Real success is long-term

10 September 2011

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.