Tuesday, July 31, 2012

European Game Stores, Part 2

Read part 1 first for the set up:

1.      Boardgames are king.  This makes sense, given that Europe is the home of the Essen Game Fair.  However, I was unprepared for the dominance of boardgames as they occupied three quarters of available shelf space in both stores. From what I gathered, boardgames are far and away the best-selling item in both stores, with trading card games a distant second, followed by miniatures and, waaaay back there in terms of sales, RPGs.  I couldn’t even find any collectable miniatures, such as HeroClix, though I did see advertising in the stores for them.  Maybe due to the channels of distribution but it rather surprised me that neither store stocked any of WOTC’s recent run of boardgames.  No Castle Ravenloft, Legend of Drizzt or Lords of Waterdeep.  Of course, their size certainly weighs against them, given the size constraints of the stores.

Monday, July 30, 2012

European Game Stores, Part One

WOTC recently flew me over to France to speak at a marketing meeting and, while I was there, I got to visit a couple of game stores that the Store Outreach team informed me were pretty typical of stores there. The next few blog posts will look at what struck me about them:

Small is the norm.  Both stores had street frontage of, I estimated, less than 20 feet, or a little over 6 meters and reached back about 30 feet (about 9.1 meters), giving them roughly 600 square feet of selling space.  Given the limited amount of space, with the exception of Games Workshop products, over 95% of the merchandise was racked spine out and, while not tight, certainly fit on the shelf as snugly as possible.  Refreshments were limited to sodas kept in a small refrigerator behind the cash wrap.  Aside from the cash wrap, neither store had much in the way of customer space in the retail area, no benches or tables to play at and no chairs for parents to relax upon while waiting for their children to complete shopping.  The exception was a huge miniatures table, about 3 feet by 7 feet, set up to play in 7 Kingdoms. The sales clerk said they kept it there to encourage purchase and play of GW and Warmachine but that, when Christmas came around, they pulled the terrain off and converted it to a shelf for more boardgames and gift wrapping,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Plethoria of Pathfider

There’s a plethoria of Pathfinder from Pazio to peruse at this point.  Arriving in on the same shipment, the new Deep Forest Flip Mat, Magnimar, City of Monuments, Pathfinder Player Character Folios, and, probably of most interest, the Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition.  I really had no great expectations for this last one. Though we had a few inquiries, we had no pre-orders until we made the announcement that our shipment was on the way (Sigh).  Typically, Pathfinder modules sell poorly here, due to their limited use and Pazio’s pushing them as PDFs before they release to the brick and mortar market.  However, Rise of the Runelords has proved a pleasant surprise.  Much like with the 1st edition AD&D books, we quickly sold out of our original order but got a restock in for the weekend.  So far, we have sold half the total ordered, far better than our order of Descent 2nd Edition, all of which are still sitting on the shelves.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Descent Decends into the Store.

FFG’s Descent 2nd edition also hit the shelves last week.  This should bring down the price of the first edition game, which has sold for upwards of $150 on the secondary market since it went out of print.  The 2nd edition version’s box is less than half the size of the original and you get a lot less than the original as well (8 hero figures instead of 20, for example), for about the same price.  While I expect this to sell to people who want to get their hands on a copy of Descent, I also expect to see strong demand for the first edition, with all its additional components, on the secondary market.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

1st Edition Reprints

WOTC's reprints of the 1st edition AD&D Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual arrived this week.  Except for the new leatherette covers and non-browned paper, the books look just as they did thirty year's ago.  We had a couple of customers complaining that they would have liked to see errata or updates or introductory essays. That misses the point of the books.  WOTC brought them out just as E Gary Gygax wrote them three decades ago as a tribute to them and to help support the Gygax Memorial Fund, which plans to erect a statue in Gygaz's memory in Lake Geneva.

On a related note, and I'm not sure if this relates to the buzz around the limited edition reprints, but this is the first time in quite awhile we have been out of the original First Edition Player's Handbook. Plenty of Dungeon Master's Guides  and Monster Manuals in stock, but not a Player's Handbook on the shelves.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mayfair Games Goes Exclusive and What It Means to You

As the press release below indicates, the big news for the gaming industry coming out of the San Diego Comic Con was the announcement that Mayfair Games entered into an exclusive distribution agreement with Alliance Games and Diamond Comics Distribution (for those who don't know, Diamond Comics owns Alliance):

Mayfair Games is excited to announce their partnership with Alliance Game Distributors and Diamond Comic Distributors for the exclusive distribution of their games to the U.S. hobby retail network.

Management at Mayfair Games foresees a future bright with opportunities for national campaigns with coordinated outreach and events. With the advent of streamlined, focused distribution to the hobby trade, Mayfair anticipates continued direct support of the hobby retail channel through the MAR program and other means.

Dan Hirsch, President of Alliance notes: “Having worked with Mayfair from the early days of both companies, we at Alliance are excited to partner more closely with them. This partnership allows both of us to focus on the things we do best – Alliance coordinating and wholesaling, and Mayfair developing award winning titles, building brands and communities!”

What does this mean to you?  If you are one of our customers, not much.  We deal with both Alliance and Diamond so we won't have a problem having to open up a new account to keep stocking in Mayfair GamesIf the agreement helps keep Settlers of Catan and its expansions in stock, it helps make certain we don't suffer out of stocks of Catan and other popular Mayfair products

It may hurt other retailers that don't have an account with either of the two distributors as it means they will either have to open an account with Alliance or drop the Mayfair line.  Mayfair is the top selling board game line in many gaming specialty stores, so stores without an Allinace account will need to decide if it is worthwhile for them to create one. It also means that retailers won't have as large a selection of sources from which to procure Mayfair. Currently, if one supplier is out, stores can try another one and hope to find copies there.  Now, if Alliance or Diamond are out, so are we until Mayfair ships a reorder.

The gaming entity hurt most will be other distributors.  If they dealt in boardgames, Mayfair likely accounted for a significant portion of their sales.  Poof, that vanishes as soon as they sell out of their remaining Mayfair stock, leaving stores one less reason to put orders in with them.

Summing it up, little change for the customer, not much change for stores already dealing with Alliance or Diamond, major changes for stores that don't and other distributors.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New For Ascension

Ascension: Immortal Heroes
$ 29.99 SRP

Ascension: Immortal Heroes is designed to be a 2-player standalone game in addition to being an expansion for Ascension: Storm of Souls to play with up to 6 players! The 69 new center deck cards feature tons of new Events and Trophy monsters introduced in Storm of Souls, as well as all new cards for every faction. In addition, players will be able to tap into the power of Soul Gems - trapped souls of heroes from the past.

Contents -164 Cards, Including: -69 New Center Deck Cards -40 Soul Gem Cards - 2 Personal Starting Decks, Each containing 8 Apprentice and 2 Militia cards -35 “Always available” cards (1 Cultist, 2 Fanatics, 16 Mystics and 16 Heavy Infantry) -30 Deluxe Honor Tokens -Full-Color Rulebook -Storage Tray
 Coming in September

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I've talked about the importance of pre-orders before but wanted to revisit the subject.

Pre-orders help us judge how many of a particular comic book, card set or game to bring in.  We have records that we look at in order to judge how well an individual new release will sell but "past performance is no guarantee of future behavior".  We have dozens of new games releasing every month and over a thousand new comics. We simple have neither the space, nor the funds to bring all of them into the store.

Generally with comics, we will bring in all the regular series of Marvel and DC, though if a title release several issues in a row that just sit on the shelve, we will likely drop it.  Mini-series we really look askance at, unless they have a track record such as Kick Ass or Watchmen.

Since we have very little interest from customers on the various Image and Dark Horse line, as indicated by subscriptions, we generally skip lines from those publishers, as well as most of the smaller publishers.  If there is a title you want, please fill out a subscription form so that we know there is interest. More often than not, when we gamble on a new title, it sits there so "once burnt, twice shy".

Same thing goes with games.  Expansions for currently popular games, sure, we will bring in the next in the line.  past experience shows it will probably sell.  However a new release from Mayfair Games that isn't Catan or a train game may not make it to the shelf. We have a couple of dozen Mayfair Games that have never sold a single copy in the store.  Same thing with Castles & Crusades from Troll Lord Games.  I like this game but people don't purchase it so we will give a very hairy eyeball at new releases unless we get pre-orders for them.

Pre-orders help us help you find new games and help us buy from the game companies, which keeps them in business.  The more pre-orders we get, the better is is for all three of us.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Warhammer 40K 6th Edition More on the Release

Following up on yesterday's post, yes 40K 6th edition sold quite well.  However, we didn't even know about an upcoming 6th edition in April.  Unlike, say, WOTC, which has been very upfront about the upcoming D&D Next, we first heard rumors about this from customers and 40K fan websites.  Nothing office from Games Workshop until late May.  Then we are told, yes, there will be a 6th edition and it will release sometime.  The rumor mill says late June or early July, Games Workshop, not even that specific.

A promotional video next appears on the GW website, giving no information about what to expect, save that indeed a 6th edition was coming and closing with the date June 23.  OK releasing June 23. This appears in early June, giving us about 2 weeks to plan an event launching 6th edition.  Given that we plan our event calendar 1-2 months ahead of time, all of our June and July dates for events are already set.

Whoops, turns out June 23 is not the release date for 6th edition, it's the release date for the new issue of White Dwarf, which will focus on 6th edition. Still not sure when 6th edition is releasing.

Finally, we get our upcoming releases list from GW (we get the list of next month's releases about 2 weeks before the end of the month), with a release date of June 30.  Now we can take pre-orders.  Not much time to do so, but we will work with it.  Oh, wait, what are the Gamer's Edition and Collector's Edition?

More conversation with the GW rep.  There are very limited special editions of the 40K rules that GW put on our list but that we probably can't get.  They go on sale the evening of June 22 and individual customers can order them from the GW website. Retailers can email orders in over the weekend and the sales reps will key them in Monday morning, if there are any left.  Guess what?  In most cases there weren't.

We did get the rest of the order in and had a very successful midnight release of the new edition, but the lack of information from GW early on was frustrating as was not getting any of the special editions for those customers who wanted one.  However, people seem to really like the new rules so everything did work out, just not that easily for the store.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Warhammer 40K 6th Edition, the Release

In case you missed it, and you might have if you don’t play Games Workshop’s line of games, but the 6th edition of their flagship game Warhammer 40,000 released Saturday, July 7, certainly an annoying day to release a game from the retailer’s point of view, since Saturday for retailers is generally the busiest day of the week.  Luckily, their policy for most products makes Saturday a soft street date and we can put the product out when it arrives, thus removing one more thing for us to deal with Saturday.

We did quite well with the 6th edition release, as we ran a midnight release for it and had a line of customers at the register at midnight.  However, the game sold quite well in spite of Games Workshop’s handling of the release, not because of it.  More on that on Friday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

3.5 Premium Books

WOTC has just announced the release of the 3.5 Player's Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide and Monster Manual in a premium format with new binding and errata added.  The release is scheduled for this September.  If this were happening in 2013 or 2014, I would say this is a great idea, following up on the release of D&D Next (or 5th edition).  However, coming so close to the release of the Premium versions of the 1st Edition AD&D Books in July will take the wind out of the sails (sales?) for this set, especially since WOTC has only set a 2 month window to build interest in the release.

Anyhow, that's my 2 cents on the matter. What do you think?