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Links: AEG Publishes Less, Hasbro Earns More, and Asmodee Preps Paperbacks

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Board Game Designer
Board Game Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Alderac Entertainment Group's John Zinser has stepped away from his role as the company's CEO to become its Director of Development, and in this new position he's started a blog on the AEG website to talk about (1) his gaming past and his new role that will focus more on games than business; (2) the gaming house AEG has set up in southern California for playing, playtesting, designer meet-ups, and other fun stuff; and most relevant for us given recent discussions on the topic (3) AEG's decision to publish fewer new titles.

An excerpt from that third post:
It's no secret that AEG has in the last few years sold a couple of our premier product lines. And we have also launched Thunderstone and Edge of Darkness on Kickstarter, something we would have never done 7 years ago. I realize that people have strong opinions on both these topics, so I will be doing a deeper dive into why we made these decisions and our opinion on how companies can become their better selves when the market changes and still take advantage of new opportunities.

For now we can say that AEG is using the sales of those games to make the goal of doing fewer games a reality. It would be nearly impossible to make this change without cash reserves. To make this work you must invest more in your games up front and take a bigger risks, all of which are not possible if your product decisions are affected by the cash flow monster we were talking about above.

We have not set a hard target on the number of games we will publish in a year. Who knows? Maybe the Holy Grail is ONE NEW GAME. That seems crazy, especially to us since we love games so much, but who knows. We have gone from as many as 20 new titles down to five or six.

For now we are happy with the idea that every game we decide to publish will be a game that we think has its best chance to succeed. And rather than looking on to the next product, we are going to give every game its chance to find its place in the sun.
From gallery of W Eric Martin
Aconyte is the newly founded fiction imprint for Asmodee Entertainment, with Aconyte planning to publish "novels based on many of Asmodee's best game properties".

An excerpt from the press release:
Aconyte are also actively pursuing licenses for third-party tie-in fiction, with the first of these at the contract stage. Aconyte will start a monthly publication schedule from early summer 2020, producing paperbacks and ebooks for the US, UK and export trade.

To helm the imprint, Asmodee has appointed Marc Gascoigne, lately publisher & MD of award-winning global scifi imprint Angry Robot. He's hired assistant editor, Lottie Llewelyn-Wells, and publishing coordinator, Nick Tyler, to join him in new offices in Nottingham.
In case you're not familiar with Asmodee Entertainment, here's a self-description from this branch of the Asmodee octopus: "Asmodee Entertainment is a newly formed platform of games publisher and distributor Asmodee. Its mission is to extend Asmodee's leading intellectual properties into TV/film, book and comics publishing, location based-entertainment, and consumer products, working in parallel with sister platforms Asmodee Boardgames and Asmodee Digital. Asmodee Entertainment will reach many new audiences and further delight existing fans through the creation of compelling story and character content set in Asmodee's vibrant game universes. By establishing best-in-class partnerships across the full spectrum of opportunities, Asmodee Entertainment aims to create truly global intellectual properties and brands."

Board Game Publisher: Hasbro
• On April 23, 2019, Hasbro reported its first quarter earnings for 2019, with its overall revenue up 2% to $732.5 million, with its "Hasbro Gaming" division up 2% as well, and with its "total gaming category" up an astounding 20% to $243.4 million compared to $203.5 million in 2018. In press release speak: "Hasbro believes its gaming portfolio is a competitive differentiator and views it in its entirety."

What that sentence refers to is the difference between "Hasbro Gaming" and Hasbro's "total gaming category", and this difference results from how the company categorizes products internally. Product lines such as Magic: The Gathering, Monopoly, Transformers, and Play-Doh are classified as "Franchise Brands", and revenue in this category stands apart from that of Hasbro Gaming. (Within the category of Hasbro Gaming, Hasbro notes that "DUEL MASTERS, CONNECT 4 and TWISTER were among the games contributing to revenue growth for the category.")

Revenue from Beyblade is included in the "Partner Brands" category since Hasbro is not the originator of such items; Hasbro notes that "Revenue growth continued in BEYBLADE", but these gains were offset by sales declines in other brands within that category.

Board Game: Taboo
• While searching for something else, my wife ran across a short article from 2008 from AI researcher and theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky that challenges people to use the concept behind the party game Taboo to reconsider how you would present thoughts and arguments, partly as a way to resolve conflicts and partly to more specifically state what you actually think. After presenting these two sentences:

—Albert: "A tree falling in a deserted forest makes a sound."
—Barry: "A tree falling in a deserted forest does not make a sound."

Yudkowsky writes:
Clearly, since one says "sound" and one says "not sound", we must have a contradiction, right? But suppose that they both dereference their pointers before speaking:

—Albert: "A tree falling in a deserted forest matches [membership test: this event generates acoustic vibrations]."
—Barry: "A tree falling in a deserted forest does not match [membership test: this event generates auditory experiences]."

Now there is no longer an apparent collision — all they had to do was prohibit themselves from using the word sound. If "acoustic vibrations" came into dispute, we would just play Taboo again and say "pressure waves in a material medium"; if necessary we would play Taboo again on the word "wave" and replace it with the wave equation. (Play Taboo on "auditory experience" and you get "That form of sensory processing, within the human brain, which takes as input a linear time series of frequency mixes...")
More generally writes Yudkowsky:
When you find yourself in philosophical difficulties, the first line of defense is not to define your problematic terms, but to see whether you can think without using those terms at all. Or any of their short synonyms. And be careful not to let yourself invent a new word to use instead. Describe outward observables and interior mechanisms; don't use a single handle, whatever that handle may be.
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