Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It's Nice When Manufacturers Listen to Stores

It’s rather nice when a manufacturer asks a question of retailers, then actually listens  to what stores say and acts upon it. It seems to most retailers that manufacturers generally ask what stores want, listen and then go ahead and do whatever they planned to do in the first place. The recent releases of Batman Fluxx, and  Adventure Time Fluxx and the upcoming release of Fluxx Dice by Looney Labs are one of those great examples of a publisher reaching out to retailers, asking said retailers what should happen in a given situation and then acting on what said retailers  recommended Looney Labs do in order to make it easier on stores and maximize sales.

The original publishing schedule for the three releases was to release Adventure Time Fluxx in late July, Batman Fluxx in early August and Fluxx Dice in late August.  Due to a flux in the space time continuum, or more likely a shipping and delivery problem, the release date for Adventure Time Fluxx had to get pushed back to early August, releasing at the same time as Batman Fluxx. So Looney Labs did what any publisher ought to do and so few do, reach out to the people who will be selling most of their products to the end consumer, the retailers. 

Looney Labs wanted to know, should the company release both Fluxx titles on the same  day, potentially creating a greater impact  and grabbing more mindshare from the consumer or stagger the releases a few weeks apart, allowing each release to generate buzz on its own. Most of the retailers who responded chose spreading out the two releases over the month for two main reasons:  1) As noted above, spacing out the two allowed Looney Labs and stores to spread out the impact of each release, allowing stores to focus on and promote each separately, rather than  putting together a larger promotion that would increase attention on the Fluxx brand but could dilute the impact of either release on its own and 2) from a financial standpoint it is much easier for retailers to absorb the impact of stocking both games  if they can spread the “hit” to the budget over a month rather than stocking both at the same time and having the bill for both coming in at the same time as well.
Looney Labs did listen to the stores and pushed the release of Adventure Time Fluxx to later in August, releasing Batman Fluxx on August 7th, Adventure Time Fluxx two weeks later and, so as to smooth out the release schedule even more, bumping Fluxx Dice back into early September. 

It would really help stores, and overall sales, if more companies would do both of these things:  talk to us and spread out their release schedules more for new products. Paizo’s release schedule for Pathfinder generally calls for new products to release the last Wednesday of each month, meaning that a Pathfinder player who wants to pick up everything for the game has to plan on dropping an average of $100-$200 that week on Pathfinder products. Spreading out new releases on a weekly  schedule, ala Games Workshop, would mean:  1) new products every week for the Pathfinder player and 2) lest of a hit at the end of the month on said Pathfinder player’s wallet, and the store’s budget too, for that matter.  Think about it, would you Paizo?

Free Warmachine and Hordes Rulebooks

BELLEVUE, WA, August 31, 2015 – The rulebooks for the award-winning WARMACHINE and HORDES tabletop miniatures games, Prime and Primal, are now available in PDF format for free download from www.privateerpress.com.
To coincide with the release of the WARMACHINE and HORDES rulebooks, Privateer Press is also hosting a contest in which players and retailers can win WARMACHINE and HORDES prizes. Players will have a chance to win a complete army just for purchasing a WARMACHINE or HORDES Battlegroup Box or Two-Player Battle Box from their local gaming store. The retailers from which those purchases are made will also have a chance to win a prize package of Privateer Press product worth over $400 MSRP. Retailers can increase their odds of winning by tweeting their store’s name, alongside a photo of customer purchasing a WARMACHINE or HORDES Battlegroup Box or Two-Player Battle Box, to @privateerpress. For contest rules, see www.privateerpress.com/free-rules-contest.
WARMACHINE is a fast-paced 32 mm tabletop miniatures game set in the steam-powered science fiction/fantasy world of the Iron Kingdoms. Each player commands an army of detailed miniatures including a warcaster, an elite soldier-sorcerer who possesses incredible arcane power and the ability to mentally control a force of steam-powered mechanical automatons known as warjacks, and his supporting soldiers in a battle to vanquish the enemy warcaster. The fully compatible feral twin of WARMACHINE, HORDES, puts players in command of a battle mage known as a warlock who can control an army of powerful warbeasts and leads her own army of warriors into combat to destroy the enemy warlock.
“Now that WARMACHINE: Prime and HORDES: Primal are available for free, tabletop gamers everywhere will be able to see why these critically acclaimed games are loved by so many,” said William Shick, Director of Business and Brand Development for Privateer Press. “This exciting release is great news for anyone with an interest in WARMACHINE and HORDES. It will welcome new players, bring even more enthusiasts to WARMACHINE and HORDES communities worldwide, and open the doors for more customers to friendly local game stores everywhere.”
To download WARMACHINE: Prime and HORDES: Primal, visitwww.privateerpress.com/the-rules-are-free.
For full contest rules, see www.privateerpress.com/free-rules-contest.

Friday, August 28, 2015

KIngs of War

Considering bringing in the Kings of War rules from Mantic. The main reason is that the rules work well with the existing Games Workshop line of figures, giving fantasy miniature players another option to use with their exiting fantasy armies.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Games Workshop Name Change

As you may or may not have noticed, last week, in its annual report, Games Workshop announced it planned to change the name of its retail storefronts from “Games Workshop” to “Warhammer”. As I noted in one of my first columns looking at the use of the “Wizards Play” name by WOTC in regard to its Organized Play program, this is a good idea from a branding point of view. Customers buy the brand, they don’t care about the company behind it. 

Games Workshop worked as a brand name for the company during its formative years during the 1980s when its primary purpose was importing and distributing the releases of a new company known as TSR which had this really popular Dungeons and Dragons game. Demand for D&D proved quite strong, enough that GW could survive as the official distributor of TSR products in the United Kingdom and, as demand for RPGS grew along with the interest in them, Games Workshop added on more product lines to their distribution offerings. Games Workshop worked as a name for a distributor because, although I think they did do some direct to consumer sales, most of their imports sold to other retailers who then sold to consumers. However, I have never known a RPG player who didn’t think they could make a better system than the one they currently play and Games Workshop proved no exception, Launching Citadel Miniatures as a separate company in 1979, releasing the rules for Warhammer Fantasy Battle in 1983, the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play in 1986 and Warhammer 40,000 in 1987. After all, businesses certainly make much more money by selling their own products than by reselling someone else’s publications. 

However, the company retained the name “Games Workshop” as main brand, with each game line a separate product category and expanded quite aggressively into retail, launching Games Workshop stores worldwide, with each store selling Warhammer Fantasy Battle (or Warhammer:  The Game of Fantasy Battles as it was later renamed), Warhammer 40,000, The Lord of the Rings (and later The Hobbit) Strategy Battle Game, Citadel Miniatures and paints as well as other game lines such as Blood Bowl, Necromunda and Inquisitor. This practice of expanding game lines put a lot of games into Games Workshop’s product portfolio but also meant the company has to spend time and limited resources promoting all of those brands plus the overarching retail Games Workshop brand.
Changing the name of the company’s retail outlets to Warhammer is a change that, had I given it any thought in the past, is 1) an obvious change to make and 2) probably 20 years overdue. Their customers don’t come to the store looking for that new Games Workshop Codex or figure, they come looking for the new Warhammer or 40,000 product. The company has created incredible brand loyalty among its customers; just look at the number willing to plunk down $50-60 for a new codex only a couple of years after the last one came out. Yes, they complain about the price, but they also buy. Other companies in the industry would kill for that kind of brand loyalty.

Changing the store name means that the Games Workshop brand can now recede into the background to appear in legal documents and on annual reports, while the Warhammer brand now does the heavy lifting of bringing new customers into the hobby and retaining current ones.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kickstarter Pricing

Got into a discussion about the the pricing of games launched via Kickstarter and how much it impacts whether we stock it.

The answer is, not as much as it used to affect the decision. In the past, we were concerned about how much of a discount a publisher would offer on a game launched through Kickstarter. For example, a game with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price of $30 would be offered to backers for $20 through a Kickstarter campaign.  That's a pretty hefty discount but what we have found over time is that the length of time between the end of the Kickstarter campaign and the actually release of the product is usually so long that people forget what the discounted price was. Those people who bought it during the campaign get it for a price they long forgot about and those who buy it after the campaign either don't know about the discounted price or don't consider it as a factor.

Now, what pricing situation will impact our decision on whether to stock a game or not is its pricing on the manufacturer's website or other forms of direct to consumer sales. If said game has a MSRP of $30 and the manufacturer has it listed for $20 on their website and are selling it for that at conventions, the de facto price of the game has dropped to $20 and the store expects to be able to buy it a a price that lets us sell it for $20 as well. If we cannot, then we look at the publisher as undercutting  us and will look elsewhere for products to stock.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Runequest 6th Edition

I see that RuneQuest is scheduled for a 6th edition sometime in the future, coming from Studio 2 Publishing later this year, though the Indiegogo campaign to fund the deluxe version of the book funded back in 2013. I really like RuneQuest and consider it one of the best RPGs ever developed but wonder if a new edition will sell, given how long the game has been out of print and the lack of interest in the currently available materials for the game.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Following up on last week's post about pre-release burnout, players may be suffering burnout on special events as well.

Sitting here in the quiet of the evening, with MacGuyver on in the background so there are explosions, having wrapped our first Grand Prix Trial, this one for Oklahoma City, around dusk. A dozen players showed up to have a go at the grand prize, a Modern Masters Tarmogoyf .  We figured, given the current valuation of the card and that this was a Modern tournament, it would be a pretty good draw. The chatter I heard prior to the event led me to expect some 20 to 40 players in and I thought we might have a chance of breaking 50 for an event, which we have not hit in several years. However, 12 was what we pulled.

I was talking with another store owner who also had a Grand Prix Trial running the same day and he expected to pull in about 10-12 players. He opined, and I tend to give this quite a bit of credence, that the newness and excitement of players getting to play in a Grand Prix Trial or a Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier has worn off. Originally, in order to run an event like, stores had to have a very large player base and focus heavily on Magic, or whatever their card game of choice was. Now, with it comparatively easy for stores to reach Advanced status, which is the DCI level stores must reach in order to run events like GPT and PPTQs, even stores with a comparatively small player base like ours can run what used to be a fairly elite event. We often struggle to pull 8 players for a Friday Night Magic event, yet, because of the number of events we run, the number of unique players and the number of new players we generate over a year, we get to run the same events that much more focused stores get to run. This is one reason why WOTC introduced the Advanced Plus level for stores about a year or so ago, simply due to so many stores hitting Advanced level. The company had two choices, either make it harder to reach Advanced or add on another level to the program and it is likely a lot easier to create another level that it is to modify the numbers needed to reach Advanced, especially given the number of complaints WOTC would like receive if they tried to rework the numbers required to reach Core and Advanced level.

So, given the number of PPTQ and GPTs around, players can afford to pick and choose which events they attend. We have a PPTQ scheduled for next month and another local store set one for mid-October. The market can only bear so many premier events.