I saw an interesting post on the Smash Up Facebook group the other day. It was a link to a post on the AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group) blog by CEO John Zinser regarding their policy on expansions in 2020 and beyond.
Last year, AEG made the pledge that they were going to publish fewer games and concentrate on quality instead. This was in addition to changing how they went about some of their sales plans: moving some game franchises to Kickstarter, etc.
AEG seemed to fall into the trap where every game was considered to have at least one expansion, even some games before the base game was published.
That’s not always a good thing.
To quote Zinser:
“I also understand that expansions were a big part of AEG’s business plan for many years. CCGs and RPGs are built to be expanded and that is often how the long tail money is made and also how you keep players engaged in those games. As we transitioned into card games the expansions continued. Thunderstone, Smash-Up, and even Mystic Vale all IMO benefited from expansions.
We also tried to expand some games that did not need it like Fantahzee.”
I’ve never played Fantahzee, but it doesn’t sound like a game that needs an expansion.
I’m a man who loves expansions, though I understand that certain games don’t need one. For me, games like Mystic Vale and Smash Up thrive with a bunch of expansions because the games consist of a bunch of cards. Who wouldn’t mind more cards that do new and innovative things?
Like Clank in Space (not AEG, but it’s a great example) where they keep adding new cards and new mechanisms, I think that’s great. Tyrants of the Underdark (also not AEG) could always use new factions to add even more variety to the two factions that are used in each game.
So I definitely get Zinser’s point. It’s a fine line between games that do and games that don’t (and games that could use them but don’t need them).
Zinser says that they currently have a few expansions in development, but that only 50% will make the cut and actually be published. That’s actually great to hear, as a game can be killed by a substandard expansion, at least for those who buy expansions, as I know some people don’t.
How many people buy an expansion and then, when it’s really bad, end up not playing the game itself that much?
It probably happens more than you think. Though for a game company who has already made the sale, that may not be a big deal. It can hinder the word of mouth, though.
Expansions will no longer be on a timeline-based development schedule. Instead, they will be on internal timelines that aren’t made public so that if an expansion is having quality problems, they’re not having to delay it or piss people off because they tried to release a bad product prematurely.
“Our track record for making great expansions is very good so I am not saying that we have made these changes because we feel our products were not great. They are great. Our goal is to alleviate some of the bad stress associated with developing on a schedule and replace it with good stress based on quality of work.”
Kudos to AEG and Zinser for this. Why stress out your workers? In this age of paying attention to mental health, alleviating bad stress is definitely a good thing.
The sad news for this Smash Up fan, though, is that there is no longer a Spring release for the new expansion. They’ll be updating people with news on the game and expansions in March 2020, and I can’t wait to find out what they are doing.
I’m not sure what this does to the announcement of the joint projects with The OP though. Are they still doing two expansions this year, but just not on the usual “Spring/Autumn” usual schedule? Are they doing a kind of standalone Smash Up game with The OP properties?
Who knows? I guess we will in March.
Now that I have all of the expansions other than Cthulhu and Munchkin, that part of me who is trying to review all of the expansions is actually not minding a pause in the release schedule. I play the game every two weeks so I can only get so much done!
(I can’t believe I got all of those links in there)
Zinser ends the post on a positive note:
“I know we have officially announced expansions for Tiny Towns, Mystic Vale, and Cat Lady coming in the next few months and I have approved final game play for expansions for a number of other projects. Just know that when you see expansions on our schedule they are under the same watchful eye as our new games.”
That’s all we can ask, John.
(Seriously, a Cat Lady expansion? Why is this the first I’m hearing of this?)