Both Wilson and Ziff noted several heated debates over 3D printing in the subculture. “3D printing can sometimes be a dirty word,” says Ziff. “There is some controversy about the quality of the casting that may seem alien to those outside of our niche. You don’t walk into a board game store and demand to know if a set was die-cast or die-cast, so why is the focus on casual gamers like us?”
While MyMiniFactory and its parent Only games Based in the UK, most of their revenue comes from customers and customers in the US. They are very interested in building an office in North America soon. “We believe in localized production,” Ziff insists.
Remote control, automation, and virtualization are the pillars of the industries of the future, though Ziff doesn’t want them to destroy the authentic physical experience.
We need a “meta-reverse”
As a new era of board games comes to life, modeled and drawn in 3D software and rendered in augmented reality, we must not leave behind the physical experience that shaped them. “We must never neglect the opportunity to reverse digitalization,” says Ziff, “so we retain the opportunity to share the digital renaissance with the physical world. We call this “meta-reverse”. We would like to see a hybrid of these art forms, to see how technology intuitively augments labor, rather than a shiny, fragile new paradigm that overshadows the tried and true.”
“We are already seeing a lot of consumers in this space with a 3D printer at home,” agrees Wilson, “but we have not yet reached the stage where printing from your home results in any cost savings. It may very well happen soon, but for now we are on the verge of it, although I admit that the ability to match the quality of something sold in the store with 3D printing came sooner than I expected.
In the face of these important changes, Ziff and Wilson agree that increasingly virtualized tools bring together creative communities with much greater design power, but a more impersonal, disembodied world has all sorts of unintended drawbacks.
“Contract agreements can take away artists, artists and writers from control over their creations,” warns Ziff. “We hate to see this. We want creators to remain famous as long as their work is visible, and to continue to be paid on that basis through revenue sharing. It takes teams of talented people to bring these games to life, and we don’t want to downplay anyone’s work. These games are entire worlds that we don’t want to see limited.”
Another problem that board game collectors have long been aware of, although decentralized production has made it more relevant than ever. “3D printing has made counterfeiting much easier,” says Wilson, “and there is a strong trend of creating doppelgängers who want to be different enough to avoid legal scrutiny. Here’s how lowering barriers in the marketplace can get around both sides.”
FROM intellectual property rights a hot topic in this space, Ziff offers a more detailed perspective. “We understand that there is a line that cannot be crossed with IP, but OnlyGames would rather hand over power to the community and be able to trust it. Let’s let the community democratically judge what’s fair. I don’t want this company to turn into a team of lawyers like big companies in this industry. We want better dialogue, not more punitive legal structures.”
Minifigures, big business?
This talk of value and fakes, pricing and ownership reveals a broader dissatisfaction with board games with big impersonal conglomerates in a community driven market.
“When good creators come in and create a fun new board game themselves, we keep seeing the same thing happen,” Ziff explains. “Big organizations like Hasbro or Ravensburger discover these cool new IPs with even the slightest bit of success, buy them and launch them straight into the ground in pursuit of ROI at any cost. This kills innovation and creates a more hostile space for creating something new on the table. It’s by design.”