Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hang Six, Baby!

I took my son to see Surf's Up today. Honestly, he didn't like it very much. Jennifer and I loved it. First off, it had a lot of slacker humor, which I really enjoy (all it takes is meeting me to see why). Second, The Geek was voiced by Jeff Bridges in what amounts to a reprise of his Big Lebowski role, The Dude. It was like buttah.

In the genre of CGI films, I rate it below everything Pixar and the Shreks, but above everything else.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Four Copy Rip-Off

I'm babbling about trading card games again. I've covered this before, but not for a long while.

Whoever decided it would be a good idea to limit the number of cards allowed in a a deck was a moron. (I actually know who thought it was a good idea, back in the early Magic days, and he wasn't a moron, but...)

Marketing Disaster - Successful TCGs have a uncanny power to drive repeat sales. Buy, buy, buy! It's a sales and marketing dream. Of course, if each player can only use four copies of each card, that sets a cap on how many cards are useful to a player. You've just told a customer that they shouldn't buy any more. It's like Coke making a soft-drink that stopped tasting good and quenching thirst after the fourth can...

Value Disaster - TCGs always have rares (which I also don't approve of, generally) which means to get four of a particular rare by openening booster packs, you normally end up with 30-40 copies of every common. By telling the player they can't use that many copies, the seller is effectively devaluing those commons to an amount close to ZERO. Players have figured this out, and the TCG market has suffered. Companies have not, and the TCG market has suffered.

Game Balance Disaster - The reason cards are limited to 1, 4, 6, or whatever, is because game-balance is put a risk if too many copies of a "Bad" card are released into the pool. I suggest making better games, where this is accounted for from conception to finished product. Unlike the previous two points, this is easier said than done. NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

My point to future TCG publishers. Stop trying to squeeze players by charging them for cards you know...FOR A FACT....they don't want or need, so they'll get those precious rares. Make ALL the cards useful ALL the time. Attached to a quality game, a sales goldmine waiting to happen.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Are you happy you bought it?

Board games have an advantage over trading card games and miniatures games (not many, but this is one.) Once you purchase and play a board game, if you don't like it, it's pretty much too late. If you really don't like the game, you might think twice before purchasing again from that publisher, but really each game is independent, so quality varies greatly, even from particular designers.

With a strong license, good word of mouth, or a powerful marketing campaign, enough people might buy a bad board game and it'll still make money. Even if the the game is terrible, it'll still be in the game closet, fully playable.

With trading cards the games require that the fans buy into the game and not only purchase the 'base' game, but also expansions in the form of boosters. If the buyer doesn't like the game, they won't follow up with more purchases, won't play the game *at all* and likely won't find opponents even if they wanted to play.

Moral of the story: Don't make a trading card game unless you really think your fans-to-be will be moved to purchase boosters. 99% of the time, they won't. On the up-side, if you're a 1%-er, you're probably going to get rich!


Playstation Thrii

The media's starting to jump all over the PS3 and how it's failing compared to the Wii and the Xbox360. I admit it, even though I was a faithful Sony fan (PS1 and PS2 owner) the PS3 was simply too expensive to buy. It's funny, because when you say that, I always get the same responses:

It plays Blue-Ray
It plays DVDs
It Plays PS2 Games
You get the On-Line Service for Free
Look at the graphics!
If you add it all together, it's worth what you pay.

No. It isn't. I don't want any of those things, except for the graphics and the on-line service (which Wii purports to support, but so far, nuthin!)

I'll go on record as saying I don't get Blue-Ray or HDDVD. It's easy to see why CDs are better than tapes and records. It's really easy to see why DVDs are better then VHS. I don't see any reason AT ALL to ditch DVDs for the new, 'better' format. How clear does the picture need to be? Yes, I have an HDTV, though granted an older one.

Somebody please explain why my DVD collection needs replaced? Also, Super Mario Party 8 on the Wii is mucho-fun-O!

As for the PS3. It'll only really hurt when Grand Turismo 5 is released. Oooooooh...that's going to hurt a LOT.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Squidoo, Part Two (Woo Hoo?)

I'm still not sure how successful is. I've set up several lenses and they get some traffic. The Bella Sara Lens gets around 400-600 hits per week, which is by far my most successful. Roughly 100x the traffic of any other lens I've built.

Here at Hidden City Games we're hoping that fan sites for Bella Sara start popping up, but even more so than our old game, Clout, the user-base for Bella Sara doesn't seem to interested in Web 2.0. Oh well. I suspect that's to be normal when dealing with what is really a product for youngsters.

While doing a web search, a Bella Sara Facebook site came up, and while I'm a little dubious of that sort of format, I added a link to the Facebook site to my Squidoo site. So far, I can't tell if anyone from the either site has checked out the other. I wish I could. I do know my Squidoo site's rating fell from #111 (out of 150,000) to the mid 900's since adding the Facebook link. I worry that there's a connection. Normally when I add content and links, the lensrank goes up slightly. No so much this time.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fourth Option - Softcore Games

Softcore is icky sounding. Really, I'm talking about commodity games.

While I technically specified hobby games in my last post, I did forget about commodity games. That is, games produced by the big toy & game publishers for the mass market. These games aren't hits, don't really have a following, but are reasonably profitable in any case. Games that serve one purpose, appeal to people who want 'a game' but that's where their interest and knowledge ends.

In my cupboard, right now, there are two jars of peanut butter. A nearly empty jar of Jif and an unopened jar of Skippy. I have no idea what the difference between these two jars is, other than how much scrumptious peanut butter remains. Go to Toys R Us and check out the game section. You'll certainly fine some fine games and bona fide hits (viral successes). You'll also see a collection of games that sell primarily because they happen to be sold in big stores like Toys R Us. They're like my peanut butter. Nothing special, and designed for people who don't care about differences between them any more than I care about the difference between Jif and Skippy.

I'm talking about Operation, Payday, Trouble, Sorry!, and all the games that surely sell, but don't really have a following and aren't going to be replacing Monopoly anytime soon on the "All Time Best Seller" list. Even if somebody wanted to, I don't think it's possible for an individual to create a new game in this category. The market is already full and firmly controlled by the big players (Hasbro, mostly). Even they have trouble adding to the stable, and typically rely on old games dressed up with a shiny new licenses to keep the catalog fresh. (It's a good strategy! I don't blame them a bit!)

When I worked for Hasbro (ala Wizards of the Coast) we believed that most of these games were bought as gifts and seldom played. I tend to think that was largely accurate.

This all reminds me, I need to bid on The Magnificent Race on e-bay. I loved that game as a kid!


Viral, Hardcore, or Vanish

All hobby games (not video/computer games) go viral, go hardcore, or vanish.

Viral – Enough people play that the game becomes a staple of play in gaming settings. Examples include: Dungeons & Dragons, Magic, Pokemon, Settlers of Catan, Risk, Monopoly, HeroClix. Board games don’t tend to go viral with the same energy as collectible games, but I do believe the all the top selling board-games owe their success largely to a viral-type effect. Nowadays many games are designed from the outset to go viral, and if they don't their failure is assured. Games from big publishers that are canceled quickly almost always fall into this category.

Hardcore – Relatively small fan-base, but large enough to sustain the game provided their needs are met. Precarious situation because new fans are hard to attain and the existing fans are hard to keep. Nearly all games (all things, really) have a hardcore following to some degree. Hardcore games are often discussed online far more than they are played (because they never went viral, opponents are hard to find.) When games are designed to be hardcore games, they can be very successful whether or not they go viral. It is more difficult for a publisher to support a game designed to go viral but instead gained a hardcore audience. Hardcore friendly games are easier to create because almost anything can achieve some level of hardcore following. The only question, is the following big enough and spendy enough to support the game? Spendy fans are often important to the Hardcore game. The more you charge, the less you have to sell to make a profit and the smaller your Hardcore audience has to be in order for the game to succeed.

Vanish – Cease to be published. In some cases a game is meant to be a limited run, so vanishing isn’t always a failure. Usually the goals of the publisher haven’t been met and it’s obvious they never will be.

Many games aren’t designed from the outset to ‘go viral’ or ‘go hardcore’, but in hindsight it’s usually easy to see why games had the success or failure they had. TCGs are largely dependent on going viral for success, and tend to be designed with that purpose in mind. Most RPGs, on the other hand, are designed for hardcore success only.

On the other hand, making something go viral is relatively hard to so (despite what the viral marketing books tell you!)