Here’s a question I’d like to pose you.
Can gaming genres be so full that there is no room for anything else? By gaming genres I mean things like “fantasy skirmish”, or “fictional sports board game”. Obviously if the only options available were 10 different “SF mass battle” games and someone brought out a vole-juggling board game then there’s clearly still room for that (always room for vole juggling). But what if someone brought out another SF mass battle game?
Does a gaming genre ever get saturated?
Just wondering what anyone else thought.
Interesting question, any inspiration behind it?
I think so long as your game brings something different to the mix then there will be people who play it, and as long ad there are people to play it then it cant be considered as superfluous.
You have to give people a reason to play your new SF wargame or steampunk semi-skirmish game or what ever otherwise why bother making it.
Inspiration? Yes. Telling? No.
fair enough though
You knew I was going to say that 😉
had a feeling you would 🙂
I guess the best way I can put my argument is thus: How many ‘call of duty’ or ‘Madden’ games are there? (Not necessarily the best argument but I hope my point comes across, as A LOT!)
I guess you could hit critical mass eventually, but that would mostly be based on an individuals income and spare time. As the average gamer makes less money (by introducing younger players or those with lower paying jobs) then you would hit a bottle neck. I personally have far too many for both income and spare time but still look to buy more. I may be a hoarder…
I hear there are self-help groups…
Bah, but then who would be keeping developers like you in business? So many of your end users are at least as bad as I am!
Me? A pusher?
I don’t know that it ever gets too saturated… There was a time that I would jump from system to system looking to find the “right” one that did everything the way I wanted, and I have found that the 25-35 year olds tend to fall into that. I can’t count the number of systems I have owned and never played or played once or twice… I think to be a viable product in such an environment may be more difficult. Obviously 10 competing vole-juggling games would have to distinguish themselves. The first one would be the initial standard, and then a group or area favorite would emerge and become the next standard of comparison. I think marketing, price, and fluff can each attract new customers to a game. I guess I would ask back, what level of “success” is needed for the new game to continue?
A good fantasy or sci-fi skirmish game with rpg elements of character developments with the same tactical elements of God of Battles would be most awesome.
I also ponder what are rules systems for on the business side. It feels like sometimes they are the product and sometimes they are the advertising for the product. It is much easier to get into a game that I can use what I have and play right away, however, the business side of that means you just make your money on the rules sales… For me, that is why Inquistor was a “no go.” I had several tables worth of different terrain environments, but they were all 25-28mm scale… Do I really want to redo all of it, or have to cut every distance in half in the rules to play(that was in my lazy gamer phase)?
That is why, in part, that although there are many fantasy battle games out there, God of Battles was attractive. I bought a book that let me open and play a game with the other products I already had. Sure I will purchase more models in the future, but I don’t have to fork out 200.00 – 400.00 just to play. If I were concisly answer (much too late, sorry) I would say that the more different figures and games in production, the easier it is to sell new rule books / systems that allow me to use the same things I own in different ways. This may be true of many gamers with established armies and diminished ability to purchase. One rulebook purchase for me, has increased the value of all my other hobby purchases (miniatures, terrain, etc.), so in spending less I feel like I have more.
I think that your ageist comment is true of me too, and also of many people I know. For some it carries on far longer.
Your second paragraph is sort of the direction Eternal Battle is going.
What are rules systems for is a big question. It can probably be boiled down to both your options depending on the company. Some use them purely as a vehicle for selling figures, others as a profit-making enterprise in their own right. Most figure companies rely mainly on figure sales, and while they would want the rules not to make a loss wouldn’t worry too much about how much the book itself made (as long it was something). This is why some companies just give the rules away.
Generally though, the less profit a company makes out of the rules themselves, the less investment they put into making the rules work properly. It’s all just simple business sense really.
If you consider that Hasbro manages to decline each of his “mainstream” games in different flavour each year (Trivial Pursuit, Risk, Monopoly, etc with new themes or new licenses) and still manage to sell them, then I think the answer is no…
But, in our case, niche games in a niche market the answer is probably more subtile. Even more if you consider that almost each gaming group develop house rules for the games they play, creating an infinity of rules set used in a given moment.
In fact I believe that there are few main factors for new rules to find their place on the already saturated niche market we are evolving :
– the involvement needed to play a game (money, time to spent before playing, duration of a game, …) ;
– the replayability of the game ;
– the support of the game (merely FAQs or a way to reach the author(s) if I have questions, extensions, etc.).
If I had to buy and paint again a whole army to play a new game I probably won’t go further than reading the rules, except maybe if this is a new theme that is not already covered by what I already have AND that this theme really interest me, but if I can re-use the dozens of miniatures already painted that sits on my shelves then there is a bigger chance that I will try a game or two. If I enjoy the game and believe that I will play it again then I will probably buy some dedicated stuff for this game.
The next big factor is finding players/opponents to play the game, I do live in a very small village in France, and it’s already not that easy to find players to play to the more mainstream rules (let’s say GW games and Warmachine) so finding players ready to involved themselves in a new game add to the difficulty…
So yes a new game can still find its place on the market but the place will probably be very small depending of the above factors…
Good points. Hasbro may be making obscure variants of their main ranges, but they are selling a fraction of a large initial number. As you say, we are in a niche and so a very small fraction of that may not be financially viable.
Further, Hasbro (with Monopoly) and EA with their various FIFA games are working to a very different model; nobody needs a new Monopoly every year, and nobody needs to upgrade their copy of Monopoly. Further, there doesn’t have to be a consensus in a local gaming group for mainstream board games or computer games – you have them in the house, and people can play them or not play them with no real initial investment beyond the purchase of the box.
With the niche market which we as miniature gamers and the like represent, the investment is very different; models are purchased, assembled, and painted. Rules sets are bought, read, and internalised. The release of a new edition (for a game like 40K, say), or an expansion for Warmachine, both require a lot of mental shifting about to accommodate. Rules are complex, and the games require a lot more preparation to play. The payoff, of course, is that the games can be a lot more rewarding – and we don’t have to play Monopoly, which is a pretty joyless slog.
I guess what I’m saying is that crowding of the mainstream family game genre matters less because of how people relate to them.
It’s a different thing with the sports games – they’re updated on a statistical basis, and so people have become used to the idea of annually replacing their football game if they want it to be an accurate representation of football. I think Penny Arcade did a strip about this recently.
I’ll let Ronnie know that we need a new edition of DreadBall every year then.
I’ll let Ronnie know that we need a new edition of DreadBall every year then.”
Then again, nothing wrong with playing a football game so old that all the players are wearing jumpers and have handlebar moustaches, and the screen is a sort of flickering sepia.
OK, now I would totally buy FIFA 1906.
The way you frame this question may be limiting. Yes, there is a lot of competition, but as long as you can outdo the competitors you may have a fighting chance.
It is not as if there is a lot of room for blue ocean strategies in miniatures wargaming. Any claims for uncontested market spaces seem to have failed (Ex Illis, for example).
Interesting question though.
I agree, but you need to take this further. True you have the opportunity to outdo the current offers regardless of how many there are. However, the more crowded the niche the more difficult, time-consuming, expensive and risky this attempt becomes.
First Person Shooters have dominated the PC and now console market for a long time now. I wonder if the % of genres within a entertainment type remains sort of consistent as it expands and contracts. Like, now that we have 50 miniature games instead of 5 are 80% of them still popular genres?
Fans that turn into creators usually want to make something in the vein of what they were fans of. Which I guess makes cooking games the minority, or in the miniature gaming space non-existent. In terms of new games of the same genre, I think there is always room for them as gamers are very rabid content eaters and will certainly devour a new, but similar experience.
I suspect that the newer generations of board / miniature gamers will look at the space with much less permanency then we currently do.
Some intriguing points, Mr Death.
Less permanency? In general I think that’s probably right, with all the ramifications that holds. It’s hard to measure the change objectively as other factors muddy the waters: Kickstarter, for example. Are more games being made, or just more games being more widely promoted and easier to find? Hard to say.
Consistent types? I don’t think there are. As the numbers expand, the smaller niches become sufficiently large in simple numbers terms to make them viable products. To go back to my vole-juggling example, let’s imagine that only 1% of the audience is interested. If there are 100 gamers then the only gamer interested is probably the one who wrote it. If there are a million gamers then that 1% starts to look like a market.
I agree with a great deal mentioned above, and to me-an average casual Irish war-gamer (yes, it is a thing), the support for a game is the breaking point. I have access to all of two hobby gamer shops that are not GW, both in faraway Dublin, and one GW. One of these is initially uber-supportive of any new system venture, but once it gets past the initial buzz, the line sags, shelf-space is expensive and the system ends up in the 25% off bucket. People generally return to the big commercial giant in wargaming to get that game in. I know if I want a game this week where and when to go-but I know it’ll be GW. If I want to play GoB (which I would really like to try!Still debating on buying the rulebook to try in the club-budget has expired!), that needs far more planning and much more support.
Mine is a largely rural community outside of Dublin with not a lot of access to these new systems most of the time, so only the big names get a mention. I love love love Mantic, used to ike Wyrd and am enjoying WestWind-but I am always the guy that “pushes” the new systems to see some traction. In my own gaming experience, when a new system is announced, I get excited, then cautiously apprehensive while considering whether or not to invest and discontinue my current hobby. Time and opponents are ever rare out here!
With that said, however, I do still believe that the multitude of options has a place. It keeps the hobby developers (like you, Jake!) alive and developing – and drives the competition and awareness on to attract yet more gamers. What is missing here is at CLUB level in order to direct and guide players which in turn fosters a greater following and that will beget further development. As a teacher that runs a lunchtime gaming club for students, I try to introduce new games all the time – because 50minute breaks are not conducive to in-depth play, skirmish varieties really help, and stand-alone hybrids like DKH/Project Pandora, X-Wing and even Mines of Moria are excellent gateways and fun spins that get the lads involved to discern the different systems and options available. To date, the favourite is Empire of the Dead for simplicity and cost-effectiveness. But while these varieties do help show players what is out there, there needs to be an acceptance of one system for a sustained period of time in order for it to take off. To this end, I run Tourneys and Leagues for the school club-right now we are in the final 8 of Dreadball, but next week we are right back into Gubs card game, then the following fortnight is League of the Dead-it gives the lads time to get to grips with the next system before abandoning it for the new thing.
Sorry about the length of the answer-if it indeed is an answer. I am not sitting on the fence here; variety and options are good. Good for players, good for developers and good for business – but it is community direction that will ultimately allow for these systems to be more than flash instances and transform them into meaningful and long-standing systems that stand the test of time.
I’m also the guy ‘pushing’ new systems on my group.
Luckily DreadBall has stuck, but tried empire of the dead, wild west exodus, dropzone commander, judge dredd all to limited or no success.
I am gaining some traction with warpath as the guys can use exsisting models to play it.
Have you tried God of Battles?
Not as yet,
i think it will take a lot to break the holf WFB has on the others in my gaming group.
Also i would need an army and my budget wont allow that.
The other thing is, i probably could have persevered with the other games i mentioned but generally lost interest myself as i wound up just wanting to play DreadBall or Warmahordes as i have invested time and money in them already and it seems silly to put that into something else from scratch
It takes an incredible amount of energy, right James? But when it takes, it is really worth it! I use similar minis as proxies where I can to cut down on expense and let the guys experience different systems before we develop in any particular direction and we definitely see better investment at many levels in some over others-Malifaux simply didn’t sit well, but Empire did. WFB hasn’t taken off except in my 800pt free-for-all mosh-ups, but X-Wing is on fire! Give it a month, and it;ll reverse, but your efforts are definitely worthwhile. I wouldn’t try to overthrow the current system, but set something up to operate alongside or on downtime. Warpath is something I’m thinking about myself-and God of Battles, but the way that they are introduced and how they are maintained is crucial. For teh 6 that don’t fit, that seventh will be a lynchpin for community development and expansion…in theory!!!
Best of luck with your efforts there. I used to do the same thing (which is partly why I have so much gaming stuff), and I think that having a gaming group with a wider experience of games in a broad sense enables people to appreciate more of what they’re playing and also to play better.
@thedauntless – community is very important and also very difficult and time-consuming to deal with. For whatever reason, it’s not an easy concept to get going well. You need exactly the right person to help cheer it along, and though those individuals usually think it’s easy, it’s not that way for most folk. It’s also a thing for which the cost benefits to a company are very hard to quantify, and in all businesses the department with the clear expenses and the vague benefits is often first for the chop in economically difficult times.
Sales numbers speak for themselves. Games that strike an emotional chord sell well. Original games about buddhist talking pizzas don’t, unless they’re beer and pretzel, and even then.
This book about marketing based on kid psychology had me understanding a lot of why the same concepts always seem to come over and over in the game and toy business. It’s a bit of a superficial theory but there are interesting ideas about “successful products fill emotional needs”:
Gene Del Vecchio (2000). Creating Ever-Cool: A Marketer’s Guide to a Kid’s Heart.
For a description :
Thanks Erick. But sometimes those pizzas do talk to me…
Not for the consumer – in this industry it’s nice to have lots of options.
However, it can definitely become too saturated for the manufacturer. If people’s money becomes more spread it makes it harder to gain traction for a new game. This is where it’s vital to achieve some sort of differentiation – eg one of the best decisions made for DB was to set it in the Warpath universe rather than the KoW universe; yes, it may be a better game regardless but having that initial differentiation helps it stand out from the crowd
Thats a really good point, had Dreadball been fantasy themed rather than SF i’m not so sure i’d have gone for it.
I almost didn’t go for it BECAUSE its a sports game. In the end the models and setting drew me in. I regret nothing.
Its a juggling act, whilst competition undeniably breeds a better product, too much competition and the genre becomes stale like a Zombie film
Even so, they go in cycles. Zombie films may be stale for a while, but they’ll rise from the dead eventually.
To be honest, I find the multitude of sytems to be more of an annoyance than a good thing. But then I’m the type of guy who only likes a few things going off at once
The ease of finding things on the internet does lead to information overload at times.
Not so sure you can saturate the market but we do see trends towards follow the leader, with small skirmish being pushed and so half a dozen other systems along similar lines also come out.
Their can be a problem with rule book/system saturation which means that you divide the market, but you are not saturating a genre, more like natural selection. And with many businesses being a miniature based one, this follows that principle.
Just have a look at your downtown area. Count how many clothing shops are there. Then compare it to the number of shops in the downtown area and then come back a few weeks later and do the same thing. Then check how many shops have closed and new ones have opned up. 😉
My head is giddy with the number of gaming systems around nowadays.
The magic of GW was that if you happened to bump into a gamer 15/20 years ago, he was probably into both WH40K and WH Fantasy (you could afford to be both back then), and thus you could play anyone.
Now, at any given club you can have 10 or 15 systems being played. Makes a right headache, especially if new models are required. What tends to happen is a couple of guys will try a system out, like it, sing its praises so everyone else will try it and it will become an ‘Official Club Game’. Blood Bowl did this at my last club. This is great most of the time, you can get plenty of games, get leagues and campaigns going.
Having more games means it’s more difficult to settle on a game system, meaning playing the same people again and again.
Indeed. Gamers are a funny lot, ever after the new shiny toy, but equally reluctant to give up their comfortable old slippers of games. Makes for lots of full cupboards 😉
The challenge here is how we deal with this plethora of options – it’s clearly not going to disappear any time soon.
Wherever possible I take a “boardgame” mentality to new game systems I’m interested in. By which I mean you don’t buy a boardgame knowing that someone else will also have to have bought if you want to get a game. You get enough so that the game can be played out of the box. Likewise, when I buy a new minis game I always try and get enough so two forces can be fielded and I can people to play without having to have bought in already.
That’s the policy I like to think I take (but don’t). Far too easily distracted by shiny things. It’s what I think we should aim for though.
When I was at school we had a wonderful chap running the games club. This is all pre-GW and so we played a wide variety of things, mostly historical. Almost everything we played was supplied by the chap who ran the club: both sides of painted miniatures, all the scenery and rules. He often ran the game as well. That is still my gold standard.
How do you deal with this problem? I’m still in poxy Kuwait, but already talking to a gaming group in Wales for when I return.
X-Wing seems to have become the firm favourite simply because a few people started playing it. Thus if you want a game on games night, you HAVE to play X-Wing.
I dislike that situation immensely.
I guess the only solution is for the club to buy games and game systems and store them on site. At least then there’s a supply of models for people to try, or if people need an opponent. And if the game loses popularity, then I guess you could ebay it.
But you’d need a rich club with plenty of storage space.
As I said in reply to Ben, above, I think treating all games like they should be a box you can get down and all can play works pretty well. People are welcome to get their own forces, but don’t have to. This approach works especially well for smaller games, though I was brought up on it playing massed battle games. The only real skirmish game I can remember playing there was in 54mm scale. Ah, those were the days. Back when scales actually meant what they said…
I managed to get out of the cyle when i sold just about every thing bar my Khador, Hordes minions, & i bought DreadBall but i really wanted a Sci-Fi battle game so i tried to get my group playing various games to little avail so I’ve wound up trading painting services for and Imperial Guard army.
I feel i have sullied myself but at least i havent given any money to GW for it.
You didn’t escape James, you’re just in remission 😉
Ha, too true 🙂
I’ll have to keep this short and sweet and my apologies if this duplicates what has already been said. No, there’s always room in the market for a game which is good enough and/or well marketed enough.
well i’m i’m a sucker for new shiny minis and i’m sure most gaming geeks are :). If the game has cool looking stuff and its fun to play and not to much work on the old grey matter i’d buy into it.
Also it would have to have good regular support with very different minis from whats already on the market. I’m always moving onto the next best thing anyway so it wouldn’t take much for me to buy into it 😉
I believe that a genre can be saturated individually from a variety of factors, the main being:
1) Experience from mechanically playing a game
2) Miniature design
3) Game universe background, which I will call “fluff”
4) The community
5) And what I call the Adoption Cycle (or Hoarding delusion)
I think that this can make the war-game market a tougher nut to crack.
1) Experience from mechanically playing the game – I believe that a genre can be saturated when the experience from mechanically playing the game is identical to an existing and already experienced game. I think any fantasy based wargame that included similar mechanics, such as Ugo-Igo, and “hit, wound, save”, would feel that it was entering a saturated market just when compared against Warhammer alone. The difficulty, I imagine, would be to differentiate your mechanics without just creating differences for variance sake.
Experience is a big deal. It only feels fresh once. As an indirect example, Frank Sinatra was disconcerted that his set of song performances was receiving a tepid applause from the audience during a run of shows. What he didn’t know was that Dean Martin had begun to sing Frank’s exact set of songs, just earlier in the show. Frank, in the green room, didn’t know. The audience undoubtedly admired Frank’s singing, but couldn’t inspire a better applause for songs they had just heard minutes earlier.
2) Miniature design –The first time that I buy, build and paint a unit of warrior men, I get all the fun of the miniature design and the utility of using them in a game as a unit. The second time I buy the same approximate miniatures for a different game, I’m really only getting the fun of the miniature design (which can be enough, fellow hoarders). If I just wanted the utility, I could use the miniatures I already own and have painted. New miniature games in the same genre have a real risk that the miniatures are entering a saturated market defined by the individual, even if the experience of playing is different. The buy-in might feel like re-treading old ground.
Privateer Press hit a home run with their design. Their entire range is unique. Substitutions would take effort. The WarMonkeys (my nerd click) adopted Warmachine when it came out. And although it eventually wasn’t our cup of tea, the miniature design portion never felt like re-walking the same field. For its narrow field, WarmaHordes has no competitor. Ironically, I felt like the multiple incarnations of essentially the same warmachines began to saturate the game within itself.
3) Fluff – I think that we canonize the things that inspire and fascinate us. We certainly do so for the things that involve our time and money. The fluff becomes an integral part of our D&D games, and also our war-games. The saturation point isn’t so much that the fluff might be similar, or innovatively different and new. It may be saturated because we as individuals don’t want to leave the universe we’ve been playing in behind.
BattleStar Galatica (1970s version) was a brilliant show for the time, with spectacular special effects, but it didn’t seem there was any room in my heart for it. Star Wars was my chosen universe. Everything else seemed silly (and yet, Star Wars was silly in its own right).
4) The Community – Being in the niche of a niche hobby isn’t rewarding. There is a very nice dude that shows up at the local hobby shop with his LOTR miniatures looking for a game, and I think, gets one every blue moon. I think I’ve seen him play twice in a few years, and yet I’ve seen him in the store more than 30 times.
The saturation for the community is, logically, localized. When I visited Napoleon’s hobby shop in the mid-west (I live in the northwest), I saw games I never knew existed, such as Gwar: the Miniatures Game (whoa!). The community was large enough and diverse enough, that the market wasn’t saturated before Gwar got there.
However, where I live, if you don’t play WFB, 40K, or WarmaHordes, you will be building a community yourself.
5) Adoption Cycle/Hoarding Delusion – Gamers act a bit like hoarders in that they buy materials and books for the promise of future fun experiences. The hobby takes a lot of prep work to get to the spot where you can play at the level you want (painted army, nice table, confident with the rules, etc). A new game entering the market when the cycle isn’t finished for an individual is fighting against the investment of future fun experiences.
Sure, I might buy the shiny, but just a bit. I won’t fully commit with new armies unless I’m willing to give up (at least in part) future fun experiences I’ve already imagined with the game I’m involved in currently.
Just some thoughts…. I reserve the right to be full of crap. 😛
About 5) It is also possible that a new rules book makes the past investment in time in terrain and figures feel more valuable. I know when I was playing Warhammer 40k and Necromunda or Gorkamorka with same Ork figs I felt like they were of more valuable. Skirmish games are great in that:
1) I can use figs I already have.
2) I can purchase a small number of figs for that game.
3) I can start a new army with this game and build up to playing another.
4) They are often faster so I can play when time doesn’t allow for larger games.
That´s where Dust Tactics really hit the soft spot. You can start with the board game that does not take a lot of money and slowly build your force. Once you have a couple of minis you just need to buy the Warfare book and can reuse your whole collection of minis for it.
Some really good points.
‘Relative Saturation’ of this type is probably the toughest nut to crack for publishers.
The question they must ask is How do i get my game to be a lynch-pin of peoples gaming groups?
Maybe thats why we’re seeing more and more skirmish or semi skirmish games as they are easier to accomodate both financially and in terms of time needed to play them.
An excellent post Brad. Exactly the kind of well-reasoned thinking I was hoping for 🙂
I disagree with some details, but on the whole I think that most of what you say is true. However, it’s a complex problem and as James says below, some of these same factors can be seen as positive as well as negative drivers. For example, a game which uses a familiar mechanic may be seen as a good thing because the reduced learning time makes it easier and faster to get from the initial “promise of future fun” to having the fun itself. This is the basis for concepts such as my Eternal Battle project.
It’s definitely a fun conversation and it becomes so multi-faceted the more peoples’ experiences are infused into the dialogue. James’ point about similar play lowering the entry barrier actually decribes my history of GW game playing. Ha! James nailed it. One game did lead to the next precisely because they were similar experiences AND a long history of investment in time.
One of my favorite proverbs (and one that hopefully keeps me humble) –
In a lawsuit, the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines. – Proverbs 18:17
If it wasn’t crowded when their was only D&D, Reaper, Laserburn, and Car Wars it isn’t over crowded now.
I really wish gamers could get past this issue. In general the ‘fluff’ is a cultural commonality (after all this is where it is from, especially in the fantasy genre). Sometimes changing up the ‘mythological setting’ of a game system can introduce new and exciting elements, but I find it disappointing when old favorites are left out or marginalized just to ‘be different’.
From my limited observations I think people get involved in new game systems for a few different reasons: they might not enjoy current rule sets, a setting and game they did like was ruined by marketing schemes, or they enjoy a setting/game that is no longer produced/supported.
I think it would be a real shame if free market competition was stiffled and gamers were only allowed one fantasy game and one future game, etc.
Being different is always a thorny issue. If you do the familiar fantasy races then you are criticised for being unoriginal, and if you do all weird stuff you almost invariably have poorer sales. Sad, but true. Every so often something bucks this trend though that’s a rarity and many commercial ventures won’t back that horse – hence the repetition we see in the marketplace. My personal favourite tactic these days is to start with the familiar and then twist it slightly and/or drift off in new directions.
The gaming market does suffer from saturation occasionally, but that’s mostly because (sorry) historically speaking, the main players have proven incapable (or, more likely, unwilling) to try to expand their core market. Instead, they rely on forced obsolescence to drive demand.