Let’s say you got a copy of a copy of the game you’ve been dying to play for the last few months, and after cracking open the box, you’ve found a damaged or misprinted component. What do you do?
I know what I usually do in such a situation: I contact the publisher. In fact, it happened to me about two months ago that a copy of a game I bought had some wooden elements missing. I used the form on their site, got an answer within 48 hours, and a replacement within the next few weeks.
I also know that many people assume a different approach: they start by sharing their problem with a community of their choice: a Facebook group, a forum, or Board Game Geek, leaving me somewhat puzzled. So, let me give you my perspective on the whole thing.
This whole post is inspired by a short conversation I had on the BGG Facebook group, so I am going to start by expanding on a point I made in the conversation. There is no game in this world which would have a print run 100% error free, unless we’re talking about one that was hand-made in fifty or so copies.
Any factory you work with as a board game publisher will contractually reserve the right to make some errors. To be more specific, it’s usually somewhere around 3% of the print run. Usually, the error rate clause will also come with an obligation from the factory to deliver to the publisher a number of extra copies that can be raided for spare parts – or a crate of replacement elements.
Now, often the print runs go below the said 3%, but even with the often actual 1% error rate, with a print run of 5.000 copies, we will end up with about 50 boxes that will require action from the publisher upon cracking their contents. Said action may be anything: from sending a single token that fell of a punch board during assembly, to shipping a whole deck of misaligned cards.
As I said, there is simply no way to end up with a print run that is flawless, which is why any game ever published will have some people finding out that there’s something wrong with their copy. For that reason, replacing the damaged or missing components is pretty much standard for any publisher. Also for that reason I felt somewhat perplexed at the idea of reacting to this sort of a problem by not contacting the publisher first.
I’ve seen some online complaints regarding our games as well, and every time I bumped into them, I’d go to our archive to look for the complaint shared – and I would often discover it has not been filed. This puzzles me both as a gamer, and as a publisher. It seems that the first reaction should be working towards getting the problem fixed.
Since there is no error-free game, one of the ways I asses other publishers in a problem situation is via their reaction to a complaint. There’s nothing we (or any other publisher) can really do to have a perfect print run, which is why customer service is what I use to determine if I acquired a game published by a company deserving of my money. To do that, however, I need to first do something myself: give them a proper chance to react.
Let’s imagine for a moment something else: a thread on BGG or Facebook with 30 people all saying that they got a misprinted card. How would you react to such information? Even being a publisher myself, I’d first think that there must be a big issue with the print run, despite knowing that it might as well have been a bit of bad luck: 30 out of 50 people making the 1% error decided voice their disappointment.
Those 30 people have a right to express what they feel about something that beyond any doubt is an error the publisher needs to fix. The only problem is that those 30 people telling the world their true stories would probably (and completely inadvertently) create an accidentally false one.
Coming back to a publisher perspective, I can only tell you one thing: we will always be at fault when you get a game with something missing or damaged, but unless you give us a chance to make your problem go away, we can do nothing to fix it. And as much as I understand following the urge to vent a bit of frustration built up with receiving a faulty copy of a game, receiving a confirmation that people are already working on solving your problem can be equally satisfying – and more productive.