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Links: Interviews with Naïade and Dominic Crapuchettes, Why Black Friday Is Like Spiel & Khet Zaps Laser Battle

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Board Game: Wits & Wagers
• Derek Thompson at MeepleTown has posted a two-part interview with designer/publisher Dominic Crapuchettes with the first part focusing on everything related to Wits & Wagers and its spinoff titles – the designer diary Crapuchettes mentions ran in early November 2012 on BGGN – while the second part focuses on Clubs (due out early in 2013), Say Anything, Crappy Birthday, and North Star Games' attempt at a digital transformation. I love this anecdote from Crapuchettes about how mainstream stores make their buying decisions:

After [listening to us pitch] Wits & Wagers, the [Target] buyer was very interested – he said, "This was probably the most unique game that has ever been pitched to me. This is something I would like to play. But here's my problem: If I carry it, it won't sell. Here are the only things that have sold, based on my experience: One, a Hollywood license. Two, a 2+ million dollar television advertising campaign. Three, a recognizable brand name, because it's been built up for 3-5 years in other channels, and it's sold at least 100,000 copies previously. Those are the only three types of games that sell at Target."
I've experienced this same reaction, albeit not from a mainstream retailer. In the mid-2000s I pitched article queries related to modern games to dozens of publications, carefully refining which games I'd cover for which publication and in which format. At the time I was a full-time freelance writer, and this was part of my effort to write more about something I love – games – and less about general business or health topics that paid the bills but were less interesting. I had some successes – such as a paid write-up about Primordial Soup for Discover (that never ran, as far as I know), a paid bimonthly column in Coffee Magazine, and an unpaid two-paragraph summary of Reef Encounter for Tropical Fish Hobbyist (no, really!) – but many more rejections, including one from USA Weekend, a weekly general interest publication inserted into U.S. newspapers. Given the audience, I pitched the editor on introductory modern games – all the usual suspects – and he wrote back, "Why would anyone be interested in reading about these games that they know nothing about?"

Board Game: Seasons
MeepleTown's Derek Thompson also interviews Xavier Gueniffey Durin, a.k.a. Naïade, illustrator of Seasons, Tokaido and Isla Dorada and one of numerous French artists who create luscious games that suck you into their world whether or not you have any interest in their gameplay.

• An article in The Atlantic about the appeal of "Black Friday" sales in the U.S. can also be viewed as explaining why gamers from around the world love to attend the annual Spiel game convention in Essen, Germany when it would make more economic sense for these people to buy games with the money spent on airfare. An excerpt:

Some people delight over the idea of fighting over the last Nintendo Wii, or whatever the item of the year happens to be. This study found that "perceived competition ... creates positive emotions and induces hedonic shopping value." Black Friday creates that kind of "perceived competition" in that it's not just a shopping day with a bunch of people. It's a shopping day with a bunch of people where discounts don't last and discounted products are scarce. "At certain levels, consumers enjoy arousal and challenges during the shopping process," researcher Sang-Eun Byun told The Washington Post's Olga Khazan. "They enjoy something that's harder to get, and it makes them feel playful and excited."
Board Game: Khet: The Laser Game
• As reported in The Colorado Springs Business Journal, Innovention Toys, publisher of Khet: The Laser Game, has won its lawsuit against MGA Entertainment over MGA's copycat laser-based strategy game Laser Battle. An excerpt:

A Louisiana federal jury has awarded nearly $1.6 million in damages to a game company, owned by UCCS professor Michael Larson, that accused MGA Entertainment of copying its patented laser beam strategy board game.

The David-and-Goliath battle, which played out in district court and a federal court of appeals, ends a five-year battle...

The suit revolved around the board game Khet, which Larson developed with two of his students. He said the strategy game, where players manipulate reflective and non-reflective pieces in conjunction with an on-board laser beam, incorporates U.S. Patent No. 7,264,242, titled, "Light-reflecting board game", which was issued in September 2007, a month before the suit was filed.

According to Innovention, the patent-in-suit was unlawfully co-opted by MGA, which introduced its own competing game, Laser Battle, and sold it through retailers and co-defendants Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us.
(HT: ICv2)
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