Inspired by a recent video from Jamey Stegmaier talking about “overproduced” games (see here: https://youtu.be/PxRpL-JQMfI), I thought I’d share my thoughts on the topic. Please watch Jamey’s video first, so you know what the word “overproduced” means in the context of his video and my article. The topic is quite broad, and I won’t be able cover every aspect, but instead I’ll discuss a select few areas that I think can help focus everyone’s thoughts on the subject and allow you to be more constructive in your feedback to publishers.
So assuming you have watched the video, you’ll know that we’re talking about games with components that are unnecessarily expensive, or that are actually unnecessary to create a beautifully looking game. I think Jamey does define “overproduced” really well and in such a way that you can critize a game in a constructive way, giving you something more concrete to discuss than just a very subjective feeling of why you think a game is too expensive or why some components are unnecessary.
After all, different people will have different tastes. For some having cardboard standees is more than enough to enjoy a game, while others think that a game without beautifully sculpted minitatures is just not worth their time. Don’t forget, many people enjoy painting miniatures, giving them added value from their investement, on top of the entrainment of playing the game. On the flipside it means that for those who don’t paint their minitatures, they get less out of a game, and they are more likely to feel a game is too expensive and “overproduced”.
If we aim to remove anything that adds cost to producing a game, we would have to remove all artwork, miniatures and go back to basic wooden or even plastic tokens. However, we then end up with a game that is very functional and has an enjoyable gameplay, but just doesn’t look beautiful. So making beauty a requirment in the definition of “overproduced”, we end up with a much more useful context. Without that requirment we would have to label probably 99% of games on the market as “overproduced”.
However, beauty is of course also very subjective and a whole topic of discussion in its own right. So let’s go with a concept of beauty that most people would agree on. Looking at tabletop games most people would probably agree that custom wooden tokens are more beautiful than simple plastic chips, that detailed miniatures are more beautiful than cardboard standees, that realistic resources are more beautiful than custom wooden tokens, and that metal money or good quality poker chips are more beautiful than cardboard tokens, or, maybe controversially, more beautiful than paper money.
So the next step is to decide how the increase in beauty relates to the increase in cost. Ingoring an overall limit that people have when spending money on games, and which is based on their individual budgets, there will be some additional beauty that is worth more than other. As I said already, for some people having miniatures in a game is worth the extra costs, but the question is, how much more would these people be prepared to spend.
Again, this will be very subjective, so it is impossible to make a forumla that will allow publishers to decide how much extra cost for how much extra beauty is justified. Yet, even if we can’t fully quantify when a game is “overproduced”, we can think more carefully about what it is that we think tips a game over the edge. In fact, we can also think about games that are “underproduced” and be more concrete in what it is we think is missing.
So for consumers of tabletop games who want to feed back to a publisher about their disappointment with the cost of a game, we can now say what components are just over the top and could have been saved to bring the price of the game back into reach for our relevant budget.
On the flipside, publishers can try and focus on what they want to include in the box, or what they might make available as add-ons to those people who want the extra beauty and who think it is worth it. After all, there is already a thriving market for realistic resources, metal coins and trading of painted or blank miniatures. So it shouldn’t be impossible for publishers to bear this in mind from the start, allowing everyone to enjoy a game at a price point that is right for them and that has the level of beauty they feel fits.
Of course, the above are just my thoughts, and I would love to hear from others, so please comment below and let me know your views. Please also make sure you watch Jamey’s video, because as a publisher himself he knows a lot more about how much thought goes into making a game and what options are realistic.