Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Travails of Games Workshop

GW is having quite a few problems, it seems. Worldwide sales down 8.2%, North American sales down 7.5%, profits down about 50%. The company has slowed down the sales drop from the first half of the year but, geez, the company is still hurting. Opening 10 stores this year while closing 23 leaves the company at 87, just over 10% fewer than the company had a year ago and about 70% of those stores remaining are “one-man” stores, which only employ one person, put them on salary and let that manager, within restrictions, set the hours for the store (incidentally, according to Glass Door, the typical Games Workshop one-man store manager makes about $34000 per year, with just over another $7000 in bonuses). This is a far cry from the Battle Bunkers of days of yore, with a dozen miniatures tables set up and half as many staff members, ready to demo a game at the drop of a Squig. I don’t care how devoted they are to the hobby, one staff member cannot give customers the same attention that a staff of 3-4 can, and getting new players into Games Workshop requires a significant amount of hand holding. No-one walks into a store with the intention of dropping $90 to $100+ on GW product without trying it out first and getting infected by other players.

GW appears pretty happy with the amount of costs it has cut by moving to the new retail model. However, speaking from the independent stockiest viewpoint, Games Workshop could do two things to juice sales at my end.
11)      Remember those new players I mentioned earlier? Produce a beginners box for me to sell to them. No, Dark Vengeance is not a beginners box, it is a starter set. Different animal. $99 is not a price point for a beginners box but $25 to $40 is. Produce a box with a pair of plastic 5 figure squads (that the customer doesn’t have to glue together, except maybe to the base) dice, and cardboard range markers and templates. GW will make lots of money off this person over the next 5-8 years, give me something with which to set the hook.

22)      Give me information about your new releases. Keeping retailers and customers in the dark has not generated any more anticipation about GW products than existed before, it just makes it harder for us to know what is coming out and we look clueless when our customers come telling us about some rumored new release (that usually turns out correct) that we know next to nothing about. I really have neither the time, nor the desire to scour the Bell of Lost Souls for information on new GW products coming out that GW should be giving stores weeks or even (gasp) months in advance.

I don’t expect GW to listen to me (I’ve been telling them to stick packing lists back in their shipments for months now and we can see how much good that has done) and, Surprise, we have Space Hulk arriving this week. Sigh. It would have been really nice to have spent the last few weeks ginning up interest on this and the new Nagash undead figures

Monday, September 15, 2014

HeroClix "Con In Your Store" Post Mortem

I have to agree with Rod Lambertifo’s Talk Back letter about the WizKids’ Con In Your Store promotion. It was a great idea, help move some of their older product and give stores an event to draw their HeroClix customers in with cool promotional items. Unfortunately, as with many WizKids’ releases, timing proved an issue. We set up our event for early August, as did many other stores, only to receive a notification that, due to overwhelming response, the Con In Your Store materials would not arrive until mid-August meaning we would have to run the event in the shadow of GenCon. In addition, the other promo items, such as the Trinity of Sin figure, for which we had to pay, did not come into stock until late August, way too late to serve any use in promoting the event. I like WizKids, I make money from WizKids, WizKids Storyline Campaigns draw more people into the store than Yu Gi Oh tournaments do, currently, and I will keep promoting and running  WizKids events. However, I will likely shy away from any events like this one that give only short-term notice and don’t indicate that the promo items are already in hand.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Arriving Next Week:

Games Workshop only releases this every couple of years. We will be selling at the suggested retail price but will only have a few copies.  Preferred customers may reserve them. Non-prefered customers will need to put down a deposit

Shadows of Brimstone Boardgame

From the folks who brought you Last Night on Earth:

Coming in October!

Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients
$99.95 SRP

Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients is a fast-paced, fully cooperative, dungeon-crawl board game set in the Old West, with a heavy dose of unspeakable horror! Players create characters, taking on the role of a classic Western Hero Archetype, such as the Law Man, Gunslinger, or Saloon Girl. Forming an adventuring posse, the Heroes venture down into the dark mines, overrun with all manner of ancient demons and foul creatures from another world. With tactical gameplay, lots of dice, and a robust card-driven exploration system, no two games are ever the same as the heroes explore the mines finding new enemies to fight, new loot to collect, and new dangers to overcome. Players can even find portals to other worlds, stepping through to continue their adventures on the other side!

An exciting campaign system allows the players to visit local frontier towns between adventures, spending their hard-earned loot and building their characters from game to game! As players find fantastic gear and artifacts to equip their heroes, they also gain experience from their adventures. This experience is used to level up, guiding the hero’s path through an expansive, class-specific upgrade tree of new skills and abilities, allowing each player to develop their hero to fit their own play style.

In City of the Ancients, players will encounter portals to the otherworld on the Plains of Targa, finding an ancient frozen city whose living inhabitants are nowhere to be found. Instead, great mechanical keepers wander the city going about their duties - until interrupted by the arrival of the players’ characters!

So load up yer’ six shooter, throw on yer’ hat and poncho, and gather the posse as the darkness is coming, and all hell’s about to break the Shadows of Brimstone!

Can be used together with Shadows of Brimstone: Swamps of Death to raise the maximum players to 6.

1-4 players
Ages 12+

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Witcher Boardgame

Coming in November!

The Witcher Adventure Game
$59.95 SRP

The Witcher Adventure Game takes players on a journey across the world of The Witcher, a detailed world, rich in lore and characters, fleshed out by Andrzej Sapkowski’s famous series of novels, and honed by The Witcher video game trilogy.

Players assume the roles of four distinct characters from this series: Geralt of Rivia, monster slayer; Triss Merigold, cunning sorceress; Yarpen Zigrin, dwarven warrior; and Dandelion, roguish bard. Each character has unique skills and multiple ways of overcoming obstacles, but you decide what to do during the game: Do you fight your way to victory, call on your charm, or try your hand at diplomacy? You can bring enemies around to your point of view with a sword as Geralt - or bribe them with gold and threaten to call on powerful friends as Dandelion. If a situation calls for strength in numbers, Yarpen has his own fellowship of dwarves to command, and Triss can rely on her expert skill with magic to save the day.

Each character has its own deck of Development Cards, so each time you play you can discover something new by trying out varied characters and experimenting with different builds. For example, when playing as Geralt of Rivia, the main hero of the Witcher franchise, you can develop your character either by specializing in brewing and utilizing combat Elixirs, or else by growing your ability to cast powerful Witcher Signs.

A variety of quests invite players to hunt monsters, earn gold and interact with the characters they meet in a web of alliances and treachery. Decide whether you’ll help the other players or look after your own interests first, and keep an eye on the progress of your friends while you carefully work your way towards victory. Along the way, you’ll craft an unforgettable narrative, unique to each and every game.

2-4 players
Ages 16+
2 hour play time

One learn-to-play guide
One rules reference booklet
One game board
Four hero sheets and four plastic heroes
Nine custom dice
Over 200 assorted tokens
Over 250 cards

Jacob Gammons
Sales Representative
ACD Distribution LLC
3129 Deming Way
Middleton, WI 53562
PH: 1-800-767-4263 ext: 9945
Direct line: 1-608-203-9945
FAX: 1-608-203-9908

Friday, September 5, 2014

Creating Your Own Category

As mentioned on Wednesday, the first way to create a successful product in a category already dominated by one or two other brands is to spend lots of money and time to try to push your brand ahead of the others. This is what WOTC tried to do with Kaijudo. Needless to say, this doesn't often work, as WOTC can now attest, both with Kaijudo as well as Hecatomb and Dreamblade (and Upper Deck with the Vs. TCG).

The other way to cause your game to dominate its category is to create your own category. Cases in point:  Dominion and Cards Against Humanity. Though to be accurate, neither company planned to create a new category, rather the game play did so.

Both games entered the very crowded board/card game category, which was dominated by games like Munchkin, in the straight hobby card game category, and Settlers of Catan in the hobby board game category.  Ergo, Dominion creates a new category, the deck building game and it becomes successful as shown by the number of deck building games that have hit the market in the years since Dominion released. Same thing with Cards Against Humanity. Yes, it is a risqué Apples to Apples knockoff, but it was a risque Apples to Apples knockoff that caught people's attention and created a new category into which other games (Personally Incorrect and Love 2 Hate come to mind) have moved indicating that these companies see this as a viable category.

In both cases, Dominion and Cards Against Humanity dominate their particular category, mainly because they are both good and have first mover advantage.. Unless superior games arise in the categories, both should continue to dominate their respective category and nether will have to fight to succeed in the much broader board/card game category. Create your own category and dominate it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Passing of Kaijudo

WOTC announced just after Gencon that the company would pull the plug on the Kaijudo game this coming October. In an interview with WOTC Sr. Brand Manager Re. E Dalrymple, much of the rationale for the game's failure to do well in the US was the weak viewer ship of the tv series, which in turn did not transfer to sales of the card game.

This is the second go round for Kaijudo, AKA in its previous incarnation as DuelMasters, which is still quite a popular game in Japan and has been for over 10 years but, despite giving away 1000s of decks and packs, the game never picked up here.

WOTC really needs to listen to Al Ries, who pointed out years ago that there is generally only room for 2 brands in a particular category and that "third place is no place". In the trading card game category, there are currently two top brands, Magic and, depending on where you are, Yu Gi Oh or Pokemon. Anything else is third place.

To get out of third place in your category, you have two options 1) Work really hard and spend money to supplant the second or first place brand or 2) create a new category and make yourself number one in it. WOTC opted for option 1, trying to make Kaijudo number 1 or 2 in the TCG category, which would be almost impossible. The game could likely not event take the 1 or 2 spot in the Anime inspired TCG category, since those positions are occupied by Pokemon and Yu Gi Oh. Neither could it take number 1 or 2 in the Kid's TCG category, since those positions are also occupied by Pokemon and Yu Gi Oh, which didn't leave a lot of options left.

It is possible to create your own category and dominate it. I can think of two examples of products that have done so successfully in the past 5 years and will discuss that in Friday' blog post.