I am sure that people who read Boardgame Geek regularly, and use it, all probably have similar issues with parts of the mainstream toy industry, and its ideas of games. This entry goes into a rant regarding this, and things connected with it. A chuck of this has to do with the use of licensing intellectual properties.
I will say that, games like Battlestar Galactica, The Hunger Games: District 12 Strategy Game, and Discworld: Ankh-Morpork all happen to use licensing well of properties outside of the normal game realm, and deliver well for those who are interested in the material. You also have the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game, which has had a number of people speak highly of it. These designs, fell into the hands of competent designers, who care about the material and attempt to do something with it. The design enhances the theme and makes for a good use of the intellectual property. I understand that some may disagree with some of the games I raised, but they are examples to make a point and NOT the focus of this rant.
Well, what is the rant about? It has to do with a part of the industry that you see ends up selling games mainstream. It consists of men in suits going to trade shows and seeing what might be profitable. Such individuals will look even to buy dolls. They are making business decisions, but are detached from the hobby, and really aren't passionate about it. In short, they are men in suits buying dolls. And if you don't get them, you get underlings who end up not having a clue either. They are just doing their job.
When I went to the NYC Toy Fair, I ran into this. I go to one major manufacturer who sells games, to talk about a non-profit I help to found, IAGO, that promotes abstract strategy games. I figured I would want to see who does community relations and discuss the ideas of what is going on with IAGO. Well, I contact one of the guys on the floor, and he goes into the back room and hands me a rejection letter about how they don't take new game submissions. EXCUSE ME. Did I mention anything about games? No, you were just being a peon following orders.
I can also go into the color scheme of checkers here. It is black and red pieces on black and red? WHY? Well, that is what they do, even if the color scheme is poor. When checkers is played professionally, it doesn't even use this. I also didn't see this until I had the American Checker Federation discuss this. I mention this here, because at the same Toy Fair meeting, I ran into a guy who said he had a surplus supply of these type of checkers. Why was it done? Well folks, because that is how it is always done. No one stops to think otherwise, they do it.
Then, you try to discuss maybe some ideas for a variant on a design, and a company will come back and say their game sells fine as is, and it doesn't need help in sales. Pretty much the focus is on saving products and playing it safe.
Anyhow, this idea has been on my mind off and on awhile (men in suits buying dolls in particular), so why now? Well, I go to one of those liquidator overstock places and see this game:
Legend of the Guardians: The owl of Ga'hoole – Circles of Strength game
I am thinking, "Cool, it is an abstract strategy game". Well by Spidey sense thinks... OTHELLO! Well the box didn't show anything like it so I get it. And BLAMMO, the game ends up being Reversi, which is a predecessor to Othello, on a 6x6 board. Ok publisher, where in your bonkers thinking did you think that Othello was a suitable fit for Legend of the Guardians? You felt you needed to do this design? Exactly WHAT bean counter enabled you to greenlight it going out. Couldn't you at least attempt to get somewhat closer the movie in regards to the design? Why Reversi, because it represents the inner torment of the characters from the film? Is that it? Nah, more like you are lazy, and have project green lighted by doll buying men in suits who thought it would be profitable to do so. Well, I think the overstock place said you didn't think it through enough. You just played it safe thinking ripping off Othello was a fine thing, because you had a movie license.