If you want to get a better feel for what constitutes a good digital adaption of a classic board game, take a moment and watch this video by New York Times game critic Kit Eaton. It accompanies a written article entitled, “Video Feature: Classic Board Games, Reimagined for a Mobile App World.”
As I viewed the video and read the article, it struck me that the pricing of the formats reflected different expectations. For example, traditional Scrabble retails at Toys R Us (online) for $17.99. For that money you not only get the game play but you also get wooden pieces, a heavy card board playing surface, a bag to hold the pieces, a storage container and wooden stands. If you prefer, you can get a digital version of Scrabble for $1 or $2 depending upon the operating system. In case you think the differentiation is too great, I would note that the Odyssey by Homer sells in a paperback format on Amazon for $10.17 and on Kindle for .99.
The game play for both formats are virtually the same. That means that the cost difference reflects the purchaser's desire to have a fully tactile experience as well as an around the table social experience. Is the social and tactile experience worth the $15.00 to $16.00 difference? It is if that is what you value.
The digital version does have some visual advantages not shared by the physical format. For example, the digital versions have some pretty cool 3D animation effects. The playing piece moves for you and if its Monopoly you are playing, your piece moves like its character; the cat moves like a cat, battleship sails forward, etc. I thought about Game of Life inventor Reuben Klamer when I read that this quote by Kit Eatson: “The 3-D number spinner is almost — though not quite — as satisfying to spin as the original.” When Reuben invented that spinner it was a totally fresh concept and it looks like it still is. Reuben, you were and are a man ahead of his times.
I have to say that as I read the review I felt a sense of future nostalgia for a time that is coming when the bulk of games, books and magazines will be transmitted digitally. Not because the physical formats are not as good but because future generations will not have a sense of nostalgia for what they never really had. They will prefer the digital because it fits with their world, as they know it.
Smart companies are going to embrace the physical and the digital. My bet is that over time the value of digital play will go up with new ways to experience the game (who knows, you might just be able to be a character inside the Clue mansion and even take that secret passage). Just as with digital books in which we have seen a steady increase in the retail prices; I also would bet that the price of digital gaming will go up as well as it becomes the major way to play.