Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Print On Demand - a blessing or a curse?

Within the demitasse teacup of boardgame company designer hobbyists, there is a tiny tempest.  A recent edition of the Dice Tower podcast included a half-hearted rant against the new availability of print-on-demand for games (listen at about 1:14 or so into the podcast if you're interested).  The argument was that now that people can essentially self-publish any game on the cheap at places like TheGameCrafter.com, there will be a flood of horrible, crappy games available, that haven't been properly tested or refined, as traditionally published game products are.

I guess the downside of this is supposed to be that:

  • The average quality of games will go down
  • People will ask you to pay good money for crappy half-baked games
  • People might be duped by these self-publishers into buying something that's really not ready to be published
  • Reviewers asked to review games on places like TGC will have no idea whether to waste their time looking at something that's published there
I've been on TGC for about six months now (I reviewed my experience here and here).  As a service for printing near-professional-quality game components, they're excellent.  As a framework for organizing a game into customizable cards, boards, and components, they're super.  As a tool for creating test copies of games you're developing, they're great.  As a marketing and selling service... eh.  Hasn't worked too well for me, but I haven't hit it too hard, either.

I follow their forums, and I've looked at every new game announced on the site in that six months.  I can confirm what the Dice Tower guys are saying; the vast majority of the games listed there are crap - bad games, bad art, ill-conceived and ill-described rules, sometimes all of these things combined.  I can think of maybe eight to ten games there that would actually be worth spending money on, that represent a real final package, thoughtfully assembled and thoroughly tested.  I like to think mine are in that category, but if I'm being honest, I don't think my art on Cult is up to commercial grade, although the game rocks.

Frankly, I'm not really sure this matters to most folks.  For one thing, hardly anybody is buying anything made at TGC unless they get a personal recommendation or request from the publisher, so there's really no crisis.  For the few sales that there are, the vast majority are to the authors themselves, or to friends of the author, not to random customer victims.  I suppose if I weren't a careful consumer, I might rush out and drop some money assuming a TGC game was good, but then maybe I deserve what I get.  Most of them have image previews and full-text rules (mine do), and I wouldn't buy anything from the site that didn't.

For reviewers, who are asked to review these games, well, that comes with the territory.  Write a scathing review if you want to, or ignore all TGC games if you must, but it's not that big a deal.  Having more games available to the public with high quality easily-customizable components is only going to help get more good games to the market eventually, good games that would heretofore have stayed in the backs of notebooks or as hand-made components sitting forgotten in a desk drawer.  Even if there's a bunch of horrible stuff to wade through, I think that's worth it.

No comments:

Post a Comment