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Links: Japanese Coyotes, Monopoly’s Somewhat Secret History, and Licensed to Kill (Your Business)

by W. Eric Martin

• One thing I try to keep in mind in all that I do is that the world of games and game players is vast, far larger than whatever I see on BGG or at conventions. Titles will buzz in the Hotness, and folks make a big to-do about a new game being ranked #1, but most game-playing activity takes place with no media coverage, with no one recording videos or posting pics on social media.

I was reminded of this yet again when I ran across a Feb. 2, 2023, Facebook post from designer Spartaco Albertarelli on the eight-year anniversary of, in his words, “the minimalist Japanese edition of Coyote“. He wrote (with translation assist by Google):

When I received this box [in 2015] with the Japanese version of Coyote, I was pretty perplexed, both in terms of the graphics and the idea of turning a game designed to use bandanas to hold cards on your head into a pure card game — but I was still happy to have a title published in that country and my name on a very curious box… I could imagine selling a thousand copies or so, and I would have been happy.

Just last week the publisher and I exchanged new year wishes, celebrating the 100,000th copy sold…

I’ll note that only 2,274 copies of Coyote are listed as owned on BGG, despite the game having debuted in 2003, with multiple editions released over the past two decades in Europe, China, and Korea.

Gamers are everywhere…trying to figure out what number they have on their head.

Components in the New Games Order edition of Coyote

• Mik and Starla Fitch from Our Family Plays Games appeared in a news segment on an Omaha, Nebraska television network to talk about diversifying the board game space and broadening the appeal of games to more players.

• On February 20, 2023, PBS — a U.S. non-profit corporation — aired a documentary about the long-lived game Monopoly titled “Ruthless: Monopoly’s Secret History“. The video features author Mary Pilon, author of The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game; archived footage of Ralph Anspach, designer of Anti-Monopoly; and Lizzie Magie, designer of The Landlord’s Game, which was transformed into Monopoly.

If you’ve been gaming for some time, then this history might not be a secret to you, but this video nicely details Magie’s original inspiration based on the economic principles of Henry George, who argued that land should be owned by all in society. (Note: The video might not be viewable outside the U.S.)

• The New York Times published an article by Gregory Schmidt on February 16, 2023 titled “Magic: The Gathering Becomes a Billion-Dollar Brand for Toymaker Hasbro“, with sales of the thirty-year-old game far surpassing Transformers, G.I. Joe, and other brands. Specifically, “Magic generated nearly $1.1 billion in revenue in 2022, up 7 percent from the year before. The game accounted for 18 percent of Hasbro’s overall revenue last year, higher than its 16 percent share in 2021.”

• What’s the best strategy for running a game publisher? The answer won’t be the same for everyone, as demonstrated by a February 15, 2023 Twitter thread from designer Amabel Holland of Hollandspiele that opens like this:


To sum up the thread, Hollandspiele sells directly to customers, which allows it to pay a high royalty to its designers. Writes Holland, “For example, if Capstone gave me as much per copy for Irish Gauge as we give a designer or artist, I’d be getting over seven times as much.”

That same royalty would need to be paid by any company licensing a Hollandspiele design — and if those companies are distributing in a traditional manner, that cost would greatly raise the retail price of that licensed game. Writes Holland:

We recently had someone ask about licensing one of our games, and they made a counteroffer that was so low that it wouldn’t even cover *one* of the three royalties. They really expected us to just sell them rights to the game at a loss.

More than that, they expected us to approve a competing version of our product, at a loss — with no thought for the sales that we would lose to an alternative version. Which kinda brings us to the second reason.

That second reason: Hollandspiele uses “wargames-esque production capabilities: paper map & displays, thin box, etc.”, and a licensed version would either be ridiculously expensive (due to the aforementioned royalties) or priced the same but better quality, which would make it more attractive that the Hollandspiele version while earning that publisher less money and making its own version obsolete. Writes Holland, “No one has a ‘right’ to play a board game, or to buy it at the price they think is equitable, or with the convenience of finding it on a local store shelf. We make the games we want the way we want to, and offer them at the price and in the way that makes sense to us.”

This advice is something that all self-publishers should adhere to: Produce the game in the way that seems best to you, and if others don’t like it, say, well, that’s the way it has to be. No one else knows all the costs involved in your production or what your business goals are or how you measure success, so their advice is not necessarily relevant for your purposes.


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