Days of Wonder's business experienced a significant bump from mobile. Since the release of Ticket to Ride Pocket on the iPhone, the boxed version of the game began selling more copies, by a sustained increase of 70 percent. Meanwhile, the iPad version is consistently a top-100 app, selling for a healthy $6.99. (One sign of the healthy iOS market for board games is how well they have maintained a high price point in a sea of 99-cent games; Catan and Samurai both sell for $4.99 while Carcassonne -- pictured above -- still costs a whopping $9.99 two years after release!) Indeed, since release, the digital versions of Ticket to Ride have outsold the physical one by 3-to-1, which raise the question of whether Days of Wonder is a board game company or a video game company.
"The beauty of the iPad is that you could forget about it. Meaning that when you put an iPad between two players, the screen is so well done that you almost forget there are electronics behind that. When you sit down to play Small World on the iPad, you stop thinking about it as an iPad game and just think of it as Small World. In the future, the question of whether something is a 'board game' or an 'iPad app' or whatever it will be in the future becomes a meaningless question."
When digital versions of board games surpass the originals
Former Firaxis designer Soren Johnson breaks down the appeal of digital board games, and explains why the digital versions can be better than their physical counterparts.
Former Firaxis designer Soren Johnson breaks down the appeal of digital board games, and explains why the digital versions can be better than their physical counterparts, in this opinion piece originally printed in Game Developer magazine's August 2012 issue. If video games and board games are cousins, then they are starting to behave like they belong to the European aristocracy. The two formats are intermixing such that the artificial line separating the two is blurring, with many digital games now built to resemble board games. Consider the recent mobile games Cabals or Hero Academy; both contain the trappings of board games – including turn-based play, a shuffled deck of game pieces, a visible board divided into tiles, and transparent rules with no hidden modifiers – even though these games only exist in digital form. Other, more mainstream video games are including select board game elements, such as the collectible card mechanic in Rage. The designers assume that the audience is familiar with board game conventions, so that including cards or dice can be just as useful as any other video game convention in helping players feel comfortable with the design. Meanwhile, the collision of digital and physical gaming is changing the latter as well. More specifically, the iPad is revolutionizing the board game industry as digital translations of physical games are finally viable. The iPad's features – a large, high-resolution screen, a touch-based interface, and (perhaps most importantly) a robust infrastructure for selling digital apps – are the perfect combination for digital board games. Eric Hautemont, the founder and CEO of the board game publisher Days of Wonder, expressed his enthusiasm for the device:
The combat systems of these games were still opaque to the average player (the hard-core, of course, reverse engineered the formulas). However, these features still honored the ideal of transparency by making the results of combat clear; the designers understood that transparency was an important virtue for the series, and the changes were well received by the fans.