Friday, August 03, 2007

Reiner Knizia is Becoming an International Brand

Israel toy stores have an eclectic collection of specific older and modern games, which includes a growing number of decent games, mostly abstracts or card games.

Nowadays, just about every toy store will have: Blokus (several versions), Foxmind and Winning Moves games (from their European games catalog, which is somewhat different from the American catalog), a series of decent wooden abstracts such as Quarto and Batik, Ingenious, TransAmerica, and a few others.

I discovered yesterday that Reiner Knizia is now becoming an Israeli brand.

Only two designers have their names printed on the front of game boxes in Israel: Haim Shafir and Reiner Knizia. Shafir is Israel's best known game designer. His game Taki, which is a version of Crazy Eights/Uno, is practically a national card game for kids. Every game store has a rack of his card games under the banner "Shafir Games".

Knizia's first game with his name on it in Israel was Ingenious - in Israel it's called "MENSA Hiburim", which means Connections. Today I saw a number of his lighter games in the Winning Moves line, all with his name prominently on the cover.

I suspect that Knizia is the only designer whose contract with his publishers requires them to put his name on the cover of his games. By so doing, he's creating a brand of himself, assuming that a number of games become popular and people begin to make the connection.

This is by no means certain, of course. When I asked the sales lady for the English name of one of these games, in Hebrew called "Catchin' Dragons", she turned the box around a few times and finally pointed to Knizia's name - the only English on the box - and proudly told me that the game was called "Reiner Knizia".

In other words, the message still has to spread. I suspect that it will, eventually. In any case, it can't spread unless the branding is there.

Eventually, having the name Knizia on the box will be a reason for the average citizen to buy the game, just like certain publishers' names do. The store personnel won't be any smarter, of course. They'll just tell customers that they've heard the Knizia line of games are supposed to be good. That will be enough.

If you've seen the glassy eyed look of the women and men who come into toy stores looking for what to buy their kids - and almost invariably ending up with Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders due to name recognition - you'll know what I mean.



Dave The Game said...

Hmm, I sort of disagree with the use of "brand" here. I compare game design to novel writing: you probably wouldn't buy a novel without an author's name on it, so the same should hold for a game. (This is a deal-breaker for my contracts, and I believe it's the same way for the Game Designer's Union in Germany.)

"Brand" to me more suggests something that has to do with marketing. Here in the States, among the Eurogame faithful, Knizia's name is something of a selling-point. But I don't associate the simple fact of having his name on the box (which all games should have) with branding.

(There are certainly examples of it... Knizia's "Poison" and "Mmmm... Brains" spring to mind.)

Yehuda said...


If someone buys a game simply because it says "Star Wars" on it, is that due to branding? Isn't it the same thing if someone buys a game simply because it says "Reiner Knizia", without knowing anything about Knizia's games?