27 February 2020 | 146 Comments
I’m having a bit of an internal debate with myself, so today I’m going to ramble a bit about deluxe versions of games. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the poll and/or the comments.
Back in my Kickstarter days, I loved the concept of the premium option. It’s still featured on many projects today: There’s a core reward (the retail version of the game), and under it is a premium version of the reward (a deluxe version of the game). Creators use that data to make enough deluxe games for Kickstarter backers (plus a small buffer), and then they proceed to manufacture the retail version on an ongoing basis if it’s a hit.
But for publishers like Stonemaier Games that don’t use Kickstarter and sell mostly through distribution, offering both standard and deluxe versions of the same game is a dilemma.
This is on my mind today because I’m working on a big game that I’d love to sell for an $80 MSRP at most. I’m already pushing that barrier with the standard components. But there are few non-essential components I’d really like to add. Usually I’d simply offer them ala carte on our webstore, but I’m also considering a deluxe option. That’s the debate.
Below are the two options and why I like each of them.
Standard Game Only with Optional Add-Ons
- Brand Consistency: My goal for every Stonemaier Game is for it to feel like a deluxe game out of the box. That was the strategy for all of our post-Kickstarter games: Charterstone, My Little Scythe, Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Wingspan, and Tapestry. I like the idea of maintaining that consistency for the Stonemaier brand.
- Eliminate Consumer Confusion: There’s so much potential for confusion if you offer multiple versions of a game. We still get questions about different versions of our games that were on Kickstarter, even though it’s been 5 years since we closed that chapter with Scythe. Maybe you see a friend’s game or a game on a review video and then you buy the standard version, only to learn that the game you wanted was the deluxe version.
- Ease of Manufacturing: If you’re just making one game plus some add ons, they’re each a separate product that you produce as needed (this makes demand forecasting easier). But if there’s a standard and a deluxe game with overlapping components, it’s better to produce them at the same time for economies of scale, even though one might be selling faster than the other.
- Consumer Flexibility: When you’re buying a game, you may not know at that point how much you like it, so you may start with just the core game. If you love it and know you’re going to play it for a long time, you can add on the fancy bits later.
- Retailer Preference: My perception is that retailers prefer a single standard version of a game with add-ons that they can also sell. Retailers don’t seem to like when the only source for the deluxe version of the game is the publisher.
- Streamlined Graphic Design at Art: It’s easier for my graphic designer and artists to create 1 box instead of several boxes.
- Increased Margins on Upsells: Selling each of the special components separately would be more profitable than bundling them into a single deluxe version.
Both Standard and Deluxe Games
Before I proceed, I should note that this option actually creates 3 SKUs: 1 standard game, 1 deluxe game, and 1 deluxe upgrade pack for those who originally bought the standard version and later decide they want the deluxe components. We would probably sell the standard game and the deluxe upgrade pack through distribution.
- Streamlined Ordering Process: When a customer wants to buy the game from us, instead of adding multiple items to their cart–and potentially forgetting certain items that later requires manual changes–they can simply choose the standard or the deluxe version.
- Fulfillment Simplicity: It’s easier and faster for our fulfillment centers to ship 1 box instead of components, and it allows them to order the same packaging in bulk.
- Precise Box Size: We would design the deluxe box specifically to hold both the standard and special components (with room for expansions, if applicable). This is opposed to making a larger-than-necessary standard box simply because an unknown percentage of people might add the extra stuff.
- More Control Over a Reasonable Price: We sell products on our website at full MSRP because of our relationship with retailers. However, if we have a product we don’t offer through retail–like the Scythe metal mechs–we can offer any price we want. So even though the deluxe version of the game might normally have a $120 MSRP, if we’re only selling it direct, we could offer it for $99 or even less.
- There’s Evidence That People Like Deluxe Versions: Despite what I said above about “consumer flexibility,” I’m endlessly surprised by the number of early adopters on Kickstarter–people who haven’t played the game yet and won’t receive it for 12+ months–who choose the premium rewards, even if they’re considerably more expensive than the standard game. That’s not my typical approach as a Kickstarter backer, but the evidence is there that many people like having that option.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider here! I’d love to hear your thoughts as consumers and creators, whether it’s in the comments or the poll below.
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