I think the complaint here is on re-releasing old games with modified content or packaging material, making them into "variants." This suggests that effort is being spent in slightly updating old games, rather than creating new content.
Allow me to inject my own perspective here:
In the specific case of 4-Tris, the circumstances of each release were sufficiently different that each release simply ended up being different. Philly Classic vs. Regular was the closest I came to an explicit variant, and that was mainly to celebrate the launch of homebrews for Intellivision.
Otherwise, I was releasing what I had available at the time, and certainly wasn't trying to tweak folks into collecting all the variants. The original release, IntelligentVision release and LTO release of 4-Tris all had different packaging, boards and labels simply because they used what was current at the time. PhillyClassic and Regular Edition used Atmel OTP EPROMs and XC9536s; later releases (mostly) used AMD windowed EPROMs, and either XC9536s or XC9572s. Along the way, the ROM saw minor tweaks that didn't really affect much.
That said, when LTO 4-Tris came out, I did try to unify its branding with Space Patrol, so it gained the LTO splash and an updated title screen. I also updated it to replace an old defunct email address on the sound-test screen with my current email address. Oh, and the PCB saw a minor rev to how we tied the Vpp line on the EPROM, so the boards actually say © 2007 instead of © 2001 to account for this. This wasn't part of a cynical "variant" play; it was simply releasing a consistent and up-to-date product line.
The fact of the matter is, though, that if you have multiple releases to meet continuing demand over a long enough time span, you end up with variants. In my most recent Space Patrol re-release, the carts are on my new JLP boards. HA HA! VARIANT! Now, I could have released them in recycled shells, but my production standards have evolved, so they get the new shells. But, that means a new label. HA HA! VARIANT! And, I've reprinted my overlays on Willy's process. HA HA! VARIANT! ... well, except I've offered the overlays to everyone separately, so you could update your existing copy with better overlays without buying the full new version.
Did I make variants on purpose? Well, I purposefully made products that meet my modern production flow. I didn't purposefully make a variant for the sake of having a variant. Variants happen.
I don't see it as being much different than INTV releasing white-label versions of games that previously had had colored labels. It met their production needs of the time, but it creates a variant.
For Minehunter, I do believe it is filling a demand. When I released 4-Tris initially in 2001, I had no idea how big the market was, and I only shipped on the order of 50 copies, plus or minus, between Philly Classic and Regular. After all, I was the first for Intellivision. :-) By the time IntelligentVision fired up in 2004, we thought the market was 150 - 250 copies. Here in 2012, Space Patrol has blown through the 300 mark. I think it's fair to say that, as word got around, the market has grown, and there's room for issuing more copies without it being a cynical "variant play."
Now all that said, when I run out of SP boxes (around 350 units or so), I probably will switch to sans-box sales, and save printing a new box for any sequel to SP.
Edited by intvnut, Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:39 AM.