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Subject: Why is it... great games go out of print? rss

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James Hébert
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This is obviously a newbie question, but I've spent some wonderful hours this holiday season researching choice games for my family at BoardGameGeek (in fact, this will be something of a "gaming year" from the looks of my shopping list - all because of BGG!), and something has been nagging at me...

Why is it that games that rate incredibly well on BGG and elsewhere go out of print and are not brought back?

I don't know the gaming industry, but I understand that when a product is in demand, it serves the company who owns it to manufacture more rather than move on to someting else. Why is it this does not seem to be the case with games? Or am I naive? Seems to me that if the design and development and market are already there, it should be a sure thing to keep the game alive (or bring it back after a short period). It certainly makes the publisher zero money to see a game become collectible *after* the product has run out.

So what are they thinking, letting good games die off?

James
 
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R S
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It's usually economics.

The company goes out of business, ownership changes hands etc.
 
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Wolfgang Kunz
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Well, one reason can be that there is a demand but the demand is not so high as to reprint a game.

Another reason can be the copyright of the game, who owns the rights and what he / she / it chooses to do with the right.

Just because 300 people demand a reprint of a game doesn't mean that those 300 would buy the game for the price a company might ask.

If you look at GMT and see that the P500 Pre-order list grows mostly into a P 750 or so (so that the costs for the reprint are covered) shows that for smaller companies to produce (reprint) a game that might not cash in can mean "that's it". And if you check the forums at the geek you find examples of these companies.

Other companies start thinking about a reprint when you talk in 10th of thousands - and definitely for some games this number was not reached in the first or second print run.

But gladly companies like GMT are looking to bring back some OOPs like Blackbeard - clothed in todays dresses.

And,let's face it, some games are looked after because they give us back fond memories of childhood adventures and not because they are so good that they stood the test of time.
 
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James Hébert
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Curious then... what happens to the game's ownership or copyright? Is it difficult to obtain, making the return of the game to store shelves more difficult to achieve?

Darn... I see some great-looking games who's scarcity makes them "out of reach."

James

 
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Rich P
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Some companies think it's not good business sense to base their decisions on the opinions of a vocal minority on the internet.
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
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jhebert wrote:
Curious then... what happens to the game's ownership or copyright? Is it difficult to obtain, making the return of the game to store shelves more difficult to achieve?

It stays with the author, and reverts to the public domain after a number of years have passed, usually after the author's death. IANAL, and there are as many copyright laws as there are countries.

I suppose that you can always contact the author and work out a deal---but if that author is not interested, then the deal is off. I know of a sad case in the Amiga computer community: a respected author of well-written software was victimised by pirates and slander about back doors to such an extent that he stopped supporting his products completely. No more unlocking keys are handed out, and any requests for information (even transferral of copyright) are ignored. But he didn't release his programs to the public domain either, so now there is no legal way in which you can run his programs. The honest user is immensly PO'ed about this, but legally, that user has to swallow the extremely bitter pill and move on.

Closer to home we have the sad story of Hasbro, Inc. buying out the old Avalon Hill, including all rights to all of their games. This includes a few very revered titles: Civilization, Hannibal, Titan, and a number of wargames. (I'm not into those, but a connaisseur is more than happy to tell you which are considered to be Great Old Ones.) Hasbro have been sitting on those copyrights for years now, and haven't done a bloody thing with them. The consensus here on the Geek is that the company is either brooding on something big, or, far more likely, preventing someone else from brooding on something big. Recently Hasbro killed off most of its resuccitated AH-titles, indicating that their business model is not particularly suited to these 'gamey' titles. It is fervently hoped (mind, hoped) that they now start up a subsidary of some sort which has the financial backing of the mother company, but is free to operate according to the rules of the boardgamegeek market. Kinda like Ravensburger and their daughter Alea.

Ack, I hate the English grammatical construction that companies are plural, and not singular!

Quote:
Darn... I see some great-looking games who's scarcity makes them "out of reach."

We hear you, brother, and share your pain...
 
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Jae
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I imagine the biggest reason is underexposure.

Many games don't become highly collectible until there is some popularity of the title such as Dark Tower, Talisman or the like.

For some, it is merely a nostalgic trip and they are trying to regain their past in games like Seance, Green Ghost or the like.

And in some cases you just can't get a hold of the right people like in the games Titan and Up Front!.


The other slant to this is that artists can be weird. They may not want to see their product re-released in the original format for whatever reason (like George Lucas standing firm that Special Edition Star Wars was the only way to go for almost 10 years). So while you might get a re-release of the game, it is a mixed bag whether or not you are truly getting the same game (Elfenroads vs Elfenland.... Traumfabrik vs Hollywood Blockbuster.... and other examples I am not completely familiar with).
 
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Ray
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Unlike the family games we grew up with, most Hobby games get a single print run, sell out, and that is it (and bad ones don't even sell out). SO if you think of it that way 'out of print' is the natural state for most games. Most of the time the really good ones do get reprinted after they sell out . There are a handful of exceptions that lock up a games rights so that no one else can reprint it, but those are extremely rare. More likely it's a lack of demand and a large supply still existing in the second hand market.
 
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George Kinney
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jhebert wrote:
Curious then... what happens to the game's ownership or copyright? Is it difficult to obtain, making the return of the game to store shelves more difficult to achieve?


A copyright is property, and like all property, its disposition is completely up to its current owner.
 
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Andy Leighton
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dipdragon wrote:
I think that it's mostly economics. A print run under 10,000 for a game makes very little money at the prices paid in the US and Europe in today's market.


This is why we are seeing more shared print runs. For example the reprint of Taj Mahal was shared by Rio Grande, Abacus, Ystari and QWG. I think that this is a trend (both for new and reprint games) that will continue. It enables larger print runs with less market exposure.
 
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Mike zebrowski
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The number of reasons for a game not being reprinted are as numerous as stars in the sky. The can be broken down into 4 broad categories: Economic, Legal, Personal, and Technical.

Technical: Sometimes the source material becomes lost, is stored on some obsolete medium (such as 8 inch diskettes), or is in some ancient format that is no longer usable or readable. While it is possible to recreate the material, it would take additional time and money that may not be available.

Personal: Sometimes the publisher/designer/whatever, just doesn't want to re-publish the game. Sometime it is because they have left the industry, sometime they view the game as a mistake, etc...

Legal: There might be legal obstacles to republishing a game. If it was a licensed product, the license holder may not be interested in renewing the license. If the copyright is held by multiple parties, there might have been a falling out and neither party will let the other re-print the game. The legal issues are often the product of how the various contracts were written.

Economic: The most common reason is economics. Being considered a great game does not translate into economic success. Most game companies are run on shoe-string budgets and may not have the cash flow required to re-print a game. The bigger companies need larger sales in order to consider a game to be a success.

Cash flow example:

Lets say that a $20 game is successful. The last that I heard, a successful game in this industry is one that sells 3000 copies. A typical rule-of-the thumb is that 80% of the lifetime sales of a game will occur in the first three months of release. So, lets assume that the game sells 2400 copies in the first three months and that sales drop to 80 copies a month after that, so that by the end of the year, the game will be sold out.

Now, the retail price of the game is set at multiple of what it costs to produce the game. The typical range is x10 to x6. That gives us a cost per unit of $2 to $3.33. Lets use $3 a copy for a print run of 1000 units. Companies make about 40% of the retail price per unit sold, or $8 per game.

So, if a company was going to re-print their successful game, it would cost $3000. They would need to sell 375 copies of the game just to pay the printer bill.

Printers want to be paid rather quickly, usually within 90 days. However, distributors want to pay the company rather slowly. A distributor often takes up to 60 days to pay the company for its games, assuming that they actually pay ontime. So, you have a situation where a company has to pay out money in 90 days that will take up to 210 days to receive (5 months of sales + 2 months waiting to be paid).

So, if a company doesn't have the cash to cover their operating costs, etc... for those 120 days then they will likely goes out-of-buisness.

 
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Mark Crane
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Age of Steam is a great game, and it is (temporarily) out of print. It is a gamer's game, and will never have mass appeal, except perhaps in the form of Railroad Tycoon. So it gets printed 3,000 copies at a time, and the designer and developer each get some pittance per copy sold, something like $3.00 apiece. There are lots of expansions for it, and should the game get mired in copyright problems it wouldn't be very difficult at all to construct a copy, so it will never truly "die." I would still like to see someone market a viable game kit with actual, good games written for it, on a wider scale than other attempts, which are admirable, I admit. Age of Steam feels like a game kit at times, with all of the expansions.

Die Macher is interesting, in that it is a great game, but one that again will never have mass appeal. Fortunately it has been reprinted and I am curious how big the print run was and if it will make money for Valley. Some of these games are like fine wines that will never reach the shelves of Walmart. I remember, as an exchange student, playtesting Poission D' Avril, before the warehouse fire, and thinking, "Here is a game so beautiful, so sublime, that no more than a thousand copies will ever be purchased, because of the months-long learning curve required to appreciate its subtleties." Of course, its absence has left an empty place in my heart that I have tried to fill with meaningful human relationships and fried twinkies, but both are weak substitutes indeed.

I would still like to see someone market a viable game kit with actual, good games written for it, but on a wider scale than other admirable attempts. A box of cubes, dice, markers, a nice plexiglass map frame, a copy of Nandeck software, perhaps tiles with replaceable faces. Mmmmmm....
The combination of faceless greed, ineptitude, irascibility and misguided copyright law that ties up tasty games makes me sad. I think the hobby really needs 1) a discrete place to put open source games, 2)a feedback mechanism so you can dig out the good ones, and 3) a means of reproducing them that doesn't require gallons of printer ink and hours of slicing and dicing. Hopefully home fabrication printers will take off one day.
 
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Mike Siggins
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Quote:
Poission D' Avril


Hasn't this joke run its course by now?

I won't comment on your game kit idea, as I am sure you would always want to respect the rights of the copyright holder?
 
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Michael
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anyone know what happened with Warhammer quest? I just managed to get a copy of this game from another BGG user, who didn't charge me an arm and a leg. what is so different from 1995 to 2006? (besides the onset of all of the consoles)
 
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John Goewert
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Alphawolf wrote:
Just because 300 people demand a reprint of a game doesn't mean that those 300 would buy the game for the price a company might ask.


100% truth right there.

I can't tell you how many times I have heard "If you get X in, I'll buy it for sure!"

So, I get X in.

"WTF?!?! It's $30! No way I am buying that." or "Nah, I didn't want it really."

I call it the "Clay Poker Chip Syndrome" (CPCS for short, pronounce SI-pics). Everyone thinks they want them, no one wants to pay the $2 each it costs for them or is that serious of a player.
 
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Mark Crane
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sumo wrote:
Quote:
Poission D' Avril


Hasn't this joke run its course by now?

I won't comment on your game kit idea, as I am sure you would always want to respect the rights of the copyright holder?


Apologies for the PDA reference, but I only discovered it last month. It will take me a few more weeks to become fully sated by the self-indulgent pleasures it affords.

The game kit has nothing to do with existing copyrighted games, at least in my imagination, hence the reference to "open source," i.e. game concepts that are freely duplicable. It would just be a licensing and physical apparatus for playing a lot of different games, each of which is designed and contributed. That would not preclude any of those games from being licensed and published as a fully finished game at some later date, as has been the case with a number of print-and-play games.
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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woodnoggin wrote:
Some companies think it's not good business sense to base their decisions on the opinions of a vocal minority on the internet.


Vocal opinions of a minority can be representative of a larger opinion. Look at the recent re-printing of Die Macher, that game about the Spanish dudes, or all of those GMT reprints!

Now it's true that a lot of people who say "I want X" won't pay for it, but if you can reach a wider audience, which if it is a good game it will, then there's no reason not to at least attempt to print old but very well-liked games.

Of course there's absolutely no incentive for Hasborg or any other major company to try. That's why I thank God for the smaller companies like GMT!
 
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Peter Vrabel
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jgoewert wrote:
Alphawolf wrote:
Just because 300 people demand a reprint of a game doesn't mean that those 300 would buy the game for the price a company might ask.


100% truth right there.

I can't tell you how many times I have heard "If you get X in, I'll buy it for sure!"

So, I get X in.

"WTF?!?! It's $30! No way I am buying that." or "Nah, I didn't want it really."

I call it the "Clay Poker Chip Syndrome" (CPCS for short, pronounce SI-pics). Everyone thinks they want them, no one wants to pay the $2 each it costs for them or is that serious of a player.


That's why wargame companies have preorder systems, so they can tell how many people are willing to pay the money for it.

Which explains why OCS Burma, which went OOP a few years ago (And reached massive prices on Ebay) has only got about 300 preorders for it's reprint after a few months.
 
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LordStrabo wrote:
That's why wargame companies have preorder systems, so they can tell how many people are willing to pay the money for it.

Which explains why OCS Burma, which went OOP a few years ago (And reached massive prices on Ebay) has only got about 300 preorders for it's reprint after a few months.


Part of that, however, is also based on the obsessive nature of gamers. They can't wait for that out of print title to be reprinted, so rather than join the P500, they buy it for $100 on eBay.
 
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Harlan Rosenthal
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Because all things go out of print, grasshopper. We only notice the great ones.

Seriously, though, think of these things like books or magazines. They get printed, they run out, and that's it. A book with a lot of demand might have multiple printings - after all, in the electronic age, setting up for printing is easy - but a magazine is ephemeral. Heck, even most toys and games are one-shot events; we only think of the ones that keep being "reprinted" because they're the famous ones. How many "Man from UNCLE" or "Captain Kangaroo" toys have you seen lately? :-)
 
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I think the frenzied buying that permeates this hobby is the result of this pervasive oopness. In my own case at least, I tend not to have a wait and see approach to games, because the games may not be there later on. There's a few games in my collection already that have gone out of print and I am glad to have them.

Even when there is a reprint there is no guarantee that you will get the same game as they often make new rules, or add new artwork, or even do a total retheme. Some reprints are pretty substandard in terms of materials (cough... Roborally)

 
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Seth Owen
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To be fair to Hasbro, they haven't been exactly sitting on a mother lode of treasure from the old Avalon Hill line. Most of the most popular and viable wargame rights have already been transferred to MMP such as ASL and the Great Campaigns of the ACW line. MMP also has Up Front! I believe, but the reprint planned for that title has languished because of design problems (or maybe design philosophy difderences). Some other rights have apparently gone back to the original copyright holder or otherwise been transferred. Former AH games like Bitter Woods, The Russian Campaign and For the People have been republished by other companies.
Hasbro has kept alive a couple of the truly classic AH titles like Diplomacy and Acquire.
It's been almost 10 years since AH ceased doing business as a separate company and the game hobby has advanced enough that I think it's safe to say that few of the old AH designs that are not available any longer are truly missed. As much as I like Midway, for example, I don't think it's all that big a loss that it's now just a collector's item.
Avalon Hill, for whatever reason, never really managed to tap into the hobby's potential while it was around and I have doubts whether ti would have done any better had it limped along any longer. It's seems to me that they were running out of steam the last few years they were around anyway.
 
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For every great game that is OOP, there are at least 50 steaming turds which masqueraded as games that we will never see on store shelves again. Yay!

With the internet, great games never die. You can play all sorts of OOP games online with Vassal or Cyberboard or on Brettspiel to name a few.
 
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J Jacy
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I've only been reading BGG for about 3 years or so, but even in that short amount of time I've seen numerous laments on "They will never reprint this game" just to have that very game end up reprinted. Even more "obscure" games than the El Grandes and Taj Mahals, like Polarity.


BTW, anyone know of a way to track the number of users on the geek who wanted a game that was out of print and whether that number went down drastically after a reprint? I'm not sure it would be statistically meaningful for game companies to have those numbers, but it might be interesting to see if people actually do go out in droves and buy want they thought they wanted.

-jjacy1
 
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Alexander B.
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craniac wrote:
Age of Steam is a great game, and it is (temporarily) out of print. It is a gamer's game, and will never have mass appeal...

Die Macher is interesting, in that it is a great game, but one that again will never have mass appeal....


This would be my answer to the MAIN reason "great" games are not reprinted: they are only "great" to a select few hardcore gamers, to those who love Monopoly, Poker, and Scrabble, they are "garbage" games, and the simple gamers outnumber the hardcore gamers by probably 50 to 1.

One person's trash really is another person's treasure, and it really is a lot easier to sell a product into a large number of buyers than a select few.

Those with special tastes need to get used to paying special prices. You get to have refined tastes or be a cheapskate: pick one.
 
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