Friday, June 23, 2006

Shiny and Deep...Games

For this to make sense, you must first read the Shiny and Deep entry on Seth Godin's Blog.

Most hobby games are, by nature, deep. They require a great deal of thought and effort to learn, play, and master. (I'm lucky if I ever get past learn.) This usually means the marketing person or department of the publisher has to work very hard to 'Shiny' these games up for market. In the last few years many publishers have done a great job, particularly with Eurogames. These games are, in general, as gorgeous as they are engaging. It's part of the reason Eurogames have become so successful in the last couple of years.

The old saying, you can't polish a turd, is also true. Hobby gamers demand depth in their games, and anything less better be a) fun for their non gamer friends and loved ones or b) very, very inexpensive. This is why good design always, always, always must be a priority. Non-gamers trying to publish and sell games often don't get that. Just ask early 90's TSR...the bankrupt TSR.

Collectible games used to be Shiney, but the fatigue of playing them has certainly tarnished their luster. This is why most new CCGs depend on licenses to get off the ground. Publishers believe licenses are the only means to support a CCG until it's fanbase grows large enough to sustain a community. Community for CCGs is essential. Licenses are also a shiney lure to publishers who might not have a strong design, but think a game can survive on the bright sheen of the license alone. When I worked for Wizards of the Coast I used to joke that licenses were like a big piece of candy. The candy was so bright and appealing that we'd gobble the candy down. When the inevitable tummy ache followed we's swear we'd not do it again...until the next piece of candy presented itself. Honestly, every year the new strategy for the company was to move away from licences and every year they'd sign between 1-3 licensing deals.

I used to think the game industry is unique. It's not unique, but like all industries you have to understand it in order to succeed in it. I try to gain a little understanding every day.

What makes a game stand out to you? What makes you happy you bought it six months later?