Monday, May 4, 2015

Konami Konfuses Yet Again

Next weekend is the Sneak Peek for the new Yu Gi Oh release, Crossed Souls (which is rather a cool name for anything, much less a card set). Also on that same weekend, though, is the latest Konami sponsored Demo Day for Yu Gi Oh.

 For those not familiar with Konami Demo Days, they are designed to encourage current players to bring in a new player by offering a play mat and a bonus to the new player.  It doesn’t usually work that way in practice since Yu Gi Oh play groups are pretty limited and not great about recruiting fresh players. What’s strange about the choice of marketing strategy here is running two marquee events on the same day. 

 Generally what this produces is what marketers call cannibalization. The traffic that the Sneak Peek generates is the same traffic that the Demo Day event would pull in. You are not creating new traffic or pulling people  in on a different day. Instead, Konami is spending perfectly good money to pull people in to the Demo Day that would have come in for the Sneak Peek, blunting the effect of both events on one day and forgoing the opportunity to use one as a draw for another day. Maybe Konami has a subtle marketing plan here but I don’t see it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Another promotional program rolling out this week is the AsmoPlay program, which I discussed a few weeks ago. Very nice idea but stores are committed to buying all three of the kits which contain two of each of the games in the program:  Splendor, Cash ‘n  Guns and 7 Wonders, along with assorted promo items. The problem is, and why we decided to pass on it, most stores don’t need two copies of a game in their game demo library. Multiple copies are useful if you want to run a tournament, which Asmodee encourages stores to do with the kits, but honestly, more stores would make use of a single copy for demos rather than finding storage space for 6 games that we cannot sell.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bounceback Experiment

Following up our bouceback coupon promotional strategy from International TableTop Day, wherin we gave players in various games over the day a coupon good for $1 off a game featured on the TableTop series on the following weekend, the idea being that customers will return the following weekend or “bounceback” to use the coupon. Given the number of coupons we gave out, I would have considered 5-10 of them turned in a successful application of the strategy. Unfortunately, we received a grand total of 1 (one).  Ah, well, there is always Free RPG Day (You do know about Free RPG Day, right?).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Origins Awards Nominees

The 2015 Origins Awards nominees were announced earlier this week. Mildly bemused to see that, given how the historical miniatures aspect of the hobby has retreated to online and convention sales, making up such a small segment of the industry, how many nominees there are in the historics category.

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to Encourage Me Not to Carry Your Game

The main reason we stock a game is customer demand. If customers ask for a game, we will try to get it, although sometimes it is just really really difficult (Superfight, I'm looking at you). However, if there is little to no demand for a game but we think we might see some in the future, we will consider stocking it. However, there are two things a publisher can do in this situation to really kill our interest in an individual game or their product line as a whole:

1) Use Kickstarter over and over and over (and over). oh and by the way, add on promos and special items to backers that make the game more enjoyable and playable or just cooler that stores won't have access to once the product launches (if ever) into distribution. This attracts most of the people interested in your game and, especially if you are a small publisher, means the majority of my customers for your product already bought it.

2) Short discount your product. Discounts (the difference between what a store pays for a product and what we sell it to the consumer) average somewhere between 40% to 50% when a store buys direct or through distribution. If the discount on your product falls below 40%, you have to make a very compelling case why stores should allocate scarce capital to bring in your game, rather than one that could do equally well, if not better, and generate more profit for the store. For that matter, why should I just not take that money and invest it in Magic or dice, which I know will sell and generate a profit.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Vs. Re-releasing

Upper Deck has announced a relaunch of its defunct Vs. trading card game only this time as a constructed card game, ala Fantasy Flight Games Living line of card games. The idea is that players buy the base set and expansion packs, using the cards that they want to construct their play decks. Unlike a trading card game, every player has access to the same cards in the total card pool, so ownership of a rare powerful card will not prove the advantage it does in trading card games such as Magic and Yu Gi Oh!

Vs. launched in a big way in 2004 with thousands of players, many of which were drawn by the big money championships Upper Deck funded, paying out, in some cases $10,000 to the winner. UD has decided that this proved such a successful tactic that it already has announced $10,000 championships for both Vs. and the Legendary customizable card game, ignoring the fact that the money was not able to sustain a strong player base and Upper Deck discontinued the game in 2009. Maybe they will take what they learned from the previous collapse of the game and apply it to this version, but somehow, given that they plan to push big money championships as a draw for players.

Monday, April 13, 2015

6 Takeaways on TableTop Day

International TableTop Day has wound down at the store to a game of Castle Panic, some Magic players and a charity game of Cards Against Humanity (No, not charity for the players. Each player had to donate 5 cans of food for the local food pantry for a seat at the table) going on in the back, so now seems like a good time for some quick reflections on today’s event. So the following six items in no particular order:

1)      I’m tired, and so is my staff. We have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 48 hours over the past month putting this event together and hosting it. We wanted to make sure that the players (whether or not they bought anything) had as good a time as we could present to them. That takes quite a bit of planning, more so than we brought to the two previous TableTop Day events.

2)      It was worth it and yet it wasn’t. We really did put in more planning and work on this event that we did the previous two TableTop Days and sales compared to a typical April Saturday showed it, with today’s sales up a healthy 40% above what I would expect. However, comparing today’s sales to last year’s TableTop Day sales, we had a statistically insignificant increase. So more work on the event, much more community outreach (4 media mentions the week prior to TTD) for the same amount of sales.

3)      We won’t know the full results for at least another week. All players received bounceback coupons, giving them a buck off a TableTop featured game or a game from our used section, for each game they played. These are good only next weekend so I want to track how many people come in to redeem them. I expect to see about 5 to 10 redeemed so would be ecstatic to get 10 to 20 back (typically coupons like this have very low redemption rates but I wanted to make sure that every player left with something with the store’s name on it.

4)      The TTD kit kinda worked. Unlike some stores, we had no promo hounds coming to the store specifically to get some of the promos, especially the Felicia Day Dead of Winter character pack, which as I write this sells for $30-$45 on line but I did have a couple of customers/players say that they chose to come to our store rather than play at one of the other local stores because they knew we had made the effort to get the promos. However, as I mentioned in a previous column, if a company wants to put a promo in the kit, they need to produce enough of them so that we can give them out to a reasonable number of players. Fantasy Flight Games, Steve Jackson Games and Looney Labs did good including 8-14 promos, Plaid Hat Games, Days of Wonder and Crash Games did not, only including 2 promo items. I know a lot of stores who passed on the kit and, unless there are changes, more will likely pass next year.

5)      Timing. The Perfection Fallacy came into play again. We received our kit on Thursday and I heard of some stores not receiving theirs til Friday, not nearly enough time to generate excitement in the store by showing off the promos to customers. Receiving them a week before the event and the poster 2-4 weeks would have allowed better use of those items TTD by stores.

6)      The Evolution Pack. North Star Games included a pack of items for their Evolution board game but with no explanation regarding how to distribute them. Was everything to go to one player or was the pack designed to get broken up and distributed to several players? I can figure out what to do with a single card but not with a collection of items like this.

Overall, I am happy with the results. Customers had fun and we had significantly higher sales. Already thinking about next year’s event and I hope the nice folks at TableTop are too.