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Links: Architecture and Games, Tasty Minstrel Goes Exclusive & How Games Are Made and Which Ones Sell

W. Eric Martin
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• Designer Jeffrey Allers writes about the blending of architecture and game design is his "Postcards from Berlin" series on Opinionated Gamers. Apparently Technical University in Berlin, Germany was looking for a game designer to lecture first-year architectural students, and Allers – being a former architect and current game designer who lives in Berlin – was the perfect candidate for that role. An excerpt:

It is important for a designer to look at "case studies". To be a successful architect, one needs to study the built environments of the past and present. For a game designer, it means that one needs to play a lot of games. What has already been done? How were earlier designs adapted or improved upon? What is possible, regardless of what has been done before? It is important to look at a new game design within its rich historical context.

An architect should also study another kind of context: the location of a new project, whether it be in an urban or rural setting. Daniel Liebeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin, for example, draws from the dual historical contexts of the city of Berlin and its Jewish history. Hanns-Peter Herz, chairman of the Society for a Jewish Museum, praised Liebeskind's design, "The intersecting lines of history, which coexist but nevertheless do not always run parallel, and the intersections between the non-Jewish and Jewish sides convey a complete picture of history."

For the game designer, the theme can also be more than a setting intended to make the game more appealing. It can be a context that leads to specific design strategies. In the case of the game, Heartland, this meant researching the different kinds of crops and farming techniques. Although the game is relatively abstracted, there are several instances where that thematic context informed the design, as with a "crop rotation rule", for example.
• What sells on a regular basis in brick & mortar game stores? Black Diamond Games in Concord, California shares its board game sales data for 2005 through 2012. Of note from the post: "You can see the strength of Blokus as it sits at the top of the chart and then crater as it hits the mass market under Mattel. You cans see the importance of Settlers of Catan, always in the top five and number one half the time, despite being in the mass market now." (Items in red are out of print, but note that Eric Hautemont at Days of Wonder has confirmed that Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 1 - Team Asia & Legendary Asia will return to print before the end of 2012.)

• Stephen Conway and David Coleson host the podcast The Spiel, and they've created a 40+-minute documentary titled "Made for Play: Board Games & Modern Industry" that details "every aspect of the manufacturing process: the technology and machines, the many detailed steps, and the hundreds of people that are involved in the production of a single game". As a secondary purpose, it serves as a great promotional video for Ludo Fact, the best-known games manufacturer in Germany, and its manufacturing partners.

• U.S. publisher Tasty Minstrel Games has announced an exclusive distribution deal with itself. Okay, that's just a clever way of saying that TMG is exiting the traditional U.S. distribution system and is instead trying something different. For your education and entertainment, I present the full press release from TMG announcing this change:

TMG Goes Exclusive... With TMG.

For Immediate Release: July 24th, 2012

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Systems of distribution long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience has shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

There has been a wave of game publishers declaring exclusive distribution relationships. Today, I announce, that TMG will have an exclusive distribution relationship with TMG.

First, I will explain where you will be able to buy TMG games when everything is changed. Then, I will explain the reasons for the change.

How Will This Work?

* Gamers will be able to buy TMG games from local retail stores, from (With Fulfillment By Amazon, and possibly a modest discount on many games), and from Game Salute's website (Full MSRP).

* Retail stores within the United States will be able to buy games directly from Game Salute at a full 50% discount, often including promos for that game, and can benefit from additional support. TMG titles will sell faster for these retailers than before thanks to the increased capability to buy advertising online.

* Retail stores outside of the United States will be able to buy TMG games from their non-US based distributor, who will in turn be buying from Game Salute.

If TMG is to be exclusive with itself, then what's up with Game Salute?

I have been working with Game Salute in a limited capcity since the preview nights for Eminent Domain. I believe that they can deliver what we need for the retail store and non-US distribution sales support...

Why Make The Change?

Since before I started TMG, I felt that the hobby board game industry was broken. I felt that many of the published games had weak game play and were over priced. I started, with a desire not to just publish some games, but to improve upon the industry.

Even in the early days of TMG, I found that I did not fit well into the standard distribution system. I did not conform well to their unwritten rules. From the beginning I decided to depend on myself to be able to move games, and not on their system.

And I found success.

As I continued developing my online marketing methods to push product through the established system, I noticed a handful of things.

* A game that should be priced at $50 needs to be priced at $60, because my ideal customers (those online that choose to communicate directly with me) saw a $50 game as really being a cost of $30.

* Many retailers order a copy or 2, wait for the game to sell and sometimes never reorder. There was no reason for them to sell a TMG title over something else.

* Distributors would occasionally misinform retailers that a game was out of print when they didn't have any in stock, despite the fact that I had hundreds of copies in the warehouse.

* That through my online marketing methods, I was selling about 25-30% of the total direct to consumers, while another 15-20% was being sold to non-US based distributors.

This is the sort of data and impetus I needed to get me to make the switch I had been considering for so long...

Some will think this is the beginning of a messy end for TMG.

I see this new path bringing about the realization of the company that I have envisioned since the beginning. Making this switch allows us to concentrate on improving further as a company.

To provide greater customer service, faster and more accurate shipping times thanks to integration with Amazon, develop more games to our current standards, improve our standards for games, improve the logistical and creative back end to reduce delays, seek more digital implementation of our games, and to continue into the future.

We will continue to make the best games that we can without compromise. We will continue to utilize Kickstarter, communicate directly with our fans, and develop the systems to grow into what I see for TMG. Mistakes will still happen, and we will continue to learn from them, just like before.

I did not start TMG to simply publish a couple of games...

I did not start TMG just because Seth Jaffee was doing great development work and could not find a publisher... (See Homesteaders, Belfort, Eminent Domain, Ground Floor, Kings of Air and Steam)

I did not start TMG so that I could play games and call it work...

I did not start TMG just because I saw some things about the industry that I felt I could do better...

Sure, all of those were factors, but most of all I started TMG because I wanted to make incredible games for people to play and enjoy. Not to make sales so a game could waste away in the shrink wrap. I started TMG because I love games, and I believe that games can be a foundation upon which strong family relationships and great friendships can be built.

So, I will make the choices and changes that I see as necessary to get incredible games played by as many people as possible. I see this as a necessary step towards that end.

I expect that these changes will take several months to fully implement and that after Gen Con 2012 the speed of implementation will increase.

Thank you for your time, your patience, and your understanding.

Michael Mindes, Founder
Tasty Minstrel Games
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Subscribe sub options Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:30 am
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