Sitting here in the quiet after our second pre-release of the weekend and musing on the things that go into a successful one. Rather than discussing what we did to make ours successful as I have covered that in other columns, though I will get into why price competition on pre-releases is a bad thing for stores in next week’s column, I want to look at what WOTC did to make this pre-release go over well and some of the practices other companies could adopt to improve their product launches or pre-releases:
Know your market—WOTC has had amazing growth in the magic market over the past decade with revenues up over 180% just since 2008 with a lot of this due to reaching out to the online and video market with the various Planeswalker online games which brings new players into the tabletop version of the game. However, pre-releases are not targeted at new players, WOTC has other events for them. WOTC knows that brand new players will not come, of their own accord, to a pre-release. Attendees at pre-releases are avid, already existing players of the game and WOTC targets them with advertising materials that only an experiences player would recognize, such as the posters provided with images of 5 iconic Planeswalkers and an expectation that players will know what a “sealed deck” tournament is and what “seeded” packs are. WOTC also knows that it is the devoted players that are most willing to spend a weekend opening packs and playing.
Logistics—This is a shorter form of saying “getting the stuff where it needs to be on time”. Online promotional material in the form of press releases and images started appearing months ago, giving stores plenty of time to start planning their events. Physical promotional material came into stores about the end of June or early July and the actual pre-release tournament materials arrived in stores this week, with plenty of time for stores to look through them and decide how to best use the new table tents, demo decks and posters. Enterplay, at least, has started to see the benefit of getting tournament materials in stores earlier. While the last two pre-release kits from the company either missed or barely made tournament deadlines, the prize support for our My Little Pony store tournament arrived over a week ago. Hopefully more companies will realize the importance of getting information to stores early. Games Workshop, I’m looking at you.
Promotion—There was a top of promotion in the forms of social media advertising, in store POP and press releases for weeks before the actually events. Some much information out there makes the store’s job much easier in terms of getting customers excited about the new product coming out. Again, cue Games Workshop’s launch of Age of Sigmar which also hit shelves today. We had some online promotional material for AoS about 2 weeks ago but did not receive any physical POP material from GW until we received the games Thursday and even then, you had to order so many copies of Age of Sigmar to get a window cling or banner. Ask anyone in the promotion industry and they will tell you that to properly promote an event or launch, promotional material needs to start reaching its target 6 to 8 weeks prior to the event. We still see a lot of companies get out press releases for product launches in advance of the release, then nothing for months until the product creeps onto shelves. WOTC does an exemplary job launching new releases through the use of PR and social media.
WOTC is probably the best in the industry in terms of launching events and what they do in terms of social media, publicity and logistics is something other company’s should look at in order to improve their own launches. Now if WOTC would just do SOMETHING about promoting their boardgame catalog. Great Dalmuti and Guillotine, anyone?