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Svarog's Den - Board Games

What Do Game Publishers Owe Us When They Release a New Edition?

by W. Eric Martin

Given the hubbub over Gloomhaven‘s announced second edition, which initially would have no upgrade kit from first to second edition and which will now have a limited upgrade kit solely for the game’s characters, I started thinking about the different types of second editions that hit the market and whether publishers should have an obligation to buyers of earlier editions when they release something new.

The short answer: No. While it’s nice for publishers to make such things available, I don’t think publishers should feel required to do so, even when they published earlier editions of the game.

If a different publisher is releasing the new edition, then I would never expect them to make such material available. After all, what are the chances you’re going to match cardstock and card size perfectly, match the colors of the wooden bits, and so on? Such upgrade kits seem like a minefield of potential future complaints when you could instead point to your new edition and say, “If you want to ensure consistency, go with this package that has been designed as a whole from beginning to end.”

I understand that upgrade kits along these lines can be good for customer morale, but I think it’s more of a nicety than an obligation. If a publisher doesn’t offer one, I understand why due to the headaches involved in production, shipping, sales, and inventory management. I figure that when I’m buying a game, I get what I get, and that’s that, with no future promises. If, for example, a book publisher released a new edition of a title with a new afterword from the author, I wouldn’t expect the publisher to make that afterword available in other formats. Buy the book or don’t — my call.

Maybe the question to ask, as I do in the video, is to wonder at what point you feel a publisher doesn’t have an obligation to create an upgrade kit or make new material available to owners of an earlier edition. From your perspective, when are they off the hook? (I depict The Quest for El Dorado in this post because it’s a unique situation, with the designer going beyond what the original publisher did because he had created much more material than the original publisher wanted to release and he wanted all of the material presented in a larger format.)

The video talks about four types of new editions and how they differ in terms of customer expectations, then expands upon my belief that your contract with the publisher consists only of the current game release.

Youtube Video

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