Our mission: Making forever games

1) The best games are those that are treasured forever

The game that will always be most special to me is Martin Wallace’s classic pick-up and deliver train game Railroad Tycoon. The moment I laid eyes on its hulking box, straining its shelf in a little board game shop in Oxford, it drew me in. After the first play with one of my closest friends, I was hooked for life.

It was very much not the first game that opened-up my eyes to modern tabletop, but it was the first that showed me a world rich with themes, drama and deep decision making. It got its unique place not only because it was formative, but because it was also excellent. One only needs to see BGG to see quite how many people have an enduring love for it. I suspect there are many people who treasure their increasingly tatty copy as much as me - by far the most valuable item in my personal collection.

Rating, hotness, hype are great - they might even be useful metrics for some things - but they’re ultimately cold, transient and irrelevant in the light of this: the lifelong glow of so many great moments playing a truly treasured game, a game known so well it is like an old friend.

Why would we settle for setting our sights on anything less than this? The thought of publishing a game for someone that makes them feel the way I feel about Railroad Tycoon is beyond thrilling. The goal is insanely challenging, but there is no better peak to climb.

2) To protect our environment we must make and move fewer things

We are ever more rightly concerned about the damage we can wreak to our planet. But the truth is we’re not always good at looking at the causes in the face. We tend to assume there are easy trade-offs to be made that do not require some sacrifice. We act as if we can have everything as we do today, without changing anything: making all the same stuff but the “greener” version.

Let's explore an example:

Game A

  • Uses 30% less environmentally damaging materials
  • Gets played once, then thrown away
  • Total reduction in potentially harmful waste: 30%

Game B

  • No materials change - focus on replayability and consistently engagement
  • Gets played 10 times, then thrown away
  • Total reduction in potentially harmful waste: 90%

Obviously using less damaging materials is a benefit. But it's not the most powerful lever: making endlessly re-used and replayed games - regardless of materials - prevents so much more damage to the environment.

It’s better, of course, if you can do both. But attempts to pretend that materials will fix it because they have a marketing value as green seems to me a kind of “greenwashing”. Overproduction looms large as the real problem - but that's a hard thing to accept. It implies a challenging and painful balance to be negotiated between totally reasonable competing forces: when it makes sense to use one material rather than another in the interests of enduring play vs environmental damage, between playing old games and buying new ones and between the games that get published and those that never will. That’s a difficult pill to swallow without any easy answers… but I believe we, as a business and an industry, can do it.

3) Great games are ready when they’re ready

Anyone who has designed a compelling game will tell you that the length of time it takes is utterly unpredictable. Some rare and beautiful examples arrive almost fully formed. Some take 20 years of re-designs, reverses, heartbreak and gruelling testing. They are beautiful, unique things that need to reveal themselves in the act of creation. Greatness can’t be rushed.

On a basic level, this makes the idea of announcing release dates while a project is still far from finished, quite silly. Budgets in tabletop are always, in reality, limited. Quality, as above, can’t be constrained. And yet, we try to constrain time as well? The laws of nature are against it. And yet, we’ve done it ourselves before - on many occasions, consistently failing to hit those time estimates while preserving quality. Each time did this for bad reasons - we were just aping the way other people do it - and for much better reasons, like that the media frequently and reasonably demands it.

But I don’t want to do that anymore. Instead, we will start sharing early: much earlier, but we won’t announce dates till much later. We will allow the games to reveal themselves - giving them time that is necessary. We will invite our players in more. We will understand these games better through seeing what our players think about them: through response to promotion, through discussion, through playtesting as these games wend their way to production and predictability.

This is all very noble. But the reality is that it is also an enormous problem for business: there are bills to pay, staff wages, rent and ongoing marketing costs in the absence of endless hype opportunities. While we wait for designs to blossom, the company is gradually bleeding out. This though, is something we simply must deal with. It means our working capital requirements must be greater. It means a company cannot be run on air. It means our company must be run very responsibly.

We will meet all those requirements. We will use best-in-class agile approaches to re-arrange our projects systematically and intelligently to continuously improve them and have enough running in parallel that a pattern of regular releases can be sculpted. When they are ready to meet the constraints that manufacturing and physical space impose, then - and only then - they will grow into “waterfall” projects with approximate release dates.

As tough a balance as this, we know that if we keep the faith here, we will be rewarded by players.

4) All our games must come from the heart

It is not naïve to say that the greatest games are those with real heart. Behind every great game is a great personal story: a bolt of inspiration, hundreds or thousands of hours spent and countless late nights endured because the creator knew they had something special.

This must be the place all our games begin their journey (but most certainly not end it there).

There may be other more commercial ways of creating hugely successful games from scratch: processes that result in games - made as if in a lab - with ever more exact and effective product-market fit. It would be naïve to think that storied origins strongly predict commercial success.

But to these methods I would say, there are more commercial ways of making money in general. I loudly applaud the growth of the tabletop industry as it is measured in billions of dollars each year. That’s a sign of what really matters: just how much people are discovering the joy of analog games in a world being otherwise devoured by the digital. But there are far, far more predictable ways to make money if this is your goal: in financial markets, business software, energy, plumbing, waste management or the myriad of other every-day unglamorous sectors where unglamorous things must be done.

Once we have undertaken to publish a game, we will be hard-headed and tough - how else could we hope to succeed in our ludicrously ambitious aims amongst a sea of other games? But we must never lose that precious spark that started it all: the art is at the core.

Do you believe in our vision for Forever Games? Join our mission:

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