Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Of Dice and Men

Of Dice and Men could be subtitled "A Personal History of Dungeons and Dragons".  I have not read a copy yet but will pick one up the next time I am in a bookstore.  One interesting point the author makes is that today's video game industry has its roots in the hours and hours developers spent playing Dungeons and Dragons in their younger years.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

From the Vault 20

In case you missed it, Magic From the Vault 20 released on Friday and is currently selling for $199 to $299 per box.  There was sum interest in the set, just like there has been with every other From the Vault set, but interest skyrocketed when WOTC announced a foil reprint of Jace the Mind Sculptor. Since an original foil of Jace sells for upwards of $700 and a non-foil version goes for $120 to  $150, you can see why people got a lot more interested in the set.

WOTC traditioally heavily allocates the From the Vault sets, with stores getting either 10 or 20 copies, really boosting the demand.  I know of a number of stores that kept their entire allocation to use as prizes and rewards, while others sold some at MSRP, deciding who got them through various methods, while still others opted to sell their entire shipment on eBay or Amazon for what the market will bear.  Some stores, like ours had few if any complaints about the allocations while others recieved upwards of 100 calls about them.  In some cases, when the customer found the price the store had on the FTV20, they threatened to call the police.  Not sure what the police would do in this situation but I guess the customer thought it sounded good (Incidentally, the police could do little, since no law is being broken).

From what I understand, WOTC looks at the annual release of the From the Vault set as a "thank you" to retailers for supporting their products and running events.  The company deliberately releases a highly desirable product at a low MSRP, fully expecting retailers to either increase the asking price (laws of supply and demand at work here) or to use them to generate business in other ways.  However stores choose to use them, retailers tend to look at the annual FTV as "Christmas in August".

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fairy Tale Assassin League

Got a chance to look at Fairy Tale Assassin League from Hamster Press while I was at Gencon.  Hamster Press is a one man operation run by Chris Engle, whom I have known for almost 20 years.  Hamster Press specializes in what Engle calls "Matrix Games".  Matrix Games play similarly to Atlas Games' Once Upon a Time card game as players tell a story, with each player arguing whether a new section of the story should be added to the full 'matrix' of the story or not.  If the argument is successful, the addition becomes part of the story and must be included in the ongoing storyline.  If not, it is disregarded.  In FTAL, a successful addition to the story means the player scores  point, with the player having the most points when the story concludes declared the winner.

Apparently the concept of transporting fairy tale characters to the real world has struck a chord beyond television and comics, as Chris said he has nearly sold out the first print run of 300 copies of FTAL, leaving only 50 for sale at GenCon, making this the best selling release in Hamster Press' history.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Games Workshop Annual Report

Games Workshop released its annual report to stockholders and the world at the end of June.  Some things I found interesting in the report:

-Sales for the company are up about 3% overall, due mainly to strong sales in the US and online.  Sales in continental Europe, though, performed lower than expected. This argues against any changes by the company in its marketing strategy of limiting information about new releases to just prior to the release, as GW can point to increased sales as evidence that the strategy worked. 

--operating profit also increased about 25%, again confirming, in the company's eyes, the success of the current business strategy.

--GW generates roughly $275,000 per year in royalties from licensing its games to Fantasy Flight Games.--
--the company is shifting to a "one man store" format for its retail locations, with 274 stores out of a total of 412 open only 5 days a week and run by one store manager.

--GW plans to close 28 US stores and open 38, taking the total number of stores in the US to just over 100, about a third less than in the United Kingdom.

--marketing plans focus on getting the fastest selling products into independent stores. From he annual report: 

During the last year we have introduced and delivered our new trade standards for our independent stockists. The aim is to get thoseproducts that will sell the fastest into whatever space the independents will allow us. That way their
stock turn will rise and we will have more re-orders. It seems so obvious that it shouldn’t need saying, but we deal in a product that sometimes allows passions to over-rulecommerciality. Many of our independent stockists and our own sales people are fans as well as customers and it helps all round if we havea system that emphasises sales potential over aesthetics. 
--inventory onhand dropped by about $2 million from the previous year, something we have noticed in the increased time it takes to get a special order and the limits often placed by the company on the size of orders of new releases, as well as the quickness with which a product moves from trade (meaning we can reorder it weekly) to direct (meaning orders can take 1-3 weeks to arrive).

Friday, August 2, 2013

WOTC Survey

The Examiner pointed out this survey of role-playing in the US conducted by WOTC back in 2000. As far as I know, this is the only survey of the role-playing market on a national scale.  65,000 people responded to an initial postcard mailing (this was long before Survey Monkey), with 1000 of those contacted for a more intensive follow up survey.

Based on the results, WOTC concluded 6% of the US population played tabletop RPGs at least once a month. 19% of players were female, signifcantly higher than than the perception of RPGs as an all male hobby.  I would venture, based on surveys at our store, the percentage of female players is even higher today.

  The survey found not a lot of crossover betwix RPGs and other forms of gaming.  The highest was 46% of TRPG players also played computer RPGs (probably higher now), 26% also played some form of trading card game, while 17% also played some form of  miniatures wargame.  No indication what percentage might have played all four.

The age breakdown proved very interesting as the media typically portrays tabletop RPG players (when it noticed them) as high school or college students.  However, the survey indicated over 1/3 of players were age 25 or older and over half were out of high school.  This also tracks with anecdotal evidence in our store, where most of the customers for RPGs are in their 20s and 30s.