After a lively discussion via the twitterverse with the respectable Jonathan Liu of GeekDad infamy, it got me thinking about boardgames and projects with exclusive content and components. This in turn led to thinking of their cousin, promos, which happens to coincidentally be part of the topic of discussion on #BoardGameHour this week. Disclaimer: This was written prior to those questions being posted (so you don’t think this is just a rehash of answers to them).
Against my inner nature, I found myself nodding along with Tom Vassal this week. Promos for boardgames are great. I love promos. I have hate-envy for promos that I can never get my hands on. I don’t think that his discussion of this topic was completely spur-of-the-moment, however. This topic stems from the recent Tabletop Day promo event/fiasco, depending on what side of the line you fall.
In case you weren’t aware, exclusive Dead of Winter promos and game-sets are being scalped like Myth Captain KS sets before the fall. This is not to mention other personal accounts of FLGS stores absconding with said product like Gollum with the One Ring, or not even getting the reported number of said promos supposed to be guaranteed in the kits. But as our reassuring overlords will say, don’t worry, because they’ve made up with it by giving extra Fluxx packets!!!
The former of these appropriations is a lesser offense (in my mind) because at least the argument can be made that these costly kits are a large line item in stores with an already cutthroat profit margin. FLGS and their owners could use them to offset the kit price point. I think most gamers could at least partially sympathize with this mindset.
The later of the two, however, is what I believe to be a failure of a different proportion.
Let’s play pretend. You’re promoting yourself as a national, nay, international brand & event and tell paying supporters that something they’re buying contains a certain number of items, so naturally you would expect that to be true and have them deliver on said agreement. False promises or god forbid, pulling a bait and switch on your consumer, doesn’t ingratiate yourself with them. In fact, it’s a prime way to alienate that base that has supported you most recently to the point of…cough…seven figures worth of crowdsourcing to keep you afloat. You can’t expect us to be Hodors when it comes to these things. It’s also not to say we’d stop supporting because we all know mistakes happen.
Not that this is the only time for concern with this type of content, but probably the most recent and most vocal due to growth of the online social media presence in the boardgame industry. Regardless your poison, be it a quick
scamming scanning of either Ebay or BoardGameGeek auctions in search of these white whales (i.e King of Tokyo’s or Sentinels of the Multiverse promos), it makes you feel like you’re chasing boardgame unicorns unless you’re Scrooge McDuck.
Again, I clearly am not against the use of this type of content, but especially now with the boardgame Kickstarter (e)revolution, they have (at times) served to potentiate, instead of alleviate, the exasperation of gamers for these situations. I love the idea of additional elements, celebrity based or otherwise, to add small content to games I’m in love with. I’d love to debate the idea of the extent and ability to which said promos can and should affect balance/gameplay, but I’ll save that for another time.
I’m NOT in love with the idea of having to pay a scalper 10x retail price to obtain these separately from the base product. Similarly, I have difficulty pre-ordering, regardless of venue (Kickstarter or retail), on a boardgame un-played to obtain the additional product; which in turn ultimately leads to missing out on them in this situation.
However, I don’t resent companies or designers who do this. It’s a business strategy that works. It drives sales, whether you like it or not. If it didn’t pay for a company to model things this way, they wouldn’t. The fact remains that it has become more of the norm than not on Kickstarter speaks to this concept. Even the guys at larger companies like Plaid Hate Games are doing it with their pre-orders. But taking a step back from the “hotness” hysteria, Tom’s approach for the idea is right: designated semi-exclusivity to make the point of having them available in the future to those of us who are willing to pay REASONABLY for the additional content.
What do you guys think? How much is too much? What are you willing to put up with or even fork out to get these types of items?