Let's start off by describing what exactly the term imprint means. Think of imprints as departments that you'd find in a store. You have sporting goods, women, men, teens etc.. Each of these departments has a distinct name as well as a distinct type of product they sell. You know exactly the type of goods that you're going to get from each of these departments. You go into the store knowing which areas you'll find the things you need as well as which departments you can avoid because they don't offer you what you need.
There's a simplicity to this design and that's why you'll find publishers doing similar things especially now when it comes to board games. This isn't something new. When [=Asmodee]Asmodee[/] and Fantasy Flight Games merged, you saw the brands become more defined in what they offered. FFG became the licensed IP branch of the company where your big IPs like Game of Thrones and Star Wars would find their home. They also handle most of the skirmish style games especially those with miniatures. This separation of game types mostly came from the merging of two different game companies that each produced different style of games. It made sense to keep each brand separate.
Today, we're seeing more companies going the imprint route while some seem to be moving away from it. The one making the biggest waves right now is Plan B Games. Plan B has some experience with mergers as well since they were F2Z Entertainment not many years ago that was running Z-Man games, Plaid Hat games, and Filosphia before the bank roll of Asmodee came in and acquired them right up as well. The leaders of Plan B decided to start up their own publishing line again after the acquisition and is now becoming known across the hobby as a premier publisher once again under their new name.
Teaming up with Pretzel Games, which was formed by F2Z, Plan B now had two main divisions. Pretzel would handle all of the dexterity style games and Plan B would focus on more traditional games. That wasn't going to be enough for Plan B. They were hungry for more. There are many great publishers/designer studios working on board games across the world right now and eggertspiele is definitely making a name for itself with fantastic releases like Great Western Trail. It's not much of a surprise that they'd be ripe for acquisitions, but they had a really strong licensing deal with Stronghold Games. I was shocked when I heard that Plan B had acquired eggertspiele. At this time Plan B had one game released and were already working on spreading their reach across a wide variety of game types.
Let's recap the different companies that are now a part of Plan B: Preztzel Games and eggertspiele. Pretzel would continue being their dexterity arm while eggertspiele would become their design studio of medium to lighter heavy euro style games. Each company would still be producing those games on their own brands. Plan B would fill the niche of lighter games that people could pick up and play easily. It felt like they had great coverage of each of the markets and then Azul released. Azul was a more strategic and more pure mechanic driven game. What line would that fit under? For now, it was going under Plan B.
Imprints. Imprints allow us to know exactly what we're getting when we go to a store. It works the same with board game publishers. Plan B wanted to create a line/department/imprint that would cover games with bare bones theme but have strategy that would keep players coming back to try and best their opponents through skilled play. The games would be releasing with a strange restriction of four letter titles. If that all sounds familiar, it's because **Azul** fits those requirements exactly. This is why Next Move Games was announced. It would design games exactly of that type and they'd be starting with Emerson Matsuuchi's game Reef.
It wasn't a surprise when the announcement came that Azul would be shifting lines and would now be produced under Next Move Games. It's all about keeping the games under labels that offer the same types of game experiences. For your average consumer, it won't make a difference that this one company has three or more lines under it. They'll find the one that makes the types of games that they like and most likely ignore those that don't. What these acquisitions mean for most gamers is that Plan B has a team with some of the most talented people in the industry from the ground up. Whether you're looking for light and simple to heavy and thinky, Plan B will probably have a game that interests you within the coming year.
Extra Reading from more knowledgeable people:
F2Z Team had a Plan B
Plan B Games Purchases Eggertspiele
Announcing Next Move Games
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