Board Game Companion App vs. Hybrid Game App

What is a board game companion App and what is a Hybrid game? Let's start by describing both and  seeing what can each of them can offer . This is not the first time we talk about them. But the topic is interesting and both apps really fall into the same category of digital products that make little sense without their physical counterpart. 

A companion app is developed on top of the board game it partners. It's an addition to the game rather than an essential part. It serves one single purpose: convenience. It's curious, it was the fans who first saw the possibility in mobile devices. They could be used to count points or check rules of their favourite games. The companies producing the board games didn't want to get into this field because they didn't see the opportunity for monetization.

An example of a "helper" app that really works and people rely on is "Better Settlers". It helps create fair Settlers of Catan board distributions along manual shortcuts. It's a great example of how an app can not only assist a board game but can also improve it. Even the most warring opponents of hybrid products accept companion apps and see their clear value. This is because a companion app is an optional tool. "Optional" is the key word here.

A hybrid game app has something that makes it very different to a companion app. Both the game and the app need each other to make sense. The boardgame will be most likely unplayable without the app, and the app would be an empty shell without the physical components. 

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The combination of these two worlds creates a new gaming experience.
 Should they be tool? In most of the cases yes. Board gamers are not really prepared for products focused on the digital component (like Skylanders for example) Should they be optional? In most of the cases no. If the app is optional the game will have a great life time advantage. On the other hand it will mean that the app is not really making any new thing possible. Anyway, if the app is to be optional (something that I know many gamers will appreciate), it should be a clear choice to decide to use it for the value it brings to the game.

The example for hybrid game is "Roar!" a semi cooperative board game that reminds of Scotland Yard or Stop Thief. The reason why the app is so important in this game is that it does not only keep the position of a player secret easily, but it also plays sounds that the other players need to decipher in order to find the location of the invisible pawn. This is in my opinion, a greater whole.

There is a third group of apps tied couple with board games, and this ones are the board game ports to apps. But since they can live entirely without physical components, I left them out for this post and you can read more about them in the last post if you're interested in exploring this topic a bit more!

Are you the kind of person that accepts companion apps but rejects hybrid games? Do you have any arguments for or against any of them? Happy to hear from you, like always leave a comment at the bottom!

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