Gamethink

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

D&D and Surfboardds

posted by Doc Blue

This is a post I've been meaning to put together for some time now, and now am going to try to collect my thoughts in about 10 minutes.

There are days that I believe that producers may be using the wrong model or example when attempting to do 'strategic planning' for gaming. If you look at the major players in the field, I get the sense that they think they are producing a commodity like tennis shoes: they assume nearly everyone needs them and that they just need to reach the target audience, they assume that the same basic design will work for everyone with some relatively minor tweaks to meet special needs, they assume that they can earn brand loyalty and raise prices because of that loyalty.

I think a different model may be appropriate. I think that the gaming industry is more akin other hobby industries. Take surfing for an example. (Now, I'm _not_ a surfer, so this is based only on my perception and used for illustration.) I will admit, there are likely a small number of mass-producers of surfboards and I suspect that obviously limited target audience can support a small number of mass-producers. These mass producers can act, more or less, like I described above. However, I strongly suspect that when you get into the serious surfers, many of them move away from the mass produced boards. My guess is that there are a major more numerous set of small board producers, operating off the beaches they surf, or did surf, themselves. These small shops hand-produce or at least hand-modify the boards they sell.

To wrap up quickly, as I'm out of time, what's my point? I think there is a place for the big players in the industry. But I think that there is also a very important role for small players. I _want_ someone to custom craft a game for _me_. I'm willing to pay more for a game that meets _my_ specific ideosyncracies. I want to run down to my local game shop and say, "We're changing the direction of our campaign, can you craft some new rules to meet our new needs?"

Is this just a dream, maybe. But I think the prevalence of PDF publishing makes it less so that it was a few years ago. Will someone open a 'custom games' shop in the future, probably, but until then....

Hang Ten!