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I bought the Ticket to Ride: Europe game by Days of Wonder, and it included an online registration code. Visiting the website, I noticed that some of the games had a free online preview available.

I have tried the Ticket to Ride one. It was a (Java) version of the original TTR game in not a very good quality.

My question is: Is it common practice for publishers to provide online versions of their games? Are they usually free, provided you bought the board game, or do they have to be bought separately?

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There's a great list here: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/1594/boardgaming-online –  Andrew Vandever Dec 15 '11 at 23:53

3 Answers 3

It's actually quite rare. I've never encountered any other company doing so for free or even reduced cost on their own dime, save for the "instructional" modes. I've heard there are a couple others doing so, but I've not encountered them.

Several 3rd party developers have made money by paid subscriptions to their sites and hosting lots of games under license, and others by advertising supported free online play of various games.

I've often seen companies link to such venues.

Days of Wonder used to only give you 6 months access to their online lobby with a game, but it allowed access to all games. Now, they provide access to just the games purchased, but noting that a few unsupported games are able to be accessed free (Including Queen's Necklace online...).

Also note: Many electronic versions of various games are unlicensed - there are a few dozen free versions of Monopoly that are actually not licensed; the official version isn't free.

Keep in mind: most boardgame companies are not staffed with programmers; DoW is an exception.

Update 3/5/2012: I've since noticed others doing so. Amarillo Design Bureau licensed a programmer to create and maintain SFB-Online. A couple other companies have likewise placed electronic versions of their games up as pay to access; most of the "unfree" access now is advertising supported or is in-game payments.

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This is becoming increasingly common practice, driven by the lounge console game markets and the rise of tablets. It's not yet standard, however, and depends on the publisher. Days of Wonder in particular have been doing a lot along these lines.

It's not usually free; generally the online game is expected to pay for itself separately. However, it's common for the online game to be cheaper, or to have a free promotion.

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There are a huge number of modern board games to play digitally now.

For most games, there is very little hope for the publisher to make any money out of it, considering the cost of development. Only for a tiny number of games, I think, it is a viable option.

Most board game apps are not free.

On browsers however, the huge majority of conversions are free. In that case, publishers ask for less, usually nothing to license their games (one big platform actually asks for money!). Online play is used as an advertizing tool. The more people can try the game online and enjoy it, the more chances they will buy the physical game.

Usually games that are free-to-play on online platforms are less polished than apps, but they also tend to have a much longer life. With many apps, it is hardly possible to find anyone to play with after a couple of days after release.

Please check out Happy Meeple (http://www.happymeeple.com/fr/). This is the most beginner-friendly online platform. It has tutorials, good AI, no waiting time, sound/music, animations. It has fewer games than others but they are clearly more polished, easy to understand, quick to play. It is the perfect place to start with the hobby.

I hope this is useful.

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