. On the flip side, these levels were for big support $150 - $200 pledges and for my game equated to over 10% of pledges. Now I know these games now funding at $50k, a grand or 2 less doesn't mean much, but for my project it was huge. I guess the big question is could I have gotten people to back at higher levels with a different reward that would not cause production delays. Probably.

4. The boardgame industry is broken (before Kickstarter). A Tsunami is coming... the Boardgame industry will radically and rapidly change. The Gatekeeper can no longer guard the gate...
Now before you balk at this and start dropping F-bombs toward Richard or myself, know that it looks a lot worse printed here than when Richard mentions it on the show. The context being that namely the industry is broken on the business side of things because the "flow of information" is stifled. Meaning not everyone with any old game idea can make a game. They have to get someone else (a publisher) to agree the game is good and agree to front the money to manufacture it. Not anymore with Kickstarter. Now many will say that this is just going to result in a lot more games, not a lot more GOOD games. Perhaps that is true, and if the industry is "broken" now, is it going to still be "broken" in the future but in a different way? There are many places you can find points on this debate, but I believe allowing more through (rather than less) is preferable. In the end, the end user - the people who play the games, should decide what they want to play. Kickstarter allows them that chance.

5. New publishers/designers should embrace new distribution models with an online focus - specifically on Amazon, NOT traditional game store distribution. Driver: Supply pressure. Market is being flooded with supply.

Alright so this is the big one. What about this notion that one should focus purely on online sales - namely on Amazon? Richard's view was clearly spurred by his recent discovery of how successful Cards Against Humanity has been using this approach. (Which by the way is staggering, and if true, likely makes it the most successful KickStarter board game to date, bar none). And this is where I want to debate the point. Cards Against Humanity does not fit the mold of what most consider to be a "hobby game" but more fits the mold of a "casual gamer's" game. Now, certainly it is for a mature audience, but it is ultimately a brilliant concept that has a built in marketing engine driving insane word-of-mouth referrals. I do not think that 95+% of the other KS games that have been funded can boast such an effect. I know IIGD can't. Why? Hobby games by definition serve a niche. Amazon is not a magical place that increases the number of people that enjoy hobby games. I know plenty of small publishers and independents that have their games on Amazon and have had nowhere near the effect that CAH has had.

Now I do agree that the old distribution model is outdated (though still viable) and that publishers should most certainly sell on Amazon or elsewhere online, but I think it is premature to totally ignore the potential benefits of Brick-and-Mortar retail. That said I completely agree that the competition for shelf space is higher than it has ever been. The small publishers that distinguish themselves outside of this space are the ones who will remain and be most successful.

So that's it. I may just take Richard up on his invitation to debate this on the show if he'll have me. I'm sure this "discussion" would be much better if it were done verbally.

Thanks and see you next post!
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Wed Apr 25, 2012 9:52 pm
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