BOARD GAMES MANUFACTURING: CREATIVITY NEEDN’T DIE AT THE FACTORY GATE
It’s an old adage, but the thought that innovation often doesn’t get past the entrance to the factory is fairly prevalent in those trying to push new boundaries. These days there is always some new technology or social media platform coming through and pushing our expectations and experience of technology.
Technology though is also having an impact on established traditional product categories like the board games business. For instance, the whole area of cost-effective prototyping and manufacturing minimum orders is changing due to the impact of technology. Whereas it was once a deep skill to produce professional looking samples of new board games, technology has made this easier than ever, and now anyone can use technology driven services to develop really good prototypes to present their products. MOQ (minimum order quantity) has long been a barrier to entry for any consumer products industry, but this too is softening around the edges as humanity gets smarter and smarter at utilising technology.
These though are fairly functional movements, and while they may be encouraging more people into the board games business, which in the end should facilitate greater breadth of games out there, it isn’t necessarily helping board games creatives to push new boundaries.
Our team once playtested a game featuring heat sensitive ink. This allowed for an impactful ‘reveal’ mechanism whereby the player could rub the card and an image or text would be revealed, and then a second or two later would fade away again as the heat dissipated. We then took this concept into another game and then went through the process of trying to get the factory to replicate it. The end result was sadly a mess, so instead of offering a really great experience we served up something totally lame as the heat sensitive ink was such a different colour that the reveal wasn’t needed – you could clearly see the end result without having to rub the card.
This type of experience is fairly typical where an innovation which should help to deliver better experiences doesn’t make it successfully through the manufacturing process. This though doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep trying to move the boundaries, it just means that we need good factories and we need to give those factories some time for some trial and error to get the processes right if they haven’t used them before. Rushing through production on a board game featuring innovation in terms of manufacturing spec or processes is a short cut to failure and under delivering our innovation. So, in the end it isn’t always the fault of the factory when innovation in re-inventing elements of the standard spec of board games fails, sometimes it comes down to our process.
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