Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Board Games on iOS

Steve Jackson's games on iPhone... you know you'd buy some.
Board games are getting a new life on iPhones and iPads, as this article on Ars Technica discusses. (Pinball games too, which is cool, but not so interesting to board game geeks.) Many board games can move easily to the iPad; the iPhone is tougher due to the small screen size. Usually the big difficulty is working out a suitable AI in order to let people play the games by themselves. This can be a very tricky task if the game has a deep strategy.

(Though I wonder if this AI problem might not be solvable the way Google has dealt with translation: Brute force. Google's done wonders with translating, not through research into languages and careful rule-tweaking, but by having a zillion text samples to work with. Similarly, if you could track a board game's players over time, and record all their moves, you might be able to reverse-engineer a strategy AI... Nah, probably not feasible except for an immensely popular game.)

This does lead me to wonder: What if you took the money that you would spend on printing a board game and instead put it into developing an iPad version of the game? You could easily spend north of $50,000 printing up a board game, not even counting your production costs for artwork and such. If you weren't worried too much about the AI programming (by having a simple AI, or no computer opponent at all), you could get an iPad game created for less than a board game could be printed. True, you could only sell it for a fraction of the physical game... but then you could probably get an iPhone and an Android port for not much more, once you've got an iPad version. Let's say you can clear $3.50 on a $4.99 iPad game; sell 15,000 copies and you're in the black. That's a big number to sell, but if you could make $1 on an iPhone version and an Android version you'd have a shot at it.

Better still, if you had a number of board games (or card games) that were similar you could probably reuse a lot of the code, and get a whole string of board games onto iOS and Android. Now your economics would look a whole lot better... paging Fantasy Flight Games... Steve Jackson Games... c'mon, Christian, Steve, it's time to make the jump, isn't it? You've got a loyal following, enough properties to pour into a code base to amortize costs, a web presence...


  1. Fine article thatci completely agree with, but how and where do you go about marketing such game? iOS versions of board games will not fit a board games specialized site such as BoardGameGeek - they're not physical enough - nor are they much of a thrill for video game sites which are looking for Portal 2 - the iPhone version. What could you recommend?

  2. Good question... I'd start with the fan base for the existing board game and get them to help spread the word. I think that some of the iOS gaming sites would pick up the story, since you have an interesting hook with a physical game... especially if there's some way to use the physical and the iOS game together. Conventions that attract board gamers (like Origins) might also be a good spot to attract iPhone owners.