Monday, June 17, 2019

Talking Tariffs 2 From the Retail Perspective

NPR’s The Indicator podcast is a short (9-10 minutes) look at one aspect or another of the economy, business, work, etc. Recent episodes have looked at such things as the similarities between Thanos and 19th century economist Thomas Malthus in their approach to allocation of resources. A recent episode drew my interest because it looked at the effect the recent tariffs had on one game store. As I noted in a previous column, the tariffs imposed by the administration have not  yet directly affected game stores or the game industry here in the US. The effect of said tariffs on stores in other countries though is an entirely different matter  and the May 23rd episode of the podcast looked at just that.
Wizard’s Tower is one of the top stores in Canada dealing in Magic, with, according to the podcast, over 90% of its sales coming from Magic and Magic related products. You may remember that last year the United States, claiming national security, imposed tariffs of 10% on aluminum and 25 % on steel imported from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. What didn’t get near as much attention here is the US was the retaliatory tariffs our trading partners imposed on products imported from the US, specifically, for the purposes of the podcast and this column, a general 10% tariff placed by Canada last July, on all products imported from the US. Wizards prints Magic here in the US and Wizard’s Tower imports it from here to its store in Ottawa, meaning that not only are the cost of its purchases subject to the fluctuations of the Canadian dollar against the American one. but now, thanks to the 10% tariff that Canada placed on many imports from the United States, which included playing cards, the cost Wizard’s Tower pays for a box of Magic increased by 10%, with no compensatory increase in MSRP (Remember, WOTC  had not eliminated MSRP yet, so the list price for a pack of Magic is still $3.99). This means Wizard’s Tower is paying 10% more for its products than before. Due to the exchange rate, to maintain a profitable gross margin, Wizard’s Tower prior to the tariffs sold a pack of Magic for about $4.50. As a result of the tariff, the store raised the price of a pack of Magic to $5.

 In addition, to try to maintain the average markup storewide, the store raised the price of a number of events, primarily Friday Night Magic. However, price elasticity kicked in and many of the store’s players deserted its events for cheaper ones at other stores. In order to regain them , Wizard’s Tower found it necessary to lower the event prices back to where they were before, meaning lower profits and less capital to invest in various aspects of store operation, including a much desired website redesign. The store cut costs and reduced inventory until finally on May 17th, the US announced it was lifting the tariffs on steel and aluminum, causing Canada to end the tariffs it had imposed on American products, including cards, reducing Wizard’s Tower’ cost on Magic back to where it was last summer.

Of course , the store is not home free yet. In order to stay in business, it did have to purchase Magic at the tariff increased price and, although costs of new product have dropped, it still has inventory of the higher priced product which it must either try to sell at the higher price or accept a reduced margin in order to move it out of inventory

This is a cautionary tale for US game stores  and publishers. Although the top trading card games are printed in the US, allowing them to avoid tariffs, as are D&D books (Pathfinder is currently printed in China), things such as dice, plastic sleeves and boardgames often get manufactured in China, opeing the US industry to the same tariff effects Wizard’s Tower saw.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Talking Tariffs

The game industry has been able to ignore the effects of the trade war between the US and China for the past year, primarily because the tariffs focused on raw materials and processed goods, not products sold to the end user (although the average price of a washing machine rose about $89 last year due to the tariffs. Even though there was no tariff on them , manufacturers increased prices on dryers a comparable amount, primarily because consumers generally purchased them as a pair and did not  notice the price increase)..The latest announcement from the administration of more tariffs on Chinese imports targeting some $300 billion in goods, most of which are consumer goods means there will be a significant impact on the gaming industry as the goods targeted include HTS 9504.90.6000, chess, checkers and other games played on boards.

 If you want to read through the whole proposal, here it is, but in short, due to cost savings, a lot of manufacturers in our industry produce their products in China, making them subject to the tariff increases.  Gary Ray, owner of Black Diamond Games, published a blog post back in 2017 looking at his store’s top sellers and where they are produced. Not surprisingly, roughly 80% of them come from China, meaning that, barring some settlement, those companies will be hit with a 20-25% price increase should the tariffs come into effect.

Looking back at tariffs in US history, their use has been tied into the country’s government and economic policy since its founding and before. Britain viewed the American colonies as a source of raw materials for its industries at home and frowned upon when the colonists worked to develop their own industry.  One of the major complaints by residents of the colonies was the refusal of the British government to allow them to enact tariffs to protect the nascent American industries from outside sources that could undercut them, destroying the developing enterprises  before they could grow strong enough to stand on their own.

Not surprisingly, almost immediately after securing independence , the new States passed laws  putting tariffs into place, using them as the primary funding source for the federal government (The previous Articles of Confederation had required the government to fund itself by asking the individual states for money. That worked really well). Although Britain was the first country to utilize tariffs as a means of protecting its industries, the United States, after its founding, embraced the idea of protectionism far more ardently, with tariffs of up to 40% providing up to 95% of funding for the federal government and making protectionism the country’s  economic policy from roughly 1800 until just after World War 2, when the US took a much stronger position on the international stage , liberalizing its trade policy and reducing its reliance on tariffs, reducing them to a historic low for the US wherein only 30% of imported goods were subject to tariffs and likely cumulating in the North America Free Trade Act, which effectively eliminated tariffs on good passing between the US, Canada and Mexico.

So it is not as if the US  is unfamiliar with tariffs (your sneakers currently are subject to a 48% tariff and shelled peanuts to a 132% one) insomuch as one is getting slapped on our industry, without giving the companies involved much time to make changes in their supply chains by either moving production back to the US or finding low cost sources overseas.  If you want voice your opposition to them, The Toy Association has an online petition you can fill out and submit.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Betrayal Legacy

The design for  Betrayal Legacy as WOTC is referring to it, comes from Rob Daviau, one of the designers of the original Betrayal at House on the Hill and designer of the Legacy series of games:  Risk Legacy, Pandemic Legacy Seasons 1 and 2 and Seafall. All of these are, for want of a better word, customizable boardgames. In fact, as far as I am aware, Risk Legacy paved the way for what could be called the customizable board game, a campaign style of game in which the board gets modified permanently, cards get altered or destroyed and the players wind up with a individualized, but still playable, game.  Games in a similar vein include Charterstone and Gloomhaven. As you play the game, over time you wind up with an individualized version of the game.  The Legacy version of Betrayal is projected to include a prologue and a thirteen chapter story arc covering several generations in the history of one family that occupies the House on the Hill with player characters aging over the course of gameplay and even descendants of the original characters making appearances in later stories.

However, based on recent experience, I am not particularly sure about how well this version of the game will sell. Risk Legacy did pretty well, but the game established a new category and games that create their own product niche always dominate that niche until competitive arises (See Dominion and deckbuilding games). Pandemic Legacy Season 1 did pretty well but nowise as well as Risk Legacy and I do not think we have moved a copy of Pandemic Legacy Season 2 yet. As far as Seafall, we still have our original copy on the shelf and I noticed Asmodee/ Plaid Hat Games had the game listed on their annual Christmas clearance sale last year. Charterstone has done OK, moving quite well when it first came out but sales have slowed down on the game since Stonemaier Games dealt with the out of stock problems Charterstone had when it first released, a problem that Cephalofair Games has not managed to overcome yet with Gloomhaven as it still suffers from horrendous out of stock problems for the past year. This, however, has not affected demand for the game as, of this writing, it still ranks number one on BoardGameGeek’s Hotness Index and sports a 9.0 ranking on the website.

Much of the demand for Gloomhaven is driven by the scarcity of the game. Since stores have been told they should see much of the scarcity problem alleviated when a new printing arrives this summer, it will be interesting to see if demand for the game stays at the same level it is now, with copies selling for over $400. Pre-sales of the new printing indicate a drop in interest as some stores are taking preorders for as little as $92. Based on this, it looks to me as if the great interest by customers in Gloomhaven is driven more by scarcity than by actual gameplay and I worry we may see the same reaction with Betrayal Legacy. The original Betrayal still sells well, as does the Widow’s Walk expansion, but Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm among customers. Given WOTC’s supply chain, I do not expect to see any shortages in Betrayal Legacy, so demand for the game will be driven by customer perception of gameplay, not scarcity. Will be interesting to see what happens.

Monday, June 3, 2019

London Mulligan

wizards announced that a new mulligan format will enter tournament play with the release of Magic 2020. Called the London Mulligan, it is supposed to make taking a mulligan less of a game losing proposition. Wizard's research of both tabletop and Arena play indicates that there is a strong positive correlation between taking a mulligan and losing the game, so the company hopes this format reduces the likelihood of losing the game when you take a mulligan

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Effect of Tariffs on Canadian Magic 2

To follow up on yesterday's post (you can read it here), the 10% tariff imposed by Canada on playing cards meant that Wizard's Tower cost for a pack of Magic increased by 10% cutting into already thin profit margins. Remember Canadian stores have to import most of their Magic from the US and often the exchange rate between the Canadian and US dollar is not that favorable. This means that , in order to stay in business (remember that Wizards Tower does 90% of its business in Magic), the store had to raise the price of a pack of Magic from $3.99 to $4.99. Needless to say, the store's customers did not like this.

So, in order to cushion the price increase, Wizard's Tower tried to spread the price increase around by increasing the price of tournaments. Charging an extra dollar for tournaments means the store could afford to absorb some of the increase in costs from the tariff. However, players started deserting the tournaments for stores that offered cheaper entry fees. Apparently the store also had a lackluster response to Ravnica Alligences or War of the Spark, the podcast does not indicate which, meaning the store did not see its typical inventory turnover, leaving unsold inventory in stock.

The store managed to hold on and Canada removed the tariff earlier this month, meaning WT could again buy Magic at its old price. Unfortunately, that also means the store still has a significant amount of Magic it had purchased during the time of the tariff that it will have to sell at the regular, not tariff price, or alienate its customers, cutting into store margins probably for the rest of the summer.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Effect of Tariffs on Canadian Magic

This podcast from Planet Money looks at the effect of the reciprocal Canadian tariffs on one Canadian game store. After the administration imposed 25% tariffs on Canadian steel, the Canadian government responded by imposing a 10% tariff on a wide variety of American imports including, playing cards. Since Magic falls into that category, the Wizard's Tower game store, which imports all of its Magic from the US, saw its prices rise automatically by 10%, reducing an already pretty small profit. Since the store sees 90% of its sales come from Magic, dropping the line was not an option. Listen to the podcast to see what happened or come back here tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Steve Creech Obituary

Steve Creech of Decatur Indiana passed away today. Active in the game industry for over 20 years, he owned both Bastion Press and Dragonwing Games. If you played D&D 3.0 or 3.5, you likely owned a Bastion Press product as the publisher was a major creator of OGL materials during the run of the two editions and still produced new material focused on the D20 system.  While Bastion Games was a solo operation, Creech ran Dragonwing Games in partnership with Kevin Rusch, producing material for the Pathfinder RPG.

Creech also spent over a decade as the chair of the RPG selection committee for the Origins Awards. As such, it was his job to contact publishers each year for submissions for the Award, then pull together a committee to vote on which dozen or so titles, selected from the hundred or so under consideration, should advance to the final vote by members of the gaming community. I had the opportunity to work with him on the 2019 awards and it amazed me how well organized he was and how attuned to detail. The Origin Awards and the gaming community as a whole have lost a vaulable member and friend.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

More on Tariffs

If the proposed tariffs go through, they do include HTS code 950490600 which includes chess, checkers and other boardgames  Here are some more details on it but if you don't feel like slogging through the verbiage, unless there is a negotiated end to the trade war with China, boardgames and supplies would see a  25% tax increase on their prices later this year. It would not go into effect this summer, so games already in production would not be effected, but we could see price increases across the board by Christmas. Gary Ray, owner of Black Diamond Games, looked at his top sellers and where they are manufactured. Due to cost savings, the overwhelming number are produced in China and, unfortunately, due to supply chain constraints, companies cannot shift manufacturers quickly. they are looking at 6 months to a year before a new publisher could be found.

What could happen:
1. to product consumers, manufacturers absorb the tax increase and hold prices steady instead of passing it along to the consumer.
2. manufacturers pass the price increase immediately along to the consumer

Either option is not desirable. Previous tariffs from the Trump administration have targeted raw materials, not products used by the consumer. this latest batch will hit the consumer directly in the pocketbook.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tariffs and you

If the next batch of tariffs gets approved, expect to see a significant increase of approximately 10-25% on a lot of gaming products. Most game companies print the majority of their products in China and game boards, printing ink and sleeve plastic would be included. Among others, Ultra Pro, Wiz Kids, CMON, Cards Against Humanity, Steve Jackson Games all print their products in China because of the significant cost savings. Pokemon, Wizards of the Coast, Reaper and Looney Labs print their games primarily in the US and Chessex produces its dice in Germany so they will be exempt. If the third batch of tariffs does get put into place, and there is a period for comments to go to the government before the tariffs are imposed.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Power of the Package

I had the opportunity to try a game designer’s newish card games earlier this month. The games played smoothly and in general, I liked the card art. However, I opted not to bring them in for one simple reason:  the only packaging was a strip of plastic shrinkwrapped around them holding the cards in place. No box, no clamshell, nothing, so I passed on it.  If you want to sell any product (with the possible exception of live animals), you need packaging.

Packaging serves two basic purposes: functional and promotional.  The functional purposes of packaging are to allow the customer to transport it, protect its contents and give needed information about them.

Consider consumer products. Could you transport liquid laundry detergent or toothpaste home from the store if it did not come in a bottle or tube? This is the first function of the package, to hold the contents together conveniently. While carrying home an RPG like 13th Age or FATE is relatively easy (though try getting one home without that handy binding), imagine taking home a board game like Settlers of Catan or Zombies! without the box. Pieces and cards all over the place!
The second thing the package does is protect the contents. Even something as simple as a deck of Once Upon a Time cards needs a package. If you just put them out on the shelf, they will get dirty, shelfworn, even torn. The box, or clamshell, or case, protects them from normal damage.
The third functional thing the package does is provide information about the contents. In the case of toothpaste, the customer wants to know how many ounces, is this tartar control or whitening formula, does it contain fluoride? Consumer protection laws for consumable items require a list of ingredients as well. You find that information on the package. Though ingredients are not necessary, in the case of a game, the customer wants some basic information: how many people can play, what ages are suitable, how long should a typical game take, what is inside the package?  This last is important because the customer typically cannot open the box to see the contents and stores may not want to open it if they do not have a shrinkwrap machine (If a store does not have a shrinkwrapping machine and the customer decides not to buy, the opened game is now worth less in the eyes of the next customer).

In terms of promotion, packaging can do two main things: make your product stand out on the shelf and sell it to the customer. Steve Jackson Games is a prime example of using packaging to make its products stand out, purely though box size. As I mentioned in previous columns, I used to think SJG was wrong for packaging Munckin in such a large box. Time proved me wrong and over the years, SJG has moved away from the small tuck boxes in which it packaged Chez Geek and Illuminati. Today, those games, and others, come in boxes the size of the Munchkin box, the easier to stand out on the shelf.

The packaging also should sell the product to the consumer. Tell them why they should buy it, why they are going to have fun playing it, how play works. While the FLGS probably has someone who can tell the customer about the product, if a game makes it to the shelf of a Target or B&N, no staffer there will work to sell it.  The poor game package is on its own. Bland doesn’t attract attention, bright and attention getting does.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Yu Gi Oh Advent Calendar

Konami has announced its 2019 Advent Calendar, which will arrive in September and feature lots of versions of Kuriboh:

Konami Digital Entertainment Inc, is proud to bring you this year’s version of the newly designed and sized Advent Calendar.  Coming this holiday season, the Yu-Gi-Oh! TRADING CARD GAME Advent Calendar returns to honor the old-time tradition of counting down the days to Christmas, in a way fit for a Duelist!

This year’s Yu-Gi-Oh! TRADING CARD GAME Advent Calendar is more compact and double-sided, with 12 doors on each side, but still packed to the brim full of holiday-themed cards to add to your collection and power up your Decks.

Kuriboh has shown off many forms since its first release back in 2002, appearing in all generations of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime.  This year’s Advent Calendar features Kuriboh in many of its most popular forms.  The special alternate art winking Winged Kuriboh and even a brand-new “Performapal” Kuriboh monster will both be included and featured on the packaging!

Each Yu-Gi-Oh! TRADING CARD GAME Advent Calendar contains:
17 Super Rares 7 Ultra Rares

***Here is a review of some of the notable changes made to this year’s calendar:
  • Size is smaller: this year we are making it double sided, so 12 slots on one side, and 12 more slots on the other side
  • Exclusive content: there’s a new card that is exclusive to this item, plus a promo card that hasn’t been printed in years

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Upcoming Releases for Shadowrun

Hey chummer, here are two new supplements for Shadowrunn arriving this summer:

Shadowrun: No Future
$49.99 SRP

A key part of Shadowrun’s longtime appeal is its setting, where cyberpunk blends with fantasy and a lot of attitude. No Future emphasizes the "punk" part of cyberpunk, offering new details about the setting including current music acts, popular and underground trid shows, media sources, and Sixth World sports from both the mainstream and the fringes, and all sorts of pirate media from people following the core DIY principles of punk. With detailed setting information and game rules for creating and using characters who rise out of Sixth World culture, No Future is an indispensable resource for gamemasters and players who want to experience the full richness of Shadowrun.
Shadowrun: Neo-Anarchist's Streetpedia
$34.99 SRP

There are many ways to enter Shadowrun’s Sixth World setting—the classic RPG, the story-focused Shadowrun: Anarchy RPG, card games, board games, computer games, dice games, and more. What all these things have in common is the gritty, detailed Shadowrun world, one of the primary hooks that draws people to the games. No matter how people play, they can benefit from The Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia, perhaps the most detailed reference to the Sixth World ever produced. With hundreds of entries on topics ranging from Ares to the Zürich-Orbital Habitat and written in a lively, engaging style, this book will be a useful reference to anyone wanting to keep up with the details in one of gaming’s all-time great settings.
Order by Date: June 1, 2019
Release Date: June 2019

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Out of Stocks

I wanted to discuss a couple of solutions to the problems retailers have seen in out of stocks  this past holiday season, especially among smaller publishers:  Flooring and reshoring.

Anyhow, back to reshoring and flooring. Reshoring is simply the concept of moving production that a company offshored due to cheaper production costs, back home. The trade off between offshoring and producing products overseas and in the publisher’s home country is that of lower production costs versus the loss of sales due to the extended supply chain. Overseas production runs save costs in terms of lower materials costs, lower labor costs and greater flexibility but add costs in terms of additional shipping costs, wait time and managerial and oversight costs. A survey of manufacturers in 2015 found that 17% had already reshored production to the US while another 37% had plans in the works to do so. A number of US game publishers, including Kobold Press, Troll Lord Games, Looney Labs and Catan Studios, have never off shored production, finding that the speed with which they can print and restock product outweighs the cost savings of offshoring.
Flooring is the concept of a publisher or manufacturer which uses a distributor storing additional product on site at the distributor but retaining ownership of the product. When the distributor gets low on product, it simply moves product from the publisher’s stock to the distributor’s , taking ownership and paying the publisher. This allows the publisher to make more product than it could easily warehouse and drastically reduces out of stocks. Steve Jackson Games had a successful flooring arrangement with Alliance for several years and, when Chessex Manufacturing was located in the same building with Alliance Fort Wayne, a out of stock on dice could be rectified with a walk next door.
Adopting either of these practices, or some others, would certainly help in reducing out of stocks, especially during the crucial 4th quarter.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Are Salespeople Passe?

I had planned to write about the discussion regarding street dates in the gaming industry, which has raised its head once again (not as easy to set a street date in the gaming industry as in the comic, book or movie industry because of the fragmentation of the channels of distribution) but then this article asking if the sales person is dying as a job category caught my eye, that and the discussion of the growth of the concept of “retailtainment” as the direction in which retailing will move.

If you have read the linked article, there are a couple of points with which I would take issue:
1)      The author grossly overstates the importance of online retailing to the overall retail sector. Although it has grown rapidly, online retailing still accounts for only about 10% of sales in the entire retail sector.

2)      The retail sector typically ramps up hiring for the holiday season in September through November then lays off a lot of those hires after Christmas, so an 89,000 person decline in retail sales people may not be that out of line for the period October to now.
Retailing remains important though with 1 out of every 10 people in the US employed in retailing and it is still where most people get their first job and learn valuable skills, such as interacting and working with other staff members and the public, time management and personal  responsibility , that will serve them, if learned properly, throughout their life. However, unlike when I first entered retailing in the 1980s, people no longer spend their careers as retail salespeople. Movement by stores towards part time work, lower wages and fewer, if any, benefits (and I am talking things like health insurance and retirement plans, not free snacks and a discount off game purchases), have kept employee turnover high across the industry, approximating  67%, meaning the average retailer has to replace two-thirds of their staff every year. This is why many large chains have moved toward self checkouts with only one staff member monitoring 4-6 check out stations while Amazon tests staff less stores, where the customer selects items off the store shelf, scans the items themselves and the purchase gets billed to their Amazon account. Simple once set up and no human interaction needed. Will this happen quickly? Nah, too much infrastructure needs to get implemented for retailers to adopt the model widely anytime soon, but it is coming.
This is why stores will move toward the “retailtainment” model,  in which customers are entertained while they shop. Customers want an experience to go along with their shopping, which is why they flock to a new restaurant when one opens. Dining there is a new experience, one they cannot get elsewhere. In fact this is why new stores have heavy foot traffic for the first few weeks after opening. Customers looking for a new experience stop by to check it out, but once the new wears out, they head off to the next experience.
So what do game stores have to do? Create experiences. Tournament model stores, those with as many or more tables than retail space, already do this, creating weekly or daily experiences for their customers. The rest of us have to use atmospherics (appealing to the senses) to bring the customer back. Stores and salespeople aren’t passé but we will have to work even harder to remain relevant.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Talisman 4th Edition

Looks as if Pegasus Spiele will rerelease the base game and all of the expansions for the 4th edition of Talisman, just no idea as to when. This means that USAopoly has the rights to come out with new versions of Talisman, like the upcoming Batman version, while Pegasus Spiele releases the original game:

Talisman Revised 4th Edition
Deep in the realm of Talisman , players embark on a perilous search for an immense treasure, the legendary crown of domination. As a warrior, priest, wizard, or one of the eleven other heroes, they contest this quest to become the sole ruler of Talisman . But the way to the crown is treacherous and frightening. Legend has it that only a hero with mythical and magical powers, protected by a fabled talisman , can exist in countries beyond the portal of power. But finding such an artifact is not an easy task: monsters, traps, and dark magic await players on their way. Talisman is a family-friendly fantasy game that combines board and role-playing elements. In the 1st Edition Talisman appeared in 1983 and now enjoys cult status.
PSD 56200E                                                         $59.95

Talisman: The Reaper Expansion
An unearthly chill creeps through the air. The Wizard stops reading his ancient tome and gazes cautiously over his shoulder. The Warrior feels an unfamiliar fear as he draws his mighty sword. A shadow has fallen across the countryside. Death, himself, wanders the land! Can the heroes fulfill their epic quests with the spectre of the Grim Reaper hounding their every move? The Reaper expansion offers Talisman Revised 4th Edition players four new character cards (with plastic figures), 90 new Adventure Cards, 26 new Spell Cards, 12 Warlock Quest Cards, and the Grim Reaper, a dark figure that players manipulate against each other.
PSD 56201E                                                         $24.95

Talisman: The Dungeon Expansion
                Brave untold dangers, and discover what lies in the darkness beneath the world of Talisman! Adding an entire new Region to the game for heroes to explore, Talisman: The Dungeon features a custom-fitted map board and over 100 new cards that bring this subterranean realm vividly to life.
PSD 56202E                                                         $39.95

Talisman: The Frostmarch Expansion
PSD 56203E                                                         $24.95

Talisman: The Highland Expansion
PSD 56204E                                                         $39.95

Talisman: The Sacred Pool Expansion
PSD 56205E                                                         $24.95

Talisman: The Dragon Expansion
The prophecies of the Dragon Cults have come to pass... Three Draconic Lords have returned to their ancestral home in the Firelands, each one claiming dominance over territory and fighting to claim the legendary Crown of Command as his own. For he who claims this mighty artifact shall be crowned Dragon King, and all living things will bow to his tyrannical rule or suffer his rage! A new quest for the Crown of Command has begun, more terrifying and dangerous than ever before! The Dragon expansion for Talisman Revised 4th Edition adds a dangerous new Inner Region for heroes to conquer, while the Draconic Lords and their legion of dragons are represented in over 300 new cards and tokens, and six brand-new characters are each brought to life with a superbly detailed plastic miniature.
PSD 56206E                                                         $39.95

Talisman: The Blood Moon Expansion
Once in a generation, the Blood Moon begins its fell cycle, bathing the realm in a pallid light. Compelled by its sinister presence, the restless dead rise from their their graves, vampires hunt for unwary prey, and witches engage in nocturnal rituals. Worse yet, the horrifying Werewolf prowls the night, seeking heroes with whom to share his curse. The Blood Moon expansion for Talisman Revised 4th Edition comes with 111 new Adventure Cards, 10 new Spell Cards, one Time Card, six Lycanthrope Cards, three Alternative Ending Cards, three new character cards with plastic figures, and the Werewolf, a feral creature that players manipulate against each other.
PSD 56207E                                                         $24.95

Talisman: The City Expansion
For the brave travelers seeking the Crown of Command, the City is a place of both great potential and great peril. Wandering the streets, a visor will find master artisans, affluent merchants, remorseless criminals, and mysterious strangers. Among its grand towers and bustling streets, shops offer armor, weapons, mounts, and more. Enchanted objects, potions, and spells can be found for sale. Mind and body can be strengthened through training, and fortunes can be foretold. For the traveler with some gold to spend, a visit to the City can give him the edge to survive in the most dangerous regions of the land. The opportunities one has within the City`s walls may make the difference between life and death in the Valley of Fire! The City expansion for Talisman Revised 4th Edition adds a new Region to the game for venturesome heroes to discover. A custom-fitted map board and over 100 new cards bring this bustling metropolis vividly to life, while six brand-new characters, each represented by a superbly detailed plastic miniatures, offer fantastic new playing experiences.
PSD 56208E                                                         $39.95

Talisman: The Firelands Expansion
A new peril erupts in the realm with The Firelands expansion for Talisman Revised 4th Edition! The legendary Ifrit have returned to exact fiery vengeance, charring the land, burning away players resources, and setting entire regions ablaze! Players must race to battle this terrible threat, since only the Crown of Command can truly extinguish the Ifrit`s flames. Four new characters join the adventure - the Dervish, the Warlord, the Nomad, and the Jin Blooded - while three new Alternative Ending Cards offer players different ways to engage in the endgame, and new Terrain Cards reshape the land in the wake of the Ifrit`s destruction.
PSD 56209E                                                         $24.95

Talisman: The Woodlands Expansion
For the first time in countless ages, the mystic Woodland has returned to the mortal realm. Among the towering trees and along the twisting trails, wealth and power beyond comprehension can be found. But, there are dangers as well. King Oberon and Queen Titania, ageless beings of fate and magic, will not brook invasion of their realm so lightly. Will you pick sides in the struggle between the monarchs of the fae, or will you strive forward? The Woodland expansion for Talisman Revised 4th Edition adds a new Region to the game for venturesome heroes to discover. A custom-fitted map board and over 100 new cards bring this magical forest vividly to life, while five brand-new characters, each represented by a superbly detailed plastic miniatures, offer fantastic new playing experiences.
PSD 56210E                                                         $39.95

Talisman: The Cataclysm Expansion
Decades ago an apocalypse devastated the realm. Now, at last, new life is evolving amid the chaos and wreckage. This is a time of possibility and heroism. A new age dawns in the wake of The Cataclysm! The post-apocalyptic realm of Talisman is brought to life on a new center board, while a Denizens deck re-populates the land and a Remnants deck scatters traces of former civilization everywhere. Plus, five more characters now seek the Crown of Command and four alternative endings shape your quests in this ever-changing world.
PSD 56212E                                                         $49.95

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Yu Gi Oh Gold Sarcophagus

Konami Digital Entertainment Inc, is proud to bring you one of the most exciting, new look tin we have produced in quite a few years!  The 2019 Gold Sarcophagus Tin is fashioned after the iconic Gold Sarcophagus and is designed to reduce the amount of wear and tear sustained by the cards you keep in it, making it a stylish and efficient way to store cards that are important to you!
Each tin will come with 5 Prismatic Secret Rare variant cards:
• 2 cards (from a set of 6 new cards) with art by Kazuki Takahashi, the creator of Yu-Gi-Oh!
• 2 cards (from a set of 5 cards) from the original Yu-Gi-Oh! animated series, which includes the 3 Egyptian God Cards with art by Kazuki Takahashi.
• 1 of 3 new World Premiere cards designed to be usable in any Deck, and help you stage a comeback against some of the fastest strategies that might come from your opponent.  One card prevents Graveyard dumping, another punishes your opponent if they Summoned too many monsters, and the third gives you a reprieve if they set up a monstrously large field on their first turn.

In addition, each tin has 3 Mega-Packs of a specially crafted set featuring popular cards released in 2018, like Danger!? Tsuchinoko!?Knightmare Mermaid, andCalled by the Grave. Each 16-card Mega-Pack has 12 Commons, 1 Rare, 1 Super Rare, 1 Ultra Rare, and 1 Prismatic Secret Rare.  All of the foil cards in these Mega-Packs appear in different rarities than their original 2018 release, adding a further element of mystery and excitement to the 2019 Gold Sarcophagus Tin!

Let me summarize what might be one of the most compelling tins produced in quite some time:
  • Brand New Tin design fashioned off the Gold Sarcophagus!
  • Blind Purchase of 5 card Prismatic Secret Rare Variant card which promotes Multiple Purchases!
  • Prismatic Secret Rare is not commonly used!
  • Includes Kazuki Takahasi art cards (creator of Yu-Gi-Oh!)
  • Includes World Premier cards that are useable in any deck!
  • New foil rarities for Mega-Pack cards, rather than just a reprint of their original rarity!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Why Shop Local?

Granted, the overwhelming number of purchases are still made in brick and mortar stores  (roughly 90% of retail sales are still made in brick and mortar stores, though this number is projected to increase by 14% by 2021). Given that many customers are motivated by price and stuff really is cheaper generally online and, unfortunately, most of our customers are not autistic enough to willingly spend more at their Friendly Local Game Store, just to keep us in business. We need to give them reasons to spend money at the brick and mortar store, rather than online. So here are 5 good reasons to shop locally:

1. Immediacy—when the customer buys a product at a brick and mortar store, they get to use it immediately. When the exception of digital media and PDFs, everything else purchased online takes time to reach them, anywhere from a day to a month or better.  I was just checking out a Kickstarter produced by a local publisher and backers will not receive the game until next March. Even modeling miniatures with a 3D printer takes several hours to complete

2. Finding New Stuff—Despite the vast amount of products available for sale online, in general customers don’t find new product online. They are 3 times more likely to find a new product that delights them in a physical store than in an online one (and don’t worry a lot about showrooming. According to Harris,  70% of customers webroom while only 45% of them showroom).

3. Reinvestment —More of their money stays in the local community when a customer shops at a local store. If a customer spends $100 at a local store, 68% stays in the local community  while if they shop at a chain store, only 45% stays in the community to generate jobs and, of course, if they buy online, none stays in the local community . In addition,  there is a multiplier effect when that money is spent in the community, meaning that money circulates to other business such as office supply stores, janitorial services etc. . In a smaller community like here in Carbondale or London Kentucky, the multiplier effect is only around 1 or 2 times before the money leaves the community but in a more metropolitan area such as Seattle, St. Louis or Chicago, you are looking at a multiplier of 7 to 10 times. And, of course, the sales taxes go back into such things as sidewalks, police, fire safety, sewers ect.

4.  Stronger Communities—Research shows that the more local businesses a community has, residents have stronger civic ties and are more likely to participate in civic affairs. Economic concentration among businesses leads to a monolithic   local power structure and civic apathy. A larger number of locally owned  businesses is positively correlated with participation in local elections and civic activism, helping to counter the decline in civic engagement in the US over the past several decades.

5. More Jobs—Local businesses create more jobs for local people. Maybe it indicates inefficiency, but local retailers create twice as many jobs as Amazon does for the same amount of revenue. Spending money at the FLGS helps maintain jobs, both there and in the large community

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Yu Gi Oh Set

From Konami:

Konami Digital Entertainment Inc, is proud to bring you the latest booster Battles of Legend: Hero’s Revenge.  This 1st edition set arrives on the scene in July, ready to turn the summer on its head!  This 93-card, all-foil booster set is packed with never-before-released cards from previous Yu-Gi-Oh! anime and manga series coming to the Yu-Gi-Oh! TRADING CARD GAME for the first time, new Link Monsters, high-powered tournament mainstays, and more!  Here’s a taste of what’s in store for Duelists:

• Number 93: Utopia Kaiser, originally available only to those who reached the pinnacle of competition, makes its public debut! Fans of “Number” monsters will have even more to look forward to in Battles of Legend: Hero’s Revenge.
• More “Vision HERO” monsters from the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX manga series appear, along with related “HERO” cards like Vision HERO Vyon.
• Brand-new Link Monsters for a variety of Deck themes like PSY-Frames, Traptrix, Black Luster Soldier, and more.
• In-demand tournament-level cards like Borrelsword Dragon and Sky Striker Mobilize – Engage!
• Popular tournament-level cards available as foils for the first time, like Dinowrestler PankratopsArtifact Lancea, and Summon Limit.

Each 5-card pack contains 4 Ultra Rares and 1 Secret Rare.
Set contents subject to change.*         `

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Fixed and Variable Costs

You may still remember the concepts of fixed and variable costs from your Introduction to Accounting classes. Of course, if you manufacture anything, you have to concern yourself with them on a regular basis, otherwise you go out of business:

Variable costs--this is the cost of the material that goes directly into manufacturing and packaging product. They are called variable costs because the total amount varies based on how many units of a product you manufacture. Since a rough rule of thumb is that the costs of the materials in a product should amount to approximately 10% of the final selling price of a product, your variable costs approximate 10% of the selling price of a product. Since, for example, a copy of Munchkin Deluxe sells for $29.99, the cost of the pieces, tiles, box and everything else should approximate $3. This is the variable cost of a copy of Munchkin Deluxe. If you produce 1 copy, the variable cost is $3, 500 copies is $1500. The variable cost stays the same per unit no matter how many or few of the item you make.

Fixed costs--this is the cost of overhead to make the product. There are all sorts of costs a manufacturer has to consider when making a product. They have to pay for payroll, rent, insurance, shipping, utilities, advertising, equipment, supplies, etc. The cost of all these get lumped together into fixed costs. In brief, fixed costs get allocated to each unit of a product manufactured and get figured in when calculating the price. The more units produced, the more the fixed costs get spread out.  Using the Munchkin Deluxe example, say the fixed costs for Steve Jackson Games to cover all overhead are $500,000. If Steve Jackson Games produces only 1 copy of Munchkin Deluxe, the company has to allocate ALL of its fixed costs to that one game, meaning a single copy of Munchkin Deluxe has to sell for $500,003 to cover all of the company's costs to produce it. Now, while Munchkin Deluxe is a great game, it is not $500,003 great. If the company produces 500 copies, the fixed costs allocated to each copy drops to $1000, meaning each copy now has to sell for $1003 to cover all the costs, and that does not even include any profit. Better, but still not practical. Steve Jackson Games, realizing this, ramps up production to 100,000 copies, which drops the fixed cost per copy to $5. Adding on the variable cost of $3, each copy now has a cost allocated to it of $8, meaning that, at a $29.99 price point, each copy has a gross margin or gross profit of $21.99.

However, Steve Jackson Games does not get to keep all of that gross profit as they have to pay things such as taxes, interest, dividends and other expenses AND sell copies of Munchkin Deluxe to distribution and retailers at a reduced price off that $29.99 so that distributors and retailers can make a profit selling copies of the game as well. If Munchkin Deluxe continues to sell at the $29.99 price point, Steve Jackson Games, its distributors and retailers will keep selling at that price. If sales drop or production costs increase, driving up either fixed or variable costs, the price will have to change.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Cognitive Dissonance

Following up on yesterday's post on opportunity cost, I wanted to talk a bit about the concept of cognitive dissonance, one form of which is "buyer's remorse". Cognitive dissonance is the attempt by a person to reconcile two opposing viewpoints or beliefs in such a way that the person can accept them. Politicians are a great example of something that often causes cognitive dissonance as a politician will often support many positions that a constituent also supports, such as economic development and infrastructure rebuilding for the area represented, expanded health care, support for veterans etc. but holds one or more positions that differ significantly from the constituent's stance such as gun control or abortion. The constituent then has to reconcile in their mind the differing positions and come to a rationalization either causing them to drop support or maintain it.

In the case of buyer's remorse, a purchaser may make a decision and then regret it afterwards. In order to minimize this, the buyer will often seek out reinforcement from others that they made the right decision, If they purchase cards for a Magic deck, they will ask other players to look at the deck and (hopefully) say how the new cards improved the deck. A miniature painter will show off their work, hoping for admiring comments to reinforce their belief that they did a good job. Boardgamers will seek out other players for a new game, looking for reinforcement that other players enjoy the game as much as the purchaser does.

Customers often like to shop with someone else, getting their feedback before making a purchase. Boardgamers also often check sites such as Board Game Geek for confirmation that other people think a game is good before purchasing it for themselves. No body wants to feel they made a bad decision.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Opportunity Cost

Had a few people ask about marketing concepts such as pricing, product development and such so thought I would write some posts on the topic starting with the concept of opportunity cost.

Opportunity cost is the idea that whenever you buy something, either with money or some other means of exchange, you give up something. Generally whenever we make a decision, we have several options from which to choose. When we choose one option, we forgo the benefits we might have gained by choosing a different option. Let's see how this works through Magic cards

A Magic player comes into the store with $22, enough to make a $20 purchase plus tax. The customer comes in looking for a Nicol Bolas, The Ravager, which currently sells for $20 or for booster packs, which sell for $3.99 each. The customer now has the choice of either purchasing the Nicol Bolas, The Ravager card or 5 booster packs of Magic and must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each choice. They can take the sure thing and purchase the card they want but forego the other 74 cards they could get by purchasing the booster packs, or they can purchase the booster packs and forgo the Nicol Bolas. Whichever one they do not choose is the opportunity cost they have foregone in order to make the other decision.

There are also non-monetary opportunity costs as well. You can choose to spend time cleaning the house or playing D&D with your friends.. If you choose D&D, you get to have fun with friends but put off the housecleaning until later, possibly getting someone mad at you if you had promised to do it. If you choose housecleaning, you get a clean house and avoid getting someone mad at you, but miss seeing your friends and have to listen enviously as they tell you later how much fun they had.

A third form of opportunity cost is delayed or immediate gratification. If I have $10, do I spend it on a set of dice now (immediate gratification) or save it  and apply it towards a larger purchase later, such as a copy of Gloomhaven (delayed gratification). In all of these cases, we want to make the chose that minimizes the forgone opportunity cost, which we generally do by minimizing the cognitive dissonance we feel about many decisions, a topic I will discuss in the next post.