They were also available at SPIEL'19: hybrid games. Board or card games with app support eke out a niche existence. The concepts often score with innovative ideas, but still find it difficult to assert themselves with players. After all: German-language publishers also rely on hybrid game mechanisms, including the Austrians from Rudy Games and Hybr, a young start-up that can show its first success with Soviet Kitchen.
New hybrid games hit the market at regular intervals. The creative minds behind board and card games with app support never tire of promoting their innovative concepts to critical players. It is not easy for publishers that rely on hybrid game ideas. If you want to play board games, you have to do it in a purely analogue way: this principle persists. It is not uncommon for there to be clever thoughts behind the ideas of the hybrid game makers.
"Apps extend the fun of playing"
It is hardly conceivable that hybrid games will become a standard in the industry, at least at this point in time. Too few titles make the leap to market maturity, and the reservations among players and publishers seem to be too great. There are definitely board games that rely on electronic components, including app support. However, the classic basis does not replace this. "In board games, apps are primarily used to extend the fun or to present stories," says Hermann Hutter at the Press conference for SPIEL'19.
In fact, the number of hybrid games is small, although even some major publishers have jumped on the bandwagon: Asmodee tries again and again to combine board games and software, most recently with the miniatures game “Lord of the Rings – Journey through Middle-earth”. After all: In the licensed game, the electronic part took up a large part of the game concept - without software, the miniature board game could not be played in its published form. The idea was well received – not by everyone, but well enough to at least publish a first mini-expansion.
Some crowdfunding campaigns for hybrid games are also currently running on the platform Kickstarter, even successful. The niche of hybrid games is constantly being served. And because there are certainly fans, publishers who specialize in hybrid concepts can survive on the market. However, there are no signs of any major changes. It seems as if app-supported board games form a deliberate, harsh contrast to the rapid pace of technological development.
Proven on the hybrid board game market: Rudy Games
The Austrian publisher Rudy Games is focusing on growth in the niche of hybrid games. The strategic war game Leaders - A Combined Game started the success and continues to be played by fans regularly years after it was first released. The simple formula for success: As a board game with app support, the electronic part of the title is constantly being updated and expanded - "Leaders" feels like a board game fresh from the pressing plant.
The other "Rudy Games", including Scuby Sea Saga, Interaction or Lost Galaxy, are also being continuously developed, also with the help of data obtained from users and suggestions for improvement. The apps for their games do not serve the Austrian creative minds as mere user data collection points, but as essential elements to improve the gaming experience in the long term. With success: Rudy Games has already convinced over 450.000 players. The number of users has literally exploded: "In January 2018 we still had 100.000 players," explains CEO Manfred Lamplmair. Now the publisher has targeted half a million - and has probably already reached the goal.
The Austrians are all geared towards growth: the leap overseas has been made, the Rudy games are penetrating local retail. But you don't want to force players in front of the screens for passive entertainment. On the contrary: "Children spend 220 minutes a day on their smartphones," says Lamplmair and hopes that the combination of analogue games and digital apps will pave the way for children to play classic board games and that their screen time will be used sensibly.
The publisher's new title, a guessing game called "Quiz it", is also based on this basic idea. Manfred Lamplmair reveals that initial feedback was positive. So good that a first extension – which is supposed to deal with “useless knowledge” – is already being planned. In any case, this board game should also be supported in the long term – thanks to the app.
The author Arno Steinwender is also partly responsible for the success of the quiz game. "The collaboration with Arno worked great," says Lamplmair happily. Such easily accessible board games work in the market, especially among families. This is also proven by the fact that the interactive party game "Interaction" is currently the driving force behind Rudy Games. Sales are now to be boosted with television commercials on the Toggo and Super RTL channels. "Interaction" is colorful, sometimes hectic, sometimes crazy: "In the end it's all about having fun," summarizes the Rudy Games CEO aptly.
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The Austrians don't just want to rest on their laurels. And so the publisher is already planning for future projects. Together with the cult author Alexander Pfister, Rudy Games will develop a family strategy game with a pirate setting in the coming year - in keeping with the trend. There are no details on possible game mechanics. "It shouldn't be too complex," announces Manfred Lamplmair about the board game.
A really big fish is wriggling on the hook with the hybrid implementation of the Austrian classic "The Commercial Talent" (DKT for short). The cult board game from Piatnik is the counterpart to Monopoly and is considered one of the most successful board games in Austria. In close cooperation with Piatnik, Rudy Games will publish the classic as a hybrid board game. Bulk goods then meet innovation, nostalgia and technology. Information about the publisher and board games can be found at www.rudy-games.com.
Hybr: Young start-up wants nothing less than a revolution
A young Dresden start-up wants to change the world of hybrid games for the long term. Hybr, behind it are Jonas Kopcsek, Milena Meißner, Bartłomiej Zalewski and Andreas Wilde, have achieved a respectable success with their card game Soviet Kitchen. The four of them financed the project through Kickstarter and collected around 14.500 euros, the target was only 8.000 euros.
All you need for a game of Soviet Kitchen is a deck of cards and a digital "Meat Grinder", i.e. a suitable app for the game. There is a story behind the game, one with those typical “true events”. Game designer Andreas Wilde found out about corners from a man who worked in a cheese factory in the former Soviet Union: in order to make cheese, everything that could even produce a cheese-like consistency was “processed”: from rubber hoses to shoe soles. The idea for the cooperative card game "Soviet Kitchen" was born.
Players "throw" various resources into the digital mixer or hold the respective cards over the smartphone camera, which then recognizes the "food" and calculates an average value from the colors. The highlight: Neither long preparation nor instructions are required. The app, on the other hand, seems mandatory for this gameplay.
The software developer Jonas Kopcsek also confirms this: "We have implemented a mechanism that hardly works in analogue form." He means mixing the different colors. Incorporating the 3D color space so precisely and at the same time bringing the balancing – also with regard to the total number of different colors available – to a functional level were two of the challenges in developing the hybrid game. The "human factor" and their color perception also played a role in the development. Adapting the algorithm so that the human perception performance corresponds to the result given by the app was not that easy.
It becomes clear that there can be a lot of technology behind an apparently simple card game. Nevertheless, the creative minds at Hybr make it clear: The card game aspect is in the foreground at Soviet Kitchen, the app only serves as a support.
Developing the basic idea for a finished game took around a year and a half. The result is a cooperative card game with low entry barriers, perhaps even - with the exception of the necessary technology - no barriers at all. If you've never heard of Soviet Kitchen before, you can start playing straight away: shuffle and distribute cards, the app explains the rest. It works extremely well, in fact. The players seem to recognize that too.
The card game was well received by visitors at SPIEL'19, reveals Jonas Kopcsek. The game had “arrived on a larger scale than planned”. And so it's hardly surprising that after the "Kickstart" a revised Unleashed version of Soviet Kitchen is now available. The project is far from finished: an extension to five and six players is now being planned, bug fixes are being worked on and in the future they want to implement more “meat grinder skins” in order to provide variety from a purely visual point of view.
Frequently requested and on the Hybr agenda: A child-friendly version of Soviet Kitchen. Then without, alcohol, ammunition and hand grenades. Instead, it's about feeding a monster that's allergic to vitamins. Could playing with “harmful vitamins” possibly convey the wrong message? No, parents would not have given any negative feedback either. It's all about fun, the focus is clearly on the joke - even children can easily grasp that. Probably even better with the visualization aids of an app.
Hybr is already planning for the future. Jonas Kopcsek announces a new title based on the trend of social deduction games. "It's a topic that we like to play ourselves," says Kopcsek and knows what can take the fun out of games like this: "It's going to be a social deduction game that works for three or more players. And there will be no knock-out." So if you put your character against the wall and are eliminated in a conventional social deduction game, you can slip into a different role in the idea of Hybr and continue playing. So you don't get kicked out of the game right away, but take on several roles - if they're all used up, you'll probably get kicked out of the game with Hybr's vision of social deduction as well.
And the hybrid component? It is there, but rather unobtrusive: "The app takes over the narrator," reveals the software developer. In addition, one can promote the hidden game through the use of software. This is particularly important in social deduction games. Despite all the technology, Hybr sticks to one basic idea: "You should interact with the phone as little as possible," explains Jonas Kopcsek.
There is more to the start-up than just game development anyway. Hybr founded out of a scholarship that supports students and graduates in implementing “innovative technology-oriented or knowledge-based projects with significant unique selling points and good prospects of economic success”. What sounds complicated actually means: Hybr should make a contribution to the scientific landscape and therefore also has a research mandate. Hybr meets this technical research aspect with a focus on so-called "object tracking". Instead of deliberately holding objects in front of a camera, for example, game pieces or game board configurations could be recognized by placing the smartphone next to the game field. The effects on the board game market could be noticeable, for example in the area of miniature games or for rule explanations - provided the technology works and becomes marketable. In any case, the young founders are not lacking in ideas and motivation. More information is available at hybrid.co.
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