Welcome back! I hope you had a productive week. It has been a busy one for me, the highlight being taking The Hackers Guild and No One Wants Your Celery (previously The Great Lunch Swap) to Protospiel-MN. It was an awesome weekend of gaming, feedback, and meeting new people.
Anyone who has followed this blog, or who has talked with me directly, knows how much I love digital prototyping and playtesting with Tabletop Simulator and Tabletopia. For this week’s article, I wanted to do expand further on the benefits of having digital versions of your game, both on Tabletop Simulator or Tabletopia and with stand-alone full AI ports, by looking at 5 reasons to have a digital version of your game.
Digital versions provide potential buyers with a chance to try before they buy
Most of us only have so many dollars to go around, so it can be difficult to spend $40 or more on a board game when you’re not sure if you’re going to like it or not. This is even truer when it comes to backers backing a Kickstarter project.
Earlier this year there was a discussion on one of the Discord servers I belong to on whether or not having a digital version to play affects people’s decisions to back. There was one member who mentioned over 10 games that he wouldn’t have to know about, let alone backed, had he not played them on Tabletopia first. He’ll even go as far as trying them out digitally, and then if he likes them, he will write a review of them to help spread the word about the game.
Digital versions give people a chance to play your game with people they might not otherwise play with
One of the advantages of playing digitally is that you can play with friends and strangers alike, anywhere in the world. This is also the biggest reason why I like to playtest using digital platforms. It gives me access to so many more players than I would have if I only tested in person.
Digital versions can automate some of the more fiddly parts of your game, especially scoring
This applies more so to the fully ai-based digital ports, but can also apply to the scripting engine that is available in Tabletop Simulator. There is a guy I know who will only play Carsonne digitally as he feels the scoring in that game is way to confusing.
Another common aspect of your game that could be automated is the setup of the game. It is relatively simple to turn a 30+ minute setup into a single click (or two) of a button, ensuring that everything is set up the way you intended.
Digital versions are more affordable and provide gamers and non-gamers with a low-risk way to discover and try your game
Digital versions of board games are considerably less expensive than their physical counterparts. Tabletopia has an ever-expanding library of games available for play for free using a browser. Tabletop Simulator offers an even greater library of games that are available for free once you’ve purchased Tabletop Simulator. Digital ports often are $5-$20, and if you can catch them on sale, they’re even cheaper. I know a number of people who couldn’t get enough playtime once they were introduced to Tabeltopia and/or Tabletop Simulator. There really is very little preventing new players from playing and discovering your board game in the digital space once they are introduced to it.
Digital versions provide a cost-effective way for others to demo, gauge reviewer interest, and promote your game
Making and shipping physical games can be an expensive process, especially if the reviewer ends up not reviewing the game. It isn’t always possible for designers to attend conventions in order to demo their game or pitch it to publishers. Having the option to sit down with them at a convenient time for both of you, each of you from the comfort of your own home and play the game with them can go a long way, and then if they are interested, you can spend the time and money to get them a physical copy.
Whether you use Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia, or have someone develop a fully AI driven digital port, the time and effort to providing a digital version of your game are well worth it. In addition, studies show that digital versions actually improve physical sales, which is another benefit for sure. For more information on the pros and cons of digital versions of board games, check out Jamie Stegmaier’s writeup on his experiences. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Do you feel digital versions are worth it? Let me know in the comments below. Until next time, happy designing.