Pages: 1 2 3
Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: July 3, 1998
Computer game companies spring up in many ways. Lately, we have witnessed increased movement by traditional manufacturers of toys and hardcopy games into the potentially lucrative PC games market. Among the more noteworthy entrants are Playmates Toys (the parent company of Playmates Interactive), Tiger Toys (the maker of hand-held electronic games, who recently released Lights Out 3D for the PC), Lego (the Danish building-block company that recently released the successful Lego Island CD) and of course Hasbro (a company that has successfully transformed several Parker Brothers games for the computer). While the risk and marketing strategies are quite different, this transition seems to be quite a natural one.
The latest company to make this conversion is Patch Products, a relatively little-known Wisconsin-based firm. Begun in 1971 by Fran and Bryce Patch as a printing company, it ventured into the hardcopy game market by releasing its own line of jigsaw puzzles in 1986. Its first major breakthrough came when it began producing the board game Tribond (developed by three Colgate University students) in the early 1990s, resulting in sales of over 1.3 million copies. At the 1997 International Toy Fair in New York City, the Patch brothers saw the classic board game Akiba, which had been a top seller in Europe for several years, and immediately fell in love with it and decided to distribute it in the United States under the name Kuba. Soon afterwards Patch Products was approached by Perpetual Motion Enterprises, a computer game company that was looking for a publisher. Patch then decided to expand into the computer CD-ROM market with high-quality family-friendly games, and to have Perpetual Motion develop Kuba — which was felt to be a natural for the computer — as its first release.
The biggest challenge for a company preparing a successful board game for the computer is to provide incentives for consumers to see special advantages in the computer version. In other words, if the PC version were to offer nothing more than the original hardcopy board game, why should anyone buy it? We have all witnessed too many examples (Pictionary comes to mind immediately) where the computer version is poorly implemented or offers little extra, and then it loses immediately because it lacks the tactile element (as well as the price advantage) of the original.
Fortunately, Kuba answers this challenge beautifully, and it even offers gentle ways to introduce you to the game. Instead of presenting a long and boring tutorial (I really hate those), it lets you learn how to play gradually by including a hint system that you can activate to suggest the next move. That way you can see the strategy in practice, and slowly begin to wean yourself off the hints as you gain more confidence. There is also very clear online help explaining the game and an excellent CD jewel case manual if you need it.
Pages: 1 2 3