Saturday, May 27, 2006

Exit Strategy

So Wizard of the Coast's unusual plastic trading card game Hecatomb has been declared "done".

I never played Hecatomb, but I heard good things. I'm honestly a little surprised the game couldn't make it a year. Wizards has a history of being quick to pull the plug on underperforming games, though. They're a big company and they can afford to cancel underformers and replace them with whole new games on a regular basis.

Since Wizard's strategy seems to accept failure and rotates its compliment of collectable games, it seems like creating an exit strategy for each game would make a lot of sense. Decide early on how fans of a failing game (as few as they may be) can be rewarded for the time and money they spent on the product. Possibilities:

* Final product release, available in extremely limited quantaties, specifically designed to turn the game into a well balanced 'standard' card game, as opposed to a trading card game where new expansions are required to keep it 'viable'. Sort of a season finale, capping the game on a strong note.

* Fairwell events, at large conventions like Origins and Gencon. Large product give-aways as prizes and event benefits (move that inventory!) Perhaps provide starters of a new game as prizes for playing the old one. First prize for the GenCon '06 Hecatomb tournament? How about box of Dreamblade? How about a Dreamblade starter for all the participants?

* Set up the game as an open source property or give/sell for token amount the property to an valid publisher or the original creator. Allow others to carry the torch. (This would be tough for Hecatomb with its unusual components) What's more valuable, the IP/mechanics or a happy fanbase?

Collectable games are expensive, so value is everything. With a strong exit strategy, Wizards can maximize the value of the product for the people who have bought it. If customers believe that buying a game from Wizards means you're getting your money's worth, even if the game doesn't last, they'll start creating fans rather than just a customers.