Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More on SuperiorPOD's new service

In an earlier post today, I mentioned SuperiorPOD's new distribution service, and I said I couldn't find much detail on what extra parts they offer.  Well, further research has revealed this page which has a good summary of the other stuff they offer.

The bottom line: more printed products and components and generally cheaper than's current offerings, especially for game boxes, but still a fairly maddeningly opaque site with hard-to-find templates, details, and pricing.  If you're willing to write and ask, it looks like you can eventually work out what you need, but some folks in the forum above indicate a pretty slow set-up process (extending to months). I'd rather have it readily available and clear, like TGC does.  As of now, it looks like you can't have both things (good prices, more extensive printed component offerings, and possible game store distribution of SuperiorPOD vs. straightforward, easy-to-use interface, easy storefront site, and numerous plastic parts of TGC).

Distribution service

From a new e-mail I got this morning - SuperiorPOD is trying to bridge the gap between print-on-demand, direct sales (which TheGameCrafter and SuperiorPOD itself provide) and getting games into actual retail stores.  The service they've set up is here - Adventure Game Source.  It looks like what they're doing is creating a wholesale style distribution service, similar to what traditionally published games use, that retail stores can order from.  They also claim to have printing capabilities for lots of different parts and packaging.

Key things I don't know yet:

  • How does the MSRP for a game get set?  Given that they're offering a 45% discount off this price for distributors, and that print-on-demand costs are generally far higher than printing a whole bunch of a game at once, this could be tricky.
  • How hard is it to get listed through the service?  They only have an e-mail address to send your stuff too, and that makes it look like they need to look over your game and approve it for their model.  I'm not sure how hard it is to be accepted to the program. 
One thing that has always frustrated me with SuperiorPOD's site is that, even though they seem to have some pretty neat publication options and a lot of flexibility, their site is difficult to navigate, and key pricing or design information is hard or impossible to find.

So, I don't really know what to make of this. I got some copies of my games from them a while ago, and the quality was excellent, although the timing and communication left a lot to be desired.  The merge and then un-merge with TheGameCrafter has left these two companies as rivals.  From my point of view TGC has some advantages - clear, relatively easy-to-use website, consistent service, clear lines of communication, and lots and lots of standard game parts - but cedes ground to SuperiorPOD in other areas, like cost, variety of printed parts and packaging, and now this distribution option.

I see that Andreas Propst has moved Elemental Clash to this service, so he must have found an advantage there.  Maybe I'll see what they can do with Diggity.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More navel-gazing about Kickstarter

In response to this post, reader Wordman says the following:

Grant's critique rings hollow to me. Not because his analysis is wrong, but because... well... consider this...

You live in a world that has games, but Kickstarter doesn't exist. A magic man appears and says "if you open this magic box, the world will transformed into a place that has many, many more games for you to choose from. Many of them might be worse than games you have now. A few of them, though, will probably be awesome." Do you open the box?

I would. I don't see the downside. I guess Grant's concern is that some people somewhere might be duped into buying a bad game. Or, perhaps that I, with my powers to choose for myself, might spend my money un-optimally on a game that wouldn't have had the opportunity to take my money if I hadn't opened the box. Why is that Grant's problem? I'd rather have the choice.
A good hypothetical.  I didn't mean to indicate that I thought Kickstarter shouldn't exist, or that it was bad for boardgame designers - on the contrary, I think it's terrific that it exists, and it's great that people are having success using it to produce games.  One of the biggest barriers to entry to the board game market is the huge up-front investment required for game production, as I've discussed frequently (e.g. here).  Kickstarter and similar crowd-funding places smooth out that barrier.

My problem with it, and I don't really have much of one, is that it nearly completely shifts the burden of the process from the designer to the consumer.  The model for traditional publishing normally like either of these:

Design a game --> Invest a bunch of money --> Produce and sell game --> Recoup money

Design a game --> Invest a bunch of money --> Produce game, sell hardly any --> Become poor and bitter

Obviously, the second part of that chain is the barrier, and the potential costs are borne by the designer or publisher.  With Kickstarter, the designer benefits by not having to risk lots of money, shifting that burden directly to the customer.  However, if the game isn't good, the bitterness is still present, but shifted to his/her funders.  So, it's win-win for the designer/publisher, but a mixed bag for the funder.  But for both parties, there is a dilution of both risk and of bitterness there, which is good - I'm less bummed having dropped $20 on a bad Kickstarter game than I am having blown $10,000 to get a game printed that nobody buys.

I think Grant's major complaint is not that Kickstarter is bad, but that because it's win-win for the designer, there's a much weaker filter for the projects in question.  That means the average quality of published games will have to go down (perhaps precipitously so on Kickstarter) while the number of published games will go way up.  A little of this is a great thing - Wordman rightly points out that with a bigger pool of games to choose from, more awesome games will be produced rather than sitting in desk drawers and hard drives, and we may see great games that would never have come out.  There's a downside here too, especially if the barrier gets too low - it's like the Internet in general.  Many more people have a chance to speak, but they don't necessarily have something to say.

So, I like Kickstarter, and I think on balance it's great for independent (a fancy word for unpublished) game designers.  There's a downside, too, though, and there's a chance that if a bunch of crappy games all go to the well at the same time or over and over again, it'll dry up.  But so far, it's been better and grown faster than I thought possible, so what do I know?

I do worry that, as sometimes happens at, if most of the projects aren't of very high quality, it will become difficult to find the good ones among the sea of crap.  TGC actually created a very small barrier in a recent update - they require at least one copy of a game to be purchased before it can be published to the shop - and I think it has helped raise the bar a little bit.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kickstarter for games - a critique

Really interesting critique/rant by Grant Rodiek about using Kickstarter for game projects over here at Exiled Here.  I've been aware of Grant's game, Farmageddon, on for a while, and it sounds like he's done some parallel things (and had parallel thoughts) as he's moved through the independent design/publishing realm.  His ideas on Kickstarter mirror mine - a great opportunity, but one that's becoming very crowded and inconsistently good.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oceans Elevens

I'm guest-hosting the monthly Game Design Showdown over at Board Game Designers Forum. I required an ocean theme ('cause I'm a marine geologist) and a voting mechanic ('cause it's November). Eight good entries already, and there might be more before the day is through. I miss not entering, but it's fun seeing what people come up with. I was a little worried that I wouldn't attract any entries, but that's not been the case.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Warped pictures

I took some pictures of one of my current projects, Warped, which I entered in TheGameCrafter's vehicle design contest and which I've now sent off to Hippodice's design contest.  I'll see what Hippodice says - I should know within a month or so if it makes it to the playtest round. 

It looks cool, although I don't think I'd ever actually play it on a table with holes in it - too many pieces to fall through.  Pretty neat how much stuff you can get for under $20 - that's a lot of parts.

TGC offering actual gameboards

Example new TGC board.
Image from their post (linked above)
See here.  These look as good as regular gameboards, and I assume the printing and development interface will meet TGC's high standards.  At $10 a pop, they add significantly to the cost of your game, but this is still a killer feature, allowing you to produce nearly any component via TGC.

They're originally 18"x18" and fold twice to 9"x9", which means they'll fit in TheGameCrafter's new standard black boxes.  Pretty cool.  I'm going to see if I can stretch/pad the Yoggity artwork to fit and then get one printed up.  Hopefully it will also work for my product-in-development, Zombie Ball.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Social media presences of questionable value

I set up a Google+ page for Plankton Games.  Not sure what that's worth.  My Facebook Plankton Games page has never been visited by anybody but me, as far as I can tell.  But maybe Google+ will be different - it's tied to the search engine better, presumably.  We'll see.