As a company making fewer new games I also felt that I should also talk about expansions to those games. I personally love a good new expansion for my games. It is a great reason to bring the game back to table for a fresh and interesting play.
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.
Many retailers are now saying that they do not love games with lots of expansions. The expansions are harder to keep stocked in stores. There is the fact that an expansion is targeted at a smaller audience of people who already own the base game so the market for an expansion, even a great one, is determined by size of the active customer base.
So where have we landed on expansions as we grow and change as a company?
We currently have quite a few expansions into development. But only about 50% are making the final cut. We are not automatically assuming a game will get expansions before it is published. We are also not putting expansions on a timeline-based development schedule. Anyone who follows AEG knows that Smash Up expansions have come out every spring and fall for quite a few years, and internally we normally set a release date and work backwards from that date.
That has changed. We now have a target date for completion of development for expansions but it is not tied to a release date. This gives the designers and developers a date to hit without it being etched in stone and also without the company counting on that expansion for cash flow projections purposes.
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.
We could have rushed out the Tiny Towns expansion so that it hit in time for Holiday sales last year but it was not quite ready so it is releasing in February. It is awesome BTW. There is no spring expansion for Smash-Up which means we are shaking up that release schedule as well. (News about Smash Up in 2020 is coming in March). I am desperate for another Space Base expansion but the gears have not clicked together yet and so we continue to work and play. (It’s tough work but someone has to do it)
I have also approved the idea of micro expansions. We have some very cool ideas that don’t require a full expansion so look for these in the future.
The funny thing is that we have published fewer games, but made more hits, which means that there are better opportunities for exansions. It is wonderfully chaotic and fun and hard to balance but we are loving it.
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.