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 the game"
At least at this point in time, it is hardly conceivable that hybrid games will become a standard in the industry. Too few titles make the leap to market readiness, the reservations among gamers and publishers seem to be too great. There are definitely board games that rely on electronic components - including app support. However, this does not replace the classic basis. “In board games, apps are primarily used to extend the fun or to present stories,” says Hermann Hutter in the context of the Press conference for SPIEL'19.
In fact, the number of hybrid games is small, although even a few large publishers have jumped on the bandwagon: Asmodee tries again and again to combine board games and software, most recently with the miniature 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 - the miniatures board game in the published form could not be played without software. The idea caught on - not everyone, but good enough to release at least a first mini-expansion.
Some crowdfunding campaigns for hybrid games are currently running on the Kickstarter platform, even successfully. The hybrid games niche is constantly being served. And because there are definitely fans, publishers who specialize in hybrid concepts can survive on the market. However, there are no signs of major changes. It seems as if board games with app support are 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 betting on growth in the niche of hybrid games. The strategic war game "Leaders - A Combined Game" initiated the success and is still played regularly by fans today, years after it was first published. The simple formula of success: As a board game with app support, the electronic part of the title is constantly updated and expanded - “Leaders” feels like a board game fresh from the press shop.
The other “Rudy Games”, including Scuby Sea Saga, Interaction or Lost Galaxy, are also being continuously developed, also with the help of the data and suggestions for improvement obtained from the users. 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 won 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 aimed at half a million - and has probably already reached the target.
With the Austrians everything is on growth: The leap overseas has been made, the Rudy Games are pushing into local retail. They don't want to force players in front of the screens because of 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”, also starts with this basic idea. The first feedback was positive, reveals Manfred Lamplmair. So good that a first expansion - it should be about “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 responsible for the success of the quiz game. “The collaboration with Arno worked really well,” says Lamplmair happily. Such readily available board games work in the marketplace, especially with families. This is also proven by the fact that the interactive party game “Interaction” is currently the workhorse of 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 the fun”, the Rudy Games CEO sums up aptly.
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The Austrians do not want to simply rest on their previous successes. And so the publisher is already in the planning for future projects. Together with the cult author Alexander Pfister, Rudy Games will - in line with the trend - develop a family strategy game with a pirate setting in the coming year. There are no details on possible game mechanisms. “It shouldn't get too complex,” announces Manfred Lamplmair about the board game.
A really big fish is wriggling with the hybrid version of the Austrian classic “The Commercial Talent” (DKT for short). The cult board game by Piatnik is the counterpart to Monopoly and is considered one of the most successful board games in Austria. In close coordination with Piatnik, Rudy Games will publish the classic as a hybrid board game. Mass-produced goods then meet innovation, nostalgia and technology. Information on the publisher and board games is available 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”, a suitable app for the game. There is a story behind the game, one with these typical “real events”. Game designer Andreas Wilde found out about corners from a man who worked in a cheese factory in what was then the Soviet Union: in order to make cheese, everything that could even remotely produce a cheese-like consistency was "ground up": from the rubber tube to the shoe sole. 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 to be essential for this game principle.
The software developer Jonas Kopcsek also confirms this: "We have implemented a mechanism that hardly works in analog 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 the development of 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 “arrived larger than planned”. And so it is hardly surprising that after the “Kickstart” a revised unleashed version of Soviet Kitchen is now available. The project is far from over: They are now planning an expansion to five and six players, working on bug fixes and wanting to implement more “meat grinder skins” in the future in order to provide variety in terms of appearance.
Often requested and on Hybr's agenda: A child-friendly version of Soviet Kitchen. Then without, alcohol, ammunition and hand grenades. Instead, the aim is to feed a monster that is allergic to vitamins. Could the game with “harmful vitamins” convey the wrong message? No, parents would not have given negative feedback on this either. It's about fun, the joke is clearly the focus - even children can easily grasp that. Probably even better with the visualization aids of an app.
Hybr is already planning 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 make games like this less fun: “It's going to be a social deduction game that works with three or more players. And there will be no knock-out ”. So if you put your character against the wall and drop out in a conventional social deduction game, you can slip into a different role with the idea of Hybr and continue playing. So you are not thrown out of the game immediately, but take on several roles - if these are all used up, you are probably also thrown out of the game with Hybr's vision of social deduction.
And the hybrid component? It is there, but rather unobtrusive: “The app takes over the narrator,” reveals the software developer. In addition, the use of software can be used to promote covert play. This is particularly important with 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. Hybr was founded on the basis of a scholarship that supports students and graduates in implementing “innovative technology-oriented or knowledge-based projects with significant unique selling points and good economic prospects”. What sounds complicated should mean: Hybr is supposed to make a contribution to the scientific landscape and therefore also has a research assignment. Hybr follows 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 setups could be recognized by placing the smartphone next to the playing field. The effects on the market for parlor games could be noticeable, for example in the area of miniature games or for the explanations of rules - provided the technology works and is ready for the market. In any case, the young founders are not lacking in ideas and motivation. Further information is available at hybrid.co.
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