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Jeff's Gameblog
Friday, 9 July 2004
Announcing The Commercial Chess Variant Preservation Society
Topic: Chess Variants
Tishai (and the infantile storyline which accompanies it) was developed by James Ernest and John Bollinger while the two were in grade school. It was published as Cheapass Game #10 in 1997 and died the terrible slow death a chess variant deserves.
The above quote was written by James Ernest, the mad genius behind CheapAss Games. Obviously as a variantist himself Mr. Ernest is not attacking the concept of creating or playing chess variants. I think the point he is making is that chess variants are not a commercially viable product. Writing the rules of Tishai was not the sin, at least by Mr. Ernest's lights, the sin was publishing them with the goal of making money.

Commercial chess variants, like most other commercial gaming ventures, do not make money. I admit the possibility that [your favorite variant] may one day replace orthodox Chess as the worldwide abstract strategy game of choice, but I doubt that such a process will be an overnight money making sensation. Hell, you might as well try to dislodge Dungeons & Dragons as the leader in the roleplaying game hobby. During the months sometimes in 90's when TSR was on the verge of bankruptcy and they stopped printing new products D&D was only barely outsold by White Wolf. And D&D doesn't have nearly the fanbase or historical momentum of chess.

Where am I going with this? I'm not trying to discourage anyone from writing or even publishing chess variants. Instead, I think we should take the cold hard fact of the nonviability of commercial variants and run with it. The Chess Variants Pages has a fair number of external links to commercial variants. I think maybe the best ideas in these commercial variants need to be gleaned from theses sites and record on the CV Pages main site. Otherwise, when these variants fail as products they could very well also evaporate as ideas. Just because someone can't make a buck off of selling a variant set doesn't mean that the rules of the variant are bad. I'm certain that the commercial variants have plenty to contribute to the CV community. We need to preserve these ideas so that they survive the collapse of the business venture associated with them.

Posted by jrients at 10:29 AM CDT

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