Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Free RPG Day 2 Page Dungeon Contest

To mark this year's Free RPG Day, the store is celebrating the creativity of gamemasters with a 2 page  Dungeon Contest.  Here are the rules:

1. All entries are due by 9 p.m. Central Time, June 21.

2.  Entries may be turned in on paper to the store or uploaded here.

3. Entries must include the following at the top of the page:  name and contact information, adventure title, RPG system and setting, if appropriate, number of players, appropriate levels or degree of difficulty and are to fix on a standard 8 1/2 x11" piece of paper. Front and back may be used.

4. Your entry may be single or double spaced and any font size. However, we will not make any effort to read small fonts and might just skip your entry so take that into consideration when selecting a font size.

Your entry may use the rules for any RPG system and may assume that the GM has a working familiarity with the rules and access to the core rulebook(s) i.e. the GM understands the concepts hit points, saving throws and spell points. All appropriate statistics for any NPCs or monsters must be included, as well as enough information for the GM to run any encounter, i.e. attack and damage bonuses, treasure, spells and equipment of note possessed, difficulty of accessing computer banks or breaking down doors.

Your adventure must have a set-up and a climax  and stand on its own. Characters need not have completed any other adventure to set them up for this one. If there are references to locations, you are expected to provide a map, which does count as part of the 2 page limit. The map may be computer generated or hand drawn but must be usable by the GM.

All entries will be judged by author AND editor Jean Rabe, who worked for TSR for a number of years and now writes and edits full time.

Winning entry(s) will receive $25 in store credit and become the property of the store as we plan to post them on the store website with credit given to the owner.

Email with question.

Game Industry Trend #2 Licensing

The second trend I noticed at the ACD Open House was an increase in licenses, especially Cartoon Network ones but also Munchkin. The purchase of licenses for board and card games has been quite common in the mass market but not as much so in the specialty game market, save for trading card games and ones closely related to our market, such as Star Trek, Buffy and Star Wars, rather than the board and card game categories. At both the GAMA Trade show and the ACD Open House , several different publishers showed off games utilizing licenses from Cartoon Network properties such as Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors and Regular Show including Looney Labs (Regular Show) and Catalyst Game Lab (Bravest Warriors).

The licensing trend has expanded to publishers licensing the rights to other games, specifically Munchkin and Bang and producing their own variants.  Both Fireside Games and AEG licensed the rights to Munchkin, with  AEG producing Loot Letter, a Munchkin themed variant of their hugely popular Love Letter, and Fireside Game entering the Munchkin market with Munchkin Panic, skinning Munchkin on top of their Castle Panic game.

Meanwhile, USAopoly, well known for their licensed variants of Scrabble, Monopoly and Yahtzee,  announced the rights to an Adventure Time version of Munchkin and a Walking Dead version of Bang from Mayfair Games. What this means is that over the past 10+ years (almost 15) Munchkin itself has developed into such a strong brand that other companies are willing to pay Steve Jackson Games for the rights to use it, figuring that customers will see the Munchkin name and, if fans of the original Munchkin, at least look at their version of it.

It will prove interesting to see if this trend continues and other game lines prove strong enough that publishers will want to license them.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Game Industry Trend #1

1I attended the ACD Open House this past week  and a major trend I noticed was Cards Against Humanity clones. 
We’ve already seen a few of these. Crabs Adjust Humidity from Vampire Squid and Personally Incorrect from Lion Rampant come to mind offhand and I spotted several more either in development or already launched, such as Heebie Jeebies from Zipwhaa. The ones I saw all use the basic Apples to Apples mechanic of having players choose cards and a judge deciding which one is the “best” in anywhere from mildly to highly offensive combinations of cards. This indicates the approaching crest of the popularity of Cards Against Humanity.

 As I tell the students in my Principles of Marketing and Product and Pricing Strategy classes, every new product goes through the Product Life Cycle of Introduction, Growth, Maturity and Decline. During the Introductory and Growth stages, the new product sees heavy demand (assuming the launch is successful) and double or even triple digit sales increases, much like we have seen with Cards Against Humanity for the past couple of years. A key marker of when a product moves from the Growth stage to the Maturity stage is the appearance of knockoffs and “me too” products. By this point in the original product’s lifecycle, other manufacturer have noticed its success, decide there is additional unfulfilled demand for it and come up with their own product to fill the perceived gap in the market

. Unfortunately, this also means demand for the product has probably topped off and, while growth will continue, it will no long see the outsized increases of the past. Ergo, while we will still see respectable Cards Against Humanity sales, stores won’t see near the levels that they did in the past.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What WOTC Wants

Here, for those who haven't looked at the lawsuit itself, is the list of things WOTC wants as redress for the harm is claims to have suffered as a result of the development of the Hex: Shards of Fate trading card game:

1.For a permanent injunction enjoining Cryptozoic and all persons acting in concert with them from manufacturing, producing, distributing, adapting, displaying, advertising,  promoting, offering for sale and/or selling, or performing any materials that are substantially similar to Magic and to deliver to the Court for destruction or other reasonable disposition all materials and means for producing the same in Cryptozoic’s possession or control;  

2 For a permanent injunction, enjoining Cryptozoic and all persons acting in concert with them from using the trade dress of Magic in connection with any paper, electronic, or web- based trading card video game or from otherwise using Wizards’ trade dress, as embodied in either of the paper or electronic forms of Magic or any confusingly similar use thereof, in any way causing the likelihood of confusion, deception, or mistake as to the source, nature, or quality of Cryptozoic’s games and to deliver to the Court for destruction or other reasonable disposition all materials bearing the infringing trade dress in Cryptozoic’s possession or control; 

3.For any and all damages sustained by Wizards;

4.For all of Cryptozoic’s profits wrongfully derived from the infringement of Wizards’ intellectual property rights; 

5. For a Judgment against Cryptozoic declaring this case to be exceptional under the Patent Act and therefore subjecting Cryptozoic to liability to include treble damages as authorized under Section 285 of the Patent Act; 

6.For reasonable attorney’s fees; 

7.For costs of suit herein; and

 8.For other such relief as the Court deems proper

Friday, May 16, 2014

WOTC Sues Cryptozoic

WOTC announced a lawsuit this week against Cryptozoic and a related company, Hex Entertainment, alleging that Hex's new digital TCG violates several of WOTC's copyrights on Magic, especially those related to the digital version of Magic. In its complaint, WOTC cites similarities between the two games as laid out in this post on the Threshold:  The Hex Podcast website.

The Quiet Speculation website has a very good analysis of the lawsuit, pointing out that, among other things, WOTC is suing under copyright rather than patent law and is claiming violation of trade dress, something that can be hard to prove when both items are digital properties.

This is the second lawsuit WOTC has launched over a game property. The suit and countersuit against Sweetpea Entertainment is still winding its way through the legal system and has remained fairly quiet since last September.

Konami Improves the Sneak Peek, Some

We had pre-releases for Magic Journey into Nyx and Yu Gi Oh! Primal Order about 2 weeks apart and once again found WOTC’s handling of their pre-releases far superior to Konami’s, though, to their credit, Konami did issue some operating changes that made things a bit easier, but still, WOTC trusts stores to run pre-releases with a lot less oversight and restrictions than Konami does.

Case in point, instructions from Konami not to open the Sneak Peeks kits until May 10th. Given that the Sneak Peek takes place on May 10th and 11th, not opening the kits makes it rather hard to check and make certain that nothing is missing from them. Granted, we have never had any problems with items missing from the kits before this but there is always a first time. Opening the kits ahead of time allows us to check and contact Konami if needed. An email to Konami pointing this out did get a response saying it was OK to open the kits the Thursday before the Sneak Peek.  I understand Konami’s desire to stop Sneak Peek organizers from selling cards from the set early but WOTC faces the same problem and does not restrict stores from opening pre-release materials early.

Bowing to player and store requests, Konami did allow stores to run Sneak Peek tournaments using Primal Order this time, though such tournaments were unsanctioned and did not add to a player’s ranking. Here’s hoping next time Konami allows the sanctioning of Sneak Peek tournaments.

One final note. I did like the change in the reporting method Konami implemented for the Sneak Peek, using Survey Monkey to gather the information rather than asking us to fill out a form and email it back, though Konami does ask for a lot more information about players, as well as pictures, than WOTC does. However, sending a link out to the reporting form at 9 p.m. the night before the Sneak Peek, not a good idea.  Way too last minute. If there was a problem receiving the email, much like with the instructions on the Sneak Peek kits, it would have been the proverbial mad scramble to get everything straightened out. No store owner needs or wants to face something like that the day of a major event like a Sneak Peek.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Heroclix Delays Explanation

Here is an explanation from WizKids regarding why so many of their Heroclix releases in the past year got delayed.

Last year was a pretty amazing year for HeroClix, however, it did not come without a few bumps in the road.    Specifically, a number of last minute delays forced us to move release dates on short notice. There are many things that can (and will) derail a products release date.  Most are under our control; unfortunately, some are not.   During the last six months, we got hit with so many issues, it is remarkable that we were able to perform as we did.  It is a testament to the hard work of our distributors and the patience, creativity and tenacity of the retailers and customers that shop at FLGS.  We know how disruptive a release date change is to an OP program. We know that release date changes ruins schedules, planning and participation.  We appreciate the effort to work with us while we cope with changes outside of our control.

So why were the release dates impacted?

1:  Weather: As I’m sure you recall, last winter was one of the worst winters in recent history. The weather had a tremendous impact on our shipping & warehousing infrastructure. We had numerous logistics issues and closures caused by inclement weather.  Obviously, all this wreaks havoc on a release-date driven system.

2:  Customs:  In an attempt to curb counterfeit product, the U.S. Customs office increased their screening of containers filled with games and toys, especially those with licensed products.  Over the past six months, we’ve had an unusually high number of containers pulled for routine inspection.  Even if we pass through these inspections with no issues, the entire container may be detained for up to four weeks.   The issue here is that the last containers are usually coming in one to two weeks before release and, if they are detained, it usually creates an automatic delay.  The complexity comes from the fact that  you don’t know for how long the container is going to be held. You literally have to check on the items everyday.  So when a container is pulled for inspection, it could take one day or it could take 21 days. This makes announcing a delay very challenging.  Do you announce a delay on a container that might clear in one day, only to have to announce a false alarm?  Do you wait until you have better information and can estimate a release date?  We optfor the latter, as it allows a store to reset their event and communicate complete information and eliminates the ‘false alarm’ issue.  We have hundreds of containers delivering each year.  Announcing potential delays for every routine inspection is not feasible.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Update on Dice Masters

WizKids sent out the following update on the DiceMasters situation:

MDM Reprint #1 (Starters):  The starter reprint is arriving as we speak. We took the opportunity to split the air shipment between a west coast warehouse and a mid-west warehouse, to speed our time to market.  It looks like we will start shipping orders late next week , with some trailing orders hitting the beginning of the follow week.    Additionally, there is a portion of this reprint that went by boat and should be arriving in a few weeks.  However, due to the chance of custom holds and other delays, we are unable to project when this portion will be available.

MDM Reprint #1 (Boosters):  The first reprint for the boosters is scheduled to hit in July.  We’re looking into options to expedite this shipment due to the continued high demand.  We’re going to have to send another update out when we have more clarity on the shipping.

The reality of the situation is that even with these inbound shipments, we are still far short of the back order demand.  We placed this reprint last March and the numbers had just started to ramp up at that time.

MDM Reprint #2 (Starters and Boosters):  This reprint was issued before launch and should infuse a good amount of supply into the channel.  I am confident it will make a significant dent.  The problem is that this shipment is not slated to arrive until the end of August.  Again, we’re looking at options to expedite the delivery, but I won’t have clarity on that topic for a few weeks.

A short aside:  Air shipping is very costly.  As most of you know, we’ve been aggressive in our pricing for this product. Instead of raising the price we are trying to find the right balance between supplying the market and keeping the price where it is.  Air shipping all of the product would require raising prices across the board. Nobody wants that.

MDM at Origins Game Fair 2014:  As part of the belt tightening leading up to the launch of MDM, we released all of our reserved product to the distributors. This means that we have no starter product for our scheduled events at Origins.  Instead of peeling off product from the reprint, we’re going to cancel any MDM events at Origins that require the purchase of sealed product.   I’m confident this is the right decision in the long term and for the good of the business.

MDM Set 1 Collation: We always receive a lot of questions on this topic.  Given the Quarriors DNA of the MDM, many people are asking about the cost to collect an entire set.  As a policy, WizKids will not comment on collation, nor do we guarantee collation of a randomize product. It is a long-standing policy, one that we have proven out through experience, and one that we’re not going to change.  However, based on feedback, we’re going to tweak the next set, The Uncanny X-Men.  First of all, we’re going to move to a HeroClix sized Gravity Feed unit which will fit 90 MDM booster packs.  This should allow for a little more space for the packs to lay flat.    Also, we’re going to change the insertion rate to target one or more Super Rares per gravity feed. As always, we do not guarantee collation; it is simply a target we strive for.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Who Is Aldo Ghiozzi and Why Should You Care?

Given that Free Comic Book Day is winding down here, I started thinking about next month’s Free RPG Day(always need to think about the next event). Much like Joe Field and Free Comic Book Day, Aldo Ghiozzi of Impressions Advertising and Marketing is closely identified with Free RPG Day. Actually, the relationship between Ghiozzi and FRPGD is even closer than Field and FCBD, as Ghiozzi’s company handles solicitation and distribution of Free RPG Day materials. Being a curious type, I emailed Ghiozzi with a few questions about Impressions and Free RPG Day.

Could you describe what Impressions is and what it does?  How does it differ from a company like PSI?

Impressions is definitely an odd beast.  Some call us a fulfillment company.  Some call us a distributor.  And many just pause when they try to describe us.  Long ago we were called consolidators because we consolidated the ordering and shipping for many companies under one roof.  Now, people keep saying we're a fulfillment house.  We are all of that.  I call us a "game distribution service company" because we are a service hired by game publishers to handle their distributor sales, shipping and warehousing.  Fulfillment is part of that service, but really we only fulfill the orders we generate as sales for our clients.  In the end, if you're a game publisher and don't want to call all the hobby game distributors and retailers out there, we get that done for them.

In terms of differentiation from PSI, I could say some traditional answers about customer service and such, but I can definitely say PSI has their hands in the mass market a lot more than Impressions...and I'm OK with that.  Impressions is super focused on the hobby game market for hardcore 'geek' hobby games.  Coupled with that, I think we've become the go to place for new game publishers.

How did you get involved in the gaming industry?

In 1994, I decided to make a game with a friend of mine.  It was, of course, a part time thing and just like everyone else in the industry, we were gamers that had a passion for games.  Back then, I approached all the distributors myself on the phone during my day job and eventually I figured out I was a better sales person than game designer.  At the same time this was happening, one of the first consolidators in the industry, Wizard's Attic, was going out of business.  I made a deal with the owner to transfer folks to Impressions (a name I started for my generic ad agency) and that's that.  I have been doing Impressions fulltime since 2000.