Preview Playthroughs Harming a Game?

Ok, it’s Friday night and I’ve had a bit to drink, so I thought I would opine on something that I’ve seen over the last couple of days (hopefully in a non-offensive manner).

I watched the Dice Tower “Testing Tuesday” playthrough of Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein by Plaid Hat Games (designed by Dan Blanchett with art by Mikhail Palamarchuk and Tony Sart).

I’ve been anxiously awaiting this game since I saw the awesome “how to play” from Girls Game Shelf and all of the accolades on Twitter from people like Meeple Lady (an awesome follow on Twitter if you aren’t already). It’s sitting in a pre-order right now, and apparently Plaid Hat has said that there’s been a production delay and it may be a month or longer before it’s available via retail (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

Anyway, Tom, Sam, and Zee played the game, and it’s clear that this is not their type of game. It’s too macabre, and it is longer than the box says that it is (numerous complaints have been made about that, so much so that Plaid Hat has said they may be releasing a variant that will quicken play soon).

While Tom kept on insisting that he did like the game, but it’s just too long (as the game play time rose to 3+ hours and then to 4), it was clear that they weren’t having that much fun with it.

Since I haven’t played it, I obviously can’t comment on the play time and whether it harms the game. And I can’t comment on whether the game is fun, though it does look great from what I’ve seen.

However, to me this video gave a disservice to the game that I’m not sure is warranted. They were playing slow as it was (cracking jokes, making fun of things in the game like you are wont to do if you aren’t necessarily enjoying it) and I could see why it was dragging to the 4 hour mark.

Others have been raving about the game, and it’s very possible that a review from the Dice Tower (I don’t know who would do it) would be a positive review but talking about some of the faults that they found in the game during the playthrough.

What bothered me was that there were people in the chat talking about how they had been looking forward to the game, but watching this video had shown them that the game was too long and boring to actually get.

How many sales did this cost Plaid Hat?

I don’t know, but I do know that the general feeling about the game in chat was negative.

The video didn’t turn me off of the game. In fact (and maybe this is the alcohol talking right now), it made me determined to show that the game is good despite their experience in the game.

But it brought to mind something that I hadn’t really thought about.

Are these types of videos detrimental to games?

I’m not talking about playthroughs in general.

The Heavy Cardboard stream of Planet Steam was amazing to watch. They seemed to be enjoying it but at the end, the general feeling about the game was “eh.”

And that’s fine! It’s an older game for one (so maybe it wasn’t as bad), but the playthrough itself was entertaining and they saved the negative opinions about the game until they were actually done.

I just think some of these videos that come out prior to an actual review can be unfairly detrimental to a game when really there could be any number of reasons for the bad experience. Maybe they got rules wrong? I can’t say that’s what happened this time, but it’s possible for this or future videos.

I think they played a couple of rules wrong, but this was also just a first play of the game.  They had to consult the rulebook at some point, which also slows things down.

There’s no way to know whether it would grow on them or not (their feelings about the theme in general makes me think that it won’t change in this particular case).

I haven’t watched any of the other “Playtest Tuesday” videos, so I don’t know if it’s an ongoing problem with them or not.

But this one stuck in my craw.

Who knows? When I finally get the game, maybe my opinion will be similar to theirs.

But to me, it’s sad that so many people’s opinions were seemingly shaped by what might be a subpar gameplay experience by three prominent personalities in the games industry.

I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

What do you think?

Let me know in the comments.

11 Comments on “Preview Playthroughs Harming a Game?

  1. Interesting matter! I don’t feel particularly qualified to comment on videos (as I barely watch any video content), so I’ll go a bit more general:
    1. The big board game content producers have a tremendous influence over purchasing decisions. I am not sure how much they can hurt a game’s sales (as the negative preview/review/whatever still gives more visibility to a game), but positive assessments by a big outlet can give a big boost.
    2. You know what comes with great power? Yup, great responsibility. In my point of view, that includes doing thorough preparation for your content and a good sense for when to not post something because you feel you are not doing the game justice (not saying there cannot be negative reviews etc. – you should just feel like you have a solid foundation for your assessments). And I feel that the Dice Tower often prioritizes churning out as many videos as possible instead. As a business model, that seems to be working for them. I just hope other approaches work as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The thing is, this was a live-stream. And it is titled that they are basically “testing” a game. It’s understood that they haven’t played it before and they’re just “trying it out.”

      I don’t know how much the audience actually gets that sometimes, though.

      The audience was making decisions based on their substandard play of the game. And yes, some of the stuff they mentioned is totally legitimate, but I’m not sure how much the audience (or at least those in the chat watching it live) get that distinction.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s no surprise to me that the dice Tower didn’t enjoy it. As a family friendly group they tend to stay away from such macabre themes.

    As to wether it’s a bad idea to show testing games. I think it’s fine. Even though some games lend themselves more to this format than others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t have a problem with it in general, but I do think it’s a shame when some people who may not have the same problems with the game that they did decide not to get it because they saw a substandard playthrough.


  3. To be honest, a guy in our group picked this up at GenCon. I’d demo’d it at Origins and was very excited for it. The first game, at 4 players, took around 3.5 hours. We agreed it’d go a bit faster in subsequent plays but it really did feel far too long for what it was. All that to say, they may not have been off in their opinion on the length, at least.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by, JB!

      Yeah, game length is certainly something I’ve heard a lot of people mention, even those who rave about the game otherwise.

      I guess what I’m mostly complaining about is the “rawness” of a playthrough without having played it before, combined with the people watching the game not seeming to realize that this is a raw playthrough where some of the stuff may be missed or might feel better with subsequent plays.

      I don’t mind raw playthroughs as long as everybody is on the same page that it’s going to be raw.

      I appreciate the comment!


  4. Interesting topic indeed. Not having yet seen the video, I agree that it could definitely put possible buyers off. However the same thing could happen in the reverse, if they really liked the game, but later soured after a few goes.

    Yes agreed, it makes sense that the review should at least be out earlier (or concurrently), after the game has been tested a few times. If I were to watch a bunch of people play the game, it’d be best if some had already played it a few times and knew the rules! DT do seem to be putting out more & more needless videos to increase their views.

    However, once the review comes out, I think potential purchasers will watch that video instead. Hopefully prospective purchasers consider more than one opinion. And the opposite could occur: I know several cases where the initial plays were promising, but after a while it became repetitive or mechanically boring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Buzz! I like to see new faces.

      I’m (for the most part) a positive guy, so I don’t see anything wrong with a playtest playthrough actually showing the game in a good light and getting watchers to maybe buy it. I think that’s good for the industry, as long as the “good” part of it isn’t fake and/or made up by the people doing the playthrough.

      But I do see your point that they are opposite sides of the same coin.

      I hope that they do an actual review of it, though those people who were in the chat watching it live may not care about the review at this point (especially with the game delayed until September 27).

      And you’re also right that initial plays can sometimes be positive but then the game gets repetitive and boring, so that is a thing too.

      I think this mainly affected me because I have really been looking forward to this game and it was sad to see all of the badmouthing.

      If it was a game that I don’t really care about, then I probably wouldn’t have reacted the same way (in fact, I probably wouldn’t have been watching it in the first place).

      I hope you do stop by again, Buzz. It’s good to see you!


  5. Pingback: Birthday Post – 4 Games I’m Looking Forward To – Dude! Take Your Turn!

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