On Saturday afternoon of PAX East, I was able to attend a panel on digital board games moderated by BoardGameGeek Editor Bradley Cummings.
It featured a great collection of panelists including:
- Mark Kaufmann [Co-Founder, Days of Wonder]
- Colby Dauch [Owner, Plaid Hat Games]
- Justin Gary [CEO, StoneBlade Entertainment]
- Jeff Dougherty [Founding Producer, Shenandoah Studio]
- Sean Wilson [Owner, Button Mash Games]
- Julian Murdoch [Writer, Gamers with Jobs]
Aside from a couple of asinine questions from the audience during the Q&A section, it was a very interesting discussion which touched on quite a number of subjects related to digital representations of physical games as well brand new digital board game IPs and how they are inspired by physical board game design. Other topics included the choices you make to design a digital board games that will appeal to both fans of the physical game and new players who may have never touched the physical game before and whether or not the digital board game revolution will cannibalize the physical game market.
I was thrilled to see the panelists addressed this last topic in detail, as I’ve often wondered about this myself. How does an inexpensive digital version of a board game positively or negatively impacts sales of the original physical game?
Kaufmann surprisingly revealed that the whole point of their PC / Mac versions of Ticket to Ride (which came out in 2004) “wasn’t because they wanted to make money off it, it was a way to teach people to play the game…Gamers love new games and love to learn new rules, the rest of the world is afraid of games” and tend to stick to the games of their childhood. What they found was that the exposure people got from these versions, increased awareness of the Ticket to Ride” target=”_blank”>physical game and made customers more conformable with buying, and often actively seeking out the $50 physical version of the game, thus driving sales.
It was the retail partners who still needed convincing, arguing that if consumers purchased an inexpensive digital version of the game, they’d never need to buy the physical game. Speaking specifically to the iPad and iPhone releases of Ticket to Ride, Kaufmann revealed that since the release of the iPad version of the game in May 2011 (while not completely attributed to that) there has been a 35-40% increase in sales of Ticket to Ride and since the release of the iPhone version in November 2011, there has been a 70% increase in sales of Ticket to Ride.
He went even further to relate one of their MAJOR retail partners experience where they saw three blips of notable increases in sales of Ticket to Ride board games which corresponded directly with the dates that the Ticket to Ride Pocket app went free. Each increase occurred a few weeks after the promotion. Plain and simple, the iOS apps help drive sales of the physical game. Gary chimed in and said that StoneBlade saw similar sales trends, but to a lesser degree.
There is a lot more great info in this panel so I highly recommend listening to it for yourself. It may be a little tough to follow at times since you can’t see the panelists, but you can listen to the audio portion of the panel using the widget below.