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The history of videogames is full of games that failed to turn a profit. There are also a handful of games that are maligned by critics, and are regarded as flops. E.T. and Pacman are arguably some of the first examples of video game flops (not in total sales, but in lower than expected sales that resulted in a financial loss). Battlefield Earth, Diakatana, APB and others for the PC that missed release dates and when finally released did abysmal sales.

What is the largest flop in board game history? I know the stakes in board games are much smaller, with print runs in the low thousands usually, but surely there must be an example of a board game that had much lower than expected sales, and the publisher took a big loss.

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The Battleship movie is clearly the right answer! –  Pat Ludwig Feb 9 '13 at 2:39
@PatLudwig, I am sure you are joking, but I was interested in board game flops, not board game movies. –  user1873 Feb 9 '13 at 3:29
@PatLudwig, additionally since the movie cost $209 to make and received $215 internationally before only getting double digit returns in the US market, you can hardly call it a flop (it made money). –  user1873 Feb 9 '13 at 13:10
Could you be more clear in your definition of "flop"? You cite Pacman as an example, despite the article you link saying "the game goes on to become the biggest selling Atari cartridge ever". –  bwarner Feb 15 '13 at 15:45
@bwarner, I am interested in profit & loss on a game. For example, even though Pacman sold 7 million copies, Atari spent $15 million in advertising, manufactured 12 million, and ensured some development costs to write the game. As I hinted at with Battleship the movie, it is possible that Pac-man shouldn't be considered a flop because it made money (possibly). I am hoping that some financials exist for some of the "failures" in board games. I hear that 4th Edition D&D was a flop in the RPG industry, but am unsure if it actually lost money. –  user1873 Feb 16 '13 at 14:53
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1 Answer

I'm going to use a bit of lateral thinking to answer this question - since our site is Board Games: Stack Exchange but we spend about half our time here talking about card games, hopefully a trading card game is a valid answer.

The biggest ever "board/card game flop" that I can think of is Netrunner. Given that Magic the Gathering had recently been such a surprise smash hit, getting Richard Garfield back into the studio to produce a sequel based on ultra-cool-at-the-time Cyberpunk trappings must have seemed like a guaranteed moneymaker. If I remember correctly, the consensus among the gaming cognoscenti was that it was a better game mechanically and production-values-wise than Magic.

And yet Netrunner sold terribly, and was cancelled a couple of years later, before its second expansion could even be released; in 1999 Pyramid magazine named Netrunner as one of "The Millennium's Most Underrated Games". Of course there's been a happy ending to the story since then, with it having been rereleased in the form on Android: Netrunner to critical acclaim and I hope moderate success, but as gaming flop stories go, I think you'll have a hard time finding a game with bigger expectations behind it than Netrunner doing quite as badly as Netrunner did.

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Netrunner actually sold pretty well in the millions of copies. I think they over-produced the initial print run though. –  Nick Feb 11 '13 at 17:09
@Nick - according to chimericalchain.hubpages.com/hub/… "sadly, it's sales did not compare to those of Magic: The Gathering, and Wizards of the Coast discontinued it in 1999 after the release of the small Netrunner Classic expansion." However many units it shifted, it didn't meet expectations, wasn't deemed profitable, and was discontinued before its time: is there any other definition of a flop? –  thesunneversets Feb 11 '13 at 18:08
I'm curious how Netrunner's performance compares to one of its contemporaries, Spellfire. Which was TSR's attempt to cash in on Magic without actually trying (as far as I can tell, at least) to make the game any good. –  Alex P Feb 16 '13 at 19:18
Oh yeah, I vaguely remember Spellfire looking completely appalling. But then some would say Yu-Gi-Oh is Magic with all the good stuff removed too, and that seems to have done very well for itself... –  thesunneversets Feb 16 '13 at 20:48
@thesunneversets Saying that 'Sales did not compare to those of M:tG' isn't a sign that the game didn't meet expectations; it's just a sign that the game wasn't Magic. The game had an expansion, stayed in print for a couple of years and maintained enough of a cult following to get a license rescue - that's much, much more than can be said for most CCGs. Netrunner wasn't even as much of a 'flop' as several Magic sets were. –  Steven Stadnicki Feb 17 '13 at 4:57
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