No Time To Play

Real success is long-term

by on Sep.10, 2011, under Miscellaneous

I’ve been reading this book titled Tabletop: Analog Game Design. It’s a must read for anyone who dabbles in this field. But the one passage that made me jump is not about game design. It’s about game success:

In 1995, the game that would become Klaus Teuber’s masterpiece was shipped in Germany by distributor Kosmos. A few German-language copies trickled to the hobby market in the U.S., fueling demand that
allowed Mayfair to produce an English-language version the following year. To date, it has sold more copies worldwide each year than in the previous, a trend that is the reversal of the sell-millions-in-two-weeks-or-bust sales model of big-budget videogames. To put things in perspective for any videogame fan in the audience, there are about as many copies of Settlers of Catan in circulation as there are copies of Grand Theft Auto 3 and World of Warcraft combined.

— Ian Schreiber, How Settlers of Catan Created an American Boardgame Revolution (page 85).

I’ve addressed the issue of short-term versus long-lived success before, in the context of movies, but it’s the same for games. And if you’re wondering how a board game can sell more than the biggest, flashiest computer games out there, consider that ZZT, a shareware title from 1991, was still selling the occasional copy two years ago. And it’s a text-based DOS game.

I should add that the book is available under a CC-NC-ND license, so you have no excuse. Go get it.


3 Comments for this entry

  • Jimmy Maher

    The videogame industry has historically been unique in that it is driven almost completely by technology innovations rather than innovations in design or aesthetics. The board game industry is on the opposite extreme. Settlers of Cataan heralded a new approach to board game design (the “Euro-game”) that has spread beyond Germany to very nearly dominate the field today, while the game itself of course still remains one of the most widely played board games in the world.

    For 98% of videogamers, meanwhile, it would be unthinkable to play a game from 1995 — it would look hopelessly old and ugly. As the pace of graphical advances slows down, as it has been doing for almost a decade now, perhaps this will change, and we’ll see more of a catalog mentality, with games allowed to slow-burn their way to success instead of needing to sell a million copies on the first day. Maybe…

  • Nande!

    Of course i will read it 🙂

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