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Links: Changing Times in the Game Industry

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
• On March 15, 2021, Z-Man Games' Head of Studio Steve Kimball posted an article titled "An Ode to the Euro Classics", which simultaneously announced the end of the "Euro Classics" game line that (to date) consisted of new editions of Reiner Knizia's Tigris & Euphrates, Ra, Taj Mahal, Through the Desert, and Samurai; teased a new edition of The Princes of Florence from Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich (cover art at right) that will now not be released; and expressed a few sour grapes about the current state of the industry. An excerpt:
Third, the industry had massively changed — even in the short 5 years since the new version of Tigris launched the line. Crowdfunding is a force to be reckoned with, and it is the ideal place to relaunch new versions of beloved classics. The gorgeous reimaginings done by Roxley, Grail Games, Restoration Games, and Burnt Island Games are all living testaments of that truth!

Alternatively, if you do attempt to re-release a game via traditional distribution channels, then you need to pray that any number of witty UK board game influencers take notice and give you coverage. Those folks hold massive sway over the current industry's focus, and without a ringing endorsement poshly articulated in the Queen's English ("Best Euro Ever" anyone?), your revised labor of love is headed for a Miniature Market fire sale.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

I honestly wonder that, if Princes had launched in today's environment, would it have ever cracked BGG's Top 10? I'm not convinced that it would; not because the game isn't excellent — it truly is — but because today's conditions are so different. It made an impact at a time when only a handful of established publishers released far fewer games. Nowadays there is so much noise that it is nearly impossible to ensure that your wares are seen, heard, and given a fair chance to succeed in the market.
Board Game: Citadels
Board Game: Stolen Paintings
• In a February 2021 post on his website, designer Bruno Faidutti reflects on game sales in 2020. An excerpt:
Old staples sold as well as usual, if not better, in 2020. The sales of Citadels, Incan Gold, Mascarade and The Dwarf King, which together make more than three quarters of my income, were good. It's really surprising since, except for The Dwarf King, they all play best with a large group of players, which is not always easy to gather in these epidemic times.

On the other hand, most new games went under radar. The sales of Poisons, Vintage, Maracas, Ménestrels and Stolen Paintings are modest, if not disappointing, even when they all got good reviews. I can understand it for Poisons, which is at its best with five or more players, or with Maracas, which looks much more fun once you've held and shaken the actual gizmo. Stolen Paintings, Vintage and Ménestrels, on the other hand, are very classic euro style card games, play really well even with only three or four players, and I thought they would be well fitted for the times. Only one of my new games, Vampire – Vendetta, seems to sell really well, and it might be in part, paradoxically, because the action takes place in a decades old fantasy universe.
Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
Board Game: Codenames
• In a separate post from January 2021, Faidutti reflects on his 35-year history in the boardgame industry, writing about how both games and game designers have become more diverse in modern times, with the games themselves being harder to categorize and far better than in the 1980s. An excerpt:
In the eighties, the gaming world was extremely divided. Some people played party games, other played simulation games, other german games (soon to be renamed eurogames). It was also the beginning of role playing games. Even for the few people who, like me and my friends, were interested in all of these, they were still distinct genres and styles. The charm and richness of todays gaming world comes from the fact that everything has been mixed, that designers and publishers are always crossing borders. The same designer, Vlaada Chvátil, can design Through the Ages, which I find boring but is certainly a great game in its style, and Codenames, which I could play for days. This incredible culture broth also generated new genres like collectible card games, deck-building games, co-operative games, legacy games. They all made the gaming culture more rich and interesting.
• At the end of 2020 on WIRED, Matthew Gault wrote about racial stereotypes in Dungeons & Dragons, highlighting issues both within the game and with publisher Wizards of the Coast. The opening paragraph:
Dungeons & Dragons is the oldest and most popular tabletop role-playing game in the world. As its popularity has soared, so has its player base. It's a game that was dominated by white dudes for decades and, because of that, it's got some baggage. Some of its concepts — evil races, descriptions of orcs and half-orcs that mirror racist stereotypes, and the concept of racial disadvantages — don't make sense anymore in a modern context. The game's publisher, Wizards of the Coast (WotC), knows that and is trying to move Dungeons & Dragons into the future. But many of its efforts seem half-hearted, and a lot of the work of making Dungeons & Dragons more inclusive has fallen to its fans.
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