Board games are extremely popular. Trends are being set, sales are rising, publishers are seeing leaps in profits - everyone is satisfied. Really all? It seems that panic is breaking through among board game fans given the increasingly frequent deadlines for buying board games. Relaxed shopping is no longer an option for fans of complex titles that are not only expensive but also available in limited first editions. If you want to get hold of a copy, you have to be quick. Playing with fear?
- a comment by André Volkmann
You can rant about old board games as loudly as you want: it used to be much more relaxed to play board games, but above all to buy them. The differences in consumer behavior are clearly visible. Where at that time you roamed through regular gears almost like an event, nowadays you prefer to buy on the Internet. This is also stress-free - if not necessarily beneficial for small local businesses. Now more and more tight deadlines and small first editions ensure that players hardly have time to carefully weigh up purchase arguments.
Kickstarter Tuesday heralds the panic phase
Every Tuesday the events in the social media or internet forum roll over. That's when countless crowdfunding campaigns usually start - and the countdown starts. From then on, players usually have 30 days, sometimes longer, often shorter, to decide against a purchase. There is a system behind it: if you miss your chance, you're left behind. It takes almost a year until the board games financed via crowdfunding are ready for the market and delivered to the "backers". This late start: As a player, you certainly don't want to miss it, do you?
Publishers and authors also use scare tactics on a second level: the price. Those who support the high-priced Kickstarter now have to dig deep into their pockets, but pay less than those fans who buy later, for example when a board game makes it onto the market after crowdfunding. Big discounts: As a player you don't want to miss out, do you?
And then there are influencers who not only provide information about new board and card games, but also praise and cheer every Kickstarter – mostly regardless of the actual quality – and mostly for selfish reasons. Either there is direct "cash" for the promotional video or the content creators are granted access to a pledge, and of course the creators only get that if the project is also successfully financed. Criticism undesirable, it seems, one would ruin one's own business. The result: Every Tuesday there are new "best games of the year" for which money is collected. Each of them "unique", "innovative", "great" or even a "must have". Best Games: As a player, you don't want to miss it, do you?
The spiral of fear turns faster and faster the closer the crowdfunding campaign gets to its end date. 25 days, 15 days, new stretch goals, 10 days, surprisingly new expansion, 5 days, the end is near, panic! In the last 24 hours, the drum of advertising is vigorously stirred again. There is little time left, then it was with the chance of a supposedly terrific game. The makers take advantage of what drives players in many ways: The fear of missing out on something.
Coupled with the allure of the new, this is dangerous. It is not uncommon for fans to reveal how much they spend monthly, quarterly or annually on board games. It will be granted to you. But if you can no longer decide freely about buying or investing because you feel pressured to spend money on something that you don't know whether it will be worthwhile in the end, then this is a business model that is not standard may be.
The creators know how it's done: Exclusive goodies, visually impressive material and advertising with a big shovel - that works, flushes money into the coffers. And as soon as a project has been financed, an outlook for the future is added. We have something for you, attract publishers and authors. We'll be announcing our new project next month - for 30 days, then it's over. Buy or not? This then becomes the central question again. And because more and more often only novelties are discussed, not games; "Looking on the shelf" pretends that you are what you have, and the board games market is getting bigger and trendier, is that something you don't want to do without - perhaps also for fear of not being recognized as a full member by the community?
And if the proclamation of innovation, novelty and creativity is not enough to reach into the wallet of players, then you use it, exactly: nostalgia. With the Remake of HeroQuest Hasbro recently demonstrated how to use all the ingredients to generate as much money as possible as quickly as possible. A company like Hasbro could have simply re-released, manufactured and sold HeroQuest. Instead, they initially played with fear: the dungeon crawler only exists if we were able to collect at least millions via crowdfunding. The high-priced board game, the deluxe version of which required an investment of 150 US dollars - "sold" like hot cakes. Of course, fans still have to wait for the consideration. There isn't even that much that's new in HeroQuest: It's basically the game from back then, polished up a bit here and there so that the ruble can really roll.
The modern board game, boredom seems to have become part of the concept. Instead of focusing on a really exciting topic, publishers and authors often take the easier route: They use a standard mechanism and put on a visually impressive setting - and the new miniature board game is ready, which is available for at least 90 euros can. Doesn't it take a lot more to inspire players? Replayability hardly seems important anymore, after all, the next novelty is already lurking around the next corner. Why unpack a board game from 2018 when you can look forward to one from 2022?
The industry is changing because the gaming community is changing. And there would be no objection to all that milking if all of the board games that hit the market were worth playing.