Sunday, January 15, 2006

Online rules

Sorry to pummel a deceased equine, but I need to bring up the topic of posting rules online. Why aren't the full-color rules for every game officially available online? This is a question to which I have never heard a valid answer, and one which annoys the hell out of me.

I am a rabid game player and collector. There are many, many more games that I am interested in--that I am currently waving large wads of cash at--that I have no idea if I would like. Sure, I have word of mouth, reviews, etc. But nothing beats a thorough reading of the original rules to convince me to buy. So what's your freakin' problem?

The Law

Yes, you have the right to copyright your rules. Yes, you have the right to prevent their dissemination. No one is saying you don't have the legal right to do what you do. You also have the right to create something and not sell it at all, but that would be equally stupid.

The Reality

The law notwithstanding, there is nothing you can do to prevent the dissemination of your game rules. Anyone who wants a full-color digitial scan can get them. Someone could even say to your face that they have done this, and there's nothing you could do about it. So the reality is that by not publishing your rules online, the only people you affect hurt are those who are interested in your game and honest enough not to go looking for an illegal copy of the rules. Zero upside.

The Pros of Not Publishing

The only possible reason to not publish rules online is to prevent someone from making their own copy of the game, depriving you of income. I agree. This can happen, and does happen. But for every 1 person who does this, I bet at least 10 do not buy the game because they don't know that they would really like it. Again, you lose money. Zero upside.

So What Are You Saying To Us?

Do you think your game rules are like movies and music? They are not. They are a description of your game, not the game itself. Spreading the rules spreads interest; it is free advertising that nets you more sales than a full-page New York Times ad. Locking your rules in a vault has no value.

Maybe your game isn't so good, and by reading the rules up front people won't buy it? This is like the movies. You can watch previews and read all the reviews you like, but you won't know if you like it until you see it. Then it's too late to get your money back. Aha!

Is this what you are saying to us? You want our money before we can see the rules, because you think your game sucks too much to risk letting us have a peek? Why didn't you say so...

The Pros of Publishing

Everything. Period. If you don't think that publishing your game rules online is a win/win in every possible way, then you are too stupid to be in the board game business. Don't quit your day job; the bread goes on the top of the bag.


At 8:12 PM, Blogger Steve Janecek said...

not making rules available is stupid.. totally agreed

At 1:42 AM, Blogger Yehuda Berlinger said...

While I agree that the main part of your argument is correct - that releasing the rules ultimately helps sales - some of the particulars aren't.

First of all, you don't have to exercize a right to have your rules copyrighted. They are copyrighted automatically unless you specify otherwise.

Secondly, disseminating the text of the rules is different from disseminating a scan of the rules. I can see the justification for the former, but not the latter.

Third, your evaluating that ten times as many people are lost through not having the rules, compared to one who would copy the game without buying the rules, is surely a poor exaggeration. It depends a lot on the audience of the game, how easy it is to copy the components, and so on.

Fourth, the "reality" of people violating copyright is not justification for encouraging that violation. In fact, although you don't actually have to show steps taken to prevent copyright infringement in order to prosecute for it, encouraging it is surely not a good idea. It makes it one step more likely that some other publisher will just copy the game and release it themselves.

Lastly, while I'm sure there are many other factors that companies have considered, maybe in some cases, they just don't realize that other companies have done this. Couldn't you appeal directly to the publisher?


At 1:53 AM, Blogger ekted said...

Point 3: I was using hyperbole. The point doesn't change.

Point 4: Allowing your IP to exist on the internet does not change its copyright status.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger gnome said...

Mind you, some of the most succesful companies do publish an online version of their rules. Twilight Creations and Wizkids (and many others to be frank) come to mind... And you can easily find freeware monopoly rules :)


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