Saturday, September 28, 2013

4 Reasons We May Not Carry Your Kickstarted Game

 Two points need clarification:  1)  This is written from a retailer's not a consumer's point of view.  I have backed Kickstarters as both a consumer and a retailer.  this is why I am loath to back them as a retailer in the future.  2) We sell tabletop boardgames and RPGS. Video and online games are an entirely different animal.

Though not as hot as it was about a year ago, Kickstarter is still used by a lot of independent companies in the gaming industry, primarily independent and small press publishers, to publish new releases.  Top tier publishers, such as Paizo, WOTC, Fantasy Flight, Konami, Bushyroad, etc., don't use Kickstarter or other crowdfunding sites to crowdfund new releases as their cashflow is strong enough to not need to do so.

Unfortunately, there are four major reasons why stores, including outs, don't like to carry crowdsourced games.

1)  Crowded marketplace.  When I checked earlier today, there are 386 game projects listed on Kickstarter alone. While we have a strong customer base here, there is no way we, or most stores for that matter, have the market to absorb that quantity of new releases, must of which will fund in the next 30 days but not arrive for six months to a year after the backing period ends.  this leads to #2.

2)  Cash flow.  Just like publishers, retailers struggle with cash flow as well.  In the publisher's case, however,  they get the the money up front and they spend it to produce the product.  In the retailers case, if we fund a product, we front the money now, tying it up for several months until the product ships, removing cash from our accounts for six months or better, until we, and everyone else receive it, which leads to #3.

3)  Lateness.  There is a better than average chance that the publisher will not meet their projected shipping date.  An analysis by Ethan Mollick of the Wharton School of Business of  over 48,000 projects funded by Kickstarter found that over 75% of  publishers missed their release dates.  To cite one familiar example, Steve Jackson Games, which has a great track record of meeting release dates for their Munchkin game and other non-Kickstarter releases, used Kickstarter to fund a designer's edition of Ogre. Funding for this ended in May of 2102, with a projected release date of November 2012.  It is now September 2013 and the 5500+ backers still have not received Ogre.  In a way, this leads to #4.

4)  Market saturation.  Aldo Ghiozzi of Impressions Game Distribution Services, who has worked with small press game publishers for a number of years, is one of the most knowledgeable people I know in the field of independent gaming distribution.  According to Ghiozzi, the average RPG release, either via Kickstarter or some other method, will sell between 150-250 copies ( A year ago or so, Kickstarter had a halo effect whereby RPGs published through it might sell up to double the amount they would if sold stright into distribution.  This effect appears to have subsided though) with maybe another hundred sold direct through the company's website or at conventions.and a boardgame about 600 to 700 copies, 1000 or more copies only if a runaway success pulling in over $300,000.  Ergo, if a company's RPG Kickstarter pulls 300 backers or a boardgame does 600, that pretty much saturates the expected market for that particular product.  Only if the product proves that rare runaway success (Cards Against Humanity, FATE, 13th Age), would a store expect to see more than the publisher already has.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ingredients of a Good Pre-release

Pre-release weekends for Magic always take a lot out of a store as they require quite a bit of pre-planning regarding how many events you plan to run (3 if you are a Core Store, up to 6 if Advanced), when you are going to run them, what you  will offer as prize support (WOTC requires a minimum of 2 booster packs into the prize pool per player but encourages stores to add more), where will you run it (many stores limit attendance to available seating, others rent out locations to handle expected overflow attendance) and most importantly, staffing.  Having an appropriate number of people on hand to run the event makes the difference between having a smoothly running event and one that has you pulling your hair out.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dungeons and Dragons the Movie The Saga Continues

According to this article on Examiner, the D&D movie (Yes T|HAT D&D Movie) was not really planned as a movie.  Courtney Solomon, the producer, had really visualized Dungeons and Dragons as a television series, but felt that TSR was trying to run out the clock on his option on the property and made the movie as a stop gap in order to retain the rights.

Incidentally, according to no less than Margaret Weiss, TSR converted Dragonlance to the Saga System to avoid Solomon making a Dragonlance movie.  Apparently the fear at TSR was that Solomon would claim the rights to DL were included with his rights to Dungeons & Dragons so changed the system to keep the rights to Dragonlance in case negotiations with the Jim Henson Company, among others, progressed

Sunday, September 8, 2013

MTG Celebration

We hosted the 2013 Magic Celebration or, as WOTC called it on Twitter #MTGCelebration, Saturdaywith about 18 happy players but no more sales than we would have during a typical Saturday.  Similar to most stores with which I have discussed the MTG Celebration, turnout ran much lighter than it would for a pre-release or Launch Day..  On the plus side we have  6 new players show up and fill out DCI cards, making about a third of our players  either comparatively new or, as several commented, people who had not played magic for several years and wanted to get back into the game.

One comment I heard from several other stores, and thank goodness it didn’t happen here,  related to players complaining about the giveaways for the event. You would think people would be happy, maybe not with the free half deck, but certainly with a free 2014 Core booster and the opportunity to receive more boosters just for winning games of Magic, at no financial cost to themselves, but apparently not.  At some stores, players complained about the packs given out and/or the lack of a promo card for the event.  It appears we have trained those who have played Magic (and other CCGs) to expect a promo card tied to a particular event, and, if there is not one, they feel slighted, even when the event is free.

One problem I noted was that, according to the instructions sent with the Celebration materials, stores should run players in pods of 6, sending out a new group whenever the store had six people ready to play.   Unfortunately, the way the event formatted for reporting in DCI Reporter, stores would have to have at least 8 players in the event and submit it as a Swiss style event, with players assigned to an opponent for each round.  This format defeated  the overall casual ambiance of the Celebration and I heard of players complaining about the more structured formatting used at some stores.  Several stores figured out a work-around to this by entering all players into DCI Reporter and matching them for the first round and either have them play each other or give them all “byes”, then submit the event after one round.  Hopefully, for the next Celebration, it will be sanctionable as a casual event, so that we only need to enter players names into it and report the event much like we do for casual play now, without having to force a structured tournament on the format.

No idea how the Achievement Cards went over at other stores but since WOTC really wanted people to tween the #MTGCelebration hashtag as well of pictures of the event (and people promoting our events and store on Twitter and Facebook is always a good thing), we offered an extra booster pack for each 5 achievements they marked off, meaning that, even if you lost all your matches, you could walk off with one , and maybe two, more boosters, as long as you were willing to get on your social media accounts during the event.  I don’t know how highly #MTGCelebration trended on Twitter but I was surprised at the number of people who completed all the achievements, with two of them even creating Twitter accounts while at the store.

Friday, September 6, 2013

New Arrivals Today

A number of new releases came in today including:

Zombies 12:  Zombie Zoo with 90 plastic zombie animals

Continuing with the zombie theme, we have Rotted Capes, a new superhero RPG, similar to the Marvel Zombies comics, in which the Z-virus has invaded the world and turned many of the most powerful superheroes in the world into flesh devouring zombies.  You are all that is left to stand against them.

Also the Numenera Player's Guide from Monte Cook. The core book is already sold out so grab this while you can.

Terror in Venice, a new expansion for the Call of Cthulhu Card Game

And a whole lotta Space Marines

Space Marine Codex
Damnos Rulebook for 40K Apocalypse
SM TActical Squad
SM Strikeforce
SM Vanguard Veteran Squad
SM Sternguard Veteran Squad
SM Centurion Devastator Squad
SM Stalker
SM Reclusiam Command Squad
SM Librarian
SM Captain.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Exclusive? Eh.

GTS Distribution sent out an email last week announcing that  they had secured the exclusive distribution to the first print run of Kittens in a Blender, now from Redshift Games (which ran a Kickstarter to get the game back into production waaaay back in the spring of 2012).  No indication as to when Kittens would re-release in the email.  It necessitated a trip to the GTS website to find we can expect it sometime next month.
Though I have heard good things about the company, I do very little business with GTS, maybe one order a year as I find that my three main distributors, plus some orders place directly with the manufacturer, suffice for the store’s needs.  I thought about upping my orders with GTS, just to have access to Kittens but have decided against it for the moment for the following reasons:
1.        It doesn’t dominate the category.  For all intents and purposes, WizKids and HeroClix form the collectable miniatures game category.  Since WOTC discontinued its D&D miniatures line, noting has challenged  WizKids in this segment of the market and, for better or worse, if you want to carry WizKids, you have to deal with Alliance. Same thing in the strategic board game category. Though it doesn’t dominate as it used to, Mayfair Games still outsells any other boardgame manufacturer I carry and Days of Wonder comes close.  If I want to say I carry strategic board games, I really need an account with Alliance.  Redshift Games, even with Kittens in a Blender, doesn’t come close to dominating a market segment.
2.       Customers aren’t asking for it.  Cards Against Humanity is a game that I view as an Amazon exclusive.  Despite the demand, the company chooses to sell solely through Amazon.   No problem with that, it is their game and their choice on how to sell it.  However, we had enough customers coming in asking for the game that we chose to buy it through Amazon, paying the full price, marking it up and reselling it to our customers.  Target has had a similar deal with Mayfair Games for the Star Trek Catan game for the past year.  Again, their choice.  In the last 6 months, I have only had one person ask for the Star Trek Catan game and they wanted to purchase it with their birthday discount.  If we had customers asking for ST:C, I would have started using Target as a supplier for it as well.  Would I have liked to stock it?  Certainly?  Am I bothered by the store’s inability to stock it?  A bit, but not enough to modify our channels of distribution to carry it.  That’s how I currently look at KIAB.  If I actively used my GTS account, sure I would stock it.  As it is, demand currently doesn’t justify it.