Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Another promotional program rolling out this week is the AsmoPlay program, which I discussed a few weeks ago. Very nice idea but stores are committed to buying all three of the kits which contain two of each of the games in the program:  Splendor, Cash ‘n  Guns and 7 Wonders, along with assorted promo items. The problem is, and why we decided to pass on it, most stores don’t need two copies of a game in their game demo library. Multiple copies are useful if you want to run a tournament, which Asmodee encourages stores to do with the kits, but honestly, more stores would make use of a single copy for demos rather than finding storage space for 6 games that we cannot sell.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bounceback Experiment

Following up our bouceback coupon promotional strategy from International TableTop Day, wherin we gave players in various games over the day a coupon good for $1 off a game featured on the TableTop series on the following weekend, the idea being that customers will return the following weekend or “bounceback” to use the coupon. Given the number of coupons we gave out, I would have considered 5-10 of them turned in a successful application of the strategy. Unfortunately, we received a grand total of 1 (one).  Ah, well, there is always Free RPG Day (You do know about Free RPG Day, right?).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Origins Awards Nominees

The 2015 Origins Awards nominees were announced earlier this week. Mildly bemused to see that, given how the historical miniatures aspect of the hobby has retreated to online and convention sales, making up such a small segment of the industry, how many nominees there are in the historics category.

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to Encourage Me Not to Carry Your Game

The main reason we stock a game is customer demand. If customers ask for a game, we will try to get it, although sometimes it is just really really difficult (Superfight, I'm looking at you). However, if there is little to no demand for a game but we think we might see some in the future, we will consider stocking it. However, there are two things a publisher can do in this situation to really kill our interest in an individual game or their product line as a whole:

1) Use Kickstarter over and over and over (and over). oh and by the way, add on promos and special items to backers that make the game more enjoyable and playable or just cooler that stores won't have access to once the product launches (if ever) into distribution. This attracts most of the people interested in your game and, especially if you are a small publisher, means the majority of my customers for your product already bought it.

2) Short discount your product. Discounts (the difference between what a store pays for a product and what we sell it to the consumer) average somewhere between 40% to 50% when a store buys direct or through distribution. If the discount on your product falls below 40%, you have to make a very compelling case why stores should allocate scarce capital to bring in your game, rather than one that could do equally well, if not better, and generate more profit for the store. For that matter, why should I just not take that money and invest it in Magic or dice, which I know will sell and generate a profit.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Vs. Re-releasing

Upper Deck has announced a relaunch of its defunct Vs. trading card game only this time as a constructed card game, ala Fantasy Flight Games Living line of card games. The idea is that players buy the base set and expansion packs, using the cards that they want to construct their play decks. Unlike a trading card game, every player has access to the same cards in the total card pool, so ownership of a rare powerful card will not prove the advantage it does in trading card games such as Magic and Yu Gi Oh!

Vs. launched in a big way in 2004 with thousands of players, many of which were drawn by the big money championships Upper Deck funded, paying out, in some cases $10,000 to the winner. UD has decided that this proved such a successful tactic that it already has announced $10,000 championships for both Vs. and the Legendary customizable card game, ignoring the fact that the money was not able to sustain a strong player base and Upper Deck discontinued the game in 2009. Maybe they will take what they learned from the previous collapse of the game and apply it to this version, but somehow, given that they plan to push big money championships as a draw for players.

Monday, April 13, 2015

6 Takeaways on TableTop Day

International TableTop Day has wound down at the store to a game of Castle Panic, some Magic players and a charity game of Cards Against Humanity (No, not charity for the players. Each player had to donate 5 cans of food for the local food pantry for a seat at the table) going on in the back, so now seems like a good time for some quick reflections on today’s event. So the following six items in no particular order:

1)      I’m tired, and so is my staff. We have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 48 hours over the past month putting this event together and hosting it. We wanted to make sure that the players (whether or not they bought anything) had as good a time as we could present to them. That takes quite a bit of planning, more so than we brought to the two previous TableTop Day events.

2)      It was worth it and yet it wasn’t. We really did put in more planning and work on this event that we did the previous two TableTop Days and sales compared to a typical April Saturday showed it, with today’s sales up a healthy 40% above what I would expect. However, comparing today’s sales to last year’s TableTop Day sales, we had a statistically insignificant increase. So more work on the event, much more community outreach (4 media mentions the week prior to TTD) for the same amount of sales.

3)      We won’t know the full results for at least another week. All players received bounceback coupons, giving them a buck off a TableTop featured game or a game from our used section, for each game they played. These are good only next weekend so I want to track how many people come in to redeem them. I expect to see about 5 to 10 redeemed so would be ecstatic to get 10 to 20 back (typically coupons like this have very low redemption rates but I wanted to make sure that every player left with something with the store’s name on it.

4)      The TTD kit kinda worked. Unlike some stores, we had no promo hounds coming to the store specifically to get some of the promos, especially the Felicia Day Dead of Winter character pack, which as I write this sells for $30-$45 on line but I did have a couple of customers/players say that they chose to come to our store rather than play at one of the other local stores because they knew we had made the effort to get the promos. However, as I mentioned in a previous column, if a company wants to put a promo in the kit, they need to produce enough of them so that we can give them out to a reasonable number of players. Fantasy Flight Games, Steve Jackson Games and Looney Labs did good including 8-14 promos, Plaid Hat Games, Days of Wonder and Crash Games did not, only including 2 promo items. I know a lot of stores who passed on the kit and, unless there are changes, more will likely pass next year.

5)      Timing. The Perfection Fallacy came into play again. We received our kit on Thursday and I heard of some stores not receiving theirs til Friday, not nearly enough time to generate excitement in the store by showing off the promos to customers. Receiving them a week before the event and the poster 2-4 weeks would have allowed better use of those items TTD by stores.

6)      The Evolution Pack. North Star Games included a pack of items for their Evolution board game but with no explanation regarding how to distribute them. Was everything to go to one player or was the pack designed to get broken up and distributed to several players? I can figure out what to do with a single card but not with a collection of items like this.

Overall, I am happy with the results. Customers had fun and we had significantly higher sales. Already thinking about next year’s event and I hope the nice folks at TableTop are too.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

TableTop Day: The Poster

International TableTop Day is this Saturday and we have events scheduled for all day. But I don't wanna talk about that. Instead, I want to talk about the poster that Geek & Sundry created for the event and that just arrived in our kit (that arrived today). You can see the poster I am referring to here.

Back from looking at it? You probably didn't see anything wrong with it but then most of the people reading this probably don't run stores. The problem is at the bottom where it tells people to look for an "event near you" and gives the TableTop Day url. The problem:  if you got the poster, that means you got the kit, which means you plan to run TableTop Day events. So why do I want to put up a poster telling people to go to the website to look for an event when we are hosting events in the very place where you saw the poster.

You see, retailers, once we have you in the store, want you there as long as possible. Many stores don't have clocks so you cannot tell how long you have been there and we certainly don't want a sign up telling you to elsewhere for an event that we will host at the store.

Oh, well, a paper cutter fixed the problem really quick.

Monday, April 6, 2015

To OP or Not to OP

Asmodee rolled out its AsmoPlay Organized Play program this week, along with accompanying solicitations from several distributors, all wanting the store to order its AsmoPlay OP kit from them. Some just announced the kit, letting me know Asmodee only produced a limited number of kits and that I best snag one while I had the opportunity, whilst other sweetened the deal, offering limited edition playmats or extra discounts on the games promoted. In case you did not see the write up elsewhere, each kit consists of two copies of the featured game and assorted promotional items, for a cost of $40 for the Cash n’ Guns Kit and $50 for the Splendor or7 Wonders assortments. The nice thing about the kit is that it is designed to let stores use it for a demo session with giveaways for demo players, or for a tournament or league, with the same promo items as prizes (though I can’t say I would be too comfortable with the idea of running a tournament in the store with all the participants pointing pistols, even foam ones at each other).

However, there are a couple of things, well one really, that a store has to take into consideration before buying into a program like this. Will it make the store money? That means we weigh (almost) everything we do in terms of  “Will this make a profit for the store?” either over the short term or the long term. When deciding to invest in one of this, or another companies’ OP kit, we look at it in terms of dollars and cents from either a short term or a long term viewpoint:

Short term—Will buying an OP kit for Spelndor or one of Asmodee’s other games generate enough sales of the game over the next 30/60/90 days (or whatever time period I choose)for the store to make a profit over and above the cost of the kit? The store does have costs over and above those of the kit, primarily payroll for the wages of the staff member assigned to oversee the event.  To cover the costs of the AsmoPlay kits, I would need to trace sales of at least three copies of the game directly to the event.  Other OP event kits, such as those from Fantasy Flight Games, run less, so the breakeven point for running FFG OP events runs correspondingly lower.

Long Term— Will buying an OP kit for Spelndor or one of Asmodee’s other gamesbring customers into the store, allow customers who have purchased one of the games already the opportunity to play or otherwise create customer goodwill over the next 30/60/90 days (or whatever time period I choose) for the store to make a profit over and above the cost of the kit? While valuable, goodwill is a much harder asset to which to assign a value. In general, stores run OP events targeting customers who have already purchased that game or similar games in the store. I can look at is as a “thank you” to the customer, an event to add to the schedule or something we might promote to the local community (The King of Tokyo National Championship Qualifier generated a few lines of press in the local paper).

Much like everything else in the game industry, the decision about investing in OP comes down to profits.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

AsmoPlay OP

Following Monday's post about the spate of Organized Play programs getting launched, Asmodee gave us more details about their entry into the field. The company will put out 3 OP kits this year, each with two copies of the promoted game and a raft of promotional items. The catch is that each kit costs over $50 which is quite an investment on the part of the store for items to promote the company's products.