Monday, June 30, 2014

A Duo of Dueling D&D Documentaries

Did you know there were a couple of documentaries about D&D in the process of getting made? Me either?  The first one, Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary is produced by Iconoscope Films/Westpaw Films and funded through Kickstarter back in 2012. The company plans to release the finished film this year, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the original Dungeons & Dragons game. From the Kickstarter page for this film:

2014 marks the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, a game that is, simply put, a cultural phenomenon.
Whether you know it or not, you may be playing Dungeons & Dragons. Any computer game you play, any role-playing game you play, any online profile you fill out, have their elements and DNA rooted in Dungeons & Dragons. It's a game that has had far-lasting, powerful and yet subtle influence in our culture. 
From its humble beginnings in a basement in Lake Geneva, WI, D&D was created by a group of game enthusiasts and game designers. The story of D&D and its creation spans four decades and is a complicated, heart-breaking story. Imagine "The Social Network", the creation of Facebook, but no one ends up rich. This is a cautionary tale of an empire built by friends and lost through betrayal, enmity, poor management, hubris and litigation.
Dungeons & Dragons is a game beloved by its fans. A game that brings family and friends together, creates communities, societies and sub-cultures. D&D teaches. We have heard countless stories of gamers who have delved deeper, studying history, language, science and math purely for the desire to be better players. Gamers have created lifelong friendships because of this game and come in all walks of life; firefighters, educators, computer programmers, entrepreneurs, and yes, even a few documentary film-makers.

Sounds good, right? Well, not so fast. Here comes Fantasy Game Films with their documentary The Great Kingdom. Yep, you guess it, they have a Kickstarter too (but don’t plan to release until July 2015):

In 1969, GARY GYGAX, a family man and an insurance underwriter with an entrepreneurial mind meets DAVE ARNESON, an idle, yet brilliant game designer. Their collaboration would change the world, their families and themselves.
This is the remarkable true life story of the rise and fall of Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and the people behind the creation of the epic role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons.
THE GREAT KINGDOM explores the personalities behind the game and the families they engendered. This is the saga of the people who brought a company from its humble basement beginnings and transformed it to a multi-million dollar corporation. A story for our time that parallels the rise, fall and redemption of Steve Jobs and echoes the who-invented-what question of the creation of Facebook.
The story of families, both blood and personal bond, affected by the success of the game, a game that brought joy to millions and heartbreak to its creators. What happens to these individuals as they weather through the success; the excess, the betrayals, the downfalls and eventual redemptions, all takes place in THE GREAT KINGDOM.

It gets even better though, as it appears the makers of The Great Kingdom worked on D&D:  A Documentary before creative differences led to a parting of the ways. Again, from The Great Kingdom’s Kickstarter page:

Some of you may know James and myself from a different D&D documentary project that was started on Kickstarter a couple of years ago. As projects like this go and part of the nature of filmmaking, there were creative differences that led to our new direction and separation from the previous project.
We started from scratch, raising private funds and some of our own to get us to this point. We knew there was an amazing story to tell. And like any complicated story, there will always be room for different interpretations.
So, to those who helped support the previous documentary, we would like to offer a digital, downloadable copy of THE GREAT KINGDOM for FREE. It's our small way of thanking you for your support and patience. All you need to do is email us and there will be a copy waiting for you when the film is done. 

Westpaw, producers of the D&D: A Documentary film  is now suing Fantasy Game Films for:

usurping D&D Production opportunities through the actions of Pascal and Sprattley,
who were secretly competing with the D&D Production by planning and undertaking to produce
a different Dungeons & Dragons documentary referred to as “The Great Kingdom”

This will drag out the production of both for the forseeable future.

Meanwhile, if you want to watch a D&D documentary, PBS, surprisingly, has a pair of them.  Can Dungeons and Dragons Make You Confident and Successful? runs on PBS’ Idea Channel while you can find Dungeons & Dragons and the Influence of Tabletop RPGs can be found at PBS’ Off Book. You will be able to see these much  quickly than either of the competing D&D documentaries, I’d wager.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Coming from FFG

Here's a list of what will release in September from Fantasy Flight Games:

ADN20 - Android: Netrunner LCG: All That Remains Data Pack $14.95
GOT108 - A Game of Thrones LCG: Secrets and Schemes Chapter Pack $14.95
MEC31 - Lord of the Rings LCG: The Antlered Crown Adventure Pack $14.95
SW01 - Star Wars: Empire vs. Rebellion $12.95
SWC22 - Star Wars LCG: Between the Shadows Expansion $29.95
SWS19 - Star Wars Dice Bag: Galactic Empire $7.95
SWS20 - Star Wars Dice Bag: Stormtrooper $7.95
SWS21 - Star Wars Dice Bag: Boba Fett $7.95
SWS22 - Star Wars Dice Bag: Rebel Alliance $7.95
SWX23 - Star Wars X-Wing: YT-2400 Freighter Expansion Pack $29.95
SWX24 - Star Wars X-Wing: VT-49 Decimator Expansion Pack $39.95
WIZ03 - Wiz-War: Bestial Forces Expansion $34.95

Thursday, June 26, 2014

DiceMasters Organized Play

In response to requests, we will start WizKid's DiceMasters Organized Play on Sunday July 6 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m and run the same time every Sunday until the end of July. Entry fee is $5 for the whole month. You will earn 1 point for each Sunday you show up, 1 point for each 3 game match you play and 1 more point for each match you win. If you have at least 4 points at the end of the month, you will receive a promo card, with the 3 highest scorers receiving a 2nd limited promo card.

Since boosters are not expected to be available, we will use a constructed format and will post details regarding it this weekend.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

DiceMasters Update

Here is an update on DiceMasters from WIzKids:

   We have the following updates on shipments planned for Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men: There are several shipments of reprints on their way to the US.  The next wave of Starters will arrive at the end of June with another wave of Gravity Feeds arriving in late July.  Despite our best efforts to fill demand with these reprints, the product is still pre-selling before it arrives.   We were able to bring on a very sizable amount of capacity, which has enabled us to add a reprint to the schedule (available in September).

   We are also keeping an eye on the longshoremen labor dispute on the U.S. West Coast, and will deal with that issue if and when it happens.  Obviously, any sort of strike will ripple through most of our product lines so we’re monitoring the situation keenly.

   Briefly on the factory/capacity situation: we believe we are, or will be soon, the largest dice manufacturer in the world.  Fortunately, making dice and making small plastic figures is essentially the same process.  As we get our arms around the demand, moving volume between factories is pretty straight-forward and it is one of the reasons we are able to add reprints while also printing the next set.  We appreciate the patience as we grow the Dice Masters business.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Four Takeaways from Free RPG Day 2014

Sitting here in the quiet of the evening after a surprisingly slow but VERY profitable Free RPG Day, with the sounds of the extended TableTop episode of Carcassone playing in the background,  four things come to mind:

1.       Tried and True Beats New and Novel. The most popular items among our attendees/customers (just like Free Comic Book Day, we always have a few people who come in solely for the free item, get it and vanish again for months. I don’t consider them customers) are recognizable items that have been around a few years and have support products out there. Given the lack of any new D&D item (saving their powder for GenCon, I imagine) and no Star Wars  from FFG, our most popular items were Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, 13th Age and Mage. However , Cosmic Patrol and Valiant Universe did not have a lot of takers, possibly because they were smaller than other books, indicating not as much value but also because of a lack of familiarity (The Lamentations of the Flame Princess offering did not get a lot of takers either, but that is likely due to us keeping it behind the counter. Not putting an adventure marked 18+ on the cover out where kids might get it).

2.       Cover Design Is Important. When designing a cover, publishers need to remember that it is likely not going to get displayed in the way they envisioned it when designing the cover. Case in point Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classic offering. It had all the logos at the bottom of the cover. We racked it and sever other books in a waterfall display, which, due to the design, covered the bottom of the cover, where all the Goodman logos had been placed. The logoless cover may have stood out among the others with logos visible, but, if you only have a few seconds to catch a browser’s attention, every little bit helps.

3.       Dice Rule. More than any other item, we had people asking where the Free RPG Day dice from Q Workshop and Chessex were. Everybody likes dice and every gamer wants more of them. Since we only got a limited number, we opted (and I heard other stores doing the same)to use the dice we received as rewards for the gamemasters who spent a very long day running events from 9 in the morning until after 11 at night and as drawing prizes.  Adding the dice, and the Meeple dice towers, generated a lot of extra entries and money for the local humane society.

4.       Make Sure Retailers Can Sell Your Product. Nothing annoys me more (well maybe fingernails on a chalkboard and episodes of I Love Lucy) than getting a giveaway for a product that I cannot sell directing people to a website where customers can purchase PDFs of your games and supplements.  We offered the giveaway to our customers but removed the page directing them to the website, other retailers simply trashed the whole thing.

Overall a great day. We had an artist doing sketches for the Southern Illinois Autism Society, fed our customers pizza and cake and saw roughly a 30% sales increase and double an average day’s RPG sales. Cannot complain about that.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Funded With Kickstarter

I have seen some products with the "Funded with Kickstarter" logo on them and do not believe that using it grants benefits commensurate with the disadvantages of using it. There are a significant number of retailers that view the use of Kickstarter to fund a product, rightly or wrongly, as taking away sales of that product from the retailer. Ergo, those retailers look askance at any Kickstarter funded product. Putting "Funded with Kickstarter" on the product certainly encourages those retailers not to stock it.

In addition, customers really don't care how you got the funding. They want the product and are not particularly interested in how you made it, ergo, it doesn't matter to them if funding for it came from Kickstarter or from a family loan. The only benefit putting the logo on the package might come if customers view Kickstarter as a reliable vetting service, indicating that products funded through Kickstarter have undergone some scrutiny, similar to "As Seen on TV" blurbs seen on many packages. Buyers believe that, in order to get on TV, a product must undergo some sort of examination, so the "TV" blurb lends some credibility to the product.

Games would probably do better to pursue an "As seen on TableTop" logo, as that lends some creditably to the product, at least within the gaming industry, since many of their customers have some familiarity with TableTop.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Wi Wheaton's Brand

For those not familiar with Wil Wheaton and TableTop, an IndieGoGo campaign launched on International TableTop Day to raise $500,000 to fund a third season of his  TableTop web series. Funders blew past that target,  eventually pledging over $1.4 million, making the campaign the most successful one for a video series in IndieGoGo history.

Here’s how branding comes into play in both of these. Wil Wheaton is widely known within the pop culture community (I just cannot bring myself to call it geek or nerd culture), with an active blog, Tumblr, web series, and over 2.5 million followers on Twitter. Over the years, he has built up this following by saying, writing and doing things that his followers find interesting. A Tweet like “Loud. Noises” gets 131 retweets and 400 likes. Let me emphasize that. A two word Tweet from Wil Wheaton gets 400 likes and it’s not even anything like “KINGS WIN”.  People know what to expect from Wheaton and TableTop and gladly gave money to make it happen.  That’s the power of the Wheaton brand. If someone without Wheaton’s name recognition had launched a similar campaign, offering similar rewards and stretch goals, likely it would have failed because the lack of name recognition means backers would have little idea what they would get with their money.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gaming Trends, Based on a Two Store Sample

”, I took a few days off this week to visit friends and while I did, as is my wont, I stopped in at a couple of gaming stores in the area just to see if the trends we see in our store  get replicated in other stores.
One thing I was happy to see, hear actually, was a greeting from the store employees as I walked into each store as well as a request to let them know if I needed any help in finding anything. While they certainly didn’t work to strike up a conversation about games with me, ‘twas a far cry from no acknowledgement at all because the staffer on duty cannot lift their eyes from their computer screen. Thankfully, this sort of behavior appears less and less as stores get more and more “professional”.

Another trend I noticed was the movement away from RPGs toward boardgames and TCGs. One store had less than one shelf, containing maybe a dozen different books, almost all pathfinder and D&D. The other one did have a pretty large selection of RPG books, 4 tall bookcases full, they were all used, marked half price or less and relegated to a side room off the main sales floor. Once again, the only books I saw at full price out in the main trafficked area were Pathfinder titles.

The lack of variety of card sleeves was another thing that struck me. Last time I counted, we stock at least 8 different brands of card sleeves, while both of these stores only stocked 2-3. I didn’t inquire as to why, but did notice that each one stocked a “high end” and 1 or 2 mid-range brands.  We have always found our customers wanting a variety from which to choose but maybe we offer them too many choices. Something to consider.