In recent months we’ve been looking at how using game design can influence player decisions through balance game decisions and how a game can be played more often by adjusting complexity, player count and game length.
This month we are looking at the consumer side of the tabletop industry and review how players evaluate games. This week we are asking how players frame their purchasing decisions to extract the most from the monetary value of games. We’ll be looking at how replay value can influence the perceived purchase price of a game.
This wouldn’t be a question worth asking unless we implement a constraint and one that affects us all: a budget. If given $100 to spend on games, how do you decide?
How to we value games?
One strength of boardgames is that it can be a comparatively inexpensive hobby when broken down by cost-per-hour of entertainment. As movie ticket prices have continued to increase in some areas to $12 and beyond, the cost of a $40 board game looks quite reasonable. While the cinema offers a two hour engagement, a boardgame can break down to be far more cost effective for groups and families.
The video game industry has spent many years adopting a $60 pricing model on a game which can provide 20-40+ hours of gameplay content. Consumers have grown to accept this pricing model as games can provide a good value per hour of entertainment.
The pricing of a tabletop industry is often closely tied to manufacturing costs which is driven in part by the game components. As a result, a decision can emerge between weighing the purchase of a $60 dollar game and a $30 game. Is the $60 game at least twice as enjoyable as the $30 game? This is largely a subjective question for anyone to answer but how do you determine how much fun a game is?
An extension of this idea is how are games rated relative to their price. An inexpensive game will have a wider potential audience willing to buy it. Buyers impressed by the quality of the gameplay might say “Hey, this is a great $5 game” while gamers who didn’t like it may simply move on or write it off, “Well, it was only $5, I guess I couldn’t have expected much.”
The same level of forgiveness doesn’t seem to carry over to more expensive purchases. An $80 game will naturally have higher expectations for its price point and if it is met with disappointment there can be significant buyer’s remorse. Thankfully boardgames are only one trade away from something we might like better.
A great deal of value in boardgames comes through their replay value. As opposed to puzzles which are commonly solved just once, games can potentially present a different playing experience each time. When evaluating monetary value boardgames can be broken down by cost per play over the long-term to demonstrate the value of an investment in a game.
Replay value can be determined from several criteria:
- Variability – Is it repetitive or solvable? Are there dominant strategies present that reduce the intrigue of the game?
- Player retention – Do players feel the need to play again? Is there emergent gameplay or interesting strategy that may present itself over the course of multiple sessions?
- Flexibility – How restrictive are the conditions in which players can play the game? Does a game offer enough utility so that it doesn’t require a three hour commitment from at least five players?
- How do you value games?
- What other methods might you use to make purchase decisions?
- Do you value expansions differently?
- How closely price be tied to the length or complexity of a game?
- Do publishers avoid short and expensive games because of how they can be perceived?
- Would you spend $50 on a filler game that plays 30 minutes or less that you enjoy?
Let us hear your thoughts in the comments section below.