Thursday, October 27, 2016

Commodification

A commodity is a product that is only differentiated from similar products by its price. Case in point, the Cavendish banana (yes, those yellow bananas you find at the supermarket do have a name). Since one looks like another, you cannot tell if they ones you have sitting on your counter at home were bought at Aldi's, Wal-mart, Schucks or Kroger. The only difference between them is the price you paid for them.

Decades ago, companies did differentiate their bananas. Chiquita put a little blue label on them and could charge a premium price of a quarter or more per pound because they were "Chiquita bananas". Over the years though, that blue sticker lost its value as Chiquita stopped doing anything to protect its brand and Chiquita bananas became no more premium than any other banana.

Something similar is happening in the gaming industry. Games that customers used to have to go to a specialty store to get, such as Munchkin, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, etc, are showing up in stores such as Target, Barnes & Noble, even Wal-mart, making it much easier for the customer to find them. The trade off is that the games are becoming commodities, the only difference between one copy and another is the price.

Iello has inoculated itself against the commodification somewhat by producing two different versions of King of Tokyo. The FLGS version comes with Gigasaur while the Target version comes with Baby Gigasaur, meaning that the same version of the game is not available everywhere.  Similarly, as I noted in an earlier post, WOTC is releasing Volo's Guide to Monsters with two different covers, one for the game store and one for the mass market. This may be early steps  brands are taking to protect their value from commodification.