Friday, December 4, 2009

Interesting link on game knock-offs

This blogger reports on a trip in China that brought him to a warehouse full of high-quality copies of "German" games, which is interesting in light of the whole Games Workshop intellectual property brouhaha we saw on Boardgame Geek last week.

The blogger wonders if the move to save a buck by sending production to China didn't have the unintended consequence of making it easier for the counterfeiters to do the deed by providing expertise.

Knowledge is a funny thing. In one sense it's priceless but time-consuming and hard to get. so countries and communities can make quite a success of themselves by exploiting an edge in knowledge. Think of Swiss watches and Silicon Valley, for example, which are based on a concentration of knowledge. But on the other hand knowledge, unlike other resources, is not fixed in space or time and it's possible to spread it. During the Industrial Revolution the British tried very hard to prevent the spread of their techniques, but factory workers and managers with British experience still managed to make their way to America and elsewhere and bring their knowledge with them.

Chinese products today have many quality control issues, which is to be expected given the societal limitations of China -- right now. But I'm old enough to remember when Made in Japan once signaled that aproduct was cheap and ill-made. Now Made in Japan means Lexus. Long after the contract for making the high-quality product has ended the knowledge of how to meet those standards wil remain and sooner or later entrepreneurs will act. China, unlike Japan, but like the United States, is big enough all-by-itself to form a complete market for any good or service. I would imagine that the numbers of players of Settlers of Catan in China is extremely tiny as a percentage of the population -- but with a billion potential customers you don't need much of a percentage to have a worthwhile market for a product.


  1. What surprises me is that it took this long for counterfeits to surface. Since the practice is well-nigh impossible to stamp out (think software and music) publishers are forced to adapt to this new challenge. Personally, I think the answer is in online play, be it by VASSAL, smartphone or other platforms, and the ideal business model has yet to be determined.

    For example, were GMT to state that for a nominal and one-off fee, I would be authorised to play Combat Commander online to my heart's content, I would gladly pay that fee. This sounds like a lousy business model, and it probably is, but I'm an uncreative and lousy businessman. If NewsCorp believes they can charge readers for online content, surely there's some way the small-game publishers can do likewise?

  2. I actually thought this would be a far bigger issue than it is.