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January 16, 2015 / Jett

The Yomi Business Model

Yomi Full SetGiven the chance, I will sing the praises of the Yomi series every chance I get. Compared to anything else on the marketplace that is trying to replicate the Street Fighter experience in tabletop form, Yomi crushes them all. I love the core concept of Rock Paper Scissors combat, which is an accurate analogy for how fighting game combat works. I love being able to manage all of the different maneuvers that each character has and the nuances that make them different. For the hardest of hardcore fighting game fans, there are so many nods to how a real fighting game plays that it scratches the exact same itch for me.

Despite that, this marquee title from Sirlin Games suffers from a steep pricing challenge. The complete first edition, packed with 10 characters and two playmats, will set you back about $100 if you’re lucky enough to find it nowadays. I’m certainly glad to have it, but it’s a very difficult proposition for even the most enthusiastic customers. Instead of anchoring the series down with a complete big box – and potentially an even bigger box with the additional 10 expansion characters on the way – Sirlin Games is moving in a different direction.

Going forward, the game will be sold in two smaller packages: Round 1 and Round 2. Each box will feature the necessary items for play, as well as four characters to battle with. If you want to flesh out your roster, additional characters will be sold separately. As part of my Kickstarter support level, I got a copy of Round 2, as well as all of the expansion characters that are to be sold separately in the future.

Yomi Round 2As far as the package goes, you still get a great Yomi experience. The characters that come with the Round 2 set are great to play with, and the inclusion of a scoring board, gems for health tracking and a knockdown token give you everything you need to get started. If you really want to master this particular set of characters, this will keep you busy for a long time. Better yet, if you already have the first edition of Yomi, this is a great way to expand your existing collection. However, depending on how I look at it, I struggle with the value proposition, particularly around character variety.

Compared to similar board games, the amount of playable characters in the box becomes a glaring weakness for the Yomi Round 1 or Round 2 package. The closest parallel at about the same price bracket is BattleCON: War of Indines Classic Edition. That fighter features 18 characters for about the same price, versus Yomi‘s four. Personally, I’m not a fan of the BattleCON games at all, but to those who aren’t as nit-picky about the intricacies of their respective combat engines, it’s hard to justify the small box Yomi package compared to something like that version of BattleCON.

Furthermore, Sirlin Games is up against precedents set in the video game world. Street Fighter II set the standard for eight characters minimum in a fighting game back in 1991. By only having four in the Round 1 and Round 2 boxes, it almost feels like you’re getting an expensive demo.

Then again, maybe they’re hoping to capitalize on a microtransaction model. In games like League of Legends, you can play it for free, though you need to pay a small amount in order to keep a particular character. With Yomi going forward, you do have the option now to buy just the characters you want and save money in the process. Dead or Alive 5 of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 already have a pay-per-character option available to them, so there is precedent in the video game market for this.

Marvel Dice MastersThe most relevant example of a microtransaction model that makes sense to me is the Dice Masters series. That starter set is fairly bare bones, but I gladly pony up the extra money to flesh out my set through booster packs and collector boxes. The difference here is that the base set is $15 and booster packs are only $1 each for two dice and two cards.

Can Yomi do the same with a $40 starter set and $10-15 booster decks? It remains to be seen, as the Round 2 box and the individual decks haven’t hit stores yet. For the sake of the series’ continued success, I really hope it this ultimately works out. I love the series to death and have put my money where my mouth is every step of the way, from owning the complete first edition, to backing the Kickstarter, to buying the iOS version of the game and spending extra to unlock the expansion characters. If you have any interest in the series, try it out the video game for free at Fantasy Strike or the print-and-play version at the Sirlin Games website. Maybe then you can answer for yourself whether this new approach is worth it.

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