FDQ: Is It Cashing In?


I got in a discussion yesterday on twitter with some gamer buddies.  It all started when I remarked about my disappointment that, with all the munchkin re-themes and new versions, Steve Jackson Games never seems to make any effort to target the biggest problems that many gamers have with the game.

Now, Munchkin is very popular and obviously it sells, and continues to sell very well.  I don’t have exact sales figures but it must be worth it to continue printing new copies and new “versions” that essentially break down as being the same exact game but with a new coat of paint each time.

Now there is a certain financial sense to releasing a product that will certainly sell, and not mucking with the formula.  But to me, that is a mindset of cashing in – instead of “how can we make a new great game?” or even “how can we make our game even better?” it seems to be “how can we sell more copies easily?”

In my mind, offering a new version of Munchkin that has the same sense of humor and “take-that” attitude but with rule changes that shorten the game down to about 30 minutes (which is about when the humor and the fun of ‘take-that!’ turns runs out) would only serve to broaden the audience.  It may be a risk to mess with the formula – but you don’t have to remove the original product from market.

And honestly, even with fans of the game, I’ve never seen anyone laud the game length.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that fans would still enjoy a 30-minute Munchkin.  They’d probably just play it 4 times, which is totally fine.  And it would open up the game to a whole new audience of people who want to like the game, but just find that it takes way too long.

Personally I’d like to see something more out of the company.   I’d like to see them take a risk, make a new game instead of re-releasing the exact same one over and over again.  I’d like to see them attempt to better their games, to listen to the complaints that are out there.

I understand the business need to make money and mitigate risk; but as someone who would like to love Munchkin, it’s disappointing to see edition after edition that makes absolutely no change to the formula.  I will never pick up a new version of Munchkin and I will never recommend the game to anyone else until something is different.  And as a leader in the board-game-publishing world, SJGames of all companies seems like it should be able to take some risks, and try something new.

So, what about you guys? Do you wish that publishers like SJGames should be more proactive in updating/fixing game rules, or do you think that SJG is totally right in its business strategy?  Answer in the comments

Futurewolfie loves epic games, space, and epic games set in space. You'll find him rolling fistfuls of dice, reveling in thematic goodness, and giving Farmerlenny a hard time for liking boring stuff.

Discussion5 Comments

  1. I often feel the very same about Looney Labs, each year brings 3 or 4 new versions of Fluxx which never improve upon the original. (The addition of Creepers several years ago, actually hurts the original game.) Now they’re re-packaging their other games and not creating anything substantial or new. Gone is the creativity of their early work. It’s disappointing, but they still make money…so I remain vocal minority on this.

  2. Its completely a cash-in, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Munchkin is incredibly popular for a reason. So you have the same audience that loves Munchkin, but now they can make Vampire jokes or Old West jokes or whatever. Even though you aren’t a fan, for the people that like Munchkin, the re-themes are awesome.

    What gets me is the potential decline in quality. I haven’t been keeping up on all things Munchkin, but a friend of mine grabbed Zombies a while back. I expected the same kind of puns and word play that really tickle me. Instead, there were almost no puns. The “humor” was just things like “His headgear is a toilet seat. Ha ha! Get it, because there’s a toilet!” Stupid, inane, and without the humor, the game is … not fun.

    Re-themes don’t bother me as a consumer because I simply skip the ones I don’t like.

    @John I agree with your general assertion but wanted to note an exception. Zombie Fluxx is actually the best (IMHO) version and it has the most creepers. So many, in fact, that many of the goals require creepers to win. This makes the collecting of creepers more of an alternate strategy (to the extent Fluxx has strategy) than just a pile of stuff you have to get rid of before you can win.

  3. I guess since it’s a working business strategy so it’s hard to argue against it, but I feel the same way you do, Wolfie. It would be nice if SJG would put some effort into new versions. I would love to see some new, creative games from SJG. A shorter version of Munchkin would be great. I really want to like Munchkin, but I’ve played a few games that’ve lasted close to an hour and a half and wished they were done a LOT sooner.

  4. Taking a look at their “upcoming products” page, I see six more Munchin games on the horizon, including a Christmas edition. That’s just astounding, considering it is at best a mediocre game (but then, how many versions of Monopoly, Risk, etc have the big companies cashed in on over the years?)
    It looks like the last thing they’ve done that actually required at least a little bit of creative thought was probably Revolution back in 2009, and considering that game is basically a slightly more advanced version of paper-rock-scissors, saying it was creative may be a bit of a stretch (but it does at least have a high production value for an SJG game).
    It makes me kind of sad really, as back when I was a kid I used to be really into stuff like Car Wars, Ogre, Illuminati, etc – but when you look at their product line now 25+ years later, they frankly haven’t done a hell of a lot since then.

  5. I think it’s an oversimplification to call Revolution a souped up rock, paper, scissors. Have you played it? That’s how the currency works, but that’s not the whole of the game.

    On the Munchkin front, I’ll say what I say when I get tired of books that keep cashing in on the same idea: we publish what we have to in order to publish what we want to. SJG’s recent attention to Ogre shows that this is probably true across the board in publishing.

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