22 February 2018 | 36 Comments
It’s been a while since I bought a computer. Around 5 years ago I bought a very powerful, custom-built, Velocity Micro desktop, and it’s held up really well.
Recently I was thinking about how we buy computers compared to other products. For every computer I’ve purchased in the last 20 years, I’ve gone to a website, clicked on a starting model, and custom selected every component:
This concept is so integral to the process of buying a computer that I consider it standard. But as I reflect on it, especially after 6 years in the game publishing business, it’s kind of a miracle that this level of customization is so normal for computers. For almost every other product, customization is an extravagance.
Kickstarter kind of crosses over into this realm, which backers able to choose from an array of rewards and add-ons, but it’s still a far cry from level of customization we’re offered when we buy a computer. Especially since Kickstarter add-ons are typically in addition to standard components–they don’t replace them, leading to higher costs for the backer because they’re paying for both the standard and the upgraded component in many cases.
So, just for fun, I want to ask the question: Is this level of customization viable for tabletop games?
This is purely hypothetical, of course. Imagine, for a second, a game you want to buy. You go to the publisher’s webstore, click on the game, and you’re presented with a variety of drop-down menus that show options like these:
- 60 realistic resource tokens representing wood, brick, grain, and iron (+$20.00)
- 60 custom wooden tokens representing wood, brick, grain, and iron (+$7.00)
- 60 wooden cubes representing wood, brick, grain, and iron
- 60 cardboard tokens representing wood, brick, grain, and iron (-$4.00)
- 0 resource tokens (-$6.00)
As you can see, there’s a “standard” version (which would be available from a variety of retailers as usual), and you can modify it based on your taste and budget. Maybe you want to spend more on special resources, or maybe you already have resource tokens and want to save money.
When you place the order, the publisher assembles the game per your specifications on site and ships it within a few days. Your copy of the game is built specifically for you.
Of course, there are some complications:
- The publisher would probably want to pursue some level of standardization across the company, which could work well for companies that design games in a consistent world, like Red Raven Games and Level 99 Games.
- At the same time, the publisher would still want each game to feel unique in terms of the components, and some of those components require a heavy investment (miniatures, metal coins, custom dice, etc). There’s the risk you might invest in thousands of components that are never selected by consumers.
- Manufacturers are very efficient at packaging the same game over and over. In this model, for non-standard copies of games, the publisher would be sourcing the components from their manufacturer, but they’d take care of assembly on site.
- There’s an increased risk of packing mistakes happening when each game is customized.
- The cost of shipping empty boxes is quite high, so they would probably need to be shipped flat and assembled on site, which requires special equipment.
- A publisher would need to centralize the assembly in one location, resulting in high shipping costs for international customers (though they could still buy the standard version of the game locally).
I must admit that this is a bit of an outlandish idea, which makes me marvel even more that computer companies are able to offer such levels of customization. That said, a company like The Game Crafter is almost set up in such a way that they could do this if they partnered with a publisher for specific games.
What do you think? Are there other industries I’m forgetting where customization is standard?
Also, if you’re curious, I posted my current top 10 games list on my personal blog yesterday.