20 February 2020 | 121 Comments
In a move that surprised the game industry, earlier this week, Asmodee North America announced that they would no longer offer replacement parts for their games. (they’re still offering replacements, just not individual parts). Today I’m going to share my thoughts on this topic, including how Stonemaier Games handles replacement parts, and some things for any creator to consider.
The New Asmodee North America Policy
The full description is here, but the overall idea is if you purchase an Asmodee game in the US that has broken or missing components, instead of requesting the parts from Asmodee customer service, you’ll return the entire game to where you bought it and receive a new copy. Some of these stores may require proof of purchase.
So it’s not that Asmodee is no longer replacing parts; rather, they’re changing the supply chain for delivering those parts to customers, and they’re doing so in the form of a new game instead of individual components.
My Initial Thoughts
After reading the policy in detail (which I highly recommend doing before responding to it, as it seems that the headlines so far have been to the effect of, “You’re screwed if you’re missing a card in an Asmodee game!”), my thoughts are threefold:
- For Asmodee, this seems both like an expensive endeavor (replacing entire games instead of individual components) and a motivator (decrease production errors and even design games in such a way that production errors are less likely).
- For customers, it’s inconvenient to return an entire game (and they’re out of luck if they bought it secondhand, or if the store doesn’t have a copy available for you), but they’re getting a new game. So if you bought a copy of Ticket to Ride 2 years ago from your local game store and you lose a token, you can turn in that old game for a pristine new one if you kept your receipt. In theory. I’m not sure it will actually work out that way. I don’t think I’ve ever requested a replacement part for a game, but if I had an Asmodee game that truly needed a replacement component, I would find it annoying to need to return the entire game.
- For game stores, they’ve suddenly gained a job they didn’t ask for, as they’re now the intermediary between you and the publisher (they’ll request a replacement game for you, or potentially provide the replacement on the spot and then request it from Asmodee). Though local stores may have more customers revisiting their stores to exchange their games (and perhaps buy other things while they’re there). I think retailers are hurt the most by this strategy–I’m curious to hear what they think of it.
- For other publishers, I don’t love the precedent this sets. Specifically, every now and then I hear from a customer who says, “I bought a copy of a Stonemaier Game, and it was missing 1 token, so I returned/shipped it back to the store for a replacement.” To me, this is a monumental waste of resources (for the retailer and for the courier), given the easy alternative of filling out our replacement parts form for that one specific token.
Will Stonemaier Games Adopt the Asmodee Method?
Heck no. I don’t want customers returning entire games when all they need is a single card or token.
In our current system, if you have a missing or damaged component inside your Stonemaier Games product–no matter where or when you bought it or how long you’ve been playing it–you can fill out this form and we’ll send you what you need. We use software called Jira to manage this process, as we have 7 replacement parts helpers in 5 different regions.
Granted, I sympathize with Asmodee. We only have 9 games, and in 2019, Stonemaier Games spent over $43,000 to ship replacement parts (shipping fees and personnel compensation). Asmodee has over 1500 products! The sheer amount of resources–not just money–they’ve probably devoted to replacement parts in the past is staggering.
What Else Can Other Creators Consider?
The additional elements I can think of are as follows (some of these only apply to board game publishers):
- Be strategic about how you list components on the box and in the rules. For example, if you have a game with resource tokens where the quantity doesn’t really matter, instead of listing “25 stone tokens” on the box, you could list “20+ stone tokens.” That way you avoid spending $3 to ship the 25th stone token halfway across the world when someone requests it (again, this is only annoying if that 25th token truly doesn’t impact gameplay).
- Choose your components carefully. If you make a game with a lot of little bits and pieces, you’ll probably see a higher mispacking rate. However, if you make a game with only cards and punchboards, you may only need to replace parts when someone loses or damages a component.
- Design sturdy miniatures. Miniatures are a pain to replace, simply because of how big they are. So whenever we create a new miniature, Panda specifically looks at it from the perspective of, “How likely is this to break?” This often results in them increasing the width of certain elements and reducing the number of different elements that they must glue together in production.
- Use the shake test. When you receive the pre-production copy of your product, inspect it, then give it a really good shake. See which components survive unscathed, and if any don’t, you might consider reorganizing them or sealing some of them together so they’re pristine when your customers open the box.
What Do You Think?
As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts! If you’re going to criticize Asmodee’s strategy–which you’re welcome to do respectfully and constructively–please make sure you actually read their full announcement first. Will this have any impact on your desire to buy Asmodee’s products?
Also read: Kickstarter Lesson #53: Replacement Parts
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